“Very strange you should find me,” she said, as they glided through the flashing London night.
“Not in the least. I knew you blindfold, so to speak. You forget how I used to stand outside the drawing-room, listening to your singing.”
“Eavesdropper!” she murmured. But he struck a tender chord—all the tender chords of her twilight playing that now rose up softly and floated around her.
“Eavesdropper if you like, who heard nothing that was not beautiful. And so I hadn’t to look for you. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t looking but consulting my programme to know who number eleven was, when you began to sing.”
“If you had looked you wouldn’t have recognised me,” she said, smiling.
“Probably not. The stage get-up would have blurred my memories.”
She began to like him again: the oddness of it all was appealing. “Nevertheless,” she said, “it is strange you should just find me to-night, for I—”
“No, it isn’t,” he interrupted eagerly. “I’ve been every night this week.”
“Ah, eavesdropping again,” she said, touched.
“I wanted to be absolutely sure—and then I couldn’t pluck up courage to write to you.”
“But you did to-night?”
“You looked so tired—I felt I wanted to protect you.”
A sob came into her throat, but she managed to say coldly, “Was I very bad?”
“To one who had seen you the other nights,” he said with complimentary candour.
She laughed. “How is your mother?”
“Oh, she’s very well, thank you. She lives in London now.”
“Then your father has retired from—”
“He is dead,—didn’t you hear?”
“No.” Eileen sat in shocked silence. “I am sorry,” she murmured at length. But underneath this mild shock she was conscious—as they rolled on without speaking—of a new ease that had come into her life: some immense relaxation of tension. “A hunted criminal must breathe more calmly when he is caught,” she thought.
“Lucky I’m in evening dress,” she said, loosening her cloak as they went through a corridor, shimmering with dresses and diamonds, to a crowded supper-room.
“But you’re always in evening dress, surely.”
“I might have been in tights.” And she had a malicious self-wounding pleasure in watching him gasp. She hurried into a revelation of her exact position, as soon as they had secured a just-vacated little table in a window niche. She omitted only Colonel Doherty.
He listened breathlessly. “And nobody knows you are Eileen O’Keeffe, I mean Nelly O’Neill?”
She laughed. “You see you don’t know which I am.”
“So much the worse for your theories of credibility. The longer I live, the less the Show surprises me.”
“Oh, it’s too long to explain. Say Vanity Fair.” Her thumb fell into its old habit of flicking the table. There was a silence.