“You must remember,” Thomson told her, “that personally I do not, in an ordinary way, see a great deal of fighting until the whole show is over. It may be a fine enough panorama when an attack is actually taking place, but there is nothing very inspiring in the modern battlefield when the living have passed away from it.”
Geraldine shivered for a moment.
“Really, I almost wish that you were a soldier, too,” she declared. “Your work seems to me so horribly gruesome. Come along, you know you are going to take me to dinner. Think of something nice to say. I really want to be amused.”
“I will make a suggestion, then,” he remarked as they took their places. “I don’t know whether you will find it amusing, though. Why shouldn’t we do like so many of our friends, and get married?”
She stared at him for a moment. Then she laughed heartily.
“Hugh,” she exclaimed, “I can see through you! You’ve suddenly realised that this is your chance to escape a ceremony and a reception, and all that sort of thing. I call it a most cowardly suggestion.”
“It rather appeals to me,” he persisted. “It may be,” he added, dropping his voice a little, “because you are looking particularly charming this evening, or it may be—”
She looked at him curiously.
“Go on, please,” she murmured.
“Or it may be,” he repeated, “a man’s desire to be absolutely sure of the thing he wants more than anything else in the world.”
There was a moment’s silence. As though by some curious instinct which they both shared, they glanced across the table to where Granet had become the centre of a little babble of animated conversation. Geraldine averted her eyes almost at once, and looked down at her plate. There was a shade of uneasiness in her manner.
“You sounds very serious, Hugh,” she observed.
“That is rather a failing of mine, isn’t it?” he replied. “At any rate, I am very much in earnest.”
There was another brief silence, during which Geraldine was addressed by her neighbour on the other side. Thomson, who was watching her closely, fancied that she accepted almost eagerly the opportunity of diversion. It was not until dinner was almost over that she abandoned a conversion into which she had thrown herself with spirit.
“My little suggestion,” Thomson reminded her, “remains unanswered.”
She looked down at her plate.
“I don’t think you are really in earnest,” she said.
“Am I usually a farceur?” he replied. “I think that my tendencies are rather the other way. I really mean it, Geraldine. Shall we talk about it later on this evening?”
“If you like,” she agreed simply, “but somehow I believe that I would rather wait. Look at mother’s eye, roving around the table. Give me my gloves, please, Hugh. Don’t be long.”