“Oh, but I haven’t come to interrupt you, dear. I sha’n’t keep you five minutes. Only I thought, dear, you’d be so tired of pressed beef and tinned tongue, and so I thought I’d make a little hot-pot for you. I bought the things for it as I came along, and it won’t take five minutes, if Mrs. Glass [the housekeeper] will only lend me a basin to put it in, and bake it for you in her oven. Now, dear, you mustn’t—you know I mustn’t stay. See now, I’ll just take off my hat and jacket and run along to Mrs. Glass, to get what I want. I’ll be back in a minute. Well, then, just one—now that’s enough; good-bye,” and off she would skip.
If you want to know how fairies look when they are making hot-pot, you should have seen Angel’s absorbed little shining face.
“Now, do be quiet, Henry. I’m busy. Why don’t you get on with your work? I won’t speak a word.”
“Angel, dear, you might just as well stay and help me to eat it. I sha’n’t do any work to-day, I know for certain. It’s one of my bad days.”
“Now, Henry, that’s lazy. You mustn’t give way like that. You’ll make me wish I hadn’t come. It’s all my fault.”
“No, really, dear, it isn’t. I haven’t done a stroke all morning—though I’ve sat with my pen for two hours. You might stay, Angel, just an hour or two.”
“No, Henry; mother wants me back soon. She’s house-cleaning. And besides, I mustn’t. No—no—you see I’ve nearly finished now—see! Get me the salt and pepper. There now—that looks nice, doesn’t it? Now aren’t I a good little housewife?”
“You would be, if you’d only stay. Do stay, Angel. Really, darling, it will be all the same if you go. I know I shall do nothing. Look at my morning’s work, and he brought her a sheet of paper containing two lines and a half of new-born prose, one line and a half of which was plentifully scratched out. To this argument he added two or three persuasive embraces.
“It’s really true, Henry? Well, of course, I oughtn’t; but if you can’t work, of course you can’t. And you must have a little rest sometimes, I know. Well, then, I’ll stay; but only till we’ve finished lunch, you know, and we must have it early. I won’t stay a minute past two o’clock, do you hear? And now I’ll run along with this to Mrs. Glass.”
When Angel had gone promptly at three, as likely as not another step would be heard coming down the passage, and a feminine rustle, suggesting a fuller foliage of skirts, pause outside the door, then a sort of brotherly-sisterly knock.
“Esther! Why, you’ve just missed Angel; what a pity!”
“Well, dear, I only ran up for half-a-minute. I was shopping in town, and I couldn’t resist looking in to see how the poor boy was getting on. No, dear, I won’t take my things off. I must catch the half-past three boat, and then I’ll keep you from your work?”
Esther always said this with a sort of suggestion in her voice that it was just possible Henry might have found some new way of both keeping her there and doing his work at the same time; as though she had said, “I know you cannot possibly work while I am here; but, of course, if you can, and talking to me all the time won’t interfere with it—well, I’ll stay.”