To-morrow—she had told him—she was to go down, alone, to the river-house; would she not come now, this very minute, to him instead? And they would start off—that night, back to the South where their love had flowered. But again it was: “I can’t! I don’t know—I must have time!” And yet her eyes had that brooding love-light. How could she hold back and waver? But, utterly exhausted, he did not plead again; did not even resist when she said: “You must go, now; and leave me to get back! I will write. Perhaps—soon—I shall know.” He begged for, and took one kiss; then, passing the old official, went quickly up and out.
He reached his rooms overcome by a lassitude that was not, however, quite despair. He had made his effort, failed—but there was still within him the unconquerable hope of the passionate lover. . . . As well try to extinguish in full June the beating of the heart of summer; deny to the flowers their deepening hues, or to winged life its slumbrous buzzing, as stifle in such a lover his conviction of fulfilment. . . .
He lay down on a couch, and there stayed a long time quite still, his forehead pressed against the wall. His will was already beginning to recover for a fresh attempt. It was merciful that she was going away from Cramier, going to where he had in fancy watched her feed her doves. No laws, no fears, not even her commands could stop his fancy from conjuring her up by day and night. He had but to close his eyes, and she was there.
A ring at the bell, repeated several times, roused him at last to go to the door. His caller was Robert Cramier. And at sight of him, all Lennan’s lethargy gave place to a steely feeling. What had brought him here? Had he been spying on his wife? The old longing for physical combat came over him. Cramier was perhaps fifteen years his senior, but taller, heavier, thicker. Chances, then, were pretty equal!
“Won’t you come in?” he said.
The voice had in it the same mockery as on Sunday; and it shot through him that Cramier had thought to find his wife here. If so, he did not betray it by any crude look round. He came in with his deliberate step, light and well-poised for so big a man.
“So this,” he said, “is where you produce your masterpieces! Anything great since you came back?”
Lennan lifted the cloths from the half-modelled figure of his bull-man. He felt malicious pleasure in doing that. Would Cramier recognize himself in this creature with the horn-like ears, and great bossed forehead? If this man who had her happiness beneath his heel had come here to mock, he should at all events get what he had come to give. And he waited.
“I see. You are giving the poor brute horns!”
If Cramier had seen, he had dared to add a touch of cynical humour, which the sculptor himself had never thought of. And this even evoked in the young man a kind of admiring compunction.