“Oh, all right,” he nodded, not feeling much relieved.
The strange blind anger still possessed her. She lay there immobile, expressionless, enduring it, not trying even to think why; yet her anger was rising against him, and it surged, receded helplessly, flushed her veins again till they tingled. But her lids remained closed; the lashes rested softly on the curve of her cheeks; not a tremor touched her face.
“I am wondering whether you are feeling all right,” he ventured uneasily, conscious of the tension between them.
With an effort she took command of herself.
“The sun was rather hot. It’s a headache; I walked back by the road.”
“With the faithful one?”
“No,” she said evenly, “Mr. Grandcourt remained to fish.”
“He went to worship and remained to fish,” said Duane, laughing. The girl lifted her face to look at him—a white little face so strange that the humour died out in his eyes.
“He’s a good deal of a man,” she said. “It’s one of my few pleasant memories of this year—Mr. Grandcourt’s niceness to me—and to all women.”
She set her elbow on the chair’s edge and rested her cheek in her hollowed hand. Her gaze had become remote once more.
“I didn’t know you took him so seriously,” he said in a low voice. “I’m sorry, Geraldine.”
All her composure had returned. She lifted her eyes insolently.
“Sorry for what?”
“For speaking as I did.”
“Oh, I don’t mind. I thought you might be sorry for yourself.”
“And your neighbour’s wife,” she added.
“Well, what about myself and my neighbour’s wife?”
“I’m not familiar with such matters.” Her face did not change, but the burning anger suddenly welled up in her again. “I don’t know anything about such affairs, but if you think I ought to I might try to learn.” She laughed and leaned back into the depths of her chair. “You and I are such intimate friends it’s a shame I shouldn’t understand and sympathise with what most interests you.”
He remained silent, gazing down at his shadow on the grass, hands clasped loosely between his knees. She strove to study him calmly; her mind was chaos; only the desire to hurt him persisted, rendered sterile by the confused tumult of her thoughts.
Presently, looking up:
“Do you doubt that things are not right between—my neighbour’s wife—and me?” he inquired.
“The matter doesn’t interest me.”
“Then I have misunderstood you. What is the matter that does interest you, Geraldine?”
She made no reply.
He said, carelessly good-humoured: “I like women. It’s curious that they know it instinctively, because when they’re bored or lonely they drift toward me.... Lonely women are always adrift, Geraldine. There seems to be some current that sets in toward me; it catches them and they drift in, linger, and drift on. I seem to be the first port they anchor in.... Then a day comes when they are gone—drifting on at hazard through the years——”