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After a honeymoon of five weeks in the shining cities of the Mediterranean and in Paris, they re-entered the British Empire by the august portals of the Chatham and Dover Railway. They stood impatiently waiting, part of a well-dressed, querulous crowd, while a few officials performed their daily task of improvising a Custom-house for registered luggage on a narrow platform of Victoria Station. John, Mr. Norris’s man, who had met them, attended behind. Suddenly, with a characteristic movement, the husband lifted his head, and then looked down at his wife.
‘I say, May!’
She knew that he was about to propose some swift alteration of their plans, but she smiled upwards out of her furs at his grave face, and the tone of her voice granted all requests in advance.
‘I think I’d better go to the office,’ he said.
She smiled again, inviting him to do exactly what he chose. She was already familiar with his restiveness under enforced delays and inaction, and his unfortunate capacity for being actively bored by trifles which did not interest him aroused in her a sort of maternal sympathy.
‘Yes,’ he answered. ’I can be there and back in an hour or less. You titivate yourself, and we’ll dine at the Savoy, or anywhere you please. We’ll keep the ball rolling to-night. Yes,’ he repeated, as if to convince himself that he was not a deserter, ’I really must call in at the office. You and John can see to the luggage, can’t you?’
‘Of course,’ she replied, with calm good-nature, and also with perfect self-confidence. ’But give me the keys of the trunks, and don’t be late, Ted.’
‘Oh, I shan’t be late,’ he said.
Their fingers touched as she took the keys. He went away enraptured anew by her delightful acquiescences, her unique smile, her common-sense, her mature charm, and the astonishing elegance of her person. The honeymoon was over—and with what finished discretion, combining the innocent girl with the woman of the world, she had lived through the honeymoon!—another life, more delicious, was commencing.
‘What a wife!’ he thought triumphantly. ’She does understand a man! And fancy leaving any ordinary bride to look after luggage!’
Nevertheless, once in his offices at Winchester House, he managed to forget her, and to forget time, for nearly an hour and a half. When at last he came to himself from the enchantment of affairs, he jumped into a hansom, and told the driver to drive fast to Knightsbridge. He was ardent to see her again. In the dark seclusion of the cab he speculated upon her toilette, the colour of her shoes. He thought of the last five weeks, of the next five years. Dwelling on their mutual love and esteem, their health, their self-knowledge and experience and cheerfulness, her sense and grace, his talent for getting money first and keeping it afterwards, he foresaw nothing but happiness for them. Children? H’m! Possibly....