My meditations are broken in upon by a quick step approaching me, by a voice in my ear—Algy’s.
“You are here, are you? I have been looking for you everywhere! Why, the window is open! For Heaven’s sake let me get you a cloak! you know how delicate your chest is. For my sake, do!”
It is too dark to see his face, but there is a quick, excited tenderness in his voice.
“My chest delicate!” cry I, in an accent of complete astonishment. “Well, it is news to me if it is! My dear boy, what has put such an idea into your head? and if I got a cloak, I should think it would be for my own sake, not yours!”
He has been leaning over me in the dusk. At my words he starts violently and draws back.
“It is you is it?” he says, in an altered voice of constraint, whence all the mellow tenderness has fled.
“To be sure!” reply I, matter-of-factly. “For whom did you take me?”
But though I ask, alas! I know.
How are unmusical people to express themselves when they are glad? People with an ear and a voice can sing, but what is to become of those who have not? Must they whoop inarticulately? For myself, I do not know one tune from another. I am like the man who said that he knew two tunes, one was “God save the Queen,” and the other was not. And yet to-day I have as good a heart for singing as ever had any of the most famous songsters. In tune, out of tune, I must lift up my voice. It is as urgent a need for me as for any mellow thrush. For my heart—oh, rare case!—is fuller of joy than it can hold. It brims over.
Roger is coming back. It is February, and he has been away nearly seven months. All minor evils and anxieties—Bobby’s departure for Hong-Kong, Algy’s increasing besotment about Mrs. Huntley, and consequent slight estrangement from me—(to me a very bitter thing)—Frank’s continued silence as regards Barbara—all these are swallowed up in gladness.
When he is back, all will come right. Is it any wonder that they have gone wrong, while I only was at the helm? My good news arrived only this morning, and yet, a hundred times in the short space that has elapsed since then, I have rehearsed the manner of our meeting, have practised calling him “Roger,” with familiar ease, have fixed upon my gown and the manner of my coiffure, and have wearied Barbara with solicitous queries, as to whether she thinks that I have grown perceptibly plainer in the last seven months, whether she does not think one side of my face better looking than the other, whether she thinks— (with honest anxiety this)—that my appearance is calculated to repel a person grown disused to it. To all which questions, she with untired gentleness gives pleasant and favorable answers.