“Poor little Hazel! Did she ask for me, Ann?”
“Well, my dear, she did, an’ Mrs. Bowker did ask if you’d go an’ look at her—but I do hate t’ disturb ye, that I do!”
“Oh, it’s all right, Ann. Tell Mrs. Bowker I’ll be right down.”
“I will so, but it’s a dratted shame as you should shoulder everybody’s troubles, that it is.”
“Oh, Ann—as though I do! And then how about yourself, dear—what of the Baxters and the Ryders, and Mrs. Tipping’s baby and—”
“My land!” cried Mrs. Trapes, “that chop’ll be a cinder!” and she hurried away.
“Poor little Hazel,” said Hermione, coming to a small corner cupboard. “She’s such a dear, quaint little person! You must have seen her on the stairs, Mr. Geoffrey.”
“I see so many on the stairs, Miss Hermione, and they are always small and generally quaint.”
“Hazel’s got a game leg, Geoff,” said Spike, “an’ she hops around on a little crutch. She told me yesterday she thought you was—I mean were—a fairy prince, because you always bow an’ tip your lid to her when she says ‘good morning.’ So now she waits for you every morning, Geoff—says it makes her feel like she was a real fairy princess in a story-book. Sounds kind o’ batty to me, though.”
Hermione was standing on tiptoe endeavouring to reach a certain bottle upon the top shelf where were ranged many others of various shapes and sizes, when Ravenslee’s big hand did it for her; but when she would have taken it, he shook his head.
“I should like to go with you, if I may,” he said, “to be—er—formally introduced to the princess.”
“But—” began Hermione, hesitating.
“Also I could carry the bottle for you.”
“Why, if you will do all that—” she smiled.
“Thanks!” he answered, and putting the bottle in his pocket, he opened the door.
“Hey, Geoff,” Spike called after him, “you’ve forgot to kiss the turkey good-by!”
“Why then, you can do it for me, Spike!” he answered, and followed Hermione out upon the landing.
Side by side they descended the stair, in the doing of which her soft shoulder met him once, and once he thrilled to feel her hand touch his in the shadow, but this hand was hastily withdrawn; also, though the light was dim, he saw that she was frowning and biting her red underlip.
“These stairs are rather—narrow, aren’t they?” said she, drawing to the wall.
“Delightfully!” he answered, drawing to the rail; and so they went down very silently with the width of the stairs between them.
WHEREIN MAY BE FOUND SOME PARTICULARS OF THE BEAUTIFUL CITY OF PERHAPS
Mrs. Bowker was a small woman, worn and faded like her carpets and curtains and the dress she wore, but, like them, she was very clean and neat.
“’T is real good of you to come, Miss Hermy,” said this small, faded woman, and Ravenslee thought her very voice sounded faded, so repressed and dismally soft was it. “I wouldn’t have had the face t’ send for you, Miss Hermy, only Hazel calls an’ calls, like she’s doin’ now—listen!”