“I’ll be delighted to help!” she said, lifelessly. “A lot of women and children,” she reflected, “and nobody drinking tea anyway, this weather!”
“I say, Mater,” Ward said from the doorway, with what he fondly believed to be an English accent, “I’m no end peckish, what what? Say, Mother,” he added, becoming suddenly serious, “what do you think of Blondin? Isn’t he a corker? Say, listen, are you going to ask him to dinner? Do we have to have the whole Bellamy tribe if we ask him, Miss Harriet?”
“Don’t spill things and fuss with things, Ward,” his mother protested plaintively, protecting her bottles and jars from his big hands as he sat down. “Yes, dear, we’ll have him. I like him because he was so enthusiastic about you. He’s really quite a person.”
“Person—you bet he is!” Ward said. “Gosh, he knows everything. You ought to get him started about—oh, I don’t know, philosophy, and the way we all are forever getting things we don’t want, and music—he can beat the box, believe me! He gave talks at the Pomeroys’ last year—”
Nina, trailing in in a blue wrapper, sat herself upon a chair, wrapped her garments about her, and entered interestedly into the conversation.
“’The Ethics of the Everyday’,” she contributed. “I remember it because Adelaide Pomeroy and I used to be in the pantry, eating the tea things. And he talked at our school about Tagore.”
“I remember those talks at Lizzie Pomeroy’s,” Isabelle said, thoughtfully. “I wish I had gone! I suppose he’s got a book out. Will you see if you can get me anything he’s written when you’re in town, Harriet? If we’re going to have him here—”
She glanced at herself in the glass, where a more primitive woman, in a jungle, would have commenced a slow, solitary dance and song. If the hint of a scornful smile touched the secretary’s beautiful mouth, she suppressed it. She had a little notebook in her pocket, and in it she duly entered the name of Royal Blondin.
“Too much rouge on this side, Mother,” said Ward. Mrs. Carter picked up a hand-mirror, and studied herself carefully. When she had powdered and rubbed one cheek, she thoughtfully rouged her lips again, pouting them artfully, while Harriet and the children chattered. Nina was full of excited anticipation. Francesca’s tea to-morrow, and the box-party on Friday, and a new gown for each-Nina fancied herself already a popular and lovely debutante. Harriet imagined that she saw something of a brother’s pity in Ward’s eyes as he watched her. Ward himself looked his best in his evening black, and several years older than he really was.
“We’re a handsome couple, Miss Harriet,” said Ward, with a glance toward the door of solid mirror that chanced to reflect them both. “Aren’t we, Mother?”