In Tod’s and Kirsteen’s room she found a little table and a pillow, and something that might do, and having devised a contrivance by which this went into that and that into this and nothing whatever showed, she conveyed the whole very quietly up near dear Derek’s room, and told darling Nedda to go down-stairs and look for something that she knew she would not find, for she could not think at the moment of any better excuse. When the child had gone, she popped this here, and popped that there. And there she was! And she felt better. It was no use whatever to make a fuss about that aspect of nursing which was not quite nice. One just put the best face upon it, quietly did what was necessary, and pretended that it was not there. Kirsteen had not seen to things quite as she should have. But then dear Kirsteen was so clever.
Her attitude, indeed, to that blue bird, who had alighted now twenty-one years ago in the Freeland nest, had always, after the first few shocks, been duly stoical. For, however her fastidiousness might jib at neglect of the forms of things, she was the last woman not to appreciate really sterling qualities. Though it was a pity dear Kirsteen did expose her neck and arms so that they had got quite brown, a pity that she never went to church and had brought up the dear children not to go, and to have ideas that were not quite right about ‘the Land,’ still she was emphatically a lady, and devoted to dear Tod, and very good. And her features were so regular, and she had such a good color, and was so slim and straight in the back, that she was always a pleasure to look at. And if she was not quite so practical as she might have been, that was not everything; and she would never get stout, as there was every danger of Clara doing. So that from the first she had always put a good face on her. Derek’s voice interrupted her thoughts:
“I’m awfully thirsty, Granny.”
“Yes, darling. Don’t move your head; and just let me pop in some of this delicious lemonade with a spoon.”
Nedda, returning, found her supporting his head with one hand, while with the other she kept popping in the spoon, her soul smiling at him lovingly through her lips and eyes.
Felix went back to London the afternoon of Frances Freeland’s installation, taking Sheila with him. She had been ’bound over to keep the peace’—a task which she would obviously be the better able to accomplish at a distance. And, though to take charge of her would be rather like holding a burning match till there was no match left, he felt bound to volunteer.
He left Nedda with many misgivings; but had not the heart to wrench her away.