They talked about his family and her family—a little about their mutual friends and a lot about friends of his that she had never seen.
They talked about furniture and gardens.
There were, he said, a lot of subjects on which he wanted her advice.
It was all very domestic, their two armchairs and the fire—the dying fire. He must, she supposed, be imagining that they were married, seeing her at the head of the table, in the family pew. She wondered if he would have let her re-set the family jewels. Perhaps his mind had reached the nursery. He was dreaming of children, his children, her children, their children.
Dear St. John. She looked at him tenderly. She longed to explain what an unsuitable wife she would have made him.
“What are you thinking about?” her voice was very gentle.
“I was thinking of the cattle I bought to-day, and wondering what sort of fencing I should put up at the bottom of the drive. Ariadne, you remember how gregarious I used to be; well, you can’t think how perfectly happy I am living here alone.”
Smiles were popping out of her face shamelessly. No sooner had she kept one out of her eyes than it reappeared on her lips.
“Dear St. John,” she said, “I do love you.”
He looked, she thought, a little alarmed.
“Not like that, that is all over.”
“Quite—are you glad?”
“If it makes you happier,” and then, “No, I’m damned if I’m glad.”
“Thank you, St. John,” she was laughing a little.
He looked puzzled, even rather disappointed.
She had broken the rules and laughed.
“How lucky you didn’t say that to me four years ago.”
“Don’t,” he said sharply.
He was lighting her candle.
“To-morrow,” he said, “you will choose the colour of the garden gates and advise me about the fencing.”
“That will be fun.”
“Are you cold?”
“One is always cold after India.”
He took her to the door of her bedroom.
“Good-night—God bless you,” he said.
She put her two hands on his shoulders and, bending forward, she kissed him lightly. It was a cruel way of showing him that she didn’t care any more.
“What a revengeful woman I am, punishing him after all these years,” she thought.
But he didn’t see it like that.
“I think I deserve her trust,” he said to himself, and then his thoughts, let out to graze, returned to the subject of fences.
“Robert,” wrote Ariadne, “I am homesick for India.”
TWO TAXI DRIVES
[To PAUL MORAND]
“Margaret, my dear, how delightful.”