She stood looking at the open trunk on the floor, at the shelves from which the books had been taken, at the empty boot cupboard.
Two large tears rolled over her face, but she managed to say quite gaily, “December will soon be here.”
“In no time at all,” said David.
Jean was carrying a little book, which she now laid on the dressing-table, and, giving it a push in her brother’s direction, “It’s a Daily Light,” she explained.
David did not offer to look at the gift, which was the traditional Jardine gift to travellers, a custom descending from Great-aunt Alison. He stood a bit away and said, “All right.”
And Jean understood, and said nothing of what was in her heart.
“They have their exits and their
As You Like It.
The ten o’clock express from Euston to Scotland was tearing along on its daily journey. It was that barren hour in the afternoon when luncheon is over and forgotten, and tea is yet far distant, and most of the passengers were either asleep or listlessly trying to read light literature.
Alone in a first-class carriage sat Bella Bathgate’s lodger—Miss Pamela Reston. A dressing-bag and a fur-coat and a pile of books and magazines lay on the opposite seat, and the lodger sat writing busily. An envelope lay beside her addressed to
THE LORD BIDBOROUGH,
c/o KING, KING, & Co.,
The letter ran:
“DEAR BIDDY,—We have always agreed, you and I (forgive the abruptness of this beginning), that we would each live our own life. Your idea of living was to range over the world in search of sport, mine to amuse myself well, to shine, to be admired. You, I imagine from your letters (what a faithful correspondent you have been, Biddy, all your wandering life), are still finding zest in it: mine has palled. You will jump naturally to the brotherly conclusion that I have palled—that I cease to amuse, that I find myself taking a second or even a third place, I who was always first; that, in short, I am a soured and disappointed woman.
“Honestly, I don’t think that is so. I am still beautiful: I am more sympathetic than in my somewhat callous youth, therefore more popular: I am good company: I have the influence that money carries with it, and I could even now make what is known as a ‘brilliant’ marriage. Did you ever wonder—everybody else did, I know—why I never married? Simply, my dear, because the only man I cared for didn’t ask me ... and now I am forty. (How stark and almost indecent it looks written down like that!) At forty, one is supposed to have got over all youthful fancies and disappointments, and lately it has seemed to me reasonable to contemplate a common-sense marriage. A politician, wise, honoured, powerful—and sixty. What could be more suitable? So suitable