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“Why shouldn’t I? It’s a little brooch or somethings isn’t it? Let’s wait till Christmas Eve, anyway—till the day after to-morrow.”“Won’t you tell me?”CHAPTER XIII—DRIFTING canada goose sale outlet His thoughts ran madly ahead. Marriage!’ Where would they live? Would Vashti want them to stay in America? Anyway, they’d go back to Eden Row for their honeymoon. Hal would be happy at last In time he might meet Vashti. They might learn to love each other afresh, and then——

He couldn’t blame her if other men had loved her first; but he wished they hadn’t. The knowledge had come as a shock.“No. Hear me out There are women who never take a holiday from themselves. They’re too timid—too selfish. They’re afraid of marrying; they distrust men. They’re afraid of having children; they worship their own bodies. They loath the disfigurement of child-bearing. All their standards are awry. They regard the sacredness of birth as defilement—think it drags them down to the level of the animals. They make love seem ugly. They’ve got a morbid streak that makes them fear everything that’s blustering and genuine. Their fear lest they should lose their liberty keeps them captives. They’re slaves of freedom, starving their souls and living for externals. Because they’re women, their nature cries out for men; but the moment they’ve dragged the soul out of a man their weak passion is satisfied. They have the morals of nuns and the lure of courtesans. They’re suffocating and unhealthy as tropic flowers.—I’ve been at it too long, but I want you to get out while you can.”For answer the slim fingers nestled closer.It soon became evident to Teddy that she wasn’t so cut up as might have been expected now that her wealth was gone. Straitened means gave her permission to muddle. “Those coachmen and men-servants,” she told him, “they worried me, my dear. Their morals were very lax.”Here are my terms. No kissing, no love-making, nothing like that till I give permission. We’re just two friends who have met by accident and have made up our minds to travel together. Don’t join me, if you can’t live up to the contract.Ruddy looked crestfallen; then he brightened. “No fear. Ma won’t tell Hal till she’s come to see for herself.”Vashti lifted herself from the cushions and gazed at him intently. “How long are you prepared to wait?”He loosed himself. “Mother, it’s shameful that we should speak so of a girl.”“Oh, but tell me!” canada goose sale outlet Her laugh floated back. “Where you’re not allowed to come. You can’t complain; I told you I wouldn’t be dressed till twelve.” canada goose sale outlet Her fingers nestled closer in his hand. “I’m not good at thanking, but—— Ever since I met you, all along the way there’s been nothing but kindness. What have I given you in return?—Don’t tell me, because it won’t be true.—You can kiss my cheek just once, Meester Deek, if you do it quietly.” canada goose sale outlet “Is it?” He asked the question eagerly. Desire had been cross; this might be the key to her conduct. canada goose sale outlet Some one rose from a chair so hurriedly that it toppled over. Then the same voice exclaimed in a glad tone, “Why, it’s the shrimp!”“What?” Her question was asked lazily, more out of politeness than curiosity.He was on the point of starting when she rose and jumped out“Then fall really in love.”She was curled up on the couch by the window, wearing a pale-blue peignoir and a boudoir cap embroidered with tiny artificial roses. A novel lay face downwards on the floor beside her, and she was playing with the silky ears of Twinkles, who snuggled in her lap. As he entered, she reached out her hand without rising and made a sign for him to sit beside her.“For me?” he asked incredulously.It was this week, with its delving into ancient stories, that taught him what his parents’ love really meant—it was a rampart thrown up by the soul against calamity. They had been poor and harassed and disappointed. There had been times when they had spoken crossly. But in their hearts they still stood hand-in-hand, always guarding a royal place in which they could be happy.Voices called to him, bidding him hurry. Footsteps were ascending. Some one was coming along the passage. The writing was sacred. It was meant for his eyes alone. No one should see it but himself. He stooped his lips to the pane. When Hal entered the writing had vanished.He delayed her hand as she was withdrawing it “If I did, I shouldn’t love you the way I do, Princess.”He was holding her hand. Slowly he unbuttoned her glove. She watched him idly. He drew it off and raised the slender fingers to his lips.He tucked the robe round her warmly and held it against her chin to keep the cold out. His free hand was clasped in hers. Then he let go her hand and slipped his arm about her, and found her hand waiting for him on the other side.Mr. Sam was splitting logs by the wood-pile. He laid down his ax and came towards them.The first thing they noticed was that a proud-boy look was creeping over him—what Ruddy called an I-ate-the-canary look. For all his fatness he began to bustle. He began to make fusses if the meals weren’t punctual, to insist on his boots being properly blacked and to behave himself in general as though he were head of his household. He spoke vaguely of meetings in the city—meetings which it was vital that he should attend “punkchully.”Over his cheerfulness, though he tried to dispel it, hung a mist of melancholy. He was reminded of all the Christmases which his father and mother had helped to make glad. If this was the first he had spent with Desire, it was the first he had been absent from them. They would be lonely. His gain in happiness was in proportion to their loss. He felt guilty; it came home to him at every turn that his treatment of them had not been handsome.Teddy hitched himself upon the pillow, trying to look as grave and important as if he wore spectacles. “Yes. A room like this, only lonely with a fire burning and an old, old woman sitting over there.” He pointed to the window and the gilded harp. “I’d let her be playing, Daddy; and a big white bird, that you can see through, must be beating its wings against the panes, trying and always trying to get out.”“I shan’t. I shan’t ever feel better. You oughtn’t to have brought me. You know I’m not responsible after midnight.”For answer his father laughed.It was nearly twelve. He was torn between his anxiety to see her and his shyness at intruding. If he had had only her to face, he would have gone to Euston; but she’d be surrounded by friends. When it was too late, he cursed his lack of enterprise.“Who’s she?”