When she had swallowed the draught, she looked round her, bewildered, and said:
“Thank you kindly, miss!” and shuffled out. Noel paid for the draught, and followed; and, behind her, the shining shop seemed to exhale a perfumed breath of relief.
“You can’t go back to work,” she said to the woman. “Where do you live?”
“You must take a ’bus and go straight home, and put your hand at once into weak Condy’s fluid and water. It’s swelling. Here’s five shillings.”
“Yes, miss; thank you, miss, I’m sure. It’s very kind of you. It does ache cruel.”
“If it’s not better this afternoon, you must go to a doctor. Promise!”
“Oh, dear, yes. ’Ere’s my ’bus. Thank you kindly, miss.”
Noel saw her borne away, still sucking at her dirty swollen hand. She walked on in a glow of love for the poor woman, and hate for the ladies in the chemist’s shop, and forgot her own trouble till she had almost reached the hospital.
Another November day, a Saturday, leaving early, she walked to Hyde Park. The plane-trees were just at the height of their spotted beauty. Few—very few-yellow leaves still hung; and the slender pretty trees seemed rejoicing in their freedom from summer foliage. All their delicate boughs and twigs were shaking and dancing in the wind; and their rain-washed leopard-like bodies had a lithe un-English gaiety. Noel passed down their line, and seated herself on a bench. Close by, an artist was painting. His easel was only some three yards away from her, and she could see the picture; a vista of the Park Lane houses through, the gay plane-tree screen. He was a tall man, about forty, evidently foreign, with a thin, long, oval, beardless face, high brow, large grey eyes which looked as if he suffered from headaches and lived much within himself. He cast many glances at her, and, pursuant of her new interest in “life” she watched him discreetly; a little startled however, when, taking off his broad-brimmed squash hat, he said in a broken accent:
“Forgive me the liberty I take, mademoiselle, but would you so very kindly allow me to make a sketch of you sitting there? I work very quick. I beg you will let me. I am Belgian, and have no manners, you see.” And he smiled.
“If you like,” said Noel.
“I thank you very much:”