“Those are not horns,” he said gently; “only ears.”
Cramier lifted a hand and touched the edge of his own ear.
“Not quite like that, are they—human ears? But I suppose you would call this symbolic. What, if I may ask, does it represent?”
All the softness in Lennan vanished.
“If you can’t gather that from looking, it must be a failure.”
“Not at all. If I am right, you want something for it to tread on, don’t you, to get your full effect?”
Lennan touched the base of the clay.
“The broken curve here”—then, with sudden disgust at this fencing, was silent. What had the man come for? He must want something. And, as if answering, Cramier said:
“To pass to another subject—you see a good deal of my wife. I just wanted to tell you that I don’t very much care that you should. It is as well to be quite frank, I think.”
“Is that not,” he said, “perhaps rather a matter for her decision?”
That heavy figure—those threatening eyes! The whole thing was like a dream come true!
“I do not feel it so. I am not one of those who let things drift. Please understand me. You come between us at your peril.”
Lennan kept silence for a moment, then he said quietly:
“Can one come between two people who have ceased to have anything in common?”
The veins in Cramier’s forehead were swollen, his face and neck had grown crimson. And Lennan thought with strange elation: Now he’s going to hit me! He could hardly keep his hands from shooting out and seizing in advance that great strong neck. If he could strangle, and have done with him!
But, quite suddenly, Cramier turned on his heel. “I have warned you,” he said, and went.
Lennan took a long breath. So! That was over, and he knew where he was. If Cramier had struck out, he would surely have seized his neck and held on till life was gone. Nothing should have shaken him off. In fancy he could see himself swaying, writhing, reeling, battered about by those heavy fists, but always with his hands on the thick neck, squeezing out its life. He could feel, absolutely feel, the last reel and stagger of that great bulk crashing down, dragging him with it, till it lay upturned, still. He covered his eyes with his hands. . . . Thank God! The fellow had not hit out!
He went to the door, opened it, and stood leaning against the door-post. All was still and drowsy out there in that quiet backwater of a street. Not a soul in sight! How still, for London! Only the birds. In a neighbouring studio someone was playing Chopin. Queer! He had almost forgotten there was such a thing as Chopin. A mazurka! Spinning like some top thing, round and round—weird little tune! . . . Well, and what now? Only one thing certain. Sooner give up life than give her up! Far sooner! Love her, achieve her—or give up everything, and drown to that tune going on and on, that little dancing dirge of summer!