Night and Day
And little Augustus Pelham said to me, 'It's the younger generation knocking at
the door,' and I said to him, 'Oh, but the younger generation comes in without
knocking, Mr. Pelham.' Such a feeble little joke, wasn't it, but down it went into
his notebook all the same."
"Let us congratulate ourselves that we shall be in the grave before that work is
published," said Mr. Hilbery.
The elderly couple were waiting for the dinner-bell to ring and for their daughter
to come into the room. Their arm-chairs were drawn up on either side of the fire,
and each sat in the same slightly crouched position, looking into the coals, with
the expressions of people who have had their share of experiences and wait,
rather passively, for something to happen. Mr. Hilbery now gave all his attention
to a piece of coal which had fallen out of the grate, and to selecting a favorable
position for it among the lumps that were burning already. Mrs. Hilbery watched
him in silence, and the smile changed on her lips as if her mind still played with
the events of the afternoon.
When Mr. Hilbery had accomplished his task, he resumed his crouching position
again, and began to toy with the little green stone attached to his watch-chain.
His deep, oval-shaped eyes were fixed upon the flames, but behind the
superficial glaze seemed to brood an observant and whimsical spirit, which kept
the brown of the eye still unusually vivid. But a look of indolence, the result of
skepticism or of a taste too fastidious to be satisfied by the prizes and
conclusions so easily within his grasp, lent him an expression almost of
melancholy. After sitting thus for a time, he seemed to reach some point in his
thinking which demonstrated its futility, upon which he sighed and stretched his
hand for a book lying on the table by his side.
Directly the door opened he closed the book, and the eyes of father and mother
both rested on Katharine as she came towards them. The sight seemed at once
to give them a motive which they had not had before. To them she appeared, as
she walked towards them in her light evening dress, extremely young, and the
sight of her refreshed them, were it only because her youth and ignorance made
their knowledge of the world of some value.
"The only excuse for you, Katharine, is that dinner is still later than you are," said
Mr. Hilbery, putting down his spectacles.
"I don't mind her being late when the result is so charming," said Mrs. Hilbery,
looking with pride at her daughter. "Still, I don't know that I LIKE your being out
so late, Katharine," she continued. "You took a cab, I hope?"
Here dinner was announced, and Mr. Hilbery formally led his wife downstairs on
his arm. They were all dressed for dinner, and, indeed, the prettiness of the
dinner-table merited that compliment. There was no cloth upon the table, and the
china made regular circles of deep blue upon the shining brown wood. In the
middle there was a bowl of tawny red and yellow chrysanthemums, and one of
pure white, so fresh that the narrow petals were curved backwards into a firm
white ball. From the surrounding walls the heads of three famous Victorian