Then she looked up and smiled at him graciously enough, though it seemed to him that she was a little pale.
“I am sure you were delightfully lucid,” she said. “I quite understood, and on the whole I think I agree with you. I don’t think that the sentimental side of me has been properly developed. By the bye, you were going to tell me about that pretty girl I saw at Enton—Lady Caroom’s daughter, wasn’t she?”
His face lit up—she saw his thoughts go flitting away, and the corner of his lips curl in a retrospective smile of pleasure.
“Sybil Caroom,” he said, softly. “She is a very charming girl. You would like her, I am sure. Of course she’s been brought up in rather a frivolous world, but she’s quite unspoilt, very sympathetic, and very intelligent. Isn’t that a good character?”
“Very,” she answered, with a suspicion of dryness in her tone. “Is this paragon engaged to be married yet?”
He looked at her, keenly surprised by the infusion of something foreign in her tone.
“I—I think not,” he answered. “I should like you to meet her very much. She will be coming to London soon, and I know that she will be interested in our new scheme if it comes to anything. We will take her down and give her a few practical lessons in philanthropy.”
“Will she be interested?” Mary asked.
“Immensely,” he answered, with confidence. “Lady Caroom is an awfully good sort, too.”
Mary remembered the well-bred insolence of Lady Caroom’s stare, the contemplative incredulity which found militant expression in her beautiful eyes and shapely curving lips, and for a moment half closed her eyes.
“Ah, well,” she said, “that afternoon was rather a terrible one to me. Let us talk of something else.”
He was profuse at once in apologies for his own thoughtlessness. But she checked him almost at the outset.
“It is I who am to blame for an unusual weakness,” she said. “Let us both forget it. And don’t you find this place hot? Let us get outside and walk.”
They found a soft misty rain falling. The commissionaire called a hansom. She moved her skirts to make room for him.
“I am going down to Stepney to see a man who I think will be interested in my scheme,” he said. “When may I come down again and have tea with you?”
“Any afternoon, if you will drop me a line the night before,” she said, “but I am not very likely to be out, in any case. Thank you so much for my dinner. My aunt seemed to think that I was coming to London to starve. I think I feel fairly safe this evening, at any rate.”
The cab drove off, skirting the gaily-lit crescent of Regent Street. The smile almost at once died away from her lips. She leaned forward and looked at herself in one of the oblong mirrors. Her face was almost colourless, the skin seemed drawn closely round her eyes, giving her almost a strained look. For the rest, her hair, smoothly brushed away from her face, was in perfect order, her prim little hat was at exactly the right angle, her little white tie alone relieved the sombreness of her black jacket. She sighed and suddenly felt a moistening of her hot eyes. She leaned far back into the corner of the cab.