Throughout those weeks and months of tangled, lurid sensations, of amazing happenings which were yet to come, Norgate never once forgot that illuminative rush of fierce yet sweet feelings which suddenly thrilled his pulses. He understood in that moment the intolerable depression of the last few days. He realised the absolute advent of the one experience hitherto missing from his life. The very intensity of his feelings kept him silent, kept him unresponsive to her impetuous but unspoken welcome. Her arms dropped to her side, her lips for a moment quivered. Her voice, notwithstanding her efforts to control it, shook a little. She was no longer the brilliant young Court beauty of Vienna. She was a tired and disappointed girl.
“You are surprised—I should not have come here! It was such a foolish impulse.”
She caught up her gloves feverishly, but Norgate’s moment of stupefaction had passed. He clasped her hands.
“Forgive me,” he begged. “It is really you—Anna!”
His words were almost incoherent, but his tone was convincing. Her fears passed away.
“You don’t wonder that I was a little surprised, do you?” he exclaimed. “You were not only the last person whom I was thinking of, but you were certainly the last person whom I expected to see in London or to welcome here.”
“But why?” she asked. “I told you that I came often to this country.”
“I remember,” Norgate admitted. “Yet I never ventured to hope—”
“Of course I should not have come here,” she interrupted. “It was absurd of me, and at such an hour! And yet I am staying only a few hundred yards away. The temptation to-night was irresistible. I felt as one sometimes does in this queer, enormous city—lonely. I telephoned, and your servant, who answered me, said that you were expected back at any moment. Then I came myself.”
“You cannot imagine that I am not glad to see you,” he said earnestly.
“I want to believe that you are glad,” she answered. “I have been restless ever since you left. Tell me at once, what did they say to you here?”
“I am practically shelved,” he told her bitterly. “In twelve months’ time, perhaps, I may be offered something in America or Asia—countries where diplomacy languishes. In a word, your mighty autocrat has spoken the word, and I am sacrificed.”
She moved towards the window.
“I am stifled!” she exclaimed. “Open it wide, please.”
He threw it open. They looked out eastwards. The roar of the night was passing. Here and there were great black spaces. On the Thames a sky-sign or two remained. The blue, opalescent glare from the Gaiety dome still shone. The curving lights which spanned the bridges and fringed the Embankment still glittered. The air, even here, high up as they were on the seventh story of the building, seemed heavy and lifeless.