It was very stiffly, with frowning brows and a shaking under-lip, that the Squire descended from the brougham, and began sorely to mount the staircase to his wife’s room.
There comes a day each year in May when Hyde Park is possessed. A cool wind swings the leaves; a hot sun glistens on Long Water, on every bough, on every blade of grass. The birds sing their small hearts out, the band plays its gayest tunes, the white clouds race in the high blue heaven. Exactly why and how this day differs from those that came before and those that will come after, cannot be told; it is as though the Park said: ‘To-day I live; the Past is past. I care not for the Future!’
And on this day they who chance in the Park cannot escape some measure of possession. Their steps quicken, their skirts swing, their sticks flourish, even their eyes brighten—those eyes so dulled with looking at the streets; and each one, if he has a Love, thinks of her, and here and there among the wandering throng he has her with him. To these the Park and all sweet-blooded mortals in it nod and smile.
There had been a meeting that afternoon at Lady Maiden’s in Prince’s Gate to consider the position of the working-class woman. It had provided a somewhat heated discussion, for a person had got up and proved almost incontestably that the working-class woman had no position whatsoever.
Gregory Vigil and Mrs. Shortman had left this meeting together, and, crossing the Serpentine, struck a line over the grass.
“Mrs. Shortman,” said Gregory, “don’t you think we’re all a little mad?”
He was carrying his hat in his hand, and his fine grizzled hair, rumpled in the excitement of the meeting, had not yet subsided on his head.
“Yes, Mr. Vigil. I don’t exactly——”
“We are all a little mad! What did that woman, Lady Maiden, mean by talking as she did? I detest her!”
“Oh, Mr. Vigil! She has the best intentions!”
“Intentions?” said Gregory. “I loathe her! What did we go to her stuffy drawing-room for? Look at that sky!”
Mrs. Shortman looked at the sky.
“But, Mr. Vigil,” she said earnestly, “things would never get done. Sometimes I think you look at everything too much in the light of the way it ought to be!”
“The Milky Way,” said Gregory.
Mrs. Shortman pursed her lips; she found it impossible to habituate herself to Gregory’s habit of joking.
They had scant talk for the rest of their journey to the S. R. W. C., where Miss Mallow, at the typewriter, was reading a novel.
“There are several letters for you, Mr. Vigil”
“Mrs. Shortman says I am unpractical,” answered Gregory. “Is that true, Miss Mallow?”
The colour in Miss Mallow’s cheeks spread to her sloping shoulders.