“I’m just going out a minute,” she said.
“Where?” asked Constance. “Hadn’t we better have tea? I suppose we must have tea.”
“I shan’t be long. I want to buy something.”
Sophia went to the post-office and despatched a telegram. Then, partially eased, she returned to the arid and painful desolation of the house.
The next evening Cyril sat at the tea-table in the parlour with his mother and his aunt. To Constance his presence there had something of the miraculous in it. He had come, after all! Sophia was in a rich robe, and for ornament wore an old silver-gilt neck-chain, which was clasped at the throat, and fell in double to her waist, where it was caught in her belt. This chain interested Cyril. He referred to it once or twice, and then he said: “Just let me have a look at that chain,” and put out his hand; and Sophia leaned forward so that he could handle it. His fingers played with it thus for some seconds; the picture strikingly affected Constance. At length he dropped it, and said: “H’m!” After a pause he said: “Louis Sixteenth, eh?” and Sophia said:
“They told me so. But it’s nothing; it only cost thirty francs, you know.” And Cyril took her up sharply:
“What does that matter?” Then after another pause he asked: “How often do you break a link of it?”
“Oh, often,” she said. “It’s always getting shorter.”
And he murmured mysteriously: “H’m!”
He was still mysterious, withdrawn within himself extraordinarily uninterested in his physical surroundings. But that evening he talked more than he usually did. He was benevolent, and showed a particular benevolence towards his mother, apparently exerting himself to answer her questions with fullness and heartiness, as though admitting frankly her right to be curious. He praised the tea; he seemed to notice what he was eating. He took Spot on his knee, and gazed in admiration at Fossette.
“By Jove!” he said, “that’s a dog, that is! ... All the same. ... " And he burst out laughing.
“I won’t have Fossette laughed at,” Sophia warned him.
“No, seriously,” he said, in his quality of an amateur of dogs; “she is very fine.” Even then he could not help adding: “What you can see of her!”
Whereupon Sophia shook her head, deprecating such wit. Sophia was very lenient towards him. Her leniency could be perceived in her eyes, which followed his movements all the time. “Do you think he is like me, Constance?” she asked.
“I wish I was half as good-looking,” said Cyril, quickly; and Constance said:
“As a baby he was very like you. He was a handsome baby. He wasn’t at all like you when he was at school. These last few years he’s begun to be like you again. He’s very much changed since he left school; he was rather heavy and clumsy then.”