Mrs. Pennington had now taken an initiative in the friendship and refused to be disconcerted. Jane’s engagements with Coleman Van Duyn provided no effectual hindrance to Mrs. Pennington’s enthusiastic fellowship, and she frequently helped to make a party in which, to Mr. Van Duyn at least, three was a crowd. Mrs. Pennington accepted his presence without surprise, without annoyance or other emotion; and somehow succeeded in conveying the impression that she was conferring a favor upon them both, a favor for which, in her own heart at least, Jane was grateful.
It was not surprising to Jane, therefore, when one morning Nellie Pennington called up on the ’phone and made an engagement for the afternoon at five, at the Loring house, urging a need of Jane’s advice upon an important matter. She entered the library, where Jane had been reading, with a radiance which did much to dispel the gloom of the day which had been execrable; and when her hostess suggested that they go upstairs to her own dressing-room, where they might be undisturbed, Nellie Pennington threw off her furs.
“No, thanks, darling,” she said. “I can’t stay long. And you know when one reaches my mature years, each stair has a separate menace.”
“There’s the lift,” Jane laughed.
“Oh, never! That would be. I’ll stay here if you don’t mind,” and she sank into an armchair by the fire.
“Coley isn’t coming?” she inquired.
“No,” said Jane. “I had a headache.”
Nellie Pennington sighed gratefully.
“You know, Jane, Coley is a nice fellow, but he’s just about as plastic as the Pyramid of Cheops. You’ve done wonders with him, of course, and he is really quite bearable now, but it must have been wearing, wasn’t it?”