“Well,” she said, “what are you going to do?”
It was some seconds before Fleur answered.
“I don’t want Jon to suffer. I must see him once more to put an end to it.”
“You’re going to put an end to it!”
“What else is there to do?”
The girl seemed to June, suddenly, intolerably spiritless.
“I suppose you’re right,” she muttered. “I know my father thinks so; but—I should never have done it myself. I can’t take things lying down.”
How poised and watchful that girl looked; how unemotional her voice sounded!
“People will assume that I’m in love.”
“Well, aren’t you?”
Fleur shrugged her shoulders. ‘I might have known it,’ thought June; ‘she’s Soames’ daughter—fish! And yet—he!’
“What do you want me to do then?” she said with a sort of disgust.
“Could I see Jon here to-morrow on his way down to Holly’s? He’d come if you sent him a line to-night. And perhaps afterward you’d let them know quietly at Robin Hill that it’s all over, and that they needn’t tell Jon about his mother.”
“All right!” said June abruptly. “I’ll write now, and you can post it. Half-past two tomorrow. I shan’t be in, myself.”
She sat down at the tiny bureau which filled one corner. When she looked round with the finished note Fleur was still touching the poppies with her gloved finger.
June licked a stamp. “Well, here it is. If you’re not in love, of course, there’s no more to be said. Jon’s lucky.”
Fleur took the note. “Thanks awfully!”
‘Cold-blooded little baggage!’ thought June. Jon, son of her father, to love, and not to be loved by the daughter of—Soames! It was humiliating!
“Is that all?”
Fleur nodded; her frills shook and trembled as she swayed toward the door.
“Good-bye!... Little piece of fashion!” muttered June, closing the door. “That family!” And she marched back toward her studio. Boris Strumolowski had regained his Christ-like silence and Jimmy Portugal was damning everybody, except the group in whose behalf he ran the Neo-Artist. Among the condemned were Eric Cobbley, and several other “lame-duck” genii who at one time or another had held first place in the repertoire of June’s aid and adoration. She experienced a sense of futility and disgust, and went to the window to let the river-wind blow those squeaky words away.
But when at length Jimmy Portugal had finished, and gone with Hannah Hobdey, she sat down and mothered young Strumolowski for half an hour, promising him a month, at least, of the American stream; so that he went away with his halo in perfect order. ‘In spite of all,’ June thought, ‘Boris is wonderful’
THE BIT BETWEEN THE TEETH
To know that your hand is against every one’s is—for some natures—to experience a sense of moral release. Fleur felt no remorse when she left June’s house. Reading condemnatory resentment in her little kinswoman’s blue eyes-she was glad that she had fooled her, despising June because that elderly idealist had not seen what she was after.