“I forgot to tell you, Mr. Lancelot,” she said—her accents were almost cheerful—“that I’m going to church to-morrow morning.”
“To church!” he echoed.
“Yes, I haven’t been since I left the village, but missus says I ought to go in case the vicar asks me what church I’ve been going to.”
“I see,” he said, smiling on.
She was closing the door when it opened again, just revealing Mary Ann’s face.
“Well?” he said, amused.
“But I’ll do your boots all the same, Mr. Lancelot.” And the door closed with a bang.
They did not meet again. On the Monday afternoon the vicar duly came and took Mary Ann away. All Baker’s Terrace was on the watch, for her story had now had time to spread. The weather remained bright. It was cold but the sky was blue. Mary Ann had borne up wonderfully, but she burst into tears as she got into the cab.
“Sweet, sensitive little thing!” said Baker’s Terrace.
“What a good woman you must be, Mrs. Leadbatter,” said the vicar, wiping his spectacles.
As part of Baker’s Terrace, Lancelot witnessed the departure from his window, for he had not left after all.
Beethoven was barking his short snappy bark the whole time at the unwonted noises and the unfamiliar footsteps; he almost extinguished the canary, though that was clamorous enough.
“Shut up, you noisy little devils!” growled Lancelot. And taking the comic opera he threw it on the dull fire. The thick sheets grew slowly blacker and blacker, as if with rage; while Lancelot thrust the five five-pound notes into an envelope addressed to the popular composer, and scribbled a tiny note:—
“Dear Peter,—If you have
not torn up that cheque I shall be glad of it
by return. Yours,
“P.S.—I send by this
post a Reverie, called Marianne, which is the
best thing I have done, and should be glad if you could induce Brahmson
to look at it.”
A big, sudden blaze, like a jubilant bonfire, shot up in the grate and startled Beethoven into silence.
But the canary took it for an extra flood of sunshine, and trilled and demi-semi-quavered like mad.
“By Jove!” said Lancelot, starting up, “Mary Ann’s left her canary behind!”
Then the old whimsical look came over his face.
“I must keep it for her,” he murmured. “What a responsibility! I suppose I oughtn’t to let Rosie look after it any more. Let me see, what did Peter say? Canary seed, biscuits ... yes, I must be careful not to give it butter.... Curious I didn’t think of her canary when I sent back all those gloves ... but I doubt if I could have squeezed it in—my boots are only sevens after all—to say nothing of the cage.”
* * * * *