‘He won’t come without writing. He’d be sure to write for the dog-cart.’
‘I suppose so. There’s no use in looking out for him.’
But, notwithstanding her certitude on the point, Emily could not help choosing five o’clock as the time for a walk, and Julia noticed that the girl’s feet seemed to turn instinctively towards the lodge. Often she would leave the flowers she was tending on the terrace, and stand looking through the dim, sun-smitten landscape toward the red-brown spot, which was Southwater, in the middle of the long plain.
Hubert felt called upon to entertain his friends, and one evening they all sat dining at Hurlingham in the long room. The conversation, as usual, had been about books and pictures.
It was the moment when strings of lanterns were hoisted from tree to tree. In front of a large space of sky the coloured globes were crude and trivial; but in the shadows of the trees by the river, where the mist rose into the branches, they had begun to awaken the first impression of melancholy and the sadness of fête. It was the moment when the great trees hung heavy and motionless, strangely green and solemn beneath a slate-coloured sky; and the plaintive waltz cried on Hungarian fiddle-strings, till it seemed the soul of this feminine evening. The fashionable crowd had moved out upon the lawn; the white dresses were phantom blue, and the men’s coats faded into obscure masses, darkening the gathering shadows. It was the moment when voices soften, and every heart, overpowered with yearning, is impelled to tell of grief and disillusion; and every moment the wail of the fiddles grew more unbearable, tearing the heart to its very depths.
Author and actor-manager walked up the lawn puffing at their cigars. The others sat watching, knowing that the opportunity had come for criticism of their friend.
‘He does not change much,’ said Harding. ’Circumstances haven’t affected him. A year ago he lived in a garret re-writing his play Divorce. He now rewrites Divorce in a handsome house in Sussex.’
‘I thought he had finished his play,’ said Thompson. ’I heard that he was going to take a theatre and produce it himself.’
’But did you not hear him say at dinner that he was re-writing as he rehearsed? I met one of the actors yesterday. He doesn’t know what to make of it. He gets a new part every week to learn.’
‘Do you think he’ll ever produce it?’
’I doubt it. At the last moment he’ll find that the third act doesn’t satisfy him, and will postpone the production till the spring.’
‘What do you think of his work?’
’Very intelligent, but a little insipid—like himself. Look at him. Il est bien l’homme de ses ouvres. There is something dry about him, and his writings are like himself—hard, dry and wanting in personal passion.’