“Was there anything uncommon—were you all quite friendly?” asked Sir Nathaniel quietly.
“Quite friendly. There was nothing that I could notice out of the common—except,” he went on, with a slight hardening of the voice, “except that he kept his eyes fixed on Lilla, in a way which was quite intolerable to any man who might hold her dear.”
“Now, in what way did he look?” asked Sir Nathaniel.
“There was nothing in itself offensive; but no one could help noticing it.”
“You did. Miss Watford herself, who was the victim, and Mr. Caswall, who was the offender, are out of range as witnesses. Was there anyone else who noticed?”
“Mimi did. Her face flamed with anger as she saw the look.”
“What kind of look was it? Over-ardent or too admiring, or what? Was it the look of a lover, or one who fain would be? You understand?”
“Yes, sir, I quite understand. Anything of that sort I should of course notice. It would be part of my preparation for keeping my self-control—to which I am pledged.”
“If it were not amatory, was it threatening? Where was the offence?”
Adam smiled kindly at the old man.
“It was not amatory. Even if it was, such was to be expected. I should be the last man in the world to object, since I am myself an offender in that respect. Moreover, not only have I been taught to fight fair, but by nature I believe I am just. I would be as tolerant of and as liberal to a rival as I should expect him to be to me. No, the look I mean was nothing of that kind. And so long as it did not lack proper respect, I should not of my own part condescend to notice it. Did you ever study the eyes of a hound?”
“No, when he is following his instincts! Or, better still,” Adam went on, “the eyes of a bird of prey when he is following his instincts. Not when he is swooping, but merely when he is watching his quarry?”
“No,” said Sir Nathaniel, “I don’t know that I ever did. Why, may I ask?”
“That was the look. Certainly not amatory or anything of that kind—yet it was, it struck me, more dangerous, if not so deadly as an actual threatening.”
Again there was a silence, which Sir Nathaniel broke as he stood up:
“I think it would be well if we all thought over this by ourselves. Then we can renew the subject.”
Mr. Salton had an appointment for six o’clock at Liverpool. When he had driven off, Sir Nathaniel took Adam by the arm.
“May I come with you for a while to your study? I want to speak to you privately without your uncle knowing about it, or even what the subject is. You don’t mind, do you? It is not idle curiosity. No, no. It is on the subject to which we are all committed.”
“Is it necessary to keep my uncle in the dark about it? He might be offended.”