"We bumped into each other last Monday evening in Bond Street and found it was us." "I told her I was going to the Solomon Islands." "And I thought I wanted to go there too." "From which I gather," said I, "that you are going to get married." Lady Auriol smiled and shook her head. "Oh dear no." I was really angry. "Then what on earth made you drag me all the way from the North of Scotland?"
Lady Auriol and I had the field to ourselves. "Well?" said she. "Well?" said I. "You don't suppose these subtle diplomatists have left us alone to discuss Bolshevism or Infant Welfare?" There was the ironical gleam in her eyes and twist in her lips that had attracted me since her childhood. I have always liked intelligent women. "Have they been badgering you?" "Good Lord, no.
Months passed of fierce fighting and incessant strain, and he covered himself with glory and completed the rainbow row of ribbons on his breast, until Petit Patou and Elodie and Bakkus and the apartment in the Faubourg Saint-Denis became things of a far-off dream. And before he saw Elodie again, he had met Lady Auriol Dayne. That was the devil of it. He had met Lady Auriol Dayne.
She bent forward, and her face was that of the woman whom I had met in the rain and mud and stark reality of the war. "Why didn't you tell me?" If a glance could destroy, if Lady Auriol had been a Gorgon or a basilisk or a cockatrice, then had I been a slain Anthony Hylton. "Why didn't you tell me?" The far-flung gesture of her arm ending in outspread fingers might have been that of Elodie.
James's Street sitting-room, and he took up about as much of its space as a daddy-long-legs under a tumbler and suddenly halted in front of me. "Do you know why?" I made a polite gesture of enquiring ignorance. "Because it's a damn sight too sacred." I bowed. I understood. "I can find it in my heart to owe many things to Lady Auriol," he continued. "She's a great woman.
Auriol rose and turned on me an ignoring back. As I did not seem to exist any longer, I faded shadow-like away to the park gate, where I hung about until Auriol should join me. As to what happened between them then, I must rely on her own report, which, as you shall learn, she gave me later. They stood for a while after I had gone. Then he held out his hand. "Good-bye, Lady Auriol," said he.
At the sight of him we all instinctively sobered and bent forward in questioning astonishment. He recovered himself quickly and tried to smile as if nothing had happened but, seeing his eyes had been fixed on something behind me, I turned round. And there, calmly walking up the long terrace towards us, was Lady Auriol Dayne. I sprang from my chair and strode swiftly to meet her.
Now, from what I have related, it may seem that Lady Auriol had brought up all her storm troops for a frontal attack on the position in which the shy General lay entrenched. This is not the case. There was no question of attack or siege or any military operation whatever on either side. The blessed pair just came together like two drops of quicksilver.
Perhaps some dark-eyed devil may yet lure me to destruction, or some mild, fair-haired, comfortable widow may entice me to domesticity. But the joy and delight of my attitude towards Auriol was its placid and benignant avuncularity. We were the best and frankest friends in the world. And the day was an August hazy dream of a day.
"Oh, you stupid!" cried Evadne, with a protesting tug at my arm "It's nothing to do with me. It s Aunt Auriol." "Oh?" said I. She shook her fair bobbed head. "As if you didn't know!" "I'm not so senile," said I, "as not to grasp your insinuation, my dear. But I fail to see what business it is of ours." "It's a family affair oh, I forgot, you're not real family only adopted." I felt humiliated.