But it was not this feeling which made her stop before Mrs. Noel’s cottage; nor was it curiosity. It was a quite simple desire to squeeze her hand.
‘Anonyma’ seemed taking her trouble as only those women who are no good at self-assertion can take things—doing exactly as she would have done if nothing had happened; a little paler than usual, with lips pressed rather tightly together.
They neither of them spoke at first, but stood looking, not at each other’s faces, but at each other’s breasts. At last Barbara stepped forward impulsively and kissed her.
After that, like two children who kiss first, and then make acquaintance, they stood apart, silent, faintly smiling. It had been given and returned in real sweetness and comradeship, that kiss, for a sign of womanhood making face against the world; but now that it was over, both felt a little awkward. Would that kiss have been given if Fate had been auspicious? Was it not proof of misery? So Mrs. Noel’s smile seemed saying, and Barbara’s smile unwillingly admitted. Perceiving that if they talked it could only be about the most ordinary things, they began speaking of music, flowers, and the queerness of bees’ legs. But all the time, Barbara, though seemingly unconscious, was noting with her smiling eyes, the tiny movement’s, by which one woman can tell what is passing in another. She saw a little quiver tighten the corner of the lips, the eyes suddenly grow large and dark, the thin blouse desperately rise and fall. And her fancy, quickened by last night’s memory, saw this woman giving herself up to the memory of love in her thoughts. At this sight she felt a little of that impatience which the conquering feel for the passive, and perhaps just a touch of jealousy.
Whatever Miltoun decided, that would this woman accept! Such resignation, while it simplified things, offended the part of Barbara which rebelled against all inaction, all dictation, even from her favourite brother. She said suddenly:
“Are you going to do nothing? Aren’t you going to try and free yourself? If I were in your position, I would never rest till I’d made them free me.”