Professor Wilson had been living in London for six years and he was just back
from a visit to America. One afternoon, soon after his return, he put on his frock-
coat and drove in a hansom to pay a call upon Hilda Burgoyne, who still lived at
her old number, off Bedford Square. He and Miss Burgoyne had been fast friends
for a long time. He had first noticed her about the corridors of the British
Museum, where he read constantly. Her being there so often had made him feel
that he would like to know her, and as she was not an inaccessible person, an
introduction was not difficult. The preliminaries once over, they came to depend a
great deal upon each other, and Wilson, after his day's reading, often went round
to Bedford Square for his tea. They had much more in common than their
memories of a common friend. Indeed, they seldom spoke of him. They saved
that for the deep moments which do not come often, and then their talk of him
was mostly silence. Wilson knew that Hilda had loved him; more than this he had
not tried to know.
It was late when Wilson reached Hilda's apartment on this particular December
afternoon, and he found her alone. She sent for fresh tea and made him
comfortable, as she had such a knack of making people comfortable.
"How good you were to come back before Christmas! I quite dreaded the
Holidays without you. You've helped me over a good many Christmases." She
smiled at him gayly.
"As if you needed me for that! But, at any rate, I needed YOU. How well you are
looking, my dear, and how rested."
He peered up at her from his low chair, balancing the tips of his long fingers
together in a judicial manner which had grown on him with years.
Hilda laughed as she carefully poured his cream. "That means that I was looking
very seedy at the end of the season, doesn't it? Well, we must show wear at last,
Wilson took the cup gratefully. "Ah, no need to remind a man of seventy, who has
just been home to find that he has survived all his contemporaries. I was most
gently treated--as a sort of precious relic. But, do you know, it made me feel
awkward to be hanging about still."
"Seventy? Never mention it to me." Hilda looked appreciatively at the Professor's
alert face, with so many kindly lines about the mouth and so many quizzical ones
about the eyes. "You've got to hang about for me, you know. I can't even let you