Under the Skylights by Henry Blake Fuller
Little O'Grady vs. The Grindstone
"Well, well, Virgilia," said her aunt, as the door closed on Preciosa, "you see more in that girl than I do."
"I see her grandfather," whispered Virgilia, with the obscure brevity of an oracle. She drew down her brows and looked at the wondering Dill,--or rather, through him, past him.
"Oh," replied her aunt softly. It was impossible that she should misunderstand; McNulty and Hill and the rest of them had just been in her own thoughts, on her own tongue. "I shall be responsible, after all," she said within herself. Then she gave Virgilia a slight frown of disapproval: it was not precisely a maidenly part that her niece had chosen to play; neither did it show the degree of deference due to an elder, a chaperon and--if you came right at it--to a stock-holder. "If this thing must be engineered," thought Eudoxia, "I think I should prefer to engineer it myself." Heaven pardon her, though, for ever having brought Virgilia Jeffreys to Daffingdon Dill's studio!
She herself had come there full of Jeremiah McNulty and Andrew P. Hill and Roscoe Orlando Gibbons. "It's a big undertaking," she had told Dill. "They're struggling with it now, poor things. They need expert advice. If I were only one of the board of directors!"
Dill came up to the mark gingerly. "The air has been full of it for the last fortnight," he said, struggling between eagerness and professional dignity. "I know a number of fellows who have thought of going in for it."
"I suppose you haven't thought of going in?"
Dill drew himself up. "How can I?" He suggested the young physician who will starve but who will not infringe the Code by any practice that savours in the least of advertising, of soliciting. However, he was a thousand miles farther away from starvation than was Ignace Prochnow, for example; much better could he afford to await the arrival of an embassy.
Eudoxia Pence fumbled her boa. "Does Virgilia really want him? Does he want Virgilia? Do I want them to have each other? Shall I exert myself in his behalf?" Such were the questions she submitted to her own consideration as her eyes roved over the chatting, sipping throng. "Can he do for her all that a girl in her position would expect? Could such a fastidious, exacting young woman hope to find anybody she would like better--or as well?" Eudoxia had three or four swift successive visions of herself in a variety of circumstances and pleading or discouraging a variety of causes. Now, for example, she was saying to Virgilia, "Yes, he's a very nice fellow, I know; but he has only his wits and his brush, while you must always live as you always have lived--a rich girl to whom nothing has been denied." Again, she saw herself bent over the desk of Andrew P. Hill, with her forty-five shares clutched in her resolute hand, and saying, "I demand to be heard; I demand to have a voice in this momentous matter; I demand a fair and even chance for my nephew-in-law-to-be." Once more, she was wringing her hands and asking Virgilia in tones of piteous protest, "Why, oh why, didn't you take Richard Morrell when you could have got him?--a fine, promising, pushing fellow, with his million or more already, and barely thirty-five, just the right age for you!" Yet again, she was saying to that poor little vulgarian, Preciosa McNulty, "If Virgilia will, she will, and there's an end of it; therefore should you, dear child, promise me to use your influence with that loutish old peasant of a grandfather, you shall have the beatitude of actually pouring tea at one of my Thursday afternoons, and I'll even invite your mother to my next large reception----"
Eudoxia paused, struck suddenly by the earnest scrutiny of both Daffingdon and Virgilia. She saw that she had tied her boa into a double knot, and surmised that she had been doing the same with her features too.