“It’s been awfully nice, of course. And thank you for taking me. But I don’t really care for that sort of thing.”
And for a moment they remained facing one another whilst the joy died out of her eyes, leaving a queer distress. Then they shook hands and he left her, coldly, prosaically, as though nothing had happened. But he was like a drunken man who had fallen into a sea of glory.
“The clouds, methought, would open,
and show riches
Ready to drop upon me. . .”
There was all that work that he had meant to do before morning. It seemed far off—more unreal and fantastic than a fairy tale. His heart and brain, ached with willingness and loathing.
“. . . that, when I wak’d,
I cried to dream again. . .”
He set his teeth. He clenched his hands till they hurt him.
“I’ll have to keep away from all that,” he thought aloud, “altogether—till I don’t care any more.”
After all, Rufus Cosgrave had imagined his answers. Connie Edwards met Robert as he came out of the hospital gates and told him. It was raining dismally, with an ill-tempered wind blustering down the crowded street, and she had not dressed for bad weather. Perhaps she did not admit unpleasant possibilities even into her wardrobe. Perhaps she could not afford to do so. Her thin, paper-soled shoes, with the Louis XIV heels, and the cheap silk stockings which showed up to her knees, made her look like some bedraggled, long-legged bird-of-Paradise. A gaudy parasol could not protect her flopping hat, or her complexion, which had both suffered. Or she had been crying. But she did not sound as though she had been crying. She sounded breathless and resentful.
“He heard this afternoon,” she said. “And what must he do but come bursting round to my place—half an hour before I’m due to start for the show—and carry on like a madman. Scared stiff, I was. Tried to make me swear I’d marry him and start for Timbuctoo to-morrow, and when I wouldn’t, wanted to shoot himself and me too—as though I’d made a muck of things. Well, I’d done my best, and when it came to that sort of sob-stuff I’d had enough. What’s he take me for? Get me into trouble with my landlady—making a row like that.”
Robert heard her out in silence, and his intent, expressionless scrutiny seemed to flick her on the raw. She stamped her foot at him. “Oh, for the Lord’s sake, get a move on—–do something, can’t you? I didn’t come here to be stared at as though I were a disease!”
“Where is he?”
“If I knew——! My place probably—with the gas full on—committing suicide—making a rotten scandal. You’ve got to come and dig him out.”
“Where do you live?”
“Ten minutes from here. 10E Stanton Place. I’ll show you a short way. I ran like a hare, hoping I’d catch you, and you’d put a bit of sense into the poor looney’s head. Serves me right—taking on with his sort.”