“Not a bit good,” said Soames, and sat down gloomily.
Annette made a little expressive gesture with her hands; a smile was crinkling her red lips untouched by salve.
And, looking at those lips, Soames said:
“Are you happy over here, or do you want to go back to France?”
“Oh, I like London. Paris, of course. But London is better than Orleans, and the English country is so beautiful. I have been to Richmond last Sunday.”
Soames went through a moment of calculating struggle. Mapledurham! Dared he? After all, dared he go so far as that, and show her what there was to look forward to! Still! Down there one could say things. In this room it was impossible.
“I want you and your mother,” he said suddenly, “to come for the afternoon next Sunday. My house is on the river, it’s not too late in this weather; and I can show you some good pictures. What do you say?”
Annette clasped her hands.
“It will be lovelee. The river is so beautiful”
“That’s understood, then. I’ll ask Madame.”
He need say no more to her this evening, and risk giving himself away. But had he not already said too much? Did one ask restaurant proprietors with pretty daughters down to one’s country house without design? Madame Lamotte would see, if Annette didn’t. Well! there was not much that Madame did not see. Besides, this was the second time he had stayed to supper with them; he owed them hospitality.
Walking home towards Park Lane—for he was staying at his father’s—with the impression of Annette’s soft clever hand within his own, his thoughts were pleasant, slightly sensual, rather puzzled. Take steps! What steps? How? Dirty linen washed in public? Pah! With his reputation for sagacity, for far-sightedness and the clever extrication of others, he, who stood for proprietary interests, to become the plaything of that Law of which he was a pillar! There was something revolting in the thought! Winifred’s affair was bad enough! To have a double dose of publicity in the family! Would not a liaison be better than that—a liaison, and a son he could adopt? But dark, solid, watchful, Madame Lamotte blocked the avenue of that vision. No! that would not work. It was not as if Annette could have a real passion for him; one could not expect that at his age. If her mother wished, if the worldly advantage were manifestly great—perhaps! If not, refusal would be certain. Besides, he thought: ’I’m not a villain. I don’t want to hurt her; and I don’t want anything underhand. But I do want her, and I want a son! There’s nothing for it but divorce—somehow—anyhow—divorce!’ Under the shadow of the plane-trees, in the lamplight, he passed slowly along the railings of the Green Park. Mist clung there among the bluish tree shapes, beyond range of the lamps. How many hundred times he had walked past those trees from his father’s