“Oh, my darling, I leave you to find that out! He’s been down to Florida to see his sweetheart.”
“Yes, I know.” She still looked at him. “I went to see your mother, to ask where you’d gone. I sent a note that you never answered, and I was afraid you were ill.”
He muttered something about leaving unexpectedly, in a great hurry, and having intended to write to her from St. Augustine.
“And of course once you were there you never thought of me again!” She continued to beam on him with a gaiety that might have been a studied assumption of indifference.
“If she still needs me, she’s determined not to let me see it,” he thought, stung by her manner. He wanted to thank her for having been to see his mother, but under the ancestress’s malicious eye he felt himself tongue-tied and constrained.
“Look at him—in such hot haste to get married that he took French leave and rushed down to implore the silly girl on his knees! That’s something like a lover— that’s the way handsome Bob Spicer carried off my poor mother; and then got tired of her before I was weaned—though they only had to wait eight months for me! But there—you’re not a Spicer, young man; luckily for you and for May. It’s only my poor Ellen that has kept any of their wicked blood; the rest of them are all model Mingotts,” cried the old lady scornfully.
Archer was aware that Madame Olenska, who had seated herself at her grandmother’s side, was still thoughtfully scrutinising him. The gaiety had faded from her eyes, and she said with great gentleness: “Surely, Granny, we can persuade them between us to do as he wishes.”
Archer rose to go, and as his hand met Madame Olenska’s he felt that she was waiting for him to make some allusion to her unanswered letter.
“When can I see you?” he asked, as she walked with him to the door of the room.
“Whenever you like; but it must be soon if you want to see the little house again. I am moving next week.”
A pang shot through him at the memory of his lamplit hours in the low-studded drawing-room. Few as they had been, they were thick with memories.
She nodded. “Tomorrow; yes; but early. I’m going out.”
The next day was a Sunday, and if she were “going out” on a Sunday evening it could, of course, be only to Mrs. Lemuel Struthers’s. He felt a slight movement of annoyance, not so much at her going there (for he rather liked her going where she pleased in spite of the van der Luydens), but because it was the kind of house at which she was sure to meet Beaufort, where she must have known beforehand that she would meet him—and where she was probably going for that purpose.
“Very well; tomorrow evening,” he repeated, inwardly resolved that he would not go early, and that by reaching her door late he would either prevent her from going to Mrs. Struthers’s, or else arrive after she had started—which, all things considered, would no doubt be the simplest solution.