But when Katie returned with him Clara’s eyes were a softer red and she managed to extract from the interview the pleasure of showing him that she was suffering.
As she watched the transaction, Katie felt a little ashamed of herself. Not because she was doing it, but because she had known so well how to do it. But with a grimace she banished her compunctions in the thought of its being for the child’s good, and hence a duty to society.
Less easy to banish was the hideous thought that she might have been able to get him for less!
By the time the attorney had gone Clara seemed to be looking upon herself as one hallowed by grief; she was in the high mood of one set apart by suffering. In her eyes was something which she evidently felt to be a look of resignation. In her hand something which she certainly felt to be an order for ten thousand francs.
The combination first amused and then irritated Katie. It was exasperating to have Clara giving herself airs about the grief which was to make such a sorry cut in Katie’s income.
Clara, in her mellowed mood, spoke of the past, why it had all been as it had. She was even so purged by suffering as to speak gently of Wayne. “I hope, Katie—yes, actually hope—that Wayne will some time find it possible to care, and be happy.”
And when Katie thought of how much Wayne had cared, why he had not been happy, it grew more and more difficult to treat Clara as one sanctified by sorrow.
It gave her a fierce new longing for the real, the real at all costs, a contempt for all that artifice and self-delusion which made for the things at war with the real.
She had enough malice to entertain an impulse to strip Clara of her complacency, take away from her her pleasant cup of sorrow, make her take one good look at herself for the woman she was rather than the woman she was flaunting. But she had no zest for it. What would be the use? And, after all, self-deception seemed a thing one was entitled to practice, if one wished.
What Katie wanted most was to get out into the air.
To get out into the air was the thing she was always wanting in those days, or at least for the last two months it had been so. At first she had been too wretched to be conscious of needing anything.
But Katie was not built for wretchedness; everything in her was fighting now for air, what air meant to spirit and body.
It was in the sense of the spirit that she most of all wanted to get out into the air, out into a more spacious country than the world Clara suggested, out where the air was clear and keen and where there were distances more vast than those which would shut her in.
For she had looked into a larger country. Allegiance to the smaller one could not be whole-hearted.