“DEAR MRS. MIDDLEMIST:
“I don’t let the grass grow under my feet. I have bought Penton Court. I have also started a campaign which will wipe the Jebusa Jones people off the face of the earth they blacken. I hope you are finding a vocation. When I am settled at Nunsmere we must talk further of this. I take a greater interest in you than in any other woman I have ever known, and that I believe you take an interest in me is the proud privilege of
“Yours very faithfully,
“Here are the three railway tickets, ma’am,” said Turner, who had brought up the letter. “I think we had better take charge of them.”
Zora laughed, and when Turner had left the room she laughed again. Clem Sypher’s letter and Septimus’s ticket lay side by side on her dressing-table, and they appealed to her sense of humor. They represented the net result of her misanthropic travels.
What would her mother say? What would Emmy say? What would be the superior remark of the Literary Man from London?
She, Zora Middlemist, who had announced in the market place, with such a flourish of trumpets, that she was starting on her glorious pilgrimage to the Heart of Life, abjuring all conversation with the execrated male sex, to have this ironical adventure! It was deliciously funny. Not only had she found two men in the Heart of Life, but she was bringing them back with her to Nunsmere. She could not hide them from the world in the secrecy of her own memory: there they were in actual, bodily presence, the sole trophies of her quest.
Yet she put a postscript to a letter to her mother.
“I know, in your dear romantic way, you will declare that these two men have fallen in love with me. You’ll be wrong. If they had, I shouldn’t have anything to do with them. It would have made them quite impossible.”
The energy with which she licked and closed the envelope was remarkable but unnecessary.
Things happen slowly at Nunsmere—from the grasping of an idea to the pace of the church choir over the hymns. Life there is no vulgar, tearing two-step, as it is in Godalming, London, and other vortices of human passions, but the stately measure of a minuet. Delights are deliberate and have lingering ends. A hen would scorn to hatch a chicken with the indecent haste of her sister in the next parish.
Six months passed, and Zora wondered what had become of them. Only a few visits to London, where she had consorted somewhat gaily with Emmy’s acquaintances, had marked their flight, and the gentle fingers of Nunsmere had graduated the reawakening of her nostalgia for the great world. She spoke now and then of visiting Japan and America and South Africa, somewhat to her mother’s consternation; but no irresistible force drove her thither. She found contentment in procrastination.