“Louis,” she said in real distress, clutching his arm, “are you really in the secret service? I’ll—I’ll forget it all, if you’re telling me lies. I’ll never think of it again. But it so awful to think you are lying to me!”
“Why should I lie, my darling?” he said, looking hurt, but staring at her mouth instead of looking into her eyes.
“You—you told me—never—to believe you, Louis. Oh, you do make it hard for me. I don’t know what to believe. If you’re in the secret service don’t they pay you any money?”
“Of course—they pay me enough to keep myself going. But it’s a patriotic work, you know. And as for not believing me, I told you not to believe me about drinking. That was all.”
“But Louis, if you have money, why are you so worried about it now? And—didn’t you tell me your father sent you out here?”
“Yes, he did, dearie,” he said earnestly. “It’s quite true. I was a rotter and he got fed up with me. But I’ve done a lot of secret service work and didn’t dare even tell him. I’m under an oath of secrecy. The times I’ve had to let him think I was out all night, simply too squiffy to get home when in reality I was working—for England—”
“And you really, truly mean it, Louis? Louis, it would break my heart right in two if I thought you were lying now.”
“I swear it, on my love for you. I can see, now, that I ought to have told the Pater all about it. But I thought when he was so unbelieving I’d take his bally pound a week. After all, it isn’t much. It’s what he spends on one dinner often, and it would keep me in cigarettes, at any rate. So I thought I’d stick to it, as well as my secret service screw. Besides—supposing he wasn’t my father at all? Supposing he’d been paid by someone—someone very much more exalted than he, to bring me up?”
“Whatever do you mean, Louis?” she cried.
“Oh, never mind, never mind, old girl. But some day, perhaps, you’ll know all I’ve had to go through—”
There was a pause full of strained thinking. At last she burst out nervously, “But you’ve told your father not to send any more money, haven’t you?”
“Yes, of course. I felt I couldn’t be married to you on money I didn’t earn. But this secret service—it is all so confidential—we have to guard our orders most carefully in case they get anything—”
“They? Who are they?” she asked quickly.
“The enemy—Germans and Chinese. There’s quite a conspiracy on foot in Australia,” he added, looking important. But he would tell her no more.
“Shall you be at work as soon as we get to Sydney?” she asked.
“It all depends on my orders. If we can stagger through the first few weeks, till I can get some cash—I say, Marcella, why shouldn’t you ask your uncle for some money?”
“Because he’d make me go home with him if I did.”