‘Yes,’ she thought, jolly! Oh, Jon!’
When Fleur left him Jon stared at the Austrian. She was a thin woman with a dark face and the concerned expression of one who has watched every little good that life once had slip from her, one by one. “No tea?” she said.
Susceptible to the disappointment in her voice, Jon murmured:
“No, really; thanks.”
“A lil cup—it ready. A lil cup and cigarette.”
Fleur was gone! Hours of remorse and indecision lay before him! And with a heavy sense of disproportion he smiled, and said:
She brought in a little pot of tea with two little cups, and a silver box of cigarettes on a little tray.
“Sugar? Miss Forsyte has much sugar—she buy my sugar, my friend’s sugar also. Miss Forsyte is a veree kind lady. I am happy to serve her. You her brother?”
“Yes,” said Jon, beginning to puff the second cigarette of his life.
“Very young brother,” said the Austrian, with a little anxious smile, which reminded him of the wag of a dog’s tail.
“May I give you some?” he said. “And won’t you sit down, please?”
The Austrian shook her head.
“Your father a very nice old man—the most nice old man I ever see. Miss Forsyte tell me all about him. Is he better?”
Her words fell on Jon like a reproach. “Oh Yes, I think he’s all right.”
“I like to see him again,” said the Austrian, putting a hand on her heart; “he have veree kind heart.”
“Yes,” said Jon. And again her words seemed to him a reproach.
“He never give no trouble to no one, and smile so gentle.”
“Yes, doesn’t he?”
“He look at Miss Forsyte so funny sometimes. I tell him all my story; he so sympatisch. Your mother—she nice and well?”
“He have her photograph on his dressing-table. Veree beautiful”
Jon gulped down his tea. This woman, with her concerned face and her reminding words, was like the first and second murderers.
“Thank you,” he said; “I must go now. May—may I leave this with you?”
He put a ten-shilling note on the tray with a doubting hand and gained the door. He heard the Austrian gasp, and hurried out. He had just time to catch his train, and all the way to Victoria looked at every face that passed, as lovers will, hoping against hope. On reaching Worthing he put his luggage into the local train, and set out across the Downs for Wansdon, trying to walk off his aching irresolution. So long as he went full bat, he could enjoy the beauty of those green slopes, stopping now and again to sprawl on the grass, admire the perfection of a wild rose or listen to a lark’s song. But the war of motives within him was but postponed—the longing for Fleur, and the hatred of deception.