her on with her jacket, and, hanging on his arm, they returned home through the little town, Margaret following them with the railway porter; Sarah came next with a faithful admirer, a man with a red beard, whom she had picked up at the ball; Grover waddled in the dim rear, embarrassed with the green silk, which she held high out of the dust of the road.
The barren downs--more tin-like than ever in the shadowless light of dawn--stretched across the sunrise from Lancing to Brighton, and Esther looked at the hills, examining the landscape intently, remembering the first time she saw it, and some vague association of colours--the likeness that the morning landscape bore to the evening landscape, or the wish to prolong the sweetness of these, the last moments of her happiness--impelled her to linger and to ask William if the woods and fields were not beautiful. The too familiar landscape awoke in William neither idea nor sensation; Esther interested him more, and while she gazed dreamily on the hills he admired the white curve of her neck which showed beneath the unbuttoned jacket. She never looked prettier than she did that morning, standing on the dusty road, her white dress crumpled, the ends of the blue sash hanging beneath the black cloth jacket.
FOR days nothing was talked of but the ball--how this man had danced, the bad taste of this woman's dress, and the possibility of a marriage. The ball had brought amusement to all, to Esther it had brought happiness. Her happiness was now visible in her face and audible in her voice, and Sarah's ironical allusions to her inability to learn to read no longer annoyed her, no longer stirred her temper--her love seemed to induce forgiveness for all and love for everything.