“You’ll try and like me a little, please?” she begged. “There hasn’t been any one who cared for so many years—not all my life. When I came out—ever since I came out—I have behaved just like other properly, well-brought-up girls. I’ve just sat and waited. I’ve rather avoided men than otherwise. I’ve sat and waited. Girls haven’t liked me much. They say I’m odd. I’m twenty-eight now, you know. I haven’t enjoyed the last six years. Father’s wrapped up in his work. He thinks he has done his duty if he sends me to London sometimes to stay with my aunt. She is very much like him, only she is wrapped up in missions instead of science. Neither of them seems to have time to be human.”
“It must have been rotten for you,” Granet said kindly.
Her hand clutched his, she came a little nearer.
“Year after year of it,” she murmured. “If I had been good-looking, I should have run away and gone on the stage. If I had been clever, I should have left home and done something. But I am like millions of others—I am neither. I had to sit and wait. When I met you, I suddenly began to realise what it would be like to care for some one. I knew it wasn’t any use. And then this miracle happened. I couldn’t help it,” she went on doggedly. “I never thought of it at first. It came to me like a great flash that the only way to save you—”
“To save me from what?” he asked.
“From being shot as a spy,” she answered quickly. “There! I’m not a fool, you know. You may think I’m a fool about you but I am not about things in general. Good-bye! This is my aunt’s. Don’t come in. Ring me up to-morrow morning. I’ll meet you anywhere. Good-bye, please! I want to run away.”
He watched her go, a little dazed. A trim parlourmaid came out and, after a few words of explanation, superintended the disposal of her luggage in the hall. Then the taxicab man returned.
“Back to Sackville Street,” Granet muttered.
Granet, on his return to Sackville Street, paid the taxicab driver, ascended the stairs and let himself into his rooms with very much the air of a man who has passed through a dream. A single glance around, however, brought him vivid realisations of his unwelcome visitor. The little plate of sandwiches, half finished, the partly emptied bottle of wine, were still there. One of her gloves lay in the corner of the easy-chair. He picked it up, drew it for a moment through his fingers, then crushed it into a ball and flung it into the fire. Jarvis, who had heard him enter, came from one of the back rooms.
“Clear these things away, Jarvis,” his master ordered. “Leave the whiskey and soda and tobacco on the table. I may be late.”