“The four shillings and the fivepence and the half-penny represent the rearguard of the seven pounds,” said Comus; “the rest have fallen by the way. If I can pay the two pounds to-day I daresay I shall win something more to go on with; I’m holding rather good cards just now. But if I can’t pay it of course I shan’t show up at the club. So you see the fix I am in.”
Elaine took no notice of this indirect application. The Appeal Court was assembling in haste to consider new evidence, and this time there was the rapidity of sudden determination about its movement.
The conversation strayed away from the fateful topic for a few moments and then Comus brought it deliberately back to the danger zone.
“It would be awfully nice if you would let me have a fiver for a few days, Elaine,” he said quickly; “if you don’t I really don’t know what I shall do.”
“If you are really bothered about your card debt I will send you the two pounds by messenger boy early this afternoon.” She spoke quietly and with great decision. “And I shall not be at the Connor’s dance to-night,” she continued; “it’s too hot for dancing. I’m going home now; please don’t bother to accompany me, I particularly wish to go alone.”
Comus saw that he had overstepped the mark of her good nature. Wisely he made no immediate attempt to force himself back into her good graces. He would wait till her indignation had cooled.
His tactics would have been excellent if he had not forgotten that unbeaten army on his flank.
Elaine de Frey had known very clearly what qualities she had wanted in Comus, and she had known, against all efforts at self-deception, that he fell far short of those qualities. She had been willing to lower her standard of moral requirements in proportion as she was fond of the boy, but there was a point beyond which she would not go. He had hurt her pride besides alarming her sense of caution.
Suzette, on whom she felt a thoroughly justified tendency to look down, had at any rate an attentive and considerate lover. Elaine walked towards the Park gates feeling that in one essential Suzette possessed something that had been denied to her, and at the gates she met Joyeuse and his spruce young rider preparing to turn homeward.
“Get rid of Joyeuse and come and take me out to lunch somewhere,” demanded Elaine.
“How jolly,” said Youghal. “Let’s go to the Corridor Restaurant. The head waiter there is an old Viennese friend of mine and looks after me beautifully. I’ve never been there with a lady before, and he’s sure to ask me afterwards, in his fatherly way, if we’re engaged.”
The lunch was a success in every way. There was just enough orchestral effort to immerse the conversation without drowning it, and Youghal was an attentive and inspired host. Through an open doorway Elaine could see the cafe reading-room, with its imposing array of Neue Freie Presse, Berliner Tageblatt, and other exotic newspapers hanging on the wall. She looked across at the young man seated opposite her, who gave one the impression of having centred the most serious efforts of his brain on his toilet and his food, and recalled some of the flattering remarks that the press had bestowed on his recent speeches.