“Can’t say; general weakness and ill health, I think?”
“But she’s so young, isn’t she? Has she friends to go and see her?”
“Very few, I think.”
“It must be dreadful to be like that,” said Ida. “I’m thankful that I have my health, at all events. Loneliness isn’t so hard to bear, as it must he in illness.”
“Do you feel lonely?”
“A little, sometimes,” said Ida. “But it’s ungrateful to poor old Grim to say so.”
“Have you no acquaintances except the people you work with?”
She shook her head.
“And you don’t read? Wouldn’t you like to go on reading as you used to? You have a better head than most women, and it’s a pity not to make use of it. That’s all nonsense about in making you discontented. You won’t always be living like this, I suppose.”
“Why not?” Ida asked simply.
“Well,” said Waymark, without meeting her look, “even if you do, it will be gain to you to cultivate your mind?”
“Do you wish me to cultivate my mind?”
“You know I do.”
Waymark seemed uneasy. He rose and leaned against the mantelpiece.
“I will do whatever you bid me,” Ida said. “I can get an hour or so each night, and I have all Sunday.”
Waymark felt only too well the effect of the tone he was adopting. The situation was by this time clear enough to him, and his own difficulties no less clear. He avoided looking at Ida as much as he could. A change had again come over her manner; the girlishness was modified, the old sadder tone was audible at moments.
“If it’s fine on Sunday,” he said, “will you go with me to Richmond, and let us have dinner at the old place?”
“No,” was Ida’s reply, with a smile, “I can’t afford it.”
“But I invite you. Of course I didn’t mean that it should be any expense.”
She still shook her head.
“No, I must take my own share, wherever we go.”
“Then I shall certainly refuse your cup of tea next time I come,” said Waymark jestingly.
“That’s quite different,” said Ida. “But if you like, we can go in the afternoon, and walk about Roehampton; that I can afford.”
“As you please. When shall I call for you?”
She opened the door for him, and held out her hand. Their eyes did not meet as they said good-bye. The door closed, and Waymark went so slowly down the stone steps that he seemed at every moment on the point of stopping and turning back.
Waymark and Julian Casti were sitting together in the former’s room. It was Saturday evening—two days after Waymark’s visit to Ida. Julian had fallen into a sad reverie.
“How is your wife?” asked his friend, after watching the melancholy face for a while.
“She said her headache was worse to-night.”