“What do you call considerable?”
“Five or six thousand a year.”
“The deuce!” murmured Edward Henry.
“May have lost a bit of it, of course,” Mr. Marrier hedged. “But not much, not much!”
“Well,” said Edward Henry, smiling, “what about my tea? Am I to have tea all by myself?”
“Will you come down and meet her?” Mr. Marrier’s expression approached the wistful.
“Well,” said Edward Henry, “it’s an idea, isn’t it? Why should I be the only person in London who doesn’t know Miss Elsie April?”
It was ten minutes past four when they descended into the electric publicity of the Grand Babylon. Amid the music and the rattle of crockery and the gliding waiters and the large nodding hats that gathered more and more thickly round the tables, there was no sign of Elsie April.
“She may have been and gone away again,” said Edward Henry, apprehensive.
“Oh, no! She wouldn’t go away.” Mr. Marrier was positive.
In the tone of a man with an income of two hundred pounds a week he ordered a table to be prepared for three.
At ten minutes to five he said:
“I hope she hasn’t been and gone away again!”
Edward Henry began to be gloomy and resentful. The crowded and factitious gaiety of the place actually annoyed him. If Elsie April had been and gone away again, he objected to such silly feminine conduct. If she was merely late, he equally objected to such unconscionable inexactitude. He blamed Mr. Marrier. He considered that he had the right to blame Mr. Marrier because he paid him three pounds a week. And he very badly wanted his tea.
Then their four eyes, which for forty minutes had scarcely left the entrance staircase, were rewarded. She came, in furs, gleaming white kid gloves, gold chains, a gold bag, and a black velvet hat.
“I’m not late, am I?” she said, after the introduction.
“No,” they both replied. And they both meant it. For she was like fine weather. The forty minutes of waiting were forgotten, expunged from the records of time—just as the memory of a month of rain is obliterated by one splendid sunny day.
Edward Henry enjoyed the tea, which was bad, to an extraordinary degree. He became uplifted in the presence of Miss Elsie April; whereas Mr. Marrier, strangely, drooped to still deeper depths of unaccustomed inert melancholy. Edward Henry decided that she was every bit as piquant, challenging and delectable as he had imagined her to be on the day when he ate an artichoke at the next table to hers at Wilkins’s. She coincided exactly with his remembrance of her, except that she was now slightly more plump. Her contours were effulgent—there was no other word. Beautiful she was not, for she had a turned-up nose; but what charm she radiated! Every movement and tone enchanted Edward Henry. He was enchanted not at intervals, by a chance gesture, but all the time—when she was serious, when she smiled, when she fingered her tea-cup, when she pushed her furs back over her shoulders, when she spoke of the weather, when she spoke of the social crisis, and when she made fun, with a certain brief absence of restraint—rather in her artichoke manner of making fun.