She drank her glassful, however, while he finished the pint bottle. Then she picked up her worn gloves.
“Must we be going?” The end had come and worse torment must begin.
“Of course we must; and ’igh time too, if you knew what mother’ll say when I get home. You mustn’t think I ’aven’t enjoyed myself, though,” she added, “because I ’ave.”
Out in the street as they walked arm in arm she unbent still further. “I shall tell mother, of course. She won’t mind when she knows it’s you, because you’re so respectable. But girls ’ave to be careful.”
At her door she paused before saying good-night. She loved Dick, of course; but she wondered a little what Mr. Gilbart meant. His manner had been so queer when he said, “Must we be going?”
For a moment she waited, half expecting him to say something, meaning to be angry if he said it. Such was her crude idea of coquettishness. But John Gilbart merely shook hands, waited until the door closed behind her, and bent his steps toward home.
That was in the next street. He walked briskly up to the door—then turned on his heel and strode away rapidly. He could not go upstairs; could not face the silent hours alone. As he retreated the front door was opened. Mrs. Wilcox had been sitting up for him, and had heard and recognised his footstep. He ran. After a minute the door was closed again.
At nine o’clock next morning a sentry on the seaward side of Tregantle Fort saw a man sitting below in the sunshine on the edge of the cliff, and took him for a tramp. It was John Gilbart. He had spent the night trudging the streets, but always returning to the pavement in front of one or the other of the two important newspaper offices. Lights shone in the upper windows of each, but all was quiet; and he saw the men leave one by one and walk away into darkness with brisk but regular footfall. A little before dawn he had caught the newspaper-train for the west, left it at the first station over the Cornish border and set his face toward the sea. His walk took him past dewy hedgerows over which the larks sang. But he neither saw nor heard. A deep peace had fallen upon him. He knew himself now; had touched the bottom of his cowardice, his falsity. He would never be happy again, but he could never deceive himself again; no, not though God interfered.
He looked out on the sunshine with purged eyes. Now and then he listened, as if for some sound from the horizon or the great town behind him.
Had God interfered? How still the world was!
I ENTER THE CELLARS.
It happened on a broiling afternoon in July 1812, and midway in a fortnight of exquisite weather, during which Wellington and Marmont faced each other across the Douro before opening the beautiful series of evolutions—or, rather, of circumvolutions—which ended suddenly on the 22nd, and locked the two armies in the prettiest pitched battle I have lived to see.