‘I am really afraid to urge them to meddle with the investments.’
’Of course; so am I. One is afraid to do or propose anything. Virginia is starving, must be starving. Poor creature! I can never forget how her eyes shone when I put that joint of meat before her.’
‘I do, do wish,’ sighed Miss Barfoot, with a pained smile, ’that I knew some honest man who would be likely to fall in love with little Monica! In spite of you, my dear, I would devote myself to making the match. But there’s no one.’
‘Oh, I would help,’ laughed Rhoda, not unkindly. ’She’s fit for nothing else, I’m afraid. We mustn’t look for any kind of heroism in Monica.’
Less than half an hour after Miss Barfoot had left the house at Lavender Hill, Mildred Vesper made a call there. It was about half-past nine; the invalid, after sitting up since midday, had gone to bed, but could not sleep. Summoned to the house-door, Virginia acquainted Miss Vesper with the state of affairs.
‘I think you might see her for a few minutes.’
‘I should like to, if you please, Miss Madden,’ replied Mildred, who had a rather uneasy look.
She went upstairs and entered the bedroom, where a lamp was burning. At the sight of her friend Monica showed much satisfaction; they kissed each other affectionately.
’Good old girl! I had made up my mind to come back tomorrow, or at all events the day after. It’s so frightfully dull here. Oh, and I wanted to know if anything—any letter—had come for me.’
‘That’s just why I came to see you to-night.’
Mildred took a letter from her pocket, and half averted her face as she handed it.
‘It’s nothing particular,’ said Monica, putting it away under her pillow. ‘Thank you, dear.’
But her cheeks had become hot, and she trembled.
’You wouldn’t care to tell me about—anything? You don’t think it would make your mind easier?’
For a minute Monica lay back, gazing at the wall, then she looked round quickly, with a shamefaced laugh.
’It’s very silly of me not to have told you long before this. But you’re so sensible; I was afraid. I’ll tell you everything. Not now, but as soon as I get to Rutland Street. I shall come to-morrow.’
‘Do you think you can? You look dreadfully bad still.’
‘I shan’t get any better here,’ replied the invalid in a whisper. ’Poor Virgie does depress me so. She doesn’t understand that I can’t bear to hear her repeating the kind of things she has heard from Miss Barfoot and Miss Nunn. She tries so hard to look forward hopefully—but I know she is miserable, and it makes me more miserable still. I oughtn’t to have left you; I should have been all right in a day or two, with you to help me. You don’t make-believe, Milly; it’s all real and natural good spirits. It has done me good only to see your dear old face.’