“Oh!” said Ann Veronica. “I thought they made knights of actors?”
“They may of Hal some day,” said Gwen. “But it’s a long business.”
“I suppose this makes you an actress?” said Ann Veronica.
“I don’t know whether I shall go on,” said Gwen, a novel note of languorous professionalism creeping into her voice. “The other women don’t much like it if husband and wife work together, and I don’t think Hal would like me to act away from him.”
Ann Veronica regarded her sister with a new respect, but the traditions of family life are strong. “I don’t suppose you’ll be able to do it much,” said Ann Veronica.
Later Gwen’s trouble weighed so heavily on Mrs. Stanley in her illness that her husband consented to receive Mr. Fortescue in the drawing-room, and actually shake hands with him in an entirely hopeless manner and hope everything would turn out for the best.
The forgiveness and reconciliation was a cold and formal affair, and afterwards her father went off gloomily to his study, and Mr. Fortescue rambled round the garden with soft, propitiatory steps, the Corinthian nose upraised and his hands behind his back, pausing to look long and hard at the fruit-trees against the wall.
Ann Veronica watched him from the dining-room window, and after some moments of maidenly hesitation rambled out into the garden in a reverse direction to Mr. Fortescue’s steps, and encountered him with an air of artless surprise.
“Hello!” said Ann Veronica, with arms akimbo and a careless, breathless manner. “You Mr. Fortescue?”
“At your service. You Ann Veronica?”
“Rather! I say—did you marry Gwen?”
Mr. Fortescue raised his eyebrows and assumed a light-comedy expression. “I suppose I fell in love with her, Ann Veronica.”
“Rum,” said Ann Veronica. “Have you got to keep her now?”
“To the best of my ability,” said Mr. Fortescue, with a bow.
“Have you much ability?” asked Ann Veronica.
Mr. Fortescue tried to act embarrassment in order to conceal its reality, and Ann Veronica went on to ask a string of questions about acting, and whether her sister would act, and was she beautiful enough for it, and who would make her dresses, and so on.
As a matter of fact Mr. Fortescue had not much ability to keep her sister, and a little while after her mother’s death Ann Veronica met Gwen suddenly on the staircase coming from her father’s study, shockingly dingy in dusty mourning and tearful and resentful, and after that Gwen receded from the Morningside Park world, and not even the begging letters and distressful communications that her father and aunt received, but only a vague intimation of dreadfulness, a leakage of incidental comment, flashes of paternal anger at “that blackguard,” came to Ann Veronica’s ears.