“Mr. Dunster has gone,” she said. “You saw him go, Gerald. You saw him, too, didn’t you, Mr. Hamel?”
“I certainly did,” Hamel admitted.
Mrs. Fentolin pointed to the great north window near which they were standing, through which the clear sunlight streamed a little pitilessly upon her worn face and mass of dyed hair.
“You ought neither of you to be indoors for a minute on a morning like this,” she declared. “Esther is waiting for you in the car, I think, Mr. Hamel.”
Gerald passed on up the stairs to his room, but Hamel lingered. A curious impulse of pity towards his hostess stirred him. The morning sunlight seemed to have suddenly revealed the tragedy of her life. She stood there, a tired, worn woman, with the burden heavy upon her shoulders.
“Why not come out with Miss Fentolin and me?” he suggested. “We could lunch at the Golf Club, out on the balcony. I wish you would. Can’t you manage it?”
She shook her head.
“Thank you very much,” she said. “Mr. Fentolin does not like to be left.”
Something in the finality of her words seemed to him curiously eloquent of her state of mind. She did not move on. She seemed, indeed, to have the air of one anxious to say more. In that ruthless light, the advantages of her elegant clothes and graceful carriage were suddenly stripped away from her. She was the abject wreck of a beautiful woman, wizened, prematurely aged. Nothing remained but the eyes, which seemed somehow to have their message for him.
“Mr. Fentolin is a little peculiar, you know,” she went on, her voice shaking slightly with the effort she was making to keep it low. “He allows Esther so little liberty, she sees so few young people of her own age. I do not know why he allows you to be with her so much. Be careful, Mr. Hamel.”
Her voice seemed suddenly to vibrate with a curious note of suppressed fear. Almost as she finished her speech, she passed on. Her little gesture bade him remain silent. As she went up the stairs, she began to hum scraps of a little French air.
Hamel sliced his ball at the ninth, and after waiting for a few minutes patiently, Esther came to help him look for it. He was standing down on the sands, a little apart from the two caddies who were beating out various tufts of long grass.
“Where did it go?” she asked.
“I have no idea,” he admitted.
“Why don’t you help look for it?”
“Searching for balls,” he insisted, “is a caddy’s occupation. Both the caddies are now busy. Let us sit down here. These sand hummocks are delightful. It is perfectly sheltered, and the sun is in our faces. Golf is an overrated pastime. Let us sit and watch that little streak of blue find its way up between the white posts.”
She hesitated for a moment.