“Cook’s?” he repeated. The word now so potent had then little significance. “But you are ill. You cannot——”
“I feel better.”
She did. Or rather, she felt nothing except the power of her resolve to remove the painful anxiety from that wistful brow. The shame of the trick played on Chirac awakened new forces in her. She dressed in a physical torment which, however, had no more reality than a nightmare. She searched in a place where even an inquisitive husband would not think of looking, and then, painfully, she descended the long stairs, holding to the rail, which swam round and round her, carrying the whole staircase with it. “After all,” she thought, “I can’t be seriously ill, or I shouldn’t have been able to get up and go out like this. I never guessed early this morning that I could do it! I can’t possibly be as ill as I thought I was!”
And in the vestibule she encountered Chirac’s face, lightening at the sight of her, which proved to him that his deliverance was really to be accomplished.
“I’m all right,” she smiled, tottering. “Get a cab.” It suddenly occurred to her that she might quite as easily have given him the money in English notes; he could have changed them. But she had not thought. Her brain would not operate. She was dreaming and waking together.
He helped her into the cab.
In the bureau de change there was a little knot of English, people, with naive, romantic, and honest faces, quite different from the faces outside in the street. No corruption in those faces, but a sort of wondering and infantile sincerity, rather out of its element and lost in a land too unsophisticated, seeming to belong to an earlier age! Sophia liked their tourist stare, and their plain and ugly clothes. She longed to be back in England, longed for a moment with violence, drowning in that desire.
The English clerk behind his brass bars took her notes, and carefully examined them one by one. She watched him, not entirely convinced of his reality, and thought vaguely of the detestable morning when she had abstracted the notes from Gerald’s pocket. She was filled with pity for the simple, ignorant Sophia of those days, the Sophia who still had a few ridiculous illusions concerning Gerald’s character. Often, since, she had been tempted to break into the money, but she had always withstood the temptation, saying to herself that an hour of more urgent need would come. It had come. She was proud of her firmness, of the force of will which had enabled her to reserve the fund intact. The clerk gave her a keen look, and then asked her how she would take the French money. And she saw the notes falling down one after another on to the counter as the clerk separated them with a snapping sound of the paper.
Chirac was beside her.
“Does that make the count?” she said, having pushed towards him five hundred-franc notes.