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‘Quite. You will have done yourself justice.’

He pushed back his chair.

‘I don’t see why you should care,’ he said. ‘I’ve treated you like a brute all morning.’

‘I know you have. I cared about that too.’

‘Would you like me to apologise?’ he asked.

She shook her head and pointed at the letter.

‘Not again,’ she said. ‘You’ve sent me a lovely apology already, addressed to Lord Inverbroom.’

‘Have I, indeed? You must have everything your own way. And how are the bluebells getting on?’

‘Quite well. They’ll all be out in a fortnight, I think. I went to look again yesterday. The buds, fat little buttons, do you remember, have got tall stalks now. And the lark is still singing.{296}’

‘May we go there then on Saturday week?’ he asked.

She looked down a moment.

‘Yes,’ she said softly, raising her eyes again. ‘And now shall we get on with the letters, Sir Thomas. There are still a good many not answered.’

‘I would sooner talk to you,’ he said.

‘You shall dictate. That will be talking. And I will try to listen very attentively.’

‘Now don’t be mean, Miss Propert,’ said he.

For the second time that morning she let the clear glance shine on him. It brightened like dawn, filling the space between them. And it smote on his heart, stupefyingly sweet.

CHAPTER X
Keeling had ten days to wait for the Saturday when he and Norah were to visit the bluebells together. He knew with that certainty of the heart which utterly transcends the soundest conclusions of reason and logic that she loved him; it seemed, too, that it was tacitly agreed between them that some confession, some mutual revelation would then take place. That was to be the hour of their own, away from the office and the typewriting, and all those things which, though they brought them together, essentially sundered them. What should be said then, what solution could possibly come out of it all, he could form no notion. He ceased even to puzzle over it. Perhaps there was no solution: perhaps this relationship was just static.

Outwardly the days passed precisely as usual. They had made their appointment, and no further allusion or reminder was necessary. Each evening brought nearer the hour of azure in that hollow among the empty downs, and he desired neither to shorten nor to lengthen out the days that separated him from it. But to him everything, except that moment, regular but rarely recurring, when her eye sought his with need and love in it,{298} seemed dream-like and unsubstantial. Nothing had power either to vex or please him. He was, as always, busy all day, and transacted his own or municipal business with all his usual thoroughness and acute judgment. But it all went on outside him; the terra-cotta cupolas which his industry had reared in the market-place were as unreal as the new system of drainage in the lower part of the town, which he had exerted all his influence to get carried through the obdurate conservatism that pointed to the low-death rate of Bracebridge under the old conditions. He got his way; all his life he had been accustomed to dominate and command and organise. Then when his day’s work was done, and he returned home for dinner and the ensuing hours, which lately had been so intolerable, he found they irritated him no longer, and the fatuous drip of his wife’s conversation was no more to him than some gutter that discharged not into his house but into the street outside. Simply he cared nothing for it, nor, when his failure to get elected to the County Club occurred to him, did he care: it appeared to have happened, but it must have happened to some stranger. Sometimes, before the pink clock announced that it was half-past ten, he would leave the drawing-room and go to his library, to see whether in his books there was to be found anything that stimulated his reactions {299}towards life. But they had no message: they were dumb or he was deaf. Even the catalogue showed no sign of life: it was Norah’s work, of course, but it was not Norah.

The day before their tryst out among the downs, this stupefied stagnation of emotion suddenly left him. All morning and through half the afternoon a succession of Spring showers had flung themselves in mad torrents against the plate-glass windows of his office, and more than once he had seen Norah look up, and knew as well as if she had spoken that she was speculating on the likelihood of another drenching afternoon to-morrow. But she said nothing, and again he knew that neither storm nor tempest would keep her back from their appointment, any more than it would keep him. The thing had to be: it was arranged so, and though they should find all the bluebells blackened and battered, and the thunder bellowed round them, that meeting in the bluebell wood was as certain as the rising of the sun…. And then the clock on his chimney-piece chimed five, and with a rush of reawakened perception, a change as

swift and illuminating as the return of consciousness after an anaesthetic, he realised that by this time to-morrow their meeting would be over, and they would know, each of them, what they were to become to each other. The week’s incurious torpor, broken once and sometimes twice a day by her glance, rolled away from him: the world and all that it contained started into vividness{300} again. Simultaneously with the chiming clock, she got up, and brought him the finished typewritten letters for his signature. To-day there were but a dozen of them, and the work of reading and signing and bestowal in their envelopes was soon finished. But an intolerable sense of restraint and discomfort surrounded these proceedings: he did not look at her, nor she at him, and though both were hugely conscious of each other, it was as if they were

strangers or enemies even under some truce. That feeling increased and intensified: once in handing a letter to him a finger of hers touched his, and both drew their hands quickly away. She hurried over her reading, he scrawled his name; they wanted to get away from each other as soon as was possible. Then the thought that they would have to sit here again together all morning to-morrow occurred to him, and that to him at least was unfaceable. In this reawakened vividness to the crisis that now impended in less than the space of a day and a night, he felt he could not meet her again over common tasks.

It had happened before occasionally that he had given her a holiday on Saturday morning from the half-day’s work, and he seized at this, as she handed him the last of the batch to be signed.

‘I don’t think you need come down to-morrow morning, Miss Propert,’ he said. ‘You can take the half-day off.{301}’

He did not look up, but heard her give a little sigh of relief, and knew that once again he had found the pulse in her that beat with his own.

‘Yes,’ she said, and dropped the letters into his post-box.

She had been working that day at the table in his big room and stood there tidying it. Then she went back into the small room adjoining, and he heard her rustle into her mackintosh. Then returning she stood at the door of it a moment and from underneath his half raised eyes, he saw that she looked slowly all round his room, as if, perhaps, searching for something, or as if rather committing it to her memory. Then without another word to him she went out, and he heard her steps tapping along the cement-floored corridor to the lift. Once they paused, and he half-longed, half-dreaded that she was coming back. They began again, and stopped, and immediately afterwards he heard the clang of the grille, and the faint rumble of the descending lift. He had one overpowering impulse that brought him to his feet, to dash downstairs, and see her go out, or if she was gone already to follow her into the street, just for the sake of setting eyes on her once more, but it took him no further than that, and presently he sat down again.

That intense vividness of perception that had been lit within him when, half an hour ago, the clock on his chimney-piece chimed, still blazed.{302} He noticed a hundred minute details in the room, his ear separated the hum of the street below into its component ingredients: there was a boy whistling, there was a motor standing with its engines still working, there was a street-cry concerning daffodils, another concerning evening papers. Memory was similarly awake: he remembered that his wife was giving a little dinner-party this evening, that Silverdale, who was setting out on his mission to the docks next day, was to be among the guests, and that Alice expected that the slippers of Maltese crosses would be back from being made up, in time for him to take them with him. He recalled, out of the well of years, how in the early days of his married life Emmeline had made him a pair of slippers which did not fit, and in the same breath remembered the exact look of her face this very morning when a message had come from her cook saying that she could not get a bit of salmon anywhere. And as each impression registered itself on eye and ear and memory, he hated it. But nothing concerning Norah came into his mind: sometimes for a moment a blank floated across it, behind which perhaps was Norah, but she produced no image on it. He could not even recollect her face: he did not know what she was like. There was the horror of it all: everything in the world but she had the vividness of nightmare, and she, the only thing that did not belong to nightmare, had gone from him.{303}

He sat there, alone in the darkening room, doing nothing as far as definite effort went, and yet conscious of an intense internal activity in just looking at the myriads of images that this magic lantern of the mind presented to him. Now for a little it seemed to him that he contemplated a series of pictures that concerned the life which had once been his, and was now finished and rolled up, done with for ever. Now again for a little it seemed that all that was thus presented to him was the life that was going to be his, until for him all life was over. Alice would always be sewing slippers, his wife would always be ordering a bit of salmon, he would always be sitting in an empty office. For a few weeks there had passed across those eternal reiterations somebody whose very face he could not now recall, and when he tried to imagine her, he could see nothing but a blank, a black strip where words had been erased. To-morrow by this time he would know which of those two aspects was the true one: either the salmon and the slippers and this lonely meditation would be his no longer, or they would be all that he could call his. He felt, too, that it was already settled which it was to be: fate had already written in the inexorable book, and had closed it again. To-morrow the page would be shown him, he would read what was inscribed 佛山桑拿部长电话 there. No effort on his part, no imposition of his will, no power of his to organise and build up would alter it. Though{304} the crisis was yet to come, its issue was already determined.

He struggled against this nightmare sense of impotence. All his life he had designed his own career, in bold firm strokes, and fate had builded as he had planned. Fate was not a predetermined thing: the book of destiny was written by the resolute and strong for themselves, they had a hand on the pen, and made destiny write what they willed. It should be so to-morrow: he had but to determine what he chose should be, and this was the hour of his choice….

Suddenly into the blanks, into the black erasures, there stole the images which just now he had tried in vain to recall. All else was erased, and Norah filled the empty spaces. Her presence, 佛山桑拿按摩网 voice and gesture and form pervaded his whole consciousness: there was room for nothing else. They loved each other, and to each other they constituted the sum of all that was real. There was nothing for it but to accept that, to go away together, and let all the unrealities of life, The Cedars, the salmon, the slippers, pass out of focus, be dissolved, disintegrated…. And yet, and yet he knew that he did not make the choice with his whole self. Deep down in him, the very foundation on which his character was built, was that hidden rock of his integrity, of his stern Puritanism, of the morality of which his religion was made. He was willing to blow that up, he searched for{305} the explosive that would shatter it, he hacked and hammered at it, as if in experiment to see if he had the power to shatter it. It could hardly 佛山桑拿0757n be that his character was stronger than himself: that seemed a contradiction in terms.

And yet all else in the world was hateful to him; he could contemplate life neither without Norah nor with her in continuance of their present relations. This afternoon he had longed for her to go away, and when she had gone he had been on the point of hurrying down like a madman into the street only to set eyes on her again. He could not imagine sitting here all day with her week after week, dictating letters, hearing her typing them, getting the clear glance from her now and again (and that would be the most intolerable of all), saying ‘good-evening’ to her when the day’s work was done, and ‘good-morning’ to her when it was beginning. Something must happen, and whatever that was, was already written in the book. There was no escape.

The 佛山桑拿会所全套流程 clock chimed again, and his room had grown so dark that he had to turn on the electric light to see what the hour was. He went downstairs and through the show rooms, blazing with lights still populous with customers, into the square. The toneless blue of night had already advanced far past the zenith; in the west a band of orange marked where the sun had set, and just above it was a space of delicate pale green on the upper{306} edge of which a faint star twinkled. As he passed between the hornbeam hedges in the disused graveyard, the odour of the spring night, of dew on the path, of the green growth on the trees, was alert in the air. The mysterious rapture of the renewal of life tingled round him, the summons to expand, to blossom, to love was echoed and re-echoed from the bushes, where mated birds were still chirruping. 佛山桑拿论坛 As he walked through the gathering dusk, thick with the choruses of spring, the years fell from him like withered leaves long-lingering, and his step quickened into the pace of youth, though it only bore him to The Cedars, and the amazing futility of one of Lady Keeling’s smaller dinner-parties.

Two very auspicious pieces of news awaited him when he got home, and found his wife and Alice just about to go upstairs to dress. Alice’s slippers had come back from the shoe-maker’s, and could be presented to Mr Silverdale to-night, while, as by a miracle, a bit of salmon had been procured also. Lady Keeling had been driving by that little fishmonger’s in Drury Place, and there on the marble slab was quite a nice bit of salmon. She had brought it home herself on the box of the victoria, for fear of there being any mischance as to its 佛山按摩论坛 delivery. Alice was even more excited, for nobody else had ever been permitted to work Master a pair of slippers, and Julia Fyson was coming to dinner, who, with eyes green{307} with jealousy, would see the presentation made. They were to be brought into the dining-room at the end of dinner, when Lady Keeling gave two short pressures to the electric bell that stood by her on the table, by the boy covered with buttons, wrapped round with endless swathings of paper. He was to present this bale to Mr Silverdale, saying that it was immediate and asking if there was any answer. Would it not be fun to see the astonished Master take off all those wrappings, and find the Maltese crosses within?

This entertaining scheme succeeded admirably. Alice showed a remarkable sense of dramatic by-play, and talked very eagerly to her neighbour, 佛山桑拿按摩论坛07 while Mr Silverdale stripped off layer after layer of paper, as if she was quite unaware that anything unusual was happening, and it was not till an unmistakable shape of slippers began to reveal itself in the core, that Master guessed.

‘It’s my Helper,’ he cried, ‘my sly little Helper.’ Then pushing back his chair, he took off his evening shoes, and putting on the slippers went solemnly round the table, saying to each of his hosts and fellow-guests, ‘May I introduce you to my slippers?’ But when he came to Alice he said, ‘I think you and my slippers have met before!’ There was never anything so deliciously playful…. But when he had padded back to his place, Keeling saw poor Alice’s eye go wandering, looking at every one in turn round that festive table except{308} Master. Finally, for one half second, her eye rested on 佛山桑拿技师论坛 him, and Keeling, as one of those who run, could read, and his heart went out to poor Alice. She was prodigiously silly, yet that one self-revealing glance decorated her. She loved, and that distinguished and dignified her.

After the guests had gone, Lady Keeling launched forth into her usual comments on the success of her dinner-party.

‘Well, I’m sure I should be puzzled to name a pleasanter evening’ she said. ‘I thought it all quite brilliant, though I’m sure I claim no share in its success except that I do think I gave you all a very good dinner. I’m sure I never tasted a better bit of spring salmon than that. Was it not lucky it caught my eye this afternoon. And the slippers, too, Alice! It was quite a little comedy: I am sure I have seen many less amusing scenes in a play. To introduce everybody to his slippers! That 佛山夜生活qq群 was a good idea, and it must have been quite ex tempore, for I am certain he did not know what was inside the packet till he came to the last wrappings.’

…Perhaps this was the last time that Keeling would ever listen to those maunderings. That would be determined in the bluebell wood. Perhaps to-morrow evening….

‘And then saying to Alice, “I think you and my slippers have met before!” That was fun, was it not? I saw you enjoyed that, Thomas, and{309} when you are pleased, I’m sure the joke is good enough for anybody. I wish I had asked Lord and Lady Inverbroom to dine to-night. They would have enjoyed it too, though perhaps he would feel a little shy of meeting you after that snub you gave him and his Club in taking their premises away from them.’

…Would the bluebells reflect their colour on to her face, as the daffodils she wore one day had done? By the way, no word 佛山桑拿红场名店 had been said about the hour at which they should meet. But it did not matter: he would be there and she….

‘I have cancelled the notice I gave them,’ he said. ‘You will not have the pleasure of seeing the club furniture coming out into the street.’

‘Well, indeed! You are much too kind to them after what they did to you, Thomas. I am sorry you did that; they deserved a good slap to serve them out.’