‘I think I had better not.... I have some things I can sell.’
‘But you must not sell your things. Indeed, you must allow me——’
’I think I’d rather not. I shall be all right—that is to say, if Ford engages me for Brown’s new piece; and I think he will.’
‘But if he doesn’t?’
‘Then,’ she said, with a sweet and natural smile, ’I’ll write to you.... We have been excellent friends—comrades—have we not?’
’Yes, we have indeed, and I shall never forget. There is my address; that will always find me.’
He had written a play—a play that the most competent critics had considered a work of genius; in any case, a play that had interested his generation more than any other. It had failed, and failed twice; but did that prove anything? Fortune had deserted him, and he had been unable to finish The Gipsy. Was it the fault of circumstances that he had not been able to finish that play? or was it that the slight vein of genius that had been in him once had been exhausted? He remembered the article in The Modern Review, and was frightened to think that the critic might have divined the truth. Once it had seemed impossible to finish that play; but fortune had come to his aid, accident had made him master of his destiny; he could spend three years, five years if he liked, on The Gipsy. But why think of the play at all? What did it matter even if he never wrote it? There were many things to do in life besides writing plays. There was life! His life was henceforth his own, and he could live it as he pleased. What should he do with it? To whom should he give it? Should he keep it all for himself and his art? It were useless to make plans. All he knew for certain was that henceforth he was master of his own life, and could dispense it as he pleased.
And then, in sensuous curiosity, his thoughts turned on the pleasure of life in this beautiful house, in the society of two charming women.
’Perhaps I shall marry one of them. Which do I like the better? I haven’t the least idea.’ And then, as his thoughts detached themselves, he remembered Emily’s tears.
It was a day of English summer, and the meadows and trees drowsed in the moist atmosphere; a few white clouds hung lazily in the blue sky; the garden was bright with geraniums and early roses, and the closely cropped privets were in full leaf. Hubert’s senses were taken with the beauty of the morning, and there came the thought, so delicious, ‘All this is mine.’ He noticed the glitter of the greenhouses, and thought the cawing of some young rooks a sweet sound; a great tortoiseshell cat lay basking in the middle of the greensward, whisking its furry tail. Hubert stroked the animal; it arched its back, and rubbed itself against his legs. At that moment a half-bred fox-terrier barked noisily at him; he heard some one calling the dog, and saw a slight black figure hastening down one of the side-walks. Despite the dog’s attempts on his legs, he ran forward.