Desire laughed. “I hope he was thinking of the Significance of the Totem. But I’m almost sure he wasn’t.”
“Does he ever think of anything but that blessed book of his?”
“I’m afraid he does—occasionally.”
“You mean,” with sharpened interest, “that he isn’t quite as keen on it as he used to be?”
“I mean that he doesn’t like me to work too hard.”
“Oh, I see. Perhaps he does not wish you to work too hard for me, either?”
Desire folded her hands upon her bag and looked primly into space.
“He is a very considerate employer,” she remarked mildly. “Take care—you nearly hit that hen!”
“Oh, d—bother the hen!”
“And he never swears,” added Desire with gentle dignity.
They drove for a mile or so without remark and then, Desire, who had something to say, reopened the conversation without rancour.
“Don’t be cross,” she said. “As a matter of fact Benis does swear sometimes. He is nervous, you know. I sometimes wonder if it is all due to shell shock, or whether it is a result of his—er—other experience.”
For the second time that day the car skidded. And for the second time, its unfortunate driver was called upon to give it his whole attention. Desire waited.
“I mean his former love affair,” said she when conversation was again possible.
“His—I don’t know,” said John weakly.
Desire looked sceptical.
“Don’t fancy I want to question you,” she said with haughtiness. “But I don’t see how you can help knowing. You are his doctor. And his friend, too. He must have told you. Didn’t he?”
“He mentioned something—er—that is to say—”
“Oh, don’t hesitate! Don’t fancy that I mind. I don’t, of course. And I am not curious. Although any-one might be curious. I won’t ask you questions. I am only mildly interested. It is entirely for his own good that I should like to know if she is quite as wonderful as he thinks. Is she, John?”
“I—I don’t know,” stammered the wretched John.
Desire nodded patiently.
“You mean you don’t know how wonderful he thought her? But did you think her very wonderful, John?”
“No, I didn’t”
“You thought her plain?”
“No, I—I didn’t think of her at all.”
“You mean that you found her insignificant?”
The doctor made a sound which Desire was pleased to interpret as assent.
“I’m not surprised,” said she earnestly. “Because, from the description Benis gave, I felt sure he was exaggerating. Not that it makes any difference, because, if he thought she was like that, what she really was like didn’t matter. That,” with plaintive triumph, “is one of the things I learned today.”
The doctor said nothing. It was the only thing which he felt it safe to say.