“Sw—eet, sw—eet,” said the canary, in thrilling jubilation.
Her happiness was choking her—she could not speak.
“And we will take the canary, too—unless I say good-by to you as well.”
“Oh, no, you mustn’t leave us here!”
“And then,” he said slowly, “it will not be good-by—nor good-night. Do you understand?”
“Yes, yes,” she breathed, and her face shone.
“But think, think, Mary Ann,” he said, a sudden pang of compunction shooting through his breast. He released her hands. “Do you understand?”
“I understand—I shall be with you, always.”
He replied uneasily, “I shall look after you—always.”
“Yes, yes,” she breathed. Her bosom heaved. “Always.”
Then his very first impression of her as “a sort of white Topsy” recurred to him suddenly and flashed into speech.
“Mary Ann, I don’t believe you know how you came into the world. I dare say you ’specs you growed.”
“No, sir,” said Mary Ann, gravely; “God made me.”
That shook him strangely for a moment. But the canary sang on:—
And so it was settled. He wrote the long-delayed answer to the popular composer, found him still willing to give out his orchestration, and they met by appointment at the club.
“I’ve got hold of a splendid book,” said the popular composer. “Awfully clever; jolly original. Bound to go—from the French, you know. Haven’t had time to set to work on it—old engagement to run over to Monte Carlo for a few days—but I’ll leave you the book; you might care to look over it. And—I say—if any catchy tunes suggest themselves as you go along, you might just jot them down, you know. Not worth while losing an idea; eh, my boy! Ha! ha! ha! Well, good-by. See you again when I come back; don’t suppose I shall be away more than a month. Good-by!” And, having shaken his hand with tremendous cordiality, the popular composer rushed downstairs and into a hansom.
Lancelot walked home with the libretto and the five five-pound notes. He asked for Mrs. Leadbatter, and gave her a week’s notice. He wanted to drop Rosie immediately, on the plea of pressure of work, but her mother received the suggestion with ill grace, and said that Rosie should come up and practise on her own piano all the same, so he yielded to the complexities of the situation, and found hope a wonderful sweetener of suffering. Despite Rosie and her giggling, and Mrs. Leadbatter and her best cap and her asthma, the week went by almost cheerfully. He worked regularly at the comic opera, nearly as happy as the canary which sang all day long, and, though scarcely a word more passed between him and Mary Ann, their eyes met ever and anon in the consciousness of a sweet secret.