“My God, to-morrow I’ll be off!”
But every morning when he met her at breakfast his thought was precisely the same, and there were moments when he caught himself wondering: “Am I falling under the spell of this existence—am I getting soft?” He recognized as never before that the peculiar artificial ‘hardness’ of the patrician was a brine or pickle, in which, with the instinct of self-preservation they deliberately soaked themselves, to prevent the decay of their overprotected fibre. He perceived it even in Barbara—a sort of sentiment-proof overall, a species of mistrust of the emotional or lyrical, a kind of contempt of sympathy and feeling. And every day he was more and more tempted to lay rude hands on this garment; to see whether he could not make her catch fire, and flare up with some emotion or idea. In spite of her tantalizing, youthful self-possession, he saw that she felt this longing in him, and now and then he caught a glimpse of a streak of recklessness in her which lured him on:
And yet, when at last he was saying good-bye on the night before polling day, he could not flatter himself that he had really struck any spark from her. Certainly she gave him no chance, at that final interview, but stood amongst the other women, calm and smiling, as if determined that he should not again mock her with his ironical devotion.
He got up very early the next morning, intending to pass away unseen. In the car put at his disposal; he found a small figure in a holland-frock, leaning back against the cushions so that some sandalled toes pointed up at the chauffeur’s back. They belonged to little Ann, who in the course of business had discovered the vehicle before the door. Her sudden little voice under her sudden little nose, friendly but not too friendly, was comforting to Courtier.
“Are you going? I can come as, far as the gate.” “That is lucky.”
“Yes. Is that all your luggage?”
“I’m afraid it is.”
“Oh! It’s quite a lot, really, isn’t it?”