“And what was it like after Gibraltar?” Alicia asked, with a barely perceptible glance at the envelope edges showing over his breast-pocket.
“I’ll look,” and he sorted one out. It was pink and glossy, with a diagonal water-stripe. Lindsay drew out the single sheet it contained, and she could see that every line was ruled and faintly pencilled. “Let me see,” said he. “To begin at the beginning. ’We arrived home on the third,’—you see it was the third,—’making very slow progress the last day on account of a fog in the Channel’—ah, a fog in the Channel!—’which was a great disappointment to some on board who were impatient to meet their loved ones. One lady had not seen her family of five for seven years. She said she would like to get out and swim, and you could not wonder. She was my s—stable companion.”
“Quaint!” said Alicia.
“She has picked up the expression on board. ’So—so she told me this.’ Oh yes. ’Now that it is all over I have written the voyage down among my mercies in spite of three days’ sickness, when you could keep nothing on—’ What are those two words, Miss Livingstone? I can’t quite make them out.”
“Oh, quite so. Thanks!—’in the Bay of Biscay.’ You see it was rough after Gib. ’Everybody was’—yes. ’The captain read Church of England prayers on Sunday mornings, in which I had no objection to join, and we had mangoes every day for a week after leaving Ceylon.’”
“Miss Filbert was so fond of mangoes,” Alicia said.
“Was she? ’The passengers got up two dances, and quite a number of gentlemen invited me, but I declined with thanks, though I would not say it is wrong in itself.’” Lindsay seemed to waver; her glance went near enough to him to show her that his face had a red tinge of embarrassment. He looked at the letter uncertainly, on the point of folding it up.
“You see she hasn’t danced for so long,” Alicia put in quickly; “she would naturally hesitate about beginning again with anybody but you. I shouldn’t wonder,” she added gently, “if she never does, with anybody else.”
“I know it’s an idea some women have,” he replied. “I think it’s rather—nice.”
“And her impressions of the Simpsons—and Plymouth?”
“She goes on to that.” He reconsulted the letter. “’Mr. and Mrs. Simpson met me as expected and welcomed me very affably.’ She has got hold of a wrong impression there, I fancy; the Simpsons couldn’t be ‘affable.’ ’They seem very kind and pleasant for such stylish people, and their house is lovely, with electric light in the parlour and hot and cold water throughout. They seem very earnest people and have family prayers regularly, but I have not yet been asked to lead. Four servants come in to prayers. Mr. and Mrs. Simpson are deeply interested in the work of the Army, though I think Plymouth as a whole is more taken up with the C.M.S.; but we cannot have all things.’ Dear me, yes! I remember those evangelical teas and the disappointment that I could not speak more definitely about the work among the Sontalis.”