“A Bible boy! Not if I know it.” Ruddy grinned, and frowned, and scratched his leg. He was embarrassed in the presence of feminine beauty. If anything but feminine beauty had called him “a Bible boy,” he would certainly have punched its head. “Not if I know it,” he said. “I’m no little Samuel-Here-Am-I, praying all over the shop in a white night-shirt.”“The wife’s bathing the babies; but I daresay it can be managed.” He stepped back into the hall and shouted, “Mrs. Sam! Mrs. Sam!”“To-morrow! To-morrow!”He saw again her little white bedroom which had been such a secret. On the dressing-table, where it could watch her night and morning at her mirror, was the silver-framed photograph. (She had never asked him for his portrait) In a line on the wall, looking down on her as she lay curled up in bed, were four more photographs. His jealousy became maddening. His old suspicions crept back to haunt him. Who was this Tom? What claims had he on her? Was Tom her permanent lover, and he the man with whom she had trifled for relaxation—was that it? Even in the moment of parting, after she had shown herself capable of abandon, her lips had been motionless beneath his passion. To her he had offered himself soul and body; at intervals she had been sorry for him.
Women’s Canada Goose Chilliwack Bomber Blue Topaz They struck into fields again, clambering through hedges and over gates, judging their direction by the road. Teddy was afraid to keep to the road lest they should meet Farmer Joseph coming back from market, or lest Mrs. Sarie, when she missed them, should send some one driving after them to bring them back.They sat holding hands, gazing at each other. In the silence, without the fever of caresses, he had come nearer to her than at any previous moment. They were two children who had experimented with things they did not understand, and were a little frightened at what had happened and a little glad.They came to a wood—an enchanted place of maple and silver birch. The squirrel’s granary was full; there was no sound of life. It was a sylvan Pompeii frozen in its activities by the avalanche from the clouds. Trees stood stiffly, like arrested dancers, sheathed in their scabbards of burnished ice. Boughs hung heavy with snow blossoms. Scrub-oak and berries of winter-green wrought mosaics of red and brown on the silver flooring. Over all was the coffined stillness of death. Here and there a solitary leaf shone more scarlet, like the resurrection hope of a lamp kept burning in the hollow of a shrine. It was a forsaken temple of broken arches. Summer acolytes, with their flower-faces, no longer fidgeted on the altar-steps. The choir of birds had fled. The sun remained as priest and sole worshiper. Night and morning he raised the host to the wintry tinkling of crystal bells. Down a far vista, as they plunged deeper, their attention was held by a steady brightness—a pond which glowed like a stained-glass window. By its withered sedges they sat down. Women’s Canada Goose Chilliwack Bomber Blue Topaz “You like babies, Meester Deek? If ever I were married, I’d like to have a baby-girl first. They’re so cuddly and dear to dress.”This was to be his great day, when matters were to be brought to a crisis. In his secret heart he was wondering what marriage would be like. He was convinced he would enjoy it. Who wouldn’t enjoy living forever and forever alone with Vashti? Of course, at first he would miss his mother and father—he would miss them dreadfully; but then he could invite them to stay with him quite often. He was amused to remember that he was the only person in the world who knew that this was to be his wedding day. Even Vashti didn’t know it. He was saving the news to surprise her.“Hulloa! So you got here and saw it without me! Why, what’s this?” And then, “Your lip’s bleeding, Miss Jodrell. Ah, I see now. Vanity! Been kissing yourself; didn’t know the paint was wet. Jove, that’s odd!” He was bending to examine. “The blurring of the lips has altered the expression. There’s something in the face that I never intended.”He smiled crookedly, making a lame effort to clamber back to her level of high spirits. “Didn’t you arrange that we were going only to be sensible?”“Which is it, Meester Deek? D’you remember their names? It’s Miss Independence. I wouldn’t kiss it if I were you; it’s an unkind, a scratchy little hand.”“That’s who she is,” he acknowledged. “But don’t you see that all that helps? It’s an advertisement. She’s the best preserved woman of seventy in London.” Women’s Canada Goose Chilliwack Bomber Blue Topaz For a moment he was tempted to argue this heresy. “But sing it,” he urged.She led the way through the low-ceilinged hostel, explaining its history as she went. How in the middle-ages it had been the guest-house of the Abbey and the pilgrims had stayed there at the Abbot’s expense. How they had two haunted rooms upstairs, in one of which Anne Boleyn had slept. How the walls were tunneled with secret stairways which led down to subterranean passages. When the meal had been spread she left him, promising to let him know if there were any inquiries. Women’s Canada Goose Chilliwack Bomber Blue Topaz “I mean taking her away from her mother.”Teddy turned; his face was glowing with excitement. “It’s Vashti.”He had spent so long in listening and waiting that listening and waiting had become a habit. He would hear the telephone tinkle soon. His heart would fly up like a bird into his throat. Her voice would steal to him across the distance: “Meester Deek, hulloa! What are we going to do this morning?” He often heard it in imagination. He could not bear to believe that at last his leisure was his own—that suspense was at once and forever ended.She started to her feet with the swiftness of a wild thing. She would have escaped if Hal had not caught her. Across his shoulder she gazed indignantly at Teddy.He had asked who was with her.Then she commenced to ask him questions. “Do you really think that I’ve not got any passion?—If I’d been scarred in that motor-car accident, would you still love me?—Mrs. Theodore Gurney! It does sound funny. I wonder if I’ll ever be called that.”“You do! Then, you do wish it could last forever? Dear little D., if you chose, you could make it last.”“This Madame Josephine who signs it,” the landlady was turning the telegram over, “d’you know her?”“Kiss me now.”He raised his face and put his arms about her neck. “I haven’t been good to you, mother. It’s like you to say that I have; but I haven’t. I’ve ignored you and given the best of myself to some one for whom it has no value. I’ve been sharp and irritable to you. You’ve wanted to ask questions—you had a right to ask questions; I’ve kept you at arm’s length. You’ve wanted to do what you’re doing now—to hold me close and show me that you cared; and I’ve—I’ve felt like striking you. That’s the way with a man when he’s pitied. You know I have.” Women’s Canada Goose Chilliwack Bomber Blue Topaz Leaves shuddered. Across moss-grown paths slugs crawled. Everything betokened rain; all live things were hurrying for shelter. Behind high red walls, where peach-trees hung crucified, the end of day smoldered. The west was a vivid saffron. To the southward black clouds wheeled like vultures. The beauty of the garden shone intense. The greenness of apple-trees had deepened. Nasturtiums blazed like fire in the borders of box. The air was full of poignant fragrances: of lavender, of roses, and of cool, dean earth.He loosed himself. “Mother, it’s shameful that we should speak so of a girl.”CHAPTER X—AND NOTHING ELSE SAW ALL DAY LONGShe laughed softly. “And did she tell you that? I’ve been thinking about you—expecting to hear any day that you were sailing to England.”“Because I wanted to be honest: to let you know the kind of girl I am. And because,” her eyes flooded, “because you’re the first man who ever kissed me like that and—and I didn’t want to let you know it—and I wish I hadn’t let you kiss me now.”He darted off. As he entered the shop, he caught her slow smile of intelligence forbidding him.“Of course it isn’t the thing to do, but if it gives Teddy pleasure——”She shook her head. “It would be a lie.”“You don’t believe me?” She scanned his face wistfully. “You never did understand me or—or any girls.”“So, honey, jest play in your own backyard.”