“It is true, remember what I said. I take not one word of it back. It is true, and will remain true all my life.”
“My friend—will be wondering—”
“Joan, be a little merciful.”
And now for the first time he noticed that she was not dressed as he had seen her last. There was a suggestion of wealth, of ample means about her appearance. Clothes were the last thing that Hugh thought of, or noticed. Yet gradually Joan’s clothes began to thrust themselves on his notice. She was well dressed, and the stylish and becoming clothes heightened her beauty, if possible.
“Joan, I have a confession to make.”
She bent her head.
“I couldn’t act unfairly or deal in an underhand way with you.”
“I thought differently!” she said bitterly.
“I remembered my promise made to you at General Bartholomew’s, yet I came to London in the hope of seeing you, that was all that brought me here. I would not have spoken to you if you had not spoken to me first. I only wanted just to see you. I wonder,” he went on, “that I have not been arrested as a suspicious character, as I have been loitering about General Bartholomew’s house for days, but I never saw you, Joan!”
“I was not there!”
“No, I gathered that at last. You will believe that I had no intention of annoying you or forcing myself on your notice. I wanted to see you, that was all, and so when I had made up my mind that you were not there, I went to the City Office where I saw you last.”
Her face flushed with anger.
“You have taken then to tracking me?” she said angrily.
“I am afraid it looks like it, but not to annoy you, only to satisfy my longing to see you. Just now you said I sounded humble. I wonder if you could guess how humble I feel.”
“I wonder,” she said sharply, “if you could guess how little I believe anything you say, Mr. Alston? I am sorry I spoke to you. It was a weakness I regret. Now I will say good-bye. You went to Slotman’s office, and I suppose discussed me with him?”
“I did not; he was not there. I was glad afterwards he was not. I don’t like the man.”
“It does not matter. In any event Mr. Slotman could not have helped you; he does not know where I am living.”
“Won’t you tell me?”
“Why should I, to be further annoyed by you?”
“I think you know that I will not annoy you. Won’t you tell me, Joan?”
“I—I don’t see why I should. Remember, I have no wish to continue our—our acquaintance; there is no reason you should know.”
“Yet if I knew I would be happier. I would not trouble you.”
“Surely it does not matter. I am living in the country, then—in Kent, at Starden. I—I have come into a little money.” She looked at him keenly. She wondered did he know, had he known that night when he had told her that he loved her?