So after that one time he kept away. But he could always see the room and Francey working there, and the slender, joyful body of the faun poised on the verge of its mystic dance.
Once, Francey was too strong for him, and they bought tickets for the theatre, and he sat hunched beside her in the front row of the cheap seats and stared down at the great square of light like an outcast gazing at the golden gates of Paradise. It was The Tempest, and he hardly understood. It broke over him in overpowering sound and colour. He was dazed and blinded. He forgot Francey. He sat with his gaunt white face between his bands and watched them pass: Prospero, Miranda, Ferdinand, Ariel—figures of a noble, glittering company—and wretched, uncouth Caliban crouched on the outskirts of their lives, pining for his lost kingdom. But in the interval he was silent, awkward and heavy with an emotion that could not find an outlet. He felt her hand close over his—an, almost anxious hand.
“Robert, you like it, don’t you? You’re not bored?” He turned to look dazedly at her, stammering in his confusion.
“I’ve never been to a theatre before.”
“Never? Oh, my dear——”
“Only to a circus, long ago.” He drew back hastily into himself. He did not want her to be sorry like that. He would not let her see how shaken he was. “I never wanted to go,” he said.
After that they walked home together, and in the empty street that led into her square a moonlight spirit of phantasy seemed to possess her, and she sang under her breath and danced in front of him, rather solemnly as she had done as a little girl:
“Come unto these yellow sands
And then take hands. . .”
He caught hold of her. Everything was unreal—they themselves and the unfamiliar street, painted with silver and black shadows.
“Don’t—you’re dancing away from me; there’s nothing for you to dance to.”
She smiled back wistfully.
“’The isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices. . .’”
“I don’t hear them,” he muttered clumsily.
“Caliban heard them——”
“And you’re Ariel,” he said, with sudden, sorrowful understanding. “Ariel!”
From the steps of the dark house she looked down at him, her eager face smiling palely in the white, still light.
“Ariel wasn’t a woman, dear duffer. You’ll have to read it. I’ll lend it to you. And then we’ll go again.”
He shook his head.
“Yes—often—often, Robert. We’ve been nearer to one another than ever before—just these last minutes—quite, quite close. We’ve got to find each other in pleasure too.”
He rallied all his strength. He said stiffly, pompously: