A hard week’s work left Douglas little time for outside thoughts. Besides his daily articles for the Courier, which in themselves were no inconsiderable task, he had begun at last the novel, the plot of which had for long been simmering in his brain. He had certainly received every encouragement. Rawlinson, who had insisted upon seeing the opening chapters, had at once made him an offer for the story, and the publishing house with which he was connected, although of only recent development, had already made a name and attained a unique position. He gave up the club, and worked steadily every night at his rooms, resolutely thrusting aside all alien thoughts, and immensely relieved to find the excitement of literary creation gradually attaining its old hold upon him. He took his meals at a shabby little restaurant, which none of his associates frequented, declined all invitations, and retired for the next seven days into an obscurity from which nothing could tempt him. There came no word from Emily de Reuss, for which he was thankful, and when he left the office at six o’clock on Thursday evening, and lighting a cigarette strolled through a network of streets towards the restaurant where he was to meet Cicely, he had very much the feeling of a schoolboy whose tasks were laid aside and whose holiday lay before him.
Cicely was there already, looking wonderfully bright and pretty, wearing a new hat and a black and white dress, which, after her country-made mourning, seemed positively smart. Douglas drew her hand through his arm as they entered the room, and felt a pleasant sensation of proprietorship at her laughing surrender. He chose a table where they would least likely be disturbed, and imperilled his reputation with the smiling waiter by ignoring the inevitable Chianti and calling for champagne. Cicely reproved him for his extravagance, but sipped her wine with the air of a connoisseur.
“I couldn’t help it,” he said, smiling. “You know I’ve years of parsimony and misery to make up for yet. This new life is so delightful, and since you have come—well, I couldn’t help celebrating. Besides, you know, I’m earning quite a good deal of money, and I’ve started the novel at last.”
“Tell me about it,” she begged, with sparkling eyes.
“Presently,” he answered, “Eat your fish now, please. Over our coffee I will tell you the first chapter. And what excuse have you for wearing a new frock to dazzle the eyes of a lonely bachelor with?”
“Like it?” she asked, turning round on her chair towards him.
“I made it myself,” she said, continuing her dinner, “all since last Thursday, too.”
“Wonderful,” he exclaimed, looking at her once more with admiration. “You must be worn out. Let me fill your glass.”
“Oh, I rather like dressmaking,” she said. “Joan’s disapprobation was much more trying.”