In his portmanteau he had found Dr. Dick’s bottle of stuff to take on the journey. Aubrey had persuaded him to pack it away. He now took a dose; then slipped the bottle into the pocket of his fur coat.
All went well, during the rest of the morning. His publisher was neither pre-occupied nor vague. He gave Ronnie a great reception and his full attention.
In the best of spirits, and looking the bronzed picture of perfect health, Ronnie returned to his club, lunched, showed his ’cello to two or three friends, then caught the three o’clock train to Hollymead.
The seven months were over. All nightmares seemed to have cleared away. He was on his way to Helen. In an hour and a half he would be with her!
He began to wonder, eagerly, what Helen would say to the Infant.
He felt quite sure that as soon as he got the bow in his hand, and the ’cello between his knees, the Infant would have plenty to say to Helen.
He had kept his yearning to play, under strong control, so that she might be there to enjoy with him the wonderful experience of those first moments.
As the train slowed up for Hollymead, and the signal lights of the little wayside station appeared, Ronnie took the last dose of Dick’s physic, and threw the bottle under the seat.
Helen awaited in her sitting-room the return of the carriage.
It had been a great effort to let it go to the station without her. In fact she had ordered it to the front door, and put on her hat and coat in readiness.
But at the last minute it had seemed impossible to meet Ronnie on a railway platform.
So she sent the brougham off without her, went upstairs, put on a soft trailing gown specially admired by Ronnie, paused at the nursery to make sure all was quiet and ready, then came down to her sitting-room, and tried to listen for a sound other than the beating of her own heart.
The room looked very home-like and cosy. A fire crackled gaily on the hearth. The winter curtains were drawn; the orange lampshades cast a soft golden light around.
The tea-table stood ready—cups and plates for two. The firelight shone on the embossed brightness of the urn and teapot.
Ronnie’s favourite low chair was ready for him.
The room seemed in every detail to whisper, “Home”; and the woman who waited knew that the home within her heart, yearning to receive and welcome and hold him close, after his long, long absence from her, was more tender, more beautiful, more radiant, than outward surroundings could possibly be made.
No word save the one telegram had come from Ronnie since her letter to Leipzig. But she knew he had been desperately busy; and, with the home-coming so near, letters would have seemed to him almost impossible.
He could not know how her woman’s heart had yearned to have him say at once: “I am glad, and you did right.”