It was calm, with a dark-blue sky, and a golden moon, and the lighted street full of people out for airing. The great cathedral, cutting the heavens with its massive towers, was shut. No means of getting in; and while they stood there looking up the thought came into Nedda’s mind: Where would they bury poor Tryst who had killed himself? Would they refuse to bury that unhappy one in a churchyard? Surely, the more unhappy and desperate he was, the kinder they ought to be to him!
They turned away down into a little lane where an old, white, timbered cottage presided ghostly at the corner. Some church magnate had his garden back there; and it was quiet, along the waving line of a high wall, behind which grew sycamores spreading close-bunched branches, whose shadows, in the light of the corner lamps, lay thick along the ground this glamourous August night. A chafer buzzed by, a small black cat played with its tail on some steps in a recess. Nobody passed.
The girl’s heart was beating fast. Derek’s face was so strange and strained. And he had not yet said one word to her. All sorts of fears and fancies beset her till she was trembling all over.
“What is it?” she said at last. “You haven’t—you haven’t stopped loving me, Derek?”
“No one could stop loving you.”
“What is it, then? Are you thinking of poor Tryst?”
With a catch in his throat and a sort of choked laugh he answered:
“But it’s all over. He’s at peace.”
“Peace!” Then, in a queer, dead voice, he added: “I’m sorry, Nedda. It’s beastly for you. But I can’t help it.”
What couldn’t he help? Why did he keep her suffering like this—not telling her? What was this something that seemed so terribly between them? She walked on silently at his side, conscious of the rustling of the sycamores, of the moonlit angle of the church magnate’s house, of the silence in the lane, and the gliding of their own shadows along the wall. What was this in his face, his thoughts, that she could not reach! And she cried out:
“Tell me! Oh, tell me, Derek! I can go through anything with you!”
“I can’t get rid of him, that’s all. I thought he’d go when I’d seen him there. But it’s no good!”
Terror got hold of her then. She peered at his face—very white and haggard. There seemed no blood in it. They were going downhill now, along the blank wall of a factory; there was the river in front, with the moonlight on it and boats drawn up along the bank. From a chimney a scroll of black smoke was flung out across the sky, and a lighted bridge glowed above the water. They turned away from that, passing below the dark pile of the cathedral. Here couples still lingered on benches along the river-bank, happy in the warm night, under the August moon! And on and on