Childish perversity kept her silent. Why couldn’t they leave her alone? They would leave her alone if they knew. Then she heard another kind of knocking, and her father’s voice:
She scrambled up, and opened. He looked scared, and her heart smote her.
“It’s all right, Daddy; I was asleep.”
“My dear, I’m sorry, but dinner’s ready.”
“I don’t want any dinner; I think I’ll go to bed.”
The frown between his brows deepened.
“You shouldn’t lock your door, Nollie: I was quite frightened. I went round to the hospital to bring you home, and they told me about your fainting. I want you to see a doctor.”
Noel shook her head vigorously. “Oh, no! It’s nothing!”
“Nothing? To faint like that? Come, my child. To please me.” He took her face in his hands. Noel shrank away.
“No, Daddy. I won’t see a doctor. Extravagance in wartime! I won’t. It’s no good trying to make me. I’ll come down if you like; I shall be all right to-morrow.”
With this Pierson had to be content; but, often that evening, she saw him looking at her anxiously. And when she went up, he came out of his study, followed to her room, and insisted on lighting her fire. Kissing her at the door, he said very quietly:
“I wish I could be a mother to you, my child!”
For a moment it flashed through Noel: ‘He knows!’ then, by the puzzled look on his face, she knew that he did not. If only he did know; what a weight it would be off her mind! But she answered quietly too; “Good night, Daddy dear!” kissed him, and shut the door.