“Take your time,” said Jolly again; “I don’t want to be unfair.”
And they both looked at Holly. She had recoiled against the bookshelves reaching to the ceiling; her dark head leaned against Gibbon’s Roman Empire, her eyes in a sort of soft grey agony were fixed on Val. And he, who had not much gift of insight, had suddenly a gleam of vision. She would be proud of her brother—that enemy! She would be ashamed of him! His hands came out of his pockets as if lifted by a spring.
“All right!” he said. “Done!”
Holly’s face—oh! it was queer! He saw her flush, start forward. He had done the right thing—her face was shining with wistful admiration. Jolly stood up and made a little bow as who should say: ‘You’ve passed.’
“To-morrow, then,” he said, “we’ll go together.”
Recovering from the impetus which had carried him to that decision, Val looked at him maliciously from under his lashes. ‘All right,’ he thought, ’one to you. I shall have to join—but I’ll get back on you somehow.’ And he said with dignity: “I shall be ready.”
“We’ll meet at the main Recruiting Office, then,” said Jolly, “at twelve o’clock.” And, opening the window, he went out on to the terrace, conforming to the creed which had made him retire when he surprised them in the hall.
The confusion in the mind of Val thus left alone with her for whom he had paid this sudden price was extreme. The mood of ‘showing-off’ was still, however, uppermost. One must do the wretched thing with an air.
“We shall get plenty of riding and shooting, anyway,” he said; “that’s one comfort.” And it gave him a sort of grim pleasure to hear the sigh which seemed to come from the bottom of her heart.
“Oh! the war’ll soon be over,” he said; “perhaps we shan’t even have to go out. I don’t care, except for you.” He would be out of the way of that beastly divorce. It was an ill-wind! He felt her warm hand slip into his. Jolly thought he had stopped their loving each other, did he? He held her tightly round the waist, looking at her softly through his lashes, smiling to cheer her up, promising to come down and see her soon, feeling somehow six inches taller and much more in command of her than he had ever dared feel before. Many times he kissed her before he mounted and rode back to town. So, swiftly, on the least provocation, does the possessive instinct flourish and grow.
Dinner at James’
Dinner parties were not now given at James’ in Park Lane—to every house the moment comes when Master or Mistress is no longer ‘up to it’; no more can nine courses be served to twenty mouths above twenty fine white expanses; nor does the household cat any longer wonder why she is suddenly shut up.