“You do believe in God,” she said bitterly. “You believe in yourself.”
“It comes to this, Francey, doesn’t it? You’re through with me? You don’t care any more?”
Her eyes narrowed with a kind of desperate humour. It was as though for a moment she had regained her old vision of him—a sad queer little boy.
“You say that because you want to shirk the truth. You’re almost glad—presently you will be very glad. You never did want to care—not from the first. Caring got in your way. You will be free now.” She waited, and then added very quietly, without anger: “I love you. I dare say I always shall—but I couldn’t live with you—it would break my heart if we should come to hate one another. Don’t think any more about it. I’ll have gone to-morrow, and I’ll try to arrange not to come back till you’re through. It will be all right.”
“Francey, it’s such a foolish thing to quarrel about.”
“It’s everything,” she said simply.
She turned to go. Even then he could have stopped her. He could have said: “Francey, Christine died this morning!” and their sad enmity might have melted in grief and pity. But what she had said was true. It was everything. And his reason, his will, rising up out of the general ruin, monstrous and powerful, stood like an admonishing shadow at his elbow.
“It’s much better. There’s nothing to make a coward of you now. You’re free.”
He half held out his hand, but it was only a convulsive, dying movement. He let her go.
As to Gyp Labelle, if she had known the part she played in their lives, which in the nature of things was not possible, she would have broken into that famous laugh of hers.
To her, at any rate, it would have seemed immensely, excruciatingly funny.
As the result of an exchange of two remarkably casual notes they met at Brown’s for dinner. Brown’s had occurred to both of them as a natural meeting-place. Cosgrave, it is true, had only dined there once and that free (as a friend of Brown’s friend), but the impression made upon a stomach accustomed to Soho and tea-shop fare had been indelible. Stonehouse himself dined there as a matter of custom. Besides, there was a touch of sentiment to their choice—a rather bitter sharp-tasting sentiment like an aperitif.
Brown himself had aged considerably, and did not remember very well.
“Old friend of the doctor’s, sir? Well, so am I. Getting on—getting on. But I’m waiting till I can squeeze my money’s worth out of him. When’s that knighthood coming, doctor? I want to be able to tell that story—as good a story as you’d read anywhere. He’s got to keep me alive, sir, till it comes true.”
He went off to the kitchen tittering to himself over an ancient joke which, together with his “feeling” for the psychological moment in the matter of roasts, was about all that was left him.