But Fanny had shown rather less intelligence in using this argument to support her suggestion that Barbara Madden should illustrate the book. She had more than once come upon the child, sitting on a camp-stool above Mrs. Levitt's house, making a sketch of the steep street, all cream white and pink and grey, opening out on to the many-coloured fields and the blue eastern air.
She just explained that poor Platt had been the thief, and had restored it to her before he died, and that she could get no explanation, no tidings of Hester's watch; and she was gone. "Dr Levitt's early stir about this ring prevented its being disposed of, I have no doubt," said Edward. "If so, it is yet possible that we may recover your watch. I will speak to Dr Levitt in the morning."
By dint of sending a messenger to Dr Levitt's a quarter of an hour before the time, his presence was secured a quarter of an hour after it. He made his usual approach looking bland and gentlemanly, and fearing he was late. The party were ordered into the boats as if they had been going to dinner.
"It's dated October the thirtieth or thirty-first. But it's all humbug. I've reason to believe that money was never invested at all. It's all debts. She hasn't a leg to stand on. Not a leg." "Not a stump," said Barbara. "Leave her to me." She went back to the library. Mrs. Levitt's face lifted itself in excited questioning. "One moment, Mrs. Levitt." After a slightly prolonged search in Mr.
Levitt's affairs; but he was a perfect goose about his own. No wonder Fanny had asked her to take care of him. "I've no doubt," he said, "she wants to pay it; but she's a war widow, Barbara, and she's hard up. I can't rush her for the rent." "She's no business to rush you for trellis work and water pipes you didn't order." "Well well," he couldn't be angry with the child.
Besides," he said, "we've got to think of Mrs. Levitt." "Mrs. Levitt?" "Yes. Put yourself in her place. She wouldn't like it supposed that I was making love to her. She might consider the whole thing made her look as ridiculous as it made me." "I'd forgotten Mrs. Levitt's point of view. You rather gave me to understand that was what she wanted." "I never said anything of the sort."
Awful realization came to him when Barbara, with a glance at the sofa, declined to sit on it. He had turned just in time to catch the flick of what in a bantering mood he had once called her "Barbaric smile." After all, she might have seen something. Not Mrs. Levitt's laughter but the thought of what Barbara might have seen was his punishment that and being alone with her, knowing that she knew.
And Hope looked about him for pencil and paper, and hastily sketched his boy in all the beauty of repose, before he went forth again among the sick and wretched. It was very like; and Hester placed it before her as she plied her needle, all that long solitary evening. Hester went to church the next Sunday, as she wished, to hear Dr Levitt's promised plain sermon on the duties of the times.
Hitchin's estimate bit by bit, from the total cost of building the new rooms down to the last pot of enamel paint and his charge per foot for lead piping. June was slipping away while they contended, and there seemed little chance of Mrs. Levitt's getting into her house before Michaelmas, if then. So that on the morning of the nineteenth, two days before the meeting, Mr.
Thurston of The Elms, and Mr. Hawtrey of Medlicott called and brought their wives. These ladies, however, didn't like Mrs. Levitt, and they were not at home when she returned their calls. Mrs. Levitt's visiting card had its place in three collections and there the matter ended. But Mr. Thurston and Mr.