Meanwhile, by H. G. Wells

§ 13

It seemed ever so late in the night when Philip came upstairs. He made a scarcely perceptible noise, but she was alert. “Phil dear!” she cried. “Are you there? Phil!”

He came softly out of the shadows, stood aloof for a moment, black, mysterious and silent against the blue night, and then was at the bedside. “I hoped you were asleep,” he said.

She clicked on her shaded light and the two regarded each other in a sorrowful scrutiny, perplexed with themselves and life.

“Cynthia,” he whispered. “Cynthia my darling; can you forgive?”

“Perhaps,” she panted and paused. “Perhaps there is nothing to forgive.”

“But ——?”

“Nothing that matters.”

“She’s cleared out.”

“It doesn’t matter. Don’t trouble about her. . . . You I think of.”

“I’ve been such a beast.”

“No. It happened. It had to happen. Something had to happen. You couldn’t help yourself. You’ve nothing to do here. You’ve been a prisoner here, waiting on me.”

“Oh! don’t say that. I meant to be so dear to you — my dear. But there’s something rotten in me.”

“No, no. Rotten! Dear, Phil dear, you’re not even ripe. But I’ve let you stay here. . . . ” She put out her hand and he sat himself on the bed beside her. He kissed her. “My dear,” he said. “Dear! Dear!”

“Listen,” she said and kept her hand upon him. She whispered. Both spoke in whispers. “Go to England, dear one. Things are happening there. Trouble and muddle. Men — men ought to work. You — you ought to find out. You ought to understand. You so rich and — responsible. Things have to be done. I can stay here. . . . ”

“You banish me?”

“No. This is banishment. Here. Here I can’t help you — to grow into the man you have to be. Not now. I’ve got to be three parts vegetable for a bit now — and then a sort of cow. No fit companion for a growing man. I don’t mind, dear. It’s worth it. It’s what I’m for. It had to be. But you —you go home to England now. You can’t stand idleness. You can’t stand these long empty days.”

He released her and sat thinking it out.

After a long pause he said, “I think you are right. I ought to go.”

“Yes —go.”

“We’ve got all the Red Valley property. All that Yorkshire stretch. The Vale of Edensoke. A third perhaps of the Rylands millions is in coal. I ought to know about it. I’ve let the older men, Uncle Robert and the others, do what they pleased.”

Now that was a man!

“Go for that,” she said. “Go for the sake of that.”

He turned his eyes to her. She did her best to look at him with a grave, quiet, convincing face and her strength was not enough. Suddenly the calm of her countenance broke under her distress and she wept like a struck child.

“Oh my dear!” he cried in an agony of helplessness; “that I should hurt you now! What have I done to you?” and threw his arms about her and drew her up close to him, very close to him, and kissed the salt tears.

“Poor Phil!” she clung to him weeping, smoothing his hair with one hand. “Dear Phil!”

End of Book One

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 12:30