Something in her pose, her absorption—lips just parted, shadow of lashes on her cheek, primrose-pale sari against the green velvet curtain—had fired him, lit a spark of inspiration....
If he made a decent thing of it, Roy should have it for a companion to the Antibes pastel: her two aspects—wife of Nevil; mother of Roy. Later on, the boy would understand. His star stood higher than usual, just then. For Nevil had detested writing that letter of rebuke; had not dared show it to his wife; and Roy had taken it like a man. No more lamentations, so far. Certainly not on this occasion, judging by her rapt look, her complete absorption that gave him the chance of catching her unawares.
For, in truth, she was unaware; lost to everything but the joy of contact with her son. The pang of parting had been dulled to a hidden ache; but always the blank was there, however amply filled with other claims on heart and spirit. A larger schoolroom now: and Nevil, with his new Eastern picture on hand, making constant demands on her—as usual—in the initial stages; till the subject of the moment eclipsed everything, every one—sometimes even herself. Her early twinges of jealousy, during that phase, rarely troubled her now. As wife and mother, she better understood the dual allegiance—the twofold strain of the creative process, whether in spirit or flesh. Now she knew that, when art seemed most exclusively to claim him, his need was greater, not less, for her woman’s gift of self-effacing tenderness, of personal physical service. And through deeper love, came clearer insight. She saw Nevil—the artist—as a veritable Yogi, impelled to ceaseless striving for mastery of himself, his atmosphere, his medium: saw her wifely love and service as the life-giving impetus without which he might flag and never reach the heights.
Women of wide social and intellectual activities might raise perplexed eyebrows over her secluded life, still instinct with the ’spirit of purdah.’ She found the daily pattern of it woven with threads so richly varied that to cherish a hidden grief seemed base ingratitude. Yet always—at the back of things—lurked her foolish mother-anxieties, her deep unuttered longing. And letters were cold comfort. In the first few weeks she had come to dread opening them. Always the bitter cry of loneliness and longing for home. What was it Nevil had said to make so surprising a change? Craving to know, she feared to ask; and more than suspected that he blessed her for refraining.
And now came this long, exultant letter, written in the first flush of his great discovery——
And as she read on, she became aware of a new sensation. This was another kind of Roy. On the first page he was pouring out his heart in careless unformed phrases. By the end of the second, his tale had hold of him; he was enjoying—perhaps unaware—the exercise of a newly-awakened gift. And, looking up, at last, to share it with Nevil, she caught him in the act of tracing a curve of her sari in mid-air.