“Oh, you never give any help at all.”
She laughed light-heartedly. “I find I get along quite all right if I let you choose.”
“Well, then; I’m not going to offer inviolable judgment. I’m only going to make a suggestion.”
“What is it?”
“My rooms are in Regent Street—”
“I know; I looked up the number the other day in the Who’s Who? after we’d had lunch.”
“Was that to know if I’d told the truth?” He held her eyes for the answer as you put your metal in the vice.
“No, of course not! How could you think I’d dream of such a thing?”
“Many women might.”
“I certainly shouldn’t.”
A look of tenderness as it passed across his face freed her. She turned her eyes away. He was finding her so absolutely a child, and on the moment paused. There is a moment when a pause holds possibility laden full in its two hands. He let it slip by—it rode off like a feather on the wind. He lost sight of it.
“Well, what’s your suggestion?” she asked.
“That we should come back to Regent Street, sit and talk; we’ll have our coffee there; I’ll show you how to make it.”
He tried to run the whole sentence through. Set it on its feet, and pushed it to the conclusion that it might seem natural, unpremeditated. She saw nothing forced; but his ears burnt to the stumbling sounds. The breath caught in his nostrils as he waited for her definite refusal.
“I think that would be lovely,” she said with genuine interest.
He let the breath slowly free, checked, curbed, the bearing rein upon it all the way. He imagined he had found country innocence in London, and for the moment stood aghast at it; could not see that it was her trust in him, blindly, implicitly placed, against all knowledge of the world. He stood for a gentleman in her eyes—that Apsley Manor, the late Sir William Hewitt Traill, C.B., they all helped to conjure the vision in her mind. She knew the world well enough in her gentle way; but this man was a gentleman.
Yet he saw little of this and, in a broadness of heart, warned her.
“I say nothing for or against myself,” he said, “and this has not been put to you as a test; I want you to come, I really hope you’ll come. But you’d be foolish beyond words if you indiscriminately accepted such an invitation from any man.”
“I know that,” she replied firmly.
“And you’ll come?”
“Yes; I’ve said I would.”
“Why do you make the exception?”
“Because I know you’re a gentleman. I trust you implicitly.”
That went to the heart of him—drove home—the words quivering where they struck.
There was much ceremony when they departed—much French politesse, and many charming little attentions were paid. Marie assisted Monsieur on with his coat, which, being British, he strongly objected to. Berthe brought Madame a beautiful chrysanthemum from the vase on one of the vacant tables and, when Sally proposed wearing it, insisted upon pinning it in herself, her eyes dancing with delight as she stood back to admire its effect.