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As she slackened her pace, all the thoughts that she had been riding away from came up with her again. She had got him out of his trouble, and that was the most he could expect her to do for him. He hadn’t thought much about the trouble he was bringing on her; he never as much as said he was sorry for the disgrace it would be to her. Why should she break her heart for him and Gerald’s heart too? —as she said Hawkins’ name to herself, her hands fell into her lap, and she moaned aloud. Every step the mare was taking was carrying her farther from him, but yet she could not turn back.
At this juncture, however, the ringing of a bell in the hall notified that tea was ready, and before Hawkins had time for individual action, he found himself swept forward by his hostess, and charged with the task of taking Mrs. Rattray, the doctor’s bride, down to the dining-room. The supply of men did little more than yield a sufficiency for the matrons, and after these had gone forth with due state, Francie found herself in the midst of a throng of young ladies following in the wake of their seniors. As she came down the stairs she was aware of a tall man taking off his coat in a corner of the hall, and before she reached the dining-room door Mr. Lambert’s hand was laid upon her arm. “No,” replied Francie in the same lowered voice; “but she will before the evening’s out. Everyone’s quizzing me about it.” She looked at him anxiously as she spoke, and his light eyebrows met in a frown.
Early in the afternoon he had, with an unregarding eye, seen Charlotte drive by on her way to Gurthnamuckla; but after a couple of hours of gloomy calculation and letter-writing, the realisation that Miss Mullen was not at her house awoke in him, coupled with the idea that a little fresh air would do him good. He went out of the house, some unconfessed purpose quickening his step. He hesitated at the gate while it expanded into determination, and then he hailed his wife, whose poppy-decked garden-hat was painfully visible above the magenta blossoms of a rhododendron bush. The dark bags of skin under Julia Duffy’s eyes became slowly red, a signal that this thrust had gone home. She did not answer, and her visitor rose, and moving towards the hermetically sealed window, looked out across the lawn over Julia’s domain. Her roundest and weightiest stone was still in her sling, while her eye ran over the grazing cattle in the fields.
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I—I think it would be kinder if you put her down as a harmless lunatic, than as an adventuress, as far as I am concerned.” He shut the door behind him as he finished speaking, and Lady Dysart was left staring at her daughter, complexity of emotions making speech an idle thing. “Yes, I daresay he is,” said Hawkins, without pretending any interest, real or polite, in the topic. He was in the frame of mind that lies near extravagance of some kind, whether of temper or sentiment, and, being of a disposition not versed in self-repression, he did not attempt diplomacy. He looked sulkily at the launch, and then, with a shock of association, he thought of the afternoon that he and Francie had spent on the lake, and the touch of unworthiness that there was in him made him long to remind her of her subjugation.
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Nothing now could place him where he had been before, nor could he wish to regain that purposeless content. It was better to look things in the face at last, and see where they were going to end. It was better to know himself to be Charlotte’s prize than to give up Francie. Energy of life, that talked on of harvest, and would not hear of graves. “Ah, she’s only a child in that picture,” said Mrs. Lambert in a tone of relief, as she hurriedly put the photographs back.
The smell of hot cakes rose deliciously upon the air, and, as his niece emerged from the kitchen with a plateful of them in her hand, and called to him to hurry before they got cold, he thought to himself that Lambert would have the best of the bargain if he married her. The only events that Francie felt to be at all noteworthy were her letters from Mr. Lambert. He was not a brilliant letter writer, having neither originality, nor the gift which is sometimes bestowed on unoriginal people, of conveying news in a simple and satisfying manner; but his awkward and sterile sentences were as cold waters to the thirsty soul that was always straining back towards its time of abundance. She could scarcely say the word Lismoyle now without a hesitation, it was so shrined in dear and miserable remembrance, with all the fragrance of the summer embalming it in her mind, that, unselfconscious as she was, the word seemed sometimes too difficult to pronounce. Lambert himself had become a personage of a greater world, and had acquired an importance that he would have resented had he known how wholly impersonal it was.