The three soldiers looked at each other, and Mr. Lavender, noticing their surprise, attributed it to the word tea.
“I regret exceedingly that I am a total abstainer,” he said.
The remark, completing the soldiers’ judgment of his case, increased their surprise at the nature of his residence; it remained unanswered, save by a shuffling of the feet.
Mr. Lavender took off his hat.
“I consider it a great privilege,” he said, “to have been allowed to converse with you. Goodbye, and God bless you!”
So saying, he opened the gate and entered his little garden carrying his hat in his hand, and followed by Blink.
The soldiers watched him disappear within, then continued on their way down the hill in silence.
“Blimy,” said one suddenly, “some of these old civilians ’ave come it balmy on the crumpet since the war began. Give me the trenches!”
ENDEAVOURS TO INTERN A GERMAN
Aglow with satisfaction at what he had been able to do for the wounded soldiers, Mr. Lavender sat down in his study to drink the tea which he found there. “There is nothing in life,” he thought, “which gives one such satisfaction as friendliness and being able to do something for others. Moon-cat!”
The moon-cat, who, since Mr. Lavender had given her milk, abode in his castle, awaiting her confinement, purred loudly, regarding him with burning eyes, as was her fashion when she wanted milk, Mr. Lavender put down the saucer and continued his meditations. “Everything is vain; the world is full of ghosts and shadows; but in friendliness and the purring of a little cat there is solidity.”
“A lady has called, sir.”
Looking up, Mr. Lavender became aware of Mrs. Petty.
“How very agreeable!
“I don’t know, sir,” returned his housekeeper in her decisive voice; “but she wants to see you. Name of Pullbody.”
“Pullbody,” repeated Mr. Lavender dreamily; “I don’t seem——Ask her in, Mrs. Petty, ask her in.”
“It’s on your head, sir,” said Mrs. Petty, and went out.
Mr. Lavender was immediately conscious of a presence in dark green silk, with a long upper lip, a loose lower lip, and a fixed and faintly raddled air, moving stealthily towards him.
“Sit down, madam, I beg. Will you have some tea?”
The lady sat down. “Thank you, I have had tea. It was on the recommendation of your next-door neighbour, Miss Isabel Scarlet——”
“Indeed,” replied Mr. Lavender, whose heart began to beat; “command me, for I am entirely at her service.”
“I have come to see you,” began the lady with a peculiar sinuous smile, “as a public man and a patriot.”
Mr. Lavender bowed, and the lady went on: I am in very great trouble. The fact is, my sister’s husband’s sister is married to a German.”