“I couldn’t stay till the end, you know,” she said. “I had to go before the verdict. What happened?”
“Oh, we won—hands down; but upon my soul I’m not sure that she did actually commit adultery. There are some women—men too, for that matter—who’ll play with fire till their hearts are burnt out—but conventionality drags ’em back from the one deed that will absolutely crush their conscience, and they think themselves confoundedly ill-treated when they get their retribution. They whine, like that woman did to-day; but I’m inclined to believe that on the vital clause she was telling the truth.”
Sally had looked at him, wondering and in amazement; but she had said nothing, mistrusting herself to speak.
The effect of this incident upon her mind had softened with time—in time she had practically forgotten about it. And then came round the end of the third year. The previous year he had given up journalism entirely, his time being fully occupied with legal business at the courts. He took chambers to himself in the Temple. Sometimes Sally came down there on a quiet day and they had tea together.
“We’ll pretend,” she would say, “that you’ve never met me before—and it’s awfully unwise for me to come and see you in chambers—but I come and then perhaps—while I’m making the tea—you suddenly put your arms round my waist, and of course I’m awfully offended. Then you kiss me, and I begin to get fond of you—and then—” So she led him through a child’s game to the outburst of a man’s passion and he, amused with being the child, found in it all the burning zest of being a man.
In the Spring that followed the conclusion of that third year, she had reminded him of his promise to take her once to Apsley. He jumped at it.
“A day in the country ’ll do me all the good in the world!” he exclaimed—“and you too. I’ll write to Dolly at once and see that no one’s down there on Friday. If there isn’t, we’ll go.”
They made a day of it. In Trafalgar Square at eleven o’clock the next morning, they stepped into a taxi-cab—the same little vehicle that Taylor, from the dining-room window, had seen spinning round the curve of the drive. The hood was put down; the warm sunshine, just touched with a light sting from the regions of cold air through which it had passed, beat upon their faces. To such a day, from the grey fogs and lightless hours of winter, one comes, finding life well worth its while. Sally sat with her hand wrapped in Traill’s, giving vent to a thousand expressions of delight, drawing his sudden attention to the thousand things that pleased her eye—the faint wash of green from the buds upon the hedgerows, the bright clusters of primroses that struck light through the shadows in the wood, forcing life through the thick carpet of dead leaves that the trees had given back to earth.
“Does it worry you—my keeping on pointing out things?” she asked at last.