“I said so many things.”
“No—oh, you didn’t. You said so few; but you said one that struck in—deep—straight home.”
“What was that?”
“You said I was a gentleman.”
“So I believed then, when I first saw you. So I know now, after these three years and more.”
“You know it—do you?”
“Yet I’ve never said anything to you about what I intend to give you for yourself, in your own right.”
Pain struck into Sally’s eyes. Her lips parted in fear and anticipation.
“Have you taken all that on trust?” he continued. “If I were to die, suppose—death is a great deed that even the smallest of us are able to accomplish—Berthe!” He turned to the attendant who was waiting—“Consomme—Omelette aux fines herbes—et poulet roti aux cressons.”
“Oui, monsieur—Consomme—pour deux, monsieur?”
“The whole lot pour deux.”
Berthe laughed with her little cooing sound in the throat.
“Omelette aux fines herbes, et poulet roti aux cresson—oui, monsieur.”
She departed and they listened to the repetition of it all—
“Deux consommes—deux—” as she shouted it through the little doorway to the kitchen.
“Supposing I were to die,” Traill repeated. He leant his elbows on the table and gazed steadily into her eyes.
“Why should you talk like that?” she pleaded, and all the while through her brain scampered the questions—“Does he mean if he were to die? Doesn’t he mean if he were to leave me?” They danced a mad dance behind her eyes. Had he looked deep enough, he might have seen their capers.
“Because that sort of thing has to be talked,” he said gently. “You haven’t the faintest idea whether I’ve made any provision for you or not. I’ve often wondered would you ask, but you’ve never said a word. Aren’t you rather foolish? Do you think you take enough care for yourself? Do you think you look far enough into the future? Don’t you think you treat life too much in the same way as you did my offer of the umbrella on the top of the Hammersmith ’bus?”
Many another woman would have had it out then; flung the questions at him, preferring knowledge rather than torture of mind. To Sally this was impossible. Again she showed those same characteristics of her father. She hoped against almost all absence of promise; she had faith in the face of the blackest doubt. He had said—if he died—perhaps he meant that. Yet the kissing of his sister lifted like the shadow in a dream before her eyes. She knew he had been with Mrs. Durlacher that afternoon. Could she have won him still further? Sally knew her own impotence—bowed under it, recognized fully how powerless she was to hold him if once the links in the chain of their caring began to lose their grip. And now, he was offering to make provision for her. Inevitably that seemed to be the beginning of the end. Before, she was his, with that emotional phrase in her mind—as God had made them. Now she was to become his, because he had bought her, paid for her. There lay in that the difference between two worlds in her mind; and she fought against it with what strength she knew.