‘Yes, you look very well,’ replied Monica, glancing at the fair, comely face.
’It’s deceptive. All our family have wretched constitutions. If I go to work regularly for a couple of months without a holiday, I sink into absolute decrepitude. An office-chair has been specially made for me, to hold me up at the desk.—I beg your pardon for this clowning, Mrs. Widdowson,’ he suddenly added in another voice. ’The air puts me in such spirits. What air it is! Speaking quite seriously, my mother was saved by coming to live here. We believed her to be dying, and now I have hopes that she will live ever so many years longer.’
He spoke of his mother with evident affection, glancing kindly towards her with his blue eyes.
Only once or twice had Monica ventured to exchange a glance with her husband. It satisfied her that he managed to converse; what his mood really was could not be determined until afterwards. When they were about to leave she saw him, to her surprise, speaking quite pleasantly with Mr. Bevis. A carriage was procured to convey them home, and as soon as they had started, Monica asked her husband, with a merry look, how he had enjoyed himself.
‘There is not much harm in it,’ he replied dryly.
’Harm? How like you, Edmund, to put it that way! Now confess you will be glad to go again.’
‘I shall go if you wish.’
’Unsatisfactory man! You can’t bring yourself to admit that it was pleasant to be among new people. I believe, in your heart, you think all enjoyment is wrong. The music was nice, wasn’t it?’
’I didn’t think much of the girl’s singing, but that fellow Bevis wasn’t bad.’
Monica examined him as he spoke, and seemed to suppress a laugh.
’No, he wasn’t at all bad. I saw you talking with Mrs. Bevis. Did she tell you anything about her wonderful son?’
‘Oh, then I must tell you the whole story.’
And she did so, in a tone half of jest, half of serious approval.
‘I don’t see that he has done anything more than his duty,’ remarked Widdowson at the end. ‘But he isn’t a bad fellow.’
For private reasons, Monica contrasted this attitude towards Bevis with the disfavour her husband had shown to Mr. Barfoot, and was secretly much amused.
Two or three days after they went to spend the morning at Petit Bot Bay, and there encountered with Bevis and his three sisters. The result was an invitation to go back and have lunch at Mrs. Bevis’s lodgings; they accepted it, and remained with their acquaintances till dusk. The young man’s holiday was at an end; next morning he would face the voyage which he had depicted so grotesquely.
‘And alone!’ he lamented to Monica. ’Only think of it. The girls are all rather below par just now; they had better stay here for the present.’
‘And in London you will be alone too?’