His letter in answer was much shorter. Of course he would obey her wishes. He had been selfish, thinking only of himself. As for his political career, he did not see how that was going to suffer by his being occasionally seen in company with one of the most brilliantly intellectual women in London, known to share his views. And he didn't care if it did. But inasmuch as she valued it, all things should be sacrificed to it. It was hers to do what she would with. It was the only thing he had to offer her.
Their meetings became confined, as before, to the little house in North Street. But it really seemed as if the gods, appeased by their submission, had decided to be kind. Hilda was home for the holidays; and her piercing eyes took in the situation at a flash. She appeared to have returned with a new-born and exacting affection for her mother, that astonished almost as much as it delighted the poor lady. Feeling sudden desire for a walk or a bus ride, or to be taken to an entertainment, no one was of any use to Hilda but her mother. Daddy had his silly politics to think and talk about. He must worry them out alone; or with the assistance of Miss Allway. That was what she was there for. Mrs. Phillips, torn between her sense of duty and fear of losing this new happiness, would yield to the child's coaxing. Often they would be left alone to discuss the nation's needs uninterrupted. Conscientiously they would apply themselves to the task. Always to find that, sooner or later, they were looking at one another, in silence.
One day Phillips burst into a curious laugh. They had been discussing the problem of the smallholder. Joan had put a question to him, and with a slight start he had asked her to repeat it. But it seemed she had forgotten it.
"I had to see our solicitor one morning," he explained, "when I was secretary to a miners' union up north. A point had arisen concerning the legality of certain payments. It was a matter of vast importance to us; but he didn't seem to be taking any interest, and suddenly he jumped up. 'I'm sorry, Phillips,' he said, 'but I've got a big trouble of my own on at home--I guess you know what--and I don't seem to care a damn about yours. You'd better see Delauny, if you're in a hurry.' And I did."
He turned and leant over his desk. "I guess they'll have to find another leader if they're in a hurry," he added. "I don't seem able to think about turnips and cows."
"Don't make me feel I've interfered with your work only to spoil it," said Joan.
"I guess I'm spoiling yours, too," he answered. "I'm not worth it. I might have done something to win you and keep you. I'm not going to do much without you."
"You mean my friendship is going to be of no use to you?" asked Joan.