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.