She had an overwhelming realization of impotence in every direction. It came upon her like a burden; under it she grew sick and faint. At the door she stumbled, and she was hardly sure of her steps to her cab, which was drawn up by the curbstone, and in which she presently went blindly home.
By ten o’clock that night she had herself, in a manner, in hand again. Her eyes were still wide and bitter, and the baffled, uncomprehending look had not quite gone out of them, but a line or two of cynical acceptance had drawn themselves round her lips. She had sat so long and so quietly regarding the situation that she became conscious of the physical discomfort of stiffened limbs. She leaned back in her chair and put her feet on another, and lighted a cigarette.
“No, Buddha,” she said, as if to a confessor, “don’t think it of me. It was a lie, a pose to tempt him on. I would never have given it up—never! It is more to me —I am almost sure—than he is. It is part of my soul, Buddha, and my love for him—oh, I cannot tell!”
She threw the cigarette away from her and stared at the smiling image with heavy eyes in silence. Then she went on:
“But I always tell you everything, little bronze god, and I won’t keep back even this. There was a moment when I would have let him take me in his arms and hold me close, close to him. And I wish he had—I should have had it to remember. Bah! why is my face hot! I might as well be ashamed of wanting my dinner!”
Again she dropped into silence, and when next she spoke her whole face had hardened.
“But no! He thinks that he has read me finally, that he has done with me, that I no longer count! He will marry some red-and-white cow of an Englishwoman who will accept herself in the light of a reproductive agent and do her duty by him accordingly. As I would not—no! Good heavens, no! So perhaps it is as well, for I will go on loving him, of course, and some day he will come back to me, in his shackles, and together, whatever we do, we will make no vulgar mess of it. In the meantime, Buddha, I will smile, like you.
“And there is always this, which is the best of me. You agree, don’t you, that it is the best of me?” She fingered the manuscript in her lap. “All my power, all my joy, the quintessence of my life! I think I shall be angry if it has a common success, if the people like it too well. I only want recognition for it—recognition and acknowledgment and admission. I want George Meredith to ask to be introduced to me!” She made rather a pitiful effort to smile. “And that, Buddha, is what will happen.”
Mechanically she lighted another cigarette and turned over her first rough pages—a copy had gone to Rattray—looking for passages she had wrought most to her satisfaction. They left her cold as she read them, but she was not unaware that the reason of this lay elsewhere; and when she went to bed she put the packet under her pillow and slept a little better for the comfort of it.