"Well, I think we won't talk about bridges here, at any rate." Bartley looked down
at the toe of her yellow slipper which was tapping the rug impatiently under the
hem of her gown. "But I wonder whether you'd think me impertinent if I asked you
to let me come to see you sometime and tell you about them?"
"Why should I? Ever so many people come on Sunday afternoons."
"I know. Mainhall offered to take me. But you must know that I've been in London
several times within the last few years, and you might very well think that just
now is a rather inopportune time--"
She cut him short. "Nonsense. One of the pleasantest things about success is
that it makes people want to look one up, if that's what you mean. I'm like every
one else-- more agreeable to meet when things are going well with me. Don't you
suppose it gives me any pleasure to do something that people like?"
"Does it? Oh, how fine it all is, your coming on like this! But I didn't want you to
think it was because of that I wanted to see you." He spoke very seriously and
looked down at the floor.
Hilda studied him in wide-eyed astonishment for a moment, and then broke into a
low, amused laugh. "My dear Mr. Alexander, you have strange delicacies. If you
please, that is exactly why you wish to see me. We understand that, do we not?"
Bartley looked ruffled and turned the seal ring on his little finger about awkwardly.
Hilda leaned back in her chair, watching him indulgently out of her shrewd eyes.
"Come, don't be angry, but don't try to pose for me, or to be anything but what
you are. If you care to come, it's yourself I'll be glad to see, and you thinking well
of yourself. Don't try to wear a cloak of humility; it doesn't become you. Stalk in
as you are and don't make excuses. I'm not accustomed to inquiring into the
motives of my guests. That would hardly be safe, even for Lady Walford, in a
great house like this."
"Sunday afternoon, then," said Alexander, as she rose to join her hostess. "How
early may I come?"
She gave him her hand and flushed and laughed. He bent over it a little stiffly.
She went away on Lady Walford's arm, and as he stood watching her yellow train
glide down the long floor he looked rather sullen. He felt that he had not come
out of it very brilliantly.