“Indeed, I shan’t,” I protested, although I had to say it in a tone that practically confirmed this talk of ours as a perfectly genuine flirtation.
“Men have such queer ideas of honour in these things,” she went on with a recovering confidence.
“Do you mean that you—peeped,” I said. “Into Brenda’s room?”
She made a moue that I ought to have found fascinating, nodding emphatically.
“The door wasn’t locked, then?” I put in.
She shook her head and blushed again; and I guessed in a flash that she had used the keyhole.
“But could you be sure?” I persisted. “Absolutely sure that she wasn’t there?”
“I—I only opened the door for a second,” she said, “But I saw the bed. It hadn’t been slept in.”
“And this happened?” I suggested.
“Just before I came down to prayers,” she replied.
“Well, where is she?” I asked.
Miss Tattersall laughed. Now that we had left the dangerous topic of her means of obtaining evidence, she was sure of herself again.
“She might be anywhere by this time,” she said. “She and her lover obviously went off in the motor together at twelve o’clock. They are probably in London, by now.”
I did not give her confidence for confidence. I had practically promised Banks not to say that I had seen him on Jervaise Clump at five o’clock that morning, and I was not the least tempted to reveal that important fact to Miss Tattersall. I diverted the angle of our talk a trifle, at the same time allowing my companion to assume that I agreed with her conclusion.
“Do you know,” I said, “that the person I’m most sorry for in this affair is Mr. Jervaise. He seems absolutely broken by it.”
Miss Tattersall nodded sympathetically. “Yes, isn’t it dreadful?” she said. “At breakfast this morning I was thinking how perfectly detestable it was of Brenda to do a thing like that.”
“Or of Banks?” I added.
“Oh! it wasn’t his fault,” Miss Tattersall said spitefully. “He was just infatuated, poor fool. She could do anything she liked with him.”
I reflected that Olive Jervaise and Nora Bailey would probably have expressed a precisely similar opinion.
“I suppose he’s a weak sort of chap?” I said.
“No. It isn’t that,” Miss Tattersall replied. “He doesn’t look weak—not at all. No! he is just infatuated—for the time being.”
We had been pacing up and down the lawn, parallel to the front of the house and perhaps fifty yards away from it—a safe distance for maintaining the privacy of our conversation. And as we came to the turn of our walk nearest to the drive, I looked back towards the avenue that intervened between us and the swelling contours of Jervaise Clump. I was thinking about my expedition towards the sunrise; and I was taken completely off my guard when I saw a tweed-clad figure emerge from under the elms and make its way with a steady determination up the drive.