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12. CHAPTER XII
Is Mr. Hilbery at home, or Mrs. Hilbery?" Denham asked, of the parlor-maid in Chelsea, a week later.
"No, sir. But Miss Hilbery is at home," the girl answered.
Ralph had anticipated many answers, but not this one, and now it was unexpectedly made plain to him that it was the chance of seeing Katharine that had brought him all the way to Chelsea on pretence of seeing her father.
He made some show of considering the matter, and was taken upstairs to the drawing-room. As upon that first occasion, some weeks ago, the door closed as if it were a thousand doors softly excluding the world; and once more Ralph received an impression of a room full of deep shadows, firelight, unwavering silver candle flames, and empty spaces to be crossed before reaching the round table in the middle of the room, with its frail burden of silver trays and china teacups. But this time Katharine was there by herself; the volume in her hand showed that she expected no visitors.
Ralph said something about hoping to find her father.
"My father is out," she replied. "But if you can wait, I expect him soon."
It might have been due merely to politeness, but Ralph felt that she received him almost with cordiality. Perhaps she was bored by drinking tea and reading a book all alone; at any rate, she tossed the book on to a sofa with a gesture of relief.
"Is that one of the moderns whom you despise?" he asked, smiling at the carelessness of her gesture.
"Yes," she replied. "I think even you would despise him."
"Even I?" he repeated. "Why even I?"
"You said you liked modern things; I said I hated them."
This was not a very accurate report of their conversation among the relics, perhaps, but Ralph was flattered to think that she remembered anything about it.
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