’Then please never to speak to me on the subject again. I’m tired of it.’
‘And what did he say, when you’d said that?’
‘I can’t remember.’
’Oh, you are narsty to-day! Really you are! If it had been the other way about, I’d never have treated you like this, that I wouldn’t.’
They were close to the door by which Messrs. Scotcher’s resident employees entered at night. Monica had taken out her latchkey. But Miss Eade could not endure the thought of being left in torturing ignorance.
‘Do tell me!’ she whispered. ’I’ll do anything for you I can. Don’t be unkind, Miss Madden!’
Monica turned back again.
’If I were you, I wouldn’t be so silly. I can’t do more than assure you and promise you that I shall never listen to Mr. Bullivant.’
‘But what did he say about me, dear?’
Miss Eade kept a mortified silence.
’You had much better not think of him at all. I would have more pride. I wish I could make you see him as I do.’
’And you did really speak about me? Oh, I do wish you’d find some one to go out with. Then perhaps—’
Monica stood still, hesitated, and at length said,—
‘Well—I have found some one.’
‘You have?’ The girl all but danced with joy. ‘You really have?’
‘Yes—so now don’t trouble me any more.’
This time she was allowed to turn back and enter the house.
No one else had yet come in. Monica ate a mouthful of bread and cheese, which was in readiness on the long table down in the basement, and at once went to bed. But no welcome drowsiness fell upon her. At half-past eleven, when two of the other five girls who slept in the room made their appearance, she was still changing uneasily from side to side. They lit the gas (it was not turned off till midnight, after which hour the late arrivals had to use a candle of their own procuring), and began a lively conversation on the events of the day. Afraid of being obliged to talk, Monica feigned sleep.
At twelve, just as the gas went out, another pair came to repose. They had been quarrelling, and were very gloomy. After a long and acrimonious discussion in the dark as to which of them should find a candle—it ended in one of the girls who was in bed impatiently supplying a light—they began sullenly to throw off their garments.
‘Is Miss Madden awake?’ said one of them, looking in Monica’s direction.
There was no reply.
‘She’s picked up some feller to-day,’ continued the speaker, lowering her voice, and glancing round at her companions with a grin. ‘Or else she’s had him all along—I shouldn’t wonder.’
Heads were put forward eagerly, and inquiries whispered.
’He’s oldish, I should say. I caught sight of them just as they was going off in a boat from Battersea Park, but I couldn’t see his face very well. He looked rather like Mr. Thomas.’