Mrs. Lockyard laughed again, not very pleasantly.
“And left poor Maurice in the lurch. That was rather cruel of you after all his chivalrous efforts to deliver you from bondage. And he so hard up, too.”
A flush of anger rose in the girl’s face. She tilted her chin with the old proud gesture.
“I should not have married him in any case,” she said. “He made that quite impossible by his own act. He—was not so chivalrous as I thought.”
A gleam of malice shone for a moment in Mrs. Lockyard’s eyes, and just a hint of it was perceptible in her voice as she made response.
“One has to make allowances sometimes. All men are not made after the pattern of your chosen lord and master. He, I grant you, is hard as granite and about as impassive. Still I mustn’t depreciate your prize since it was of your own choosing. Let me wish you instead every happiness.”
“He was not impassive that night,” said Doris quickly, with a sharp inward sense of injustice.
“No?” questioned Mrs. Lockyard.
“No. At least—Major Brandon did not find him so.” Doris’s blue eyes took fire at the recollection. “He gave him his deserts,” she said, with a certain exultation. “He thrashed him.”
“Oh, my dear, he would have done that in any case. That was an old, old score paid off at last. Forgive me for depriving you of this small gratification. But that debt was contracted many years ago when you were scarcely out of your cradle. Your presence was a mere incident. You were the opportunity, not the cause.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” said Doris, looking her straight in the face.
“No? Well, my dear, it isn’t my business to enlighten you. If you really want to know, I must refer you to your husband. Surely that is Mrs. Fricker over there. You will not mind if she joins us?”
“I am going!” Doris announced abruptly—“I really only looked in to see if there were any letters.”
She dropped her cigarette with determination and turned to the nearest door.
It was true that she had run into the club for her correspondence, but having met Mrs. Lockyard she had been almost compelled to linger, albeit unwillingly. Now from the depths of her soul she regretted the impulse that had borne her thither. She vowed to herself that she would not enter the club again so long as Mrs. Lockyard remained in town.
Three weeks had elapsed since her marriage; three weeks of shopping in Paris with Caryl somewhere in the background, looking on but never advising.
He had been very kind on the whole, she was fain to admit, but she was further from understanding him now than she had ever been. He had retired into his shell so completely that it seemed unlikely that he would ever again emerge, and she did not dare to make the first advance.
Her return to London had been one of the greatest ordeals she had ever faced, but she had endured it unflinchingly, and had found that London had already almost forgotten the eccentricity of her marriage. In the height of the season memories are short.