The bitter words were uttered before she realised their full bitterness. But the moment she had spoken them she knew, for his face told her.
A dead silence followed her outburst, and while it lasted she was casting about wildly for some means of escape other than headlong flight. Then, as if he read her impulse in her eyes, he moved at last and turned aside.
She did not hear his sigh as she made her escape, or even then she might have scaled the barrier that divided them, and found beyond it a better thing than the freedom she prized so highly.
MRS. TUDOR’S CONFESSION
“Come in and sit down, Mrs. Tudor. Mrs. Raleigh isn’t at home. But she can’t be long now. I have been waiting nearly half an hour.”
Phil Turner hoisted himself out of the easiest chair in the Raleighs’ drawing-room as he uttered the words, and advanced with a friendly smile to greet the newcomer.
“Oh, isn’t she in?” said Audrey. “I am afraid I took her for granted at the door.”
“We all do,” he assured her. “It is what she likes best. Do you know, I haven’t seen you for nearly a fortnight? I called, you know, twice; but you were out.”
Audrey laughed inconsequently.
“Why don’t you treat me as you treat Mrs. Raleigh?” she said. “Come in and wait, next time.”
Phil smiled as he handed her to the chair he had just vacated.
“The major isn’t so kind to subalterns,” he said. “He would certainly think, if he didn’t say it, that it was like my cheek.”
Audrey frowned over this.
“I don’t see what he has to do with it,” she declared finally. “But it doesn’t signify. How is your arm?”
“Practically convalescent, thanks! There’s nothing like first aid, you know. I say, Mrs. Tudor, you weren’t any the worse? It didn’t hurt you?”
He looked down at her with anxiety in his frank eyes, and Audrey was conscious suddenly that he was no longer a mere casual acquaintance. Perhaps she had been vaguely aware of it before, but the actual realisation of it had not been in her mind till that moment.
She laughed lightly.
“Of course not,” she said. “How could it? Don’t be so ridiculous, Phil.”
His face cleared.
“That’s right,” he said heartily. “Don’t mind me. But I couldn’t help wondering. And I thought it was so decent of you to come round and look me up on that first morning.”
Audrey’s smile faded.
“I am glad you thought it was decent, anyhow,” she said, with a touch of bitterness. “No one else did.”
“Oh, rot, Mrs. Tudor!”
Phil spoke hastily. He was frowning, as his custom was when embarrassed.
She looked up at him and nodded emphatically.
“Yes, it was—just that,” she said, an odd little note of passion in her voice. “I never thought of these things before, but it seems that here no one thinks of anything else.”