Tessa went back to the Ralstons’ bungalow that night borne in Bernard’s arms. She knew very little about it, for she scarcely awoke, only dimly realizing that her friend was at hand. Tommy went with them, carrying Scooter. He said he must show himself at the Club, though Bernard suspected this to be merely an excuse for escaping for a time from The Green Bungalow. For it was evident that Tommy had had a shock.
He himself was merely angry at what appeared to him a wanton trick, too angry to trust himself in his brother’s company just then. He regarded it as no part of his business to attempt to intervene between Everard and his wife, but his sympathies were all with the latter. That she in some fashion misconstrued the whole affair he could not doubt, but he was by no means sure that Everard had not deliberately schemed for some species of misunderstanding. He had, to serve his own ends, personated a man who was apparently known to be disreputable, and if he now received the credit for that man’s misdeeds he had himself alone to thank. Obviously a mistake had been made, but it seemed to him that Everard had intended it to be made, had even worked to bring it about. What his object had been Bernard could not bring to conjecture. But his instinctive, inborn hatred of all underhand dealings made him resent his brother’s behaviour with all the force at his command. He was too angry to attempt to unravel the mystery, and he did not broach the subject to Tommy who evidently desired to avoid it.
The whole business was beyond his comprehension and, he was convinced, beyond Stella’s also. He did not think Everard would find it a very easy task to restore her confidence. Perhaps he would not attempt to do so. Perhaps he was too engrossed with the service of his goddess to care that he and his wife should drift asunder. And yet—the memory of the morning on which he had first seen those streaks of grey in his brother’s hair came upon him, and an unwilling sensation of pity softened his severity. Perhaps he had been drawn in in spite of himself. Perhaps the poor beggar was a victim rather than a worshipper. Most certainly—whatever his faults—he cared deeply.
Would he be able to make Stella realize that? Bernard wondered, and shook his head in doubt.
The thought of Stella turning away with that look of frozen horror on her face pursued him through the night. Poor girl! She had looked as though the end of all things had come for her. Could he have helped her? Ought he to have left her so? He quickened his pace almost insensibly. No, he would not interfere of his own free will. But if she needed his support, if she counted upon him, he would not be found wanting. It might even be given to him eventually to help them both.