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‘I expect you are right. My poor Anne has a dreadful time- three babies, and a doctor’s house, which means meals at all sorts of hours, and not even daily help as often as not. I can’t think how she does it. I’m sure I couldn’t. But she takes after her father-so practical. Now Lila isn’t practical, is she? But I did like Bill Waring.’

Lady Dryden repeated a previous remark.

‘A very stupid affair. More tea, Corinna?’

‘Oh, thank you. Is he still in America?’

‘I imagine so.’

‘Did he-did he-how did he take it?’

Lady Dryden set down the teapot.

‘My dear Corinna, you really mustn’t talk as if Lila had thrown him over. The whole stupid affair just faded out.’

Mrs. Longley took her cup, and said, ‘Oh, no, thank you’ to sugar, in the hope that this would be accounted to her for righteousness. Buoyed up with a feeling of virtue, she ventured to say,

‘It faded out?’

Lady Dryden nodded.

‘A few months’ separation gives young people a chance of finding out whether they really care for each other. Very few of these boy-and-girl affairs stand the test.’

Mrs. Longley reflected that an engagement between a girl of twenty-two and a man of twenty-eight hardly came into this category, but she knew better than to say so. She made one of those murmuring sounds which encouraged the person who is talking to proceed, and was duly rewarded.

Lady Dryden went on.

‘I don’t mind telling you that I said a word to Edward Rumbold-he’s the head of young Waring’s firm and a very old friend. So when he told me they were sending someone out to America -something to do with patents-I said, “What about giving Bill Waring the chance?” I don’t know if it made any difference. I believe there was someone else they were going to send, but he was ill. Anyhow Bill went, and the whole thing just faded out.’

‘You mean he didn’t write?’

Lady Dryden gave a short laugh.

‘Oh, reams by every post at first. Too unrestrained. And then -well, just nothing at all.’

Mrs. Longley’s eyes widened to their fullest extent.

‘Sybil-you didn’t!’

Lady Dryden laughed again.

‘My dear Corinna! You’ve been reading Victorian novels- Hearts Divided, or The Intercepted Letters. Nothing so sensational, I’m afraid. Americans are very hospitable. Bill Waring found himself in a rush of business by day and amusement by night. He was very well entertained, and he didn’t find or make time to write to Lila. She didn’t like being left flat, and Herbert Whitall made the running. That’s the whole story, and no melodrama about it. She is a very lucky girl, and they are being married next week. You got your card?’

‘Oh, yes-I’m looking forward to it. I expect her dress is lovely. He has given her pearls, hasn’t he?’

‘Yes. Fortunately they suit her.’

Mrs. Longley leaned forward to put down her cup. She began to collect a bag, gloves, a handkerchief, talking as she did so.

‘Well, I must go. Allan likes me to be in when he comes home. Of course pearls are lovely, but my mother wouldn’t let me wear the little string Aunt Mabel left me-not on my wedding day. She said pearls were tears, and she took them away and locked them up. And of course I’ve been very happy, though I don’t suppose it had anything to do with the pearls.’

At this point she dropped her bag. It opened, her purse fell out, and a compact rolled. When she had retrieved it from under the tea-table she felt suddenly brave enough to say,

‘He is a lot older than she is, isn’t he?’

Lady Dryden said coldly,

‘Herbert Whitall is forty-seven. Lila is an extremely lucky girl.’

Afterwards Corinna Longley was surprised at her own courage. She told Allan all about it when she got home.

‘I just felt I must say something. Of course he’s got all that money, and she’ll have some lovely house, and a proper staff of servants, and everything like that. But he is a lot older, and I don’t like his face, and she was in love with Bill Waring.’

At the time, she fixed swimming blue eyes on Lady Dryden’s face and said with a choke in her voice, ‘Is she happy, Sybil?’


Lila Dryden stood looking at herself in the glass which not only gave back the slim perfection of her figure but repeated it in the great wall-mirror behind her. She could see how beautifully her wedding-dress was cut. She had wanted something softer and whiter, but that was when she was planning to marry Bill Waring. She didn’t really like the deep, heavy satin which Aunt Sybil had chosen. It reminded her of the ivory figure in Herbert Whitall’s collection. He had brought it out and set it on the mantelpiece for everyone to see and said that it was like her. She hated it. It was very old. She hated being told that she was like something which was thousands of years old. It made her feel as if-no, she didn’t know what it made her feel, but she didn’t like it.

She looked into the mirror and saw her own slim ivory figure repeated endlessly. She didn’t like that either. It was like a rather horrid dream. Hundreds of Lila Drydens going away down an endless shadowy vista-hundreds of them, all with her pale gold hair and the ivory satin dress which Aunt Sybil had chosen.

The ivory figure had once had golden hair. The gold had worn away because the figure was so very old, but Herbert Whitall had held it under the light for her to see how the gilding still clung to it here and there. She heard him say in the voice which frightened her most, ‘Gold and ivory-like you, my beautiful Lila.’

These thoughts didn’t take any time. They were there, just as the carpet was there under her feet. The carpet was there, and the floor was solid under it. It was silly to feel as if she was floating away to join all those gold and ivory Lilas in that queer looking-glass world. She heard Sybil Dryden say,

‘Do you think it would bear to come in the least possible shade at the waist?’ And Madame Mirabelle’s instant and emotional reaction, ‘Oh but non, non, non, non, non! It is perfect- absolutely perfect. I will not take the responsibility to touch it. Mademoiselle will be the most beautiful bride, and she will have the most beautiful dress-of a perfection of a simplicity! One would say a statue of the antique!’ Her short, stout figure came into the mirror-a hundred Mirabelles going away to a vanishing point, all black, all wonderfully corseted, with waving hands and a torrent of words.

Sybil Dryden nodded.

‘Yes, it’s good,’ she said, in her calm, unhurried way.

She stood up and came into the picture too, another black figure but a slim one. She carried herself with distinction. Everything about her was just as it should be, from the faultless waves just touched with grey at the temples to the slender arch of the foot. The black coat and skirt conveyed no suggestion of mourning. There was a flash of diamonds in the lace at the throat. The small hat achieved just the right note of restrained elegance, endlessly repeated by the mirrors.

Hundreds of Aunt Sybils… Lila saw them in a swirling mist. She heard Mirabelle exclaim, and the mist broke into a shower of sparks.

Lady Dryden was nothing if not efficient. She caught the swaying figure as it fell, and since a white sheet had been spread on the floor of the fitting-room, the wedding-dress took no harm.


Ray Fortescue got off her bus and walked up the street. She was wearing her new autumn suit, because nothing gives you so much confidence as to feel that you are looking your best. The suit was a success, and so was the little off-the-face hat that went with it. They were perfectly matched, and they were just two shades lighter than her dark brown hair. There was a spray of autumn leaves and berries on the hat, repeating the gay lipstick which went so well with the clear brown of her skin. She wasn’t a beauty, but she had her points, and she knew how to make the most of them. Her eyes were a clear amber with very dark lashes, and they were widely set. Her face showed balance, character, control, and she had the figure which most girls long for. It looked very well in the brown suit.