A straw was all that her balance required to incline it; Dysart dropped it, casually. And there were no more pretty scenes between Bunny Gray and his lady-love that autumn, only sulks from the youth, and, after many attempts to secure a hearing, a very direct and honest letter that winter, which had resulted in his dismissal.
* * * * *
She came down to the drawing-room, looking the spectre of herself, but her stillness and self-possession kept Bunny at his distance, staring, restless, amazed—all of which very evident symptoms and emotions she ignored.
“I have your message,” she said. “Has anything happened to my brother?”
He began: “You mustn’t be alarmed, but he is not very well——”
“I am alarmed. Where is he?”
“In the Knickerbocker Hospital.”
“No. He is in a private ward——”
“The—alcoholic?” she asked quietly.
“Yes,” he said, flushing with the shame that had not burnt her white face.
“May I go to him?” she asked.
“No!” he exclaimed, horrified.
She seated herself, hands folded loosely on her lap:
“What am I to do, Bunny?”
“Nothing.... I only came to tell you so that you’d know. To-morrow if you care to telephone Bailey——”
“Yes; thank you.” She closed her eyes; opened them with an effort.
“If you’ll let me, Sylvia, I’ll keep you informed,” he ventured.
“Would you? I’d be very glad.”
“Sure thing!” he said with great animation; “I’ll go to the hospital as many times a day as I am allowed, and I’ll bring you back a full account of Stuyve’s progress after every visit.... May I, Sylvie?”
She said nothing. He sat looking at her. He had no great amount of intellect, but he possessed an undue proportion of heart under the somewhat striking waistcoats which at all times characterised his attire.
“I’m terribly sorry for you,” he said, his eyes very wide and round.
She gazed into space, past him.
“Do you—would you prefer to have me go?” he stammered.
There was no reply.
“Because,” he said miserably, “I take it that you haven’t much use for me.”
No word from her.
Silence; but she looked up at him. “I haven’t changed,” he said, and the healthy colour turned him pink. “I—just—wanted you to know. I thought perhaps you might like to know——”
“Why?” Her voice was utterly unlike her own.
“Why?” he repeated, getting redder. “I don’t know—I only thought you might—it might—amuse you—to know that I haven’t changed——”
“As others have? Is that what you mean, Bunny?”
“No, no, I didn’t think—I didn’t mean——”
“Yes, you did. Why not say it to me? You mean that you, and others, have heard rumours. You mean that you, unlike others, are trying to make me understand that you are still loyal to me. Is that it?”