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16. CHAPTER XVI
Leonard accepted the invitation to tea next Saturday. But he was right; the visit proved a conspicuous failure.
"Sugar?" said Margaret.
"Cake?" said Helen. "The big cake or the little deadlies? I'm afraid you thought my letter rather odd, but we'll explain--we aren't odd, really--nor affected, really. We're over-expressive-- that's all."
As a lady's lap-dog Leonard did not excel. He was not an Italian, still less a Frenchman, in whose blood there runs the very spirit of persiflage and of gracious repartee. His wit was the Cockney's; it opened no doors into imagination, and Helen was drawn up short by "The more a lady has to say, the better," administered waggishly.
"Oh yes," she said.
"Yes, I know. The darlings are regular sunbeams. Let me give you a plate."
"How do you like your work?" interposed Margaret.
He, too, was drawn up short. He would not have these women prying into his work. They were Romance, and so was the room to which he had at last penetrated, with the queer sketches of people bathing upon its walls, and so were the very tea-cups, with their delicate borders of wild strawberries. But he would not let romance interfere with his life. There is the devil to pay then.
"Oh, well enough," he answered.
"Your company is the Porphyrion, isn't it?"
"Yes, that's so."--becoming rather offended. "It's funny how things get round."
"Why funny?" asked Helen, who did not follow the workings of his mind. "It was written as large as life on your card, and considering we wrote to you there, and that you replied on the stamped paper--"
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