“I don’t count a ball; besides I was too tired to stop dancing.”
“You danced like an angel and your eyes were shining with ecstasy, lighting hopes all round, though of course I knew you didn’t know your partner from the parquet—if he happened to be as good as the floor.”
“You love watching me, don’t you? much better than seeing me.” How he wished she weren’t always right.
“Remember what a wonderful drama you are, Elaine.”
“A drama in which you have played lead. But you only liked the first act—the Comedy Act, and you won’t even enjoy the curtain as much as you think, because always there will be the nasty certainty of its some day going up again, and then you won’t even be in the wings.”
How diabolically clear-sighted she was!
“Bill, dearest,” she held out her hand, “you are reaching the moment when you long to be the third person. You want a little rest. You have come to the point in the life of every lover when he prefers the husband to the wife.”
But this was more than he could stand. A horrible shadow was being cast over his future, romance was shrinking before his eyes. Frightened, he bent down and kissed her. “Darling,” he murmured, nestling his face in her neck, “what nonsense you talk.”
Love, passion, romance, fidelity—all were vindicated by this deliberate act.
Her doubts, her certainties, subsided, vanished—hypnotised with happiness. “I was teasing,” she lied.
“I must go,” he said.
“Not just this moment, please; five more minutes.”
“It will be just as difficult then.”
“But I shall have had five more minutes.”
“How practical you are!”
“I will write to you.”
“And I shall try and be back in time for tea Thursday, then I shall see you, in spite of your stupid Russian.”
“If I can get away.”
“Can’t you bring him to dine with me?”
“I’m afraid not; he has asked some one else.”
“Shall I have some forms printed with ‘I miss you, bless you,’ for you to sign and send me each day.”
“Well, at any rate, I shall have you properly on Monday.”
“And please make a great effort about Thursday.”
She drew him down to her, holding his face in her hands.
“It is silly to love at my time of life,” she said; “I am too young. It is like wearing a lovely new dress to climb mountains in.”
“You will always be young,” he said; “you are eternal.”
It was his considered view; he wished she weren’t. Kissing her a little absently he walked to the door; then because he had always done so, he walked back.
“Bless you,” he said. It was perfunctory and final. The shutting of the door turned out the light in her eyes.