“You see, I don’t know Mr. Pierson, but he seems awfully gentle and jolly, and if he could see into me he wouldn’t mind, I know. We don’t mind risking our lives and all that, but we do think we ought to have the run of them while we’re alive. I’ll give him my dying oath or anything, that I could never change towards Noel, and she’ll do the same. Oh! Mrs. Pierson, do be a jolly brick, and put in a word for me, quick! We’ve got so few days!”
“But, my dear boy,” said Thirza feebly, “do you think it’s fair to such a child as Noel?”
“Yes, I do. You don’t understand; she’s simply had to grow up. She is grown-up—all in this week; she’s quite as old as I am, really—and I’m twenty-two. And you know it’s going to be—it’s got to be—a young world, from now on; people will begin doing things much earlier. What’s the use of pretending it’s like what it was, and being cautious, and all that? If I’m going to be killed, I think we’ve got a right to be married first; and if I’m not, then what does it matter?”
“You’ve known each other twenty-one days, Cyril.”
“No; twenty-one years! Every day’s a year when Oh! Mrs. Pierson, this isn’t like you, is it? You never go to meet trouble, do you?”
At that shrewd remark, Thirza put her hand on the hand which still clasped her waist, and pressed it closer.
“Well, my dear,” she said softly, “we must see what can be done.”
Cyril Morland kissed her cheek. “I will bless you for ever,” he said. “I haven’t got any people, you know, except my two sisters.”
And something like tears started up on Thirza’s eyelashes. They seemed to her like the babes in the wood—those two!
In the dining-room of her father’s house in that old London Square between East and West, Gratian Laird, in the outdoor garb of a nurse, was writing a telegram: “Reverend Edward Pierson, Kestrel, Tintern, Monmouthshire. George terribly ill. Please come if you can. Gratian.” Giving it to a maid, she took off her long coat and sat down for a moment. She had been travelling all night, after a full day’s work, and had only just arrived, to find her husband between life and death. She was very different from Noel; not quite so tall, but of a stronger build; with dark chestnut-coloured hair, clear hazel eyes, and a broad brow. The expression of her face was earnest, with a sort of constant spiritual enquiry; and a singularly truthful look: She was just twenty; and of the year that she had been married, had only spent six weeks with her husband; they had not even a house of their own as yet. After resting five minutes, she passed her hand vigorously over her face, threw back her head, and walked up stairs to the room where he lay. He was not conscious, and there was nothing to be done but sit and watch him.