“Believe me,” he answered quietly, “you exaggerate my poverty. In any case, it is not your concern.”
She paused. She was a woman of not very keen perceptions, but she realised that if she were to proceed with the offer which was half framed in her mind, the man by her side, with his, to her outlook, distorted sense of honour, would become her enemy. She shrugged her shoulders, and turning towards him, held out her hand.
“It is the end, then,” she said. “Well, Andrew, I did my best according to my lights, and I failed. Will you shake hands?”
He shook his head.
“I cannot, Stella. Let us agree to part here. We know all there is to be known of one another, and we shall be able to say good-by without regret.”
She drifted slowly away from him. He watched her figure pass in and out among the trees. She was unashamed, perhaps relieved,—probably, he reflected, as he watched her enter the house, already making her plans for a more successful future. He turned away and looked downwards. The darkness seemed, if possible, to have become a little more intense, the moaning of the sea more insistent. Little showers of white spray enlaced the sombre rocks. The owl came back from his mysterious journey, hovered for a moment over the cliff and entered his secret home. Behind him, the lights in the house went out, one by one. Suddenly he felt a grip upon his shoulder, a hot breath upon his cheek. It was Stella, returned dishevelled, her lace scarf streaming behind, her eyes lit with horror. “Andrew!” she cried. “It came over me—just as I entered the house! What have you done with Anthony?”
Tallente’s first impressions of Jane Partington were that an exceedingly attractive but somewhat imperious young woman had surprised him in a most undignified position. She had come cantering down the drive on a horse which, by comparison with the Exmoor ponies which every one rode in those parts, had seemed gigantic, and, finding a difficulty in making her presence known, had motioned to him with her whip. He climbed down from the steps where he had been busy fastening up some roses, removed a nail from his mouth and came towards her.
“How is it that I can make no one hear?” she asked. “Do you know if Mrs. Tallente is at home?”
Tallente was in no hurry to reply. He was busy taking in a variety of pleasant impressions. Notwithstanding the severely cut riding habit and the hard little hat, he decided that he had never looked into a more attractively feminine face. For some occult reason, unconnected, he was sure, with the use of any skin food or face cream, this young woman who had the reputation of living out of doors, winter and summer, had a complexion which, notwithstanding its faint shade of tan, would have passed muster for delicacy and clearness in any Mayfair drawing-room.