“We can’t all be alike, can we? And if I don’t choose to let you see me crying, that doesn’t prove I’ve never had a bad half hour, does it? I’ve had many—ay, and a many.”
“Then why are you so WRONG, so wrong in your behaviour?”
“I suppose I’ve got to have my bout out: and when it’s out, I can alter.”
“Then I hope you’ve almost had your bout out,” she said.
“So do I,” said he, with a half-repentant, half-depressed look on his attractive face. The corners of his mouth grimaced slightly under his moustache.
“The best thing you can do is to go straight back to England, and to her.”
“Perhaps I’d better ask her if she wants me, first,” he said drily.
“Yes, you might do that, too.” And Lady Franks felt she was quite getting on with her work of reform, and the restoring of woman to her natural throne. Best not go too fast, either.
“Say when,” shouted the Colonel, who was manipulating the syphon.
“When,” said Aaron.
The men stood up to their drinks.
“Will you be leaving in the morning, Mr. Sisson?” asked Lady Franks.
“May I stay till Monday morning?” said Aaron. They were at Saturday evening.
“Certainly. And you will take breakfast in your room: we all do. At what time? Half past eight?”
“Thank you very much.”
“Then at half past eight the man will bring it in. Goodnight.”
Once more in his blue silk bedroom, Aaron grimaced to himself and stood in the middle of the room grimacing. His hostess’ admonitions were like vitriol in his ears. He looked out of the window. Through the darkness of trees, the lights of a city below. Italy! The air was cold with snow. He came back into his soft, warm room. Luxurious it was. And luxurious the deep, warm bed.
He was still asleep when the man came noiselessly in with the tray: and it was morning. Aaron woke and sat up. He felt that the deep, warm bed, and the soft, warm room had made him sleep too well: robbed him of his night, like a narcotic. He preferred to be more uncomfortable and more aware of the flight of the dark hours. It seemed numbing.
The footman in his grey house-jacket was neat and Italian and sympathising. He gave good-morning in Italian—then softly arranged the little table by the bedside, and put out the toast and coffee and butter and boiled egg and honey, with silver and delicate china. Aaron watched the soft, catlike motions of the man. The dark eyes glanced once at the blond man, leaning on his elbow on the pillow. Aaron’s face had that watchful, half-amused expression. The man said something in Italian. Aaron shook his head, laughed, and said:
“Tell me in English.”
The man went softly to the window curtains, and motioned them with his hand.
“Yes, do,” said Aaron.
So the man drew the buff-coloured silk curtains: and Aaron, sitting in bed, could see away beyond red roofs of a town, and in the further heaven great snowy mountains.