“I can’t believe it, yet,” he said at last.
“Don’t worry, then. You will soon enough. Louis—how long is it?” she said, puckering her forehead. He made calculations.
“More than six months,” he said.
“Oh, what a long time! I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to wait so long as that. It’s like being told the king is coming—and having to wait six months. It is a long time to wait till he’s ready, isn’t it?”
Suddenly he caught at her hand and kissed it. Presently he went downstairs, leaving her there. To her amazement he appeared later with the mattress and pillows. He had always left her to carry them before. She gathered that it was her role to be waited on, and resented it.
“We’ll sleep up here to-night, girlie,” he said. “I know you like it.”
“It almost seems a waste of time to sleep, doesn’t it?” she said, her eyes filled with dreams. “And yet all the while, whether we’re awake or asleep, talking or working, he’s getting nearer and nearer—without our doing anything towards it!” Her eyes, as she spoke, were out seeking the far invisible bar of the Pacific.
“It doesn’t fit in with you, Marcella,” he said, and her eyes focussed on the glowing end of his cigarette. “I can’t imagine you ill and weak—or—or—motherly. Well, yes, perhaps motherly, because that’s how you are to me sometimes. But you seem too young, somehow.”
“Whom the gods love die young,” she quoted softly. “Because they keep young. I’ll be ever so young when I’m a nice old lady with white hair. I shall have it cut short then, like a choir boy’s in saint pictures. And as for being ill and weak, I never shall. I simply won’t have it.”
“My dear, oh my dear, you’ll have to. And I’ll have to take care of you. All women need taking care of.”
She gave a little short, quiet laugh.
“You’ll not make me take off my armour, Louis,” she said. He looked puzzled, but said nothing. She lay back on the pillow, looking up at the Southern Cross. The wind lifted her hair gently. Ghosts came over the sea, very kindly ghosts that smiled at her and passed on.
His hand reached out to hers in the darkness.
“I say,” he whispered, into her hair, “I was an ass over those damn smokes. I’ll—I’ll buck up over that sort of thing in future, Marcella—can’t have two babies in the family.”
Her eyes filled with tears.
“My dear,” she whispered, and held tight to his hand.
He went to sleep that night with the muscles of his mind tightened. He was going to fight for his wife and child! She, judged by all he had known of women in his select suburb among his family’s friends, and in his externing in the Borough was now a poor weak thing, to be cossetted and cared for, worked for and protected. He felt he could move mountains to-night—for the first time in his life he had someone weak to care for. No more charity from his father! No more slacking, no more giving way! He had an aim in life now. And, moreover, he had the thrilling excitement of a “case.” That he could not forget, though it was certainly subsidiary to the feelings of pride in himself that her imaginary weakness had brought into being.