“There was a girl once,” he reminded him, “my ward, who drowned herself. To hell with your nephew, Phipps!”
Passion for a moment made once more a man of Phipps. His eyes blazed.
“And to hell with you!—Hypocrite!—Adulterer!” he shouted.
Wingate’s fist missed the point of his adversary’s chin by less than a thought. Phipps went staggering back through the open door into the corridor and stood leaning against the wall, half dazed, his hand to his cheek. Wingate looked at him contemptuously for a moment, every nerve in his body aching for the fight. Then he remembered.
“Get home to your kennel, Phipps,” he ordered.
Then he slammed the door and locked it.
“Another strange face,” Sarah remarked, looking after the butler who had just brought in the coffee. “I thought you were one of those women, Josephine, who always kept their servants.”
“I do, as a rule,” was the quiet reply, “only sometimes Henry intervenes. If there is one thing that the modern servant dislikes, it is sarcasm, and sarcasm is Henry’s favourite weapon when he wants to be really disagreeable. Generally speaking, I think a servant would rather be sworn at.”
“You seem to have made a clean sweep this time.”
Josephine stirred her coffee thoughtfully.
“Henry has been having one of his bad weeks,” she said. “He has been absolutely impossible to every one. He threatened to give every servant in the house notice, the other day, because his bell wasn’t answered, so I took him at his word. We’ve no one left except the cook, and she declined to go. She has been with us ever since we were married. All the same, I wouldn’t have had any one but you and Jimmy to dinner to-night. I wasn’t at all sure how things would turn out. Besides, it isn’t every one I’d care to ask into this dungeon of a room.”
“I was wondering why we were here, Josephine,” Sarah remarked, looking around her. “It used to be one of your hospital rooms, surely?”
“The other rooms want turning out, dear. I knew you wouldn’t mind.”
There are women as well as men who have learnt the art of a sociable silence. Josephine and Sarah finished their cigarettes and their coffee in a condition of reflective ease. Then Sarah stood up and straightened her hair in front of the mirror.
“Josephine,” she announced, “I am going to marry Jimmy.”
“You have really made up your minds at last, then?” her hostess enquired, with interest.
“My dear,” Sarah declared, “we’ve come to the conclusion that we can’t afford to remain single any longer. We are both spending far too much money.”
“I am sure I wish you luck,” Josephine said earnestly. “I am very fond of Jimmy.”
“He is rather a dear.”
“I wonder how you’ll like settling down. It will be a very different life for you.”