THE SENTIMENTAL WIDOW 221
look that would have killed anyone else but that slid harmlessly off an aluminium tea kettle, " what a fool I'd been not to try'n cut out Pete and-----"
" No, it was live ones, too," said William ; " it was all sorts."
" But you see live ones all over the country. He couldn't've fainted whenever he saw a live one."
" He did," said William very firmly; " that's just what he did. If he went for a country walk he'd be fainting all the time."
" Lor !' gasped Maggie, and after a few minutes' silence again : " Lor ! "
" Let's have tea here," said Bert shortly.
They had reached a picturesque part of the riverside, where trees overhung a grassy bank. Bert ordered William about rather curtly in the preparation of the tea, but when everything was ready he relaxed and turned his languishing smile again upon Maggie.
" Yes, Maggie," he said, " I've had a very unhappy life. I've never met anyone but you what understood me. Never. All these years I've dreamed of you as a—a sort of—dream. You know what I mean. D'you remember us goin' a walk once an' seein' the sun gleamin' on the church steeple ? An' that's what you've always been to me—somethin' high an' bright—like that church steeple what we saw—somethin'-----"
William hastily swallowed half a bun and said :
" I once heard of a man-----"
Bert groaned, but William repeated firmly :
" I once heard of a man who climbed up a church steeple when he was a boy an' couldn't get down an' had to stay there till he was old."
Maggie's simpering expression vanished like something being wiped off a slate and an expression of amazed interest took its place.
" What ? " she said. " B-b-but why din't no one fetch him down ? "
"Somethin' high an' bright," repeated Bert dog-