“Cyril asked me to say good-bye to you all, Uncle. Good night!”
“But, I say, Nollie look here you!”
She had passed on. She went up to her room. There, by the door, her aunt was standing, and would have kissed her. She drew back:
“No, Auntie. Not to-night!” And, slipping by, she locked her door.
Bob and Thirza Pierson, meeting in their own room, looked at each other askance. Relief at their niece’s safe return was confused by other emotions. Bob Pierson expressed his first:
“Phew! I was beginning to think we should w have to drag the river. What girls are coming to!”
“It’s the war, Bob.”
“I didn’t like her face, old girl. I don’t know what it was, but I didn’t like her face.”
Neither did Thirza, but she would not admit it, and encourage Bob to take it to heart. He took things so hardly, and with such a noise!
She only said: “Poor young things! I suppose it will be a relief to Edward!”
“I love Nollie!” said Bob Pierson suddenly. “She’s an affectionate creature. D-nit, I’m sorry about this. It’s not so bad for young Morland; he’s got the excitement—though I shouldn’t like to be leaving Nollie, if I were young again. Thank God, neither of our boys is engaged. By George! when I think of them out there, and myself here, I feel as if the top of my head would come off. And those politician chaps spouting away in every country—how they can have the cheek!”
Thirza looked at him anxiously.
“And no dinner!” he said suddenly. “What d’you think they’ve been doing with themselves?”
“Holding each other’s hands, poor dears! D’you know what time it is, Bob? Nearly one o’clock.”
“Well, all I can say is, I’ve had a wretched evening. Get to bed, old girl. You’ll be fit for nothing.”
He was soon asleep, but Thirza lay awake, not exactly worrying, for that was not her nature, but seeing Noel’s face, pale, languid, passionate, possessed by memory.
Noel reached her father’s house next day late in the afternoon. There was a letter in the hall for her. She tore it open, and read: “My darling love,
“I got back all right, and am posting this at once to tell you we shall pass through London, and go from Charing Cross, I expect about nine o’clock to-night. I shall look out for you, there, in case you are up in time. Every minute I think of you, and of last night. Oh! Noel!
“Your devoted lover, “C.”
She looked at the wrist-watch which, like every other little patriot, she possessed. Past seven! If she waited, Gratian or her father would seize on her.
“Take my things up, Dinah. I’ve got a headache from travelling; I’m going to walk it off. Perhaps I shan’t be in till past nine or so. Give my love to them all.”