“God help me!” she exclaimed, “if I find my own sex an enigma; but what on earth made you decide?”
“Mr. Devenish, the man I told you I was dining with that night, six weeks ago.”
“Why him, in the name of Heaven?”
“He came to see me last night.”
“He took me out to dinner.”
“Very good thing too. You want a little of that sort of entertaining. Did he advise you to go?”
She could see the colour mounting and falling in Sally’s cheeks and her suspicions sped to a conclusion.
“He made love to me,” said Sally. Her hand went to her eyes. She covered them.
“Oh, I see. You want to get away from him? You don’t like him? Think he’s going to be a nuisance?”
“No, it’s not that.” She still hid her face. “I don’t think he’d ever come and see me again, now.”
“It was what he said.”
“What did he say?”
“He wanted— Oh!”
Janet leant forward on the table. “To take Traill’s place—eh?”
Janet leant back in her chair and looked scrutinizingly at Sally’s head, bent into her hands, and from what she knew by this time of Sally’s nature, there came the understanding of what such a proposal must have meant.
“And what else did you expect?” she asked gently. “Most men are the same. News that there is a woman to be found situated such as you are spreads through the ranks of them like—like—like a prairie fire. It goes whispering from one lip to another. You can never tell where it starts. You can never tell where it ends. As soon as a man knows that money can buy a woman he wants, he’ll scrape the bottom of the Bank of England to get it. I told you before, it’s a business! Why in the name of Heaven can’t you give up all your romanticism? If you don’t want to go on with it, to be absolutely brutal, if you don’t want to make it pay, why can’t you take all the money that Traill’s given you and go away from here altogether? Well—you are going—thank the Lord for that much sense! But go, and take all you can get with you. Save it up if you won’t spend it; and that’s better still. But, for God’s sake, take it, it’s yours! Surely you’ve earned it. I should think you had.”
Sally dropped her hands and looked up. “I don’t know why you and I have ever got on together, Janet,” she said brokenly. “I could never conceive two people more absolutely opposite. I sometimes hate the things you say, but I nearly always love you for saying them. I loathe the things you’ve said now. If I thought like that, I can’t see what there would be to stop me from sinking as low—as low as a woman can. Do you really mean to say that you’d do like that if you cared for a man, as I do for Jack? Would you grasp every penny he’d left you?”