There was no fire in the room; he sank upon a chair and waited. Every sound in the street below sent the blood back upon his heart. At length there came the fumbling of a latch-key—he could hear it plainly—and then the heavy foot ascending the stairs. Her glazed eyes and red cheeks told the familiar tale. She sat down opposite him and was silent for a minute, half dozing; then she seemed suddenly to become conscious of his presence, and the words began to flow from her tongue, every one cutting him to the quick, poisoning his soul with their venom of jealousy and vulgar spite. Contention was the breath of her nostrils; the prime impulse of her heart was suspicion. Little by little she came round to the wonted topic. Had he been to see his friend the thief? Was she in prison again yet? Whom had she been stealing from of late? Oh, she was innocence itself, of course; too good for this evil-speaking world.
Tonight he could not bear it. He rose from his chair like a drunken man, and staggered to the door. She sprang after him, but he was just in time to escape her grasp and spring down the stairs; then, out into the night. Once before, not quite a month ago, be had been driven thus in terror from the sound of her voice, and had slept at a coffeehouse. Now, as soon as he had got out of the street and saw that he was not being pursued, he discovered that he had given away his last copper for the omnibus fare. No matter; the air was pleasant upon his throbbing temples. It was too late to think of knocking at the house where Waymark lodged. Nothing remained but to walk about the streets all night, resting on a stone when he became too weary to go further, sheltering a little here or there when the wind cut him too keenly. Rather this, oh, a thousand times rather, than the hell behind him.
NO WAY BUT THIS
In the early days of October, Waymark’s book appeared. It excited no special attention. Here and there a reviewer was found who ventured to hint that there was powerful writing in this new novel, but no one dared to heartily recommend it to public attention. By some it was classed with the “unsavoury productions of the so-called naturalist school;” others passed it by with a few lines of unfavourable comment. Clearly it was destined to bring the author neither fame nor fortune.
Waymark was surprised at his own indifference. Having given a copy to Casti, and one to Maud, he thought very little more of the production. It had ceased to interest him; he felt that if he were to write again it would be in a very different way and of different people. Even when he prided himself most upon his self-knowledge he had been most ignorant of the direction in which his character was developing. Unconsciously, he had struggled to the extremity of weariness, and now he cared only to let things take their course, standing aside from every shadow of new onset. Above all, he kept away as much as possible from the house at Tottenham, where Ida was still living. To go there meant only a renewal of torment. This was in fact the commonplace period of his life. He had no energy above that of the ordinary young man who is making his living in a commonplace way, and his higher faculties lay dormant.