IN THE MEANTIME
It was one Wednesday evening in early April, that Waymark found a letter awaiting him, addressed in a hand he at once recognised.
“Will you come and see me? I am at home after eight o’clock till the end of the week, and all day on Sunday.
No distinct pleasure was aroused in Waymark as he read this. As was always the case for hours after he had left Maud’s presence, her face and voice lived with him to the exclusion of every other thought. There was even something of repulsion in the feeling excited by his thus having the memory of Ida brought suddenly before him; her face came as an unwelcome intruder upon the calm, grave mood which always possessed him on these evenings. In returning home each Wednesday night, Waymark always sought the speediest and quietest route, unwilling to be brought in contact with that life of the streets which at other times delighted him. Ida’s note seemed a summons from that world which, for the moment, he held at a distance. But the call was not to be silenced at his will. He began to wonder about her life during the past half-year. Why had she written just now, after so long a silence? Where, and under what circumstances, should he meet her? Did she think to find him the same as when they last talked together?
Through the night he woke constantly, and always with thoughts busy about Ida. In the morning his first impulse was to re-read her message; received so carelessly, it had in the meantime become of more account, and Waymark laughed in his wonted way as he saw himself thus swayed between forces he could not control. The ordinary day’s task was neglected, and he impatiently waited for the hour when he could be sure of finding Ida at home. The address was at Fulham, and, on reaching it, he found a large new block of the kind known as model lodging-houses. Ida’s number was up at the very top. When he knocked, the door opened immediately, and she stood there, holding out her hand to him.
She wore the same dress that she had worn at Hastings, but the gold brooch and watch-chain were missing, and her hair was arranged in a simpler way. She was a trifle pale, perhaps, but that might be due to the excitement of the moment; her voice shook a little as she spoke.
Waymark looked about him as he went in. There appeared to be two rooms, one of them a very small bedroom, the other fitted with a cooking-grate and oven; the kind of tenement suitable to very poor working-people. The floors were bare, and there was nothing in the way of furniture beyond the most indispensable articles: a table, two chairs, and a few cups, saucers, and plates on a shelf; through the half-open door, he saw that the bed-room was equally plain. A fire was burning, and a kettle on it; and in front, on a little square piece of carpet, lay Ida’s inseparable friend, Grim. Grim had lifted his head at Waymark’s entrance, and, with gathering curiosity in his eyes, slowly stood up; then stretched himself, and, looking first at one, then at the other, waited in doubt.