The first practical proposal was Mrs. Lee’s. They thought of reversing the present position, and taking a small house where their present hosts might become their lodgers. Moreover, Miss Mohun clenched the affair about Theodore, and overcame Alexis’s scruples, while Lady Merrifield, having once or twice looked in, and been smiled at and thanked by Kalliope, undertook to prepare her for his farewell.
Alexis and Maura both declared that she would instantly jump up, and want to begin looking over his socks; but she got no further than—–
’Dear boy! It is the sort of thing I always wished for him. People are very good! But his things—–’
’Oh yes, dearie, ye need not fash yourself. I’ve mended them as I sat by you, and packed them all. Lie still. They are all right.’
There was an atmosphere of the Royal Wardours about Mrs. Halfpenny, which was at once congenial and commanding; and Kalliope’s mind at once relinquished the burthen of socks, shirts, and even the elbows of the outgrown jacket, nor did any of the family ever know how the deficiencies had been supplied.
And when Theodore, well admonished, came softly and timidly for the parting kiss, his face quivering all over with the effort at self-control, she lay and smiled; but with a great crystal tear on each dark eyelash, and her thin transparent fingers softly stroked his cheeks, as the low weak voice said—–
’Be a good boy, dear—–speak truth. Praise God well. Write; I’ll write when I am better.’
It was the first time she had spoken of being better, and they told Theodore to take comfort from it when all the other three walked him up to the station.
CHAPTER XXI. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
In the search for a new abode Mrs. Lee was in much difficulty, for it was needful to be near St. Kenelm’s, and the only vacant houses within her means were not desirable for the reception of a feeble convalescent; moreover, Mr. Gudgeon grumbled and inquired, and was only withheld by warnings enhanced by the police from carrying the whole charivari of the Salvation Army along Ivinghoe Terrace on Sunday afternoon.
Perhaps it was this, perhaps it was the fact of having discussed the situation with the two Miss Mohuns, that made Mr. White say to Alexis, ’There are two rooms ready for your sister, as soon as Dagger says she can be moved safely. The person who nurses her had better come with her, and you may as well come back to your old quarters.’
Alexis could hardly believe his ears, but Mr. White waved off all thanks. The Mohun sisters were delighted and triumphant, and Jane came down to talk it over with her elder sister, auguring great things from that man who loved to deal in surprises.
‘That is true,’ said Sir Jasper.
‘What does that mean, Jasper?’ said his wife. ’It sounds significant.’