“Well, aunties,” he greeted the sisters, having perceived Constance behind Sophia; he often so addressed them. “Has Dr. Stirling warned you that I was coming? Why haven’t you got your things on?”
Sophia observed a young woman in the car.
“Yes,” said he, following her gaze, “you may as well look. Come down, miss. Come down, Lily. You’ve got to go through with it.” The young woman, delicately confused and blushing, obeyed. “This is Miss Lily Holl,” he went on. “I don’t know whether you would remember her. I don’t think you do. It’s not often she comes to the Square. But, of course, she knows you by sight. Granddaughter of your old neighbour, Alderman Holl! We are engaged to be married, if you please.”
Constance and Sophia could not decently pour out their griefs on the top of such news. The betrothed pair had to come in and be congratulated upon their entry into the large realms of mutual love. But the sisters, even in their painful quandary, could not help noticing what a nice, quiet, ladylike girl Lily Holl was. Her one fault appeared to be that she was too quiet. Dick Povey was not the man to pass time in formalities, and he was soon urging departure.
“I’m sorry we can’t come,” said Sophia. “I’ve got to go to Manchester now. We are in great trouble.”
“Yes, in great trouble,” Constance weakly echoed.
Dick’s face clouded sympathetically. And both the affianced began to see that to which the egotism of their happiness had blinded them. They felt that long, long years had elapsed since these ageing ladies had experienced the delights which they were feeling.
“Trouble? I’m sorry to hear that!” said Dick.
“Can you tell me the trains to Manchester?” asked Sophia.
“No,” said Dick, quickly, “But I can drive you there quicker than any train, if it’s urgent. Where do you want to go to?”
“Deansgate,” Sophia faltered.
“Look here,” said Dick, “it’s half-past three. Put yourself in my hands; I’ll guarantee at Deansgate you shall be before half-past five. I’ll look after you.”
“There isn’t any ‘but.’ I’m quite free for the afternoon and evening.”
At first the suggestion seemed absurd, especially to Constance. But really it was too tempting to be declined. While Sophia made ready for the journey, Dick and Lily Holl and Constance conversed in low, solemn tones. The pair were waiting to be enlightened as to the nature of the trouble; Constance, however, did not enlighten them. How could Constance say to them: “Sophia has a husband that she hasn’t seen for thirty-six years, and he’s dangerously ill, and they’ve telegraphed for her to go?” Constance could not. It did not even occur to Constance to order a cup of tea.
Dick Povey kept his word. At a quarter-past five he drew up in front of No. 49, Deansgate, Manchester. “There you are!” he said, not without pride. “Now, we’ll come back in about a couple of hours or so, just to take your orders, whatever they are.” He was very comforting, with his suggestion that in him Sophia had a sure support in the background.