As he spoke a blackbird came running with a chuckle from underneath the berberis, looked at them with alarm, and ran back. Nedda raised her face.
“Dad, I mean to do something with my life!”
“Yes. That’s right.”
But long after Nedda had fallen into dreams that night, he lay awake, with his left foot enclosed between Floras’, trying to regain that sense of warmth which he knew he must never confess to having lost.
Flora took the news rather with the air of a mother-dog that says to her puppy: “Oh, very well, young thing! Go and stick your teeth in it and find out for yourself!” Sooner or later this always happened, and generally sooner nowadays. Besides, she could not help feeling that she would get more of Felix, to her a matter of greater importance than she gave sign of. But inwardly the news had given her a shock almost as sharp as that felt by him. Was she really the mother of one old enough to love? Was the child that used to cuddle up to her in the window-seat to be read to, gone from her; that used to rush in every morning at all inconvenient moments of her toilet; that used to be found sitting in the dark on the stairs, like a little sleepy owl, because, for-sooth, it was so ‘cosey’?
Not having seen Derek, she did not as yet share her husband’s anxiety on that score, though his description was dubious:
“Upstanding young cockerel, swinging his sporran and marching to pipes—a fine spurn about him! Born to trouble, if I know anything, trying to sweep the sky with his little broom!”
“Is he a prig?”
“No-o. There’s simplicity about his scorn, and he seems to have been brought up on facts, not on literature, like most of these young monkeys. The cousinship I don’t think matters; Kirsteen brings in too strong an out-strain. He’s her son, not Tod’s. But perhaps,” he added, sighing, “it won’t last.”
Flora shook her head. “It will last!” she said; “Nedda’s deep.”
And if Nedda held, so would Fate; no one would throw Nedda over! They naturally both felt that. ‘Dionysus at the Well,’ no less than ’The Last of the Laborers,’ had a light week of it.
Though in a sense relieved at having parted with her secret, Nedda yet felt that she had committed desecration. Suppose Derek should mind her people knowing!
On the day that he and Sheila were to come, feeling she could not trust herself to seem even reasonably calm, she started out, meaning to go to the South Kensington Museum and wander the time away there; but once out-of-doors the sky seemed what she wanted, and, turning down the hill on the north side, she sat down under a gorse bush. Here tramps, coming in to London, passed the night under the stars; here was a vision, however dim, of nature. And nature alone could a little soothe her ecstatic nerves.