She laughed in spite of herself.
“I’ll write to Strand-on-Green, and let you know what evening. Miss Bishop—what initial?”
“What’s S. for?”
“Miss Sally Bishop, 73 Strand-on-Green, Kew Bridge. And I owe you ten pounds.”
For a moment she smiled—then her expression changed.
“That’s perfectly ridiculous,” she said.
“I wouldn’t have you think it anything else,” he said; “but, nevertheless, that’s a legally contracted debt.”
Before she left the office that evening, Sally picked up the volume of Who’s Who? kept there mainly because Mr. Bonsfield had a brother whose name figured with some credit upon one of its pages. She turned quickly over the leaves, until the name of Traill leapt out from the print to hold her eye.
“John Hewitt Traill”—she read it with self-conscious interest—“barrister-at-law and journalist. Born 1871; son of late Sir William Hewitt Traill, C.B., of Apsley Manor, near High Wycombe, Bucks. Address: Regent Street. Clubs: National Liberal, and Savage. Recreations: riding, shooting, fishing.”
That was all—the registration of a nonentity, it might have seemed—in a wilderness of names. But it meant more than that to her. Each word vibrated in her consciousness. Reading that—slight, uncommunicative as it was—had made her feel a pride in their acquaintance. Her imagination was stirred by the name of the house where his father had lived, where he had probably been brought up. Apsley Manor; she said it half aloud, and the picture was thrust into her mind. She could see red gables, old tiled roofs, latticed windows, overlooking sloping lawns, herbaceous borders with the shadows of yew trees lying lazily across them. She could smell the scent of stocks. The colours of sweet-peas and climbing roses filled her eyes. In that moment, she had fallen into the morass of romance, and through it all, like a gift of God, permeated the sense that it belonged to this man who had dropped like a meteor upon the cold, uncoloured world of her existence.
This is the beginning, the opening of the bud, whose petals wrapped round the heart of Sally Bishop. Romance is the gate through which almost every woman enters into the garden of life. Her first glimpse is the path of flowers that stretches on under the ivied archways, and there for a moment she stands, drugged with delight.
After supper that evening, Mr. Arthur followed her into the sitting-room.
“Can you spare me a few minutes?” he asked.
His method of putting the question reminded her of Mr. Bonsfield’s chief clerk—the son of a pawnbroker in Camberwell. He assumed the same attitude of body. Certainly Mr. Arthur did not fold his hands together before him—he did not sniff through his nostrils; but her imagination supplied these deficiencies in the likeness.