The breeze had died away, not a fish was rising; save for the lost music of the larks no birds were piping; alone, a single pigeon at brief intervals cooed from the neighbouring wood.
They did not stay much longer in the boat.
On the homeward journey in the pony-cart, rounding a corner of the road, they came on Ferrand in his pince-nez, holding a cigarette between his fingers and talking to a tramp, who was squatting on the bank. The young foreigner recognised them, and at once removed his hat.
“There he is,” said Shelton, returning the salute.
“Oh!” she, cried, when they were out of hearing, “I wish he ’d go. I can’t bear to see him; it’s like looking at the dark.”
ON THE WING
That night, having gone up to his room, Shelton filled his pipe for his unpleasant duty. He had resolved to hint to Ferrand that he had better go. He was still debating whether to write or go himself to the young foreigner, when there came a knock and Ferrand himself appeared.
“I should be sorry,” he said, breaking an awkward silence, “if you were to think me ungrateful, but I see no future for me here. It would be better for me to go. I should never be content to pass my life in teaching languages ’ce n’est guere dans mon caractre’.”
As soon as what he had been cudgelling his brains to find a way of saying had thus been said for him, Shelton experienced a sense of disapproval.
“What do you expect to get that’s better?” he said, avoiding Ferrand’s eyes.
“Thanks to your kindness,” replied the latter, “I find myself restored. I feel that I ought to make some good efforts to dominate my social position.”
“I should think it well over, if I were you!” said Shelton.
“I have, and it seems to me that I’m wasting my time. For a man with any courage languages are no career; and, though I ’ve many defects, I still have courage.”
Shelton let his pipe go out, so pathetic seemed to him this young man’s faith in his career; it was no pretended faith, but neither was it, he felt, his true motive for departure. “He’s tired,” he thought; “that ’s it. Tired of one place.” And having the instinctive sense that nothing would keep Ferrand, he redoubled his advice.
“I should have thought,” he said, “that you would have done better to have held on here and saved a little before going off to God knows what.”
“To save,” said Ferrand, “is impossible for me, but, thanks to you and your good friends, I ’ve enough to make front to first necessities. I’m in correspondence with a friend; it’s of great importance for me to reach Paris before all the world returns. I ’ve a chance to get, a post in one of the West African companies. One makes fortunes out there—if one survives, and, as you know, I don’t set too much store by life.”