“I will not offer you my hand,” he said, “for I am acutely conscious that my position is neither dignified nor decent. I owe you a tooth that I shall not readily forget. Good-bye!”
And backing through the doorway he made his way down the stairs and out into the street, still emotionalized by the picture of the two young people holding each other by the waist. He had not, however, gone far before reason resumed its sway, and he began to see that the red velvet chair in which he had been sitting was in reality a wireless apparatus reaching to Berlin, or at least concealed a charge of dynamite to blow up some King or Prime Minister; and that the looking-glasses, of which he had noticed two at least, were surely used for signalling to Gothas or Zeppelins. This plunged him into a confusion so poignant that, rather by accident than design, he found himself again at Hampstead instead of at Scotland Yard. “In the society of Aurora alone,” he thought, “can I free myself from the goadings of conscience, for it was she who sent me on that errand.” And, instead of going in, he took up a position on his lawn whence he could attract her attention by waving his arms. He had been doing this for some time, to the delight of Blink, who thought it a new game, before he saw her in her nurse’s dress coming out of a French-window with her yellow book in her hand. Redoubling his efforts till he had arrested her attention, he went up to the privet hedge, and said, in a deep and melancholy voice:
“Aurora, I have failed in my duty, and the errand on which you sent me is unfulfilled. Mrs. Pullbody’s sister’s husband’s sister’s husband is still, largely speaking, at large.”
“I knew he would be,” replied the young lady, with her joyous smile, “that’s why I put her on to you—the cat!”
At a loss to understand her meaning, Mr. Lavender, who had bent forward above the hedge in his eagerness to explain, lost his balance, and, endeavouring to save the hedge, fell over into some geranium pots.
“Dear Don Pickwixote,” cried the young lady, assisting him to rise, “have you hurt your nose?”
“It is not that,” said Mr. Lavender, removing some mould from his hair, and stifling the attentions of Blink; “but rather my honour, for I have allowed my duty to my country to be overridden by the common emotion of pity.”
“Hurrah!” cried the young lady. “It’ll do you ever so much good.”
“Aurora!” cried Mr. Lavender aghast, walking at her side. But the young lady only uttered her enchanting laugh.
“Come and lie down in the hammock!” she said you’re looking like a ghost. I’ll cover you up with a rug, and smoke a cigarette to keep the midges off you. Tuck up your legs; that’s right!”
“No!” said Mr. Lavender from the recesses of the hammock, feeling his nose, “let the bidges bide me. I deserve they should devour me alive.