Peter shook his head. His mood was now as determined, as hot in pursuit, as hers had been, a little earlier.
“I bet you’ll have to make up your mind about something much more important than that—before long. I happened to be—in the Gallery of the House of Commons yesterday—”
“Improving your mind?”
“Listening to a lot of wild men talking rot about the army. But there was one man who didn’t talk rot, though I agreed with scarcely a thing he said. But then he’s a Labour man—or thinks he is—and I know that I’m a Tory—as blue as you make ’em. Anyway I’m perfectly certain you’d have liked to be there, Miss Helena!”
“Geoffrey?” said Helena coolly.
“Right you are. Well, I can tell you he made a ripping success! The man next to me in the gallery, who seemed to have been born and bred there—knew everybody and everything—and got as much fun out of it as I do out of ’Chu-Chin-Chow’—he told me it was the first time Geoffrey had really got what he called the ’ear of the House’—it was pretty full too!—and that he was certain to get on—office, and all that kind of thing—if he stuck to it. He certainly did it jolly well. He made even an ignorant ass like me sit up. I’d go and hear him again—I vow I would! And there was such a fuss in the lobby! I found Geoffrey there, shovelling out hand-shakes, and talking to press-men. An old uncle of mine—nice old boy—who’s sat for a Yorkshire constituency for about a hundred years, caught hold of me. ‘Know that fellow, Peter?’ ‘Rather!’ ‘Good for you! He’s got his foot on the ladder—he’ll climb.’”
“Horrid word!” said Helena.
“Depends on what you mean by it. If you’re to get to the top, I suppose you must climb. Now, then, Helena!—if you won’t take a man like me whom you can run—take a man like Geoffrey who can run you—and make you jolly happy all the same! There—I can give advice too, you see—and you’ve no right to be offended!”
Helena could not keep her features still. Her eyes shot fire, though of what kind the fire might be Peter was not quite sure. The two young creatures faced each other. There was laughter in each face, but something else; something strenuous, tragic even; as though “Life at its grindstone set” had been at work on the radiant pair, evoking the Meredithian series of intellect from the senses,—“brain from blood”; with “spirit,” or generous soul, for climax.
But unconsciously Peter had moved aside. In a flash Helena had slipped past him, and was flying through the wood, homeward, looking back to mock him, as he sped after her in vain.