“Thanks. That form of entertainment wouldn’t entertain me—except pathologically. And if I went to the theatre I’d rather leave my profession outside.”
“Path—pathologically,” she echoed. “That sounds ’orrid—rather rude. You don’t like me still, hein, doctor?”
“Does that surprise you?”
“It surprise me ver’ much,” she admitted frankly. She picked up the photograph on the table and examined it with an unconscious impertinence. “You like ’er?” she asked. “That sort of woman?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve never met her.”
“She is not your wife?”
“She is Cosgrave’s wife.”
It was evident that although the episode had been concluded less than three months before she had already almost forgotten it.
“Cosgrave? Ah oui, le cher petit Rufus? There now—did I not tell you? Didn’t I ’ave reason? Tell me—’ow many babies ’ave ’e got?”
“They were married last month,” Stonehouse observed.
“Ah—la la! But ’ow glad I am! I can see she is the right sort for ’im. A nice leetle girl. But first ’e ’ave to ’ave a good time—just to give ’im confidence. Now ‘e be a ver’ good boy—a leetle dull per’aps, but ver’ good and ’appy. I would write and tell ’im ’ow glad I am—but per’aps better not, hein?”
She winked, and there was an irresistible drollery in the grimace that made his lips twitch. And yet she was shameless—abominable.
“The ten minutes are almost up,” he said, “and I suppose you came here to consult me.”
He knew that she had not. She had come because he was a tantalizing object, because she could not credit his invincibility, which was a challenge to her. She laughed, shrugging her shoulders.
“You are an ’orrible fellow! You think of nothing but diseases and wickedness. I wonder if you ’ave ever ’ad a good time yourself—ever laughed, like I do, from ze ’eart?”
He looked away from her. He felt for a moment oddly uneasy and distressed.
“No, I don’t suppose I have.”
“Ah, c’est dommage, mon pauvre jeune homme. But you don’t like me. What can I do?”
“I don’t expect you to do anything.”
“Not my business, hein? No one ’ave any business ’ere who ’ave not got an illness. Ver’ well. I will ‘ave an illness—a ver’ leetle one. No, not ze tummy-ache. C’est vieux jeu ca. But a leetle sore throat. You know about throats, hein?”
“My specialty,” he said smiling back at her with hard eyes.
“Bien, I ’ave a leetle sore throat—fatigue plutot—’e come and ’e go. I smoke too much. But I ’ave to smoke. It’s no good what you say.”
“I’m sure of that,” he said.
He made her sit down in the white iron chair behind the screen and, adjusting his speculum, switched on the light. He was bitterly angry because she had forced this farce upon him. He felt that she was laughing all over. The pretty pinkness of her open mouth nauseated him. He thought of all the men who had kissed her, and had been ruined by her as though by the touch of a deadly plague. He pressed her tongue down with a deliberate roughness.