“I’ll try to, dear, because he seems to mean so much to you. Are you going up to town with us to-morrow?”
“There’s only a morning’s fitting at a dressmaker—no place for me,” he laughed. “I’ll stay and welcome old Jaffery.”
Again the most transient of tiny little clouds. But I could not help thinking that if Jaffery had been a woman instead of a mere man, there would have been a thunderstorm.
When we were alone Adrian threw himself into a chair.
“Women are funny beings,” he said. “I do believe Doria is jealous of old Jaffery.”
“You have every reason to be proud,” said I, “of your psychological acumen.”
A fair-bearded, red-faced, blue-eyed, grinning giant got out of the train and catching sight of us ran up and laid a couple of great sun-glazed hands on my shoulders.
“Hullo! hullo! hullo!” he shouted, and gripping Adrian in his turn, shouted it again. He made such an uproar that people stuck wondering heads out of the carriage windows. Then he thrust himself between us, linked our arms in his and made us charge with him down the quiet country platform. A porter followed with his suit-case.
“Why didn’t you tell me that the Man of Fame was with you?”
“I thought I’d give you a pleasant surprise,” said I.
“I met Robson of the Embassy in Constantinople—you remember Robson of Pembroke—fussy little cock-sparrow—he’d just come from England and was full of it. You seem to have got ’em in the neck. Bully! Bully!”
Adrian took advantage of the narrow width of the exit to release himself and I, who went on with Jaffery, looking back, saw him rub himself ruefully, as though he had been mauled by a bear.
“And how’s everybody?” Jaffery’s voice reverberated through the subway. “Barbara and the fairy grasshopper? I’m longing to see ’em. That’s the pull of being free. You can adopt other fellows’ wives and families. I’m coming home now to my adopted wife and daughter. How are they?”
I answered explicitly. He boomed on till we reached the station yard, where his eye fell upon a familiar object.
“What?” cried he. “Have you still got the Chinese Puffhard?”
The vehicle thus disrespectfully alluded to was an ancient, ancient car, the pride of many a year ago, which sentiment (together with the impossibility of finding a purchaser) would not allow me to sell. It had been a splendid thing in those far-off days. It kept me in health. It made me walk miles and miles along unknown and unfrequented roads. In the aggregate I must have spent months of my life doing physical culture exercises underneath it. You got into it at the back; it was about ten feet high, and you started it at the side by a handle in its midriff. But I loved it. It still went, if treated kindly. Barbara loathed it and insulted it, so that with her as passenger, it sulked and refused to go. But Susan’s adoration surpassed even mine. Its demoniac groans and rattles and convulsive quakings appealed to her unspoiled sense of adventure.