“I like him too. I cannot help it. Yet one can be with him, can live in the same house for weeks, even months, and remain an utter stranger to him. He has self-repression which is marvellous—never at fault—never a joint loose. One wonders so much what lies beyond. One would like to know.”
“Is it wise?” he asked. “After all, is it our concern?
“Not ours. But if you were a woman would you be content to take him on trust?”
“It would depend upon my own feelings,” he answered, hesitatingly.
“Whether you cared for him?”
She beat the floor with her foot.
“You are wrong,” she said, “I am sure that you are wrong. To care for one is to wish ever to believe the best of them. It is better to keep apart for ever than to run any risks. Supposing that unknown past was of evil, and one discovered it. To care for him would only make the suffering keener.”
“It may be so,” he admitted. “May I ask you something?”
“You speak—of yourself?”
Her eyes met his, and he looked hastily downwards.
“Absurd,” she murmured, and inclined her head towards the billiard-table. “They have been—attached to one another always. Come over here to the window, and I will tell you something.”
They walked towards the great circular window which overlooked the drive. As they stood there together a four-wheeled cab drove slowly by, and a girl leaned forward and looked at them. Brooks started as he recognized her.
“Why, that must be some one for me,” he exclaimed, in a puzzled tone. “Whatever can have happened to old Bullsom?”
She looked at him politely bewildered.
“It is the niece of a man whom I know very well in Medchester,” he exclaimed. “Something must have happened to her uncle. It is most extraordinary.”
MARY SCOTT PAYS AN UNEXPECTED CALL
Brooks met the butler entering the room with a card upon his salver. He stretched out his hand for it mechanically, but the man only regarded him in mild surprise. “For his lordship, sir. Excuse me.”
The man passed on. Brooks remained bewildered. Lord Arranmore took the card from the tray and examined it leisurely.
“Miss Mary Scott,” he repeated aloud. “Are you sure that the young lady asked to see me?”
“Quite sure, your lordship,” the servant answered.
“Scott. The name sounds familiar, somehow!” Lord Arranmore said. “Haven’t I heard you mention it, Brooks?
“Miss Scott is the niece of Mr. Bullsom, one of my best clients, a large builder in Medchester,” Brooks answered. “Why?”
He stopped suddenly short. Arranmore glanced towards him in polite unconcern.
“You saw her with me at Mellon’s, in Medchester. You asked me her name.”