For the first time in his life he had a sense of inadequacy. Helen was not pleased with him. He was not being what she wanted.
He fell miserably silent.
Helen continued to gaze into the fire.
The Infant of Prague calmly reflected the golden lamplight in the wonderful depths of its polished surface.
Suddenly an inspiration came to Ronnie. Brightness returned to his face.
He stood up.
“Darling,” he said, “I told you that an even greater moment was coming for us.”
She rose also, and faced him, expectant.
He put out his hand and lifted the Infant.
“Helen, let’s go to the studio, where I first told you I felt sure I could play a ’cello. We will sit there in the firelight as we did on that last evening, seven months ago, and you shall hear me make the Infant sing, for the very first time.”
Then the young motherhood in Helen, arose and took her by the throat.
“Ronald!” she said. “You are utterly, preposterously, altogether, selfish! I am ashamed of you!”
They faced each other across the table.
Every emotion of which the human soul is capable, passed over Ronnie’s countenance—perplexity, amazement, anger, fury; grief, horror, dismay.
She saw them come and go, and come again; then, finally, resolve into a look of indignant misery.
At last he spoke.
“If that is your opinion, Helen,” he said, “it is a pity I ever returned from the African jungle. Out there I could have found a woman who would at least have given me a welcome home.”
Then his face flamed into sudden fury. He seized the cup from which he had been drinking, and flung up his hand above his head. His upper lip curled back from his teeth, in an angry snarl.
Helen gazed at him, petrified with terror.
His eyes met hers, and he saw the horror in them. Instantly, the anger died out of his. He lowered his hand, carefully examined the pattern on the cup, then replaced it gently in the saucer.
“I beg your pardon,” he said. “I ought not to have said that—about another woman. There is but one woman for me; and, welcome or no welcome, there is but one home.”
Then he turned from her, slowly, deliberately, taking his ’cello with him. He left the room, without looking back. She heard him cross the hall, pause as if to pick up something there; then pass down the corridor leading to the studio.
Listening intently, she heard the door of the studio close; not with a bang—Ronnie had banged doors before now—but with a quiet irrevocability which seemed to shut her out, completely and altogether.
Sinking into the chair in which she had awaited his coming with so much eagerness of anticipation, Helen broke into an uncontrollable paroxysm of weeping.