“Where do you go?”
“That’s rather a fine sort of holiday!”
He made no answer for three or four seconds.
“Yes,” he said, “I want to get away. I feel at moments as though I could bolt for it.... Silly, isn’t it? Undisciplined.”
He went to the window and fidgeted with the blind, looking out to where the tree-tops of Regent’s Park showed distantly over the houses. He turned round toward her and found her looking at him and standing very still.
“It’s the stir of spring,” he said.
“I believe it is.”
She glanced out of the window, and the distant trees were a froth of hard spring green and almond blossom. She formed a wild resolution, and, lest she should waver from it, she set about at once to realize it. “I’ve broken off my engagement,” she said, in a matter-of-fact tone, and found her heart thumping in her neck. He moved slightly, and she went on, with a slight catching of her breath: “It’s a bother and disturbance, but you see—” She had to go through with it now, because she could think of nothing but her preconceived words. Her voice was weak and flat.
“I’ve fallen in love.”
He never helped her by a sound.
“I—I didn’t love the man I was engaged to,” she said. She met his eyes for a moment, and could not interpret their expression. They struck her as cold and indifferent.
Her heart failed her and her resolution became water. She remained standing stiffly, unable even to move. She could not look at him through an interval that seemed to her a vast gulf of time. But she felt his lax figure become rigid.
At last his voice came to release her tension.
“I thought you weren’t keeping up to the mark. You—It’s jolly of you to confide in me. Still—” Then, with incredible and obviously deliberate stupidity, and a voice as flat as her own, he asked, “Who is the man?”
Her spirit raged within her at the dumbness, the paralysis that had fallen upon her. Grace, confidence, the power of movement even, seemed gone from her. A fever of shame ran through her being. Horrible doubts assailed her. She sat down awkwardly and helplessly on one of the little stools by her table and covered her face with her hands.
“Can’t you see how things are?” she said.
Before Capes could answer her in any way the door at the end of the laboratory opened noisily and Miss Klegg appeared. She went to her own table and sat down. At the sound of the door Ann Veronica uncovered a tearless face, and with one swift movement assumed a conversational attitude. Things hung for a moment in an awkward silence.
“You see,” said Ann Veronica, staring before her at the window-sash, “that’s the form my question takes at the present time.”