They found Ellen West in the sitting room when they went in. She laid her glasses down on the book she had been reading and looked at them in amazement tinctured with something else. But she shook hands amiably with Mr. Meredith and he sat down and talked to her, while Rosemary hunted out his book.
Ellen West was ten years older than Rosemary, and so different from her that it was hard to believe they were sisters. She was dark and massive, with black hair, thick, black eyebrows and eyes of the clear, slaty blue of the gulf water in a north wind. She had a rather stern, forbidding look, but she was in reality very jolly, with a hearty, gurgling laugh and a deep, mellow, pleasant voice with a suggestion of masculinity about it. She had once remarked to Rosemary that she would really like to have a talk with that Presbyterian minister at the Glen, to see if he could find a word to say to a woman when he was cornered. She had her chance now and she tackled him on world politics. Miss Ellen, who was a great reader, had been devouring a book on the Kaiser of Germany, and she demanded Mr. Meredith’s opinion of him.
“A dangerous man,” was his answer.
“I believe you!” Miss Ellen nodded. “Mark my words, Mr. Meredith, that man is going to fight somebody yet. He’s aching to. He is going to set the world on fire.”
“If you mean that he will wantonly precipitate a great war I hardly think so,” said Mr. Meredith. “The day has gone by for that sort of thing.”
“Bless you, it hasn’t,” rumbled Ellen. “The day never goes by for men and nations to make asses of themselves and take to the fists. The millenniun isn’t that near, Mr. Meredith, and you don’t think it is any more than I do. As for this Kaiser, mark my words, he is going to make a heap of trouble”—and Miss Ellen prodded her book emphatically with her long finger. “Yes, if he isn’t nipped in the bud he’s going to make trouble. We’ll live to see it—you and I will live to see it, Mr. Meredith. And who is going to nip him? England should, but she won’t. Who is going to nip him? Tell me that, Mr. Meredith.”
Mr. Meredith couldn’t tell her, but they plunged into a discussion of German militarism that lasted long after Rosemary had found the book. Rosemary said nothing, but sat in a little rocker behind Ellen and stroked an important black cat meditatively. John Meredith hunted big game in Europe with Ellen, but he looked oftener at Rosemary than at Ellen, and Ellen noticed it. After Rosemary had gone to the door with him and come back Ellen rose and looked at her accusingly.
“Rosemary West, that man has a notion of courting you.”
Rosemary quivered. Ellen’s speech was like a blow to her. It rubbed all the bloom off the pleasant evening. But she would not let Ellen see how it hurt her.
“Nonsense,” she said, and laughed, a little too carelessly. “You see a beau for me in every bush, Ellen. Why he told me all about his wife to-night—how much she was to him—how empty her death had left the world.”