“Yes. As if what happened years ago matters now, Mr. Doyle.”
He eyed her.
“Don’t let them break your spirit, Lily,” he had said. “Success can make people very hard. I don’t know myself what success would do to me. Plenty, probably.” He smiled. “It isn’t the past your people won’t forgive me, Lily. It’s my failure to succeed in what they call success.”
“It isn’t that,” she had said hastily. “It is—they say you are inflammatory. Of course they don’t understand. I have tried to tell them, but—”
“There are fires that purify,” he had said, smilingly.
She had gone home, discontented with her family’s lack of vision, and with herself.
She was in a curious frame of mind. The thought of Louis Akers repelled her, but she thought of him constantly. She analyzed him clearly enough; he was not fine and not sensitive. He was not even kind. Indeed, she felt that he could be both cruel and ruthless. And if she was the first good woman he had ever known, then he must have had a hateful past.
The thought that he had kissed her turned her hot with anger and shame at such times, but the thought recurred.
Had she had occupation perhaps she might have been saved, but she had nothing to do. The house went on with its disciplined service; Lent had made its small demands as to church services, and was over. The weather was bad, and the golf links still soggy with the spring rains. Her wardrobe was long ago replenished, and that small interest gone.
And somehow there had opened a breach between herself and the little intimate group that had been hers before the war. She wondered sometimes what they would think of Louis Akers. They would admire him, at first, for his opulent good looks, but very soon they would recognize what she knew so well—the gulf between him and the men of their own world, so hard a distinction to divine, yet so real for all that. They would know instinctively that under his veneer of good manners was something coarse and crude, as she did, and they would politely snub him. She had no name and no knowledge for the urge in the man that she vaguely recognized and resented. But she had a full knowledge of the obsession he was becoming in her mind.
“If I could see him here,” she reflected, more than once, “I’d get over thinking about him. It’s because they forbid me to see him. It’s sheer contrariness.”
But it was not, and she knew it. She had never heard of his theory about the mark on a woman.
She was hating herself very vigorously on that Sunday afternoon. Mademoiselle and she had lunched alone in Lily’s sitting-room, and Mademoiselle had dozed off in her chair afterwards, a novel on her knee. Lily was wandering about downstairs when the telephone rang, and she had a quick conviction that it was Louis Akers. It was only Willy Cameron, however, asking her if she cared to go for a walk.