‘Won’t you come back at five o’clock?’ she said.
‘But, look here, why shouldn’t we lunch together, you and I?’
‘I’m very sorry, but I’m expecting somebody in.’
‘Oh, all right. Then I’ll come back at five.’
He nodded and went out. Susie read the brief note once more, and asked herself if it could possibly be true. The callousness of it was appalling. She went to Margaret’s room and saw that everything was in its place. It did not look as if the owner had gone on a journey. But then she noticed that a number of letters had been destroyed. She opened a drawer and found that Margaret’s trinkets were gone. An idea struck her. Margaret had bought lately a number of clothes, and these she had insisted should be sent to her dressmaker, saying that it was needless to cumber their little apartment with them. They could stay there till she returned to England a few weeks later for her marriage, and it would be simpler to despatch them all from one place. Susie went out. At the door it occurred to her to ask the concierge if she knew where Margaret had gone that morning.
‘Parfaitement, Mademoiselle,’ answered the old woman. ’I heard her tell the coachman to go to the British Consulate.’
The last doubt was leaving Susie. She went to the dressmaker and there discovered that by Margaret’s order the boxes containing her things had gone on the previous day to the luggage office of the Gare du Nord.
‘I hope you didn’t let them go till your bill was paid,’ said Susie lightly, as though in jest.
The dressmaker laughed.
‘Mademoiselle paid for everything two or three days ago.’
With indignation, Susie realised that Margaret had not only taken away the trousseau bought for her marriage with Arthur; but, since she was herself penniless, had paid for it with the money which he had generously given her. Susie drove then to Mrs Bloomfield, who at once reproached her for not coming to see her.
’I’m sorry, but I’ve been exceedingly busy, and I knew that Margaret was looking after you.’
‘I’ve not seen Margaret for three weeks,’ said the invalid.
‘Haven’t you? I thought she dropped in quite often.’
Susie spoke as though the matter were of no importance. She asked herself now where Margaret could have spent those afternoons. By a great effort she forced herself to speak of casual things with the garrulous old lady long enough to make her visit seem natural. On leaving her, she went to the Consulate, and her last doubt was dissipated. Then nothing remained but to go home and wait for Arthur. Her first impulse had been to see Dr Porhoet and ask for his advice; but, even if he offered to come back with her to the studio, his presence would be useless. She must see Arthur by himself. Her heart was wrung as she thought of the man’s agony when he knew the truth. She had confessed to herself long before that she loved him passionately, and it seemed intolerable that she of all persons must bear him this great blow.