Mrs Shepherd did not tell him how nearly she had been betrayed into confession. She felt that he would not understand her explanation of the mood in which his sister had caught her. Men understand women so little. To tell him would be merely to destroy his confidence in her. As they drove through the twilight, with Nellie fast asleep between, he spoke of her departure, which he had arranged for the end of the week, and then, putting his arm round her waist, he said: ’You have always been a good little woman to me.’
(In Deacon’s Orders and Other Stories, New York: Harper and Bros., 1895)
‘You dear old boy,’ said the girl, ’I am sure I wish it could be, with all my heart, if I have any heart.’
‘I don’t believe you have,’ replied the boy gloomily.
‘Well, but, Reg, consider; you’ve got no money.’
’I’ve got five thousand pounds. If a man can’t make his way upon that he must be a poor stick.’
’You would go abroad with it and dig, and take your wife with you—to wash and cook.’
’We would do something with the money here. You should stay in London, Rosie.’
’Yes. In a suburban villa, at Shepherd’s Bush, perhaps. No, Reg, when I marry, if ever I do—I am in no hurry—I will step out of this room into one exactly like it.’ The room was a splendid drawing-room in Palace Gardens, splendidly furnished. ’I shall have my footmen and my carriage, and I shall—’
‘Rosie, give me the right to earn all these things for you!’ the young man cried impetuously.
’You can only earn them for me by the time you have one foot in the grave. Hadn’t I better in the meantime marry some old gentleman with his one foot in the grave, so as to be ready for you against the time you come home? In two or three years the other foot, I dare say, would slide into the grave as well.’
‘You laugh at my trouble. You feel nothing.’
’If the pater would part, but he won’t; he says he wants all his money for himself, and that I’ve got to marry well. Besides, Reg’—here her face clouded and she lowered her voice—’there are times when he looks anxious. We didn’t always live in Palace Gardens. Suppose we should lose it all as quickly as we got it. Oh!’ she shivered and trembled. ’No, I will never, never marry a poor man. Get rich, my dear boy, and you may aspire even to the valuable possession of this heartless hand.’
She held it out. He took it, pressed it, stooped and kissed her. Then he dropped her hand and walked quickly out of the room.
‘Poor Reggie!’ she murmured. ’I wish—I wish—but what is the use of wishing?’
Two men—one young, the other about fifty—sat in the veranda of a small bungalow. It was after breakfast. They lay back in long bamboo chairs, each with a cigar. It looked as if they were resting. In reality they were talking business, and that very seriously.