When a Man Marries (Chapter 4, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 4

It was infuriating to see how much enjoyment every one but Jim and
myself got out of the situation. They howled with mirth over the
feeblest jokes, and when Max told a story without any point whatever,
they all had hysteria. Immediately after dinner Aunt Selina had begun
on the family connection again, and after two bad breaks on my part, Jim
offered to show her the house. The Mercer girls trailed along, unwilling
to lose any of the possibilities. They said afterward that it was
terrible: she went into all the closets, and ran her hand over the tops
of doors and kept getting grimmer and grimmer. In the studio they came
across a life study Jim was doing and she shut her eyes and made the
girls go out while he covered it with a drapery. Lollie! Who did the
Bacchante dance at three benefits last winter and was learning a new one
called "Eve"!

When they heard Aunt Selina on the second floor, Anne, Dal and Max
sneaked up to the studio for cigarettes, which left Mr. Harbison to me.
I was in the den, sitting in a low chair by the wood fire when he came
in. He hesitated in the doorway.

"Would you prefer being alone, or may I come in?" he asked. "Don't mind
being frank. I know you are tired."

"I have a headache, and I am sulking," I said unpleasantly, "but at
least I am not actively venomous. Come in."

So he came in and sat down across the hearth from me, and neither of us
said anything. The firelight flickered over the room, bringing out the
faded hues of the old Japanese prints on the walls, gleaming in the
mother-of-pearl eyes of the dragon on the screen, setting a grotesque
god on a cabinet to nodding. And it threw into relief the strong profile
of the man across from me, as he stared at the fire.

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