Fleur sped on. She had need of rapid motion; she was late, and wanted all her wits about her when she got in. She passed the islands, the station, and hotel, and was about to take the ferry, when she saw a skiff with a young man standing up in it, and holding to the bushes.
“Miss Forsyte,” he said; “let me put you across. I’ve come on purpose.”
She looked at him in blank amazement.
“It’s all right, I’ve been having tea with your people. I thought I’d save you the last bit. It’s on my way, I’m just off back to Pangbourne. My name’s Mont. I saw you at the picture-gallery—you remember—when your father invited me to see his pictures.”
“Oh!” said Fleur; “yes—the handkerchief.”
To this young man she owed Jon; and, taking his hand, she stepped down into the skiff. Still emotional, and a little out of breath, she sat silent; not so the young man. She had never heard any one say so much in so short a time. He told her his age, twenty-four; his weight, ten stone eleven; his place of residence, not far away; described his sensations under fire, and what it felt like to be gassed; criticized the Juno, mentioned his own conception of that goddess; commented on the Goya copy, said Fleur was not too awfully like it; sketched in rapidly the condition of England; spoke of Monsieur Profond—or whatever his name was—as “an awful sport”; thought her father had some “ripping” pictures and some rather “dug-up”; hoped he might row down again and take her on the river because he was quite trustworthy; inquired her opinion of Tchekov, gave her his own; wished they could go to the Russian ballet together some time—considered the name Fleur Forsyte simply topping; cursed his people for giving him the name of Michael on the top of Mont; outlined his father, and said that if she wanted a good book she should read “Job”; his father was rather like Job while Job still had land.
“But Job didn’t have land,” Fleur murmured; “he only had flocks and herds and moved on.”
“Ah!” answered Michael Mont, “I wish my gov’nor would move on. Not that I want his land. Land’s an awful bore in these days, don’t you think?”
“We never have it in my family,” said Fleur. “We have everything else. I believe one of my great-uncles once had a sentimental farm in Dorset, because we came from there originally, but it cost him more than it made him happy.”
“Did he sell it?”
“No; he kept it.”
“Because nobody would buy it.”
“Good for the old boy!”
“No, it wasn’t good for him. Father says it soured him. His name was Swithin.”
“What a corking name!”
“Do you know that we’re getting farther off, not nearer? This river flows.”
“Splendid!” cried Mont, dipping his sculls vaguely; “it’s good to meet a girl who’s got wit.”