“Good-night,” he said. “We’ll go again soon.”
“All right. Good-night, and thank you ever so much.”
The sound of the key in the lock had wakened Rose from her uneasy sleep. She heard their laughter, though she could not distinguish what they said, and recognised a new tone in Allison’s voice. She heard the door close, the carriage roll away, and, after a little, Isabel’s hushed footsteps on the stairs. Then another door closed softly and a light glimmered afar into the garden until the shade was drawn.
Wide-eyed and fearful, she slept no more, for the brimming Cup of Joy, that had seemed within her reach, was surely beyond it now. Oppressed with loss and pain, her heart beat slowly, as though it were weary of living. Until daybreak she wondered if he, too, was keeping the night watch, from a wholly different point of view.
But, man-like, Allison had long ago gone to sleep, in the big Colonial house beyond the turn in the road, idly humming to himself:
Come and kiss me, Sweet-and-Twenty;
Youth’s a stuff will not endure!
KEEPING THE FAITH
Colonel Kent and Allison critically surveyed the table, where covers were laid for seven. “Someway it lacks the ‘grand air’ of Madame Bernard’s,” commented the Colonel, “yet I can’t see anything wrong, can you?”
“Not a thing,” Allison returned. “The ‘grand air’ you allude to comes, I think, from Aunt Francesca herself. When she takes her place opposite you, I’m sure we shall compare very favourably with our neighbours.”
The Crosby twins arrived first, having chartered the station hack for the evening. As the minds of both were above such minor details as clothes, their attire was of the nondescript variety, but their exuberant youth and high spirits gallantly concealed all defects and the tact of their hosts quickly set them both at their ease.
Romeo somewhat ostentatiously left their card upon the mantel, so placed that all who came near might read in fashionable script: “The Crosby Twins.” Having made this concession to the conventionalities, he lapsed at once into an agreeable informality that amused the Colonel very much.
Soon the Colonel was describing some of the great battles in which he had taken part, and Romeo listened with an eager interest which was all the more flattering because it was so evidently sincere. In the library, meanwhile, Allison was renewing his old acquaintance with Juliet.
“You used to be a perfect little devil,” he smiled.
“I am yet,” Juliet admitted, with a frank laugh. “At least people say so. Romie and I aren’t popular with our neighbours.”
“That doesn’t speak well for the neighbours. Were they never young themselves?”
“I don’t believe so. I’ve thought, sometimes, that lots of people were born grown-up.”