He spent an hour walking up and down the drawing-room before he could screw his courage up to mount the stairs and knock on the door of their room.
Madame Lamotte opened it.
“Ah! At last you come! Elle vous attend!” She passed him, and Soames went in with his noiseless step, his jaw firmly set, his eyes furtive.
Annette was very pale and very pretty lying there. The baby was hidden away somewhere; he could not see it. He went up to the bed, and with sudden emotion bent and kissed her forehead.
“Here you are then, Soames,” she said. “I am not so bad now. But I suffered terribly, terribly. I am glad I cannot have any more. Oh! how I suffered!”
Soames stood silent, stroking her hand; words of endearment, of sympathy, absolutely would not come; the thought passed through him: ’An English girl wouldn’t have said that!’ At this moment he knew with certainty that he would never be near to her in spirit and in truth, nor she to him. He had collected her—that was all! And Jolyon’s words came rushing into his mind: “I should imagine you will be glad to have your neck out of chancery.” Well, he had got it out! Had he got it in again?
“We must feed you up,” he said, “you’ll soon be strong.”
“Don’t you want to see baby, Soames? She is asleep.”
“Of course,” said Soames, “very much.”
He passed round the foot of the bed to the other side and stood staring. For the first moment what he saw was much what he had expected to see—a baby. But as he stared and the baby breathed and made little sleeping movements with its tiny features, it seemed to assume an individual shape, grew to be like a picture, a thing he would know again; not repulsive, strangely bud-like and touching. It had dark hair. He touched it with his finger, he wanted to see its eyes. They opened, they were dark—whether blue or brown he could not tell. The eyes winked, stared, they had a sort of sleepy depth in them. And suddenly his heart felt queer, warm, as if elated.
“Ma petite fleur!” Annette said softly.
“Fleur,” repeated Soames: “Fleur! we’ll call her that.”
The sense of triumph and renewed possession swelled within him.
By God! this—this thing was his! By God! this—this thing was his!
By John Galsworthy