A long pause. Then the maid’s pleasant impersonal voice again. Mrs. Valentine begged Doctor Gregory to excuse her.
Warren felt as if he had been struck in the face. Under the eyes of irreproachable and voiceless servants he moved about his silent house. The hush of death seemed to him to lie heavy in the lovely rooms that had been Rachael’s delight, and over the city that was just breaking into the green of spring. He dressed, and left directions with unusual sternness; he would be at the hospital, or the club, if he was wanted. He would come home to dinner at seven.
“Mrs. Gregory may be back in a day or so, Pauline,” he said. “I wish you’d keep her rooms in order—flowers, and all that.”
“Yes, sir,” Pauline said respectfully. “Excuse me, Doctor—” she added.
“Well?” said Warren as she paused.
“Excuse me, Doctor, but I telephoned Mrs. Prince yesterday, as Mrs. Gregory suggested,” Pauline went on timidly, “and she would be glad to have me come at any time, sir.”
Warren’s expression did not change.
“You mean that Mrs. Gregory dismissed you?” he suggested.
“Yes, sir!” said Pauline with a sniff. “She paid me for—”
“Then I should make an arrangement with Mrs. Prince, by all means!” Warren said evenly. But a deathlike terror convulsed his heart. Rachael had burned her bridges!
He sent Magsie a note and flowers. He was “troubled by unexpected developments,” he said, and too busy to see her to-day, but he would see her to-morrow.
Magsie had awakened to a sense of pleasure impending. It was many months since she had felt so important and so sure of herself. Her self-esteem had received more than one blow of late. Bowman had attempted to persuade her to take “The Bad Little Lady” on the road; Magsie had indignantly declined. He had then offered her a poor part in a summer farce; about this Magsie had not yet made up her mind.
Now, she said to herself, reading Warren’s note over her late breakfast tray, perhaps she might treat Mr. Bowman to the snubbing she had long been anxious to give him. Perhaps she might spend the summer quietly, inconspicuously, somewhere, placidly awaiting the hour when she would come out gloriously before the world as Warren Gregory’s wife. Not at all a bad prospect for the daughter of old Mrs. Torrence’s companion and housekeeper.
A caller was announced and was admitted, a thin, restless woman who looked thirty-five despite or perhaps because of the rouge on her sunken cheeks and the smart gown she wore. The years had not treated Carol Pickering kindly: she was an embittered, dissatisfied woman now, noisily interested in the stage as a possible escape from matrimony for herself, and hence interested in Magsie, with whom she had lately formed a sort of suspicious and resentful intimacy.