Becky, standing back in the shadows with Randy by her side, watched the men surge towards the table, and retire with their loads of lusciousness. Grinning boys were up to their ears in juice, girls, bare-armed and bare-necked, reached for plates held teasingly aloft. It was all rather innocently bacchanal—a picture which for Becky had an absolutely impersonal quality. She had entertained her guests as she had eaten her dinner, outwardly doing the normal and conventional thing, while her mind was chaotic. This jumble of people on the lawn seemed unreal and detached. The only real people in the world were herself and Dalton.
“How did you happen to ask us?” Randy was saying.
“Because I wanted you——”
“That doesn’t explain it. It has something to do with Dalton——”
“He said he was coming—and I wanted a crowd.”
“Were you afraid to see him alone?”
“He says that I am.”
“When did he say it?”
“Just now. He’s in the garden, Randy.”
“Waiting for you?”
“He says that he is waiting.”
Randy gave a quick exclamation. “Surely you won’t go.”
“Why not? I’ve got to turn—the knife——”
He groaned. “So this is what I’ve let you in for——”
“Well, I shall see it through, Randy.”
“Becky, don’t go to him in the garden.”
“The whole thing is wrong,” the boy said, slowly. “I lied to give you your opportunity, and now, I’d rather die than think of you out there——”
“Then you don’t trust me, Randy?”
“My dear, I do. But I don’t trust—him.”
George had known that she would come. Yet when he saw the white blur of her gown against the blackness of the bushes, his heart leaped. All through the ages men have waited for women in gardens—“She is coming, my own, my sweet——” and farther back, “Make haste, my beloved,” and in the beginning, as Mandy could have told, a serpent waited.
Dalton was not, of course, a serpent. He was merely a very selfish man, who had always had what he wanted, and now he wanted Becky. He was still, perhaps, playing the game, but he was playing it in dead earnest with Randy as his opponent and Becky the prize.
She recognized a new note in his voice and was faintly disturbed by it.
“So you are not afraid?”
She sat down on the bench. Behind them was the pale statue of Diana, the pool was at their feet with its little star.
“Why should I be afraid?” she asked.
“You are trying to shut me out of your heart, Becky—and you are afraid I may try to—open the door.”
“Silly,” she said, clearly and lightly, but with a sense of panic. Oh, why had she come? The darkness seemed to shut her in; his voice was beating against her heart——