In answer to Robert’s agonised glance, Mrs. Brown summoned William to her corner, while Robert and Miss Cannon took their seat again upon the sofa.
“I hope—I hope,” said Robert soulfully, “I hope your stay here is a long one?”
“Well, why sha’n’t I jus’ speak to her?” William’s whisper was loud and indignant.
“’Sh, dear!” said Mrs. Brown.
“I should like to show you some of the walks around here,” went on Robert desperately with a fearful glance towards the corner where William stood in righteous indignation before his mother. “If I could have that—er—pleasure—er—honour?”
“I was only jus’ speaking to her,” went on William’s voice. “I wasn’t doin’ any harm, was I? Only speaking to her!”
The silence was intense. Robert, purple, opened his lips to say something, anything to drown that horrible voice, but nothing would come. Miss Cannon was obviously listening to William.
“Is no one else ever to speak to her.” The sibilant whisper, raised in indignant appeal, filled all the room. “Jus’ ’cause Robert’s fell in love with her?”
The horror of the moment haunted Robert’s nights and days for weeks to come.
Mrs. Brown coughed hastily and began to describe at unnecessary length the ravages of the caterpillars upon her husband’s favourite rose-tree.
William withdrew with dignity to the garden a minute later and Miss Cannon rose from the sofa.
“I must be going, I’m afraid,” she said with a smile.
Robert, anguished and overpowered, rose slowly.
“You must come again some time,” he said weakly but with passion undaunted.
“I will,” she said. “I’m longing to see more of William. I adore William!”