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Phyllis is not on the lawn with the rest of her family. She is hardly ever at home now during the day, for she has thrown herself with vigour into the work of the Girl Guide Association, of which she was made Honorary President, and an Executive one too as it has happened, soon after her marriage. She is aware that her efforts in this regard are in some measure an attempt to expiate her guilt. Not perhaps entirely without reason, she holds herself responsible for the change in Tom, or rather for his reversion to old habits.

For a few months after the marriage, the country had been full of hope: it seemed as though normalcy, good relation between the races, freedom of speech, safeguards against corruption, and all that sort of thing had been restored. Though not in the least vivacious in his good humour once she had accepted him, Tom had also seemed to be restrained, indeed thoughtful, in his exercise of power.

All that began to change from the night when she allowed him into her bed. When she had agreed to marry him she had insisted on separate bedrooms, and though after a few weeks he had begged her to change her mind she had stayed firm. After a couple of months however, during which he seemed to her to have behaved extremely well, she wondered whether she was perhaps being unfair. Scrupulous in her honesty, she was afterwards to tell herself that her decision had perhaps as element of selfishness in it too, for she recognised that the developing pregnancy of her daughter had stirred in her feelings which had long lain dormant. Whatever it was, she told Tom one evening after he had been especially sentimental as they sat listening to old records after dinner, Indra and Diana being out, ‘Jeanie with the light brown hair’ and ‘Ferdinand the Bull’ and suchlike, that she would keep her door unlocked that night.


Later she speculated at length on what precisely she had precipitated. Nothing especially memorable had happened at first, and she had even found herself vaguely unsatisfied whereupon she had rapped herself on the knuckles and told herself that she had forgotten everything and ought to go to sleep just as Tom had done; but in the early hours of the morning she had woken up to see Tom standing at the foot of the bed, wrapped in her purple bedspread, on his head the crown that she recalled she had heard about. Where it had lain hidden she had no idea. What was even more remarkable, for she discovered after she had softly called his name that Tom seemed still to be fast asleep, was that he had managed to get hold of it without disturbing anyone.

In astonishment she watched him declaim soundlessly, his hand strikingly on his breast when it was not being flung out in dramatic gestures. Her mind went back a few hours, and suddenly she felt hollow within. She remained frozen long after, in mid-gesture, Tom suddenly stopped. Very slowly, almost secretively, he had got back into bed, the crown held firmly to his head with one hand, and then he had laid his head against her breasts and with the other hand drawn the bedspread over them both.

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