He felt for himself now, and now he was full of feeling for her. Impossible that she should return! Tourdestelle shone to him like a gaping chasm of fire. And becoming entirely selfish he impressed his total abnegation of self upon Renee so that she could have worshipped him. A lover that was like a starry frost, froze her veins, bewildered her intelligence. She yearned for meridian warmth, for repose in a directing hand; and let it be hard as one that grasps a sword: what matter? unhesitatingness was the warrior virtue of her desire. And for herself the worst might happen if only she were borne along. Let her life be torn and streaming like the flag of battle, it must be forward to the end.
That was a quality of godless young heroism not unexhausted in Beauchamp’s blood. Reanimated by him, she awakened his imagination of the vagrant splendours of existence and the rebel delights which have their own laws and ‘nature’ for an applauding mother. Radiant Alps rose in his eyes, and the morning born in the night suns that from mountain and valley, over sea and desert, called on all earth to witness their death. The magnificence of the contempt of humanity posed before him superbly satanesque, grand as thunder among the crags and it was not a sensual cry that summoned him from his pedlar labours, pack on back along the level road, to live and breathe deep, gloriously mated: Renee kindled his romantic spirit, and could strike the feeling into him that to be proud of his possession of her was to conquer the fretful vanity to possess. She was not a woman of wiles and lures.
Once or twice she consulted her watch: but as she professed to have no hunger, Beauchamp’s entreaty to her to stay prevailed, and the subtle form of compliment to his knightly manliness in her remaining with him, gave him a new sense of pleasure that hung round her companionable conversation, deepening the meaning of the words, or sometimes contrasting the sweet surface commonplace with the undercurrent of strangeness in their hearts, and the reality of a tragic position. Her musical volubility flowed to entrance and divert him, as it did.
Suddenly Beauchamp glanced upward.
Renee turned from a startled contemplation of his
frown, and beheld Mrs.
Rosamund Culling in the room.
A LAME VICTORY
The intruder was not a person that had power to divide them; yet she came between their hearts with a touch of steel.
’I am here in obedience to your commands in your telegram of this evening,’ Rosamund replied to Beauchamp’s hard stare at her; she courteously spoke French, and acquitted herself demurely of a bow to the lady present.
Renee withdrew her serious eyes from Beauchamp. She rose and acknowledged the bow.
’It is my first visit to England, madame!
’I could have desired, Madame la marquise, more agreeable weather for you.’