“Deuced funny thing. I’m not what you’d call a silent sort of chappie by nature. But, when I’m with her—I don’t know. It’s rum!” He drained his glass and rose. “Well, I suppose I may as well be staggering. Don’t get up. Have another game one of these days, what?”
“Splendid. Any time you like.”
“Well, so long.”
George gave himself up to glowing thoughts. For the first time in his life he seemed to be vividly aware of his own existence. It was as if he were some newly-created thing. Everything around him and everything he did had taken on a strange and novel interest. He seemed to notice the ticking of the clock for the first time. When he raised his glass the action had a curious air of newness. All his senses were oddly alert. He could even—
“How would it be,” enquired Reggie, appearing in the doorway like part of a conjuring trick, “if I gave her a flower or two every now and then? Just thought of it as I was starting the car. She’s fond of flowers.”
“Fine!” said George heartily. He had not heard a word. The alertness of sense which had come to him was accompanied by a strange inability to attend to other people’s speech. This would no doubt pass, but meanwhile it made him a poor listener.
“Well, it’s worth trying,” said Reggie. “I’ll give it a whirl. Toodleoo!”
Reggie withdrew, and presently came the noise of the car starting. George returned to his thoughts.
Time, as we understand it, ceases to exist for a man in such circumstances. Whether it was a minute later or several hours, George did not know; but presently he was aware of a small boy standing beside him—a golden-haired boy with blue eyes, who wore the uniform of a page. He came out of his trance. This, he recognized, was the boy to whom he had given the note for Maud. He was different from any other intruder. He meant something in George’s scheme of things.
“’Ullo!” said the youth.
“Hullo, Alphonso!” said George.
“My name’s not Alphonso.”
“Well, you be very careful or it soon may be.”
“Got a note for yer. From Lidy Mord.”
“You’ll find some cake and ginger-ale in the kitchen,” said the grateful George. “Give it a trial.”
“Not ’arf!” said the stripling.
George opened the letter with trembling and reverent fingers.
“Dear Mr. Bevan,
ever so much for your note, which Albert gave
to me. How very, very kind. . .”
George looked up testily. The boy Albert had reappeared.
“What’s the matter? Can’t you find the cake?”
“I’ve found the kike,” rejoined Albert, adducing proof of the statement in the shape of a massive slice, from which he took a substantial bite to assist thought. “But I can’t find the ginger ile.”