“But you haven’t only lost your head, Geoffrey,” she said. “You’ve lost your figure as well.”
She went out quickly. With a convulsive bound Geoffrey started to follow her, but was checked before he had gone a yard.
There are formalities to be observed before a patron can leave Ye Cosy Nooke.
“If you please!” said a distressed gentlewomanly voice.
The lady whom Mr. Willoughby had addressed as Mabel—erroneously, for her name was Ernestine—was standing beside him with a slip of paper.
“Six and twopence,” said Ernestine.
For a moment this appalling statement drew the unhappy man’s mind from the main issue.
“Six and twopence for a cup of chocolate and a few cakes?” he cried, aghast. “It’s robbery!”
“Six and twopence, please!” said the queen of the bandits with undisturbed calm. She had been through this sort of thing before. Ye Cosy Nooke did not get many customers; but it made the most of those it did get.
“Here!” Geoffrey produced a half-sovereign. “I haven’t time to argue!”
The distressed brigand showed no gratification. She had the air of one who is aloof from worldly things. All she wanted was rest and leisure—leisure to meditate upon the body upstairs. All flesh is as grass. We are here today and gone tomorrow. But there, beyond the grave, is peace.
“Your change?” she said.
“Damn the change!”
“You are forgetting your hat.”
“Damn my hat!”
Geoffrey dashed from the room. He heaved his
body through the door.
He lumbered down the stairs.
Out in Bond Street the traffic moved up and the traffic
Strollers strolled upon the sidewalks.
But Maud had gone.
In his bedroom at the Carlton Hotel George Bevan was packing. That is to say, he had begun packing; but for the last twenty minutes he had been sitting on the side of the bed, staring into a future which became bleaker and bleaker the more he examined it. In the last two days he had been no stranger to these grey moods, and they had become harder and harder to dispel. Now, with the steamer-trunk before him gaping to receive its contents, he gave himself up whole-heartedly to gloom.
Somehow the steamer-trunk, with all that it implied of partings and voyagings, seemed to emphasize the fact that he was going out alone into an empty world. Soon he would be on board the liner, every revolution of whose engines would be taking him farther away from where his heart would always be. There were moments when the torment of this realization became almost physical.