MR. AND MRS. DOVE.
Of course he knew--no man better--that he hadn't a ghost of a chance,
hadn't an earthly. The very idea of such a thing was preposterous.
preposterous that he'd perfectly understand it if her father--well,
whatever her father chose to do he'd perfectly understand. In fact,
nothing short of desperation, nothing short of the fact that this
positively his last day in England for God knows how long, would
screwed him up to it. And even now...He chose a tie out of the chest
drawers, a blue and cream check tie, and sat on the side of his
Supposing she replied, "What impertinence!" would he be
surprised? Not in
the least, he decided, turning up his soft collar and turning it
the tie. He expected her to say something like that. He didn't see,
looked at the affair dead soberly, what else she could say.
Here he was! And nervously he tied a bow in front of the mirror,
his hair down with both hands, pulled out the flaps of his jacket
Making between 500 and 600 pounds a year on a fruit farm in--of
-Rhodesia. No capital. Not a penny coming to him. No chance of his
income increasing for at least four years. As for looks and all
of thing, he was completely out of the running. He couldn't even
top-hole health, for the East Africa business had knocked him out
thoroughly that he'd had to take six months' leave. He was still
pale--worse even than usual this afternoon, he thought, bending
peering into the mirror. Good heavens! What had happened? His hair
looked almost bright green. Dash it all, he hadn't green hair at
events. That was a bit too steep. And then the green light trembled
the glass; it was the shadow from the tree outside. Reggie turned
took out his cigarette case, but remembering how the mater hated
smoke in his bedroom, put it back again and drifted over to the
drawers. No, he was dashed if he could think of one blessed thing
favour, while she...Ah!...He stopped dead, folded his arms, and
against the chest of drawers.
And in spite of her position, her father's wealth, the fact that
she was an
only child and far and away the most popular girl in the neighbourhood;
spite of her beauty and her cleverness--cleverness!--it was a great
more than that, there was really nothing she couldn't do; he fully
believed, had it been necessary, she would have been a genius at
in spite of the fact that her parents adored her, and she them,
as soon let her go all that way as...In spite of every single thing
could think of, so terrific was his love that he couldn't help hoping.
Well, was it hope? Or was this queer, timid longing to have the
looking after her, of making it his job to see that she had everything
wanted, and that nothing came near her that wasn't perfect--just
he loved her! He squeezed hard against the chest of drawers and
to it, "I love her, I love her!" And just for the moment
he was with her
on the way to Umtali. It was night. She sat in a corner asleep.
chin was tucked into her soft collar, her gold-brown lashes lay
cheeks. He doted on her delicate little nose, her perfect lips,
like a baby's, and the gold-brown curl that half covered it. They
passing through the jungle. It was warm and dark and far away. Then
woke up and said, "Have I been asleep?" and he answered,
"Yes. Are you all
right? Here, let me--" And he leaned forward to...He bent over
was such bliss that he could dream no further. But it gave him the
to bound downstairs, to snatch his straw hat from the hall, and
to say as
he closed the front door, "Well, I can only try my luck, that's
But his luck gave him a nasty jar, to say the least, almost immediately.
Promenading up and down the garden path with Chinny and Biddy, the
Pekes, was the mater. Of course Reginald was fond of the mater and
that. She--she meant well, she had no end of grit, and so on. But
was no denying it, she was rather a grim parent. And there had been
moments, many of them, in Reggie's life, before Uncle Alick died
him the fruit farm, when he was convinced that to be a widow's only
about the worst punishment a chap could have. And what made it rougher
than ever was that she was positively all that he had. She wasn't
combined parent, as it were, but she had quarrelled with all her
the governor's relations before Reggie had won his first trouser
So that whenever Reggie was homesick out there, sitting on his dark
by starlight, while the gramophone cried, "Dear, what is Life
his only vision was of the mater, tall and stout, rustling down
path, with Chinny and Biddy at her heels...
The mater, with her scissors outspread to snap the head of a dead
or other, stopped at the sight of Reggie.
"You are not going out, Reginald?" she asked, seeing
that he was.
"I'll be back for tea, mater," said Reggie weakly, plunging
his hands into
his jacket pockets.
Snip. Off came a head. Reggie almost jumped.
"I should have thought you could have spared your mother your
afternoon," said she.
Silence. The Pekes stared. They understood every word of the mater's.
Biddy lay down with her tongue poked out; she was so fat and glossy
looked like a lump of half-melted toffee. But Chinny's porcelain
gloomed at Reginald, and he sniffed faintly, as though the whole
one unpleasant smell. Snip, went the scissors again. Poor little
they were getting it!
"And where are you going, if your mother may ask?" asked
It was over at last, but Reggie did not slow down until he was
out of sight
of the house and half-way to Colonel Proctor's. Then only he noticed
a top-hole afternoon it was. It had been raining all the morning,
summer rain, warm, heavy, quick, and now the sky was clear, except
long tail of little clouds, like duckings, sailing over the forest.
was just enough wind to shake the last drops off the trees; one
splashed on his hand. Ping!--another drummed on his hat. The empty
gleamed, the hedges smelled of briar, and how big and bright the
glowed in the cottage gardens. And here was Colonel Proctor's--here
already. His hand was on the gate, his elbow jogged the syringa
and petals and pollen scattered over his coat sleeve. But wait a
This was too quick altogether. He'd meant to think the whole thing
again. Here, steady. But he was walking up the path, with the huge
bushes on either side. It can't be done like this. But his hand
grasped the bell, given it a pull, and started it pealing wildly,
he'd come to say the house was on fire. The housemaid must have
the hall, too, for the front door flashed open, and Reggie was shut
empty drawing-room before that confounded bell had stopped ringing.
Strangely enough, when it did, the big room, shadowy, with some
parasol lying on top of the grand piano, bucked him up--or rather,
him. It was so quiet, and yet in one moment the door would open,
fate be decided. The feeling was not unlike that of being at the
dentist's; he was almost reckless. But at the same time, to his
surprise, Reggie heard himself saying, "Lord, Thou knowest,
Thou hast not
done much for me..." That pulled him up; that made him realize
dead serious it was. Too late. The door handle turned. Anne came
crossed the shadowy space between them, gave him her hand, and said,
small, soft voice, "I'm so sorry, father is out. And mother
is having a
day in town, hat-hunting. There's only me to entertain you, Reggie."
Reggie gasped, pressed his own hat to his jacket buttons, and stammered
out, "As a matter of fact, I've only come...to say good-bye."
"Oh!" cried Anne softly--she stepped back from him and
her grey eyes
danced--"what a very short visit!"
Then, watching him, her chin tilted, she laughed outright, a long,
peal, and walked away from him over to the piano, and leaned against
playing with the tassel of the parasol.
"I'm so sorry," she said, "to be laughing like this.
I don't know why I
do. It's just a bad ha--habit." And suddenly she stamped her
and took a pocket-handkerchief out of her white woolly jacket. "I
must conquer it, it's too absurd," said she.
"Good heavens, Anne," cried Reggie, "I love to hear
you laughing! I can't
imagine anything more--"
But the truth was, and they both knew it, she wasn't always laughing;
wasn't really a habit. Only ever since the day they'd met, ever
very first moment, for some strange reason that Reggie wished to
understood, Anne had laughed at him. Why? It didn't matter where
were or what they were talking about. They might begin by being
as possible, dead serious--at any rate, as far as he was concerned--but
then suddenly, in the middle of a sentence, Anne would glance at
him, and a
little quick quiver passed over her face. Her lips parted, her eyes
danced, and she began laughing.
Another queer thing about it was, Reggie had an idea she didn't
know why she laughed. He had seen her turn away, frown, suck in
cheeks, press her hands together. But it was no use. The long, soft
sounded, even while she cried, "I don't know why I'm laughing."
It was a
Now she tucked the handkerchief away.
"Do sit down," said she. "And smoke, won't you?
There are cigarettes in
that little box beside you. I'll have one too." He lighted
a match for
her, and as she bent forward he saw the tiny flame glow in the pearl
she wore. "It is to-morrow that you're going, isn't it?"
"Yes, to-morrow as ever was," said Reggie, and he blew
a little fan of
smoke. Why on earth was he so nervous? Nervous wasn't the word for
"It's--it's frightfully hard to believe," he added.
"Yes--isn't it?" said Anne softly, and she leaned forward
and rolled the
point of her cigarette round the green ash-tray. How beautiful she
like that!--simply beautiful--and she was so small in that immense
Reginald's heart swelled with tenderness, but it was her voice,
voice, that made him tremble. "I feel you've been here for
Reginald took a deep breath of his cigarette. "It's ghastly,
this idea of
going back," be said.
"Coo-roo-coo-coo-coo," sounded from the quiet.
"But you're fond of being out there, aren't you?" said
Anne. She hooked
her finger through her pearl necklace. "Father was saying only
night how lucky he thought you were to have a life of your own."
looked up at him. Reginald's smile was rather wan. "I don't
fearfully lucky," he said lightly.
"Roo-coo-coo-coo," came again. And Anne murmured, "You
mean it's lonely."
"Oh, it isn't the loneliness I care about," said Reginald,
and he stumped
his cigarette savagely on the green ash-tray. "I could stand
any amount of
it, used to like it even. It's the idea of--" Suddenly, to
his horror, he
felt himself blushing.
Anne jumped up. "Come and say good-bye to my doves,"
she said. "They've
been moved to the side veranda. You do like doves, don't you, Reggie?"
"Awfully," said Reggie, so fervently that as he opened
the French window
for her and stood to one side, Anne ran forward and laughed at the
To and fro, to and fro over the fine red sand on the floor of the
house, walked the two doves. One was always in front of the other.
ran forward, uttering a little cry, and the other followed, solemnly
and bowing. "You see," explained Anne, "the one in
front, she's Mrs. Dove.
She looks at Mr. Dove and gives that little laugh and runs forward,
follows her, bowing and bowing. And that makes her laugh again.
runs, and after her," cried Anne, and she sat back on her heels,
poor Mr. Dove, bowing and bowing...and that's their whole life.
do anything else, you know." She got up and took some yellow
grains out of
a bag on the roof of the dove house. "When you think of them,
Rhodesia, Reggie, you can be sure that is what they will be doing..."
Reggie gave no sign of having seen the doves or of having heard
For the moment he was conscious only of the immense effort it took
his secret out of himself and offer it to Anne. "Anne, do you
could ever care for me?" It was done. It was over. And in the
pause that followed Reginald saw the garden open to the light, the
quivering sky, the flutter of leaves on the veranda poles, and Anne
over the grains of maize on her palm with one finger. Then slowly
her hand, and the new world faded as she murmured slowly, "No,
that way." But he had scarcely time to feel anything before
quickly away, and he followed her down the steps, along the garden
under the pink rose arches, across the lawn. There, with the gay
herbaceous border behind her, Anne faced Reginald. "It isn't
that I'm not
awfully fond of you," she said. "I am. But"--her
eyes widened--"not in
the way"--a quiver passed over her face--"one ought to
be fond of--" Her
lips parted, and she couldn't stop herself. She began laughing.
you see, you see," she cried, "it's your check t-tie.
Even at this moment,
when one would think one really would be solemn, your tie reminds
fearfully of the bow-tie that cats wear in pictures! Oh, please
for being so horrid, please!"
Reggie caught hold of her little warm hand. "There's no question
forgiving you," he said quickly. "How could there be?
And I do believe I
know why I make you laugh. It's because you're so far above me in
way that I am somehow ridiculous. I see that, Anne. But if I were
"No, no." Anne squeezed his hand hard. "It's not
that. That's all wrong.
I'm not far above you at all. You're much better than I am. You're
marvellously unselfish and...and kind and simple. I'm none of those
things. You don't know me. I'm the most awful character," said
"Please don't interrupt. And besides, that's not the point.
is"--she shook her head--"I couldn't possibly marry a
man I laughed at.
Surely you see that. The man I marry--" breathed Anne softly.
off. She drew her hand away, and looking at Reggie she smiled strangely,
dreamily. "The man I marry--"
And it seemed to Reggie that a tall, handsome, brilliant stranger
in front of him and took his place--the kind of man that Anne and
seen often at the theatre, walking on to the stage from nowhere,
word catching the heroine in his arms, and after one long, tremendous
carrying her off to anywhere...
Reggie bowed to his vision. "Yes, I see," he said huskily.
"Do you?" said Anne. "Oh, I do hope you do. Because
I feel so horrid
about it. It's so hard to explain. You know I've never--" She
Reggie looked at her. She was smiling. "Isn't it funny?"
she said. "I
can say anything to you. I always have been able to from the very
He tried to smile, to say "I'm glad." She went on. "I've
never known any
one I like as much as I like you. I've never felt so happy with
But I'm sure it's not what people and what books mean when they
love. Do you understand? Oh, if you only knew how horrid I feel.
we'd be like...like Mr. and Mrs. Dove."
That did it. That seemed to Reginald final, and so terribly true
could hardly bear it. "Don't drive it home," he said,
and he turned away
from Anne and looked across the lawn. There was the gardener's cottage,
with the dark ilex-tree beside it. A wet, blue thumb of transparent
hung above the chimney. It didn't look real. How his throat ached!
he speak? He had a shot. "I must be getting along home,"
he croaked, and
he began walking across the lawn. But Anne ran after him. "No,
You can't go yet," she said imploringly. "You can't possibly
feeling like that." And she stared up at him frowning, biting
"Oh, that's all right," said Reggie, giving himself a
I'll--" And he waved his hand as much to say "get over
"But this is awful," said Anne. She clasped her hands
and stood in front
of him. "Surely you do see how fatal it would be for us to
"Oh, quite, quite," said Reggie, looking at her with
"How wrong, how wicked, feeling as I do. I mean, it's all
very well for
Mr. and Mrs. Dove. But imagine that in real life--imagine it!"
"Oh, absolutely," said Reggie, and he started to walk
on. But again Anne
stopped him. She tugged at his sleeve, and to his astonishment,
instead of laughing, she looked like a little girl who was going
"Then why, if you understand, are you so un-unhappy?"
she wailed. "Why do
you mind so fearfully? Why do you look so aw-awful?"
Reggie gulped, and again he waved something away. "I can't
help it," he
said, "I've had a blow. If I cut off now, I'll be able to--"
"How can you talk of cutting off now?" said Anne scornfully.
her foot at Reggie; she was crimson. "How can you be so cruel?
let you go until I know for certain that you are just as happy as
before you asked me to marry you. Surely you must see that, it's
But it did not seem at all simple to Reginald. It seemed impossibly
"Even if I can't marry you, how can I know that you're all
that way away,
with only that awful mother to write to, and that you're miserable,
that it's all my fault?"
"It's not your fault. Don't think that. It's just fate."
Reggie took her
hand off his sleeve and kissed it. "Don't pity me, dear little
said gently. And this time he nearly ran, under the pink arches,
"Roo-coo-coo-coo! Roo-coo-coo-coo!" sounded from the
Reggie," from the garden.
He stopped, he turned. But when she saw his timid, puzzled look,
a little laugh.
"Come back, Mr. Dove," said Anne. And Reginald came slowly