Mrs. Ansley's hands lay inert
across her needles. She looked straight out at the great accumulated wreckage of passion
at her feet. But her small profile was almost expressionless. At length she said, "I think you overrate Bab
s, my dear."
Mrs. Slade's tone grew easier. "No; I don't. I appreciate her. And perhaps envy you. Oh, my girl's perfect; if I were a chronic invalid I'd - well, I think I'd rather be in Jenny's hands. There must be times ... but there! I always wanted a brilliant daughter ... and never quite understood why I got an angel
Mrs. Ansley echoed her laugh in a faint murmur. "Babs is an angel too."
"Of course - of course! But she's got rainbow wings. Well, they're wandering by the sea with their young men; and here we sit ... and it all brings back the past a little too acutely."
Mrs. Ansley had resumed her knitting. One might almost have imagined (if one had known her less well, Mrs. Slade reflected) that, for her also, too many memories rose from the lengthening shadows of those august ruins. But no; she was simply absorbed in her work. What was there for her to worry about! She knew that Babs would almost certainly come back engaged to the extremely eligible Campolieri. "And she'll sell the New York house, and settle down near them in Rome, and never be in their way ... she's much too tactful. But she'll have an excellent cook, and just the right people in for bridge and cocktails ... and a perfectly peacefuI old age among her grandchildren."
Mrs. Slade broke off this prophetic flight with a recoil of self-disgust. There was no one of whom she had less right to think unkindly than of Grace Ansley. Would she never cure herself of envying her!
Perhaps she had begun too long ago.
She stood up and leaned against the parapet, filling her troubled eyes with the
tranquilizing magic of the hour. But instead of tranquilizing her the sight seemed to increase her exasperation. Her gaze turned toward the Colosseum. Already its golden flank was drowned in purple shadow, and above it the sky curved crystal clear, without light or color. It was the moment when afternoon and evening hang balanced in midheaven.
Mrs. Slade turned back and laid her hand on her friend's arm. The gesture was so abrupt that Mrs. Ansley looked up, startled.
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