“I dare say she wished to set herself right with you, but not from the same wish that Miss Andrews would have had. Miss Andrews would not have wished you to know the truth for her own sake. Her motive would have been direct-straight.”
“Yes; and we will describe her as a straight line, and Miss Shirley as a waving line. Why shouldn’t the waving line, at its highest points, touch the same altitude as the straight line?”
“It wouldn’t touch it all the time, and in character, or nature, as you call it, that is the great thing. It’s at the lowest points that the waving line is dangerous.”
“Well, I don’t deny that. But I’m anxious to be just to a person who hasn’t experienced a great deal of mercy for what, after all, wasn’t such a very heinous thing as I used to think it. You must allow that she wasn’t obliged to tell me anything about herself.”
“Yes, she was, Philip. As I said before, she hadn’t the physical or moral strength to keep it from you when she was brought face to face with you. Besides—” Mrs. Verrian hesitated.
“Out with it, mother! We, at least, won’t have any concealments.”
“She may have thought, she could clinch it in that way.”
“You know. Is she pretty?”
“That can always be managed. Is she tall?”
“No, I think she’s rather out of style there; she’s rather petite.”
“And what’s her face like?”
“Well, she has no particular complexion, but it’s not thick. Her eyes are the best of her, though there isn’t much of them. They’re the ‘waters on a starry night’ sort, very sweet and glimmering. She has a kind of ground-colored hair and a nice little chin. Her mouth helps her eyes out; it looks best when she speaks; it’s pathetic in the play of the lips.”
“I see,” Mrs. Verrian said.
The following week Verrian and his mother were at a show of paintings, in the gallery at the rear of a dealer’s shop, and while they were bending together to look at a picture he heard himself called to in a girlish voice, “Oh, Mr. Verrian!” as if his being there was the greatest wonder in the world.
His mother and he lifted themselves to encounter a tall, slim girl, who was stretching her hand towards him, and who now cried out, joyously, “Oh, Mr. Verrian, I thought it must be you, but I was afraid it wasn’t as soon as I spoke. Oh, I’m so glad to see you; I want so much to have you know my mother—Mr. Verrian,” she said, presenting him.
“And I you mine,” Verrian responded, in a violent ellipse, and introduced his own mother, who took in the fact of Miss Andrews’s tall thinness, topped with a wide, white hat and waving white plumes, and her little face, irregular and somewhat gaunt, but with a charm in the lips and eyes which took the elder woman’s heart with pathos. She made talk with Mrs. Andrews, who affected one as having the materials of social severity in her costume and manner.