“I’m a selfish beast!” moaned the smothered voice. “I don’t really care for all these people—I only care because they’re ugly for me to see!”
Martin reached his hand out to her hair. If she had shrunk away he would have seized her, but as though by instinct she let it rest there. And at her sudden stillness, strange and touching, Martin’s quick passion left him. He slipped his arm round her and raised her up, as if she had been a child, and for a long time sat listening with a queer twisted smile to the moanings of her lost illusions.
The dawn found them still sitting there against the bole of the beech-tree. Her lips were parted; the tears had dried on her sleeping face, pillowed against his shoulder, while he still watched her sideways with the ghost of that twisted smile.
And beyond the grey water, like some tired wanton, the moon in an orange hood was stealing down to her rest between the trees.
STEPHEN SIGNS CHEQUES
Cecilia received the mystic document containing these words “Am quite all right. Address, 598, Euston Road, three doors off Martin. Letter follows explaining. Thyme,” she had not even realised her little daughter’s departure. She went up to Thyme’s room at once, and opening all the drawers and cupboards, stared into them one by one. The many things she saw there allayed the first pangs of her disquiet.
‘She has only taken one little trunk,’ she thought, ’and left all her evening frocks.’
This act of independence alarmed rather than surprised her, such had been her sense of the unrest in the domestic atmosphere during the last month. Since the evening when she had found Thyme in foods of tears because of the Hughs’ baby, her maternal eyes had not failed to notice something new in the child’s demeanour—a moodiness, an air almost of conspiracy, together with an emphatic increase of youthful sarcasm: Fearful of probing deep, she had sought no confidence, nor had she divulged her doubts to Stephen.
Amongst the blouses a sheet of blue ruled paper, which had evidently escaped from a notebook, caught her eye. Sentences were scrawled on it in pencil. Cecilia read: “That poor little dead thing was so grey and pinched, and I seemed to realise all of a sudden how awful it is for them. I must—I must—I will do something!”
Cecilia dropped the sheet of paper; her hand was trembling. There was no mystery in that departure now, and Stephen’s words came into her mind: “It’s all very well up to a certain point, and nobody sympathises with them more than I do; but after that it becomes destructive of all comfort, and that does no good to anyone.”