“You are neglecting your friends,” said Bowley, as some one, going the other way, lifted his hat. She started; acknowledged Mr. Lionel Parry’s bow; wasted on him what had sprung for Jacob.
("Jacob! Jacob!” she thought.)
“But you’ll get run over if I let you go,” she said to the dog.
“England seems all right,” said Mr. Bowley.
The loop of the railing beneath the statue of Achilles was full of parasols and waistcoats; chains and bangles; of ladies and gentlemen, lounging elegantly, lightly observant.
“‘This statue was erected by the women of England...’” Clara read out with a foolish little laugh. “Oh, Mr. Bowley! Oh!” Gallop—gallop— gallop—a horse galloped past without a rider. The stirrups swung; the pebbles spurted.
“Oh, stop! Stop it, Mr. Bowley!” she cried, white, trembling, gripping his arm, utterly unconscious, the tears coming.
“Tut-tut!” said Mr. Bowley in his dressing-room an hour later. “Tut-tut!”—a comment that was profound enough, though inarticulately expressed, since his valet was handing his shirt studs.
Julia Eliot, too, had seen the horse run away, and had risen from her seat to watch the end of the incident, which, since she came of a sporting family, seemed to her slightly ridiculous. Sure enough the little man came pounding behind with his breeches dusty; looked thoroughly annoyed; and was being helped to mount by a policeman when Julia Eliot, with a sardonic smile, turned towards the Marble Arch on her errand of mercy. It was only to visit a sick old lady who had known her mother and perhaps the Duke of Wellington; for Julia shared the love of her sex for the distressed; liked to visit death-beds; threw slippers at weddings; received confidences by the dozen; knew more pedigrees than a scholar knows dates, and was one of the kindliest, most generous, least continent of women.
Yet five minutes after she had passed the statue of Achilles she had the rapt look of one brushing through crowds on a summer’s afternoon, when the trees are rustling, the wheels churning yellow, and the tumult of the present seems like an elegy for past youth and past summers, and there rose in her mind a curious sadness, as if time and eternity showed through skirts and waistcoasts, and she saw people passing tragically to destruction. Yet, Heaven knows, Julia was no fool. A sharper woman at a bargain did not exist. She was always punctual. The watch on her wrist gave her twelve minutes and a half in which to reach Bruton Street. Lady Congreve expected her at five.
The gilt clock at Verrey’s was striking five.
Florinda looked at it with a dull expression, like an animal. She looked at the clock; looked at the door; looked at the long glass opposite; disposed her cloak; drew closer to the table, for she was pregnant—no doubt about it, Mother Stuart said, recommending remedies, consulting friends; sunk, caught by the heel, as she tripped so lightly over the surface.