Mrs. Brown interrupted him with haste.
“I’ll ask Mrs. Clive to bring her over one afternoon. I’ve no more of this blue wool, Robert. I wish you didn’t have your socks such different colours. I shall have to use mauve. It’s right on the heel; it won’t show.”
Robert gave a gasp of horror.
“You can’t, Mother. How do you know it won’t show? And even if it didn’t show, the thought of it—! It’s—it’s a crisis of my life now I’ve met her. I can’t go about feeling ridiculous.”
“I say,” said William open-mouthed. “Are you spoony on her?”
“William, don’t use such vulgar expressions,” said Mrs. Brown. “Robert just feels a friendly interest in her, don’t you, Robert?”
“‘A friendly interest’!” groaned Robert in despair. “No one ever tries to understand what I feel. After all I’ve told you about her and that she’s the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen and miles above me and above anyone and you think I feel a ‘friendly interest’ in her. It’s—it’s the one great passion of my life! It’s——”
“Well,” put in Mrs. Brown mildly, “I’ll ring up Mrs. Clive and ask if she’s doing anything to-morrow afternoon.”
Robert’s tragic young face lit up, then he stood wrapt in thought, and a cloud of anxiety overcast it.
“Ellen can press the trousers of my brown suit to-night, can’t she? And, Mother, could you get me some socks and a tie before to-morrow? Blue, I think—a bright blue, you know, not too bright, but not so as you don’t notice them. I wish the laundry was a decent one. You know, a man’s collar ought to shine when it’s new on. They never put a shine on to them. I’d better have some new ones for to-morrow. It’s so important, how one looks. She—people judge you on how you look. They——”
Mrs. Brown laid her work aside.
“I’ll go and ring up Mrs. Clive now,” she said.
When she returned, William had gone and Robert was standing by the window, his face pale with suspense, and a Napoleonic frown on his brow.
“Mrs. Clive can’t come,” announced Mrs. Brown in her comfortable voice, “but Miss Cannon will come alone. It appears she’s met Ethel before. So you needn’t worry any more, dear.”
Robert gave a sardonic laugh.
“Worry!” he said, “There’s plenty to worry about still. What about William?”
“Well, what about him?”
“Well, can’t he go away somewhere to-morrow? Things never go right when William’s there. You know they don’t.”
“The poor boy must have tea with us, dear. He’ll be very good, I’m sure. Ethel will be home then and she’ll help. I’ll tell William not to worry you. I’m sure he’ll be good.”