Ah, well! He caught himself sighing, and found that his cigar was out. With something less than his customary self-suppression he pitched it forth into the darkness. He could not even smoke with any enjoyment. He would go indoors and work.
He swung round on his heel, and started back along the verandah towards his room from which the red light streamed. Three strides he took with his eyes upon the ground. Then for no reason that he knew he glanced up towards that bar of light. The next instant he stood still as one transfixed, and all the blood rushed in tumult to his heart.
There, motionless in the full glare—watching him, waiting for him—stood his wife!
THE HEART OF A MAN
She did not utter a single word or move to greet him. Even in that ruddy light she was white to the lips. Her hands were fast gripped together. She did not seem to breathe.
So for full thirty seconds they faced one another, speechless, spell-bound, while through the awful silence the cry of a jackal sounded from afar, seeking its meat from God.
Will was the first to move, feeling for his handkerchief mechanically and wiping his forehead. Also he tried to speak aloud, but his voice was gone. “Pull yourself together, you fool!” he whispered savagely. “She’ll be gone again directly.”
She caught the words apparently, for her attitude changed. She parted her straining hands as though by great effort, and moved towards him.
Out of the glare of the lamplight she looked more normal. She wore a grey travelling-dress, but her hat was off. He fancied he saw the sparkle of the starlight in her hair.
She came towards him a few steps, and then she stopped. “Will,” she said, and her voice had a piteous tremble in it, “won’t you speak to me? Don’t you—don’t you know me?”
Her voice awoke him, brought him down from the soaring heights of imagination as it were with a thud. He strode forward and caught her hands in his.
“Good heavens, Daisy!” he said. “I thought I was dreaming! How on earth—”
And there he stopped dead, checked in mid career, for she was leaning back from him, leaning back with all her strength that he might not kiss her.
He stood, still holding her hands, and looked at her. There was a curious, choked sensation at his throat, as if he had swallowed ashes. She had come back to him—she had come back to him indeed, but he had a feeling that she was somehow beyond his reach, further away from him in that moment of incredible reunion than she had ever been during all the weary months of their separation. This woman with the pale face and tragic eyes was a total stranger to him. Small wonder that he had thought himself to be dreaming!
With a furious effort he collected himself. He let her hands slip from his. “Come in here,” he said, forcing his dry throat to speech by sheer strength of will. “You should have let me know.”