He picked her up, and she curled herself into the corner of his arm.
Her mother found her there. “Mother’s naughty little girl,” she said, “to run away—”
“Let her stay,” the General begged. “Somehow my heart needs her tonight.”
Four days of Derry’s furlough had passed, four palpitating days, and now the hours that the lovers spent together began to take on the poignant quality of coming separation. Every moment counted, nothing must be lost, nothing must be left unsaid, nothing must be left undone which should emphasize their oneness of thought and purpose.
They read together, they walked together, they rode together, they went to church together. If they included the General in their plans it was because they felt his need of them, not theirs of him. They lived in a world created to survive for ten days and then to collapse like a pricked bubble—
And it was because of the dread of collapse that Jean began to plan a structure of remembrance which should endure after Derry’s departure.
“Darling,” she said, “there are only six days—What shall we do with them?”
It was Sunday, and in the morning they went dutifully to church. They ate their luncheon dutifully with the whole family, and motored dutifully afterwards with the General. Then at twilight they sought the Toy Shop.
They had it all to themselves, and they had told Bronson that they would not be home for dinner. So Jean made chocolate for Derry as she had made it on that first night for his father. They toasted war bread on the electric grill, and there were strawberries.
They were charmed with their housekeeping. “It would have been like this,” Derry said—all eyes for her loveliness, “if you had been the girl in the Toy Shop and I had been the shabby boy—”
Jean pondered. “I wonder if a big house is ever really a home?”
“Not ours. Mother tried to make it—but it has always been a sort of museum with Dad’s collections.”
“Do you think that some day we could have a little house?”
“We can have whatever you want.” His smile warmed her.
“Wouldn’t you want it, Derry?”
“If you were in it.”
“Let’s talk about it, and plan it, and put dream furniture in it, and dream friends—”
“More Lovely Dreams?”
“Well, something like that—a House o’ Dreams, Derry, without any gold dragons or marble balls or queer porcelain things; just our own bits of furniture and china, and a garden, and Muffin and Polly Ann—” Her eyes were wistful.
“You shall have it now if you wish.”
“Not until you can share it with me—”
And that was the beginning of their fantastic pilgrimage. In the time that was left to them they were to find a house of dreams, and as Jean said, expansively, “all the rest.”