If Verrian had been an older man life might have supplied him with the means of judging the writer of this letter. But his experience as an author had not been very great, and such as it was it had hardened and sharpened him. There was nothing wild or whirling in his mood, but in the deadly hurt which had been inflicted upon his vanity he coldly and carefully studied what deadlier hurt he might inflict again. He was of the crueller intent because he had not known how much of personal vanity there was in the seriousness with which he took himself and his work. He had supposed that he was respecting his ethics and aesthetics, his ideal of conduct and of art, but now it was brought home to him that he was swollen with the conceit of his own performance, and that, however well others thought of it, his own thought of it far outran their will to honor it. He wished to revenge himself for this consciousness as well as the offence offered him; of the two the consciousness was the more disagreeable.
His mother, dressed for the street, came in where he sat quiet at his desk, with the editor’s letters and the girl’s before him, and he mutely referred them to her with a hand lifted over his shoulder. She read them, and then she said, “This is hard to bear, Philip. I wish I could bear it for you, or at least with you; but I’m late for my engagement with Mrs. Alfred, as it is—No, I will telephone her I’m detained and we’ll talk it over—”
“No, no! Not on any account! I’d rather think it out for myself. You couldn’t help me. After all, it hasn’t done me any harm—”
“And you’ve had a great escape! And I won’t say a word more now, but I’ll be back soon, and then we—Oh, I’m so sorry I’m going.”
Verrian gave a laugh. “You couldn’t do anything if you stayed, mother. Do go!”
“Well—” She looked at him, smoothing her muff with her hand a moment, and then she dropped a fond kiss on his cheek and obeyed him.