It was impossible not to feel sympathy for her. The hardest nature in the world must yield its pity when the scourge of circumstance falls upon the weak. Devenish only knew in part what she was suffering. The mistress—deserted—is a position precarious enough, undesirable enough for any man to realize and feel sympathy for. To her mind, seeing that before her, he offered all such pity as he possessed. But of the love wrenched from her life, the heart aching with its overwhelming burden of misery, he saw nothing. She would get over it. He knew that. Women did—women had to. She would settle down into another type of existence. She would become some other man’s mistress. She would pull through. He looked at her childish face and hoped she would pull through. The thought crossed his mind that it would be a pity—a spoiling of something not meant to be spoilt—if she lost caste and went on the streets. She deserved a better fate than that. But it would never come to that.
“What are you going to do, then?” he asked quietly.
“Oh, I don’t know—anything—I don’t know.”
“You won’t do anything foolish?”
“Foolish? How? Foolish?”
He leant his elbows on the table, bearing his eyes direct upon hers. The slight catch in her voice was breaking almost on a note of hysteria.
“You’re excited, you know,” he said gently. “You know, you’re imagining things. You’ve got no grounds for them—I assure you you’ve got no grounds. Come to the music hall with me and forget all about it.”
She shook her head.
“I couldn’t,” she replied; “I couldn’t. I—I shan’t do anything foolish, but I think I’ll go now—now—if you’ve finished.”
“Yes, I’ve quite finished. But I’m going to say something first.”
“Don’t let your imagination run riot with you; and if I can do anything for you—there’s nothing to be done, I mean—but if I can, you let me know. Will you?”
She nodded her head vaguely. It meant nothing to her; but she nodded her head.
Mrs. Durlacher had asked one of her guests to come early.
“Come at seven,” she had said; “before if you can.” And Miss Standish-Roe had arrived at a quarter to the hour.
When she entered the drawing-room, Mrs. Durlacher kissed her affectionately, then held her at arm’s length, her hands on her shoulders and gazed pensively into her eyes.
“Why do you look at me like that?” Coralie asked.
Mrs. Durlacher shrugged her shoulders and turned away to her chair.
“For no reason at all, my dear child, and for a million reasons. I wish I was as pretty as you are.”
“Yes, isn’t it? But if I had that red hair of yours, and those eyes, I’d be happy for the rest of my life. You can’t grow old with that hair as long as you keep thin. Do you mind my telling you something?”