Complete Project Gutenberg John Galsworthy Works eBook

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kiss a little photograph, then slip it back next her heart, heedless that so warm a place must destroy any effigy.  She felt not the faintest compunction for the recklessness of her love—­it was her only comfort against the crushing loneliness of the night.  It kept her up, made her walk on with a sort of pride, as if she had got the best of Fate.  He was hers for ever now, in spite of anything that could be done.  She did not even think what she would say when she got in.  She came to the avenue, and passed up it still in a sort of dream.  Her uncle was standing before the porch; she could hear his mutterings.  She moved out of the shadow of the trees, went straight up to him, and, looking in his perturbed face, said calmly: 

“Cyril asked me to say good-bye to you all, Uncle.  Good night!”

“But, I say, Nollie look here you!”

She had passed on.  She went up to her room.  There, by the door, her aunt was standing, and would have kissed her.  She drew back: 

“No, Auntie.  Not to-night!” And, slipping by, she locked her door.

Bob and Thirza Pierson, meeting in their own room, looked at each other askance.  Relief at their niece’s safe return was confused by other emotions.  Bob Pierson expressed his first: 

“Phew!  I was beginning to think we should w have to drag the river.  What girls are coming to!”

“It’s the war, Bob.”

“I didn’t like her face, old girl.  I don’t know what it was, but I didn’t like her face.”

Neither did Thirza, but she would not admit it, and encourage Bob to take it to heart.  He took things so hardly, and with such a noise!

She only said:  “Poor young things!  I suppose it will be a relief to Edward!”

“I love Nollie!” said Bob Pierson suddenly.  “She’s an affectionate creature.  D-nit, I’m sorry about this.  It’s not so bad for young Morland; he’s got the excitement—­though I shouldn’t like to be leaving Nollie, if I were young again.  Thank God, neither of our boys is engaged.  By George! when I think of them out there, and myself here, I feel as if the top of my head would come off.  And those politician chaps spouting away in every country—­how they can have the cheek!”

Thirza looked at him anxiously.

“And no dinner!” he said suddenly.  “What d’you think they’ve been doing with themselves?”

“Holding each other’s hands, poor dears!  D’you know what time it is, Bob?  Nearly one o’clock.”

“Well, all I can say is, I’ve had a wretched evening.  Get to bed, old girl.  You’ll be fit for nothing.”

He was soon asleep, but Thirza lay awake, not exactly worrying, for that was not her nature, but seeing Noel’s face, pale, languid, passionate, possessed by memory.

VI

1

Noel reached her father’s house next day late in the afternoon.  There was a letter in the hall for her.  She tore it open, and read:  “My darling love,

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