‘Why not?’ answered Monica, with a just perceptible note of irritation. ‘Are you afraid I shall be robbed or murdered?’
‘Nonsense. But you mustn’t be alone.’
‘Didn’t I always use to be alone?’
He made an angry gesture.
’I have begged you not to speak of that. Why do you say what you know is disagreeable to me? You used to do all sorts of things that you never ought to have been obliged to do, and it’s very painful to remember it.’
Monica, seeing that people were approaching, walked on, and neither spoke until they had nearly reached the end of the road.
‘I think we had better go home,’ Widdowson at length remarked.
’If you wish it; but I really don’t see why I shouldn’t call on Milly, now that we are here.’
’Why didn’t you speak of it before we left home? You ought to be more methodical, Monica. Each morning I always plan how my day is to be spent, and it would be much better if you would do the same. Then you wouldn’t be so restless and uncertain.’
‘If I go to Rutland Street,’ said Monica, without heeding this admonition, ‘couldn’t you leave me there for an hour?’
‘What in the world am I to do?’
’I should have thought you might walk about. It’s a pity you don’t know more people, Edmund. It would make things so much pleasanter for you.’
In the end he consented to see her safely as far as Rutland Street, occupy himself for an hour, and come back for her. They went by cab, which was dismissed in Hampstead Road. Widdowson did not turn away until he had ocular proof of his wife’s admittance to the house where Miss Vesper lived, and even then he walked no farther than the neighbouring streets, returning about every ten minutes to watch the house from a short distance, as though he feared Monica might have some project of escape. His look was very bilious; trudging mechanically hither and thither where fewest people were to be met, he kept his eyes on the ground, and clumped to a dismal rhythm with the end of his walking-stick. In the three or four months since his marriage, he seemed to have grown older; he no longer held himself so upright.
At the very moment agreed upon he was waiting close by the house. Five minutes passed; twice he had looked at his watch, and he grew excessively impatient, stamping as if it were necessary to keep himself warm. Another five minutes, and he uttered a nervous ejaculation. He had all but made up his mind to go and knock at the door when Monica came forth.
‘You haven’t been waiting here long, I hope?’ she said cheerfully.
‘Ten minutes. But it doesn’t matter.’
‘I’m very sorry. We were talking on—’
’Yes, but one must always be punctual. I wish I could impress that upon you. Life without punctuality is quite impossible.’
’I’m very sorry, Edmund. I will be more careful. Please don’t lecture me, dear. How shall we go home?’