A STORY OF CALCUTTA
BY SARAH JEANETTE DUNCAN (MRS. EVERARD COTES)
Author of "A Social Departure," "An American Girl in London," "His Honour and a Lady," "A Voyage of Consolation," "Vernon's Aunt," "A Daughter of To-day," etc.
FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
By Frederick A. Stokes Company
Miss Howe pushed the portière aside with a curved hand and gracefully separated fingers; it was a staccato movement, and her body followed it after an instant's poise of hesitation, head thrust a little forward, eyes inquiring, and a tentative smile, although she knew precisely who was there. You would have been aware at once that she was an actress. She entered the room with a little stride, and then crossed it quickly, the train of her morning gown—it cried out of luxury with the cheapest voice—taking folds of great audacity, as she bent her face in its loose mass of hair over Laura Filbert, sitting on the edge of a bamboo sofa, and said—
"You poor thing! Oh, you poor thing!"
She took Laura's hand as she spoke, and tried to keep it; but the hand was neutral, and she let it go. "It is a hand," she said to herself, in one of those quick reflections that so often visited her ready-made, "that turns the merely inquiring mind away. Nothing but passion could hold it."
Miss Filbert made the conventional effort to rise, but it came to nothing, or to a mere embarrassed accent of their greeting. Then her voice showed this feeling to be merely superficial, made nothing of it, pushed it to one side.
"I suppose you cannot see the foolishness of your pity," she said. "Oh, Miss Howe, I am happier than you are—much happier." Her bare feet, as she spoke, nestled into the coarse Mirzapore rug on the floor, and her eye lingered approvingly upon an Owari vase three foot high, and thick with the gilded landscape of Japan which stood near it, in the cheap magnificence of the squalid room.
Hilda smiled. Her smile acquiesced in the world she had found, acquiesced with the gladness of an explorer in Laura Filbert as a feature of it.
"Don't be too sure," she cried; "I am very happy. It is such a pleasure to see you."
Her gaze embraced Miss Filbert as a person and Miss Filbert as a pictorial fact; but that was because she could not help it. Her eyes were really engaged only with the latter Miss Filbert.
"Much happier than you are," Laura repeated, slowly moving her head from side to side, as if to negative contradiction in advance. She smiled too; it was as if she had remembered a former habit, from politeness.
"Of course you are—of course!" Miss Howe