Under his protracted silence Lizzie roused herself to the fact that, since her pupil was absent, there was no reason for her remaining any longer; and as Deering again moved toward her she said with an effort: “I’ll go, then. You’ll send for me when shecomes back?”
Deering still hesitated, tormenting the cigarette between his fingers.
“She’s not coming back—not at present.”
Lizzie heard him with a drop of the heart. Was everything to be changed in their lives? But of course; how could she have dreamed it would be otherwise? She could only stupidly repeat: “Not coming back? Not this spring?”
“Probably not, since are friends are so good as to keep her. The fact is, I’ve got to go to America. My wife left a little property, a few pennies, that I must go and see to—for the child.”
Lizzie stood before him, a cold knife in her breast. “I see—I see,” she reiterated, feeling all the while that she strained her eyes into impenetrable blackness.
“It’s a nuisance, having to pull up stakes,” he went on, with a fretful glance about the studio.
She lifted her eyes slowly to his face. “Shall you be gone long?” she took courage to ask.
“There again—I can’t tell. It’s all so frightfully mixed up.” He met her look for an incredibly long, strange moment. “Ihate to go!” he murmured as if to himself.
Lizzie felt a rush of moisture to her lashes, and the old, familiar wave of weakness at her heart. She raised her hand to her face with an instinctive gesture, and as she did so he held out his arms.
“Come here, Lizzie!” he said.
And she went—went with a sweet, wild throb of liberation, with the sense that at last the house was his, that she was his, if he wanted her; that never again would that silent, rebuking presence in the room above constrain and shame her rapture.
He pushed back her veil and covered her face with kisses. “Don’t cry, you little goose!” he said.
THAT they must see each other again before his departure, in someplace less exposed than their usual haunts, was as clear to Lizzie as it appeared to be to Deering. His expressing the wish seemed, indeed, the sweetest testimony to the quality of his feeling, since, in the first weeks of the most perfunctory widowerhood, a man of his stamp is presumed to abstain from light adventures. If, then, at such a moment, he wished so much to be quietly and gravely with her, it could be only for reasons she did not call by name, but of which she felt the sacred tremor in her heart; and it would have seemed incredibly vain and vulgar to put forward, at such a crisis, the conventional objections by means of which such littleexposed existences defend the treasure of their freshness.
In such a mood as this one may descend from the Passy omnibus at the corner of the Pont de la Concorde (she had not let him fetch her in a cab) with a sense of dedication almost solemn, and may advance to meet one’s fate, in the shape of a gentleman of melancholy elegance, with an auto-taxi at his call, as one has advanced to the altar-steps in some girlish bridal vision.