Ronnie laughed. “I shall tell Helen you said so.” Then, carrying the ’cello, he lurched unsteadily through the doorway. The Infant’s head had a narrow escape.
* * * * *
Aubrey Treherne sent off the telegram. He required to alter only one word.
When it reached Helen, the next morning at breakfast, it read thus: Owing to astonishing news in letter prefer to meet you quietly at home. All well. Coming by 3 o’clock train. Home to tea.—Ronald.
Helen suffered a sharp pang of disappointment. She had expected something quite different. The adjective “astonishing” seemed strangely cold and unlike Ronnie. She had thought he would say “wonderful,” or “unbelievable,” or “glorious.”
But before she had finished her first cup of coffee, she had reasoned herself back into complete content. Ronnie, in an unusual fit of thoughtfulness, had remembered her feeling about the publicity of telegrams. She had so often scolded him for putting “darling” and “best of love” into messages which all had to be shouted by telephone from the postal town, into the little village office which, being also the village grocery store, was a favourite rendezvous at all hours of the day for village gossips.
It was quite unusually considerate of Ronnie to curb the glowing words he must have longed to pour forth. The very effort of that curbing, had reduced him to a somewhat stilted adjective.
So Helen finished her lonely breakfast with thoughts of glad anticipation. Ronnie’s return was drawing so near. Only two more breakfasts without him. At the third she would be pouring out his coffee, and hearing him comment on the excellence of Blake’s hot buttered toast!
Then, with a happy heart, she went up to the nursery.
Yet—unconsciously—the pang remained.
A FRIEND IN NEED
As Aubrey Treherne, on his way back from despatching the telegram, stood in the general entrance hall, fumbling with the latch-key at the door of his own flat, a tall young man in an ulster dashed up the wide stone stairs, rapidly read the names on the various brass plates, and arrived at Aubrey’s just as his door had yielded to persuasion and was admitting him into his own small passage.
“Hullo,” said a very British voice. “Do you happen to be Ronald West’s wife’s cousin?”
Aubrey turned in the doorway, taking stock of his interlocutor. He saw a well-knit, youthful figure, a keen resourceful face, and a pair of exceedingly bright brown eyes, unwavering in the steady penetration of their regard. Already they had taken him in, from top to toe, and were looking past him in a rapid investigation of as much of his flat as could be seen from the doorway.
Aubrey was caught!
He had fully intended muffling his electric bell, and not being at home to visitors.