“In those days ...” she resumed, and told him how they had sailed ... “my husband, who knew a good deal about sailing, for he kept a yacht before we married” ... and then how rashly they had defied the fishermen, “almost paid for it with our lives, but so proud of ourselves!” She flung the hand out that held the ball of wool.
“Shall I hold your wool?” Jacob asked stiffly.
“You do that for your mother,” said Mrs. Durrant, looking at him again keenly, as she transferred the skein. “Yes, it goes much better.”
He smiled; but said nothing.
Elsbeth Siddons hovered behind them with something silver on her arm.
“We want,” she said. ... “I’ve come ...” she paused.
“Poor Jacob,” said Mrs. Durrant, quietly, as if she had known him all his life. “They’re going to make you act in their play.”
“How I love you!” said Elsbeth, kneeling beside Mrs. Durrant’s chair.
“Give me the wool,” said Mrs. Durrant.
“He’s come—he’s come!” cried Charlotte Wilding. “I’ve won my bet!”
“There’s another bunch higher up,” murmured Clara Durrant, mounting another step of the ladder. Jacob held the ladder as she stretched out to reach the grapes high up on the vine.
“There!” she said, cutting through the stalk. She looked semi-transparent, pale, wonderfully beautiful up there among the vine leaves and the yellow and purple bunches, the lights swimming over her in coloured islands. Geraniums and begonias stood in pots along planks; tomatoes climbed the walls.
“The leaves really want thinning,” she considered, and one green one, spread like the palm of a hand, circled down past Jacob’s head.
“I have more than I can eat already,” he said, looking up.
“It does seem absurd ...” Clara began, “going back to London. ...”
“Ridiculous,” said Jacob, firmly.
“Then ...” said Clara, “you must come next year, properly,” she said, snipping another vine leaf, rather at random.
“If ... if ...”
A child ran past the greenhouse shouting. Clara slowly descended the ladder with her basket of grapes.
“One bunch of white, and two of purple,” she said, and she placed two great leaves over them where they lay curled warm in the basket.
“I have enjoyed myself,” said Jacob, looking down the greenhouse.
“Yes, it’s been delightful,” she said vaguely.
“Oh, Miss Durrant,” he said, taking the basket of grapes; but she walked past him towards the door of the greenhouse.
“You’re too good—too good,” she thought, thinking of Jacob, thinking that he must not say that he loved her. No, no, no.
The children were whirling past the door, throwing things high into the air.
“Little demons!” she cried. “What have they got?” she asked Jacob.
“Onions, I think,” said Jacob. He looked at them without moving.