When he returned to the parlour, superficially cleaned, Constance expected him to apologize in his roundabout boyish way; at any rate to woo and wheedle her, to show by some gesture that he was conscious of having put an affront on her. But his attitude was quite otherwise. His attitude was rather brusque and overbearing and noisy. He ate a very considerable amount of jam, far too quickly, and then asked for more, in a tone of a monarch who calls for his own. And ere tea was finished he said boldly, apropos of nothing:
“I say, mother, you’ll just have to let me go to the School of Art after Easter.”
And stared at her with a fixed challenge in his eyes.
He meant, by the School of Art, the evening classes at the School of Art. His father had decided absolutely against the project. His father had said that it would interfere with his lessons, would keep him up too late at night, and involve absence from home in the evening. The last had always been the real objection. His father had not been able to believe that Cyril’s desire to study art sprang purely from his love of art; he could not avoid suspecting that it was a plan to obtain freedom in the evenings— that freedom which Samuel had invariably forbidden. In all Cyril’s suggestions Samuel had been ready to detect the same scheme lurking. He had finally said that when Cyril left school and took to a vocation, then he could study art at night if he chose, but not before.
“You know what your father said!” Constance replied.
“But, mother! That’s all very well! I’m sure father would have agreed. If I’m going to take up drawing I ought to do it at once. That’s what the drawing-master says, and I suppose he ought to know.” He finished on a tone of insolence.
“I can’t allow you to do it yet,” said Constance, quietly. “It’s quite out of the question. Quite!”
He pouted and then he sulked. It was war between them. At times he was the image of his Aunt Sophia. He would not leave the subject alone; but he would not listen to Constance’s reasoning. He openly accused her of harshness. He asked her how she could expect him to get on if she thwarted him in his most earnest desires. He pointed to other boys whose parents were wiser.
“It’s all very fine of you to put it on father!” he observed sarcastically.
He gave up his drawing entirely.
When she hinted that if he attended the School of Art she would be condemned to solitary evenings, he looked at her as though saying: “Well, and if you are—?” He seemed to have no heart.
After several weeks of intense unhappiness she said: “How many evenings do you want to go?”
The war was over.
He was charming again. When she was alone she could cling to him again. And she said to herself: “If we can be happy together only when I give way to him, I must give way to him.” And there was ecstasy in her yielding. “After all,” she said to herself, “perhaps it’s very important that he should go to the School of Art.” She solaced herself with such thoughts on three solitary evenings a week, waiting for him to come home.