She moved her hands about the table; the Captain moved his head from side to side, and made little sounds, as Betty went on chattering, completely at his ease—after twenty years.
“Well,” he said at length, “I’ve heard from Mr. Polegate.”
He had heard from Mr. Polegate that he could advise nothing better than to send a boy to one of the universities.
“Mr. Floyd was at Cambridge... no, at Oxford... well, at one or the other,” said Mrs. Flanders.
She looked out of the window. Little windows, and the lilac and green of the garden were reflected in her eyes.
“Archer is doing very well,” she said. “I have a very nice report from Captain Maxwell.”
“I will leave you the letter to show Jacob,” said the Captain, putting it clumsily back in its envelope.
“Jacob is after his butterflies as usual,” said Mrs. Flanders irritably, but was surprised by a sudden afterthought, “Cricket begins this week, of course.”
“Edward Jenkinson has handed in his resignation,” said Captain Barfoot.
“Then you will stand for the Council?” Mrs. Flanders exclaimed, looking the Captain full in the face.
“Well, about that,” Captain Barfoot began, settling himself rather deeper in his chair.
Jacob Flanders, therefore, went up to Cambridge in October, 1906.
“This is not a smoking-carriage,” Mrs. Norman protested, nervously but very feebly, as the door swung open and a powerfully built young man jumped in. He seemed not to hear her. The train did not stop before it reached Cambridge, and here she was shut up alone, in a railway carriage, with a young man.
She touched the spring of her dressing-case, and ascertained that the scent-bottle and a novel from Mudie’s were both handy (the young man was standing up with his back to her, putting his bag in the rack). She would throw the scent-bottle with her right hand, she decided, and tug the communication cord with her left. She was fifty years of age, and had a son at college. Nevertheless, it is a fact that men are dangerous. She read half a column of her newspaper; then stealthily looked over the edge to decide the question of safety by the infallible test of appearance.... She would like to offer him her paper. But do young men read the Morning Post? She looked to see what he was reading—the Daily Telegraph.
Taking note of socks (loose), of tie (shabby), she once more reached his face. She dwelt upon his mouth. The lips were shut. The eyes bent down, since he was reading. All was firm, yet youthful, indifferent, unconscious—as for knocking one down! No, no, no! She looked out of the window, smiling slightly now, and then came back again, for he didn’t notice her. Grave, unconscious... now he looked up, past her... he seemed so out of place, somehow, alone with an elderly lady... then he fixed his eyes—which were blue—on the landscape. He had not realized her presence, she thought. Yet it was none of her fault that this was not a smoking-carriage—if that was what he meant.