“I shan’t bother you again before Saturday,” he said; “I know what a week it will be at the theatre. Remember you are to give the man his orders about the brougham. I can get on perfectly with the cart. Good-bye! Calcutta is waiting for you.”
“Calcutta is never impatient,” said Miss Howe. “It is waiting with yawns and much whisky and soda.” She gave him a stately inclination with her hand, and he overcame the temptation to lay his own on his heart in a burlesque of it. At the door he remembered something, and turned. He stood looking back precisely where Laura Filbert had stood, but the sun was gone. “You might tell me more about your friend of the altruistic army,” he said.
“You saw, you heard, you know.”
“Oh,” cried she, disregardingly, “you can discover her for yourself, at the Army Headquarters in Bentinck Street—you man!”
Lindsay closed the door behind him without replying, and half-way down the stairs her voice appealed to him over the banisters.
“You might as well forget that. I didn’t particularly mean it.”
“I know you didn’t,” he returned. “You woman! But you yourself— you’re not going to play with your heavenly visitant?”
Hilda leaned upon the banisters, her arms dropping over from the elbows. “I suppose I may look at her,” she said; and her smile glowed down upon him.
“Do you think it really rewards attention?—the type, I mean.”
“How you will talk of types! Didn’t you see that she was unique? You may come back if you like, for a quarter of an hour, and we will discuss her.”
Lindsay looked at his watch. “I would come back for a quarter of an hour to discuss anything, or nothing,” he replied, “but there isn’t time. I am dining with the Archdeacon. I must go to church.”
“Why not be original and dine with the Archdeacon without going to church? Why not say on arrival: ’My dear Archdeacon, your sermon and your mutton the same evening—c’est trop! I cannot so impose upon your generosity. I have come for the mutton!’”
Thus was Captain Laura Filbert superseded, as doubtless often before, by an orthodox consideration. Duff Lindsay drove away in his cart; and still, for an appreciable number of seconds, Miss Howe stood leaning over the banisters, her eyes fixed full of speculation on the place where he had stood. She was thinking of a scene—a dinner with an Archdeacon—and of the permanent satisfactions to be got from it; and she renounced almost with a palpable sigh the idea of the Archdeacon’s asking her.
“Oh, her gift!” said Alicia Livingstone. “It is the lowest, isn’t it—in the scale of human endowment? Mimicry.”
Miss Livingstone handed her brother his tea as she spoke, but turned her eyes and her delicate chin up to Duff Lindsay with the protest. Lindsay’s cup was at his lips, and his eyebrows went up over it as if they would answer before his voice was set at liberty.