This same afternoon Thyme, wheeling a bicycle and carrying a light valise, was slipping into a back street out of the Old Square. Putting her burden down at the pavement’s edge, she blew a whistle. A hansom-cab appeared, and a man in ragged clothes, who seemed to spring out of the pavement, took hold of her valise. His lean, unshaven face was full of wolfish misery.
“Get off with you!” the cabman said.
“Let him do it!” murmured Thyme.
The cab-runner hoisted up the trunk, then waited motionless beside the cab.
Thyme handed him two coppers. He looked at them in silence, and went away.
‘Poor man,’ she thought; ’that’s one of the things we’ve got to do away with!’
The cab now proceeded in the direction of the Park, Thyme following on her bicycle, and trying to stare about her calmly.
‘This,’ she thought, ’is the end of the old life. I won’t be romantic, and imagine I’m doing anything special; I must take it all as a matter of course.’ She thought of Mr. Purcey’s face—’that person!’—if he could have seen her at this moment turning her back on comfort. ’The moment I get there,’ she mused, ’I shall let mother know; she can come out to-morrow, and see for herself. I can’t have hysterics about my disappearance, and all that. They must get used to the idea that I mean to be in touch with things. I can’t be stopped by what anybody thinks!’
An approaching motor-car brought a startled frown across her brow. Was it ‘that person’? But though it was not Mr. Purcey and his A.i. Damyer, it was somebody so like him as made no difference. Thyme uttered a little laugh.
In the Park a cool light danced and glittered on the trees and water, and the same cool, dancing glitter seemed lighting the girl’s eyes.
The cabman, unseen, took an admiring look at her. ’Nice little bit, this!’ it said.
‘Grandfather bathes here,’ thought Thyme. ’Poor darling! I pity everyone that’s old.’
The cab passed on under the shade of trees out into the road.
‘I wonder if we have only one self in us,’ thought Thyme. ’I sometimes feel that I have two—Uncle Hilary would understand what I mean. The pavements are beginning to smell horrid already, and it’s only June to-morrow. Will mother feel my going very much? How glorious if one didn’t feel!’
The cab turned into a narrow street of little shops.
’It must be dreadful to have to serve in a small shop. What millions of people there are in the world! Can anything be of any use? Martin says what matters is to do one’s job; but what is one’s job?’
The cab emerged into a broad, quiet square.
‘But I’m not going to think of anything,’ thought Thyme; ’that’s fatal. Suppose father stops my allowance; I should have to earn my living as a typist, or something of that sort; but he won’t, when he sees I mean it. Besides, mother wouldn’t let him.’