But, with the breaking off of diplomatic relations, matters remained for a time at a
standstill. Natalie dried her eyes and ordered some new clothes, and saw rather
more of Rodney Page than was good for her.
With the beginning of February the country house was far enough under way for
it to be promised for June, and Natalie, the fundamentals of its decoration
arranged for, began to haunt old-furniture shops, accompanied always by
"Not that your taste is not right, Natalie," he explained. "It is exquisite. But these
fellows are liars and cheats, some of them. Besides, I like trailing along, if you
Trailing along was a fairly accurate phrase. There was scarcely a day now when
Natalie's shining car, with its two men in livery, did not draw up before Rodney's
office building, or stand, as unostentatiously as a fire engine, not too near the
entrance of his club. Clayton, going in, had seen it there once or twice, and had
smiled rather grimly. He considered its presence there in questionable taste, but
he felt no uneasiness. Determined as he was to give Natalie such happiness as
was still in him to give, he never mentioned these instances.
But a day came, early in February, which was to mark a change in the
relationship between Natalie and Rodney.
It started simply enough. They had lunched together at a down-town hotel, and
then went to look at rugs. Rodney had found her rather obdurate as to old rugs.
They were still arguing the matter in the limousine.
"I just don't like to think of all sorts of dirty Turks and Arabs having used them,"
she protested. "Slept on them, walked on them, spilled things on the - ?ugh!"
"But the colors, Natalie dear! The old faded 'copper-tones, the dull-blues, the
dead-rose! There is a beauty about age, you know. Lovely as you are, you'll be
even lovelier as an old woman."
"I'm getting there rather rapidly."
He turned and looked at her critically. No slightest aid that she had given her
beauty missed his eyes, the delicate artificial lights in her hair, her eyebrows
drawn to a hair's breadth and carefully arched, the touch of rouge under her eyes
and on the lobes of her ears. But she was beautiful, no matter what art had
augmented her real prettiness. She was a charming, finished product, from her
veil and hat to her narrowly shod feet. He liked finished things, well done. He
liked the glaze on a porcelain; he liked the perfect lacquering on the Chinese
screen he had persuaded Natalie to buy; he preferred wood carved into the fine
lines of Sheraton to the trees that grow in the Park, for instance, through which
they were driving.
A Sheraton sideboard was art. Even certain forms of Colonial mahogany were
art, although he was not fond of them. And Natalie was - art. Even if she