“Not being a resident of British Columbia, I cannot do anything, Aunt. But I think you will find that since women got the vote the matter has been adjusted.”
“I do not understand you. What possible connection has the women’s vote with Mrs. Stopford Brown?”
“I thought you were speaking of dower laws. As for Mrs. Brown, haven’t you already fitted the punishment to the crime?”
“Then you will not officially contradict the rumor?”
“Dear Aunt, I am not an official. And a rumor is of no importance— until it is contradicted. Surely you are letting yourself get excited about nothing.”
Aunt Caroline bestowed upon Desire the feminine glance which means, “What fools men are.”
“That’s all very well now,” she said. “But it is incredible how rumor persists. And when you are a father—there! I knew you would end by breaking that cup.”
“Aren’t we being rather absurd?” asked Desire a little later when Aunt Caroline and the tea tray had departed together. “Besides, you can’t break a cup every time.”
Spence sighed. It was undoubtedly true that cups do come to an end.
“What we want to do,” said Desire, angry at her heightened color, “is to be sensible.”
“That’s what Aunt Caroline is. Do you want us to be like Aunt Caroline?”
“I want us to face facts without blushing and jumping.”
“I never blush.”
“Sorry. But give me time. I am new at this yet. Presently I shall be able to listen to Aunt describing my feelings as a grandfather without a quiver. Poor Aunt!”
“Why do you say ’poor Aunt’?”
“It is going to be rather a blow to her, you know.”
“Do you think we ought to—tell her?”
“Good heavens, no!”
“But it seems so mean to let her go on believing things.”
“Not half so mean as taking the belief from her. Besides—” He paused and Desire felt herself clutch, unaccountably, at the arm of her garden chair.
“She wouldn’t understand,” finished Benis.
Desire’s grasp upon the chair relaxed.
“Life is like that,” he went on slowly. “No matter how careful people are there is always someone who slips in and gets hurt. Our affairs are strictly our own affairs and yet—we stumble over Aunt Caroline and leave her indignant and disappointed and probably blaming Providence for the whole affair. It is just a curious instance of the intricacy of human relationships—you’re not going in, are you?”
“There is some typing I want to finish,” said Desire. “I have been letting myself get shamefully behind.”
The weather on the day of Desire’s reception could scarcely have been bettered. Rain had fallen during the night; fallen just sufficiently to lay the dust on the drive and liberate all the thousand flower scents in the drowsy garden. It was hot enough for the most summery dresses and cool enough for a summer fur. What more could be desired?