Stella’s face had grown darker.
“It is I,” she said, “whom you have to thank for the possession of it. Considering that you go in danger every moment, I think that some one else save yourself should share in the knowledge of what you have done with it.”
“Let me recommend,” he said, studying the menu for a moment with his horn-rimmed eyeglass, “an artichoke with sauce mayonnaise, or would you prefer asparagus?”
“I should prefer,” she insisted, “an answer to my question.”
He looked at her steadily. His face was utterly impassive, his forefinger was tapping lightly upon the table-cloth. It was a look which she knew very well.
“The knowledge of where that paper is, Stella, would do you no good,” he declared. “Forgive me, but I do not intend to tell a soul.”
They finished their luncheon almost in silence. She only once recurred to the subject.
“Perhaps,” she said, looking quietly up at him, “as your conscience is growing so susceptible, you will think it right to restore that paper to my little cousin. Those are wonderful eyes, of hers, you know, now she has learnt to use them a little.”
Norris Vine did not answer, and they parted with the briefest of farewells.
DUKE OF MOWBRAY
This time Mildmay was angry. He showed it alike in his speech and expression. Virginia looked at him like a terrified child.
“So, Virginia,” he said, “I have found you at last!”
“What do you want?” she asked breathlessly.
He looked at her for quite thirty seconds without replying. Her eyes fell before his. More than ever she felt the shame of her position.
“What do I want?” he repeated, a little bitterly. “You ask me that, Virginia, seriously?”
She covered her face with her hands.
“Oh! please go away,” she said. “It is not kind of you to come here.”
“I do not mean to be unkind,” he answered, “but I want to understand. Why did you leave your boarding-house in Russell Street and run away from me?”
“It was not only to run away from you,” she answered. “There were other reasons.”
“Why should you wish to run away from me at all?” he asked.
“Because,” she answered, “I am afraid, and you ask me things which are impossible.”
“What are you afraid of?” he asked.
“Of myself, of you, of everything,” she murmured pathetically.
Virginia was a little worn out. Day after day of disappointment had tried her sorely. He felt himself softening, but he showed no signs of it in his face.
“Is there anywhere here where we can talk?” he asked. “You have rooms in the building, have you not? Are you alone?”
He could have bitten his tongue out for that question, but its significance never occurred to her.