He walked on, grim, pale, chilled. The time when he would lie awake in his little oak-beamed chamber and thoughts of Cicely would soothe him to sleep with pleasant fancies was gone. He thought of her now without emotion—no longer the memory of those walks thrilled his pulses. He knew very well that never again would his heart beat the quicker for her coming, never again, even though the memory of that terrible night could be swept away, would her coming bring joy to him. Firmly though his feet were planted upon the ladder, it seemed to him then in that gloomy mood that every step must take him further away from any chance of that wonderful happiness, so intangible, yet so sweet an adjunct to life. For he was following like a doomed creature in the wake of Drexley, and Rice, and those others. Too late had come his warning. The woman of whom he never dared to think was surely a sorceress. She was only a woman—scarcely even beautiful, yet the world of her sex had become to Douglas Guest as a thing that was not. He turned at last back into the Strand. He would go to his rooms and work for a while. But as he walked slowly down, jostled by many passers-by, still not wholly detached from that phantasmal past, there came upon him a shock so sudden and so overwhelming that the very pavement seemed to yawn at his feet. Towards him two women were slowly walking, holding their own in the press of the crowd, one with horrified eyes already fastened upon him, the other as yet unconscious of his presence. Nearer and nearer they came, and although every impulse of his body bade him fly, his limbs were rigid and every muscle seemed frozen. For the women were Joan and her sister Cicely.
CICELY ASKS A QUESTION
After all, it was the woman who sought him who passed him by, her unwilling companion who recognised him at once, in spite of his altered dress and bearing. They were swallowed up in the crowd before Douglas had recovered himself. Something in Cicely’s terrified gaze had instantly checked his first instinct which prompted him to accost them. They were gone, leaving him alike speechless and bewildered. He staggered into a small restaurant, and sitting at an unoccupied table, called for a bottle of wine.