She clasped her hands behind her head. Her eyelids fell, and through her slight figure there ran a throb of yearning—of tender yet despairing passion.
“If I could only mend things there, I might be some use. I don’t want him to marry me—but just—just—”
Then her hands fell. She shook her head angrily. “You humbug!—you humbug! For whom are you posing now?”
Falloden had just finished a solitary luncheon in the little dining-room of the Boar’s Hill cottage. There was a garden door in the room, and lighting a cigarette, he passed out through it to the terrace outside. A landscape lay before him, which has often been compared to that of the Val d’Arno seen from Fiesole, and has indeed some common points with that incomparable mingling of man’s best with the best of mountain and river. It was the last week of October, and the autumn was still warm and windless, as though there were no shrieking November to come. Oxford, the beautiful city, with its domes and spires, lay in the hollow beneath the spectator, wreathed in thin mists of sunlit amethyst. Behind that ridge in the middle distance ran the river and the Nuneham woods; beyond rose the long blue line of the Chilterns. In front of the cottage the ground sank through copse and field to the river level, the hedge lines all held by sentinel trees, to which the advancing autumn had given that significance the indiscriminate summer green denies. The gravely rounded elms with their golden caps, the scarlet of the beeches, the pale lemon-yellow of the nearly naked limes, the splendid blacks of yew and fir—they were all there, mingled in the autumn cup of misty sunshine like melting jewels. And among them, the enchanted city shone, fair and insubstantial, from the depth below; as it were, the spiritual word and voice of all the scene.
Falloden paced up and down the terrace, smoking and thinking. That was Otto’s open window. But Radowitz had not yet appeared that morning, and the ex-scout, who acted butler and valet to the two men, had brought word that he would come down in the afternoon, but was not to be disturbed till then.
“What lunacy made me do it?” thought Falloden, standing still at the end of the terrace which fronted the view.
He and Radowitz had been nearly three weeks together. Had he been of the slightest service or consolation to Radowitz during that time? He doubted it. That incalculable impulse which had made him propose himself as Otto’s companion for the winter still persisted indeed. He was haunted still by a sense of being “under command”—directed—by a force which could not be repelled. Ill at ease, unhappy, as he was, and conscious of being quite ineffective, whether as nurse or companion, unless Radowitz proposed to “throw up,” he knew that he himself should hold on; though why, he could scarcely have explained.