Dot said nothing. She was used to her sister-in-law’s cheerful egotism, and Adela had never hesitated to invade her privacy if she felt so inclined. Her chief consolation was that Adela was a very sound sleeper, so that there was small chance of having her solitude disturbed at night.
She herself was not sleeping so well as usual just then. A great restlessness was upon her, and often she would pace to and fro like a caged thing for half the night. She was not actively unhappy, but a great weight seemed to oppress her—a sense of foreboding that was sometimes more than she could bear.
Fletcher Hill’s calm countenance as he welcomed them upon their arrival reassured her somewhat. He was so perfectly self-controlled and steady in his demeanour. The very grasp of his hand conveyed confidence. She felt as if he did her good.
They dined together in the common dining-room, but at a separate table in a corner. There were many coming and going, and Adela was frankly interested in them all. As she said, it was so seldom that she had the chance of studying the human species in such variety. When the meal was over she good-naturedly settled herself in a secluded corner and commanded them to leave her.
“There’s something in the shape of a glass-house at the back,” she said. “I don’t know if it can be called a conservatory. But anyhow I should think you might find a seat and solitude there, and that, I conclude, is what you most want. Anyhow, don’t bother about me! I can amuse myself here for any length of time.”
They took her at her word, though neither of them seemed in any hurry to depart. Dot lingered because the prospect of a tete-a-tete in a strange place, where she could not easily make her escape if she desired to do so, embarrassed her. And Hill waited, as his custom was, with a grim patience that somehow only served to increase her reluctance to be alone with him.
“Run along! It’s getting late,” Adela said at last. “Carry her off, Mr. Hill! You’ll never get her to make the first move.”
There was some significance in words and smile. Dot stiffened and turned sharply away.
Hill followed her, and outside the room she waited for him.
“Do you know the way?” she asked, without looking at him.
He took her by the arm, and again she had a wayward thought of the hand of the law. She knew now what it felt like to be marshalled by a policeman. She almost uttered a remark to that effect, but, glancing up at him, decided that it would be out of place. For the man’s harsh features were so sternly set that she wondered if Adela’s careless talk had aroused his anger.
She said nothing, therefore, and he led her to the retreat her sister-in-law had mentioned in unbroken silence. It was certainly not a very artistic corner. A few straggling plants in pots decorated it, but they looked neglected and shabby. Yet the thought went through her, it might have been a bower of delight had they been in the closer accord of lovers who desire naught but each other.