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She turned inquisitive eyes on him. “Quite overcome, aren’t you? You didn’t expect to find such a modest little girl.—Tell me, Meester Deek, do you like the way I’m dressed?”She laughed, freeing herself from his embrace. “Oh, Meester Deek,” she whispered softly, “and when I wasn’t wearing any corsets! Now let me go on with the pinning of my hat.”She gave her silent consent.“And wouldn’t five pounds be enough?”

CHAPTER XXIII—HIS WAITING ENDS“Is it much? Really much?”Next morning brought neither telegram nor letter. All day he stayed at home, fearing that, if he went out, something might arrive in his absence. Her silence drove him to distraction. Could it be that she was offended? Was she annoyed because he had put her into a book? Had she expected him to turn up at Euston for a final farewell? He must get some word to her. There were three ships, any one of which might be carrying her. He went out that evening and addressed a wireless message to her on each of them: “Thinking of you. Longing to hear from you. Love.” He felt very discomforted when the clerk, before accepting them, insisted on reading them over aloud. Again he hoped vainly that she might guess his suspense—perhaps gauge his by her own—and return a wireless. Nothing.She pursed her lips judiciously. “Perhaps not quite. Wouldn’t it be safer to talk of something else?”They came to the part that was Roman. Cicalas and darting swallows were its sole tenants. From the huge structure of the crag houses had been carved and hollowed. The pavement was still grooved by the wheels of chariots. jacket goose Her eyes mocked his trouble with tenderness. “That wasn’t what I meant.” jacket goose jacket goose She shook her head. “I’m never offended. I’m too understanding. Perhaps—— Were you fond of this some one?”The cabman had been gone for a long time. Teddy had been left to amuse himself in the room where the canary hopped in its cage and the plants leant forward to catch the sunlight. It was a long room, running from the front of the house to the back and was divided by an archway. In the back part a fire burned and a couch was drawn up before the fire. He hadn’t the heart to go to it, but stood gazing out between the plants into the street in the exact spot where Vashti had left him. Every now and then the canary twittered, as if trying to draw him into conversation; sometimes it dropped seeds on his head. He didn’t know quite what it was he feared or why. On an easel in the archway he espied The Garden Enclosed, which his father had painted. The little god was still peering in through the gate. Teddy had hoped that by now he might have entered the garden. Like the little god he waited, with ears attentive to catch any sound in the quiet He seemed to have been waiting for ages.“Not hungry.”“Why go back? Why ever go back? Why not get married?” The hand which he tried to seize happened to be Miss Independence. It gave him a friendly pat in rebuke as it escaped him.“Are you?”“What makes you say that?”“Horace was persuading you to go away?” jacket goose They were crossing the Pont Neuf; her attention was held by a line of barges. When they had reached the farther bank, he reminded her, “You were going to tell me——”Then the child, on his side of the wall, strolled away to dream of pigeons; and the older child, on the other side, stooped above his flowers.She came down the steps on tiptoe. Her entire bearing was hushed and concerned, as though the least noise or error on her part might produce a catastrophe. She carried a brown stone coffee-pot in her hand and a glass. From the coffee-pot came a disagreeable acrid odor, similar to that of the home-made plasters which his mother applied to his face in case of toothache.Making Theo comfortable had consisted in leading him down the old-fashioned, little-traveled street, on one side of which the river ran, guarded by iron spikes like spears set up on end, and turning him loose in the strange garden, where he had overheard a fat man accusing a thin man of murderous intentions.“Almost like a honeymoon,” he laughed, “with all the bags.” jacket goose He was too polite to acquiesce.“Are you!”Teddy shook his head. He was quite as much puzzled as Ruddy. “Don’t know. It just came to me. I had to do it.”She dropped to her knees beside Teddy. “Good-by, little champion. Some day you and I will go away together and you must tell me all that you learnt from Harriet about—about our secret.”Breakfast! He hadn’t had any. He was too excited to feel hungry. He didn’t want to go home yet; he’d have to explain the abrupt ending of his holiday. He was trying to make up his mind to go to the station to see her off. As he drove about, killing time, he came to Trafalgar Square. That made him think of Cockspur Street and the shipping offices. He pulled up at Ocean House to find out what boats were sailing on that day. There were three of them, any one of which might be hers. A mad whim took him. Of course it was out of the question that he should go to America. How could he explain such a voyage to his parents? He couldn’t say, “I met Desire for a handful of hours and I’m in love.” Besides, he would never let any one suspect that he was in love. He wouldn’t even be able to mention his night ride from Glastonbury. It would sound improper to people who weren’t romance-people. He could see the pained look that would steal into his mother’s eyes if he told her. Nevertheless, although it was quite impossible, he asked for a list of sailings and made inquiries as to fares.

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He knew the meaning of her fatigue; once more she was barricading herself. He was doubly sure of it when he saw her open her vanity-case and produce a veil. A veil was a means of protection which, above all others, he detested. “Don’t put that thing on.”“Ah,” she whispered, “I know. Don’t go any further. He would be like that. He lives remembering.” Her grip on Teddy’s hands tightened. “Learn a lesson. Don’t be kind to women, Teddy. You’ll get no thanks. A woman’s mean-hearted. If a man’s too good to her, she doesn’t try to be nobly good in return; she takes advantage. She plays pranks with him—wants to see how much he’ll forgive her; if he’s still magnanimous, she despises him. It takes a good woman to appreciate a good man; few women are both good and beautiful. It wasn’t till Mary Magdalene had lost her looks that she broke the alabaster box of ointment. What I mean is that beautiful women are cruel; God gives them too much power. Oh, yes, it’s true. Desire’s like that—sweetly ungrateful. I can see myself in her. A man’ll have to be a brute to make her love him.—Ah, you almost hate me! I wish she could make you hate her so that you’d go home to Eden Row, and—oh, do big work and marry another Dearie. I’m fond of you, Teddy.” She let go his hands. “When we’re forty, we beautiful women learn to be gentle, and—and you thank us, don’t you?”The thin man’s feelings were wounded. To the little boy who looked on this was evident from the way he swallowed. His Adam’s-apple took a run up his throat and, at the last moment, thought better of it. “But I was thinking,” he persisted; “thinking that I’d learnt something from stirring up this gray muck. If ever I was to kill somebody—you, for instance, or that boy—I’d know better than to bury you in slaked lime.”Something was moving. A shadow stole across his doorway. It was gone in an instant—gone so quickly that, between sleeping and waking, it might have been imagined. His heart was pounding. canada jacket goose

canada jacket goose canada jacket goose “Excuse me,” he said, and with that he drew off his patent-leather shoes and rested his feet on the window ledge to air them.In a soft sleepy voice she sang:“What’s the matter? We’ve both gone silent.”“May I speak with Desire?”He sat with his mother’s letter in his hand—the same kind of letter that years ago Mrs. Sheerug must have penned to Hal. If Hal had preserved them, there must be stacks of them stowed away in the garrets at Orchid Lodge. How selfish lovers were in the price they made others pay! What dearly purchased happiness!Slowly, like pirouetting faeries, snowflakes drifted gleaming down the dusk. It was the first snow since that memorable flight to the country.“You’re not going to now.”“Not—not exactly. But she liked you immensely. She really did, Hal. She looked forward most awfully to your coming.”The room in which the visitor was waiting was at the back of the house. It had folding windows, which were open, and steps leading down into the garden. Evening fragrances drifted in from flowers. In the waning sunlight the garden became twice peopled—by its old inhabitants and by their shadows. On the lawn a sprinkler was revolving, throwing up a mist which sank upon the turf with the rustle of falling rain.CHAPTER XVII—DESIRE canada jacket goose Through the red flame-days of October she danced before him, a tantalizing heart of thistledown. If she settled, it was always well ahead. When he came up with her and stooped, thinking her capture certain, some new breeze of caprice or reticence would sweep her beyond the reach of his grasp.Her way of saying it made him feel that all women were queens and all men their servitors. His idea that love-affairs ended in marriage seemed rustic and adolescent. To be seen in the company of a pretty face was all the reward a man ought to expect for limousines, late suppers, tantalized hopes and the patient devotion of an honorable passion. He couldn’t bear that Desire should class herself with the nuns of pleasure, who dole out their lure as payment, and have blocks of ice where less virtuous women have hearts. In her scornful defense of Fluffy, she seemed to be building up a case for herself.“Our good times are always coming to an end,” he said sadly.His lips grew crooked at her understatement “From my point of view it wasn’t.”Stretched on a couch was a slim boyish figure, in the costume of a Tyrolese huntsman. Her face was buried in her hands, her feet twitched one against the other and her shoulders shook with an agony of crying. The cap which she had been wearing had been tom off and hurled into a far corner. Her hair fell in a shining tide and gleamed in a golden pool upon the carpet. By the side of the couch her dresser stood, wringing her hands and imploring: “Now, Miss Audrey, this’ll never do. They’ve sent for Mr. Freelevy. You must pull yourself together. The curtain’s waiting to go up. It’ll be your call in a second.”On the stairs, where it was dark, he laid an arm on the boy’s shoulder. canada jacket goose For a long while Mrs. Sheerug had been a staple topic of conversation between Dearie and Jimmie Boy. They had wondered who she was. They had made up the most preposterous tales about her and had told them to Teddy. They would watch for her to come out of her house six doors away, so that as she passed their window in Eden Row Jimmie Boy might make rapid sketches of her trotting balloon-like figure. He had used her more than once already in books which he had been commissioned to illustrate. She was the faery-godmother in his Cinderella and Other Ancient Tales: With!6 Plates in color by James Gurney. She was Mother Santa Claus in his Christmas Up to Date. They had rather wanted to get to know her, this child-man and woman who seemed no older than their little son and at times, even to their little son, not half as sensible. They had wanted to get to know her because she was always smiling, and because she was always upholstered in such hideously clashing colors, and because she was always setting out burdened on errands from which she returned empty-handed. The attraction of Mrs. Sheerug was heightened by Jane’s, the maid-of-all-work’s, discoveries: Orchid Lodge was heavily in debt to the local tradesmen and yet (it was Dearie who said “And yet.” with a sigh of envy), and yet its mistress was always smiling.She gave him no encouragement, so he sank into himself. He tried to recapture his sensations of the night In his dreams he must have been conscious of her; they must have gone together on all manner of adventures. He blamed himself for having slept; if he had kept his vigil, what memories he would have had.“No, don’t—not yet,” shouted Teddy.She swept the hair back from her forehead and gazed away from him. She mustn’t let him know that he’d upset her.She invariably spoke of Hal as he; she never gave him a name. Teddy felt that it would not be honorable to question her, but he kept his eyes wide for any clew that would solve the mystery. In Hal’s absence he would become bitter towards him, because he had dared to hurt Desire. But when he came to the farm with his arms full of presents, so hungry to win her love, he felt that somewhere there had been a big mistake and that whoever had been cruel, Hal was not the person.