She searched her wardrobe, for some garment or touch of colour, novelty of any sort, to help her. But she had tried them all—those little tricks—was bankrupt. And such a discouraged, heavy mood came on her, that she did not even “change,” but went back in her nurse’s dress and lay down on the divan, pretending to sleep, while the maid set out the supper. She lay there moody and motionless, trying to summon courage, feeling that if she showed herself beaten she was beaten; knowing that she only held him by pity. But when she heard his footstep on the stairs she swiftly passed her hands over her cheeks, as if to press the blood out of them, and lay absolutely still. She hoped that she was white, and indeed she was, with finger-marks under the eyes, for she had suffered greatly this last hour. Through her lashes she saw him halt, and look at her in surprise. Asleep, or-ill, which? She did not move. She wanted to watch him. He tiptoed across the room and stood looking down at her. There was a furrow between his eyes. ‘Ah!’ she thought, ’it would suit you, if I were dead, my kind friend.’ He bent a little towards her; and she wondered suddenly whether she looked graceful lying there, sorry now that she had not changed her dress. She saw him shrug his shoulders ever so faintly with a puzzled little movement. He had not seen that she was shamming. How nice his face was—not mean, secret, callous! She opened her eyes, which against her will had in them the despair she was feeling. He went on his knees, and lifting her hand to his lips, hid them with it.
“Jimmy,” she said gently, “I’m an awful bore to you. Poor Jimmy! No! Don’t pretend! I know what I know!” ‘Oh, God! What am I saying?’ she thought. ‘It’s fatal-fatal. I ought never!’ And drawing his head to her, she put it to her heart. Then, instinctively aware that this moment had been pressed to its uttermost, she scrambled up, kissed his forehead, stretched herself, and laughed.
“I was asleep, dreaming; dreaming you loved me. Wasn’t it funny? Come along. There are oysters, for the last time this season.”
All that evening, as if both knew they had been looking over a precipice, they seemed to be treading warily, desperately anxious not to rouse emotion in each other, or touch on things which must bring a scene. And Leila talked incessantly of Africa.
“Don’t you long for the sun, Jimmy? Couldn’t we—couldn’t you go? Oh! why doesn’t this wretched war end? All that we’ve got here at home every scrap of wealth, and comfort, and age, and art, and music, I’d give it all for the light and the sun out there. Wouldn’t you?”