Florence crept up alongside him, and touched her fingertips gentle to his arm. “I will be your wife,” she said: “I will be here; and times when I must be away to my family or such, I will leave you a smile and the scent of lavender. You won’t be alone any more.”

For one awful moment Eb thought he was going to cry. He turned his face away from her abruptly, and swallowed.

“Let me show you the rest of the house,” he said firmly. “Um – thank you,” he added: “thank you. It’s what I want above all, but it finds me a bit wobbly to talk about how dreadfully lonely it’s – I’ve – been.”

She knew. She saw.

Eb led her through into the bedchamber, which had (much as she expected) a bed with a bright quilt, a night-stand alongside with its little cupboard for the chamber pot, and a second recess for books and handkerchiefs under the lamp-shelf. A chest for his clothes. A small mirror in a wood frame on the wall, to check he was all tidy.

“Do you like it,” Eb asked, in the voice of someone who really wanted to know. He stood anxiously awaiting her verdict.

“It feels like home already.” Florence smiled at him. “I shall be happy here. I think we may need some curtains, is all. I could make us some yellow gingham ones if you would like.”

Anxious less she sounded critical, she hurried on “but it’s fine as it is!

“Your bed looks cosy,” she added; then stopped, aghast at how forward such a remark might sound. But he was laughing at her: “Jah, it is,” he said, but sometimes a bit solitary and cold.”

“Don’t you have a hot water bottle?” Florence responded in sudden concern – which made him laugh even more. “Jah, I do Flo, though I can’t always be bothered to fill it – but, I’d rather have you to keep me warm.”

Flo nodded. They were not wed yet. She was not sure about this conversation taking place in his bedroom. He saw the hesitation of her sense of modesty, and liked it.

“Well; I will,” she answered him firmly, and turned back into his living room.

He followed her, and they regarded each other for a moment in silence.