Hilary’s smile puzzled and annoyed her. If she had known, this was the smile that stood between him and her sister.
“You may be right,” he said, and shrugged his shoulders:
“Very well,” said Cecilia, “I’ve done all I can. I must go now. Good-bye.”
During her progress to the door she gave one look behind. Hilary was standing by the bust of Socrates. Her heart smote her to leave him thus embarrassed. But again the vision of Bianca—fugitive in her own house, and with something tragic in her mocking immobility—came to her, and she hastened away.
A voice said: “How are you, Mrs. Dallison? Your sister at home?”
Cecilia saw before her Mr. Purcey, rising and falling a little with the oscillation of his A.i. Damyer.
A sense as of having just left a house visited by sickness or misfortune made Cecilia murmur:
“I’m afraid she’s not.”
“Bad luck!” said Mr. Purcey. His face fell as far as so red and square a face could fall. “I was hoping perhaps I might be allowed to take them for a run. She’s wanting exercise.” Mr. Purcey laid his hand on the flank of his palpitating car. “Know these A.i. Damyers, Mrs. Dallison? Best value you can get, simply rippin’ little cars. Wish you’d try her.”
The A.i. Damyer, diffusing an aroma of the finest petrol, leaped and trembled, as though conscious of her master’s praise. Cecilia looked at her.
“Yes,” she said, “she’s very sweet.”
“Now do!” said Mr. Purcey. “Let me give you a run—Just to please me, I mean. I’m sure you’ll like her.”
A little compunction, a little curiosity, a sudden revolt against all the discomfiture and sordid doubts she had been suffering from, made Cecilia glance softly at Mr. Purcey’s figure; almost before she knew it, she was seated in the A.i. Damyer. It trembled, emitted two small sounds, one large scent, and glided forward. Mr. Purcey said:
“That’s rippin’ of you!”
A postman, dog, and baker’s cart, all hurrying at top speed, seemed to stand still; Cecilia felt the wind beating her cheeks. She gave a little laugh.
“You must just take me home, please.”
Mr. Purcey touched the chauffeur’s elbow.
“Round the park,” he said. “Let her have it.”
The A.i. Damyer uttered a tiny shriek. Cecilia, leaning back in her padded corner, glanced askance at Mr. Purcey leaning back in his; an unholy, astonished little smile played on her lips.
‘What am I doing?’ it seemed to say. ’The way he got me here—really! And now I am here I’m just going to enjoy it!’
There were no Hughs, no little model—all that sordid life had vanished; there was nothing but the wind beating her cheeks and the A.i. Damyer leaping under her.
Mr. Purcey said: “It just makes all the difference to me; keeps my nerves in order.”
“Oh,” Cecilia murmured, “have you got nerves.”