It was Thursday morning. With
the doctor’s permission Pat’s bed had
been carried back to the minute apartment which was
grandiloquently termed a “dressing-room.”
A sofa took its place in the dining-room, and with
the aid of a stick he could walk from one refuge to
another, and enjoy what-after the confinement
of the past months-appeared quite an exciting
variety of scene.
Bridgie Victor was still a joint occupant
of the “best” bedroom, for since Pat refused
to part with Pixie it was plainly the elder sister’s
duty to stay on over the important meeting with Stanor
Vaughan. The modern girl scoffs at the idea
of chaperonage, but the O’Shaughnessys were
not modern. Bridgie felt the impulse to protect,
and Pixie’s piteous “Stay with
me, Bridgie!” marked the one moment of weakness
which she had shown. So Bridgie remained in London,
comforted by the knowledge that her husband was well
and her children in good hands, and seldom in her
life had five days passed so slowly. Sunday itself
had seemed a week long, the atmosphere strained and
unreal, each member of the little party talking to
pass the time, uttering platitudes, and discussing
every imaginable subject under the sun but just the
one which filled every mind. No need to bid
Pixie to be discreet, to warn her not to sing, nor
glance too frequently in a certain direction-a
talking automaton could not have shown less sign of
As for Stephen Glynn, the news of
his nephew’s sudden return obviously came to
him as a shock, but as a man of the world he was an
adept in hiding his feelings, and though he curtailed
his visit, so long as he was in the flat he exerted
himself to preserve an ordinary demeanour. His
adieux also were of the most commonplace description.
“It’s hardly worth while
to say good-bye. We shall meet, we shall certainly
meet before long. I will write to welcome Stanor,
and you-” he held Pixie’s hand
and looked down at her with an inquiring glance-“you
will let me hear your-news?”
“I will,” answered Pixie simply.
Bridgie would have given a fortune
to be able to see what was in “the child’s”
head at that moment, to know what she was really thinking.
The sisters walked together to the door, Pat, on
his stick, bringing up the rear, and stood watching
Stephen descend. Once and again he looked up,
smiled, and waved his hand, and as he did so his eyes
had the same piteous glance which Pixie had noticed
on their first meeting. The expression of those
upturned eyes hurt all three onlookers in different
degrees, and sent them back to their little room with
“Now he’ll bury himself
in the country again and mope! It’s been
the making of him being here in town. Goodness
knows what will happen to him now!” said Pat,
dropping on to the couch with an impatient sigh, and
Bridgie murmured softly-
“The dear, man! The dear
man! So hard for, him to be alone. But
you needn’t be anxious, Pat. He’s
so good. He’ll be looked after!
... Don’t you think, now, his eyes are
the least thing in the world like Dick’s?”
“Not the least least!”
snapped Pixie, and that was her one contribution to
And now it was Thursday-Thursday
afternoon, within an hour, of the time fixed by telegram
for Stanor’s arrival. Pat had elected to
stay in bed, in consequence of what he called headache
and his sisters translated as “sulks.”
He didn’t want to see the fellow. ...
What was the fellow to him? Didn’t know
how the fellow had the face to turn up at all, after
dawdling away an extra six months. Hoped to goodness
the fellow would make short work of it and be off,
as he wanted to get up for dinner.
In her heart Bridgie agreed with each
sentiment in turn, but she felt it her duty to be
stern and bracing.
“’Deed, and I hope so,
too! Else I shall have to sit here, and you’re
not the best company. I’m your guest, me
dear-if you haven’t the heart to
be civil ye might at least have the good manners!
My little Jack would never dr-eam-”
“Little prig he must be, then,”
mumbled Pat; but the reproof went home, and he grumbled
Just before the clock struck the hour
Bridgie paid a flying visit to the little sitting-room
to see that the tea-table was set, the kettle on the
hob, the dish of hot scones on the brass stand in the
fender, and everything ready to hand, so that no one
need enter unless specially summoned. She found
Pixie standing gazing into the fire, and started with
surprise and disappointment.
“Pixie, your dress!
That dull old thing? Why not your pink?
Me dear, you’ve time. ... There’s
still time. ... Run off and change it!”
But Pixie shook her head.
“Bridgie, don’t fuss!”
she said, and there was a note in her voice which
checked the words on Bridgie’s lips. She
literally dared not say any more, but her heart was
heavy with disappointment.
She had been so anxious that Pixie
should look her best for this important interview,
had been so complacently satisfied that the rose-coloured
gown was as becoming as it could be, and now the aggravating,
mysterious little thing had deliberately left it hanging
in the wardrobe, and put on instead an old brown dress
which had been a failure at the beginning, and was
now well advanced in middle age. One result
of Pixie’s sojourn in Paris had been an acquired
faculty for making the best of herself: she put
on her clothes with care, she wore them “with
an air,” she dressed her hair with neat precision,
and then with a finger and thumb gave a tweak here,
a pat there, which imparted to the final effect something
piquant and attractive. To-day it appeared as
if that transforming touch had been forgotten, and
Bridgie, looking on, felt that pang of distress which
all motherly hearts experience when their nurslings
show otherwise than at their best.
“Are you not going to sit with
Pat?” inquired Pixie at the end of a pregnant
silence, and at that very obvious hint Bridgie retired
perforce, repeating gallantly to herself, “Looks
don’t matter! Looks don’t matter!
They don’t matter a bit!” and believing
just as much of what she said as would any other young
woman of her age.
Another ten minutes and the sound
of the electric bell rang sharply round the flat.
The door opened and shut, and Moffatt, entering the
sitting-room in advance, announced loudly-
A tall, fair man entered with a rapid
step. Pixie looked at him, and felt a consciousness
of unutterable strangeness. This was not the
man from whom she had parted on the deck of that ocean-bound
steamer! This man was older, broader; the once
lazy, laughter-loving eyes were keen and shrewd.
His shoulders also were padded into the exaggerated
square, characteristic of American tailors.
Even the voice was strange.
It had absorbed the American accent, the American
clip and drawl. Pixie had the consciousness of
struggling with stiffened features which refused to
He took her hand and held it in his,
the while he stared down at her upturned face.
His brows contracted, as though what he saw was more
painful than pleasant. “I guess you’ve
been having a bad time,” he said. “I
was sorry to hear your brother’s been sick.”
“He is better now,” Pixie
said, and gently withdrew her hand.
Two and a half years’ waiting,
and this was the meeting! She drew herself
up, with the little air of dignity which she knew so
well how to assume, and waved him to a seat.
“Won’t you sit down?
I will give you some tea. It is all ready, and
the kettle is boiling. When did you arrive in
“Two hours ago. I went
straight to my hotel to write some letters, and then
came along here. ... This is your brother’s
apartment? Nice little place! It’s
good news that he is better! Hard luck on him
to be bowled over like that!”
The accent, the intonation carried
Pixie’s thoughts irresistibly towards another
speaker, whose memory war associated with her own first
meeting with Stanor. On the spur of the moment
she mentioned her name.
“Where is Honor Ward? Is she in London,
Stanor started; over his features
passed a quiver as of anxiety or dread. He glanced
across the fireplace, and the new keenness in his
eyes became still more marked.
“Er-no! She stopped half way.
Later on ... perhaps-”
“She is quite well?”
Again a moment’s hesitation.
“Fairly well, only ... Very tired.”
“I don’t wonder she is
tired; she does so much. Always rushing about
after something new. They seem very restless
people in America.”
“They’re alive, anyway;
they don’t rust! They’re bound to
get the most that’s possible out of life, and
they get it! It shakes a fellow up to get out
of the rut here and have a taste of their methods.”
“You like it-better
than home?” Pixie paused, teapot in hand,
to cast upon him a glance full of patriotic reproach,
whereat he laughed and shrugged his shoulders.
“Isn’t home the place
where one settles down, and which feels to be most
“You find America more congenial than England?”
He shrugged again, and the old gleam of laughter showed
in his eyes.
“Now look here, isn’t
it bad luck to begin asking embarrassing questions
straight away off? I hoped I was going to avoid
this point! If you must have the truth-I
do! America suits me!”-his
smile was full of complacence-“I
suit America. That’s not by any means a
sure thing. Many Englishmen throw up the sponge
and return home. They can’t adapt themselves,
don’t want to adapt themselves.
In my case I had had no business experience in England,
so I began with an open mind without prejudice, and-it
went: I like the life, I like the people.
I like the climate. The climate is answerable
for a lot of the extra energy which you over here
call `restlessness.’ You want to do just
about twice as much beneath those skies!” He
cast an impatient glance towards the window.
“It’s all so grey! ... I’ve
had a headache straight on the last two days.”
“Tea’s ready now; it will
do you good. There are hot scones in that dish,”
Pixie said quietly. The greyness of the street
seemed to have entered the room-to have
entered her heart. It was all grey. ...
“We knew, of course, that you must like
it, when you stayed so long.”
Now there was something which was
not grey. Stanor’s face flushed
a painful red; he looked at his cup, at the floor,
in the fire, at anything but in Pixie’s face.
His voice was hard with repressed embarrassment.
“Er-just so; you
would, of course! There was work on hand.
I waited to see it through. When a man has
spent two years in the same place so many claims arise,
in social life as well as in work. It is difficult
for him to break away at a moment’s notice.
He is hardly his own master.”
“I’m sure it is.
And when there was work you were quite right to stay
on. It would have been wrong to have left it
Stanor, looked up sharply, met clear,
honest eyes, which looked back into his without a
trace of sarcasm. She meant it!
Voice and look alike were transparently genuine.
At that moment she was essentially the Pixie of old,
the Pixie to whom it came naturally to believe the
best. The flush on Stanor’s cheeks deepened
as he realised the nature of the “work”
which had made his excuse. His voice deepened
with the first real note of intimacy.
“That’s like you, Pixie!
You always understood. ... And now tell me
about yourself. What’s happened to you
since I heard last? Six months ago, was it?
No! barely four. Didn’t you write for
Christmas? Been jogging along as usual at home,
playing games with the babies?”
“Yes; just jogging,” said
Pixie. Then of a sudden her eyes flashed. “`Over
here’ we don’t find the `best of life’
in a rush! It comes to some of us quite
satisfactorily in a jog! `I guess,’ as you say,
that my life as been as much `worth while’ as
if I’d spent it in a round of pink luncheons
and green teas, as your American friends seem to do.”
The unexpected happened, and, instead
of protesting, Stanor sighed, and looked of a sudden
grave and depressed.
“You’re right there, Pixie;
that’s so, if you are built the right way!
But some of us-” He checked himself,
and began afresh in a voice of enforced enthusiasm.
“Well!-and then you came up here
to nurse your brother, and found the Runkle already
in possession. I was surprised to read
about that in your letter at Liverpool. Odd,
isn’t it, how things come about? And how
is the old fellow?”
Again Pixie’s eyes sent out
a flash. How was it that every fresh thing that
Stanor said seemed to hurt her in a new place?
“Considering his great years
and infirmities, the old fellow seems surprisingly
“Halloo, what’s this?”
Stanor stared in surprise. “Said the wrong
thing, have I? What have I said? He seems
old, you know, if he isn’t actually so in years.
I used to look upon him as a patriarch. Not
so much his looks as his character. Such a sombre
“He wasn’t sombre with us!”
Memory flashed back pictures of Stephen’s
face as he sat in the arm-chair by the fire, listening
to those impromptu concerts which had enlivened Pat’s
convalescence. Pixie saw him as he leaned forward
in his chair, waving his hand baton-like, heard his
voice, joining lustily in the “Matches”
chorus. In that very room-in the very
chair in which Stanor now sat. ... What centuries
seemed to have lolled by, between that day, and this!
“Wasn’t he? That’s
good! I’m glad to hear that,” Stanor
said perfunctorily. “It takes time, of
course, to get out of invalid ways. I shall have
to be running down to see him one of these days.”
“Oh, of course; he’ll
expect you. And then-then you’ll
begin your work over here. In London, I suppose?”
“I ... er ... the firm is in
town. There-er-there will
be a lot to arrange.” Suddenly Stanor
leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, his eyes
searching her face. “Pixie, this is an
odd sort of conversation for our first meeting! ...
We’ve got wrong somehow. ... Can’t
we get right? Why waste time on generalities.
... Are you glad to see me back, Pixie?”
“I am!” Pixie’s
eyes gazed back without a flicker. “When
I got your letter I was-thankful!
I think it was-time-you came
“Have you missed me, Pixie, while, I’ve
Now she hesitated, but her eyes remained steady and
“It had been such a little time,
you know; and you had never stayed with us at home.
I could hardly miss you out of my life, but
I ... thought of you!”
“Did you, Pixie? Did you,
little Pixie? ... I wonder what you thought!”
Pixie did not answer that question.
The answer would have been too long, too complicated.
She smiled, a wistful little smile, and turned away
Then Stanor rose. She heard
him rise, heard the chink of the tea-things on the
tray as he pressed upon it in rising, heard his footsteps
passing round the table towards her chair, heard in
a sickening silence his summoning voice-
They looked at each other;-white, strained,
“Pixie, will you marry me?”
“Yes, Stanor, I will. If you want me...”