"Yes, I shall have another. She was very kind to me. It's that
that's the difference."
He judged, wondering a good deal before he made any motion to leave
her, that the difference would somehow be very great and would
consist of still other things than her having let him come in. It
rather chilled him, for they had been happy together as they were.
He extracted from her at any rate an intimation that she should now
have means less limited, that her aunt's tiny fortune had come to
her, so that there was henceforth only one to consume what had
formerly been made to suffice for two. This was a joy to Stransom,
because it had hitherto been equally impossible for him either to
offer her presents or contentedly to stay his hand. It was too
ugly to be at her side that way, abounding himself and yet not able
to overflow - a demonstration that would have been signally a false
note. Even her better situation too seemed only to draw out in a
sense the loneliness of her future. It would merely help her to
live more and more for their small ceremonial, and this at a time
when he himself had begun wearily to feel that, having set it in
motion, he might depart. When they had sat a while in the pale
parlour she got up - "This isn't my room: let us go into mine."
They had only to cross the narrow hall, as he found, to pass quite
into another air. When she had closed the door of the second room,
as she called it, he felt at last in real possession of her. The
place had the flush of life - it was expressive; its dark red walls
were articulate with memories and relics. These were simple things
- photographs and water-colours, scraps of writing framed and
ghosts of flowers embalmed; but a moment sufficed to show him they
had a common meaning. It was here she had lived and worked, and
she had already told him she would make no change of scene. He
read the reference in the objects about her - the general one to
places and times; but after a minute he distinguished among them a
small portrait of a gentleman. At a distance and without their
glasses his eyes were only so caught by it as to feel a vague
curiosity. Presently this impulse carried him nearer, and in
another moment he was staring at the picture in stupefaction and
with the sense that some sound had broken from him. He was further
conscious that he showed his companion a white face when he turned
round on her gasping: "Acton Hague!"
She matched his great wonder. "Did you know him?"
"He was the friend of all my youth - of my early manhood. And YOU
She coloured at this and for a moment her answer failed; her eyes
embraced everything in the place, and a strange irony reached her
lips as she echoed: "Knew him?"
Then Stransom understood, while the room heaved like the cabin of a
ship, that its whole contents cried out with him, that it was a
museum in his honour, that all her later years had been addressed
to him and that the shrine he himself had reared had been
passionately converted to this use. It was all for Acton Hague
that she had kneeled every day at his altar. What need had there
been for a consecrated candle when he was present in the whole
array? The revelation so smote our friend in the face that he
dropped into a seat and sat silent. He had quickly felt her shaken
by the force of his shock, but as she sank on the sofa beside him
and laid her hand on his arm he knew almost as soon that she
mightn't resent it as much as she'd have liked.