At the same moment she became more cautious, and more ashamed of herself. It would be better to apologize. But before she could speak Elizabeth said:
‘Does Desmond agree with what you have been saying?’
Pamela staring at her adversary was a little frightened. She rushed into a falsehood.
‘Desmond knows nothing about it! I don’t want him dragged in.’
Elizabeth’s eyes, with their bitter, wounded look; seemed to search the girl’s inmost mind. Then she moved away.
’We had better go to bed. We shall both want to think it over. Good-night.’
And from the darkness of the hall, where fire and lamp were dying, Pamela half spell-bound, watched the tall figure of Elizabeth slowly mounting the broad staircase at the further end, the candle-light flickering on her bright hair, and on a bunch of snowdrops in her breast.
Then, for an hour, while the house sank into silence, Pamela sat crouched and shivering by the only log left in the grate. ’A little while ago,’ she was thinking miserably, ’I had good feelings and ideas—I never hated anybody. I never told lies. I suppose—I shall get worse and worse.’
And when she had gone wearily to bed, it was to cry herself to sleep.
The following morning, an urgent telegram from her younger sister recalled Elizabeth Bremerton to London, where her mother’s invalid condition had suddenly taken a disastrous turn for the worse.
‘Hullo, Aubrey! what brings you here?’ And with the words Arthur Chicksands, just emerging from the War Office, stopped to greet a brother officer, who was just entering it.
‘Nothing much. I shan’t be long. Can you wait a bit?’
’Right you are. I’ve got to leave a note at the Ministry of Munitions, but I’ll be back in a few minutes.’
Arthur Chicksands went his way to Whitehall Gardens, while Major Mannering disappeared into the inner regions of that vast building where dwell the men on whom hang the fortunes of an Empire. Arthur walking fast up Whitehall was very little aware of the scene about him. His mind was occupied with the details of the interview in which he had just been engaged. His promotion had lately been rapid, and his work of extraordinary interest. He had been travelling a great deal, backwards and forwards between London and Versailles, charged with several special enquiries in which he had shown both steadiness and flair. Things were known to him that he could not share even with a friend so old and ‘safe’ as Aubrey Mannering. The grip of the coming crisis was upon him, and he seemed ’to carry the world in his breast’
‘Next year—next February—where shall we all be?’ The question was automatically suggested to him by the sight of the green buds of the lilac trees In front of Whitehall Terrace.
‘Oh, my dear Susan!—do look at those trees!’