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CHAPTER THE SEVENTEENTH
About four years and a quarter later--to be exact, it was four years and
four months--Mr. and Mrs. Capes stood side by side upon an old Persian
carpet that did duty as a hearthrug in the dining-room of their flat
and surveyed a shining dinner-table set for four people, lit by
skilfully-shaded electric lights, brightened by frequent gleams of
silver, and carefully and simply adorned with sweet-pea blossom. Capes
had altered scarcely at all during the interval, except for a new
quality of smartness in the cut of his clothes, but Ann Veronica was
nearly half an inch taller; her face was at once stronger and softer,
her neck firmer and rounder, and her carriage definitely more womanly
than it had been in the days of her rebellion. She was a woman now to
the tips of her fingers; she had said good-bye to her girlhood in the
old garden four years and a quarter ago. She was dressed in a simple
evening gown of soft creamy silk, with a yoke of dark old embroidery
that enhanced the gentle gravity of her style, and her black hair flowed
off her open forehead to pass under the control of a simple ribbon of
silver. A silver necklace enhanced the dusky beauty of her neck. Both
husband and wife affected an unnatural ease of manner for the benefit of
the efficient parlor-maid, who was putting the finishing touches to the
"It looks all right," said Capes.
"I think everything's right," said Ann Veronica, with the roaming eye of
a capable but not devoted house-mistress.
"I wonder if they will seem altered," she remarked for the third time.
"There I can't help," said Capes.
He walked through a wide open archway, curtained with deep-blue
curtains, into the apartment that served as a reception-room. Ann
Veronica, after a last survey of the dinner appointments, followed him,
rustling, came to his side by the high brass fender, and touched two or
three ornaments on the mantel above the cheerful fireplace.
"It's still a marvel to me that we are to be forgiven," she said,
"My charm of manner, I suppose. But, indeed, he's very human."
"Did you tell him of the registry office?"
"No--o--certainly not so emphatically as I did about the play."
"It was an inspiration--your speaking to him?"
"I felt impudent. I believe I am getting impudent. I had not been near
the Royal Society since--since you disgraced me. What's that?"
They both stood listening. It was not the arrival of the guests, but
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