An hour went by, and Dromore did not come. And the loneliness of this young creature in her incongruous abode began telling on Lennan’s equanimity.
What did she do in the evenings?
“Sometimes I go to the theatre with Dad, generally I stay at home.”
“Oh! I just read, or talk French.”
“What? To yourself?”
“Yes, or to Oliver sometimes, when he comes in.”
So Oliver came in!
“How long have you known Oliver?”
“Oh! ever since I was a child.”
He wanted to say: And how long is that? But managed to refrain, and got up to go instead. She caught his sleeve and said:
“You’re not to go!” Saying that she looked as a dog will, going to bite in fun, her upper lip shortened above her small white teeth set fast on her lower lip, and her chin thrust a little forward. A glimpse of a wilful spirit! But as soon as he had smiled, and murmured:
“Ah! but I must, you see!” she at once regained her manners, only saying rather mournfully: “You don’t call me by my name. Don’t you like it?”
“Yes. It’s really Eleanor, of course. Don’t you like it?”
If he had detested the name, he could only have answered: “Very much.”
“I’m awfully glad! Good-bye.”
When he got out into the street, he felt terribly like a man who, instead of having had his sleeve touched, has had his heart plucked at. And that warm, bewildered feeling lasted him all the way home.
Changing for dinner, he looked at himself with unwonted attention. Yes, his dark hair was still thick, but going distinctly grey; there were very many lines about his eyes, too, and those eyes, still eager when they smiled, were particularly deepset, as if life had forced them back. His cheekbones were almost ‘bopsies’ now, and his cheeks very thin and dark, and his jaw looked too set and bony below the almost black moustache. Altogether a face that life had worn a good deal, with nothing for a child to take a fancy to and make friends with, that he could see.
Sylvia came in while he was thus taking stock of himself, bringing a freshly-opened flask of eau-de-Cologne. She was always bringing him something—never was anyone so sweet in those ways. In that grey, low-cut frock, her white, still prettiness and pale-gold hair, so little touched by Time, only just fell short of real beauty for lack of a spice of depth and of incisiveness, just as her spirit lacked he knew not what of poignancy. He would not for the world have let her know that he ever felt that lack. If a man could not hide little rifts in the lute from one so good and humble and affectionate, he was not fit to live.
She sang ‘The Castle of Dromore’ again that night with its queer haunting lilt. And when she had gone up, and he was smoking over the fire, the girl in her dark-red frock seemed to come, and sit opposite with her eyes fixed on his, just as she had been sitting while they talked. Dark red had suited her! Suited the look on her face when she said: