A profound stillness reigned in the Casa Gould. The master of the house, walking along the corridor, opened the door of his room, and saw his wife sitting in a big armchair -- his own smoking armchair -- thoughtful, contemplating her little shoes. And she did not raise her eyes when he walked in.
`Tired?' asked Charles Gould.
`A little,' said Mrs Gould. Still without looking up, she added with feeling, `There is an awful sense of unreality about all this.'
Charles Gould, before the long table strewn with papers, on which lay a hunting crop and a pair of spurs, stood looking at his wife: `The heat and dust must have been awful this afternoon by the waterside,' he murmured, sympathetically. `The glare on the water must have been simply terrible.'
`One could close one's eyes to the glare,' said Mrs Gould. `But, my dear Charley, it is impossible for me to close my eyes to our position; to this awful . . .'
She raised her eyes and looked at her husband's face, from which all sign of sympathy or any other feeling had disappeared. `Why don't you tell me something?' she almost wailed.
`I thought you had understood me perfectly from the first,' Charles Gould said, slowly. `I thought we had said all there was to say a long time ago. There is nothing to say now. There were things to be done. We have done them; we have gone on doing them. There is no going back now. I don't suppose that, even from the first, there was really any possible way back. And what's more, we can't even afford to stand still.'
`Ah, if one only knew how far you mean to go,' said his wife, inwardly trembling, but in an almost playful tone.
`Any distance, any length, of course,' was the answer, in a matter-of-fact tone, which caused Mrs Gould to make another effort to repress a shudder.
She stood up, smiling graciously, and her little figure seemed to be diminished still more by the heavy mass of her hair and the long train of her gown.
`But always to success,' she said, persuasively.
Charles Gould, enveloping her in the steely blue glance of his attentive eyes, answered without hesitation:
`Oh, there is no alternative.'
He put an immense assurance into his tone. As to the words, this was all that his conscience would allow him to say.
Mrs Gould's smile remained a shade too long upon her lips. She murmured:
`I will leave you; I've a slight headache. The heat, the dust, were indeed--I suppose you are going back to the mine before the morning?'
`At midnight,' said Charles Gould. `We are bringing down the silver tomorrow. Then I shall take three whole days off in town with you.'
`Ah, you are going to meet the escort. I shall be on the balcony at five o'clock to see you pass. Till then, good-bye.'
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