Thyrza by George Gissing
Chapter XXII. Good-Bye
Left alone, after Thyrza's second visit to him in the library, Egremont had no mind to continue his task. He idled about for a while, read half a page in a volume he took out of the box at hazard, then put on his overcoat and went out by the front door, which he locked behind him with the key he carried for his own convenience.
He was wishing that he had not fallen into this piece of folly. As long as no one but Grail and himself was concerned, it mattered nothing; to have established a secret intercourse with Thyrza was a result of his freak for which he was not at all prepared. And he could not see his way out of the difficulty. He might go and see Grail, and let him know what he was doing, but that would involve deliberate concealment of Thyrza's visits. He could not speak of them; he had no right to do so. If Thyrza on her part told all about it--why, that would make it, for him, still more unpleasant. And Thyrza was not likely to do that; he felt assured of it. Precisely; that meant that henceforth there would be a secret understanding between himself and Gilbert's wife. Most certainly he desired nothing of the kind.
A weak way of putting it. Walter dreaded anything of the kind. Two days--Monday, Tuesday--and in that brief time the whole face of the future had changed for him. On Sunday evening he had sat thinking over his future relations with Grail and Thyrza. The fact that he consciously brought himself to reflect upon the subject of course proved that it involved certain doubts and difficulties for him, but in half an hour he believed that he had put his mind in order. Thyrza interested him--why not say it out, as he was bent on understanding himself? She interested him more vitally than any girl he had ever known. Very possibly he saw her in the light of illusion; should his opportunities grant him a completer knowledge of her, he might not improbably discover that after all she was but a pretty girl of the people, attractive in a great measure owing to her very deficiencies. He would very likely come to laugh at himself for having thought that her value was above that of Annabel Newthorpe. But he had to deal with the present, and in the present Thyrza seemed to him all gold. Had there existed no Gilbert Grail, he would have been in love with Thyrza.
The plain truth. But Gilbert Grail did exist, and in Walter Egremont existed a sense of honour, a sense of shame. Should he by word or deed throw light upon Gilbert Grail's future, he felt that all the good of his own life would be at an end. He could not face man or woman again.
It came to this, then. Henceforth he must remember that, however near his intimacy with Gilbert, there must be no playing at friendship with Gilbert's wife. Friendship was impossible. That golden-haired girl had a power over him which, if ever so slightly and thoughtlessly exercised, might drive him into acts of insanity. He had seen her three times--this is Sunday night, remember--and yet the thought of Annabel was like a pale ghost beside his thought of her. He had till now suspected that his nature was not framed for passion; a few weeks had taught him that, if he allowed passion to take hold upon him, no part of his soul could escape the flame.
Two days had passed since then. On two successive mornings he had been alone with Thyrza; one evening he had spent at a concert, for the mere sake of being where Thyrza was, and feeling emotions such as he knew she would feel. 'No playing at friendship with Gilbert's wife.' And he had himself held out his band to her, had asked her to address him familiarly, had talked of things which brought them into closer communion, had--yes--had bidden her keep their interviews a secret from Gilbert. Had insanity begun?
A piece of folly; nothing else. As he walked towards Westminster, he viewed the situation, or tried to view it, as it is put in the second paragraph of this chapter. He had got into a very disagreeable position; he really must find some becoming way out of it; Thyrza was a silly girl to come a second time; of course the appointment for the following morning must not be kept. There was no harm in it all, none whatever, but--
Bah! The worst had come about; the miserable fate had declared itself; he was in love with Thyrza Trent!
He entered the Abbey. He seated himself in a shadowed place. Alone? Whose then was the voice that spoke to him unceasingly, and the hand which he was holding, which stirred his blood so with its warmth? 'Put aside every thought of the living fact; say that there is no Gilbert Grail in the world. You and I--you, Thyrza, my sweet-eyed, my beautiful--sit here side by side and hold each other's hands. Your voice has become very low and reverent, as befits the place, as befits the utterance of love such as this you say you bear me. What can I answer you, my golden one? Only, in voice low as your own, breathe that the world is barren but for you, that to the last drop of my heart's blood I love and worship you! A poor girl, a worker with her hands, untaught--you say that? A woman, pure of soul, with loveliness for your heritage, with possibilities imaginable in every ray of your eyes, in every note of the rare music of your voice!'
Even so. In the meantime, this happens to be Westminster Abbey, where a working man, one Gilbert Grail, has often walked and sought solace from the bitterness of his accursed lot, where he has thought of a young girl who lives above him in the house, and who, as often as she passes him, is like a gleam of southern sky somehow slipped into the blank hideousness of a London winter. Hither he has doubtless come to try and realise that fate has been so merciful to him that he longs to thank some unknown deity and cry that all is good. Hither he will come again, with one whom he calls his wife--
Walter rose and went forth, went home.
He had not been ten minutes in his room, when a servant appeared, to tell him that a lady had called and desired to see him, her name Mrs. Ormonde.
She came in, looking bright and noble as ever, giving him both her hands.
'I am glad to see you. I did not expect you to-day. Will you sit down?'
He did not know what he said. Mrs. Ormonde examined him, and for a moment kept silence.
'You have come up to-day?'
'Yes. I have come here direct from the station, because I wished to make use of you. But it seems to me that the doctor would have been a more fitting visitor. What has come to you, Walter?'
'It is true. I am not well. But always well enough to desire to serve you.'
'Though not, seemingly, to bear in mind my first wish. Why have you not answered my last letter, as I particularly asked you to? If you were ill, why have you remained here alone? I am angry with you.'
He was reflecting, as absorbedly as if she had not been in the room. She was his friend, if any man had one; she was of the priceless women who own both heart and brain. Should he speak out and tell her everything? If he did so, he was saved. He would leave town. Grail should come back, after the wedding holiday, and get on with the arrangement of the library under written directions. Illness would explain such a step. In a month, all would be right again.
Her eyes were searching him. Did she half know? He had written so foolishly in the letter about Thyrza. But it was impossible that she could divine such a thing. The circumstances made it too incredible.
'Tell me,' she went on. 'What has caused your illness?'
No, he could not. She would scorn him. And he could not bear to sink in her estimation. He could not seem childish before her.
'I have no idea,' he answered. 'Perhaps I have so accustomed myself to rambling over land and sea, that a year without change is proving too much for me. I must have the library started, and then be off-- anywhere--a voyage to New Zealand!'
Mrs. Ormonde showed disappointment. She did not believe that this was the truth, even as he knew it. The truth was glimmering in the rear of her thoughts, but she would not allow it to come forward; in plain daylight it was really difficult to entertain. Still, as an instinct it was there, instinct supported even by certain pieces of evidence.
'You wish to go away? To go a distance--to be away for some time?'
'Yes.' He did not meet her look. 'I don't think I shall get back my health till I do that. Don't let us talk of it.'
'What are you doing at the library?'
'Putting up books.'
'With Mr. Grail?'
'No. He doesn't leave the factory till the end of the week.'
'Then leave the place as it stands, and come to Eastbourne with me to-morrow.'
'I'm afraid I--'
'And so am I afraid,' she interrupted him gravely. 'I wish you to come to Eastbourne. I wish you to!'
'No, not to Eastbourne. I have reasons.'
Her eyes fell.
'But I promise you,' he continued, 'that I will leave town to-morrow. I promise you. Don't think me unkind that I refuse to come with you. I will go to Jersey again; it suits me. I'll stay there till Grail comes back with his wife, and then see if I feel well enough to come and go on with the work.'
'Very well,' Mrs. Ormonde replied, slowly.
'Do you doubt my word?' he asked, moving forward to her.
'We are not so far as that, Walter.'
'And now tell me what I am to do for you.'
She hesitated, but only for a moment.
'I wish you to see Mr. Bunce for me. Do you meet him nowadays?'
'Not just now, but I can see him any time.'
'I want to arrange, if possible, to keep his child with me for some time, for a year or more. It is not impossible that her disease might be checked if she lived at Eastbourne, but in London she will very soon die. I should like to see Mr. Bunce myself, and I thought you might be able to arrange for a meeting between us. My idea is this: I shall tell him that the girl can make herself useful in the house, and that I wish to pay her for her services. The money would of course go to him, and he might use it to get help in his home. Bessie, the child, has explained to me all the difficulties in the way of her remaining with me; they are heightened by her father's character, as you can understand. Now do you think he would see me? He might come to my hotel, or he might come here, or if he allows me, I would go to him.'
'I will arrange it, somehow. Trust me, I will arrange it.'
'You should have said that with a wave of the hand, as omnipotent people do on the stage.'
'There is no feeling miserable with you. Have you not something of that mesmeric power which draws one back into health under a touch?'
'Perhaps. A little. My children sometimes show astonishing improvement, when they get fond of me.'
They talked of various things, but no mention was made of the Newthorpes by either.
'Is Paula back yet?' Mrs. Ormonde asked.
'I have no idea. I am not likely ever to see her again.'
'Oh, yes! When you come back from New Zealand. I shall go and see the Tyrrells this afternoon, I think. I have to dine with friends at Hampstead. When can I have the result of your inquiries?'
'I will come to you to-morrow morning.'
'At ten, please. I have a great deal to get into the day; and you yourself must be off by noon.'
'By noon I shall be.'
This visit had been happily timed. Sympathy was essential to Egremont as often as he suffered from the caprices of his temperament, and in grave trouble it was a danger for him to be left companionless. He was highly nervous, and the tumult of his imagination affected his bodily state in a degree uncommon in men, though often seen in delicately organised women. When Mrs. Ormonde left him he felt relieved in mind, but physically so brought down that he stretched himself upon the sofa. He remained there for more than an hour.
How much better, he was saying to himself, not to have told Mrs. Ormonde I That would have been a greater folly than anything yet. No irreparable harm was as yet done; to confess a mere state of mind would have been to fill his friend with fears wholly groundless, and to fix a lasting torture in his own memory. It would have been to render impossible any future work in Lambeth. Yet upon the continuance of such work practically depended Grail's future. To Gilbert Grail he had solemn duties to perform. Henceforth the scope of his efforts would be lessened; instead of exerting himself for a vague populace, it would really be for Grail alone that he worked. Grail he must and would aid to the end. It was a task worthy of a man who was not satisfied with average aims. He would crush this tyrannous passion in his heart, cost him what struggle it might, and the reward would be a noble one.
He rose at length with a haggard face. It was long past the hour at which he usually took his mid-day meal, and he had no appetite for food. He went to a restaurant, however, and made pretence of eating; thence into the smoking-room, where he spent the time till five o'clock, drinking coffee and reading papers. His only object now was to kill time.
At half-past eight he was in Lambeth. He knew Bunce's address, but had never before been in Newport Street. It was his habit to discover places by the aid of a map alone, and, thus guided, he found the house.
Totty Nancarrow happened to be on the stairs when he knocked; she had just come in. She ran down to the door. Egremont inquired for Bunce, and was told he was not at home, and would not be till very late.
'Do you know when I could be sure to find him here?'
'Yes,' replied Totty, who was able to guess at Egremont's identity, and examined him with some interest. 'He'll be here to-morrow after eight. He's on a job in Hammersmith, working late. But to-morrow's the last day, and he's sure to be back by eight o'clock.'
'He leaves early in the morning, I suppose?'
'At half-past five.'
'Thank you. I will call to-morrow evening. Gould you let him know that, from Mr. Egremont? I wish to see him particularly.'
'I'll let him know, sir.'
This was a mishap. It would necessitate another whole day in London.
He called upon Mrs. Ormonde next morning, at the hotel which it was her wont to use when in town for a day or two. At first she was strongly opposed to his waiting just on this account.
'I cannot go till I have done this for you,' he said firmly. 'I shall see Bunce to-night, and go away to-morrow. You must let me have my way in this.'
And he desired to remain for a weightier reason than the apparent one. It was this morning, Wednesday, that Thyrza would expect to find him at the library. She must be disappointed, and he would prove to himself that he was yet strong enough to resist, that he had not so lost self-control that his only safety lay in flight.
The strength was that of a man who combats desperately with some ailment which threatens his life. 'Am I then of those who have no will power? Will is that whereby men raise themselves above the multitude; let me give proofs now that my claims are not those of a charlatan.' He passed six hours in his room.
Thyrza would go to the library at eleven, or a little after. She was there now. She would find the front door closed against her. She would go round to the house, and make inquiry of Mrs. Butterfield. Perhaps she would wait for him.
Yes, she would wait for him. She was sitting in the library, on the chest which he had offered her for a seat, alone, disappointed.
Disappointed. More than that. Why had she come on Tuesday, the second morning? Why had she desired to come yet again? Had he read her face truly?
He knew, he knew with miserable certainty, that she did not love Grail. She had not known what love was; a child, so merely a child! But when love once was born in her, would it not be for life and death?
He was lying on the sofa again, his eyes fixed on the ceiling. Moisture stood upon his forehead, formed into beads and ran off. His torment was that of the rack. He believed that Thyrza had at least begun to love him. Madman that he was, he hoped it! Thyrza's love was a thing for which one would dare uttermost perdition, the blind leap once taken. Yes, but that leap he would not take; he was on firm ground; he knew what honour meant; he acknowledged the sanctity of obligations between man and man
But if she loved him, was it right that she should wed Grail? Obligations, forsooth! Was it not his first duty to save her from a terrible self-sacrifice? What could overrule love? There was time to intervene; four days more, and it would be too late for ever--for ever. What hideous things might result from conscientiousness such as he was now striving to preserve.
'Thyrza! She is waiting there, waiting for me to come to her. She trembles at every sound, thinking it my footstep. If her anguish be but the shadow of mine--'
He sprang up, ghastly. He had not closed his eyes through the night, but had lain, and walked about the room, in torment. Desire, jealousy, frenzy of first passion, the first passion of his life; no pang was spared him. Oh, how had it grown so suddenly! He had imagined love such as this for some stately woman whose walk was upon the heights of mind--some great artist--some glorious sovereign of culture. Instead of that, a simple girl who lived by her needle, who spoke faultily. And he loved her with the love which comes to a man but once.
The evening came at last. Long before it was really time to start for Lambeth, on his visit to Bunce, he began to walk southwards. He was at Westminster Bridge by half-past seven; probably it would be useless to call in Newport Street for another hour. He went down on to the Lambeth Embankment.
It was his hope that no acquaintance would pass this way. Still blameless in fact, he could not help a fear of being observed; the feeling could not have been stronger if he had come with the express purpose of seeking Thyrza. The air was cold; it blew at moments piercingly from the river. Where the sun had set, there was still a swarthy glow upon the clouds; the gas-lamps gave a haggardness to the banks and the bridges.
He walked at a quick pace; this way, then that. Workmen and women in numbers were hurrying in both directions. Egremont kept his face towards the river, that he might see no one. There was no likelihood that Thyrza would pass. If she did, if she were alone and saw him, he knew she would come up to him and speak.
The bell at Westminster struck out the hour of eight. He turned off the Embankment and went on to Lambeth Bridge, stopping at length to lean on the parapet at the same place where Gilbert had stood and mused one night when his happiness was almost too great to bear. To Egremont the darkening scene was in accord with the wearied misery which made his life one dull pain. London lay beneath the night like a city of hopeless toil, of aimless conflict, of frustration and barrenness. His philosophy was a sham, a spinning of cobwebs for idle hours when the heart is restful and the brain seeks to be amused. He had no more strength to bear the torture of an inassuageable desire than any foolish fellow who knew not the name of culture. He could not look forward to the day of forgetting; he would not allow himself to believe that he ever could forget.
But it was time now to go on to Newport Street. In Paradise Street, just before the railway arch, he glanced at the Bowers' shop, and dreaded lest Bower should meet him. But he saw no one that he knew before reaching Bunce's abode.
The landlady opened the door. Bunce was at home, and in a moment came down. He returned his visitor's greeting awkwardly, much wondering.
'Could I have a few words with you?' Egremont asked. 'I have come on Mrs. Ormonde's behalf--the lady at the Eastbourne home, you know. I have a message about your little girl.'
'Something happened?' Bunce inquired, in a startled voice.
'No, no; good news, if anything.'
Bunce did not willingly invite Egremont into his poor room, but he felt that he had no choice. He just said: 'Will you come upstairs, sir?' and led the way.
The two children were playing together on the floor; Bunce had been on the point of putting Nelly to bed. In spite of his mood, natural kindness so far prevailed with Egremont that he bent and touched the child's curls. Bunce, with set lips, stood watching; he saw that Egremont had not so much as cast an eye round the room, and that, together with the attention to his child, softened his naturally suspicious frame of mind.
'It's better than coming back to an empty room every night?' Egremont said, looking at the man.
'Yes, sir, it's better--though I don't always think so.'
'These two keep well?'
'There's never nothing the matter with me!' exclaimed young Jack, bluff though shamefaced.
'Nothing except your grammar, you mean, Jack,' replied his father. 'Will you just sit down, sir? I was afraid at first there was something wrong, when you mentioned Mrs. Ormonde.'
Egremont reassured him, and went on to say that Mrs. Ormonde was anxious to see him personally whilst she was in town. He felt it would be better not to explain the nature of the proposal Mrs. Ormonde was going to make, and affected to know nothing more than that she wished to speak of the child's health. Bunce had knitted his brows; his heavy lips took on a fretful sullenness. He knew that it was impossible to meet Egremont with flat refusals, and the prospect of being driven into something he intensely disliked worked him into an inward fume. He gave a great scrape on the floor with one of his heels as if he would have ploughed a track in the boards.
'I'm sorry,' he began, 'I've got no free time worth speaking of. I'm much obliged to the lady. But I don't see how I'm to--'
He wanted to blunder out words of angry impatience; his rising choler brought him to a full stop in the middle of the sentence.
Egremont addressed himself in earnest to the task persuasion. More was involved than mere benefit to the child's health; it was easy to see that Bunce's position was a miserable one, and Mrs. Ormonde, if once she could establish direct relations with the man, would doubtless find many a little way of being useful to him. He put it at length as a personal favour. Bunce again ploughed the floor, then blurted out:
'I'll go, Mr. Egremont. I'm not one to talk to ladies, as you can see yourself, but I can't help that. I shall have to go as I am.'
'Mrs. Ormonde will gladly come here, if you will let her.'
'I'd rather not, if you don't mind, sir.'
'Then it will be simplest if you go to my rooms in Great Russell Street, just by the British Museum. I leave town tomorrow; Mrs. Ormonde will be quite alone to meet you. Could you be there at nine o'clock?'
The appointment was made, Egremont leaving one of his cards to insure recollection of the address. Then he spoke a word or two to the children, and Bunce led him down to the door. They shook hands.
'I shall see you at the library soon, I hope,' Egremont said. 'You must give me your best help in making it known.'
The words sounded so hollow in his own ears that, as he turned to go along the dark street, he could have laughed at himself scornfully.
As Bunce reascended, someone met and passed him, hurrying with light feet and woman's garments silently.
'That you, Miss Nancarrow?' he asked, for there was no light on the staircase.
'No,' came a muffled reply. 'Miss Nancarrow isn't in.'
It was the voice of Thyrza Trent. Bunce did not recognise it, for he knew her too slightly.
She had come to the house not long before Egremont. After a day of suffering she wished to speak with Totty. Totty was the only one to whom she could speak now; Gilbert, her own Lyddy--them she dreaded. Notwithstanding the terms on which she had parted with her friend on Monday night, she felt an irresistible need of seeing her. It was one way, moreover, of passing a part of the evening away from Walnut Tree Walk. But Totty was out, had not yet come home since her work. Thyrza said she would go upstairs and wait.
She did so. Totty's room was dark and, of course, fireless; but she cared neither for the darkness nor the cold. She groped her way to a chair and sat very still. It was a blessed relief to be here, to be safe from Gilbert and Lyddy for ever so short a time, to sit and clasp the darkness like something loved. She was making up her mind to tell Totty everything. Someone she must tell--someone. Not Lyddy; that would be terrible. But Totty had a kind heart, and would keep the secret, perchance could advise in some way. Though what advice could anyone give?
What voice was that? She had heard someone knock at Bunce's door, then heard Bunce go down. He was coming up again, and someone with him--someone who spoke in a voice which made her heart leap. She sprang to the door to listen. Bunce and his companion entered the opposite room, and shut themselves in. Thyrza opened her door as softly as possible, leaned forward, listened. Yes, it was his voice!
What was he doing here? He had not come to the library, had not kept his promise. Was it not a promise to her? He had said that she should see him again, should be in the room alone with him, talk with him for one hour--one poor, short hour; and in the end it was denied. Why did he come to see Mr. Bunce? But he was well; nothing had happened to him, which all day had been her dread.
She would not try to overhear their conversation. Enough that he was safe in that next room, never mind for what purpose he came. She was near to him again.
She threw up her hands against the door, and leaned her face, her bosom on it. Her throat was so dry that she felt choking; her heart --poor heart! could it bear this incessant throbbing pain? She swallowed tears, and had some little bodily solace.
But if Totty should come! She hoped to be alone as long as he was there. It was so sweet to be near him, and alone!
And Totty did not come. Of a sudden the opposite door opened. He was leaving, going forth again she knew not whither--only that it was away from her.
Then desire became act. She heard the house-door close, and on the moment sped from the room. She scarcely knew what she said to Bunce on the stairs. Now she was in the street. Which way? There he was, there, at but a little distance.
But she must not approach him here, in this street. Any moment Totty might come--one of the Bowers might pass. She kept at an even remoteness, following him. Into Paradise Street, into High Street, out into Lambeth Road, with the bridge in sight. He meant to go along the Embankment. But it was quieter here. A quickened step, almost a run, and she was by his side.
'Mr. Egremont. I thought it was you. I wanted--'
They were under the church. As Thyrza spoke, the bells suddenly broke out with their harsh clanging; they had been ringing for the last twenty minutes, and were now recommencing after a pause.
Egremont glanced towards the tower, startled and seemingly annoyed.
'I'm very sorry I couldn't come to the library this morning, Miss Trent,' he said, very formally. 'I was unexpectedly kept away.'
What automaton had taken his place and spoke in this contemptible tone of conventional politeness?
'Those bells are so loud,' Thyrza said, complainingly. 'I wanted to --to ask you something. May I go with you a little further--just to the bridge?'
He said nothing, but looked at her and walked on. They entered the bridge. Egremont still advanced, and Thyrza kept by him, till they were nearly on the Westminster side of the river. Very few people passed them, and no vehicles disturbed the quiet of the dark road along the waterside. On the one hand was a black mass of wharfs, a few barges moored in front; on the other, at a little distance, the gloomy shape of Millbank prison. The jangle of the bells was softened.
'They certainly might be more musical,' Egremont said, with a forced laugh. 'I should not care to live in one of the houses just under the church.'
She was speaking.
'I waited this morning. Oh, it didn't matter; but I was afraid--I thought you might have had some accident, Mr. Egremont.'
'No. It was business that prevented me from coming. But you wish to ask me something, Miss Trent?'
'If you will be there to-morrow--that was all. I like helping. I like looking at the books, and putting them up--if you would let me.'
The nearest lamp showed him her face. What held him from making that pale loveliness his own? His heart throbbed as terribly as hers; he with difficulty heard when she spoke, so loud was the rush of blood in his ears.
But he had begun the fight with himself. He could not turn away abruptly and leave her standing there; if the victory were to be won, it must be by sheer wrestle with the temptation, for her sake as well as his own. To let her so much as suspect his feeling were as bad as to utter it; nay, infinitely worse, for it would mean that he must not see her after to-night. He and she would then be each other's peril in a far direr sense than now.
He replied to her
'I'm so sorry; I shall not be there to-morrow. I have to go out of London.'
He looked her in the face unwaveringly. It was the look which tormented her, not that which she yearned for. She could not move away her eyes.
'You are going away, Mr. Egremont?'
'Yes, I am going out of England for a week or two--perhaps for longer.'
It was wrong--all wrong. In spite of himself he could not but admit a note of pathos. The automatic voice of politeness would not come at his bidding. He should have left her on the other side of the bridge, where the harsh bells allowed no delicacies of tone.
'To France?' she asked.
'No. To an island very near France. I must not keep you standing here, Miss Trent. It is very cold.'
Yes, the wind was cold, but perspiration covered his face.
'Please--only a minute. May I go to the library and do some more of the books? Are they all finished?'
'No. There's still one case of them, and more will be coming. Certainly you may go there if you wish.'
Her voice fell.
'But I shan't know how to put them. No, I can't do it alone.'
'I shall write to Mr. Grail, and tell him what I have been doing. You can help him.'
The monosyllable fell from her like a whisper of despair. But the utterance of Grail's name had brought Egremont the last impulse he needed.
'When I come back,' he said, 'I shall find you in your new home. As I shan't see you again, let me say now how much I hope that you will live there a long time and very happily. Good-bye, Miss Trent.'
Surely that was formal and automatic enough. Not one more word, not one more glance at her face. He had touched her hand, had raised his hat, was gone.
She stood gazing after him until, in a minute or two, he was lost in the dark street behind the wharfs. So suddenly! He had scarcely said good-bye--so poor a good-bye! She had vexed him with her importunities; he wished to show her that she had not behaved in the way that pleased him. Scarcely a good-bye!
She went to the end of the bridge, and there crept into a dark place whither no eye could follow her. Her strength was at an end. She fell to her knees; her head lay against something hard and cold; a sob convulsed her, and then in the very anguish of desolation she wept. The darkness folded her; she could lie here on the ground and abandon herself to misery. She wept her soul from her eyes.
But for Egremont the struggle was not over. He had scarcely passed out of her sight when fear held his steps. Thyrza must not he left there alone. That face of hers, looking like marble, threatened despair. How could he leave her so far from home, in the night, by the river?
He went back. He knew what such return meant. It was defeat after all. He knew what his first word to her would be.
He sought her now, sought her that she might never leave him again. The flood of passion was too strong; that moment of supreme restraint had but massed the waters into overwhelming power. It was the thought of danger to her that had ended all pity for Gilbert.
She was not in sight. Could she have passed the bridge so quickly? He ran forward. True, it must be more than five minutes since he had left her, much more, perhaps, for he could not judge how long he had stood battling with him. self behind the wharfs.
A policeman stood at the end of the bridge. Egremont asked him if a young girl had just passed. Yes, such a one had gone by a minute or two ago.
He ran on, past the church, into High Street. But would she go this way? A girl crossed the road a little way ahead, into Paradise Street. He overtook her, only to be disappointed.
At the end of Newport Street a man stood, waiting. It was Gilbert Grail; he had come in the hope of meeting Thyrza, who, Lydia had told him, was gone to see Totty Nancarrow. He was greatly anxious about her.
Egremont, coming up at a swift pace recognised Gilbert and stopped. They shook hands. Grail was silent, Egremont began to stammer words. He had been to see Bunce, just now, for such and such reasons, with such and such results. But he could not stop, he had an engagement. Good-night!
The shame of it! He found himself in Lambeth Walk, no longer searching, anxious only to get away from the sight of men. Thyrza must be home by this time. That speech with Gilbert had chilled him, and now he was hot with self-contempt. He made his way out into Westminster Bridge Road, thence walked to his own part of the town.