“All right!” cries Sir Roger, promptly.
(How can he speak in that flippantly cheerful voice, with the prospect of seventeen days’ sea before him?)
“Now, where did I put my hat, Nancy? did you happen to notice?”
“It is here,” say I, picking it up from the window-seat, and handing it to him with lugubrious solemnity.
As he reaches the door, following father, he turns and nods to me with a half-humorous smile.
“Cheer up,” he says, “it shall not be a sailing-vessel.”
He is gone, and I return to my former position, and my former occupation, only that now—the check of Sir Roger’s presence being removed—I indulge in two or three good hearty groans. To think how the look of all things is changed since this morning!
As we came home through the fields singing, if any one had given me three wishes, I should have been puzzled what to ask—and now! All the good things I am going to lose march in gloomy procession before my mind. No house-warming! It will have to be put off till we come back, and, by the time that we come back, Bobby will almost certainly have been sent to some foreign station for three or four years. And who knows what may happen before he returns? Perhaps—for I am in the mood when all adversities seem antecedently probable—he will never come back. Perhaps never again shall I be the willing victim of his buffets, never again shall I buffet him in return.
And the sea! It is all very fine for Sir Roger to take it so easily, to laugh and make unfeeling jokes at my expense! He does not lie on the flat of his back, surrounded by the horrid paraphernalia of sea-sickness. He walks up and down, with his hands in his pockets, smoking a cigar, and talking to the captain. He cares nothing for the heaving planks. The taste of the salt air gives him an appetite. An appetite! Oh, prodigious! I must say I think he might have been a little more feeling, might have expressed himself a little more sympathetically.
By dint of thinking over Sir Roger’s iniquities on this head, I gradually work myself up into such a state of righteous indignation and injury against him, that when, after a longish interval, the door again opens to readmit him, I affect neither to see nor hear him, nor be in anyway conscious of his presence. Through the chinks of my fingers, dolorously spread over my face, I see that he has sat down on the other side of the table, just opposite me, and that he is smiling in the same unmirthful, gently sarcastic way, as he was when he left me.
“Nancy,” he says, “I have been thinking what a pity it is that I have not a yacht! We might have taken our own time then, and done it enjoyably—made quite a pleasure-trip of it.”
I drop my hands into my lap.
“People’s ideas of pleasure differ,” I say, with trite snappishness.