Hamel sat alone upon the terrace, his afternoon coffee on a small table in front of him. His eyes were fixed upon a black speck at the end of the level roadway which led to the Tower. Only a few minutes before, Mr. Fentolin, in his little carriage, had shot out from the passage beneath the terrace, on his way to the Tower. Behind him came Meekins, bending over his bicycle. Hamel watched them both with thoughtful eyes. There were several little incidents in connection with their expedition which he scarcely understood.
Then there came at last the sound for which he had been listening, the rustle of a skirt along the terraced way. Hamel turned quickly around, half rising to his feet, and concealing his disappointment with difficulty. It was Mrs. Seymour Fentolin who stood there, a little dog under each arm; a large hat, gay with flowers, upon her head. She wore patent shoes with high heels, and white silk stockings. She had, indeed, the air of being dressed for luncheon at a fashionable restaurant. As she stooped to set the dogs down, a strong waft of perfume was shaken from her clothes.
“Are you entirely deserted, Mr. Hamel?” she asked.
“I am,” he replied. “Miss Esther went, I think, to look for you. My host,” he added, pointing to the black speck in the distance, “begged me to defer my occupation of the Tower for an hour or so, and has gone down there to collect some of his trifles.”
Her eyes followed his outstretched hand. She seemed to him to shiver for a moment.
“You really mean, then, that you are going to leave us?” she asked, accepting the chair which he had drawn up close to his.
“Well, I scarcely came on a visit to St. David’s Hall, did I?” he reminded her. “It has been delightfully hospitable of Mr. Fentolin to have insisted upon my staying on here for these few days, but I could not possibly inflict myself upon you all for an unlimited period.”
Mrs. Fentolin sat quite still for a time. In absolute repose, if one could forget her mass of unnaturally golden hair, the forced and constant smile, the too liberal use of rouge and powder, the nervous motions of her head, it was easily to be realised that there were still neglected attractions about her face and figure. Only, in these moments of repose, an intense and ageing weariness seemed to have crept into her eyes and face. It was as though she had dropped the mask of incessant gaiety and permitted a glimpse of her real self to steal to the surface.
“Mr. Hamel,” she said quietly, “I dare say that even during these few days you have realised that Mr. Fentolin is a very peculiar man.”
“I have certainly observed—eccentricities,” Hamel assented.
“My life, and the lives of my two children,” she went on, “is devoted to the task of ministering to his happiness.”
“Isn’t that rather a heavy sacrifice?” he asked. Mrs. Seymour Fentolin looked down the long, narrow way along which Mr. Fentolin had passed. He was out of sight now, inside the Tower. Somehow or other, the thought seemed to give her courage and dignity. She spoke differently, without nervousness or hurry.