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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 279 pages of information about Saint's Progress.

Noel had suffered it with the thought:  ‘It’s all very silly!’ But now, when the new maid was pouring out her hot water, she was suddenly aware of the girl’s round blue eyes wandering, as it were, mechanically to her hand.  This little hoop of gold, then, had an awful power!  A rush of disgust came over her.  All life seemed suddenly a thing of forms and sham.  Everybody then would look at that little ring; and she was a coward, saving herself from them!  When she was alone again, she slipped it off, and laid it on the washstand, where the sunlight fell.  Only this little shining band of metal, this little yellow ring, stood between her and the world’s hostile scorn!  Her lips trembled.  She took up the ring, and went to the open window; to throw it out.  But she did not, uncertain and unhappy—­half realising the cruelty of life.  A knock at the door sent her flying back to the washstand.  The visitor was Gratian.

“I’ve been looking at him,” she said softly; “he’s like you, Nollie, except for his nose.”

“He’s hardly got one yet.  But aren’t his eyes intelligent?  I think they’re wonderful.”  She held up the ring:  “What shall I do about this, Gratian?”

Gratian flushed.  “Wear it.  I don’t see why outsiders should know.  For the sake of Dad I think you ought.  There’s the parish.”

Noel slipped the ring back on to her finger.  “Would you?”

“I can’t tell.  I think I would.”

Noel laughed suddenly.  “I’m going to get cynical; I can feel it in my bones.  How is Daddy looking?”

“Very thin; Mr. Lauder is back again from the Front for a bit, and taking some of the work now.”

“Do I hurt him very much still?”

“He’s awfully pleased that you’ve come.  He’s as sweet as he can be about you.”

“Yes,” murmured Noel, “that’s what’s dreadful.  I’m glad he wasn’t in when I came.  Has he told anyone?”

Gratian shook her head.  “I don’t think anybody knows; unless—­perhaps Captain Fort.  He came in again the other night; and somehow—­”

Noel flushed.  “Leila!” she said enigmatically.  “Have you seen her?”

“I went to her flat last week with Dad—­he likes her.”

“Delilah is her real name, you know.  All men like her.  And Captain Fort is her lover.”

Gratian gasped.  Noel would say things sometimes which made her feel the younger of the two.

“Of course he is,” went on Noel in a hard voice.  “She has no men friends; her sort never have, only lovers.  Why do you think he knows about me?”

“When he asked after you he looked—­”

“Yes; I’ve seen him look like that when he’s sorry for anything.  I don’t care.  Has Monsieur Lavendie been in lately?”

“Yes; he looks awfully unhappy.”

“His wife drugs.”

“Oh, Nollie!  How do you know?”

“I saw her once; I’m sure she does; there was a smell; and she’s got wandering eyes that go all glassy.  He can paint me now, if he likes.  I wouldn’t let him before.  Does he know?”

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