One morning Joan received a letter from Phillips, marked immediate. He informed her that his brain was becoming addled. He intended that afternoon to give it a draught of fresh air. He would be at the Robin Hood gate in Richmond Park at three o'clock. Perhaps the gods would be good to him. He would wait there for half an hour to give them a chance, anyway.
She slipped the letter unconsciously into the bosom of her dress, and sat looking out of the window. It promised to be a glorious day, and London was stifling and gritty. Surely no one but an unwholesome-minded prude could jib at a walk across a park. Mrs. Phillips would be delighted to hear that she had gone. For the matter of that, she would tell her--when next they met.
Phillips must have seen her getting off the bus, for he came forward at once from the other side of the gate, his face radiant with boyish delight. A young man and woman, entering the park at the same time, looked at them and smiled sympathetically.
Joan had no idea the park contained such pleasant by-ways. But for an occasional perambulator they might have been in the heart of the country. The fallow deer stole near to them with noiseless feet, regarding them out of their large gentle eyes with looks of comradeship. They paused and listened while a missal thrush from a branch close to them poured out his song of hope and courage. From quite a long way off they could still hear his clear voice singing, telling to the young and brave his gallant message. It seemed too beautiful a day for politics. After all, politics--one has them always with one; but the spring passes.
He saw her on to a bus at Kingston, and himself went back by train. They agreed they would not mention it to Mrs. Phillips. Not that she would have minded. The danger was that she would want to come, too; honestly thinking thereby to complete their happiness. It seemed to be tacitly understood there would be other such excursions.
The summer was propitious. Phillips knew his London well, and how to get away from it. There were winding lanes in Hertfordshire, Surrey hills and commons, deep, cool, bird-haunted woods in Buckingham. Each week there was something to look forward to, something to plan for and manoeuvre. The sense of adventure, a spice of danger, added zest. She still knocked frequently, as before, at the door of the hideously-furnished little house in North Street; but Mrs. Phillips no longer oppressed her as some old man of the sea she could never hope to shake off from her shoulders. The flabby, foolish face, robbed of its terrors, became merely pitiful. She found herself able to be quite gentle and patient with Mrs. Phillips. Even the sloppy kisses she came to bear without a shudder down her spine.
"I know you are only doing it because you sympathize with his aims and want him to win," acknowledged the good lady. "But I can't help feeling grateful to you. I don't feel how useless I am while I've got you to run to."
They still discussed their various plans for the amelioration and improvement of humanity; but there seemed less need for haste than they had thought. The world, Joan discovered, was not so sad a place as she had judged it. There were chubby, rogue-eyed children; whistling lads and smiling maidens; kindly men with ruddy faces; happy mothers crooning over gurgling babies. There was no call to be fretful and vehement. They would work together in patience and in confidence. God's sun was everywhere. It needed only that dark places should be opened up and it would enter.