playhouse, the stench of perfume upon heated bodies, the silly laughter and the clatter, the party in the Royal box- the King himself present-the impatient crowd in the cheap seats stamping and shouting for the play to begin while they threw orange peel onto the stage. Then Harry, laughing at nothing in particular as was his custom, became fuddled with the wit of the play, or possibly he had drunk too much before they had set out. Anyway he had started snoring in his seat, and Rockingham, seizing his chance to make a diversion, pressed against her with his foot and whispered in her ear. Damn his impudence, his air of possession, of familiarity, all because she had permitted him to kiss her once, in an idle moment, because the night was fine. And they had proceeded to supper at the Swan, which she had grown to detest, her amusement at its novelty having ceased-for it was no longer a stimulant to be the only wife amonst a crowd of mistresses. Once it had held a certain attraction, it had sharpened her sense of fun to sup with Harry in these places where no other husband took his wife, to sit cheek by jowl with the ladies of the town and to see Harry's friends first scandalised, then fascinated, and finally whipped into a fever, like curious schoolboys who tread forbidden ground. And yet even then, even at the beginning, she had felt a little prick of shame, a curious sense of degradation, as though she had dressed up for a masquerade and the clothes had not fitted her well.

While Harry's lovable and slightly stupid laugh, his expression of half-shocked dismay: 'You've made yourself the talk of the town, you know, the fellows are gossiping about you in the taverns,' had not served as a rebuke but as an irritant. She had wished that he would be angry, would shout at her, insult her even-but he only laughed, shrugging his shoulders, and fondled her in heavy, clumsy fashion, so that she knew her folly had not touched him, that inwardly he was really quite pleased that men were gossiping about his wife and admiring her, because it made him a person of importance in their eyes. The coach lurched over a deep rut in the road, and James stirred in his sleep. His little face puckered as though to cry, and Dona reached for the toy that had slipped from his grasp, and he cuddled it to his mouth, and so slept once more. He looked like Harry did when demanding a reassurance of her affection, and she wondered why it was that a quality so attractive and touching in James should seem to her, in Harry, more than a little absurd and a secret source of irritation.

Dressing that Friday night, placing the rubies in her ears minded suddenly of James snatching the pendant, and stuffing it in his mouth, and she had smiled to herself, thinking of him, and Harry, standing beside her, dusting the lace at his wrists, had caught the smile and turned it into an invitation. 'Damn it, Dona,' he had said, 'why do you look at me like that? Don't let's go to the play, hang Rockingham, hang the world, why the devil don't we stay at home?' Poor Harry, how vain, how typical, provoked by a smile that was not for him into instant adoration. She had said: 'How ridiculous you are,' turning from him, so that he should not touch her bare shoulder with his clumsy hands, and at once his mouth had set in that grumpy, obstinate line she knew so well, so that they set out to the play, as they had done to other plays and to other suppers, times without number, with moods ill-tuned and tempers frayed, putting an edge upon the evening before it had begun.

Then he had called to his spaniels, Duke and Duchess, and they had yapped up at him for sweetmeats, filling the room with their shrill barking, leaping and jumping at his hands.

'Hey, Duke, hey, Duchess,' he had said, 'go seek, go find,' throwing a sweetmeat across the room and on to her bed, so that they clawed at the curtains, and tried to spring upon it, yapping horribly the while, and Dona, her fingers in her ears to thrust out the sound, swept from the room and downstairs to her waiting chair, white, and cold, and angry, to be met with the hot street smells and the breathless vapid sky.

Once more the coach shook and trembled in the deep ruts of the country road, and this time it was the nurse who stirred-poor wretched Prue, her foolish, honest face all heavy and mottled with fatigue, how she must grudge her mistress this sudden inexplicable journey-and Dona wondered whether she had left some young man forlorn in London who would prove false in all probability and marry somebody else and Prue's life would be blighted, all because of her, Dona, and her whims and fancies and savage ill-humour. What would poor Prue find to do at Navron House, but parade the children up and down the avenue and through the gardens, sighing for the streets of London hundreds of miles away. Were there gardens at Navron? She could not remember. It all seemed so long ago, that brief visit after she had married. There were trees surely, and a shining river, and great windows that opened from a long room, but more than this she had forgotten, because she had felt so ill during those days, with Henrietta on the way, and life one endless business of sofas, and sickness, and smelling bottles. Suddenly Dona felt hungry, the coach had just rumbled past an orchard and the apple trees were in blossom, and she knew she must eat now, at once, without more ado, on the side of the road in the sunshine, they must all eat-so she thrust her head out of the window and called up to her coachman: 'We will halt here for a while, and eat. Come and help me spread the rugs beneath the hedge.'

The man stared down at her in bewilderment. 'But, my lady, the ground may be damp, you will take cold.'

'Nonsense, Thomas, I am hungry, we are all hungry, we must eat.'

He climbed down from his seat, his face red with embarrassment, and his companion turned away also, coughing behind his hand.

'There is a hostelry in Bodmin, my lady,' the coachman ventured, 'there you could eat in comfort, and rest perhaps; surely it would be more fitting. If anyone should pass this way, and see you by the side of the road. I hardly think Sir Harry would like…'

'Damn it, Thomas, can't you obey orders?' said his mistress, and she opened the door of the coach herself, and stepped down into the muddy road, lifting her gown above her ankles in a most brazen way. Poor Sir Harry, thought the coachman, this was the sort of thing he had to contend with every day, and in less than five minutes she had them all assembled on the grass by the side of the road, the nurse barely awake blinking her round eyes, and the children staring in astonishment. 'Let us all drink ale,' said Dona, 'we have some in the basket beneath the seat. I have a mad desire for ale. Yes, James, you shall have some.' And there she sat, her petticoats tucked beneath her and her hood falling away from her face, quaffing her ale like any beggaring gypsy, handing some on the tip of her finger for her baby son to taste, smiling the while at the coachman to show him that she bore no malice for his rough driving and his obstinacy. 'You must both drink, too, there is plenty for all,' she said, and the men were obliged to drink with her, avoiding the eye of the nurse. She thought the whole proceeding unseemly, as they did, and was wishing for a quiet parlour in a hostelry, and fresh warm water where she could bathe the children's hands and faces.

'Where are we going?' asked Henrietta for the twelfth time, looking about her in distaste, holding her dress close to her so that the mud should not stain it. 'Is the drive nearly finished, and shall we soon be home?'

We are going to another home,' said Dona, 'a new home, a much nicer home. You will be able to run free in the woods and dirty your clothes, and Prue will not scold you because it will not matter.'

'I don't want to dirty my clothes. I want to go home,' said Henrietta, and her lip trembled; she looked up at Dona in reproach, and then, she was tired perhaps, it was all strange, this journey, this sitting by the roadside, she missed her monotonous routine, she began to cry, and James, placid and happy until then, opened his mouth wide and roared in sympathy. 'There, my pets, there, my treasures, did they hate the nasty ditch and the prickly hedge,' said Prue, folding them both in her arms, a world of meaning in her voice for her mistress, the cause of all this upset, so that Dona, her conscience stung, rose to her feet, kicking at the remains of the feast. 'Come then, let us continue the journey by all means, but without tears, for pity's sake,' and she stood for a moment, while the nurse, and the food, and the children packed themselves in the coach. Yes, there was apple blossom on the air, and the scent of gorse as well, and the tang of moss and peat from the moors away in the distance, and surely somewhere, not too distant, over the farther hills, a wet sea smell.

Forget the children's tears, forget Prue's grievance, forget the pursed-up mouth of the coachman, forget Harry and his troubled, distressed blue eyes when she announced her decision. 'But damn it, Dona, what have I done, what have I said, don't you know that I adore you?' Forget all these things, because this was freedom, to stand here for one minute with her face to the sun and the wind, this was living, to smile and to be alone.

She had tried to explain it to Harry on the Friday night, after that foolish idiotic escapade at Hampton Court; she had tried to tell him what she meant, how the ridiculous prank on the Countess was only a thwarted, bastard idea of fun, a betrayal of her real mood; that in reality it was escape she wanted, escape from her own self, from the life they led together; that she had reached a crisis in her particular span of time and existence, and must travel through that crisis, alone.

'Go to Navron by all means if you wish it,' he said sulkily. 'I will send word at once that preparation is made for you, that the house is opened up, the servants are ready. But I don't understand. Why suddenly, and why have you never expressed the desire before, and why do you not want me to come with you?'

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