“Down at the sea, with George and Gratian.”
He was looking at her in wonder; and the pained, puzzled expression on his face angered her.
“I see the house is to let. Who’d have thought a child like that could root up two fossils like us? Never mind, Edward, there’s the same blood in us. We’ll keep our ends up in our own ways. Where are you going?”
“They’ll give me a chaplaincy in the East, I think.”
For a wild moment Leila thought: ’Shall I offer to go with him—the two lost dogs together?’
“What would have happened, Edward, if you had proposed to me that May week, when we were—a little bit in love? Which would it have been, worst for, you or me?”
“You wouldn’t have taken me, Leila.”
“Oh, one never knows. But you’d never have been a priest then, and you’d never have become a saint.”
“Don’t use that silly word. If you knew—”
“I do; I can see that you’ve been half burned alive; half burned and half buried! Well, you have your reward, whatever it is, and I mine. Good-bye, Edward!” She took his hand. “You might give me your blessing; I want it.”
Pierson put his other hand on her shoulder and, bending forward, kissed her forehead.
The tears rushed up in Leila’s eyes. “Ah me!” she said, “it’s a sad world!” And wiping the quivering off her lips with the back of her gloved hand, she went quickly past him to the door. She looked back from there. He had not stirred, but his lips were moving. ’He’s praying for me!’ she thought. ‘How funny!’
The moment she was outside, she forgot him; the dreadful ache for Fort seemed to have been whipped up within her, as if that figure of lifelong repression had infuriated the love of life and pleasure in her. She must and would see Jimmy again, if she had to wait and seek for him all night! It was nearly seven, he would surely have finished at the War Office; he might be at his Club or at his rooms. She made for the latter.
The little street near Buckingham Gate, where no wag had chalked “Peace” on the doors for nearly a year now, had an arid look after a hot day’s sun. The hair-dresser’s shop below his rooms was still open, and the private door ajar: ‘I won’t ring,’ she thought; ‘I’ll go straight up.’ While she was mounting the two flights of stairs, she stopped twice, breathless, from a pain in her side. She often had that pain now, as if the longing in her heart strained it physically. On the modest landing at the top, outside his rooms, she waited, leaning against the wall, which was covered with a red paper. A window at the back was open and the confused sound of singing came in—a chorus “Vive-la, vive-la, vive-la ve. Vive la compagnie.” So it came to her. ‘O God!’ she thought: ’Let him be in, let him be nice to me. It’s the last time.’ And, sick from anxiety, she opened the door. He was in—lying