Neville told him “In Guildford, helping Barry Briscoe with W.E.A. meetings. They’re spending a lot of time over that just now; they’re both as keen as mustard. Nearly as keen as he is. He sets people on fire. It’s very good for the children. They’re bringing him up here to spend Sunday. I think he hopes every time to find Nan back again from Cornwall, poor Barry. He was very down in the mouth when she suddenly took herself off.”
“If Nan doesn’t mean to have him, she shouldn’t have encouraged him,” said Mrs. Hilary. “He was quite obviously in love with her.”
“Nan’s always a dark horse,” Neville said. “She alone knows what she means.”
Jim said “She’s a flibberty-gibbet. She’d much better get married. She’s not much use in the world at present. Now if she was a doctor ... or doing something useful, like Pamela....”
“Don’t be prejudiced, Jimmy. Because you don’t read modern novels yourself you think it’s no use their being written.”
“I read some modern novels. I read Conrad, in spite of the rather absurd attitude some people take up about him; and I read good detective stories, only they’re so seldom good. I don’t read Nan’s kind. People tell me they’re tremendously clever and modern and delightfully written and get very well reviewed, I daresay. I very seldom agree with reviewers, in any case. Even about Conrad they seem to me (when I read them—I don’t often) to pick out the wrong points to admire and to miss the points I should criticise.”
Mrs. Hilary said “Well, I must say I can’t read Nan’s books myself. Simply, I don’t think them good. I dislike all her people so much, and her style.”
“You’re a pair of old Victorians,” Neville told them, pleasing Mrs. Hilary by coupling them together and leaving Jim, who knew why she did it, undisturbed. Neville was full of graces and tact, a possession Jim had always appreciated in her.
“And there,” said Neville, who was standing at the window, “are Barry Briscoe and the children coming in.”
Jim looked over her shoulder and saw the three wheeling their bicycles up the drive.
“Gerda,” he remarked, “is a prettier thing every time I see her.”
It rained so hard, so much harder even than usual, that Sunday, that only Barry and Gerda went to walk. Barry walked in every kind of weather, even in the July of 1920.
To-day after lunch Barry said “I’m going to walk over the downs. Anyone coming?” and Gerda got up silently, as was her habit. Kay stretched himself and yawned and said “Me for the fireside. I shall have to walk every day for three weeks after to-day,” for he was going to-morrow on a reading-party. Rodney and Jim were playing a game of chess that had lasted since breakfast and showed every sign of lasting till bed-time; Neville and Mrs. Hilary were talking, and Grandmama was upstairs, having her afternoon nap.