Another shock was waiting for me farther down the story, for we had resumed our adventures, though we seldom saw Bailey now. At long intervals we met him on our way to or from the Gardens, and, if there was none from Pilkington’s to mark him, methought he looked at us somewhat longingly, as if beneath his real knickerbockers a morsel of egg-shell still adhered. Otherwise he gave David a not unfriendly kick in passing, and called him “youngster”. That was about all.
When Oliver disappeared from the life of the Gardens we had lofted him out of the story, and did very well without him, extending our operations to the mainland, where they were on so vast a scale that we were rapidly depopulating the earth. And then said David one day,
“Shall we let Barbara in?”
We had occasionally considered the giving of Bailey’s place to some other child of the Gardens, divers of David’s year having sought election, even with bribes; but Barbara was new to me.
“Who is she?” I asked.
“She’s my sister.”
You may imagine how I gaped.
“She hasn’t come yet,” David said lightly, “but she’s coming.”
I was shocked, not perhaps so much shocked as disillusioned, for though I had always suspicioned Mary A---- as one who harboured the craziest ambitions when she looked most humble, of such presumption as this I had never thought her capable.
I wandered across the Broad Walk to have a look at Irene, and she was wearing an unmistakable air. It set me reflecting about Mary’s husband and his manner the last time we met, for though I have had no opportunity to say so, we still meet now and again, and he has even dined with me at the club. On these occasions the subject of Timothy is barred, and if by any unfortunate accident Mary’s name is mentioned, we immediately look opposite ways and a silence follows, in which I feel sure he is smiling, and wonder what the deuce he is smiling at. I remembered now that I had last seen him when I was dining with him at his club (for he is become member of a club of painter fellows, and Mary is so proud of this that she has had it printed on his card), when undoubtedly he had looked preoccupied. It had been the look, I saw now, of one who shared a guilty secret.
As all was thus suddenly revealed to me I laughed unpleasantly at myself, for, on my soul, I had been thinking well of Mary of late. Always foolishly inflated about David, she had been grudging him even to me during these last weeks, and I had forgiven her, putting it down to a mother’s love. I knew from the poor boy of unwonted treats she had been giving him; I had seen her embrace him furtively in a public place; her every act, in so far as they were known to me, had been a challenge to whoever dare assert that she wanted any one but David. How could I, not being a woman, have guessed that she was really saying good-bye to him?
Reader, picture to yourself that simple little boy playing about the house at this time, on the understanding that everything was gong on as usual. Have not his toys acquired a new pathos, especially the engine she bought him yesterday?