Isabel considered the point. “I can’t understand him,” she said honestly. “I liked parts of him. He isn’t so—so homogeneous as most people are.
“Did he ask you for the honeysuckle?”
“No, I gave it to him for a peace offering. I hurt his feelings, and afterwards I was sorry and wanted to make it up with him. But would you have thought he had any feelings? any, that is, that anything I said would hurt?”
“Certainly not,” from Rowsley.
“Any woman can hurt any man,” said Yvonne. “But, of course, you aren’t a woman, Isabel. What was the trouble?”
“Oh, something about the war.”
“No, my child, it wasn’t about the war. It was something that stung up his vanity or his self-love. Lawrence isn’t a sentimentalist like Jack or Val.” Here Jack Bendish got as far as an artless “Oh, I say!” but his wife paid no attention. “Lawrence never took the war seriously.”
“But he did,” insisted Isabel. “He coloured all over his face—”
She paused, realizing that Mrs. Bendish, under her mask of scepticism, was agog with curiosity. Isabel was not fond of being drawn out. Lawrence had given her his confidence, and she valued it, for with all her ignorance of society she had seen too much of plain human nature to suppose that he was often taken off his guard as he had been by her: and was she going to expose him to Yvonne’s lacerating raillery? A thousand times no! “I misunderstood something he said about Val,” she continued with scarcely a break, and falling back on one of those explanations that deceive the sceptical by their economy of truth. “It was stupid of me, and awkward for him, so I had to apologize.”
“I see. Come, Jack.” Yvonne rose to her feet, more like a snake than ever in her flexibility and swiftness, and held Isabel to her for a moment, her arm round her young friend’s waist. “But if you pin any more buttonholes into Captain Hyde’s coat,” the last low murmur was only for Isabel’s ear, “he will infallibly kiss you: so now you are forewarned and can choose whether or no you will continue to pay him these little attentions.”
Isabel was not disturbed. She had early formed the habit of not attending to Mrs. Bendish, and she unwound herself without even changing colour.
“You always remind me of Nettie Hills at the Clowes’s lodge,” she retorted. “Mrs. Hills says she’s that flighty in the way she carries on, no one would believe what a good sensible girl she is under all her nonsense, and walks out with her own young man as regular as clockwork.”