“Li Ho go home now!”
The words seemed to flutter out like birds into some vast ocean of content.
Desire was waking. She had slept without a dream and woke wonderingly to the shadows of dancing leaves upon the white canvas above her. It was a long time since she had slept in a tent—a lifetime. She felt very drowsy and stupid. The brooding sense of fatality which had made her return so dreamlike still numbed her senses. She had come back to the mountain, as she had known she must come. And, curiously enough, in returning she had freed herself. In coming back to what she had hated and feared she had faced a bogie. It would trouble her no more. For all that she had lost she had gained one thing, Freedom. But even freedom did not thrill her. She was too horribly tired.
Idly she let her thought drift over the details of her home-coming. Li Ho had been so surprised. His consternation at seeing her had been comic. But he had asked no questions, and had given her breakfast in hospitable haste. In the cottage nothing was altered. It was as if she had been away overnight. And against this changelessness she knew herself changed. She was outside of it now. It could never prison her again.
While she drank Li Ho’s coffee, Dr. Farr had come in. He had been told, she supposed, of her return, for he showed no surprise at seeing her—had greeted her absently—and sat for a time without speaking, his long hands folded about the green umbrella. This, too, was familiar and added to the “yesterday” feeling. He had not changed. It was her attitude toward him which was different. The curious fear of him, which she had hidden under a mask of indifference, was no longer there to hide. Even the fact of his relationship had lost its sharp significance. She was done with the thing which had made it poignant. Parentage no longer mattered. So little mattered now.
She had spoken to him cheerfully, ignoring his mood, and he had replied irritably, like a bad-tempered child who resents some unnecessary claim upon its attention. But she did not observe him closely. Had she done so, she might have noticed a curious glazing of the eyes as they lifted to follow her—shining and depthless like blue steel.
“I do not expect to stay long, father,” she told him. “Only until I find something to do. I am a woman now, you know, and must support myself.”
She spoke as one might speak to a child, and he had nodded and mumbled: “Yes, yes . . . a woman now . . . certainly.” Then he had begun to laugh. She had always hated this silent, shaking laugh of his. Even now it stirred something in her, something urgent and afraid. But she was too tired to be urged or frightened. She refused to listen.
In the afternoon she had sat out in the sun, not thinking, willing to be rested by the quiet and drugged by the scent of pine and sea. To her had come Sami, appearing out of nothing as by magic, his butter-colored face aglow with joy. Sami had almost broken up her weary calm. He was so glad, so warm, so alive, so little! But even while he snuggled against her side, her Self had drifted away. It would not feel or know. It was not ready yet for anything save rest.