"Yes, and perhaps it would not be so very bad. I was saying to your father when I was here in July that those things can always be managed. You must face them as if they were nothing out of the way, and try not to give any cause for bitterness among ourselves."
"That's true. But I don't believe in too much resignation beforehand. It amounts to concession," said Nanny.
"Of course we should oppose it in all proper ways," returned her mother.
Lily had ceased to discuss the matter. In virtue of her artistic temperament, she was expected not to be very practical. It was her mother and her sister who managed, submitting to the advice and consent of Corey what they intended to do.
"Your father wrote me that he had called on Colonel Lapham at his place of business," said Mrs. Corey, seizing her first chance of approaching the subject with her son.
"Yes," said Corey. "A dinner was father's idea, but he came down to a call, at my suggestion."
"Oh," said Mrs. Corey, in a tone of relief, as if the statement threw a new light on the fact that Corey had suggested the visit. "He said so little about it in his letter that I didn't know just how it came about."
"I thought it was right they should meet," explained the son, "and so did father. I was glad that I suggested it, afterward; it was extremely gratifying to Colonel Lapham."
"Oh, it was quite right in every way. I suppose you have seen something of the family during the summer."
"Yes, a good deal. I've been down at Nantasket rather often."
Mrs. Corey let her eyes droop. Then she asked: "Are they well?"
"Yes, except Lapham himself, now and then. I went down once or twice to see him. He hasn't given himself any vacation this summer; he has such a passion for his business that I fancy he finds it hard being away from it at any time, and he's made his new house an excuse for staying."
"Oh yes, his house! Is it to be something fine?"
"Yes; it's a beautiful house. Seymour is doing it."
"Then, of course, it will be very handsome. I suppose the young ladies are very much taken up with it; and Mrs. Lapham."
"Mrs. Lapham, yes. I don't think the young ladies care so much about it."
"It must be for them. Aren't they ambitious?" asked Mrs. Corey, delicately feeling her way.
Her son thought a while. Then he answered with a smile —
"No, I don't really think they are. They are unambitious, I should say." Mrs. Corey permitted herself a long breath. But her son added, "It's the parents who are ambitious for them," and her respiration became shorter again.
"Yes," she said.
"They're very simple, nice girls," pursued Corey. "I think you'll like the elder, when you come to know her."
When you come to know her. The words implied an expectation that the two families were to be better acquainted.
"Then she is more intellectual than her sister?" Mrs. Corey ventured.
"Intellectual?" repeated her son. "No; that isn't the word, quite. Though she certainly has more mind."
"The younger seemed very sensible."
"Oh, sensible, yes. And as practical as she's pretty. She can do all sorts of things, and likes to be doing them. Don't you think she's an extraordinary beauty?"
"Yes — yes, she is," said Mrs. Corey, at some cost.
"She's good, too," said Corey, "and perfectly innocent and transparent. I think you will like her the better the more you know her."
"I thought her very nice from the beginning," said the mother heroically; and then nature asserted itself in her. "But I should be afraid that she might perhaps be a little bit tiresome at last; her range of ideas seemed so extremely limited."
"Yes, that's what I was afraid of. But, as a matter of fact, she isn't. She interests you by her very limitations. You can see the working of her mind, like that of a child. She isn't at all conscious even of her beauty."
"I don't believe young men can tell whether girls are conscious or not," said Mrs. Corey. "But I am not saying the Miss Laphams are not — — " Her son sat musing, with an inattentive smile on his face. "What is it?"
"Oh! nothing. I was thinking of Miss Lapham and something she was saying. She's very droll, you know."
"The elder sister? Yes, you told me that. Can you see the workings of her mind too?"
"No; she's everything that's unexpected." Corey fell into another reverie, and smiled again; but he did not offer to explain what amused him, and his mother would not ask.