I agreed. I had recovered from my attack of selfishness. I expressed my pleasure.
“You’ve written to accept,” I said, half statement and half question.
Frances nodded. “I thanked for you,” she added quietly, “explaining that you were not free at the moment, but that later, if not inconvenient, you might come down for a bit and join me.”
I stared. Frances sometimes had this independent way of deciding things. I was convicted, and punished into the bargain.
Of course there followed argument and explanation, as between brother and sister who were affectionate, but the recording of our talk could be of little interest. It was arranged thus, Frances and I both satisfied. Two days later she departed for The Towers, leaving me alone in the flat with everything planned for my comfort and good behavior—she was rather a tyrant in her quiet way—and her last words as I saw her off from Charing Cross rang in my head for a long time after she was gone:
“I’ll write and let you know, Bill. Eat properly, mind, and let me know if anything goes wrong.”
She waved her small gloved hand, nodded her head till the feather brushed the window, and was gone.
After the note announcing her safe arrival a week of silence passed, and then a letter came; there were various suggestions for my welfare, and the rest was the usual rambling information and description Frances loved, generously italicized.
" ...and we are quite alone,” she went on in her enormous handwriting that seemed such a waste of space and labor, “though some others are coming presently, I believe. You could work here to your heart’s content. Mabel quite understands, and says she would love to have you when you feel free to come. She has changed a bit—back to her old natural self: she never mentions him. The place has changed too in certain ways: it has more cheerfulness, I think. She has put it in, this cheerfulness, spaded it in, if you know what I mean; but it lies about uneasily and is not natural—quite. The organ is a beauty. She must be very rich now, but she’s as gentle and sweet as ever. Do you know, Bill, I think he must have frightened her into marrying him. I get the impression she was afraid of him.” This last sentence was inked out, I but I read it through the scratching; the letters being too big to hide. “He had an inflexible will beneath all that oily kindness which passed for spiritual. He was a real personality, I mean. I’m sure he’d have sent you and me cheerfully to the stake in another century—for our own good. Isn’t it odd she never speaks of him, even to me?” This, again, was stroked through, though without the intention to obliterate—merely because it was repetition, probably. “The only reminder of him in the house now is a big copy of the presentation portrait that stands on the stairs of the Multitechnic Institute at Peckham—you