... They were outside, the cool sea wind blew over them, and in the wind was the roar of the sea. Without a word they slipped out of the stream of people heading for the pier gates, and went to the railing, where they stood looking down on the black water.
“Why are you crying, dear?” asked Hill tenderly, as his arm crept round her.
“I dunno—I’m not the one to cry. But that little chap ... and his poor mother ...”
“You soft-hearted darling.” ... He held her close, in all her gracious and supple warmth, which even the fierceness of her stays could not quite keep from him. Oh, she was the dearest thing, so crude and yet so soft ... how glad he was he had not drawn back at the beginning, as he had half thought of doing ... she was the loveliest woman, adorable—mature, yet unsophisticated ... she was like a quince, ripe and golden red, yet with a delicious tartness.
“Joanna,” he breathed, his mouth close to the tawny, flying anthers of her hair—“Do you think you could love me?”
He felt her hair stroke his lips, as she turned her head. He saw her eyes bright with tears and passion. Then suddenly she broke from him—
“I can’t—I can’t ... it’s more than I can bear.”
He came after her, overtaking her just before the gate.
“Darling thing, what’s the matter?—You ain’t afraid?”
“No—no—it isn’t that. Only I can’t bear ... beginning to feel it ... again.”
“Yes—I told you a bit ... I can’t tell you any more.”
“But the chap’s dead.”
“Hang it all, we’re alive ...” and she surrendered to his living mouth.
That night she slept, and the next morning she felt calmer. Some queer, submerged struggle seemed to be over. As a matter of fact, her affair was more uncertain than ever. After Albert’s kiss, they had had no discussion and very little conversation. He had taken her back to the hotel, and had kissed her again—this time on the warm, submissive mouth she lifted to him. He had said—“I’ll come and see you at Ansdore—I’ve got another week.” And she had said—nothing. She did not know if he wanted to marry her, or even if she wanted to marry him. She did not worry about how—or if—she should explain him to Ellen. All her cravings and uncertainties were swallowed up in a great quiet, a strange quiet which was somehow all the turmoil of her being expressed in silence.
The next day he was true to his promise, and saw her off—sitting decorously in her first-class carriage “For Ladies Only.”
“You’ll come and see me at Ansdore?” she said, as the moment of departure drew near, and he said nothing about last night’s promise.
“Do you really want me to come?”
“Reckon I do.”
“I’ll come, then.”
“Say Monday, or Tuesday.”