She was leaning against the arm of my chair. It was clearly my duty to administer the consolation which the situation demanded. I realized, however, that the occasion was critical, and I ignored her proximity.
“Miss Moyat,” I said, “I am sorry if asking you to tell that harmless little fib has made you miserable. I simply desired—”
“It isn’t altogether that,” she interrupted. “You know it isn’t.”
“You give me credit for greater powers of divination than I possess,” I answered calmly. “Your father was always very kind to me, and I can assure you that I have not forgotten it. But I have work to do now, and I have scarcely an hour to spare. Mr. Moyat would understand it, I am sure.”
The door was suddenly opened. Mrs. Moyat, fat and comely, came in. She surveyed us both with a friendly and meaning smile, which somehow made my cheeks burn. It was no fault of mine that Blanche had been hanging over my chair.
“Come,” she said, “I’m sure I’m very glad to see you once more, Mr. Ducaine. Such a stranger as you are too! But you don’t mean to sit in here without a fire all the afternoon, I suppose, Blanche. Tea is just ready in the dining-room. Bring Mr. Ducaine along, Blanche.”
I held out my hand.
“I am sorry that I cannot stop, Mrs. Moyat,” I said. “Good-afternoon, Miss Moyat.”
She looked me in the eyes.
“You are not going,” she murmured.
“I am afraid,” I answered, “that it is imperative. I ought to have been at Rowchester long ago. We are too near neighbours, though, not to see something of one another again before long.”
“Well, I’m sure there’s no need to hurry so,” Mrs. Moyat declared, backing out of the room. “Blanche, you see if you can’t persuade Mr. Ducaine. Father’ll be home early this evening, too.”
“I think,” Blanche said, “that Mr. Ducaine has made up his mind.”
She walked with me to the hall door, but she declined to shake hands with me. Her appearance was little short of tragic. I think that at another time I might have been amused, for never in my life had I spoken more than a few courteous words to the girl. But my nerves were all on edge, and I took her seriously. I walked down the street, leaving her standing in the threshold with the door open as though anxious to give me a chance to return if I would. I looked back at the corner, and waved my hand. There was something almost threatening in the grim irresponsive figure, standing watching me, and making no pretence at returning my farewell—watching me with steady eyes and close-drawn brows.
MOSTYN RAY EXPLAINS
I walked straight to the House, and locked up my papers in the great safe. I had hoped to escape without seeing either Ray or Lady Angela, but as I crossed the hall they issued from the billiard-room. Lady Angela turned towards me eagerly.