The circumstances of Blanche Stroeve’s death necessitated all manner of dreadful formalities, but at last we were allowed to bury her. Dirk and I alone followed the hearse to the cemetery. We went at a foot-pace, but on the way back we trotted, and there was something to my mind singularly horrible in the way the driver of the hearse whipped up his horses. It seemed to dismiss the dead with a shrug of the shoulders. Now and then I caught sight of the swaying hearse in front of us, and our own driver urged his pair so that we might not remain behind. I felt in myself, too, the desire to get the whole thing out of my mind. I was beginning to be bored with a tragedy that did not really concern me, and pretending to myself that I spoke in order to distract Stroeve, I turned with relief to other subjects.
“Don’t you think you’d better go away for a bit?” I said. “There can be no object in your staying in Paris now.”
He did not answer, but I went on ruthlessly:
“Have you made any plans for the immediate future?”
“You must try and gather together the threads again. Why don’t you go down to Italy and start working?”
Again he made no reply, but the driver of our carriage came to my rescue. Slackening his pace for a moment, he leaned over and spoke. I could not hear what he said, so I put my head out of the window. He wanted to know where we wished to be set down. I told him to wait a minute.
“You’d better come and have lunch with me,” I said to Dirk. “I’ll tell him to drop us in the Place Pigalle.”
“I’d rather not. I want to go to the studio.”
I hesitated a moment.
“Would you like me to come with you?” I asked then.
“No; I should prefer to be alone.”
I gave the driver the necessary direction, and in renewed silence we drove on. Dirk had not been to the studio since the wretched morning on which they had taken Blanche to the hospital. I was glad he did not want me to accompany him, and when I left him at the door I walked away with relief. I took a new pleasure in the streets of Paris, and I looked with smiling eyes at the people who hurried to and fro. The day was fine and sunny, and I felt in myself a more acute delight in life. I could not help it; I put Stroeve and his sorrows out of my mind. I wanted to enjoy.