“You needn’t be responsible,” she said eagerly. “You need never see it. You’ve been generous enough to me in what you’ve given me. I shan’t ask for a penny more—I shan’t use the child to extract money from you. You’ll never hear from me again. After all, you have loved me,” she said piteously. “You did love me once.”
He turned angrily away. “My God!” he exclaimed. “You talk as if you were out of your mind! If I did have a child, I should want to see it. I shouldn’t want to be ashamed of it; I shouldn’t want to disown it, as you’d have me do.”
“Well, then, you might see it as often as you wished.”
He strode to the door. She must have it now. He had meant to say nothing, wishing to save her feelings; but she must have it now.
“Then I’m engaged to be married,” he said firmly. “Do you see now that it’s impossible?”
She dropped into a chair, staring strangely at his face.
“You—married?” she whispered.
“Yes; and I’ve no desire to have things cropping up in my life afterwards, just in the way that this Mrs. Priestly in the divorce courts—”
Sally struggled to her feet.
“Yes; what about her? Do you know her?”
“What do you know about her?” she asked.
“I’m counsel for her husband.”
“You’re cross-examining her?”
Straight through her mind leapt that scene in the divorce court when she had witnessed his attack upon the miserable woman whom the law had placed out for his feet to trample on.
“Yes,” he replied. “What do you know about her?”
She sank back into her chair saying nothing.
“You won’t say?”
She shook her head.
“Well, it’s of not much interest to me. I shouldn’t have you subpoenaed, if you did know anything. You know the case, at any rate. Well, I don’t want that sort of affair in my life; so you never need mention this matter again. I’ll come and see you sometimes, if you want me to; but only on condition that we have none of this. When I’m married, of course, then it’ll have to stop.”
Sally raised her head. Her eyes were burning—her lips were drawn to a thin colourless line.
“You—who never were going to marry!” she shouted. “You who didn’t believe in it—who wouldn’t fetter yourself with it! Oh, go! Go!”
That same evening there might have been seen two men seated opposite to each other at a small table in the corner of the grill-room of a well-known restaurant. Throughout the beginning of the meal, they laughed and talked amiably to each other. No one took particular notice of them. The waiter, attendant upon their table, leant against a marble pillar some little distance away and surreptitiously cleaned his nails with the corner of a menu-card. A band played on a raised platform in some other part of the room. From where they sat, they could see the conductor leading his orchestra with the swaying of his violin. He tossed his hair into artistic disorder with the violent intensity of feeling as he played, and his fingers, strained out till the tendons between them were stretched like the strings upon which they moved, felt for the harmonics—shrill notes that pierced through the sounds of all the other instruments.