He swung round, dropping his feet to the floor, and eyed his brother quizzically.
“Upon my word,” he went on, “this thing annoys me. I’ve a mind to—” Here he dived a hand into his breeches pocket and fished out a shilling. “We’ll settle it here and now, and you shall be witness. Heads for Dangan Castle and Parliament House; tails for poverty!”
He spun the coin and slapped it down on his knee. His hand still covered it.
—“Come Jack, stand up and be properly excited.”
“Nay,” said John; “would you jest with God’s purpose for you?”
“I have seen you open the Bible at random and take your omen from the first words your eyes light on. Yet I never accused you of jesting with Holy Writ. Cannot God as easily determine the fall of a coin?”
He withdrew his hand, and drew a deep breath. “Tails!” he announced, and faced his brother, smiling. “I am in earnest,” he said. “But if you prefer the other way—”
He stepped to the shelf, took down his Bible and opened it, not looking himself, but holding the page under his brother’s eyes.
“Well, what does it say?” he asked.
“It says,” John answered, “’Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand.’”
Charles closed the Bible and restored it to its shelf; then faced his brother again, still with his inscrutable smile.
“I never knew you were such a needlewoman, Hetty. It has been nothing but stitch-stitch for these two hours—and the same yesterday, and the day before. See, the kettle’s boiling. Lay down your sewing, that’s a dear creature; make me a dish of tea; and while you’re doing it, let me see your eyes and hear your voice.”
Hetty dropped her hands on her lap and let them rest there for a moment, while she looked across at Charles with a smile.
“As for talking,” she answered, “it seems to me you have been doing pretty well without my help.”
Charles laughed. “Now you speak of it, I have been rattling on. But there has been so much to say and so little time to say it in. Has it occurred to you that we have seen more of each other in these seven days than in all our lives before?”
Seven days ago, while staying with his brother Sam at Westminster, he had heard of her arrival in London and had tramped through the slushy streets at once to seek her out at her address in Crown Court, Dean Street, Soho. She had welcomed him in this dark little second-floor room—dwelling-room and bedroom combined—in which she was sitting alone; for her husband spent most of the day abroad on the business which had brought them to London, either superintending the alterations in the unfurnished premises he had hired in Frith Street for his shop and the lead-works by which he proposed to make his fortune, or in long discussions at Johnson’s Court with Uncle Matthew, who was helping with money and advice. The lodgings in Crown Court were narrow enough and shut in by high walls. But Hetty had not inhabited them two hours before they looked clean and comfortable and even dainty. Her own presence lent an air of distinction to the meanest room.