A Poor Wise Man HTML version

Chapter 21
For a time Lily remained hidden in the house on Cardew Way, walking out after
nightfall with Louis occasionally, but shrinkingly keeping to quiet back streets.
She had a horror of meeting some one she knew, of explanations and of gossip.
But after a time the desire to see her mother became overwhelming. She took to
making little flying visits home at an hour when her grandfather was certain to be
away, going in a taxicab, and reaching the house somewhat breathless and
excited. She was driven by an impulse toward the old familiar things; she was
homesick for them all, for her mother, for Mademoiselle, for her own rooms, for
her little toilet table, for her bed and her reading lamp. For the old house itself.
She was still an alien where she was. Elinor Doyle was a perpetual enigma to
her; now and then she thought she had penetrated behind the gentle mask that
was Elinor's face, only to find beyond it something inscrutable. There was a dead
line in Elinor's life across which Lily never stepped. Whatever Elinor's battles
were, she fought them alone, and Lily had begun to realize that there were
The atmosphere of the little house had changed. Sometimes, after she had gone
to bed, she heard Doyle's voice from the room across the hall, raised angrily. He
was nervous and impatient; at times he dropped the unctuousness of his manner
toward her, and she found herself looking into a pair of cold blue eyes which
terrified her.
The brilliant little dinners had entirely ceased, with her coming. A sort of early
summer lethargy had apparently settled on the house. Doyle wrote for hours,
shut in the room with the desk; the group of intellectuals, as he had dubbed
them, had dispersed on summer vacations. But she discovered that there were
other conferences being held in the house, generally late at night.
She learned to know the nights when those meetings were to occur. On those
evenings Elinor always made an early move toward bed, and Lily would repair to
her hot low-ceiled room, to sit in the darkness by the window and think long,
painful thoughts.
That was how she learned of the conferences. She had no curiosity about them
at first. They had something to do with the strike, she considered, and with that
her interest died. Strikes were a symptom, and ultimately, through great thinkers
like Mr. Doyle, they would discover the cure for the disease that caused them.
She was quite content to wait for that time.