She lay on a sofa covered with white marabou, her head sunk deep into a billowy morass of lace-coloured satin and lace-coloured lace. She could see her pointed toes emerging and her arm dangling over the edge as if she had forgotten it. On her finger was a huge emerald ring, a splotch of creme de menthe spilt on the whiteness of her hand. She felt entrenched and anchored in an altogether strong position, so fixed that all advances would have to be made to her. This gave to her voice and to her gestures an indolent melodious security.
As the door opened she turned her eyes round slowly, suppressing all eagerness.
“Mortimer!” She wondered if disappointment could be as easily controlled as joy. “How nice of you to come and see me!”
“Are you glad—really?” He was kissing her hand with an unnecessary mixture of shyness and intensity.
“How intolerably literal people in love are,” she thought petulantly; “always forcing significance into everything.”
“Of course,” she said, smiling lazily.
“It is good of you to let me come like this.” How she hated his humility, but—“I like you to,” she murmured, automatically kind.
“How lovely you look! Lovelier than ever before—as lovely as ever before.” And then, “I love you.”
“Do you think so?” She seemed amused and sceptical.
“Do you doubt it?” He clutched her wrist.
“Not if you put it like that.”
“You are laughing at me,” he recognised sadly.
“Forgive me.” She put her hand on his, lightly, caressingly, her voice gentle and tender.
“But you do know it, don’t you?” He was very insistent.
("Does he think that I am blind and deaf and that no one has ever loved me before?” she wondered irritably.)
“I think you think so,” she prevaricated.
“I know,” he was firm. “I shall love you always.”
“Nonsense.” She was tart with realism. “Why do you fly in the face of all experience with meaningless generalisations?”
“I have never said it before.”
“Then how can you know?”
He hated her barrister mood.
“Elaine, aren’t you glad I love you?”
“Of course.” She closed her eyes wearily. They talked of other things and she remembered how intelligent he was. It had been—during these last months—very easy to forget. But though her interest was concentrated, his attention was on other things.
“Elaine,” he blurted, “are you going to the country to-morrow?”
“I don’t know.”
“When will you know?”
“I have no idea!”
“But when shall I see you again?”
“I can’t tell.”
“Elaine, please do put me out of my misery.”
“Very well then—I shan’t see you again this week.”
“I am sorry I bothered you; don’t punish me. I promise not to ask any more questions, but please let me know when you come back. Even if you only ring me up on the telephone I shall have heard your voice!”