“After all, what Mother Winifred says is the truth, only I could not do otherwise. Now, goodbye, I’ll come to see you again, may I not?”
They did not seem very anxious on this point, and Evelyn thought it quite possible she might never see the convent again, which had meant so much to her and which was now behind her. Her thoughts were already engaged in the world towards which she was going, and thinking of the etiolated hands of the nuns she remembered the brown hands of her poor people; it was these hands that had drawn her out of the convent, so she liked to think; and it was nearly the truth, not the whole truth, for that we may never know.
The blinds of 27, Berkeley Square were always down, and when Sir Owen’s friends called the answer was invariably the same: “No news of Sir Owen yet; his letters aren’t forwarded; business matters are attended to by Mr. Watts, the secretary.” And Sir Owen’s friends went away wondering when the wandering spirit would die in him.
It was these last travels, extending over two years, in the Far East, that killed it; Owen felt sure of that when he entered his house, glad of its comfort, glad to be home again; and sinking into his armchair he began to read his letters, wondering how he should answer the different invitations, for every one was now more than six months old, some going back as far as eighteen months. It seemed absurd to write to Lady So-and-so, thanking her for an invitation so long gone by. All the same, he would like to see her, and all his friends, the most tedious would be welcome now. He tore open the envelopes, reading the letters greedily, unsuspicious of one amongst them which would make him forget the others—a letter from Evelyn. It came at last under his hand, and having glanced through it he sank back in his chair, overcome, not so much by surprise that she had left her convent as at finding that the news had put no great gladness into his heart, rather, a feeling of disappointment.
“How little one knows about oneself!” But he wasn’t sorry she had left the convent. A terrible result of time and travel it would be if his first feeling on opening her letter were one of disappointment. He was sorry she had been disappointed, and thought for a long time of that long waste of life, five years spent with nuns. “We are strange beings, indeed,” he said. And getting up, he looked out the place she wrote from, discovering it to be a Surrey village, probably about thirty miles from London, with a bad train service; and having sent a telegram asking if it would suit her for him to go down to see her next day, he fell back in his chair to think more easily how his own life had been affected by Evelyn’s retreat from the convent; and again he experienced a feeling of disappointment. “A long waste of life, not only of her life, but of mine,” for he had travelled thousands of miles... to forget her? Good heavens, no!