She went over to a table and took a piece of notepaper from a drawer. ‘Mr. Selwyn used to belong to the R.A.C.,’ she said quickly. ’Would you do me a favour, Horace dear?’
He murmured his desire to be of service in any capacity. Hesitating a moment, she wrote hurriedly:
’4th March 1915, 2lA PARK WALK.
’DEAR MR. SELWYN,—Will you please come and see me as soon as you can? I am not on night-duty this week.—Yours sincerely, ELISE DURWENT.’
She sealed the envelope and handed it to Maynard. ’Please find out from the R.A.C. where he is, and ask them to send this note to him. I am ever so grateful, Horace.’
‘I suppose,’ he said, looking at the envelope, ’that this means the—the finish of my chances?’
She answered the question by wishing him good luck in France, but there was a strange tremulousness in the softly spoken words.
He put out his hand shyly. ‘Good-night, old girl,’ he said, smiling with a sort of rueful boyishness.
She took his proffered hand, and then, obeying an impulse, stooped and pressed her burning cheek against it. ‘Good-night, Horace,’ she said softly. ’I hope you’ll come back safe to be a fine husband for some nice girl.’
When he had gone, and his footsteps died away, she returned to the table. Burying her face in her hands, she fought back the tears which surged to the surface. Her love for Dick, her own loneliness, a mad joy in the thought of seeing Selwyn again, a motherly pity for Maynard, a fury towards Marian, an incomprehensible yearning—she felt that her heart was bursting, but could not have said herself whether it was with grief or with joy.
From the time that Austin Selwyn received the note there was nothing else in his mind—as in Elise’s—but the coming meeting. As playwrights planning a scene, each went through the encounter in prospect a dozen times, reading into it the play of emotions which was almost certain to dominate the affair. Although completely ignorant of her motive in writing to him, Selwyn invented a hundred different reasons—only to discard them all. Nor was Elise more able to satisfy herself as to the outcome of the meeting. It was not his actions that were difficult to forecast, but her own. Would her dislike of him be intensified? Would she experience again the momentary rapture of that summer afternoon?
It was fortunate that another lover had appeared for Marian, so that the desertion of Maynard did not leave her moping untidily about the place. She was one of those women who are so singularly lacking in self-sufficiency that, except when in the company of men, they are as fiat as champagne from which the sparkle has departed.
It so happened, therefore, that Elise was again alone the following evening, dreading Selwyn’s arrival, yet impatient of delay.