“It rather gives away what you think, though,” she said quietly, as she went out of the room.
She passed three times through the kitchen before she could summon sufficient courage to borrow sixpence from Mrs. King to buy cigarettes. But after a while she came back with twenty cigarettes and gave them to Louis.
He stared at them.
“Only twenty!” he said gloomily. “These will never see me through all the week end.”
“They’re better than nothing, anyway,” she said, not noticing that he had not thanked her.
“I’ve only ten more—that’s thirty—till Monday at noon. I’ll never see it through, girl—never in life. How much did you get from Mrs. King?” he asked wildly.
“I only wanted sixpence for those,” she said.
“You’ve the brains of a gnat,” he cried.
They spent a miserable evening. The cigarette question was preying on his mind, and she made it no better by talking about people on desert islands, and people at the South Pole who were forced to do without things. She was worried about him; she felt that if he had something big in his life these little, mean obsessions would be sublimated by it.
And the something big came, silently and unexpected.
She wanted to go and spend the day under the great trees on Lady Macquarie’s Chair. The cool lapping of the blue water was inviting and the shade of the trees promised drowsy restfulness. It seemed to her that, if they were not near a table or chairs, he would not notice the lack of a meal—anyone can sit under trees by the sea wall and eat bread and jam sandwiches, and forget they are doing it because they have to. Louis objected. To him food eaten out of doors was reminiscent of people from the slums having tea on Bank Holiday on Hampstead Heath or Greenwich Park. To Marcella it recalled days on Ben Grief with Wullie. But they stayed indoors with blinds drawn to keep out the stifling airs of the street, and sheets dipped in carbolic solution hung over doors and windows to keep away the half dozen unidentified insect pests that worried them.
She wrote long letters home during the morning. Louis smoked and fidgetted and read the Sunday papers. She found it hard to write letters when he was walking about, sometimes watching the point of her pen, lifting a cup and putting it down again, reading a few paragraphs of the paper and dropping it listlessly, opening the cupboard door motivelessly and closing it again, lifting down books, peering behind them and letting them slip from his hands to the floor with a bang.
She glanced up once or twice impatiently. Once, looking at her apologetically he said:
“I keep worrying about those bally cigarettes, old thing.” She saw that his finger-nails, which three weeks’ sanity had mended, were bitten and gnawed to bleeding again. “I c-can’t h-help it, girlie.”