Was she interested in that young ass who was risking his bones over there in the city? They had come up on the same boat. Still, one never could tell. The young fellow was almost as odd in his way as the girl was in hers. He seldom spoke, and drank with a persistence that was sinister. He was never drunk in the accepted meaning of the word; rather he walked in a kind of stupefaction. Supposing Ah Cum’s luck failed for once?
The manager made a gesture of dismissal, and added up the bill for the Misses Jedson, who were returning to Hong-Kong in the morning.
Sidney Carton, thought Ruth, in pursuit of a sing-song girl! The idea was so incongruous that a cold little smile parted her lips. It seemed as if each time her imagination reached out investingly, an invisible lash beat it back. Still, she knew instinctively that all of Sidney Carton’s life had not been put upon the printed page. But to go courting a slave-girl, at the risk of physical hurt! A shudder of distaste wrinkled her shoulders.
She opened the window, for the night was mild, and sat on the floor with her chin resting upon the window-sill. Even the stars were strangers. Where was this kindly world she had drawn so rosily in fancy? Disillusion everywhere. The spinsters were not kind; they were only curious because she was odd and wore a dress thirty years out of date. Later, when they returned home, she would serve as the topic of many conversations. Everybody looked askance at everybody else. To escape one phase of loneliness she had plunged into another, so vast that her courage sometimes faltered.
She recalled how she had stretched out her arms toward the magic blue horizon. Just beyond there would be her heart’s desire. And in these crowded four weeks, what had she learned? That all horizons were lies: that smiles and handshakes and goodbyes and welcomes were lies: that there were really no to-morrows, only a treadmill of to-days: and that out of these lies and mirages she had plucked a bitter truth—she was alone.
She turned her cheek to the cold sill; and by and by the sill grew warm and wet with tears. She wanted to stay where she was; but tears were dangerous; the more she wept, the weaker she would become defensively. She rose briskly, turned on the light, and opened Les Miserables to the episode of the dark forest: where Jean Valjean reaches out and takes Cosette’s frightful pail from her chapped little hands.
There must be persons tender and loving in this world. There must be real Valjeans, else how could authors write about them? Supposing some day she met one of these astonishing creators, who could make one cry and laugh and forget, who could thrill one with love and anger and tenderness?
Most of us have witnessed carnivals. Here are all our harlequins and columbines of the spoken and written drama. They flash to and fro, they thrill us with expectancy. Then, presto! What a dreary lot they are when the revellers lay aside the motley!