His thoughts went to Mabel. “Those houses in King’s Close are going to be eighty pounds a year, and what do you think, Mrs. Toller is going to take one.” And he had not answered her but had rustled the newspaper and had intended her to know why he had rustled the paper: to show he couldn’t stick it! Unkind. His heart smote him for Mabel. Such a pathetically simple thing for Mabel to find enjoyment in! Why, he might just as reasonably rustle the newspaper at a baby because it had enjoyment in a rattle. A rattle would not amuse him, and Mrs. Toller taking a house beyond her means did not amuse him; but why on earth should he—?
He put the thing to himself in his reasoning way, his brow wrinkled up: She was his wife. She had left her home for his home. She had a right to his interest in her ideas. He had a duty towards her ideas. Unkind. Rotten.
Upon a sudden impulse he looked at his watch. Only just after twelve. He could get back in time for lunch. Lonely for her, day after day, and left as he had left her that morning. They could have a jolly afternoon together. He could make it a jolly afternoon. Nona kept coming into his thoughts—and more so after this Twyning business. He would have Mabel in his thoughts.
He went in and told Mr. Fortune he rather thought of taking the afternoon off if he was not wanted. He mounted his bicycle and rode purposefully back to Mabel.
The free-wheel run down into Perry Green landed him a little short of his gate,—not bad! Pirrip, the postman, whom he had passed in the bicycle’s penultimate struggles, overtook him in its death throes and watched with interest the miracles of balancing with which, despite his preoccupation of mind, habit made him prolong them to the uttermost inch.
He dismounted. “Anything for me, Pirrip?”
“One for you, Mr. Sabre.”
Sabre took the letter and glanced at the handwriting.
It was from Nona.
Her small, neat, masculine script had once been as familiar to him as his own. It was curiously like his own. She had the same trick of not linking all the letters in a word. Her longer words, like his own, looked as if they were two or three short words close together. To this day, when he did not get a letter from her once in a year—or in five years—his address on an envelope in her handwriting was a thing he could bring, and sometimes did bring with perfect clearness before his mental vision.
He glanced at it, regarded it for slightly longer than a glance, and with a little pucker of brows and lips, then made the action of putting it, unopened, in his pocket. Then he rested the bicycle against his hip and opened her letter.
“Northrepps. Tuesday.” She never dated her letters. He used to be always telling her about that. Tuesday was yesterday.