Complete Project Gutenberg John Galsworthy Works eBook

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Looking back from the door, he saw her face puzzled, rather reproachful, and went out gloomily.  The scent of cake, and orange-flower water, the creaking of the female’s stays, the colour of mahogany, still clung to his nose and ears, and eyes; but within him it was all dull baffled rage.  Why had he not made the most of this unexpected chance; why had he not made desperate love to her?  A conscientious ass!  And yet—­the whole thing was absurd!  She was so young!  God knew he would be glad to be out of it.  If he stayed he was afraid that he would play the fool.  But the memory of her words:  “You have been very sweet to me!” would not leave him; nor the memory of her face, so puzzled, and reproachful.  Yes, if he stayed he would play the fool!  He would be asking her to marry a man double her age, of no position but that which he had carved for himself, and without a rap.  And he would be asking her in such a way that she might possibly have some little difficulty in refusing.  He would be letting himself go.  And she was only twenty—­for all her woman-of-the-world air, a child!  No!  He would be useful to her, if possible, this once, and then clear out!

CHAPTER XXI

When Miltoun left Valleys House he walked in the direction of Westminster.  During the five days that he had been back in London he had not yet entered the House of Commons.  After the seclusion of his illness, he still felt a yearning, almost painful, towards the movement and stir of the town.  Everything he heard and saw made an intensely vivid impression.  The lions in Trafalgar Square, the great buildings of Whitehall, filled him with a sort of exultation.  He was like a man, who, after a long sea voyage, first catches sight of land, and stands straining his eyes, hardly breathing, taking in one by one the lost features of that face.  He walked on to Westminster Bridge, and going to an embrasure in the very centre, looked back towards the towers.

It was said that the love of those towers passed into the blood.  It was said that he who had sat beneath them could never again be quite the same.  Miltoun knew that it was true—­desperately true, of himself.  In person he had sat there but three weeks, but in soul he seemed to have been sitting there hundreds of years.  And now he would sit there no more!  An almost frantic desire to free himself from this coil rose up within him.  To be held a prisoner by that most secret of all his instincts, the instinct for authority!  To be unable to wield authority because to wield authority was to insult authority.  God!  It was hard!  He turned his back on the towers; and sought distraction in the faces of the passers-by.

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