Page:The Voyage Out.djvu/375

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373
THE VOYAGE OUT

granted, of course, that I had the full use of my faculties. Think of all the things that are bound to happen!"

"That is what I feel," Mrs. Thombury rejoined. "The changes, the improvements, the inventions—and beauty. Do you know, I feel sometimes that I couldn't bear to die and cease to see beautiful things about me?"

"It would certainly be very dull to die before they have discovered whether there is life in Mars," Miss Allan added.

"Do you really believe there's life in Mars?" asked Mrs. Flushing, turning to her for the first time with keen interest. "Who tells you that? Some one who knows? D'you know a man called——?"

Here Mrs. Thornbury laid down her knitting, and a look of extreme solicitude came into her eyes.

"There is Mr. Hirst," she said quietly.

St. John had just come through the swing door. He was rather blown about by the wind, and his cheeks looked terribly pale, unshorn, and cavernous. After taking off his coat he was going to pass straight through the hall and up to his room, but he could not ignore the presence of so many people he knew, especially as Mrs. Thornbury rose and went up to him, holding out her hand. But the shock of the warm lamp-lit room, together with the sight of so many cheerful human beings sitting together at their ease, after the dark walk in the rain, and the long days of strain and horror, overcame him completely. He looked at Mrs. Thornbury and could not speak.

Every one was silent. Mr. Pepper's hand stayed upon his Knight. Mrs. Thornbury somehow moved him to a chair, sat herself beside him, and with tears in her own eyes said gently, "You have done everything for your friend."

Her action set them all talking again as if they had never stopped, and Mr. Pepper finished the move with his Knight.

"There was nothing to be done," said St John. He spoke very slowly. "It seems impossible——"

He drew his hand across his eyes as if some dream came between him and the others and prevented him from seeing where he was.