“It is so restful here,” she said presently, “and I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed our meeting, but alas!” she added, glancing at her watch, “you see the time—and I am dining out. We will walk to Hyde Park Corner and you must find me a cab.”
He rose to his feet at once and they strolled slowly along on the least frequented footpath.
“I hope so much,” she went on, “that my husband’s connection with the man you dislike will not make any difference. You must meet him, of course—my husband, I mean. You will not like him and he will not understand you, but you need not see much of him. Our ways, unfortunately, have lain apart for some time.”
“You have your troubles,” he said quietly. “I knew it when you first began to talk to me at Etaples.”
“I have my troubles,” she admitted. “You will understand them when you know me better. Sometimes I think they are more than I can bear. Tonight I feel inclined to make light of them. It is a great thing to have friends. I have so few.”
“I am a little ambitious,” he ventured. “I do not wish to take my place amongst the rank and file. I want to be something different to you in life—more than any one else. If affection and devotion count, I shall earn my place.”
Her eyes were filled with tears as she gave him her hand.
“Indeed,” she assured him, “you are there already. You have been there in my thoughts for so long. If you wish to keep your place, you will find very little competition. I am rather a dull woman these days, and I have very little to give.”
He smiled confidently as he stopped a taxicab and handed her in.
“May I not be the judge of that?” he begged. “Giving depends upon the recipient, you know. You have given me more happiness within this last half-hour than I have had since we parted in France.”
Some instinct of her younger days brought happiness into her laugh, a provocative gleam into her soft eyes.
“You are very easily satisfied,” she murmured.
He laughed back again, but though he opened his lips to speak, the words remained unsaid. Something warned him that here was a woman passing through something like a crisis in her life, and that a single false step on his part might be fatal. He stood hat in hand and watched the taxicab turn up Park Lane.
There was a little flutter of excitement in the offices of Messrs. Kendrick, Stone, Morgan and Company when, at a few minutes after eleven the following morning, Wingate descended from a taxicab, pushed open the swing doors of the large general office and enquired for Mr. Kendrick. Without a moment’s delay he was shown into Roger Kendrick’s private room, but the little thrill caused by his entrance did not at once pass away. It was like the visit of a general to Divisional Headquarters. Action of some sort seemed to be in the air. Ideas of big dealings already loomed large in the minds of the little army of clerks. Telephones were handled longingly. Those of the firm who were members of the Stock Exchange abandoned any work of a distracting nature and held themselves ready for a prompt rush across the street.