It was Devenish.
He took off his hat and held a hand out to her. She accepted it, confused in her mind as to the reason of his coming. Did he know? Or was he utterly unconscious? He must have known; he had come to her door.
“Do you mind my coming in?” he asked.
“No, not at all.”
She made way for him to pass into her sitting-room. There followed an awkward pause which he tried to fill with the laying down of his hat and the discarding of his gloves. Sally stood there where she had closed the door, waiting for him to explain his presence. Had he brought a message for her from Jack? Had he come to see Jack—knowing nothing—and, finding the rooms below occupied by another tenant, had he come to learn the reason of her? Why had he come? And at last he turned frankly to her.
“Miss Bishop, I saw Jack the other day. He told me.”
Sally lifted her head with an assumption of pride, a strained effort to show the pride that Janet had urged her to possess. She crossed the room and dropped into a chair.
“Aren’t you going to sit down?” she asked.
“Thanks.” He took the nearest chair, winding his watch-chain about his finger to convey the air that he was at ease.
“Did Jack send you to see me?” she asked then.
“You’ve no message from him?”
“Then, why do you come here?” She wanted to put the question firmly, but in her ears it sounded wavering; in his, touched only with surprise.
“Do you remember that evening we dined together?” he asked in reply.
Could she forget it? She nodded her head in silence.
“If you recollect, I said I wished to offer my friendship?”
Her head nodded again. She did not make it easy for him; but the social training inures one to the difficulties of forging conversation. He ploughed through with a straight, undeviating edge that in no way displeased her.
“Well, I don’t want to distress you by going over the whole business which, as you might quite justly say, was none of mine. I thought you might find it a bit lonely, and so, as I’d taken you out to dinner before”—he raised his eyes, finishing the sentence with a smile and lifting eyebrows. “Were you going out to dinner now?” he added, before she had time to reply.
“Yes, I was.”
“Then will you come with me?”
She met his gaze with frank speculation. What did it matter where she went? Who was there to care? Janet, the only one, would urge her to it if she knew. There was no doubt in her mind that friendship had prompted him. It was a considerate thought on his part to come and offer to take her out because he had imagined she might be lonely. She felt grateful to him, but with no desire to show it. If it pleased him to be generous on her behalf, why should she refuse to profit by it? But here was no thought of giving in return. A woman seldom meets but one man in the world to whom she will give without a shadow of the desire for the value in return. What was there in the world now to prevent her from taking what life offered of its small, distracting pleasures? A moment of recklessness brought a deceptive lift to her spirits.