A voice behind him said: “How are you? I thought I’d give my car a run.” Mr. Purcey was coming from the gate, his eyes fixed on the window where the girl stood. “How is your wife?” he added.
The bathos of this visit roused an acid fury in Hilary. He surveyed Mr. Purcey’s figure from his cloth-topped boots to his tall hat, and said: “Shall we go in and find her?”
As they went along Mr. Purcey said: “That’s the young—the—er—model I met in your wife’s studio, isn’t it? Pretty girl!”
Hilary compressed his lips.
“Now, what sort of living do those girls make?” pursued Mr. Purcey. “I suppose they’ve most of them other resources. Eh, what?”
“They make the living God will let them, I suppose, as other people do.”
Mr. Purcey gave him a sharp look. It was almost as if Dallison had meant to snub him.
“Oh, exactly! I should think this girl would have no difficulty.” And suddenly he saw a curious change come over “that writing fellow,” as he always afterwards described Hilary. Instead of a mild, pleasant-looking chap enough, he had become a regular cold devil.
“My wife appears to be out,” Hilary said. “I also have an engagement.”
In his surprise and anger Mr. Purcey said with great simplicity, “Sorry I’m ’de trop’!” and soon his car could be heard bearing him away with some unnecessary noise.
BEHIND BIANCA’S VEIL
But Bianca was not out. She had been a witness of Hilary’s long look at the little model. Coming from her studio through the glass passage to the house, she could not, of course, see what he was gazing at, but she knew as well as if the girl had stood before her in the dark opening of the window. Hating herself for having seen, she went to her room, and lay on her bed with her hands pressed to her eyes. She was used to loneliness—that necessary lot of natures such as hers; but the bitter isolation of this hour was such as to drive even her lonely nature to despair.
She rose at last, and repaired the ravages made in her face and dress, lest anyone should see that she was suffering. Then, first making sure that Hilary had left the garden, she stole out.
She wandered towards Hyde Park. It was Whitsuntide, a time of fear to the cultivated Londoner. The town seemed all arid jollity and paper bags whirled on a dusty wind. People swarmed everywhere in clothes which did not suit them; desultory, dead-tired creatures who, in these few green hours of leisure out of the sandy eternity of their toil, were not suffered to rest, but were whipped on by starved instincts to hunt pleasures which they longed for too dreadfully to overtake.
Bianca passed an old tramp asleep beneath a tree. His clothes had clung to him so long and lovingly that they were falling off, but his face was calm as though masked with the finest wax. Forgotten were his sores and sorrows; he was in the blessed fields of sleep.