Then slowly she undid her dress, and forced them down till they rested, with nothing but her vest between them and the quivering warm flesh which hid her heart.
THE HOUSE OF HARMONY
At half-past ten that evening Stephen walked up the stone-flagged pathway of his brother’s house.
“Can I see Mrs. Hilary?”
“Mr. Hilary went abroad this morning, sir, and Mrs. Hilary has not yet come in.”
“Will you give her this letter? No, I’ll wait. I suppose I can wait for her in the garden?”
“Oh yes, sit!”
“I’ll leave the door open, sir, in case you want to come in.”
Stephen walked across to the rustic bench and sat down. He stared gloomily through the dusk at his patent-leather boots, and every now and then he flicked his evening trousers with the letter. Across the dark garden, where the boughs hung soft, unmoved by wind, the light from Mr. Stone’s open window flowed out in a pale river; moths, born of the sudden heat, were fluttering up this river to its source.
Stephen looked irritably at the figure of Mr. Stone, which could be seen, bowed, and utterly still, beside his desk; so, by lifting the spy-hole thatch, one may see a convict in his cell stand gazing at his work, without movement, numb with solitude.
‘He’s getting awfully broken up,’ thought Stephen. ’Poor old chap! His ideas are killing him. They’re not human nature, never will be.’ Again he flicked his trousers with the letter, as though that document emphasised the fact. ’I can’t help being sorry for the sublime old idiot!’
He rose, the better to see his father-in-law’s unconscious figure. It looked as lifeless and as cold as though Mr. Stone had followed some thought below the ground, and left his body standing there to await his return. Its appearance oppressed Stephen.
‘You might set the house on fire,’ he thought; ‘he’d never notice.’
Mr. Stone’s figure moved; the sound of along sigh came out to Stephen in the windless garden. He turned his eyes away, with the sudden feeling that it was not the thing to watch the old chap like this; then, getting up, he went indoors. In his brother’s study he stood turning over the knick-knacks on the writing-table.
‘I warned Hilary that he was burning his fingers,’ he thought.
At the sound of the latch-key he went back to the hall.
However much he had secretly disapproved of her from the beginning, because she had always seemed to him such an uncomfortable and tantalising person, Stephen was impressed that night by the haunting unhappiness of Bianca’s face; as if it had been suddenly disclosed to him that she could not help herself. This was disconcerting, being, in a sense, a disorderly way of seeing things.
“You look tired, B.,” he said. “I’m sorry, but I thought it better to bring this round tonight.”