The next afternoon they all drove in a high, wide brake with an awning, five miles out into the country to have tea at a forest inn. The inn appeared at last standing back from the wide roadway along which they had come, creamy-white and grey-roofed, long and low and with overhanging eaves, close against the forest. They pulled up and Pastor Lahmann dropped the steps and got out. Miriam who was sitting next to the door felt that the long sitting in two rows confronted in the hard afternoon light, bumped and shaken and teased with the crunchings and slitherings of the wheels the grinding and squeaking of the brake, had made them all enemies. She had sat tense and averted, seeing the general greenery, feeling that the cool flowing air might be great happiness, conscious of each form and each voice, of the insincerity of the exclamations and the babble of conversation that struggled above the noise of their going, half seeing Pastor Lahmann opposite to her, a little insincerely smiling man in an alpaca suit and a soft felt hat. She got down the steps without his assistance. With whom should she take refuge?⁠ ⁠… no Minna. There were long tables and little round tables standing about under the trees in front of the inn. Some students in Polytechnik uniform were leaning out of an upper window.

The landlord came out. Everyone was out of the brake and standing about. Tall Fräulein was taking short padding steps towards the inn door. A strong grip came on Miriam’s arm and she was propelled rapidly along towards the farther greenery. Gertrude was talking to her in loud rallying tones, asking questions in German and answering them herself. Miriam glanced round at her face. It was crimson and quivering with laughter. The strong laughter and her strong features seemed to hide the peculiar roughness of her skin and coarseness of her hair. They made the round of one of the long tables. When they were on the far side Gertrude said, “I think you’ll see a friend of mine today, Henderson.”

“D’you mean Erica’s brother?”

“There’s his chum anyhow at yondah window.”

“Oh, I say.”

“Hah! Spree, eh? Happy thought of Lily’s to bring us here.”

Miriam pondered, distressed. “You must tell me which it is if we see him.”

Their party was taking possession of a long table near by. Returning to her voluble talk, Gertrude steered Miriam towards them.

As they settled round the table under the quiet trees the first part of the waltz movement of Weber’s Invitation sounded out through the upper window. The brilliant tuneless passages bounding singly up the piano, flowing down entwined, were shaped by an iron rhythm.

Everyone stirred. Smiles broke. Fräulein lifted her head until her chin was high, smiled slowly until the fullest width was reached and made a little chiding sound in her throat.

Pastor Lahmann laughed with raised eyebrows. “Ah! la valse⁠ ⁠… les étudiants.

The window was empty. The assault settled into a gently-leaping, heavily-thudding waltz.

As the waiter finished clattering down a circle of cups and saucers in front of Fräulein, the unseen iron hands dropped tenderly into the central melody of the waltz. The notes no longer bounded and leaped but went dreaming along in an even slow swinging movement.

It seemed to Miriam that the sound of a far-off sea was in them, and the wind and the movement of distant trees and the shedding and pouring of faraway moonlight. One by one, delicately and quietly the young men’s voices dropped in, and the sea and the wind and the trees and the pouring moonlight came near.

When the music ceased Miriam hoped she had not been gazing at the window. It frightened and disgusted her to see that all the girls seemed to be sitting up and⁠ ⁠… being bright⁠ ⁠… affected. She could hardly believe it. She flushed with shame.⁠ ⁠… Fast, horrid⁠ ⁠… perfect strangers⁠ ⁠… it was terrible⁠ ⁠… it spoilt everything. Sitting up like that and grimacing.⁠ ⁠… It was different for Gertrude. How happy Gertrude must be. She was sitting with her elbows on the table laughing out across the table about something.⁠ ⁠… Millie was not being horrid. She looked just as usual, pudgy and babyish and surprised and half resentful⁠ ⁠… it was her eyebrows. Miriam began looking at eyebrows.

There was a sudden silence all round the table. Standing at Fräulein’s side was a young student holding his peaked cap in his hand and bowing with downcast eyes. Above his pallid scarred face his hair stood upright. He bowed at the end of each phrase. Miriam’s heart bounded in anticipation. Would Fräulein let them dance after tea, on the grass?

But Fräulein with many smiles and kind words denied the young man’s formally repeated pleadings. They finished tea to the strains of a funeral march.

They were driving swiftly along through the twilight. The warm scents of the woods stood across the roadway. They breathed them in. Sitting at the forward end of the brake, Miriam could turn and see the shining of the road and the edges of the high woods.

Underneath the awning, faces were growing dim. Warm at her side was Emma. Emma’s hand was on her arm under a mass of fern and grasses. Voices quivered and laughed. Miriam looked again and again at Pastor Lahmann sitting almost opposite to her, next to Fräulein Pfaff. She could look at him more easily than at either of the girls. She felt that only he could feel the beauty of the evening exactly as she did. Several times she met and quietly contemplated his dark eyes. She felt that there was someone in those eyes who was neither tiresome nor tame. She was looking at someone to whom those boys and that dead wife were nothing. At first he had met her eyes formally, then with obvious embarrassment, and at last simply and gravely. She felt easy and happy in this communion. Dimly she was conscious that it sustained her, it gave her dignity and poise. She thought that its meaning must, if she observed it at all, be quite obvious to Fräulein and must reveal her to her. Presently her eyes were drawn to meet Fräulein’s and she read there a disgust and a loathing such as she had never seen. The woods receded, the beauty dropped out of them. The crunching of the wheels sounded out suddenly. What was the good of the brake load of grimacing people? Miriam wanted to stop it and get out and stroll home along the edge of the wood with the quiet man.

Haben die Damen vielleicht ein Rad verloren?

A deep voice on the steps of the brake.⁠ ⁠… “Have the ladies lost a wheel, perhaps?” Miriam translated helplessly to herself during a general outbreak of laughter.⁠ ⁠…

In a moment a brake overtook them and drove alongside in the twilight. The drivers whipped up their horses. The two vehicles raced and rumbled along keeping close together. Fräulein called to their driver to desist. The students slackened down too and began singing at random, one against the other; those on the near side standing up and bowing and laughing. A bouquet of fern fronds came in over Judy’s head, missing the awning and falling against Clara’s knees. She rose and flung it back and then everyone seemed to be standing up and laughing and throwing.

They drove home, slowly, side by side, shouting and singing and throwing. Warm, blinding masses of fragrant grass came from the students’ brake and were thrown to and fro through the darkness lit by the lamps of the two carriages.