AN UNPLEASANT INTERVIEW
“There!” said Audrey, a few seconds later, “I’ve been a perfect idiot, I know; but I’m better now. Tell me, do I look as if I had been crying?”
She raised her pretty, woebegone face to his and smiled very faintly.
There was something unmistakably grim about Phil at that moment, and she wondered why.
“Of course you do,” he said bluntly.
Audrey got up and peered at herself uneasily in a mirror.
“It doesn’t show much,” she said, after a careful inspection. “And, anyhow”—turning round to him—“I don’t know what you have to be cross about. It—it was all your fault!”
Phil groaned and held his peace. She would know soon enough, he reflected.
Audrey drew nearer to him.
“Tell me what he said to Major Raleigh, Phil,” she said rather tremulously.
He shrugged his shoulders and yielded.
“He only said that he wished your discretion equalled your promptitude in emergencies,” he said.
“Oh,” said Audrey. “Was that all? Well, I think you might have told me before.”
Phil laughed grudgingly. The situation was abominable, but her utter childishness palliated it. How was Tudor going to treat the matter? he wondered. What if he—
A sudden thought flashed across Phil’s brain, and his face grew set. Of course it had been his fault, since she said so. It remained therefore for him to extricate her, if he could. He turned to her.
“Look here, Mrs. Tudor,” he said, in a judicious, elder-brotherly tone, “I think it’s a mistake, don’t you know, to let yourself get depressed over—well, little things. I know what it is to feel down on your luck. But luck turns, you know, and—and—he’s a good sort—a bit stiff and difficult to get on with, but still—a good sort. You won’t think me rude if I leave you now? I didn’t expect Mrs. Raleigh to be so long, and I’m afraid I can’t wait any longer. I’ve got to dress for mess.”
“Goodness!” said Audrey, with a glance at the clock. “Does it take you two hours? No, don’t scowl! I’m only joking, so you needn’t be cross. Good-bye, then! Thank you for being kind to me.”
Her hand lay in his for a moment. She was smiling at him rather sadly, notwithstanding her half-bantering words.
Phil paused a second.
“I’m confoundedly sorry!” he said impulsively. “Don’t cry any more.”
She shook her head and withdrew her hand.
“Who says I’ve been crying?” she said lightly. “Go away, and don’t be silly!”
He took her at her word and departed.
At the gate of the compound he met Mrs. Raleigh, but he refused to turn back with her.
“I really must go; I’ve got an engagement,” he said. “But Mrs. Tudor is waiting for you. Keep her as long as you can. I believe she’s a bit down—homesick, you know.” And he hurried away, breaking into a run as soon as he reached the road.