Storran listened without comment, in his eyes an odd look of concentration. The waitress dexterously slid a tray in front of him and he poured himself out a cup of tea mechanically, but he made no attempt to drink it. When Gillian ceased, his face showed no sign of softening. It looked hard and very weary. His strong fingers moved restlessly, crumbling one of the small cakes on the plate in front of him.
“’Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small,’” he quoted at last, quietly.
Gillian met his harshly cynical glance with one of brave defiance.
“I don’t think God’s mills have anything to do with it,” she said swiftly. “He’d understand all the excuses and allowances that should be made for her better even than I do. And I shouldn’t want to punish Magda. I’d make her—happy. She’s never known what it means to be really happy. Success and gaiety aren’t happiness.”
“And you?” he asked quickly.
There was a soft and wonderful shining in the brown eyes that were lifted to his.
“I had one year of utter happiness,” she answered gently. “And I’ve got Coppertop—so I can’t ever be quite unhappy.”
“If there were more women like you——” he began abruptly.
She shook her head.
“No, no,” she said, smiling a little. “If there were more men like Tony! You men are so hard—so cruelly hard.”
He looked at her very directly.
“Haven’t I the right to be?” he demanded bitterly.
“Ah! Forgive me!” Gillian spoke with an accent of self-reproach. “I’d forgotten you still—care.”
“For Magda?” He laughed shortly. “No. That’s dead, thank God! I killed it. Worked it out of my system in ’Frisco”—with exceeding bitterness. “Then I got the news of June’s death. Her sister wrote me. Told me she died because she’d no longer any wish to live. That sobered me-brought me back to my sense. There was a good deal more to the letter—my sister-in-law didn’t let me down lightly. I’ve had to pay for that summer at Stockleigh. And now Magda’s paying. . . . Well, that seems to square things somehow.”
“Oh, you are brutal!” broke out Gillian.
His eyes, hard as steel and as unyielding, met hers.
“Am I?”—indifferently. “Perhaps I am.”
This was a very different Dan from the impetuous, hot-headed Dan of former times. Gillian found his calm ruthlessness difficult to understand, and yet, realising all that he had suffered, she could not but condone it to a certain extent.
When at last she rose to go, he detained her a moment.
“I am remaining in England now. I should like to see you sometimes. May I?”
She hesitated. Then something that appealed in the tired eyes impelled her answer.
“If you wish,” she said gently.
Back once more in the street she made her way as quickly as possible to the nearest tube station, in order to reach it before the usual evening crowd of homeward-wending clerks and typists poured into the thoroughfares from a thousand open office doors. But as soon as she was safely seated in the train her thoughts reverted to the two strange interviews in which she had taken part that afternoon.