‘The picture?’ she said, looking up—’I don’t understand—you had sent it in.’
’Do you remember—asking me about the sketch? and I told you—it had been accidentally spoilt?’
She understood. Her lips trembled. Returning the letter, she sank upon a seat. He saw that her forces were almost failing her. And he dared not say a word or make a movement of sympathy.
For some little time she was silent. Her eyes ranged the green circuit of the hollow—the water, the reeds, the rock, and that idle god among his handmaidens. Her attitude, her look expressed a moral agony, how strangely out of place amid this setting! Through her—innocent, unconscious though she were—the young helpless wife had come to grief—a soul had been risked—perhaps lost. Only a nature trained as Eugenie’s had been, by suffering and prayer and lofty living, could have felt what she felt, and as she felt it.
Fumbling, Fenwick put back the letter in his pocket-book—thrust it again into his coat. Never once did the thought cross Eugenie’s mind that he had probably worn it there, through these last days, while their relation had grown so intimate, so dear. All recollection of herself had left her. She was possessed with Phoebe. Nothing else found entrance.
At last, after much more questioning—much more difficult or impetuous examination—she rose feebly.
‘I think I understand. Now—we have to find her!’
She stood, her hands loosely clasped, her eyes gazing into the sunny vacancy of sky, above the rock.
Fenwick advanced a step. He felt that he must speak, must grovel to her—repeat some of the things he had said in his letter. But here, in her presence, all words seemed too crude, too monstrous. His voice died away.
So there was no repetition of the excuses, the cry for pardon he had spent the night on; and she made no reference to them.
They walked back to the hotel, talking coldly, precisely, almost as strangers, of what should be done. Fenwick—whose work indeed was finished—would return to England that night. After his departure, Madame de Pastourelles would inform her father of what had happened; a famous solicitor, Lord Findon’s old friend, was to be consulted; all possible measures were to be taken once more for Phoebe’s discovery.
At the door of the hotel, Fenwick raised his hat. Eugenie did not offer her hand; but her sweet face suddenly trembled afresh—before her will could master it. To hide it, she turned abruptly away; and the door closed upon her.
After a moderately bright morning, that after-breakfast fog which we owe to the British kitchen and the domestic hearth was descending on the Strand. The stream of traffic, on the roadway and the pavements, was passing to and fro under a yellow darkness; the shop-lights were beginning to flash out here and there, but without any of their evening cheerfulness; and on the passing faces one saw written the inconvenience and annoyance of the fog—the fear, too, lest it should become worse and impenetrable.