Maraton shook his head.
“Thank you very much, Mrs. Bollington-Watts,” he said, “but my visit to England is one of business only. To be frank with you, I have no social existence, nor any desire to cultivate one.”
“But you know Lady Elisabeth,” the little woman protested.
“I have the honour of knowing Lady Elisabeth incidentally,” Maraton replied. “If you will excuse me now—”
Mrs. Bollington-Watts turned aside to talk vigorously to a passer-by. Lady Elisabeth laid her hand upon his arm.
“Mr. Maraton,” she said softly, “do make up your mind. Please come to Lyndwood.”
Her blue eyes were raised to his, fearlessly, appealingly. Maraton was more than ever conscious of the delicate perfection of her person, her clear skin, her silky brown hair. She was something new to him in her sex. He knew quite well that a request from her was an unusual thing.
“I will come, Lady Elisabeth,” he promised gravely. “Beyond that, of course, I can say nothing. But I will come to Lyndwood.”
The slight anxiety passed from her face like a cloud. Her smile was positively brilliant.
“It is charming of you,” she whispered.
Mrs. Bollington-Watts was once more free and by their side. They moved on to the corner and Maraton was on the point of taking his leave. Just at that moment Mrs. Bollington-Watts gave a little cry of amazement. A coach was drawn up by the side of the path, and a young man who was driving it, was looking down at them. Mrs. Bollington-Watts stopped and waved her hand at him almost frantically.
“Why, it’s Freddy Lawes!” she exclaimed.. “Why, Freddy, what on earth are you doing here? If this isn’t a surprise! They told me you never moved from Paris, and I thought I’d have to come right over there to see you. . . . Well, I declare! Freddy!—why, Freddy, what’s the matter?”
The words of Mrs. Bollington-Watts seemed as though they had been spoken into empty air. The young man was leaning forward in his place, the reins loosely held in his hand, and a groom was already upon the path, recovering the whip which had slipped from his fingers. His eyes were fixed not upon Mrs. Bollington-Watts nor upon Lady Elisabeth, but upon Maraton. He was a young man of harmless and commonplace appearance but his features were at that moment transformed. His mouth was strained and quivering, his eyes were lit with something very much like horror. Some words certainly left his lips, but they did not carry to the hearing of any one of those three people. He looked at Maraton with the fierce, terrified intentness of one who looks upon a spectre!
Mrs. Bollington-Watts’ shrill voice once more broke the silence, which, although it was a matter of seconds only, was not without a certain peculiar dramatic quality.
“Say, what’s wrong with you, Freddy? You don’t think I’m a ghost, do you? Can’t you come down and talk?”