Page:The Voyage Out.djvu/307

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
305
THE VOYAGE OUT

England made a sudden move towards some unknown port on the coast of Morocco, St. John knew what was at the back of it, and to hear him engaged with her husband in argument about finance and the balance of power, gave her an odd sense of stability. She respected their arguments without always listening to them, much as she respected a solid brick wall, or one of those immense municipal buildings which, although they compose the greater part of our cities, have been built day after day and year after year by unknown hands. She liked to sit and listen, and even felt a little elated when the engaged couple, after showing their profound lack of interest, slipped from the room, and were seen pulling flowers to pieces in the garden. It was not that she was jealous of them, but she did undoubtedly envy them their great unknown future that lay before them. Slipping from one such thought to another, she was at the present moment wandering from drawing-room to dining-room with fruit in her hands. Sometimes she stopped to straighten a candle stooping with the heat, or disturbed some too rigid arrangement of the chairs. She had reason to suspect that Chailey had been balancing herself on the top of a ladder with a wet duster during their absence, and the room had never been quite like itself since. Returning from the dining-room for the third time, she perceived that one of the arm-chairs was now occupied by St. John. He lay back in it, with his eyes half shut, looking, as he always did, curiously buttoned up in a neat grey suit, and fenced against the exuberance of a foreign climate which might at any moment proceed to take liberties with him. Her eyes rested on him gently and then passed on over his head. Finally she took the chair opposite.

"I didn't want to come here," he said at last, "but I was positively driven to it… Evelyn M.," he groaned.

He sat up, and began to explain with mock solemnity how the detestable woman was set upon marrying him.

"She pursues me about the place. This morning she appeared in the smoking-room. All I could do was to seize my hat and fly. I didn't want to come, but I couldn't stay and face another meal with her."

"Well, we must make the best of it," Helen replied philo-