by Mary Roberts Rinehart
Natalie Spencer was giving a dinner. She was not an easy hostess.
Like most women of futile lives she lacked a sense of proportion,
and the small and unimportant details of the service absorbed her.
Such conversation as she threw at random, to right and left, was
trivial and distracted.
Yet the dinner was an unimportant one. It had been given with an
eye more to the menu than to the guest list, which was characteristic
of Natalie's mental processes. It was also characteristic that when
the final course had been served without mishap, and she gave a sigh
of relief before the gesture of withdrawal which was a signal to the
other women, that she had realized no lack in it. The food had been
good, the service satisfactory. She stood up, slim and beautifully
dressed, and gathered up the women with a smile.
The movement found Doctor Haverford, at her left, unprepared and
with his coffee cup in his hand. He put it down hastily and rose,
and the small cup overturned in its saucer, sending a smudge of
brown into the cloth.