Feeling quite sick with pity, Nedda got up and stood beside him; and, moved by an uncontrollable impulse, she lifted one of his great hands and clasped it in both her own. “Oh, try and be brave and look forward! You’re going to be ever so happy some day.”
He gave her a strange long stare.
“Yes, I’ll be happy some day. Don’ you never fret about me.”
And Nedda saw that the warder was standing in the doorway.
“Sorry, miss, time’s up.”
Without a word Tryst rose and went out.
Nedda was alone again with the little sandy cat. Standing under the high-barred window she wiped her cheeks, that were all wet. Why, why must people suffer so? Suffer so slowly, so horribly? What were men made of that they could go on day after day, year after year, watching others suffer?
When the warder came back to take her out, she did not trust herself to speak, or even to look at him. She walked with hands tight clenched, and eyes fixed on the ground. Outside the prison door she drew a long, long breath. And suddenly her eyes caught the inscription on the corner of a lane leading down alongside the prison wall—“Love’s Walk”!
Peremptorily ordered by the doctor to the sea, but with instructions to avoid for the present all excitement, sunlight, and color, Derek and his grandmother repaired to a spot well known to be gray, and Nedda went home to Hampstead. This was the last week in July. A fortnight spent in the perfect vacuity of an English watering-place restored the boy wonderfully. No one could be better trusted than Frances Freeland to preserve him from looking on the dark side of anything, more specially when that thing was already not quite nice. Their conversation was therefore free from allusion to the laborers, the strike, or Bob Tryst. And Derek thought the more. The approaching trial was hardly ever out of his mind. Bathing, he would think of it; sitting on the gray jetty looking over the gray sea, he would think of it. Up the gray cobbled streets and away on the headlands, he would think of it. And, so as not to have to think of it, he would try to walk himself to a standstill. Unfortunately the head will continue working when the legs are at rest. And when he sat opposite to her at meal-times, Frances Freeland would gaze piercingly at his forehead and muse: ’The dear boy looks much better, but he’s getting a little line between his brows—it is such a pity!’ It worried her, too, that the face he was putting on their little holiday together was not quite as full as she could have wished—though the last thing in the world she could tolerate were really fat cheeks, those signs of all that her stoicism abhorred, those truly unforgivable marks of the loss of ‘form.’ He struck her as dreadfully silent, too, and she would rack her brains for subjects that would interest him, often saying to herself: