“Seriously, Vera, I mean it!”
“Seriously, Rachael, do you mean to tell me that you hadn’t the slightest idea—” Mrs. Villalonga roused herself, to smilingly study the other woman’s face as she asked the question. “Not a word—not a hint?”
“Ah, well—” Rachael’s face was flaming. She would have put her hand in the fire to be able to say “No.” The others laughed cheerfully.
“Nobody misunderstands you, dear: you were in a rotten fix and you got out of it nicely,” said fat Mrs. Moran, and Mrs. Villalonga added consolingly: “Why, my heavens, Rachael, I’d leave Booth to-morrow for anyone half as handsome as Warren Gregory!”
In March the Gregorys sent out cards for their first really large entertainment, a Mardi-Gras ball. Rachael and Warren spent many happy hours planning it: the studio was to be cleared, two other big rooms turned into one for the supper, music for dancing, musical numbers for the entertainment; it would be perfect in every detail, one of the notable affairs of the winter. Rachael hailed it as the end of the season. They were to make a flying trip to the Bermudas in April, and after that Rachael happily planned a month or two in the almost deserted city before Warren would be free to get away to the mountains or the boat. It was with a delightful sense of freedom that she realized that her first winter in her new role was nearly over. Next winter her divorce and remarriage would be an old story, there would be other gossip more fascinating and more new, she would be taken quite for granted. Again, she might more easily evade the social demand next winter without exposing herself to the charge of being fickle or changed. This year her brave and dignified facing of the world had been a part of the price she paid for her new happiness. Now it was paid.
And for another reason, half-defined, Rachael was glad to see the months go by. She had been Warren Gregory’s wife for nearly six months now, and the rapture of being together was still as great for them both as it had been in the first radiant days of their marriage. For herself, indeed, she knew that the joy was constantly deepening, and even the wild hunger and passion of her heart could find no flaw in his devotion. Her surrender to him was with a glorious and unashamed completeness, the tones of her extraordinary voice deepened when she spoke to him, and in her eyes all who looked might read the story of insatiable and yet satisfied love.
Plans for the big dance presently began to move briskly, and there was much talk of the affair. As hostess, Rachael would not mask, nor would Warren, but they were already amusing themselves with the details of elaborate costumes. Warren’s rather stern and classic beauty was to be enhanced by the blue and buff of an officer of the Revolution, fine ruffles falling at wrist and throat, wide silver buckles on