Mrs. Corey did not reply directly. "Bromfield," she said, after a moment of troubled silence, "I have been thinking over your plan, and I don't see why it isn't the right thing."
"What is my plan?" inquired Bromfield Corey.
Her husband began to laugh. "Ah, you overdid the accusing-spirit business, and this is reparation." But Mrs. Corey hurried on, with combined dignity and anxiety —
"We can't ignore Tom's intimacy with them — it amounts to that; it will probably continue even if it's merely a fancy, and we must seem to know it; whatever comes of it, we can't disown it. They are very simple, unfashionable people, and unworldly; but I can't say that they are offensive, unless — unless," she added, in propitiation of her husband's smile, "unless the father — how did you find the father?" she implored.
"He will be very entertaining," said Corey, "if you start him on his paint. What was the disagreeable daughter like? Shall you have her?"
"She's little and dark. We must have them all," Mrs. Corey sighed. "Then you don't think a dinner would do?"
"Oh yes, I do. As you say, we can't disown Tom's relation to them, whatever it is. We had much better recognise it, and make the best of the inevitable. I think a Lapham dinner would be delightful." He looked at her with delicate irony in his voice and smile, and she fetched another sigh, so deep and sore now that he laughed outright. "Perhaps," he suggested, "it would be the best way of curing Tom of his fancy, if he has one. He has been seeing her with the dangerous advantages which a mother knows how to give her daughter in the family circle, and with no means of comparing her with other girls. You must invite several other very pretty girls."
"Do you really think so, Bromfield?" asked Mrs. Corey, taking courage a little. "That might do," But her spirits visibly sank again. "I don't know any other girl half so pretty."
"Well, then, better bred."
"She is very lady-like, very modest, and pleasing."
"Well, more cultivated."
"Tom doesn't get on with such people."
"Oh, you wish him to marry her, I see."
"Then you'd better give the dinner to bring them together, to promote the affair."
"You know I don't want to do that, Bromfield. But I feel that we must do something. If we don't, it has a clandestine appearance. It isn't just to them. A dinner won't leave us in any worse position, and may leave us in a better. Yes," said Mrs. Corey, after another thoughtful interval, "we must have them — have them all. It could be very simple."
"Ah, you can't give a dinner under a bushel, if I take your meaning, my dear. If we do this at all, we mustn't do it as if we were ashamed of it. We must ask people to meet them."
"Yes," sighed Mrs. Corey. "There are not many people in town yet," she added, with relief that caused her husband another smile. "There really seems a sort of fatality about it," she concluded religiously.
"Then you had better not struggle against it. Go and reconcile Lily and Nanny to it as soon as possible."
Mrs. Corey blanched a little. "But don't you think it will be the best thing, Bromfield?"
"I do indeed, my dear. The only thing that shakes my faith in the scheme is the fact that I first suggested it. But if you have adopted it, it must be all right, Anna. I can't say that I expected it."
"No," said his wife, "it wouldn't do."