Here were men who used their lives to some purpose; who rot only planned, but executed. When the excitement of the evening had subsided, Cecily thought with more bitterness than ever yet of the contrast between such workers and her husband. The feeling which had first come upon her intensely when she stood before Mallard’s picture at the Academy was now growing her habitual mood. She had shut herself out for ever from close communion with this world of genuine activity; she could only regard it from behind a barrier, instead of warming her heart and brain in free enjoyment of its emotions. And the worst of it was that these glimpses harmed her, injured her morally. One cannot dwell with discontent and keep a healthy imagination. She knew her danger, and it increased the misery with which she looked forward.
Another week, and again there was a chance meeting with Mallard, this time on the Via Appia, where Cecily and her aunt were driving. They spent a couple of hours together. At the parting, Mallard announced that the next day would see him on his journey to London
ELGAR AT WORK
At Dover it was cold and foggy; the shore looked mildewed, the town rain-soaked and mud-stained. In London, a solid leaden sky lowered above the streets, neither threatening rain nor allowing a hope of sunlight. What a labour breathing had become!
“My heart warms to my native land,” said Spence. “This is a spring day that recalls one’s youth.”
Eleanor tried to smile, but the railway journey had depressed her beneath the possibility of joking. Miriam was pallid and miserable; she had scarcely spoken since she set foot on the steamboat. Cab-borne through the clangorous streets, they seemed a party of exiles.
The house in Chelsea, which the Spences held on a long lease, had been occupied during their absence by Edward’s brother-in-law and his family. Vacated, swept, and garnished, the old furniture from the Pantechnicon re-established somewhat at haphazard, it was not a home that welcomed warmly; but one could heap coals on all the fires, and draw down the blinds as soon as possible, and make a sort of Christmas evening. If only one’s lungs could have free play! But in a week or so such little incommodities would become natural again.
Miriam had decided that in a day or two she would go down to Bartles; not to stay there, but merely to see her relative, Mrs. Fletcher, and Redbeck House. Before leaving London, she must visit Reuben; she had promised Cecily to do so without delay. This same evening she posted a card to her brother, asking him to be at home to see her early the next morning.
She reached Belsize Park at ten o’clock, and dismissed the cab as soon as she had alighted from it. Her ring at the door was long in being answered, and the maid-servant who at last appeared did small credit to the domestic arrangements of the house—she was slatternly, and seemed to resent having her morning occupations, whatever they were, thus disturbed. Miriam learnt with surprise that Mr. Elgar was not at home.