PAMELA construed the departure of Tony and his wife together according to her hopes. They were united again. She was content with that fact, and looked no further, since her own affairs had become of an engrossing interest. But the last word has not been said about the Truants. It was not, indeed, until the greater part of a year had passed that the section of their history which is related in this book reached any point of finality.
In the early days of January the Truants arrived in London at the close of a long visit to Scotland. They got out upon Euston platform, and entering their brougham, drove off. They had not driven far before Millie looked out of the window and started forward with her hand upon the check-string. It was dusk, and the evening was not clear. But she saw, nevertheless, that the coachman had turned down to the left amongst the squares of Bloomsbury, and that is not the way from Euston to Regent’s Park. She did not pull the check-string, however. She looked curiously at Tony, who was sitting beside her, and then leaned back in the carriage. With her quick adaptability she had fallen into a habit of not questioning her husband. Since the night in the South of France she had given herself into his hands with a devotion which, to tell the truth, had something of slavishness. It was his wish, apparently, that the recollection of that night should still be a barrier between them, hindering them from anything but an exchange of courtesies. She bowed to the wish without complaint. Tonight, however, as they drove through the unaccustomed streets, there rose within her mind a hope. She would have stifled it, dreading disappointment; but it was stronger than her will. Moreover, it received each minute fresh encouragement. The brougham crossed Oxford Street, turned down South Audley Street, and traversed thence into Park Street. Millie now sat forward in her seat. She glanced at her husband. Tony, with a face of indifference, was looking out of the window. Yet the wonderful thing, it seemed, was coming to pass, nay, had come to pass. For already the brougham had stopped, and the door at which it stopped was the door of the little house in Deanery Street.
Tony turned to his wife with a smile.
“Home!” he said.
She sat there incredulous, even though the look of the house, the windows, the very pavement were speaking to her memories. There was the blank wall on the north side which her drawing-room window overlooked, there was the sharp curve of the street into Park Lane, there was the end of Dorchester House. Here the happiest years of her life, yes, and of Tony’s, too, had been passed. She had known that to be truth for a long while now. She had come of late to think that they were the only really happy years which had fallen to her lot. The memories of them throbbed about her now with a vividness which was poignant.
“Is it true?” she asked, with a catch of her breath. “Is it really true, Tony?”
“Yes, this is our home.”
Millie descended from the carriage. Tony looked at her curiously. This sudden arrival at the new home, which was the old, had proved a greater shock to her than he had expected. For a little while after their return to England Millie had dwelt upon the words which Tony had spoken to her in the Réserve by the sea. He had dreamed of buying the house in Deanery Street, of resuming there the life which they had led together there, in the days when they had been good friends as well as good lovers. That dream for a time she had made her own. She had come to long for its fulfilment, as she had never longed for anything else in the world; she had believed that sooner or later Tony would relent, and that it would be fulfilled. But the months had passed, and now, when she had given up hope, unexpectedly it had been fulfilled. She stood upon the pavement, almost dazed.
“You never said a word of what you meant to do,” she said with a smile, as though excusing herself for her unresponsive manner. The door was open. She went into the house and Tony followed her. They mounted the stairs into the drawing-room.
“As far as I could,” Tony said, “I had the house furnished just as it used to be. I could not get all the pictures which we once had, but you see I have done my best.”
Millie looked round the room. There was the piano standing just as it used to do, the carpet, the wall-paper were all of the old pattern. It seemed to her that she had never left the house; that the years in Berkeley Square and Regent’s Park were a mere nightmare from which she had just awaked. And then she looked at Tony. No, these latter years had been quite real—he bore the marks of them upon his face. The boyishness had gone. No doubt, she thought, it was the same with her.
Tony stood and looked at her with an eagerness which she did not understand.
“Are you glad?” he asked earnestly. “Millie, are you pleased?”
She stood in front of him with a very serious face. Once a smile brightened it; but it was a smile of doubt, of question.
“I am not sure,” she said. “I know that you have been very kind. You have done this to please me. But——” And her voice wavered a little.
“Well?” said Tony.
“But,” she went on with difficulty, “I am not sure that I can endure it, unless things are different from what they have been lately. I shall be reminded every minute of other times, and the comparison between those times and the present will be very painful. I think that I shall be very unhappy, much more unhappy than I have ever been, even lately.”
Her voice sank to a whisper at the end. The little house in Deanery Street, even in her dreams, had been no more than a symbol. She had longed for it as the outward and visible sign of the complete reconciliation on which her heart was set. But to have the sign and to know that it signified nothing—she dreaded that possibility now. Only for a very few moments she dreaded it.
“I don’t think I can endure it, Tony,” she said sadly. And the next moment his arms were about her, and her head was resting against his breast.
“Millie!” he cried in a low voice; and again “Millie!”
Her face was white, her eyelids closed over her eyes. Tony thought that she had swooned. But when he moved her hands held him close to her, held him tightly, as though she dreaded to lose him.
“Millie,” he said, “do you remember the lights in Oban Bay? And the gulls calling at night above the islands?”
“I am forgiven, then?” she whispered; and he answered only—
But the one word was enough.