Through the winding lanes, between the tall hedges, honeysuckle wreathed and starred with wild roses, out onto the broad main road, Sabatini’s great car sped noiselessly on its way back to London. They seemed to pass in a few moments from the cool, perfumed air of the country into the hot, dry atmosphere of the London suburbs. Almost before they realized that they were on their homeward way, the fiery glow of the city was staining the clouds above their heads. Arnold leaned a little forward, watching, as the car raced on to its goal. This ride through the darkness seemed to supply the last thrill of excitement to their wonderful day. He glanced towards Ruth, who lay back among the cushions, as though sleeping, by his side.
“You are tired?”
“Yes,” she answered simply.
They were in the region now of electric cars—wonderful vehicles ablaze with light, flashing towards them every few minutes, laden with Sunday evening pleasure seekers. Their automobile, however, perfectly controlled by Sabatini’s Italian chauffeur, swung from one side of the road to the other and held on its way with scarcely abated speed.
“You have enjoyed the day?” he asked.
She opened her eyes and looked at him. He saw the shadows, and wondered.
“Of course,” she whispered.
His momentary wonder at her reticence passed. Again he was leaning a little forward, looking up the broad thoroughfare with its double row of lights, its interminable rows of houses growing in importance as they rushed on.
“It is we ourselves who pass now along the lighted way!” he exclaimed, holding her arm for, a moment. “It is an enchanted journey, ours, Ruth.”
She laughed bitterly.
“An enchanted journey which leads to two very dreary attic rooms on the sixth floor of a poverty-stricken house,” she reminded him. “It leads back to the smoke-stained city, to the four walls within which one dreams empty dreams.”
“It isn’t so bad as that,” he protested.
Her lips trembled for a moment; she half closed her eyes. An impulse of pain passed like a spasm across her tired features.
“It is different for you,” she murmured. “Every day you escape. For me there is no escape.”
He felt a momentary twinge of selfishness. Yet, after all, the great truths were incontrovertible. He could lighten her lot but little. There was very little of himself that he could give her—of his youth, his strength, his vigorous hold upon life. Through all the tangle of his expanding interests in existence, the medley of strange happenings in which he found himself involved, one thing alone was clear. He was passing on into a life making larger demands upon, him, a life in which their companionship must naturally become a slighter thing. Nevertheless, he spoke to her reassuringly.