Now that she was gone, it was curious how little they spoke of her, considering how long she had been with them. And they had from her but one letter written to Sylvia, very soon after she left, ending: “Dad sends his best respects, please; and with my love to you and Mr. Lennan, and all the beasts.—Nell.
“Oliver is coming here next week. We are going to some races.”
It was difficult, of course, to speak of her, with that episode of the flower, too bizarre to be told—the sort of thing Sylvia would see out of all proportion—as, indeed, any woman might. Yet—what had it really been, but the uncontrolled impulse of an emotional child longing to express feelings kindled by the excitement of that opera? What but a child’s feathery warmth, one of those flying peeps at the mystery of passion that young things take? He could not give away that pretty foolishness. And because he would not give it away, he was more than usually affectionate to Sylvia.
They had made no holiday plans, and he eagerly fell in with her suggestion that they should go down to Hayle. There, if anywhere, this curious restlessness would leave him. They had not been down to the old place for many years; indeed, since Gordy’s death it was generally let.
They left London late in August. The day was closing in when they arrived. Honeysuckle had long been improved away from that station paling, against which he had stood twenty-nine years ago, watching the train carrying Anna Stormer away. In the hired fly Sylvia pressed close to him, and held his hand beneath the ancient dust-rug. Both felt the same excitement at seeing again this old home. Not a single soul of the past days would be there now—only the house and the trees, the owls and the stars; the river, park, and logan stone! It was dark when they arrived; just their bedroom and two sitting-rooms had been made ready, with fires burning, though it was still high summer. The same old execrable Heatherleys looked down from the black oak panellings. The same scent of apples and old mice clung here and there about the dark corridors with their unexpected stairways. It was all curiously unchanged, as old houses are when they are let furnished.
Once in the night he woke. Through the wide-open, uncurtained windows the night was simply alive with stars, such swarms of them swinging and trembling up there; and, far away, rose the melancholy, velvet-soft hooting of an owl.
Sylvia’s voice, close to him, said:
“Mark, that night when your star caught in my hair? Do you remember?”
Yes, he remembered. And in his drowsy mind just roused from dreams, there turned and turned the queer nonsensical refrain: “I never—never—will desert Mr. Micawber. . . .”
A pleasant month that—of reading, and walking with the dogs the country round, of lying out long hours amongst the boulders or along the river banks, watching beasts and birds.