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In the office Anna-Rose found Mr. Twist walking up and down.
"See here," he said, turning on her when she came in, "I'm about tired of looking on at all this twittering round that lot in there. You're through with that for to-day, and maybe for to-morrow and the day after as well."
He waved his arm at the deep chair that had been provided for his business meditations. "You'll sit down in that chair now," he said severely, "and stay put."
Anna-Rose looked at him with a quivering lip. She went rather unsteadily to the chair and tumbled into it. "I don't know if you're angry or being kind," she said tremulously, "but whichever it is I--I wish you wouldn't. I--I wish you'd manage to be something that isn't either." And, as she had feared, she began to cry.
"Anna-Rose," said Mr. Twist, staring down at her in concern mixed with irritation--out there all those Germans, in here the weeping child; what a day he was having--"for heaven's sake don't do that."
"I know," sobbed Anna-Rose. "I don't want to. It's awful being so natu--natu--naturally liquid."
"But what's the matter?" asked Mr. Twist helplessly.
"Nothing," sobbed Anna-Rose.
He stood over her in silence for a minute, his hands in his pockets. If he took them out he was afraid he might start stroking her, and she seemed to him to be exactly between the ages when such a form of comfort would be legitimate. If she were younger ... but she was a great girl now; if she were older ... ah, if she were older, Mr. Twist could imagine....
"You're overtired," he said aloofly. "That's what you are."
"No," sobbed Anna-Rose.
"And the Germans have been too much for you."
"They haven't," sobbed Anna-Rose, her pride up at the suggestion that anybody could ever be that.
"But they're not going to get the chance again," said Mr. Twist, setting his teeth as much as they would set, which wasn't, owing to his natural kindliness, anything particular. "Mrs. Bilton and me--" Then he remembered Anna-Felicitas. "Why doesn't she come?" he asked.
"Who?" choked Anna-Rose.
"The other one. Anna II. Columbus."
"I haven't seen her for ages," sobbed Anna-Rose, who had been much upset by Anna-Felicitas's prolonged disappearance and had suspected her, though she couldn't understand it after last night's finishings up, of secret unworthy conduct in a corner with ice-cream.
Mr. Twist went to the door quickly and looked through. "I can't see her either," he said. "Confound them--what have they done to her? Worn her out too, I daresay. I shouldn't wonder if she'd crawled off somewhere and were crying too."
"Anna-F.--doesn't crawl," sobbed Anna-Rose, "and she--doesn't cry but--I wish you'd find--her."
"Well, will you stay where you are while I'm away, then?" he said, looking at her from the door uncertainly.
And she seemed so extra small over there in the enormous chair, and somehow so extra motherless as she obediently gurgled and choked a promise not to move, that he found himself unable to resist going back to her for a minute in order to pat her head. "There, there," said Mr. Twist, very gently patting her head, his heart yearning over her; and it yearned the more that, the minute he patted, her sobs got worse; and also the more because of the feel of her dear little head.
"You little bit of blessedness," murmured Mr. Twist before he knew what he was saying; at which her sobs grew louder than ever,--grew, indeed, almost into small howls, so long was it since anybody had said things like that to her. It was her mother who used to say things like that; things almost exactly like that.
"Hush," said Mr. Twist in much distress, and with one anxious eye on the half-open door, for Anna-Rose's sobs were threatening to outdo the noise of teacups and ice-cream plates, "hush, hush--here's a clean handkerchief--you just wipe up your eyes while I fetch Anna II. She'll worry, you know, if she sees you like this,--hush now, hush--there, there--and I expect she's being miserable enough already, hiding away in some corner. You wouldn't like to make her more miserable, would you--"
And he pressed the handkerchief into Anna-Rose's hands, and feeling much flurried went away to search for the other one who was somewhere, he was sure, in a state of equal distress.
He hadn't however to search. He found her immediately. As he came out of the door of his office into the tea-room he saw her come into the tea-room from the door of the verandah, and proceed across it towards the pantry. Why the verandah? wondered Mr. Twist. He hurried to intercept her. Anyhow she wasn't either about to cry or getting over having done it. He saw that at once with relief. Nor was she, it would seem, in any sort of distress. On the contrary, Anna-Felicitas looked particularly smug. He saw that once too, with surprise,--why smug? wondered Mr. Twist. She had a pleased look of complete satisfaction on her face. She was oblivious, he noticed, as she passed between the tables, of the guests who tried in vain to attract her attention and detain her with orders. She wasn't at all hot, as Anna-Rose had been, nor rattled, nor in any way discomposed; she was just smug. And also she was unusually, extraordinarily pretty. How dared they all stare up at her like that as she passed? And try to stop her. And want to talk to her. And Wangelbecker actually laying his hand--no, his paw; in his annoyance Mr. Twist wouldn't admit that the object at the end of Mr. Wangelbecker's arm was anything but a paw--on her wrist to get her to listen to some confounded order or other. She took no notice of that either, but walked on towards the pantry. Placidly. Steadily. Obvious. Smug.
"You're to come into the office," said Mr. Twist when he reached her.
She turned her head and considered him with abstracted eyes. Then she appeared to remember him. "Oh, it's you," she said amiably.
"Yes. It's me all right. And you're to come into the office."
"I can't. I'm busy."
"Now Anna II.," said Mr. Twist, walking beside her towards the pantry since she didn't stop but continued steadily on her way, "that's trifling with the facts. You've been in the garden. I saw you come in. Perhaps you'll tell me the exact line of business you've been engaged in."
"Waiting," said Anna-Felicitas placidly.
"Waiting? In the garden? Where it's pitch dark, and there's nobody to wait on?"
They had reached the pantry, and Anna-Felicitas gave an order to Li Koo through the serving window before answering; the order was tea and hot cinnamon toast for one.
"He's having his tea on the verandah," she said, picking out the most delicious of the little cakes from the trays standing ready, and carefully arranging them on a dish. "It isn't pitch dark at all there. There's floods of light coming through the windows. He won't come in."
"And why pray won't he come in?" asked Mr. Twist.
"Because he doesn't like Germans."
"And who pray is he?"
"I don't know."
"Well I do," burst out Mr. Twist. "It's old Ridding, of course. His name is Ridding. The old man who was here yesterday. Now listen: I won't have--"
But Anna-Felicitas was laughing, and her eyes had disappeared into two funny little screwed-up eyelashy slits.
Mr. Twist stopped abruptly and glared at her. These Twinklers. That one in there shaken with sobs, this one in here shaken with what she would no doubt call quite the contrary. His conviction became suddenly final that the office was the place for both the Annas. He and Mrs. Bilton would do the waiting.
"I'll take this," he said, laying hold of the dish of cakes. "I'll send Mrs. Bilton for the tea. Go into the office, Anna-Felicitas. Your sister is there and wants you badly. I don't know," he added, as Li Koo pushed the tea-tray through the serving window, "how it strikes you about laughter, but it strikes me as sheer silly to laugh except at something."
"Well, I was," said Anna-Felicitas, unscrewing her eyes and with gentle firmness taking the plate of cakes from him and putting it on the tray. "I was laughing at your swift conviction that the man out there is Mr. Ridding. I don't know who he is but I know heaps of people he isn't, and one of the principal ones is Mr. Ridding."
"I'm going to wait on him," said Mr. Twist, taking the tray.
"It would be most unsuitable," said Anna-Felicitas, taking it too.
"Let go," said Mr. Twist, pulling.
"Is this to be an unseemly wrangle?" inquired Anna-Felicitas mildly; and her eyes began to screw up again.
"If you'll oblige me by going into the office," he said, having got the tray, for Anna-Felicitas was never one to struggle, "Mrs. Bilton and me will do the rest of the waiting for to-day."
He went out grasping the tray, and made for the verandah. His appearance in this new rôle was greeted by the Germans with subdued applause--subdued, because they felt Mr. Twist wasn't quite as cordial to them as they had supposed he would be, and they were accordingly being a little more cautious in their methods with him than they had been at the beginning of the afternoon. He took no notice of them, except that his ears turned red when he knocked against a chair and the tray nearly fell out of his hands and they all cried out Houp là. Damn them, thought Mr. Twist. Houp là indeed.
In the farthest corner of the otherwise empty and very chilly verandah, sitting alone and staring out at the stars, was a man. He was a young man. He was also an attractive young man, with a thin brown face and very bright blue twinkling eyes. The light from the window behind him shone on him as he turned his head when he heard the swing doors open, and Mr. Twist saw these things distinctly and at once. He also saw how the young man's face fell on his, Mr. Twist's, appearance with the tray, and he also saw with some surprise how before he had reached him it suddenly cleared again. And the young man got up too, just as Mr. Twist arrived at the table--got up with some little difficulty, for he had to lean hard on a thick stick, but yet obviously with empressement.
"You've forgotten the sugar," said Anna-Felicitas's gentle voice behind Mr. Twist as he was putting down the tray; and there she was, sure enough, looking smugger than ever.
"This is Mr. Twist," said Anna-Felicitas with an amiable gesture. "That I was telling you about," she explained to the young man.
"When?" asked Mr. Twist, surprised.
"Before," said Anna-Felicitas. "We were talking for some time before I went in to order the tea, weren't we?" she said to the young man, angelically smiling at him.
"Rather," he said; and since he didn't on this introduction remark to Mr. Twist that he was pleased to meet him, it was plain he couldn't be an American. Therefore he must be English. Unless, suddenly suspected Mr. Twist who had Germans badly on his nerves that day and was ready to suspect anything, he was German cleverly got up for evil purposes to appear English. But the young man dispersed these suspicions by saying that he was over from England on six months' leave, and that his name was Elliott.
"Like us," said Anna-Felicitas.
The young man looked at her with what would have been a greater interest than ever if a greater interest had been possible, only it wasn't.
"What, are you an Elliott too?" he asked eagerly.
Anna-Felicitas shook her head. "On the contrary," she said, "I'm a Twinkler. And so is my sister. What I meant was, you're like us about coming from England. We've done that. Only our leave is for ever and ever. Or the duration of the war."
Mr. Twist waved her aside. "Anna-Felicitas," he said, "your sister is waiting for you in the office and wants you badly. I'll see to Mr. Elliott."
"Why not bring your sister here?" said the young man, who, being in the navy, was fertile in resourcefulness. And he smiled at Anna-Felicitas, who smiled back; indeed, they did nothing but smile at each other.
"I think that's a brilliant idea," she said; and turned to Mr. Twist. "You go," she said gently, thereby proving herself, the young man considered, at least his equal in resourcefulness. "It's much more likely," she continued, as Mr. Twist gazed at her without moving, "that she'll come for you than for me. My sister," she explained to the young man, "is older than I am."
"Then certainly I should say Mr. Twist is more likely--"
"But only about twenty minutes older."
"What? A twin? I say, how extraordinarily jolly. Two of you?"
"Anna-Felicitas," interrupted Mr. Twist, "you will go to your sister immediately. She needs you. She's upset. I don't wish to draw Mr. Elliott behind the scenes of family life, but as nothing seems to get you into the office you force me to tell you that she is very, much upset indeed, and is crying."
"Crying?" echoed Anna-Felicitas. "Christopher?" And she turned and departed in such haste that the young man, who luckily was alert as well as resourceful, had only just time to lean over and grab at a chair in her way and pull it aside, and so avert a deplorable catastrophe.
"I hope it's nothing serious?" he inquired of Mr. Twist.
"Oh no. Children will cry."
Mr. Twist sat down at the table and lit a cigarette. "Tell me about England," he said. "You've been wounded, I see."
"Leg," said the young man, still standing leaning on his stick and looking after Anna-Felicitas.
"But that didn't get you six months' leave."
"Lungs," said the young man, looking down impatiently at Mr. Twist.
Then the swing doors swung to, and he sat down and poured out his tea.
He had been in the battle of Jutland, and was rescued after hours in the water. For months he was struggling to recover, but finally tuberculosis had developed and he was sent to California, to his sister who had married an American and lived in the neighbourhood of Acapulco. This Mr. Twist extracted out of him by diligent questioning. He had to question very diligently. What the young man wanted to talk about was Anna-Felicitas; but every time he tried to, Mr. Twist headed him off.
And she didn't come back. He waited and waited, and drank and drank. When the teapot was empty he started on the hot water. Also he ate all the cakes, more and more deliberately, eking them out at last with slowly smoked cigarettes. He heard all about France and Mr. Twist's activities there; he had time to listen to the whole story of the ambulance from start to finish; and still she didn't come back. In vain he tried at least to get Mr. Twist off those distant fields, nearer home--to the point, in fact, where the Twinklers were. Mr. Twist wouldn't budge. He stuck firmly. And the swing doors remained shut. And the cakes were all eaten. And there was nothing for it at last but to go.
So after half-an-hour of solid sitting he began slowly to get up, still spreading out the moments, with one eye on the swing doors. It was both late and cold. The Germans had departed, and Li Koo had lit the usual evening wood fire in the big fireplace. It blazed most beautifully, and the young man looked at it through the window and hesitated.
"How jolly," he said.
"Firelight is very pleasant," agreed Mr. Twist, who had got up too.
"I oughtn't to have stayed so long out here," said the young man with a little shiver.
"I was thinking it was unwise," said Mr. Twist.
"Perhaps I'd better go in and warm myself a bit before leaving."
"I should say your best plan is to get back quickly to your sister and have a hot bath before dinner," said Mr. Twist.
"Yes. But I think I might just go in there and have a cup of hot coffee first."
"There is no hot coffee at this hour," said Mr. Twist, looking at his watch. "We close at half-past six, and it is now ten minutes after."
"Then there seems nothing for it but to pay my bill and go," said the young man, with an air of cheerful adaptation to what couldn't be helped. "I'll just nip in there and do that."
"Luckily there's no need for you to nip anywhere," said Mr. Twist, "for surely that's a type of movement unsuited to your sick leg. You can pay me right here."
And he took the young man's five dollars, and went with him as far as the green gate, and would have helped him into the waiting car, seeing his leg wasn't as other legs and Mr. Twist was, after all, humane, but the chauffeur was there to do that; so he just watched from the gate till the car had actually started, and then went back to the house.
He went back slowly, perturbed and anxious, his eyes on the ground. This second day had been worse than the first. And besides the continued and remarkable absence of Americans and the continued and remarkable presence of Germans, there was a slipperiness suddenly developed in the Annas. He felt insecure; as though he didn't understand, and hadn't got hold. They seemed to him very like eels. And this Elliott--what did he think he was after, anyway?
For the second time that afternoon Mr. Twist set his teeth. He defied Elliott. He defied the Germans. He would see this thing successful, this Open Arms business, or his name wasn't Twist. And he stuck out his jaw--or would have stuck it out if he hadn't been prevented by the amiable weakness of that feature. But spiritually and morally, when he got back into the house he was all jaw.
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