“I have explained it,” she said wearily. “Will you please go, now?”
He sat a moment, then rose:
“You make a point of excluding Gerald?”
“Very well; I’ll telephone Draymore. And”—he looked back from the door of his own apartments—“I got Julius Neergard on the wire this afternoon and he’ll dine with us.”
He gathered up his shimmering kimona, hesitated, halted, and again looked back.
“When you’re dressed,” he drawled, “I’ve a word to say to you about the game to-night, and another about Gerald.”
“I shall not play,” she retorted scornfully, “nor will Gerald.”
“Oh, yes, you will—and play your best, too. And I’ll expect him next time.”
“I shall not play!”
He said deliberately: “You will not only play, but play cleverly; and in the interim, while dressing, you will reflect how much more agreeable it is to play cards here than the fool at ten o’clock at night in the bachelor apartments of your late lamented.”
And he entered his room; and his wife, getting blindly to her feet, every atom of colour gone from lip and cheek, stood rigid, both small hands clutching the foot-board of the gilded bed.
Differences of opinion between himself and Neergard concerning the ethics of good taste involved in forcing the Siowitha Club matter, Gerald’s decreasing attention to business and increasing intimacy with the Fane-Ruthven coterie, began to make Selwyn very uncomfortable. The boy’s close relations with Neergard worried him most of all; and though Neergard finally agreed to drop the Siowitha matter as a fixed policy in which Selwyn had been expected to participate at some indefinite date, the arrangement seemed only to cement the man’s confidential companionship with Gerald.
This added to Selwyn’s restlessness; and one day in early spring he had a long conference with Gerald—a most unsatisfactory one. Gerald, for the first time, remained reticent; and when Selwyn, presuming on the cordial understanding between them, pressed him a little, the boy turned sullen; and Selwyn let the matter drop very quickly.
But neither tact nor caution seemed to serve now; Gerald, more and more engrossed in occult social affairs of which he made no mention to Selwyn, was still amiable and friendly, even at times cordial and lovable; but he was no longer frank or even communicative; and Selwyn, fearing to arouse him again to sullenness or perhaps even to suspicious defiance, forbore to press him beyond the most tentative advances toward the regaining of his confidence.
This, very naturally, grieved and mortified the elder man; but what troubled him still more was that Gerald and Neergard were becoming so amazingly companionable; for it was easy to see that they had in common a number of personal interests which he did not share, and that their silence concerning these interests amounted to a secrecy almost offensive.