“Winning him back? Oh, he is affectionate enough. But you mean winning him back to faithfulness. My husband happens to be the average man, and the average man isn’t a pleasant person to talk about, in this respect.”
“Are you not too general in your condemnation, Mrs. Travis?”
“I am content you should think so. You are very young still, and there’s no good in making the world ugly for you as long as it can seem rosy.”
“Please don’t use that word,” said Cecily, with emphasis. It annoyed her to be treated as immature in mind. “I am the last person to take rosy views of life. But there is something between the distrust to which you are driven by misery and the optimism of foolish people.”
“We won’t argue about it. Every woman must take life as she finds it. To me it is a hateful weariness. I hope I mayn’t have much of it still before me; what there is, I will live in independence. You know Mrs. Calder?”
“Her position is the same as mine has been, but she has more philosophy; she lets things take their course, just turning her eyes away.”
“That is ignoble, hateful!” exclaimed Cecily.
“So I think, but women as a rule don’t. At all events, they are content to whine a little, and do nothing. Poor wretches, what can they do, as I said?”
“They can go away, and, if need be, starve.”
“They have children.”
Cecily became mute.
“Will you let me come and see you now and then?” Mrs. Travis asked presently.
“Come whenever you feel you would like to,” Cecily answered, rousing herself from reverie.
The house in which Mrs. Travis now lived was a quarter of an hour’s drive beyond that of the Elgars; she would have alighted and walked, making nothing of it, but of course Cecily could not allow this. The coachman was directed to make the circuit. When Cecily reached home, it was after one o’clock.
THE PROPRIETIES DEFENDED
The house was in Belsize Park. Light shone through the blind of one of the upper windows, but the rest of the front was lifeless. Cecily’s ring at the bell sounded distinctly; it was answered at once by a maid-servant, who said that Mr. Elgar was still in the library. Having spoken a few words, ending with a kind good night, Cecily passed through the hall and opened the library door.
A reading-lamp made a bright sphere on the table, but no one sat within its rays. After a fruitless glance round the room, Cecily called her husband’s name. There was a sound of moving, and she saw that Reuben was on a sofa which the shadow veiled.
“Have you been asleep?” she asked merrily, as she approached him.
He stood up and stretched himself, muttering.
“Why didn’t you go to bed, poor boy? I’m dreadfully late; I went out of my way to take some one home.”