“You are fond of me a little bit,” the graceless Tom whispered, “aren’t you?”
“You know I am, sir,” Polly replied.
“You don’t care for anyone else in the house?”
“Oh no, sir, and never let anyone kiss me but you. I wonder how it is, sir?” Polly replied ingenuously.
“Give me another,” Tom answered.
She gave him another, and tripped to the door to answer Clara’s knock.
[Illustration: Polly and Roxdal.]
And that very evening, when Clara was gone and Tom still out, Polly turned without the faintest atom of scrupulosity, or even jealousy, to the more fascinating Roxdal, and accepted his amorous advances. If it would seem at first sight that Everard had less excuse for such frivolity than his friend, perhaps the seriousness he showed in this interview may throw a different light upon the complex character of the man.
“You’re quite sure you don’t care for anyone but me?” he asked earnestly.
“Of course not, sir!” Polly replied indignantly. “How could I?”
“But you care for that soldier I saw you out with last Sunday?”
“Oh no, sir, he’s only my young man,” she said apologetically.
“Would you give him up?” he hissed suddenly.
Polly’s pretty face took a look of terror. “I couldn’t, sir! He’d kill me. He’s such a jealous brute, you’ve no idea.”
“Yes, but suppose I took you away from here?” he whispered eagerly. “Somewhere where he couldn’t find you—South America, Africa, somewhere thousands of miles across the seas.”
“Oh, sir, you frighten me!” whispered Polly, cowering before his ardent eyes, which shone in the dimly-lit passage.
“Would you come with me?” he hissed. She did not answer; she shook herself free and ran into the kitchen, trembling with a vague fear.
One morning, earlier than his earliest hour of demanding his shaving water, Tom rang the bell violently and asked the alarmed Polly what had become of Mr. Roxdal.
“How should I know, sir?” she gasped. “Ain’t he been in, sir?”
“Apparently not,” Tom answered anxiously. “He never remains out. We have been here three weeks now, and I can’t recall a single night he hasn’t been home before twelve. I can’t make it out.” All enquiries proved futile. Mrs. Seacon reminded him of the thick fog that had come on suddenly the night before.
“What fog?” asked Tom.
“Lord! didn’t you notice it, sir?”
“No, I came in early, smoked, read, and went to bed about eleven. I never thought of looking out of the window.”
“It began about ten,” said Mrs. Seacon, “and got thicker and thicker. I couldn’t see the lights of the river from my bedroom. The poor gentleman has been and gone and walked into the water.” She began to whimper.