There was, then, no mosquito, save that general ghost of him which lingered in the mind of one devoted to her husband. Spying out his profile, for he was lying on his back, she refrained from saying: “John, are you awake?” A whiffling sound was coming from a nose, to which—originally straight—attention to military duties had given a slight crook, half an inch below the level of grizzled eyebrows raised a little, as though surprised at the sounds beneath. She could hardly see him, but she thought: “How good he looks!” And, in fact, he did. It was the face of a man incapable of evil, having in its sleep the candour of one at heart a child— that simple candour of those who have never known how to seek adventures of the mind, and have always sought adventures of the body. Then somehow she did say:
“John! Are you asleep?”
The Colonel, instantly alive, as at some old-time attack, answered:
“That poor young man!”
“Mark Lennan. Haven’t you seen?”
“My dear, it was under your nose. But you never do see these things!”
The Colonel slowly turned his head. His wife was an imaginative woman! She had always been so. Dimly he perceived that something romantic was about to come from her. But with that almost professional gentleness of a man who has cut the heads and arms off people in his time, he answered:
“He picked up her handkerchief.”
“Olive’s. He put it in his pocket. I distinctly saw him.”
There was silence; then Mrs. Ercott’s voice rose again, impersonal, far away.
“What always astonishes me about young people is the way they think they’re not seen—poor dears!”
Still there was silence.
“John! Are you thinking?”
For a considerable sound of breathing, not mere whiffling now, was coming from the Colonel—to his wife a sure sign.
And indeed he was thinking. Dolly was an imaginative woman, but something told him that in this case she might not be riding past the hounds.