It is doubtful whether the indulgence was altogether in the soda, which is, after all, ascetic in its quality, and only suitably effervescent, like ecclesiastical humour. It may very probably be that there was no indulgence; indeed, one is convinced that the word, like so many words, says too much. The springs of Arnold’s chair were bursting through the bottom, and there were stains on its faded chintz-arms, but it was comfortable, and he leaned back in it, looking up at the paper umbrellas. You know the room; I took you into it with Duff Lindsay, who did not come there from rigidities and rituals, and who had a qualified pleasure in it. But there were lines in the folds of the flowered window-curtains dragging half a yard upon the floor, which seemed to disband Arnold’s spirit, and a twinkle in the blue bead of a bamboo screen where the light came through that released it altogether. The shabby violent-coloured place encompassed him like an easy garment, and the lady with her feet tucked up on a sofa and a cushion under her tumbled head, was an unembarrassing invitation to the kind of happy things he had not said for years. They sat in the coolness of the room for half an hour, and then, after a little pause, Hilda said suddenly—
“I am glad you saw me in The Offence of Galilee on Saturday night. We shall not play it again.”
“It has been withdrawn?”
“Yes. The rights, you know, really belong to Mr. Bradley; and he can’t endure his part.”
“Is there no one else to—”
“He objects to anyone else. We generally play together.” This was inadvertent, but Stephen had no reason to imagine that she contracted her eyebrows in any special irritation. “It is an atrocious piece,” she added.
“Is it?” he said absently, and then, “Yes, it is an atrocious piece. But I am glad, too, that I saw you.”
He looked away from her, reddening deeply, and stood up. He bade her a measured and precise farewell. It seemed as if he hurried. She only half rose to give him her unwounded hand, and when he was gone she sank back again thoughtfully.
“I have outstayed all the rest,” Lindsay said, with his hat and stick in his hand, in Alicia Livingstone’s drawing-room, “because I want particularly to talk to you. They have left me precious little time,” he added, glancing at his watch.
She had wondered when he came, early in the formal Sunday noon hour for men’s calls, since he had more casual privileges; and wondered more when he sat on with composure, as one who is master of the situation, while Major-Generals and Deputy-Secretaries came and went. There was a mist in her brain as she talked to the Major-Generals and Deputy-Secretaries—it did not in the least obscure what she found to say—and in the midst of it the formless idea that he must wish to attach a special importance to his visit. This took shape and line when they were alone, and he spoke of out-sitting the others. It impelled her to walk to the window and open it. “You might stay to lunch,” she said, addressing a pair of crows in altercation on the verandah.