In the details which they were able to give at luncheon, they did justice to Verrian’s noble part in the whole affair, which had saved the day, not only in keeping them up to the work when they had got thinking it couldn’t be carried through, but in giving the combat a validity which it would not have had without him. They had to thank him, next to Mrs. Westangle herself, whom they praised beyond any articulate expression, for thinking up such a delightful thing. They wondered how she could ever have thought of it—such a simple thing too; and they were sure that when people heard of it they would all be wanting to have snow battles.
Mrs. Westangle took her praises as passively, if not as modestly, as Verrian received his. She made no show of disclaiming them, but she had the art, invaluable in a woman who meant to go far in the line she had chosen, of not seeming to have done anything, or of not caring whether people liked it or not. Verrian asked himself, as he watched her twittering back at those girls, and shedding equally their thanks and praises from her impermeable plumage, how she would have behaved if Miss Shirley’s attempt had been an entire failure. He decided that she would have ignored the failure with the same impersonality as that with which she now ignored the success. It appeared that in one point he did her injustice, for when he went up to dress for dinner after the long stroll he took towards night he found a note under his door, by which he must infer that Mrs. Westangle had not kept the real facts of her triumph from the mistress of the revels.
Verrian, I am not likely to see you, but I must
“P. S. Don’t try to answer, please.”
Verrian liked, the note, he even liked the impulse which had dictated it, and he understood the impulse; but he did not like getting the note. If Miss Shirley meant business in taking up the line of life she had professed to have entered upon seriously, she had better, in the case of a young man whose acquaintance she had chanced to make, let her gratitude wait. But when did a woman ever mean business, except in the one great business?
To have got that sillily superfluous note to Verrian without any one’s knowing besides, Miss Shirley must have stolen to his door herself and slipped it under. In order to do this unsuspected and unseen, she must have found out in some sort that would not give her away which his room was, and then watched her chance. It all argued a pervasiveness in her, after such a brief sojourn in the house, and a mastery of finesse that he did not like, though, he reflected, he was not authorized to like or dislike anything about her. He was thirty-seven years old, and he had not lived through that time, with his mother at his elbow to suggest inferences from facts, without