She was so evidently distressed that he could not press her further; and fearing she might think him unappreciative, he said, “Well, whatever it is, it hasn’t prevented me from having a ripping good time. They’ve seen to that, and just done everything for my pleasure.”
She looked up quickly, and to his relief he saw that for once he had said the right thing.
“You enjoyed it, then?” she questioned eagerly.
“Most awfully,” he assured her warmly. “I shall always remember what a happy leave they gave me.”
She gave a little sigh of satisfaction, “I am so glad,” she said. “They wanted you to have a good time—that was what we all wanted.”
He looked at her gratefully, thinking how sweet she was in her fair English beauty, and how good to care that he should have enjoyed his leave. How different she was too from Sally Berkeley—why she would have made two of his little girl! And how quiet! Sally Berkeley, with her quick glancing vivacity, would have been all around her and off again like a humming-bird before she could have uttered two words. And yet he was sure that they would have been friends, just as he and Chev were. Perhaps they all would be, after the war. And then he began to talk about Chev, being sure that, had the circumstances been reversed, Sally Berkeley would have wanted news of him. Instantly he was aware of a tense listening stillness on her part. That pleased him. Well, she did care for the old fellow all right, he thought; and though she made no response, averting her face and plucking nervously at the leaves of the hedge as they passed slowly along, he went on pouring out his eager admiration for his friend.
At last they came to a seat in an arbour, from which one looked out upon a green beneficent landscape. It was an intimate secluded little spot—and oh, if Sally Berkeley were only there to sit beside him! And as he thought of this, it came to him whimsically that in all probability she must be longing for Chev, just as he was for Sally.
Dropping down on the bench beside her, he leaned over, and said with a friendly, almost brotherly, grin of understanding, “I reckon you’re wishing Captain Sherwood was sitting here, instead of Lieutenant Cary.”
The minute the impulsive words were out of his mouth, he knew he had blundered, been awkward, and inexcusably intimate. She gave a little choked gasp, and her blue eyes stared up at him, wide and startled. Good heavens, what a break he had made! No wonder the Sherwoods couldn’t trust him in company! There seemed no apology that he could offer in words, but at least, he thought, he would show her that he would not intruded on her secret without being willing to share his with her. With awkward haste he put his hand into his breast-pocket, and dragged forth the picture of Sally Berkley he always carried there.
“This is the little girl I’m thinking about,” he said, turning very red, yet boyishly determined to make amends, and also proudly confident of Sally Berkeley’s charms. “I’d like mighty well for you two to know one another.”