30. Chapter XXX.
That evening when Archer came down before dinner
he found the drawing-room empty.
He and May were dining alone, all the family
engagements having been postponed since Mrs. Manson
Mingott's illness; and as May was the more punctual
of the two he was surprised that she had not preceded
him. He knew that she was at home, for while he
dressed he had heard her moving about in her room;
and he wondered what had delayed her.
He had fallen into the way of dwelling on such
conjectures as a means of tying his thoughts fast to
reality. Sometimes he felt as if he had found the clue to
his father-in-law's absorption in trifles; perhaps even
Mr. Welland, long ago, had had escapes and visions,
and had conjured up all the hosts of domesticity to
defend himself against them.
When May appeared he thought she looked tired.
She had put on the low-necked and tightly-laced dinner-dress which the Mingott ceremonial exacted on the
most informal occasions, and had built her fair hair
into its usual accumulated coils; and her face, in
contrast, was wan and almost faded. But she shone on him
with her usual tenderness, and her eyes had kept the
blue dazzle of the day before.
"What became of you, dear?" she asked. "I was
waiting at Granny's, and Ellen came alone, and said
she had dropped you on the way because you had to
rush off on business. There's nothing wrong?"
"Only some letters I'd forgotten, and wanted to get
off before dinner."
"Ah--" she said; and a moment afterward: "I'm
sorry you didn't come to Granny's--unless the letters
"They were," he rejoined, surprised at her insistence.
"Besides, I don't see why I should have gone to your
grandmother's. I didn't know you were there."