When the men came up from the dining-room, there was intermittent music in which Mavis took part. The sincerity of her voice, together with its message of tears, awoke genuine approval in her audience.
“An artiste, my dear,” declared Lady Ludlow. “Artistes have always a touch of vulgarity in their natures, or they wouldn’t make their appeal. We must be great friends. I’m sick to death of correct people.”
For the rest of the evening, Mavis noticed how she herself was constantly watched by Windebank and Major Perigal, the former of whom dropped his eyes when he saw that Mavis perceived the direction of his glance. As the evening wore on, Mavis was faintly bored and not a little troubled. She reflected that it was in these very rooms that Charlie Perigal had read her piteous little letters from London, and from where he probably penned his lying replies. Mavis would have liked to have been alone so that she could try to appreciate the whys and wherefores of the most significant events in her life. The conditions of her last stay in London and those of her present life were as the poles apart so far as material well-being was concerned; her mind ached to fasten upon some explanation that would reconcile the tragic events in her life with her one-time implicit faith in the certain protection extended by a Heavenly Father to His trusting children. Perhaps it was as well that Mavis was again asked to sing; the effort of remembering her words put all such thoughts from her mind.
Whatever clouds may have gathered about Mavis’s appreciation of the evening, there was no doubt of the enjoyment of those Devitts who were present. The dinner was, to them, an event of social moment in their lives. Although they looked as if they had got into the dignified atmosphere of Major Perigal’s drawing-room by mistake, they were greatly delighted with their evening; afterwards, they did not fail to make copious references to those they had met at dinner to their Melkbridge friends.
A month after the dinner, Major Perigal died suddenly in his chair. Two days after he was buried, Mavis received an intimation from his solicitors, which requested her presence at the reading of his will. Wondering what was toward, Mavis made an appointment. To her boundless astonishment, she learned that Major Perigal, “on account of the esteem in which he held the daughter of his old friend, Colonel Keeves,” had left Mavis all his worldly goods, with the exception of bequests to servants and five hundred pounds to his son Charles.
A MIDNIGHT WALK