Hermione gasped, and turning, stared at him wide-eyed, seeing only him, conscious only of him. Lifting Hazel to the floor, he seated himself upon her bed and, crossing his legs, eyed her flushed loveliness with a matter-of-fact air. “Really,” he continued, “I don’t see that it needs any alteration; perhaps the sleeves might be a trifle shorter—show a little more arm. But those flounces and things are perfect! I hope all the other things fit as well?”
Hermione flushed deeper still and caught her breath.
“Oh, Hermy,” said a soft, pleading little voice, “won’t you see me, please?”
Hermione started, her long lashes drooped suddenly, and then—then, forgetful of costly lace, of dainty ruffles and ribbons, she was on her knees and had the child close in her arms. And beholding the clasp of those round, white arms, the lovely, down-bent head, and all the tender, craving, inborn motherhood of her, Ravenslee held his breath, and into his eyes came a light of reverent adoration.
Presently he rose and left them together, but as he went, the light was in his eyes still.
CONCERNING A HANDFUL OF PEBBLES
“And so,” said Hermione, as she waved good-by to Hazel, who stood in the cottage doorway with Mrs. Bowker—a Mrs. Bowker no longer faded, “you didn’t forget even the doll that says ’Mamma’?”
“It was such a little thing!” he answered.
“What a—man you are!” she said softly.
“Just that, Hermione,” he answered, “and—frightfully human!” She was silent. “Do you know what I mean?” he demanded, glancing at her averted face.
“Yes!” she answered, without looking around. So they walked for awhile in silence. Suddenly he seized her hand and drew it through his arm.
“Hermione,” he said gently, “I want my wife.”
She still kept her head averted, but he could feel how she was trembling.
“And you think—” she began softly.
“That I have been patient long enough. I have waited and hoped because—”
“Because you are so generous, so kind—such a man!” she said softly and with head still averted.
“And yet since I have been well again, you have kept me at arm’s length. Dear, you—love me still, don’t you?”
“Love you?” she repeated, “love you?” For a moment she turned and looked up at him then drew her arm from his and walked on with head averted once more. So they entered the rose garden and coming to the lily pool leaned there side by side.
“Hermione,” said he, staring down into the water, “if you really love me, why do you hate to kiss me? Why do you hardly suffer me to touch you? And you’ve never even called me by my name, that I remember!”
“Geoffrey!” she breathed; “and I—love you to touch me! And I don’t hate to kiss you, Geoffrey dear.”
“Then why do you keep me at arm’s length?”