Frances Freeland thrust her hand once more into that deep pocket, and as she did so she noticed that the old man’s left boot was flapping open, and that there were two buttons off his coat. Her mind was swiftly calculating: “It is more than seven weeks to quarter day. Of course I can’t afford it, but I must just give him a sovereign.”
She withdrew her hand from the recesses of her pocket and looked at the old man’s nose. It was finely chiselled, and the same yellow as his face. “It looks nice, and quite sober,” she thought. In her hand was her purse and a boot-lace. She took out a sovereign.
“Now, if I give you this,” she said, “you must promise me not to spend any of it in the public-house. And this is for your boot. And you must go back by train. And get those buttons sewn on your coat. And tell cook, from me, please, to give you some tea and an egg.” And noticing that he took the sovereign and the boot-lace very respectfully, and seemed altogether very respectable, and not at all coarse or beery-looking, she said:
“Good-by; don’t forget to rub what I gave you into your leg every night and every morning,” and went back to her camp-stool. Sitting down on it with the scissors in her hand, she still did not cut out that recipe, but remained as before, taking in small, definite things, and feeling with an inner trembling that dear Felix and Alan and Nedda would soon be here; and the little flush rose again in her cheeks, and again her lips and hands moved, expressing and compressing what was in her heart. And close behind her, a peacock, straying from the foundations of the old Moreton house, uttered a cry, and moved slowly, spreading its tail under the low-hanging boughs of the copper-beeches, as though it knew those dark burnished leaves were the proper setting for its ‘parlant’ magnificence.
The day after the little conference at John’s, Felix had indeed received the following note:
“When you go down to see old Tod, why not put up with us at Becket? Any time will suit, and the car can take you over to Joyfields when you like. Give the pen a rest. Clara joins in hoping you’ll come, and Mother is still here. No use, I suppose, to ask Flora.
During the twenty years of his brother’s sojourn there Felix had been down to Becket perhaps once a year, and latterly alone; for Flora, having accompanied him the first few times, had taken a firm stand.
“My dear,” she said, “I feel all body there.”
Felix had rejoined:
“No bad thing, once in a way.”
But Flora had remained firm. Life was too short! She did not get on well with Clara. Neither did Felix feel too happy in his sister-in-law’s presence; but the gray top-hat instinct had kept him going there, for one ought to keep in touch with one’s brothers.