But Ann Veronica was by no means sure of that until she went over to Wamblesmith and saw her sister, very remote and domestic and authoritative, in a becoming tea-gown, in command of Doctor Ralph’s home. Doctor Ralph came in to tea and put his arm round Alice and kissed her, and Alice called him “Squiggles,” and stood in the shelter of his arms for a moment with an expression of satisfied proprietorship. She had cried, Ann Veronica knew. There had been fusses and scenes dimly apprehended through half-open doors. She had heard Alice talking and crying at the same time, a painful noise. Perhaps marriage hurt. But now it was all over, and Alice was getting on well. It reminded Ann Veronica of having a tooth stopped.
And after that Alice became remoter than ever, and, after a time, ill. Then she had a baby and became as old as any really grown-up person, or older, and very dull. Then she and her husband went off to a Yorkshire practice, and had four more babies, none of whom photographed well, and so she passed beyond the sphere of Ann Veronica’s sympathies altogether.
The Gwen affair happened when she was away at school at Marticombe-on-Sea, a term before she went to the High School, and was never very clear to her.
Her mother missed writing for a week, and then she wrote in an unusual key. “My dear,” the letter ran, “I have to tell you that your sister Gwen has offended your father very much. I hope you will always love her, but I want you to remember she has offended your father and married without his consent. Your father is very angry, and will not have her name mentioned in his hearing. She has married some one he could not approve of, and gone right away....”
When the next holidays came Ann Veronica’s mother was ill, and Gwen was in the sick-room when Ann Veronica returned home. She was in one of her old walking-dresses, her hair was done in an unfamiliar manner, she wore a wedding-ring, and she looked as if she had been crying.
“Hello, Gwen!” said Ann Veronica, trying to put every one at their ease. “Been and married?... What’s the name of the happy man?”
Gwen owned to “Fortescue.”
“Got a photograph of him or anything?” said Ann Veronica, after kissing her mother.
Gwen made an inquiry, and, directed by Mrs. Stanley, produced a portrait from its hiding-place in the jewel-drawer under the mirror. It presented a clean-shaven face with a large Corinthian nose, hair tremendously waving off the forehead and more chin and neck than is good for a man.
“Looks all right,” said Ann Veronica, regarding him with her head first on one side and then on the other, and trying to be agreeable. “What’s the objection?”
“I suppose she ought to know?” said Gwen to her mother, trying to alter the key of the conversation.
“You see, Vee,” said Mrs. Stanley, “Mr. Fortescue is an actor, and your father does not approve of the profession.”