When the servant admitted him, Mrs. Alexander was still standing in the hallway.
She heard him give his name, and came forward holding out her hand.
"Is it you, indeed, Professor Wilson? I was afraid that you might get here before I
did. I was detained at a concert, and Bartley telephoned that he would be late.
Thomas will show you your room. Had you rather have your tea brought to you
there, or will you have it down here with me, while we wait for Bartley?"
Wilson was pleased to find that he had been the cause of her rapid walk, and
with her he was even more vastly pleased than before. He followed her through
the drawing-room into the library, where the wide back windows looked out upon
the garden and the sunset and a fine stretch of silver-colored river. A harp-
shaped elm stood stripped against the pale-colored evening sky, with ragged last
year's birds' nests in its forks, and through the bare branches the evening star
quivered in the misty air. The long brown room breathed the peace of a rich and
amply guarded quiet. Tea was brought in immediately and placed in front of the
wood fire. Mrs. Alexander sat down in a high-backed chair and began to pour it,
while Wilson sank into a low seat opposite her and took his cup with a great
sense of ease and harmony and comfort.
"You have had a long journey, haven't you?" Mrs. Alexander asked, after
showing gracious concern about his tea. "And I am so sorry Bartley is late. He's
often tired when he's late. He flatters himself that it is a little on his account that
you have come to this Congress of Psychologists."
"It is," Wilson assented, selecting his muffin carefully; "and I hope he won't be
tired tonight. But, on my own account, I'm glad to have a few moments alone with
you, before Bartley comes. I was somehow afraid that my knowing him so well
would not put me in the way of getting to know you."
"That's very nice of you." She nodded at him above her cup and smiled, but there
was a little formal tightness in her tone which had not been there when she
greeted him in the hall.
Wilson leaned forward. "Have I said something awkward? I live very far out of the
world, you know. But I didn't mean that you would exactly fade dim, even if
Bartley were here."
Mrs. Alexander laughed relentingly. "Oh, I'm not so vain! How terribly discerning
She looked straight at Wilson, and he felt that this quick, frank glance brought
about an understanding between them.