’Then I have no right to say any more. I can only wish you happiness.’
Mildred heaved a sigh, and pretended to give her attention to Maunder.
After waiting irresolutely for some minutes, Monica looked for notepaper, and took it, together with her inkstand, into the bedroom. She was absent half an hour. On her return there was a stamped letter in her hand.
‘It is going, Milly.’
‘Very well, dear. I have nothing more to say.’
‘You give me up for lost. We shall see.’
It was spoken light-heartedly. Again she left the room, put on her out-of-door things, and went to post the letter. By this time she began to feel the results of exertion and excitement; headache and tremulous failing of her strength obliged her to go to bed almost as soon as she returned. Mildred waited upon her with undiminished kindness.
‘It’s all right,’ Monica murmured, as her head sank on the pillow. ‘I feel so relieved and so glad—so happy—now I have done it.’
‘Good-night, dear,’ replied the other, with a kiss, and went back to her semblance of reading.
Two days later Monica called unexpectedly at Mrs. Conisbee’s. Being told by that worthy woman that Miss Madden was at home, she ran upstairs and tapped at the door. Virginia’s voice inquired hurriedly who was there, and on Monica’s announcing herself there followed a startled exclamation.
‘Just a minute, my love! Only a minute.’
When the door opened Monica was surprised by a disorder in her sister’s appearance. Virginia had flushed cheeks, curiously vague eyes, and hair ruffled as if she had just risen from a nap. She began to talk in a hurried, disconnected way, trying to explain that she had not been quite well, and was not yet properly dressed.
‘What a strange smell!’ Monica exclaimed, looking about the room. ‘It’s like brandy.’
’You notice it? I have—I was obliged to get—to ask Mrs. Conisbee for—I don’t want to alarm you, dear, but I felt rather faint. Indeed, I thought I should have a fainting fit. I was obliged to call Mrs. Conisbee—But don’t think anything about it. It’s all over. The weather is very trying—’
She laughed nervously and began to pat Monica’s hand. The girl was not quite satisfied, and pressed many questions, but in the end she accepted Virginia’s assurances that nothing serious had happened. Then her own business occupied her; she sat down, and said with a smile,—
’I have brought you astonishing news. If you didn’t faint before you’ll be very likely to do so now.’
Her sister exhibited fresh agitation, and begged not to be kept in suspense.
’My nerves are in a shocking state to-day. It must be the weather. What can you have to tell me, Monica?’
‘I think I shan’t need to go on with typewriting.’
‘Why? What are you going to do, child?’ the other asked sharply.