Courtenay Youghal had not been designed by Nature to fulfil the role of an ardent or devoted lover, and he scrupulously respected the limits which Nature had laid down. For Molly, however, he had a certain responsive affection. She had always obviously admired him, and at the same time she never beset him with crude flattery; the principal reason why the flirtation had stood the test of so many years was the fact that it only flared into active existence at convenient intervals. In an age when the telephone has undermined almost every fastness of human privacy, and the sanctity of one’s seclusion depends often on the ability for tactful falsehood shown by a club pageboy, Youghal was duly appreciative of the circumstance that his lady fair spent a large part of the year pursuing foxes, in lieu of pursuing him. Also the honestly admitted fact that, in her human hunting, she rode after more than one quarry, made the inevitable break-up of the affair a matter to which both could look forward without a sense of coming embarrassment and recrimination. When the time for gathering ye rosebuds should be over, neither of them could accuse the other of having wrecked his or her entire life. At the most they would only have disorganised a week-end.
On this particular afternoon, when old reminiscences had been gone through, and the intervening gossip of past months duly recounted, a lull in the conversation made itself rather obstinately felt. Molly had already guessed that matters were about to slip into a new phase; the affair had reached maturity long ago, and a new phase must be in the nature of a wane.
“You’re a clever brute,” she said, suddenly, with an air of affectionate regret; “I always knew you’d get on in the House, but I hardly expected you to come to the front so soon.”
“I’m coming to the front,” admitted Youghal, judicially; “the problem is, shall I be able to stay there. Unless something happens in the financial line before long, I don’t see how I’m to stay in Parliament at all. Economy is out of the question. It would open people’s eyes, I fancy, if they knew how little I exist on as it is. And I’m living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart.”