He rose, and moved by her side, over the lawn, towards the big tree at the bottom of the garden.
“How d’you think Noel is looking, Edward?”
“Very pretty. That young man, Thirza?”
“Yes; I’m afraid he’s over head and ears in love with her.”
At the dismayed sound he uttered, she slipped her soft round arm within his. “He’s going to the front soon, poor boy!”
“Have they talked to you?”
“He has. Nollie hasn’t yet.”
“Nollie is a queer child, Thirza.”
“Nollie is a darling, but rather a desperate character, Edward.”
In a swing under the tree, where the tea-things were set out, the “rather desperate character” was swaying. “What a picture she is!” he said, and sighed again.
The voice of his brother came to them,—high and steamy, as though corrupted by the climate of Ceylon:
“You incorrigible dreamy chap, Ted! We’ve eaten all the raspberries. Eve, give him some jam; he must be dead! Phew! the heat! Come on, my dear, and pour out his tea. Hallo, Cyril! Had a good bathe? By George, wish my head was wet! Squattez-vous down over there, by Nollie; she’ll swing, and keep the flies off you.”
“Give me a cigarette, Uncle Bob—”
“What! Your father doesn’t—”
“Just for the flies. You don’t mind, Daddy?”
“Not if it’s necessary, my dear.”
Noel smiled, showing her upper teeth, and her eyes seemed to swim under their long lashes.
“It isn’t necessary, but it’s nice.”
“Ah, ha!” said Bob Pierson. “Here you are, Nollie!”
But Noel shook her head. At that moment she struck her father as startlingly grown-up-so composed, swaying above that young man at her feet, whose sunny face was all adoration. ‘No longer a child!’ he thought. ‘Dear Nollie!’
Awakened by that daily cruelty, the advent of hot water, Edward Pierson lay in his chintz-curtained room, fancying himself back in London. A wild bee hunting honey from the bowl of flowers on the window-sill, and the scent of sweetbrier, shattered that illusion. He drew the curtain, and, kneeling on the window-seat thrust his head out into the morning. The air was intoxicatingly sweet. Haze clung over the river and the woods beyond; the lawn sparkled with dew, and two wagtails strutted in the dewy sunshine. ‘Thank God for loveliness!’ he thought.