“Thank you,” he said. “I have learned what I wanted to know. I will go now. Good evening.”
She stood by his side—as tall as he—and looked at him curiously. It was as though she were seeking to discover from his face how much his opinion of her had altered. But if so, she was disappointed. His face was inscrutable.
“You are angry with me?”
“I have no right to be that.”
“Not with you.”
“After all,” she said, “there is no harm done. He will come to me, and then I shall see that his future is properly shaped. If he is what I have an idea that he may be, I shall be of far greater help to him than ever you could have been.”
But Drexley was silent. He was thinking then of her proteges. Had they, after all, been such brilliant successes? One or two were doing fairly well, from a pecuniary point of view—but there were others! She read his thought, and a faint spot of colour burned for a moment on her cheek. She was very nearly angry. What a bear, a brute!
“I know what you were thinking of,” she said coldly. “It is not generous of you. I did all I could for poor Austin, and as for Fennel—well, he was mad.”
“You are the kind of woman,” he said, looking her suddenly full in the face, “who deals out kindnesses to men which they would often be much better without. You are generous, great-hearted, sympathetic, else I would not speak like this to you. But you have a devil’s gift somewhere. You make the most unlikely men your slaves—and you send them mad with kindness.
“You are neither fair nor reasonable,” she answered. “You talk as though I were Circe behind a bar. Such rubbish.”
“I never insinuated that it was wilful,” he said sadly. “I believe in you. I know that you are generous. Only—you are very beautiful, and at times you are too kind.”
“My hateful sex!” she exclaimed dolefully. “Why can’t men forget it sometimes? Isn’t it a little hard upon me, my friend? I am, you know, very rich, and I have influence. Nothing interests me so much as helping on a little young people who have gifts. Isn’t it a little hard that I should I have to abandon what surely isn’t a mischievous thing to do because one of the young men has been foolish enough to fancy himself in love with me?”
They were interrupted. She turned to bid him good night.
“At least,” she said smiling, “I will be very careful indeed with this boy.”
“If he comes to you!”
“If he comes,” she repeated, with an odd little smile at the corner of her lips.
* * * * *
Drexley walked through the crowded streets to his club, where his appearance in such unwonted garb was hailed with a storm of applause and a good deal of chaff. He held his own as usual, lighted his pipe, and played a game of pool. But all the same he was not quite himself. There was the old restlessness hot in his blood, and a strong sense of dissatisfaction with himself. Later on, Rice was brought in by a friend, and he drew him on one side.