Towards the end of November he learnt that the Brissendens were at their town house, and a week later he received an invitation to dine with them.
Over his luncheon at the hotel Everard reflected with some gravity, for, if he were not mistaken, the hour had come when he must make up his mind on a point too long in suspense. What was Rhoda Nunn doing? He had heard nothing whatever of her. His cousin Mary wrote to him, whilst he was at Ostend, in a kind and friendly tone, informing him that his simple assurance with regard to a certain disagreeable matter was all she had desired, and hoping that he would come and see her as usual when he found himself in London. But he had kept away from the house in Queen’s Road, and it was probable that Mary did not even know his address. As the result of meditation he went to his sitting-room, and with an air of reluctance sat down to write a letter. It was a request that Mary would let him see her somewhere or other—not at her house. Couldn’t they have a talk at the place in Great Portland Street, when no one else was there?
Miss Barfoot answered with brief assent. If he liked to come to Great Portland Street at three o’clock on Saturday she would be awaiting him.
On arriving, he inspected the rooms with curiosity.
’I have often wished to come here, Mary. Show me over the premises, will you?’
‘That was your purpose—?’
‘No, not altogether. But you know how your work interests me.’
Mary compiled, and freely answered his various questions. Then they sat down on hard chairs by the fire, and Everard, leaning forward as if to warm his hands, lost no more time in coming to the point.
‘I want to hear about Miss Nunn.’
‘To hear about her? Pray, what do you wish to hear?’
‘Is she well?’
‘Very well indeed.’
‘I’m very glad of that. Does she ever speak of me?’
‘Let me see—I don’t think she has referred to you lately.’
Everard looked up.
’Don’t let us play a comedy, Mary. I want to talk very seriously. Shall I tell you what happened when I went to Seascale?’
‘Ah, you went to Seascale, did you?’
‘Didn’t you know that?’ he asked, unable to decide the question from his cousin’s face, which was quite friendly, but inscrutable.
‘You went when Miss Nunn was there?’
’Of course. You must have known I was going, when I asked you for her Seascale address.’