I shall never tell you now
‘I’ve behaved cheaply. I’ve known it and not been able to help it. I regret that, but I don’t regret the thing that made me act so. I shall never regret it. Lye, dear Lye, please tell me you understand.’
Before there was time for him to answer, they heard the whistle of the train echoing through the tunnel that opened out of the station. The tension, the suffocating closeness, was shattered by it. There was no need, he knew, to answer her, no time or way for an answer to be made.
Instead he said, ‘The train’s early.’
‘I’d forgotten,’ Katharine said. ‘This one stands in the station for five minutes. It has to wait for the train to come up from Montreux.’
Her voice was casual again; more so, he thought, than his own. She saw him onto the train and offered her cheek for him to kiss without emotion. While the train stayed in the station he leaned out and they talked of various things; among them, he was to give her love to John when he saw him.
It was only as the train began to move that the conventional smile left her face and was replaced by sadness. She said, in a quiet voice, ‘I shall never tell you now.’
There was a vividness in the scene; it was as though time, which was hastening their separation, somehow for an instant stood still, printing every detail on his mind. He noticed the raven’s-wing curl of hair that fell across her face from under her bonnet, the whiteness of her hand against her breast, the tears brimming in her eyes. For the first time, too, he noticed her dress – that she was wearing a suit that she had worn two years ago, before her marriage to John; and it was this, more than anything, that made him want to lean from the window and cry out, ‘I understand, I understand!’ But time had moved on again, and even if he had called he was not sure she would have heard him.