It did not rain at night, as it seemed so likely to do, and by morning the cloudiness of the sky had so far thinned that the sun looked mildly through it without more than softening the frozen surface of the pond, so that Mrs. Westangle’s ice-tea (as everybody called it, by a common inspiration, or by whatever circuitous adoption of Verrian’s phrase) came off with great success. People from other houses were there, and they all said that they wondered how she came to have such a brilliant idea, and they kept her there till nearly dark. Then the retarded rain began, in a fine drizzle, and her house guests were forced homeward, but not too soon to get a good, long rest before dressing for dinner. She was praised for her understanding with the weather, and for her meteorological forecast as much as for her invention in imagining such a delightful and original thing as an ice-tea, which no one else had ever thought of. Some of the women appealed to Verrian to say if he had ever heard of anything like it; and they felt that Mrs. Westangle was certainly arriving, and by no beaten track.
None of the others put it in these terms, of course; it was merely a consensus of feeling with them, and what was more articulate was dropped among the ironies with which Miss Macroyd more confidentially celebrated the event. Out of hearing of the others, in slowly following them with Verrian, she recurred to their talk. “Yes, it’s only a question of money enough for Newport, after this. She’s chic now, and after a season there she will be smart. But oh, dear! How came she to be chic? Can you imagine?”
Verrian did not feel bound to a categorical answer, and in his private reflections he dealt with another question. This was how far Miss Shirley was culpable in the fraud she was letting Mrs. Westangle practise on her innocent guests. It was a distasteful question, and he did not find it much more agreeable when it subdivided itself into the question of necessity on her part, and of a not very clearly realized situation on Mrs. Westangle’s. The girl had a right to sell her ideas, and perhaps the woman thought they were her own when she had paid for them. There could be that view of it all. The furtive nature of Miss Shirley’s presence in the house might very well be a condition of that grand event she was preparing. It was all very mysterious.
It rained throughout the evening, with a wailing of the wind in the gables, and a weeping and a sobbing of the water from the eaves that Mrs. Westangle’s guests, securely housed from the storm, made the most of for weirdness. There had been a little dancing, which gave way to so much sitting-out that the volunteer music abruptly ceased as if in dudgeon, and there was nothing left but weirdness to bring young hearts together. Weirdness can do a good deal with girls lounging in low chairs, and young men on rugs round