Selwyn had come to her with a comfortable, after-dinner desire for a tete-a-tete. He expected flattering questions about his writings, and would have enjoyed talking about them; instead of which this English girl with the crimson colouring and the maddening eyes had coolly kept him at a distance with her rapier brain. He felt a sudden indignation at her sexlessness, and struck a match for his own cigarette with such energy that it broke in two.
‘Miss Durwent,’ he said suddenly, lighting another match, ’I want to see you again—soon.’ He paused, astonished at his own abruptness, and an awkward smile expanded until it crinkled the very pinnacle of his nose.
‘I like you when you look like that,’ she said. ’It was just like my brother Dick when he fell off a horse. By the way, do you ride?’
‘Yes,’ he said, watching the cigarette-smoke curl towards the fireplace, ‘though I prefer an amiable beast to a spirited one.’
‘Good!’ she said, so quickly that it seemed like the thrust of a sword in tierce. ’You have the same taste in horses as in women. Most men have.’
’Miss Durwent’—his face flushed angrily and his jaw stiffened—’I’ll ride any horse you choose in England, and’——
’And break the heart of the most vixenish maiden in London! You are a real American, after all. What is it you say over there? “Shake!"’
She slapped her hand into his, and he held it in a strong grip.
‘But you will let me see you again soon?’
‘Certainly.’ She withdrew her hand from his with a firmness that had neither censure nor coquetry in it, and the heightened colour of her cheeks subsided with the sparkle of her eyes.
‘When?’ he said.
’To-morrow morning, if you like. I shall have horses here at eleven, and we can ride in the Row, providing you will put up with anything so quiet as our cattle.’
‘That is bully of you. I shall be here at eleven.’
‘I thought all Americans used slang,’ she said.
‘You are the first English girl I have met,’ he answered with extraordinary venom in his voice, ‘who has not said “ripping."’
* * * * * *
Twenty minutes later Austin Selwyn, unable to secure a taxi, tramped along Oxford Street towards his hotel. He had just reached the Circus when the malignant wind, hiding in ambush down Regent Street, rushed at him unawares and sent his hat roistering into the doorway of a store. With a frown, Selwyn stopped and stared at the truant.
‘Confound the wretched thing!’ he said.
A MORNING IN NOVEMBER.