Presently Bert came out and greeted Nancy and Hawkes.
“But I thought Mrs. Benchley was coming into town to-day,” Bert said. Dorothy was now Mrs. George Benchley. Hawkes spoke at last. “An old friend of Mrs. Benchley has unexpectedly arrived this morning, sir, and she has changed her mind.” “Oh, all right,” said Bert, grinning at Nancy as the pleasant drive began.
It was all wonderful; the bright autumn sunshine, the sense of freedom and leisure in the early afternoon, and the lovely roads they followed. Bert however, seemed to be thinking of his sons, and asked of them more than once. And Nancy could not rid herself of an uncomfortable suspicion that whoever Dorothy’s old friend was, she had changed Dorothy’s plans, and perhaps made the coming of the Bradleys untimely. Now and then husband and wife smiled at each other and said “This is fun!”
Dorothy’s “place” was a beautiful estate, heavily wooded, wound with white driveways, and equipped with its own tennis courts, and its boathouse on the river. The house was enormous, and naturally had assumed none of the personality of its occupants, in this casual summer tenancy. There were countless rooms, all filled with tables and chairs and rugs and desks and bowls of flowers; and several maids came and went in the interest of the comfort of the house. There were seven or eight other guests besides the Bradleys, and they all seemed to know each other well. The unexpected guest was a young Mrs. Catlin affectionately mentioned by Dorothy in every other breath as “Elaine”; she and Dorothy had been taken to Europe together, after their schooldays, and had formed an intimacy then.
Dorothy came into the big hall to meet her cousin and his wife, and, with a little laugh, kissed Bert. She looked particularly young and lovely in what Nancy supposed to be a carefully-selected costume; later she realized that all Dorothy’s clothes gave this impression. She said that the baby was out, when Nancy asked for him, and that Katharine would take care of them.
Katharine, an impassive maid, led them upstairs, and to the large room in which their suit cases already stood. Dorothy had said, “After you change, come down and have something to drink!” but Nancy had nothing prettier than the taffeta, except her evening gown, and as the sunshine was streaming into the room, she could not change to that. So she merely freshened her appearance, and wasted fifteen or twenty minutes in a close inspection of the room, before they went down. To her somewhat shy question Bert responded enthusiastically, “You look lovely!”
They went through empty open rooms, talking as naturally as they could, and smilingly joined the others on the porch. Tea and other drinks were being dispensed by Elaine, whose attention was meanwhile absorbed by two young men. Dorothy, lying almost flat in a wicker chair, with her small silk-shod ankles crossed, was lazily arguing some question of golf scores.