At last we escaped and took the good train south. The Bolderos had already returned to London. They came to spend our first week-end at Northlands. Adrian professed to be in the robustest of health and to have not a care in the world. The holiday, said he, had done him incalculable good. Already he had begun to work in the full glow of inspiration. We thought him looking old and hag-ridden, but Doria seemed happy. She had her own reason for happiness, which she confided to Barbara. It would be early in the New Year. . . . Her eyes, I noticed, were filled with a new and wonderful love for Adrian. On the Sunday afternoon as we were sauntering about the garden, Adrian touched upon the subject in a man’s shy way when speaking to his fellow man.
“Why,” said I with a laugh, “that’s just about the time you expect the book to be out.”
He gave me a queer, slanting look. “Yes,” said he, “they’ll both be born together.”
That night, to my consternation and sorrow, he went to bed quite fuddled with whisky.
Never shall I forget that Christmastide. Its shadow has fallen on every Christmas since then. And, in the innocent insolence of our hearts, we had planned such a merry one. It was the first since our marriage that we were spending at Northlands, for like dutiful folk we had hitherto spent the two or three festival days in the solid London house of Barbara’s parents. Her father, Sir Edward Kennion, retired Permanent Secretary of a Government Office, was a courtly gentleman with a faultless taste in old china and wine, and Lady Kennion a charming old lady almost worthy of being the mother of Barbara. To speak truly, I had always enjoyed my visits. But when the news came that, for the sake of the dear lady’s health, the Kennions were starting for Bermuda, in the middle of December, it did not strike us desolate. On the contrary Barbara clapped her hands in undisguised glee.
“It will do mother no end of good, and we can give Susan a real Christmas of her own.”
So we laid deep schemes to fill the house to overflowing and to have a roystering time. First, for Susan’s sake, we secured a widowed cousin of mine, Eileen Wetherwood, with her four children; and we sent out invitations to the ban and arriere ban of the county’s juvenility, to say nothing of that of London, for a Boxing-day orgy. Having accounted satisfactorily for Susan’s entertainment, we thought, I hope in a Christian spirit, of our adult circle. Dear old Jaffery would be with us. Why not ask his sister Euphemia? They had a mouse and lion affection for each other. Then there was Liosha. Both she and Jaffery met in Susan’s heart, and it was Susan’s Christmas. With Liosha would come Mrs. Considine, admirable and lonely woman. We trusted to luck and to Mrs. Considine’s urbane influence for amenable relations between Liosha