In her school-days, Louise had learned to “play the piano,” but, caring little or nothing for music, she had hardly touched a key for several years. Now the idea possessed her that she must resume her practising, and to-day she had spent hours at the piano, with painful effect upon Mrs. Mumford’s nerves. After dinner she offered to play to Mumford, and he, good-natured fellow, stood by her to turn over the leaves. Emmeline, with fancy work in her hands, watched the two. She was not one of the most foolish of her sex, but it relieved her when Clarence moved away.
The next morning Louise was an hour late for breakfast. She came down when Mumford had left the house, and Emmeline saw with surprise that she was dressed for going out.
’Just a cup of coffee, please. I’ve no appetite this morning, and I want to catch a train for Victoria as soon as possible.’
‘When will you be back?’
‘Oh, I don’t quite know. To tea, I think.’
The girl had all at once grown reticent, and her lips showed the less amiable possibilities of their contour.
At dinner-time she had not returned. It being Saturday, Mumford was back early in the afternoon, and Miss Derrick’s absence caused no grief. Emmeline could play with baby in the garden, whilst her husband smoked his pipe and looked on in the old comfortable way. They already felt that domestic life was not quite the same with a stranger to share it. Doubtless they would get used to the new restraints; but Miss Derrick must not expect them to disorganise their mealtimes on her account. Promptly at half-past seven they sat down to dine, and had just risen from the table, when Louise appeared.
She was in excellent spirits, without a trace of the morning’s ill-humour. No apologies! If she didn’t feel quite free to come and go, without putting people out, there would be no comfort in life. A slice of the joint, that was all she wanted, and she would have done in a few minutes.
’I’ve taken tickets for Toole’s Theatre on Monday night. You must both come. You can, can’t you?’
Mumford and his wife glanced at each other. Yes, they could go; it was very kind of Miss Derrick; but—
’That’s all right, it’ll be jolly. The idea struck me in the train, as I was going up; so I took a cab from Victoria and booked the places first thing. Third row from the front, dress circle; the best I could do. Please let me have my dinner alone. Mrs. Mumford, I want to tell you something afterwards.’
Clarence went round to see his friend Fentiman, with whom he usually had a chat on Saturday evening. Emmeline was soon joined by the guest in the drawing-room.
‘There, you may read that,’ said Louise, holding out a letter. ’It’s from Mr. Cobb; came yesterday, but I didn’t care to talk about it then. Yes, please read it; I want you to.’