elation as he saw her go

He only wished to avoid silence, to avoid facing what was irresistibly being borne in upon him, that all his relations with this woman had been a phantasm, a thing of the mists of yesterday. It was a hateful shock to all his theories, to all his ideals of constancy and single-minded devotion. He had worshipped this woman, set her—(at her own suggestion, though he did not know it)—on a pedestal, and lo! a day had come when she was no longer there. The pedestal remained, but the goddess was spirited away. He was very unhappy.

Gertrude was sorely tempted to let him think so, but she had in mind the difficulty of confessing to the women upstairs, her mother and three sisters, her return to unplighted maidenhood. She could not face that. She began to mop at her eyes, ate her words humbly, and declared that he had made her utterly miserable. She had so looked forward to seeing him again. It had made her so happy to be with him in the study once more, like old times, and all he could do was to snarl and growl; and if he was going to be like that before, what would he be like after. . . . Bennett pacified her as best he could, abused himself, said that he was not worthy to touch the hem of her garment, and, just as she was prepared for the final redeeming sinking into tenderness, amazed her—(himself too)—by announcing that he must go and help Annette prepare the supper.

He left her gasping. She hated him in that moment. Never, never, would she forgive him. All the same she followed him. He was almost as aghast at his conduct as she, and it was a relief to him to see her enter the kitchen before he had time to explain his entry to Annette. He stood and smiled weakly—a little vacantly—and, with a forced joviality, he said: “We—we’ve come to help you with the supper.” Gertrude took his arm and said, “Yes, she had come to show Annette how to make a real Indian curry as Uncle William had it done, according to a native recipe, at Sydenham.” Annette explained that she was not making a curry, and had not the ingredients for it, but she said how glad she would be of their help, as she was rather late. Bennett and Gertrude selected activities which were necessarily separate. Bennett chose to help at the oven. Gertrude took the heaped-up tray into the dining-room.

Bennett was filled with an extraordinary elation as he saw her go. He had asserted himself more forcibly than he had intended, and, so far as he could see, with a success beyond all anticipation. It went to his head, he [Pg 207]brandished a piece of bread on the end of a toasting-fork and chanted to himself:
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