“There now,” exclaimed Adela to herself, “she takes him for one of the shop assistants because he hasn’t got a hat on. I wonder it hasn’t happened before.”
Perhaps it had. Cyprian, at any rate, seemed neither startled nor embarrassed by the error into which the good lady had fallen. Examining the ticket on the bag, he announced in a clear, dispassionate voice:
“Black seal, thirty-four shillings, marked down to twenty-eight. As a matter of fact, we are clearing them out at a special reduction price of twenty-six shillings. They are going off rather fast.”
“I’ll take it,” said the lady, eagerly digging some coins out of her purse.
“Will you take it as it is?” asked Cyprian; “it will be a matter of a few minutes to get it wrapped up, there is such a crush.”
“Never mind, I’ll take it as it is,” said the purchaser, clutching her treasure and counting the money into Cyprian’s palm.
Several kind strangers helped Adela into the open air.
“It’s the crush and the heat,” said one sympathiser to another; “it’s enough to turn anyone giddy.”
When she next came across Cyprian he was standing in the crowd that pushed and jostled around the counters of the book department. The dream look was deeper than ever in his eyes. He had just sold two books of devotion to an elderly Canon.
“I’ve just been to see old Betsy Mullen,” announced Vera to her aunt, Mrs. Bebberly Cumble; “she seems in rather a bad way about her rent. She owes about fifteen weeks of it, and says she doesn’t know where any of it is to come from.”
“Betsy Mullen always is in difficulties with her rent, and the more people help her with it the less she troubles about it,” said the aunt. “I certainly am not going to assist her any more. The fact is, she will have to go into a smaller and cheaper cottage; there are several to be had at the other end of the village for half the rent that she is paying, or supposed to be paying, now. I told her a year ago that she ought to move.”
“But she wouldn’t get such a nice garden anywhere else,” protested Vera, “and there’s such a jolly quince tree in the corner. I don’t suppose there’s another quince tree in the whole parish. And she never makes any quince jam; I think to have a quince tree and not to make quince jam shows such strength of character. Oh, she can’t possibly move away from that garden.”
“When one is sixteen,” said Mrs. Bebberly Cumble severely, “one talks of things being impossible which are merely uncongenial. It is not only possible but it is desirable that Betsy Mullen should move into smaller quarters; she has scarcely enough furniture to fill that big cottage.”
“As far as value goes,” said Vera after a short pause, “there is more in Betsy’s cottage than in any other house for miles round.”