Reluctantly the butler swung open the door and admitted the visitor. Will Law stood face to face with Mary Connynge, just from her boudoir, and with time for but half care as to the details of her toilet; yet none the less Mary Connynge, Eve-like, bewitching, endowed with all the ancient wiles of womankind. Will Law gazed, since this was his fate. Unconsciously the sorcery of the sight enfolded the youth as he stood there uncertainly. He saw the round throat, the heavy masses of the dark hair, the full round form. He noted, though he could not define; felt, though he could not classify. He was young. Utterly helpless might have been even an older man in the hands of Mary Connynge at a time like this, Mary Connynge deliberately seeking to ensnare.
“Pardon this robe, but half concealing,” said her drooping eye and her half uplifted hands which caught the defining folds yet closer to her bosom. “’Tis in your chivalry I trust. I would not so with others.” This to the beholder meant that he was the one man on earth to whom so much could be conceded.
Therefore, following to his own undoing, as though led by some actual command, while but bidden gently by the softest voice in all the kingdom, the young man entered the great drawing-room and waited as the butler lessened the shadows by the aid of candles. He saw the smallest foot in London just peep in and out, suddenly withdrawn as Mary Connynge sat her down.
She held the message now in her hand. In her soul sat burning impatience, in her heart contempt for the callow youth before her. Yet to that youth her attitude seemed to speak naught but deference for himself and doubt for this unusual situation.
“Sir, I am in some hesitation,” said Mary Connynge. “There is indeed none in the house except the servants. You say your message is of importance—”
“It has indeed importance,” responded Will. “It comes from my brother.”
“Your brother, Mr. Law?”
“From my brother, John Law. He is in trouble. I make no doubt the message will set all plain.”
“’Tis most grievous that Lady Catharine return not till to-morrow.”
Mary Connynge shifted herself upon her seat, caught once more with swift modesty at the robe which fell from her throat. She raised her eyes and turned them full upon the visitor. Never had the spell of curve and color, never had the language of sex addressed this youth as it did now. Intoxicating enough was this vague, mysterious speech even at this inappropriate time. The girl knew that the mesh had fallen well. She but caught again at her robe, and cast down again her eyes, and voiced again her assumed anxiety. “I scarce know what to do,” she murmured.
“My brother did not explain—” said Will.
“In that case,” said Mary Connynge, her voice cool, though her soul was hot with impatience, “it might perhaps be well if I took the liberty of reading the message in Lady Catharine’s absence. You say your brother is in trouble?”