“Splendid! But like Babylon, it fell at the wrong time.”
For a lively quarter of an hour they discussed people about town, liberally approving the slandered and denouncing the slanderers. A still busier quarter of an hour ensued when together they made up the list of dinner guests. He moved a little writing-table up to the divan, and she looked on eagerly while he wrote down the names she suggested after many puckerings of her fair, aristocratic brow, and then drew lines through them when she changed her mind. Mrs. DeMille handled her people without gloves in making up Monty’s lists. The dinners were not hers, and she could afford to do as she pleased with his; he was broad and tall and she was not slow to see that he was indifferent. He did not care who the guests were, or how they came; he merely wished to make sure of their presence. His only blunder was the rather diffident recommendation that Barbara Drew be asked again. If he observed that Mrs. Dan’s head sank a little closer to the paper, he attached no importance to the movement; he could not see that her eyes grew narrow, and he paid no attention to the little catch in her breath.
“Wouldn’t that be a little—just a little pronounced?” she asked, lightly enough.
“You mean—that people might talk?”
“She might feel conspicuously present.”
“Do you think so? We are such good friends, you know.”
“Of course, if you’d like to have her,” slowly and doubtfully, “why, put her name down. But you evidently haven’t seen that.” Mrs. Dan pointed to a copy of the Trumpet which lay on the table.
When he had handed her the paper she said, “‘The Censor’ is growing facetious at your expense.”
“I am getting on in society with a vengeance if that ass starts in to write about me. Listen to this”—she had pointed out to him the obnoxious paragraph—“If Brewster Drew a diamond flush, do you suppose he’d catch the queen? And if he caught her, how long do you think she’d remain Drew? Or, if she Drew Brewster, would she be willing to learn such a game as Monte?”
The next morning a writer who signed himself “The Censor” got a thrashing and one Montgomery Brewster had his name in the papers, surrounded by fulsome words of praise.
THE FORELOCK OF TIME
One morning not long after the incidents just related, Brewster lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, deep in thought. There was a worried pucker on his forehead, half-hidden by the rumpled hair, and his eyes were wide and sleepless. He had dined at the Drews’ the evening before and had had an awakening. As he thought of the matter he could recall no special occurrence that he could really use as evidence. Colonel and Mrs. Drew had been as kind as ever and Barbara could not have been more charming. But something had gone wrong and he had endured a wretched evening.