back. We’ve been from China to Peru—almost.
up one day and be bored about it. How are you?
He thought: “Funny she didn’t mention she’d written just now. Perhaps she thought it was funny I didn’t say I’d had it. I must tell her.”
He returned her letter to its envelope and put the envelope in his pocket. Then wheeled his bicycle into his gate. He smiled. “Mabel will be surprised at me back like this.”
Mabel was descending the stairs as he entered the hall. In the white dress she wore she made a pleasant picture against the broad, shallow stairway and the dark panelling. But she did not appear particularly pleased to see him. But he thought, “Why should she be? That’s just it. That’s why I’ve come back.”
“Hullo?” she greeted him. “Have you forgotten something?”
He smiled invitingly. “No, I’ve just come back. I suddenly thought we’d have a holiday.”
She showed puzzlement. “A holiday? What, the office? All of you?”
She had paused three steps from the foot of the stairs, her right hand on the banisters.
He slid his hand up the rail and rested it on hers. “Good lord, no. Not the office. No, I suddenly thought we’d have a holiday. You and I.”
He half hoped she would respond to the touch of his hand by turning the palm of her own to it. But he thought, “Why should she?” and she did not. She said, “But how extraordinary! Whatever for?”
“Well, why not?”
“But what did you say at the office? What reason did you give?”
“Didn’t give any. I just said I thought I wouldn’t be back.”
“But whatever will Mr. Fortune think?”
“Oh, what does it matter what he thinks? He won’t think anything about it.”
“But he’ll think it’s funny.”
He thought, “Dash these buts!” This was what he called “niggling.” It was on the tip of his tongue to say, “Why niggle about the thing?” but he recollected his purpose; that was him all over and that was just it! He said brightly, “Let him. Do him good. The idea suddenly came to me as a bit of a lark to have an unexpected holiday with you, and I just cleared off and came!”
She had descended and he moved along the hall with her towards the morning room.
“It’s rather extraordinary,” she said.
She certainly was not enthusiastic over it. She asked, “Well, what are you going to do?”
He wished he had thought of some plan as he came along. “What time’s lunch? Half-past one? What about getting your bike and going for a bit of a run first?”
She was at a drawer of her table where she kept, with beautiful neatness, implements for various household duties. A pair of long scissors came out. “I can’t possibly. I’ve things to do. Besides some one’s coming to lunch.”
He began to feel he had been a fool. The feeling nettled him and he thought, “Why ‘some one’? Dash it, I might be a stranger in the house. Why doesn’t she say who?” And then he thought, “Why should she? This is just it. I’d have heard all about it at breakfast if I’d been decently communicative.”