Resolutely she took a step forward. “I can’t see from here, and I won’t go and look,” she added as she crossed over.
And then, shutting her eyes:
“Jerry,” she said to herself, trying to kill his ghost with his name.
The evening air had become damp and penetrating. It made her throat feel sore and she choked a little as she breathed it.
Gingerly she approached the motor to make sure. What an absurd phrase! Why, a leap of her heart would have announced its presence, even had her eyes been shut.
She knew its every detail, the sound the gears made changing, the feel of the seat, the way the hood went up. And, above all, the little clock, ticking its warning by day, regular and relentless, while at night its bright prying eyes reminded her of all the things she wanted to forget. “It is my conscience,” she would say, “and fate and mortality. It symbolises all the limitations of life. It is the frontier to happiness, the defeat of peace.”
“Go on,” he had said, “and you will end by forgetting it.”
It was what he had called her habit of talking things “away.”
How often she had slipped into his motor after him, sliding along the shiny leather, nestling happily against him, explaining that there was no draught, that the rain was not coming in, that her feet were as warm as toast. How often he had steered slowly with one hand, while her fingers crept into the palm of the other. And then he had turned off the engine and they had sat there together silent and alone, cut off from the world. How she had loved his motor! Surreptitiously she would caress it with her hand, stroking the cool shiny leather, and seeing him looking at her, she would say, “I think my purse must have fallen behind the seat.” It had become to her a child and a mother, a refuge and an adventure, an island cut off from all the wretched necessities of existence, associated only with her and with him. It was a much better kingdom than a room; for a room is full of paraphernalia and impedimenta, with books and photographs, and the envelopes of letters to remind you of people and things that you want to forget. After all she could not sweep her house clear of her life, empty it of the necessary and the superfluous of her ties and her duties and her responsibilities.
But his motor—his little gasping uncomfortable motor—that was really and truly hers, because it was his. Here was her throne and his altar.
No wonder she sometimes stroked it a little, when it was too dark for him to ask her what she was doing.
And now, now some one else crept in after him, slid towards him on the shiny leather, murmured that her feet were as warm as toast, that there was no draught, and of course the rain didn’t come in....
Or did she say, “Do you think there is something the matter with your motor to-day? It seems a little asthmatic?”
Eve looked at the house. She could see brightness shining behind the curtains. She could imagine a glowing fire and a faint smell of warm roses. Who was the woman? What were they doing? Sitting on either side of the fireplace drowsily intimate, smiling a little perhaps and hardly talking, conscious only of the cold outside and the warm room and one another....