“I must go back,” he said, a little thickly. “I forgot that Ruth is so shy. She will be frightened alone.”
He walked away down the pergola without even waiting for her. It was very rude, but she only leaned back in her chair and laughed. In a way, it was a triumph!
ARNOLD SPEAKS OUT
Ruth was still alone, and her welcome was almost pathetic. She stretched out her arms—long, thin arms they seemed in the tight black sleeves of her worn gown. She had discarded her carefully mended gloves and her hands were bare.
“Arnold,” she murmured, “how long you have been away!”
He threw himself on the grass by her side.
“Silly little woman!” he answered. “Don’t tell me that you are not enjoying it?”
“It is all wonderful,” she whispered, “but can’t you see that I am out of place? When could we go, Arnie?”
“Are you so anxious to get away?” he asked, lazily.
“In a way, I should be content to stay here for ever,” she answered. “If you and I only could be here—why, Arnold, it is like Heaven! Just close your eyes as I have been doing—like that. Now listen. There isn’t any undernote, none of that ceaseless, awful monotony of sound that seems like the falling of weary men’s feet upon the eternal pavement. Listen—there is a bird singing somewhere in that tree, and the water goes lapping and lapping and lapping, as though it had something pleasant to say but were too lazy to say it. And every now and then, if you listen very intently, you can hear laughing voices through the trees there from the river, laughter from people who are happy, who are sailing on somewhere to find their city of pleasure. And the perfumes, Arnold! I don’t know what the rose garden is like, but even from here I can smell it. It is wonderful.”
“Yet you ask me when we are going,” he reminded her.
She shivered for a moment.
“It is not my world,” she declared. “I am squeezed for a moment into a little corner of it, but it is not mine and I have nothing to do with it. She is so beautiful, that woman, and so gracious. She talks to me out of pity, but when I first came she looked at me and there was a challenge in her eyes. What did it mean, Arnold? Is she fond of you? Is she going to be fond of you?”
He laughed, a little impatiently.
“My dear Ruth,” he said, “she is my employer’s wife. She has been kind to me because I think that she is naturally kind, and because lately she has not found among her friends many people of her own age. Beyond that, there is nothing; there is never likely to be anything. She mixes in a world where she can have all the admiration she desires, and all the friends.”
“Yet she looks at you,” Ruth persisted, in a troubled tone, “as though she had some claim; as though I, even poor I, were an interloper for the tiny share I might have of your thoughts or sympathy. I do not understand it.”