“Oh, don’t think I care.”
“I don’t for a moment,” he hastened to say. “You mustn’t think I’m ungrateful. I realise that you only proposed it for my sake. It’s just a feeling I have, and I can’t help it, it would make the whole thing ugly and horrid.”
“You are funny” she said, looking at him curiously. “I can’t make you out.”
She was not angry with him now, but puzzled; she had no idea what he meant: she accepted the situation, she had indeed a vague feeling that he was behaving in a very noble fashion and that she ought to admire it; but also she felt inclined to laugh at him and perhaps even to despise him a little.
“He’s a rum customer,” she thought.
Life went smoothly enough with them. Philip spent all day at the hospital and worked at home in the evening except when he went to the Athelnys’ or to the tavern in Beak Street. Once the physician for whom he clerked asked him to a solemn dinner, and two or three times he went to parties given by fellow-students. Mildred accepted the monotony of her life. If she minded that Philip left her sometimes by herself in the evening she never mentioned it. Occasionally he took her to a music hall. He carried out his intention that the only tie between them should be the domestic service she did in return for board and lodging. She had made up her mind that it was no use trying to get work that summer, and with Philip’s approval determined to stay where she was till the autumn. She thought it would be easy to get something to do then.
“As far as I’m concerned you can stay on here when you’ve got a job if it’s convenient. The room’s there, and the woman who did for me before can come in to look after the baby.”
He grew very much attached to Mildred’s child. He had a naturally affectionate disposition, which had had little opportunity to display itself. Mildred was not unkind to the little girl. She looked after her very well and once when she had a bad cold proved herself a devoted nurse; but the child bored her, and she spoke to her sharply when she bothered; she was fond of her, but had not the maternal passion which might have induced her to forget herself. Mildred had no demonstrativeness, and she found the manifestations of affection ridiculous. When Philip sat with the baby on his knees, playing with it and kissing it, she laughed at him.
“You couldn’t make more fuss of her if you was her father,” she said. “You’re perfectly silly with the child.”
Philip flushed, for he hated to be laughed at. It was absurd to be so devoted to another man’s baby, and he was a little ashamed of the overflowing of his heart. But the child, feeling Philip’s attachment, would put her face against his or nestle in his arms.
“It’s all very fine for you,” said Mildred. “You don’t have any of the disagreeable part of it. How would you like being kept awake for an hour in the middle of the night because her ladyship wouldn’t go to sleep?”