“I know they often have a very easy time,” said Mrs. Mattock, as if some one had injured her severely. And Shelton saw, not without pity, that Fate had scored her kind and squashed-up face with wrinkles, whose tiny furrows were eloquent of good intentions frustrated by the unpractical and discontented poor. “Do what you will, they are never satisfied; they only resent one’s help, or else they take the help and never thank you for it!”
“Oh!” murmured Aunt Charlotte, “that’s rather hard.”
Shelton had been growing, more uneasy. He said abruptly:
“I should do the same if I were they.”
Mrs. Mattock’s brown eyes flew at him; Lady Bonington spoke to the Times; her ruby bracelet and a bangle jingled.
“We ought to put ourselves in their places.”
Shelton could not help a smile; Lady Bonington in the places of the poor!
“Oh!” exclaimed Mrs. Mattock, “I put myself entirely in their place. I quite understand their feelings. But ingratitude is a repulsive quality.”
“They seem unable to put themselves in your place,” murmured Shelton; and in a fit of courage he took the room in with a sweeping glance.
Yes, that room was wonderfully consistent, with its air of perfect second-handedness, as if each picture, and each piece of furniture, each book, each lady present, had been made from patterns. They were all widely different, yet all (like works of art seen in some exhibitions) had the look of being after the designs of some original spirit. The whole room was chaste, restrained, derived, practical, and comfortable; neither in virtue nor in work, neither in manner, speech, appearance, nor in theory, could it give itself away.
THE STAINED-GLASS MAN
Still looking for Antonia, Shelton went up to the morning-room. Thea Dennant and another girl were seated in the window, talking. From the look they gave him he saw that he had better never have been born; he hastily withdrew. Descending to the hall, he came on Mr. Dennant crossing to his study, with a handful of official-looking papers.
“Ah, Shelton!” said he, “you look a little lost. Is the shrine invisible?”
Shelton grinned, said “Yes,” and went on looking. He was not fortunate. In the dining-room sat Mrs. Dennant, making up her list of books.
“Do give me your opinion, Dick,” she said. “Everybody ‘s readin’ this thing of Katherine Asterick’s; I believe it’s simply because she’s got a title.”
“One must read a book for some reason or other,” answered Shelton.
“Well,” returned Mrs. Dennant, “I hate doin’ things just because other people do them, and I sha’n’t get it.”
Mrs. Dennant marked the catalogue.
“Here ’s Linseed’s last, of course; though I must say I don’t care for him, but I suppose we ought to have it in the house. And there’s Quality’s ‘The Splendid Diatribes’: that ’s sure to be good, he’s always so refined. But what am I to do about this of Arthur Baal’s? They say that he’s a charlatan, but everybody reads him, don’t you know”; and over the catalogue Shelton caught the gleam of hare-like eyes.