He said, “Good. Who?”
She took a shallow basket from the shelf. He knew this and the long scissors for her flower-cutting implements. “Mr. Bagshaw.”
And before he could stop himself he had groaned, “Oh, lord!”
She “flew up” and he rushed in tumultuously to make amends for his blunder and prevent her flying up.
“Mark, I do wish—”
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I really am most awfully sorry, Mabel. ’Oh, lord’’s not really profanity. You know it’s not. It’s just my way—”
“I know that.”
But he persevered. “As a matter of fact, it’s clear connection of thought in this case. Bagshaw’s a clergyman, and my mind flew instantly to celestial things.”
She did not respond to this. “In any case, I really cannot see why you should object to Mr. Boom Bagshaw.”
“I don’t. I don’t in the least.”
“I’ve heard you say—often—that he’s far and away the best preacher you’ve ever heard.”
“He is. Absolutely.”
“It’s just his coming to lunch. He’s such a terrific talker and you know I can’t stick talkers.”
“Yes, that’s just why I invite them when you’re not here.”
He laughed and came across the room towards her impulsively. He was going to carry this through. “You’ve got me there. Properly.” He took the basket from her hand. “Come on, we’ll cut the flowers. I’ll be absolutely chatty with old Bagshaw.”
She smiled and her smile encouraged him tremendously. This was the way to do it! They went through the glass doors into the garden and he continued, “Really chatty. I’m going to turn over a new leaf. As a matter of fact, that’s why I came back. I got out of bed the wrong side this morning, didn’t I?”
He felt as he always remembered once feeling as a boy when, after going to bed, he had come downstairs in his nightshirt and said to his father, “I say, father, I didn’t tell the truth this morning. I had been smoking.” He had never forgotten the enormous relief of that confession, nor the bliss of his father’s, “That’s all right, old man. That’s fine. Don’t cry, old chap.” And he felt precisely that same enormous relief now.
She said, “Was that the reason? How awfully funny of you!” and she gave one of her sudden bursts of laughter.
He had a swift feeling that this was not quite the same as the reception of his confession by his father in that long-ago; but he thought immediately, “The thing’s quite different.” Anyway, he had confessed. She knew why he had come back so suddenly. He felt immensely happy. And when she said, “I think we’ll have some of the roses,” he gaily replied, “Yes, rather. These roses!”
Fine! How easy to be on jolly terms!
And immediately it proved not so easy. He had got over the rocks of “niggling”; he found himself in the shoals of exasperation.