He turned slowly from her and went towards the door.
“Shall we not go for a walk,” she intervened—“before I drive to the station for Al’mah?”
He nodded, and a moment afterward they were passing along the corridors. Suddenly, as they passed a window, Ian stopped. “I thought Mr. Mappin went with the others to the Glen?” he said.
“He did,” was the reply.
“Who is that leaving his room?” he continued, as she followed his glance across the quadrangle. “Surely, it’s Fellowes,” he added.
“Yes, it looked like Mr. Fellowes,” she said, with a slight frown of wonder.
“I will not sing”
“I will not sing—it’s no use, I will not.” Al’mah’s eyes were vivid with anger, and her lips, so much the resort of humour, were set in determination. Her words came with low vehemence.
Adrian Fellowes’ hand nervously appealed to her. His voice was coaxing and gentle.
“Al’mah, must I tell Mrs. Byng that?” he asked. “There are a hundred people in the ball-room. Some of them have driven thirty miles to hear you. Besides, you are bound in honour to keep your engagement.”
“I am bound to keep nothing that I don’t wish to keep—you understand!” she replied, with a passionate gesture. “I am free to do what I please with my voice and with myself. I will leave here in the morning. I sang before dinner. That pays my board and a little over,” she added, with bitterness. “I prefer to be a paying guest. Mrs. Byng shall not be my paying hostess.”
Fellowes shrugged his shoulders, but his lips twitched with excitement. “I don’t know what has come over you, Al’mah,” he said helplessly and with an anxiety he could not disguise. “You can’t do that kind of thing. It isn’t fair, it isn’t straight business; from a social standpoint, it isn’t well-bred.”
“Well-bred!” she retorted with a scornful laugh and a look of angry disdain. “You once said I had the manners of Madame Sans Gene, the washer-woman—a sickly joke, it was. Are you going to be my guide in manners? Does breeding only consist in having clothes made in Savile Row and eating strawberries out of season at a pound a basket?”
“I get my clothes from the Stores now, as you can see,” he said, in a desperate attempt to be humorous, for she was in a dangerous mood. Only once before had he seen her so, and he could feel the air charged with catastrophe. “And I’m eating humble pie in season now at nothing a dish,” he added. “I really am; and it gives me shocking indigestion.”
Her face relaxed a little, for she could seldom resist any touch of humour, but the stubborn and wilful light in her eyes remained.
“That sounds like last year’s pantomime,” she said, sharply, and, with a jerk of her shoulders, turned away.
“For God’s sake wait a minute, Al’mah!” he urged, desperately. “What has upset you? What has happened? Before dinner you were yourself; now—” he threw up his hands in despair—“Ah, my dearest, my star—”