“Was Hugh really there?” she asked in a puzzled manner.
“He was, and very officially,” Granet replied. “If it weren’t that I had conclusive evidence to prove what I was doing there, he seemed rather set on getting me into trouble.”
“Hugh is always very fair,” she said a little coldly.
“You can’t solve my puzzle for me, then?” he persisted.
“Why an inspector of hospitals should hold an inquiry upon a Zeppelin raid?”
“I’m afraid I cannot,” she admitted. “Hugh certainly seems to have become a most mysterious person, but then, as you know, I haven’t seen quite so much of him lately. Your change, Captain Granet, doesn’t seem to have done you much good. Has your wound been troubling you?”
He rose abruptly and stood before her.
“Do you care whether my wound is troubling me or not?” he asked. “Do you care anything at all about me?”
There was a moment’s silence.
“I care very much,” she confessed.
He seemed suddenly a changed person. The lines which had certainly appeared in his face during the last few days, become more noticeable. He leaned towards her eagerly.
“Miss Conyers,” he went on, “Geraldine, I want you to care—enough for the big things. Don’t interrupt me, please. Listen to what I have to say. Somehow or other, the world has gone amiss with me lately. They won’t have me back, my place has been filled up, I can’t get any fighting. They’ve shelved me at the War Office; they talk about a home adjutancy. I can’t stick it, I have lived amongst the big things too long. I’m sick of waiting about, doing nothing—sick to death. I want to get away. There’s some work I could do in America. You understand?”
“Not in the least,” Geraldine told him frankly.
“It’s my fault,” he declared. “The words all seem to be tumbling out anyhow and I don’t know how to put them in the right order. Can’t you see that I love you, Geraldine? I want you to be my wife, and I want to get right away as quickly as ever I can. Why not America? Why couldn’t we be married this week and get away from everybody?”
She looked at him in sheer amazement, amazement tempered just a little with a sort of tremulous uncertainty.
“But, Captain Granet,” she exclaimed, “you can’t be serious! You couldn’t possibly think of leaving England now.”
“Why not?” he protested. “They won’t let me fight again. I couldn’t stand the miserable routine of home soldiering. I’d like to get away and forget it all.”
“I am sure you are not in earnest,” she said quietly. “No Englishman could feel like that.”
“He could if he cared for you,” Granet insisted. “I’m afraid of everything here, afraid that Thomson will come back and take you away, afraid of all sorts of hideous things happening during the next few months.”
“You mustn’t talk like this, please,” she begged. “You know as well as I do that neither you nor I could turn our backs on England just now and be happy.”