And now she did laugh, throwing back her head, and he laughed with her, shyly but not resentfully. It was as though a crisis in their relationship had been passed. He could trust her to understand. And he knew that though what he had said was true, it had also sounded young and sententious.
“You think I’m talking rot, don’t you?”
“I only think you’ve changed,” she answered, with a quick gravity. “Not outside. Outside you’re just a few feet bigger and the round lines have become straight. But when you were a little boy you used to cry a good deal.”
“I don’t see—how did you know?”
“I did know. There were certain smears—I don’t think you liked having your face washed—and a red, tired, look under the eyes. The point is that now I can’t imagine your ever having cried at all.”
“I haven’t.” He calculated solemnly. “Not for more than twelve years. I remember, because it was after I had played truant at the circus.”
But he did not want to tell her about the circus. He stopped short and looked at his watch in the lamplight.
“Nearly twelve. We’ve been prowling round this place for an hour. I’ve got to get home and work. I thought you said you lived near here.”
“I do. Over the way. The big house. I’ve two rooms on the top floor. Rather jolly—and near St. Mary’s——”
“What—what do you want with St. Mary’s?”
But she had already begun to cross the road, and the wind, coming down a side street with a shriek, sent her scudding before it like a leaf. She was half-way up the grey stone steps before he overtook her. She turned on him, the short ends of her hair flying wickedly.
“Of course, it’s only right and natural that you should talk of nothing but yourself.”
He stammered breathlessly.
“I didn’t think—I’m sorry——”
“Do you suppose you’re the only person who does what they say they’re going to do?”
“What—not—not a doctor, Francey?”
“Not yet. I’m two years behind you. This will be my first year in the Wards. Next year you will be full-blown—perhaps on the staff—and I shall have to trot behind you and believe everything you say.” She smiled rather gravely. “You will have got the big stick, after all.”
He looked up at her, holding on to the spiked railing that guarded the yawning area. But he had a queer feeling that he had let go of everything else that he had held fast to—that he was gliding down-bill in a reckless abandonment to an unknown feeling. He knew too little of emotion to know that he was happy.
“Why—I shall be there too. I’ll be on a surgical post—dresser for old Rogers. And he’s going to take me on his private rounds.”
It was not what he had meant to say. He had meant to say, “We shall see each other.” Perhaps she guessed. Her hand rested on his, warm and strong and kind, as though nothing had changed at all. Because they were grown up she did not hold back in a conventional reserve. If only he could have cried she would have sat down on the steps beside him, and put her arm about him, and comforted him.