Presently Jane came out, banging the door. Jane’s manners, Esther thought, were really very bad. She had probably banged the door because she had been sent to bed and she had probably been sent to bed because she had been saucy. Esther wondered what particular form her sauciness had taken, but when Jane called softly, “Esther!” she did not answer. She did not want to put Jane to bed to-night. The child flashed past her up the stairs and soon could be heard from an upstair window calling imperatively for Aunt Amy. But Aunt Amy, flitting through the dim garden wringing her hands, did not hear. Jane, much injured, went to bed by herself that night.
In the lamp-lit room there was no more music. The murmur of voices grew less distinct. There were intervals of silence. (Only very old friends can support a silence gracefully—but of course these two were very old friends.) Esther wondered, idly, how it would be best to explain her absence to her mother. Toothache, perhaps? Not that the excuse mattered. Mary never listened to excuses. She would be cross and fretful anyway and complain that Esther never treated her friends with proper courtesy. The best thing she could do would be to go to bed. But she made no movement to go; the moments ticked by on the hall clock unnoticed.
After a time, which might have been long or short, there was a stir in the room and her mother’s voice called “Esther! Esther!”
The girl stood up, smoothed her white dress, slipped out on to the veranda and into the garden. From there she answered the call. “Yes, Mother?”
“Where are you? You sound as if you had been asleep. Doctor Callandar is going.”
Esther came lightly up the steps.
“It is early,” agreed Mrs. Coombe playfully, “but I can’t keep him.”
Esther, herself in shadow, could see the doctor’s face as he stood quietly beside his hostess. It was full of an endless weariness. Her pride melted. Impulsively she put out a warm hand—
“Good night, Miss Esther. How very sweet your garden is at night. But it feels as if our fine weather were over. The wind begins to blow like rain.”
Esther’s hand dropped to her side. Perhaps he had not seen it in the dusk.
We all know that strange remoteness into which one wakes from out deep sleep. Though the eye be open, the Ego is not there to use it. For an immeasurable second, the awakener knows not who he is, nor why, nor where. Only there is, faintly perceptible, a reminiscent consciousness whether of joy or sorrow, a certain flavour of the soul, sweet or bitter, into which the Ego, slipping back, announces, “I am happy” or “I am miserable.”
Esther had not hoped to sleep that night but she did sleep and heavily. When she awoke it was to blankness, a cold throbbing blankness of undefined ill being. Then her Ego, with a sigh, came back from far places; the busy brain shot into focus; all the memories, fears, humiliation of the night before stood forth clear and poignant. She buried her face in the pillow.