“Is all well?” asked Geoffrey.
“No serious damage,” smiled the lady, who is known in Deauville as Madame Cythere, “but you had better go and console her. I think she has seen the devil for the first time.”
He opened the door of their sunny bedroom, and found Asako packing feverishly, and sobbing in spasms.
“My poor little darling,” he said, lifting her in his arms, “whatever is the matter?”
He laid her on the sofa, took off her hat, and loosened her dress, until gradually she became coherent.
“He tried to kiss me,” she sobbed.
“Who did?” her husband asked.
“The Vicomte de Brie.”
“Damned little monkey,” cried Geoffrey, “I’ll break every miserable bone in his pretence of a body.”
“Oh, no, no,” protested Asako, “let us go away from here at once. Let us go to Switzerland, anywhere.”
The serpent had got into the garden, but he had not been a very adroit reptile. He had shown his fangs; and the woman had promptly bruised his head and had given him an eye like an Impressionist sunset, which for several days he had to hide from the ridicule of his friends.
But Asako too had been grievously injured in the innocence of her heart; and it took all the snow winds of the Engadine to blow away from her face the hot defilement of the man’s breath. She clung closely to her husband’s protection. She, who had hitherto abandoned herself to excessive amiability, barbed the walls of their violated paradise with the broken glass of bare civility. Every man became suspect, the German professors culling Alpine plants, the mountain maniacs with their eyes fixed on peaks to conquer. She had no word for any of them. Even the manlike womenfolk, who golfed and rowed and clambered, were to her indignant eyes dangerous panders to the lusts of men, disguised allies of Madame Cythere.
“Are they all bad?” she asked Geoffrey.
“No, little girl, I don’t suppose so. They look too dismal to be bad.”
Geoffrey was grateful for the turn of events which had delivered up his wife again into his sole company. He had missed her society more than he dared confess; for uxoriousness is a pitiful attitude. In fact, it is Bad Form.
At this period he wanted her as a kind of mirror for his own mind and for his own person. She saw to it that his clothes were spotless and that his tie was straight. Of course, he always dressed for dinner even when they dined in their room. She too would dress herself up in her new finery for his eyes alone. She would listen to him laying down the law on subjects which he would not dare broach were he talking to any one else. She flattered him in that silent way which is so soothing to a man of his character. Her mind seemed to absorb his thoughts with the readiness of blotting paper; and he did not pause to observe whether the impression had come out backwards or forwards. He who had been so mute among Lady Everington’s geniuses fell all of a sudden into a loquaciousness which was merely the reaction of his love for his wife, the instinct which makes the male bird sing. He just went on talking; and every day he became in his own estimation and in that of Asako, a more intelligent, a more original and a more eloquent man.