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Dangerous Days

Chapter 12
Two days before Christmas Delight came out. There was an afternoon reception
at the rectory, and the plain old house blossomed with the debutante's bouquets
and baskets of flowers.
For weeks before the house had been getting ready. The rector, looking about for
his accustomed chair, had been told it was at the upholsterer's, or had found his
beloved and ragged old books relegated to dark corners of the bookcases. There
were always stepladders on the landings, and paper-hangers waiting until a man
got out of bed in the morning. And once he put his ecclesiastical heel in a pail of
varnish, and slid down an entire staircase, to the great imperilment of his kindly
old soul.
But he had consented without demur to the coming-out party, and he had taken,
during all the morning of the great day, a most mundane interest in the boxes of
flowers that came in every few minutes. He stood inside a window, under
pretense of having no place to sit down, and called out regularly,
"Six more coming, mother! And a boy with three ringing across the street. I think
he's made a mistake. Yes, he has. He's coming over!"
When all the stands and tables were overflowing, the bouquets were hung to the
curtains in the windows. And Delight, taking a last survey, from the doorway,
expressed her satisfaction.
"It's heavenly," she said. "Imagine all those flowers for me. It looks" - she
squinted up her eyes critically - "it looks precisely like a highly successful
funeral."
But a part of her satisfaction was pure pose, for the benefit of that kindly pair who
loved her so. Alone in her room, dressed to go down-stairs, Delight drew a long
breath and picked up her flowers which Clayton Spencer had sent. It had been
his kindly custom for years to send to each little debutante, as she made her
bow, a great armful of white lilacs and trailing tiny white rosebuds.
"Fifty dollars, probably," Delight reflected. "And the Belgians needing flannels. It's
dreadful."
Her resentment against Graham was dying. After all, he was only a child in Toots
Hayden's hands. And she made one of those curious "He-loves-me-he-loves-me-
not" arrangements in her own mind. If Graham came that afternoon, she would
take it as a sign that there was still some good in him, and she would try to save
him from himself. She had been rather nasty to him. If he did not come -
A great many came, mostly women, with a sprinkling of men. The rector, who
loved people, was in his element. He was proud of Delight, proud of his home; he
had never ceased being proud of his wife. He knew who exactly had sent each
basket of flowers, each hanging bunch. "Your exquisite orchids," he would say;
or, "that perfectly charming basket. It is there, just beside Mrs. Haverford."
But when Natalie Spencer came in alone, splendid in Russian sables, he
happened to be looking at Delight, and he saw the light die out of her eyes.
 
 
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