“I think I’ll get up.”
“Changed your mind, sir?”
“Yes.” He threw back the covers. “I’ve a thousand things to do.”
But there was just one thing which he was going to do which stood out beyond all others. Neither life nor death nor flood nor fire should keep him from presenting himself at four o’clock at Jean McKenzie’s door, in response to the precious note which in a moment had changed the world for him.
Jean found the day stretching out ahead of her in a series of exciting events. At the breakfast table her father told her that Hilda would stay on General Drake’s case, and that she had better have Emily Bridges up for a visit.
“I don’t like to have you alone at night, if I am called away.”
“It will be heavenly, Daddy, to have Emily—”
And how was he to know that there were other heavenly things to happen? She had resolved that if Derry came, she would tell her father afterwards. But he might not come, so what was the use of being premature?
She sallied down to the Toy Shop in high feather. “You are to stay with us, Emily.”
“Oh, am I? How do you know that I can make it convenient?”
“But you will, darling.”
Jean’s state of mind was beatific. She painted Lovely Dreams with a touch of inspiration which resulted in a row of purple camels: “Midnight on the Desert,” Jean called them.
“Oh, Emily,” she said, “we must have them in the window on Christmas morning, with the Wise Men and the Star—”
Emily, glancing at the face above the blue apron, was struck by the radiance of it.
“Is it because Hilda is away?” she asked.
Jean laughed. “It is because Hilda is away, and other things. But I can’t tell you now.”
Then for fear Emily might be hurt by her secrecy, she flew to kiss her and again call her “Darling.”
At noon she put on her hat and ran home, or at least her heart ran, and when she reached the house she sought the kitchen.
“I am having company for tea, Ellen—at four. And I want Lady-bread-and-butter, and oh, Ellen, will you have time for little pound cakes?”
She knew of course that pound cakes were—verboten. She felt, however, that even Mr. Hoover might sanction a fatted calf in the face of this supreme event.
She planned that she would receive Derry in the small drawing room. It was an informal room which had been kept by her mother for intimate friends. There was a wide window which faced west, a davenport in deep rose velvet, some chairs to match, and there were always roses in an old blue bowl.
Jean knew the dress she was going to wear in this room—of blue to match the bowl, with silver lace, and a girdle of pink brocade.