A sheepish sort of silence followed this speech. It was broken by a sudden laugh from Tanny.
“The things that happen to us!” she said, laughing rather shrilly. “Suddenly, like a thunderbolt, we’re all struck into silence!”
“Rum game, eh!” said Jim, grinning.
“Isn’t it funny! Isn’t life too funny!” She looked again at her husband. “But, Rawdy, you must admit it was your own fault.”
Lilly’s stiff face did not change.
“Why FAULT!” he said, looking at her coldly. “What is there to talk about?”
“Usually there’s so much,” she said sarcastically.
A few phrases dribbled out of the silence. In vain Jim, tried to get Lilly to thaw, and in vain Tanny gave her digs at her husband. Lilly’s stiff, inscrutable face did not change, he was polite and aloof. So they all went to bed.
In the morning, the walk was to take place, as arranged, Lilly and Tanny accompanying Jim to the third station across country. The morning was lovely, the country beautiful. Lilly liked the countryside and enjoyed the walk. But a hardness inside himself never relaxed. Jim talked a little again about the future of the world, and a higher state of Christlikeness in man. But Lilly only laughed. Then Tanny managed to get ahead with Jim, sticking to his side and talking sympathetic personalities. But Lilly, feeling it from afar, ran after them and caught them up. They were silent.
“What was the interesting topic?” he said cuttingly.
“Nothing at all!” said Tanny, nettled. “Why must you interfere?”
“Because I intend to,” said Lilly.
And the two others fell apart, as if severed with a knife. Jim walked rather sheepishly, as if cut out.
So they came at last past the canals to the wayside station: and at last Jim’s train came. They all said goodbye. Jim and Tanny were both waiting for Lilly to show some sign of real reconciliation. But none came. He was cheerful and aloof.
“Goodbye,” he said to Jim. “Hope Lois will be there all right. Third station on. Goodbye! Goodbye!”
“You’ll come to Rackham?” said Jim, leaning out of the train.
“We should love to,” called Tanny, after the receding train.
“All right,” said Lilly, non-committal.
But he and his wife never saw Jim again. Lilly never intended to see him: a devil sat in the little man’s breast.
“You shouldn’t play at little Jesus, coming so near to people, wanting to help them,” was Tanny’s last word.