“Darling, what a silly promise. Oh, of course, we’ll all do our best; but if he wants to clutch her, the silly little bird, he’ll surely do it. Not that I’m saying he does want to; I daresay he only wants to upset her and make her his slave and then run away again to his own place, the Judas.”
“But I don’t want him to do that. Rhoda will be unhappier than ever again.”
“Oh, well, I wouldn’t wonder if, when Rhoda sees him again now, she sees what a poor creature it is, after all. It may be a turning-point with her, and who knows will she perhaps settle down afterwards and be a reasonable girl and darn her stockings and wear a collar?”
“If one is to talk of stockings,” began Hilary, “I noticed Caterina’s to-day, and really, you know....”
Peggy bit off her cotton and murmured, “Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, what’s to become of us all?”
THE LOSS OF THE SINGLE STATE
The man Vyvian came. He came again and again, but not to dinner. Perhaps he suspected about the potatoes, and thought that they would not even be compensated for by the pleasure of sneering at the boarders. He came in the evenings and sat in the sitting-room and drank coffee (the only thing that was well cooked in Peggy’s household), and talked to Hilary, and looked at Rhoda. Rhoda, embroidering apple-boughs on a green dress-front, shivered and trembled under his eyes.
“Now I know,” thought Peter, seeing Vyvian look, “what villains in books are really like. Vyvian is just like one; specially about the eyes.” He was sitting near Rhoda, playing that sort of patience called calcul, distinguished from other patiences by the fact that it comes out; that was why Peter liked it. He had refused to-night to join in the game the others were playing, which was animal grab, though usually he enjoyed it very much. Peter liked games, though he seldom won them. But this evening he played patience by himself and sat by Rhoda and consulted her at crucial moments, and babbled of many things and knew whenever Vyvian looked and Rhoda shook. At half-past nine Vyvian stopped talking to Hilary and crossed the room and took the arm-chair on Rhoda’s other side.
“Enthralling evenings you spend here,” he remarked, including in his glance Rhoda’s embroidery, Peter’s patience, and the animal grab table, from which cheerfully matter-of-fact farmyard and jungle cries proceeded with spirit.
Rhoda said nothing. Her head was bent over her work. The next moment she pricked her finger violently, and started. Before she could get her handkerchief out, Vyvian had his, and was enveloping her small hand in it.
“Too bad,” he said, in a voice so low that the farmyard cries drowned it as far as Peter was concerned. “Poor little finger.” He held it and the handkerchief closely in his two hands.
Rhoda, her colour flooding and ebbing over her thin face and thin neck down to the insertion yoke of her evening blouse, trembled like a captured bird. Her eyes fell from his look; a bold, bad look Peter thought, finding literary terminology appropriate.