Enchanted, would it not be beautiful to see them lighted? By moonlight too, the river must be ravishing!
“Thou art sentimental, Maman!”
Sentimental! That black-robed, comely, substantial Frenchwoman of the world! And suddenly he was certain as he could be that there was no sentiment in either of them. All the better. Of what use sentiment? And yet....!
He drove to the station with them, and saw them into the train. To the tightened pressure of his hand it seemed that Annette’s fingers responded just a little; her face smiled at him through the dark.
He went back to the carriage, brooding. “Go on home, Jordan,” he said to the coachman; “I’ll walk.” And he strode out into the darkening lanes, caution and the desire of possession playing see-saw within him. ’Bon soir, monsieur!’ How softly she had said it. To know what was in her mind! The French—they were like cats—one could tell nothing! But—how pretty! What a perfect young thing to hold in one’s arms! What a mother for his heir! And he thought, with a smile, of his family and their surprise at a French wife, and their curiosity, and of the way he would play with it and buffet it confound them!
The, poplars sighed in the darkness; an owl hooted. Shadows deepened in the water. ‘I will and must be free,’ he thought. ’I won’t hang about any longer. I’ll go and see Irene. If you want things done, do them yourself. I must live again—live and move and have my being.’ And in echo to that queer biblicality church-bells chimed the call to evening prayer.
AND VISITS THE PAST
On a Tuesday evening after dining at his club Soames set out to do what required more courage and perhaps less delicacy than anything he had yet undertaken in his life—save perhaps his birth, and one other action. He chose the evening, indeed, partly because Irene was more likely to be in, but mainly because he had failed to find sufficient resolution by daylight, had needed wine to give him extra daring.
He left his hansom on the Embankment, and walked up to the Old Church, uncertain of the block of flats where he knew she lived. He found it hiding behind a much larger mansion; and having read the name, ’Mrs. Irene Heron’—Heron, forsooth! Her maiden name: so she used that again, did she?—he stepped back into the road to look up at the windows of the first floor. Light was coming through in the corner fiat, and he could hear a piano being played. He had never had a love of music, had secretly borne it a grudge in the old days when so often she had turned to her piano, making of it a refuge place into which she knew he could not enter. Repulse! The long repulse, at first restrained and secret, at last open! Bitter memory came with that sound. It must be she playing, and thus almost assured of seeing her,