Omitting the incident of Archibald’s tavern, Selwyn told of the chance meeting with Dick, the encounter with Johnston Smyth, the night at the rooms in St. James’s Square, and the subsequent glimpse of them marching through Whitehall.
‘Your brother asked me to say nothing,’ he said calmly. ’That is one of the reasons why I did not let you know.’
‘Had Dick changed at all?’ she asked, trying to make her words as listless as his. ’I wish that you would tell me something that he said. You must know more about him than just’——
‘I don’t think he had changed,’ said Selwyn; and for the first time his voice was tinged with compassion. ’He spoke of you with a kind of worship. I suppose you know how he idolises you.’
His dark eyes looked at her through partially closed eyelashes, but only the manner in which her fingers compressed the fold of her skirt betrayed the turmoil of her feelings.
‘Is that all you can tell me?’
‘That is all.’ He made no attempt to elaborate the conversation or to introduce any new theme. The scene which had promised to be so dramatic was actually dragging with uncomfortable silences. She waited long enough for him to speak, but when he remained silent—it was a sardonic silence to her—she rose from the chair with the manner of one who has determined to bring an interview to a close.
‘Thank you for coming so promptly,’ she said. ’I am most grateful for your kindness to Dick—and I know enough of the law to realise that you were taking a risk in hiding him.’
‘It was nothing at all,’ he said. He looked at her for an indication that her questions were at an end.
‘I hope you will be able to get a taxi,’ she ventured helplessly.
For the first time he smiled, and she reddened with mortification. He had been so cool and unyielding, so bloodless, that he had forced her to a disadvantage. She knew he could not be ignorant of the strain of the affair on her, yet he had done nothing to ease it. If she could have projected her mind into his, she would have seen that his conduct was as inexplicable to himself as to her. He knew he was hurting her. Perhaps it was because her warm lips and crimson cheeks were creating a torment in his soul that he could not curb the impulse to wound her. It may have been the subconscious knowledge that where one can hurt one can conquer that dominated his actions. While she resented the invulnerability with which he guarded his own feelings, it is probable that any different attitude on his part would have brought forth a more active unkindness on hers. When men and women love, strange paradoxes are found.
They went to the door together, and in the brighter light of the hall Elise saw for the first time that he was considerably thinner, and that his brow was like marble. She felt a little stab of pity for him, forgetting his own lack of sympathy towards herself; she caught a faint realisation of what he must have endured for it to have marked him so indelibly.