Mrs. Priestly called a fourwheeler, told Maurie to get inside. Then she turned to Sally.
“I received a telegram this morning,” she said, “saying that Maurie was coming up to London by this train. But I’ve had no explanation.”
“Didn’t you guess the reason?” said Sally, softly.
“Yes; I guessed it, but—” She did not know how much to say, how much to leave unsaid.
“Well, that is it,” Sally replied, evasively. “My mother read about your case in the paper this morning.”
“And she packed him off, like this, the same day?”
“Yes; my mother is a Christian. She sees things in that light.”
“Did she send you with Maurie, then?”
“No; she forbade me to go. She was going to send him alone.”
“Because I suppose I’m not a Christian.”
“You came with him all the same?”
“Yes; I love him.” She looked up into Mrs. Priestly’s eyes. “Perhaps that sounds an offence to you? But he doesn’t love me. You needn’t be afraid that I’ve stolen his love from you. We always used to say our prayers together, and he always used to pray for you. One night I asked him to pray for me, and he said, ’Would that mean that I loved you?’ And I—well—I wanted him to love me—you must blame me for that if you wish—I said ‘Yes,’ because I thought he was going to do it. And then—he said”—Sally stared hard at a stoker shovelling coals into the furnace of one of the engines—“he said he mustn’t—because he only loved you. I only told you that because—”
“You thought I’d be jealous?”
“Yes; I should have been.”
“And now you’ve come up to London,” said Mrs. Priestly, straining back the tears in her throat. “What are you going to do? Are you going back to Cailsham?”
“No—I’m not going back.”
“Then will you come with us? The rooms I’ve taken are not very comfortable—but—”
“No, I won’t come with you—thank you for asking me. I have rooms in London myself. I shall go to them. Good-bye.”
“But, Miss Bishop, you can’t leave us like this. I must thank you properly for all your kindness. You can’t leave us like this!”
“It’s the best way,” said Sally; “I’d sooner this way. Good-bye.”
They shook hands silently. Mrs. Priestly got into the cab. Sally wondered would she tell Maurie that he would not see her again. Then, as the lumbering old vehicle drove off, a little fair head shot suddenly out of the window and a large white handkerchief flapped like a beating flag against his happy little face.
When she had left her trunks at the rooms in Regent Street, Sally drove straight to Janet’s studio, situated in the environments of Shepherd’s Bush.
In the apron of the art-student, her hands unwashed, her hair dishevelled and untidy, she opened the door to Sally’s summons.