The Secret Places of the Heart/Chapter 2
CHAPTER THE SECOND
The patient left the house with much more self-possession than he had shown when entering it. Dr. Martineau had thrust him back from his intenser prepossessions to a more generalized view of himself, had made his troubles objective and detached him from them. He could even find something amusing now in his situation. He liked the immense scope of the theoretical duet in which they had indulged. He felt that most of it was entirely true—and, in some untraceable manner, absurd. There were entertaining possibilities in the prospect of the doctor drawing him out—he himself partly assisting and partly resisting.
He was a man of extensive reservations. His private life was in some respects exceptionally private.
“I don’t confide.... Do I even confide in myself? I imagine I do.... Is there anything in myself that I haven’t looked squarely in the face?... How much are we going into? Even as regards facts?
“Does it really help a man—to see himself?...”
Such thoughts engaged him until he found himself in his study. His desk and his writing table were piled high with a heavy burthen of work. Still a little preoccupied with Dr. Martineau’s exposition, he began to handle this confusion....
At half past nine he found himself with three hours of good work behind him. It had seemed like two. He had not worked like this for many weeks. “This is very cheering,” he said. “And unexpected. Can old Moon-face have hypnotized me? Anyhow—... Perhaps I’ve only imagined I was ill.... Dinner?” He looked at his watch and was amazed at the time. “Good Lord! I’ve been at it three hours. What can have happened? Funny I didn’t hear the gong.”
He went downstairs and found Lady Hardy reading a magazine in a dining-room armchair and finely poised between devotion and martyrdom. A shadow of vexation fell athwart his mind at the sight of her.
“I’d no idea it was so late,” he said. “I heard no gong.”
“After you swore so at poor Bradley I ordered that there should be no gongs when we were alone. I did come up to your door about half past eight. I crept up. But I was afraid I might upset you if I came in.”
“But you’ve not waited——”
“I’ve had a mouthful of soup.” Lady Hardy rang the bell.
“I’ve done some work at last,” said Sir Richmond, astride on the hearthrug.
“I’m glad,” said Lady Hardy, without gladness. “I waited for three hours.”
Lady Hardy was a frail little blue-eyed woman with uneven shoulders and a delicate sweet profile. Hers was that type of face that under even the most pleasant and luxurious circumstances still looks bravely and patiently enduring. Her refinement threw a tinge of coarseness over his eager consumption of his excellent clear soup.
“What’s this fish, Bradley?” he asked.
“Turbot, Sir Richmond.”
“Don’t you have any?” he asked his wife.
“I’ve had a little fish,” said Lady Hardy.
When Bradley was out of the room, Sir Richmond remarked: “I saw that nerves man, Dr. Martineau, to-day. He wants me to take a holiday.”
The quiet patience of the lady’s manner intensified. She said nothing. A flash of resentment lit Sir Richmond’s eyes. When he spoke again, he seemed to answer unspoken accusations. “Dr. Martineau’s idea is that he should come with me.”
The lady adjusted herself to a new point of view.
“But won’t that be reminding you of your illness and worries?”
“He seems a good sort of fellow.... I’m inclined to like him. He’ll be as good company as anyone.... This tournedos looks excellent. Have some.”
“I had a little bird,” said Lady Hardy, “when I found you weren’t coming.”
“But I say—don’t wait here if you’ve dined. Bradley can see to me.”
She smiled and shook her head with the quiet conviction of one who knew her duty better. “Perhaps I’ll have a little ice pudding when it comes,” she said.
Sir Richmond detested eating alone in an atmosphere of observant criticism. And he did not like talking with his mouth full to an unembarrassed interlocutor who made no conversational leads of her own. After a few mouthfuls he pushed his plate away from him. “Then let’s have up the ice pudding,” he said with a faint note of bitterness.
“But have you finished——?”
“The ice pudding!” he exploded wrathfully. “The ice pudding!”
Lady Hardy sat for a moment, a picture of meek distress. Then, her delicate eyebrows raised, and the corners of her mouth drooping, she touched the button of the silver table-bell.