Mrs. Ansley was much less articulate than her friend, and her mental portrait
of Mrs. Slade was slighter, and drawn with fainter touches. "Alida Slade's awfully brilliant; but not as brilliant as she thinks," would have summed it up; though she would have added, for the enlightenment of strangers, that Mrs. Slade had been an extremely dashing girl; much more so than her daughter, who was pretty, of course, and clever in a way, but had none of her mother's - well, "vividness
," someone had once called it. Mrs. Ansley would take up current words like this, and cite them in quotation marks, as unheardof audacities. No; Jenny was not like her mother. Sometimes Mrs. Ansley thought Alida Slade was disappointed; on the whole she had had a sad life. Full of failures and mistakes; Mrs. Ansley had always been rather sorry for her....
So these two ladies visualized each other, each through the wrong end of her little telescope.
For a long time they continued to sit side by side without speaking. It seemed as though, to both, there was a relief in laying down their somewhat futile activities in the presence of the vast Memento Mori which faced them. Mrs. Slade sat quite still, her eyes fixed on the golden slope of the Palace of the Caesars, and after a while Mrs. Ansley ceased to fidget with her bag, and she too sank into meditation. Like many intimate friends, the two ladies had never before had occasion to be silent together, and Mrs. Ansley was slightly embarrassed by what seemed, after so many years, a new stage in their intimacy, and one with which she did not yet know how to deal.
Suddenly the air was full of that deep clangor of bells which periodically covers Rome with a roof of silver. Mrs. Slade glanced at her wristwatch. "Five o'clock already," she said, as though
Mrs. Ansley suggested interrogatively: "There's bridge at the embassy at five." For a long time Mrs. Slade did not answer. She appeared to be lost in contemplation, and Mrs. Ansley thought the remark had escaped her. But after a while she said, as if speaking out of a dream: "Bridge, did you say! Not unless you want to.... But I don't think I will, you know."
"Oh, no," Mrs. Ansley hastened to assure her. "I don't care to at all. It's so lovely
here; and so full of old memories, as you say." She settled herself in her chair, and almost
furtively drew forth her knitting. Mrs. Slade took sideways note of this activity, but her own beautifully cared for
hands remained motionless on her knee.
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