Lawrence laughed. “A very proper sentiment, and a true Borderer! But you haven’t told us how you found him, Jake.”
“It’s a long tale,” said Foster. “Besides, I’m hungry. So I expect is Pete.”
Lucy Stephen rang a bell. “Tea ought to be ready. We often take it here.”
The tea was brought a few minutes afterwards and when Lucy gave him his cup Foster sat in a basket chair studying his comrade. Lawrence’s face was pinched and his pose languid, but Foster thought he was not so ill as he had been. He did not know how much he ought to ask and had decided to wait until they were alone when Lawrence smiled.
“You needn’t be alarmed, partner. I’m very much better than I was and will soon be quite fit again.”
“We have good ground for hoping so,” Lucy Stephen added in a friendly tone, and Foster thought she had noted his anxiety and liked him for it.
Her remark seemed to warrant his looking at her and he approved what he saw. The girl was attractive and had character, but what struck him at first sight was the protective gentleness she showed his comrade. He liked her eyes, which were a soft, clear blue, while her supple figure and warm-tinted skin hinted that she was vigorous. It was plain that she had not Alice Featherstone’s reserve and pride, nor he thought the depth of tenderness that the latter hid. She was softer and more pliable, for Alice was marked by an unflinching steadfastness. He smiled as he admitted that for him Alice stood alone on an unapproachable plane.
“But how did you get ill?” he asked.
“I was left on an icy couloir,” Lawrence replied. “When they found me I was half-frozen, but it makes a story that’s probably as long as yours. I’ll tell it you later. How’s our Borderer getting on?”
Foster turned to Pete, who had a large, hot Canadian biscuit on his plate. “This kind of meal isn’t very common in this country, Pete. Perhaps I’d better warn you that there’ll be another by and by.”
“Aweel,” said Pete, grinning, “I’ve no’ done so bad. It’s a guid plan to mak’ certain when ye hae the chance.”
When the meal was over Foster began to feel impatient. Pete went away, but Mrs. Stephen and Lucy remained, and Foster, having much to ask and tell his comrade, was embarrassed by their presence. By and by he saw that Lawrence was watching him with quiet amusement.
“It’s like old times to have you with us,” Lawrence remarked. “In fact, it only needed your turning up to complete my satisfaction; but you’re a disturbing fellow. Don’t you think this lucky reunion is rather too good to spoil?”
Foster knew what he meant and was tempted to agree, though he felt this was weak. It was pleasant to lounge, enjoying careless talk, and the society of the two ladies had its charm. They added a touch of domesticity and gave the place a homelike look, while the girl made an attractive picture as she handed Lawrence his matches and cigarettes. Foster thought it was worth being ill to be waited on like that. Then his chair was comfortable and he could see the sunset fading on the snow.