"You'll be carrying the letters on, I suppose?" he said.
"You can if you like."
"Peter, old man, I'm dreadfully landed. There's something that ought to be done and I don't know what it is. I never do know. It's Christina of course. I've just had the most awful scene with her mother; she's cursed me like a fishwife and forbidden me to come near the house again. Of course I knew that this was coming, but Christina warned me that when it did come it would mean that her mother had finally made up her mind to something and wasn't going to waste any time about it. . . . Well, where's Christina, and how am I to get at her? I don't know what's happening. They may be torturing her or anything. That woman's capable of. . . ."
The drawing-room was just such a place as Millie had expected, a perfect menagerie of odds and ends of furniture and the walls covered with pictures ranging from the most sentimental of Victorian to the most symbolic and puzzling of Cubists. But what a nice room this could be did it contain less! Wide, high windows welcomed the sun and a small room off the larger one could have the most charming privacy and cosiness. But the smaller room was at the moment blocked with a huge roller-top desk and a great white statue of a naked woman holding an apple and peering at it as though she were expecting it to turn into something strange like a baby or a wild fowl at the earliest possible moment. This statue curved in such a way that it seemed to hang above the roller-top desk in an inquiring attitude. It was the chilliest-looking statue Millie had ever seen.
"You're not? You know I can get my brother to kick you out?"
Just then Baker Street Station arrived and they got out together. He caught her arm and they went up in the lift together. They came out to a lovely autumn evening, the sky dotted with silver stars and the wall of Tussaud's pearl-grey against the faint jade of the fading light. "What's the matter, Millie?" he asked. "I haven't seen you for a fortnight. I was watching you before I spoke to you. You looked too tragic before I spoke to you. What's up?"
"Then we'll go there."
"Happy because of the Baronet?"
He banged the door behind him and was stumbling down the dark stairs.
But something on this occasion had become too strong for him and dragged him for once into a public declaration of faith, regardless whether he offended or no.
And then suddenly the blow fell. One beautiful June morning, when the sun, refusing to be beaten by the thick glare of the windows, was transforming the old books and sending mists of gold and purple from ceiling to floor, Henry, his head bent over files of the recalcitrant letters, heard the very words that for weeks he had been expecting.
So much, for Galleon who is already now so shortly after his death looked upon as an old sentimental fogy. Sentimental? Why certainly. What in the world could be more absurd than his picture of the English gazing wide-eyed at the wonder of life? They of all peoples!
"Meanwhile," Millie said, "she's been robbing you right and left. You know she has, Victoria. You as good as admitted it to me the other day. Of course if you want to go on being plundered, Victoria, it's no affair of mine. Only tell me so, and I shall know where I am."
He parted the curtains and walked into the room. He found[Pg 322] a group staring towards the window. At the table, her hands folded in front of her, sat Christina, wearing the hat with the crimson feather as she had done the first time he had seen her. On a chair sat Mrs. Tenssen, dressed for a journey; she had obviously been bending over a large bag that she was trying to close when the noise that Henry made at the window diverted her.