That same afternoon at Sylvia’s suggestion he went with her to call on the Dromores.
While they were being ushered in he heard a man’s voice rather high-pitched speaking in some language not his own; then the girl:
“No, no, Oliver. ’Dans l’amour il y a toujours un qui aime, et l’autre qui se laisse aimer.’”
She was sitting in her father’s chair, and on the window-sill they saw a young man lolling, who rose and stood stock-still, with an almost insolent expression on his broad, good-looking face. Lennan scrutinized him with interest—about twenty-four he might be, rather dandified, clean-shaved, with crisp dark hair and wide-set hazel eyes, and, as in his photograph, a curious look of daring. His voice, when he vouchsafed a greeting, was rather high and not unpleasant, with a touch of lazy drawl.
They stayed but a few minutes, and going down those dimly lighted stairs again, Sylvia remarked:
“How prettily she said good-bye—as if she were putting up her face to be kissed! I think she’s lovely. So does that young man. They go well together.”
Rather abruptly Lennan answered:
“Ah! I suppose they do.”
She came to them often after that, sometimes alone, twice with Johnny Dromore, sometimes with young Oliver, who, under Sylvia’s spell, soon lost his stand-off air. And the statuette was begun. Then came Spring in earnest, and that real business of life—the racing of horses ‘on the flat,’ when Johnny Dromore’s genius was no longer hampered by the illegitimate risks of ‘jumpin’.’ He came to dine with them the day before the first Newmarket meeting. He had a soft spot for Sylvia, always saying to Lennan as he went away: “Charmin’ woman—your wife!” She, too, had a soft spot for him, having fathomed the utter helplessness of this worldling’s wisdom, and thinking him pathetic.
After he was gone that evening, she said:
“Ought we to have Nell to stay with us while you’re finishing her? She must be very lonely now her father’s so much away.”
It was like Sylvia to think of that; but would it be pleasure or vexation to have in the house this child with her quaint grown-upness, her confiding ways, and those ‘Perdita’ eyes? In truth he did not know.
She came to them with touching alacrity—very like a dog, who, left at home when the family goes for a holiday, takes at once to those who make much of it.
And she was no trouble, too well accustomed to amuse herself; and always quaint to watch, with her continual changes from child to woman of the world. A new sensation, this—of a young creature in the house. Both he and Sylvia had wanted children, without luck. Twice illness had stood in the way. Was it, perhaps, just that little lack in her—that lack of poignancy, which had prevented her from becoming a mother? An only child herself, she had no nieces or nephews; Cicely’s boys had always been at school, and now were out in the world. Yes, a new sensation, and one in which Lennan’s restless feelings seemed to merge and vanish.