But no more would she put it on. He had revealed his disappointment that she was not something more than herself—that beautiful and adorable self that she quite knew the worth of—and he had permitted himself to take liberties of speech with her that she instinctively felt to be provoked by the circumstance that she was no longer rich and powerful.
Deb’s love was great, but her pride was greater.
Deb sat amid the ruins of her home. She occupied the lid of a deal packing-case that enclosed a few hundreds of books, and one that was half filled stood before her, with a scatter of odd volumes on the floor around. The floor, which was that of the once cosy morning-room, was carpetless; its usual furniture stood about higgledy-piggledy, all in the wrong places, naked and forlorn. Mr Thornycroft leaned against the flowerless mantel-shelf, and surveyed the scene, or rather, the central figure, black-gowned, holland-aproned, with sleeves turned back from her strong wrists, and a grey smudge on her beautiful nose.
“That cottage that you talk about,” said he, “will not hold all those.”
“Oh, books don’t take any space,” she replied brusquely. “They are no more than tapestry or frescoes. I shall have cases made to fit flat to the walls.”
“That will cost money.”
“One must have the bare necessaries of life. I presume I shall be able to afford that much. Pine boards will do. I can Aspinall them.” “Aspinall is very nice, but sometimes it gets on the edges of your books and spoils them.”
“No, it doesn’t. I have an Aspinalled book-case in my room now, and not a mark ever came off it.”
“Did you paint it?”
“Are you going to leave it there?”
“I must. It is a fixture.”
“That’s all right. I am glad you are going to leave something.” “Something? I leave all.”
“Except a library of books, and a collection of forty odd pictures, that you will have to hang over the books—”
“You would not have us part with family portraits?”
“And a grand piano, extra sized, calculated to fill a suburban villa drawing-room all by itself—”
“Pianos make nothing second-hand, and the girls must practise. Better keep a good instrument than sell it for fifty pounds and spend the money on a bad one.”
“Certainly, if you can stow it. But with seven easy-chairs, and the biggest Chesterfield sofa extant, and a large writing-table—”
“I can have that in my room.”
“Along with a six-foot dressing-table, and a nine-foot wardrobe, and I don’t know how many chests of drawers—”
“The wardrobe will stand in a passage somewhere. We must have places to put our clothes.”
“A house with passages of that capacity—”
“Well, never you mind. If I can’t find room for my things, I can sell them in Melbourne as well as here.”