With a sort of pleasure she saw a look of bewilderment cover that old face; with a sort of pleasure she marked the trembling of the hands raising their owner from the chair; and heard the stammering in the voice: “You are going? Before-before he comes? You-you won’t be seeing him again?” With a sort of pleasure she marked the hesitation, which did not know whether to thank, or bless, or just say nothing and creep away. With a sort of pleasure she watched the flush mount in the faded cheeks, the faded lips pressed together. Then, at the scarcely whispered words: “Thank you, my dear!” she turned, unable to bear further sight or sound. She went to the window and pressed her forehead against the glass, trying to think of nothing. She heard the sound of wheels-Lady Casterley had gone. And then, of all the awful feelings man or woman can know, she experienced the worst: She could not cry!
At this most bitter and deserted moment of her life, she felt strangely calm, foreseeing clearly, exactly; what she must do, and where go. Quickly it must be done, or it would never be done! Quickly! And without fuss! She put some things together, sent the maid out for a cab, and sat down to write.
She must do and say nothing that could excite him, and bring back his illness. Let it all be sober, reasonable! It would be easy to let him know where she was going, to write a letter that would bring him flying after her. But to write the calm, reasonable words that would keep him waiting and thinking, till he never again came to her, broke her heart.
When she had finished and sealed the letter, she sat motionless with a numb feeling in hands and brain, trying to realize what she had next to do. To go, and that was all!
Her trunks had been taken down already. She chose the little hat that he liked her best in, and over it fastened her thickest veil. Then, putting on her travelling coat and gloves, she looked in the long mirror, and seeing that there was nothing more to keep her, lifted her dressing bag, and went down.
Over on the embankment a child was crying; and the passionate screaming sound, broken by the gulping of tears, made her cover her lips, as though she had heard her own escaped soul wailing out there.
She leaned out of the cab to say to the maid:
“Go and comfort that crying, Ella.”
Only when she was alone in the train, secure from all eyes, did she give way to desperate weeping. The white smoke rolling past the windows was not more evanescent than her joy had been. For she had no illusions—it was over! From first to last—not quite a year! But even at this moment, not for all the world would she have been without her love, gone to its grave, like a dead child that evermore would be touching her breast with its wistful fingers.
Barbara returning from her visit to Courtier’s deserted rooms, was met at Valleys House with the message: Would she please go at once to Lady Casterley?