"Tell your mistress, if she enquires, that I have gone down to the Admiralty on special business." Anna passed her hand through Norgate's arm and led him forcibly away from the shop window before which they had been standing. "My mind is absolutely made up," she declared firmly. "I adore shopping, I love Bond Street, and I rather like you, but I will have no more trifles, as you call them.
She has the command of a good income still, with a very tolerable jointure behind it, and Ashpound is a pretty place; not a fine place, like my lord's, but a very pretty place for a sensible woman's management and enjoyment." One of Gervase Norgate's oldest neighbours, a fussy but good-natured, middle-aged baronet, pronounced this judgment.
Her voice, notwithstanding her efforts to control it, shook a little. She was no longer the brilliant young Court beauty of Vienna. She was a tired and disappointed girl. "You are surprised I should not have come here! It was such a foolish impulse." She caught up her gloves feverishly, but Norgate's moment of stupefaction had passed. He clasped her hands. "Forgive me," he begged.
The firm contraction of his lips brought lines even across his plump cheeks. It was the face, this, of a strong man and a thinker. He held Norgate's fingers, and Norgate never flinched. "So!" he said at last, as he turned away. "Now you are indeed in the inner circle, Mr. Francis Norgate. Good! Listen to me, then.
Spencer Wyatt pushed his way past a protesting doorkeeper. Hebblethwaite rose to his feet; he seemed to forget Norgate's presence. "You've been down to the Admiralty?" he asked quickly. "Do you know?" Spencer Wyatt pointed to Norgate. His voice shook with emotion. "I know, Hebblethwaite," he replied, "but there's something that you don't know. We were told to mobilise the fleet an hour ago.
"You can go away," she replied. "You can tell Herr Selingman in your morning's report that I came to Mr. Norgate's rooms at an early hour in the morning and spent an hour talking with him. You can go now." The man withdrew without remark. He was a quiet, inoffensive-looking person, with sallow complexion, suave but silent manners. Norgate closed the door behind him.
Norgate's expression was almost one of stupefaction. He looked at the slim young man who had entered his sitting-room a little diffidently and for a moment he was speechless. "Well, I'm hanged!" he murmured at last. "Hardy, you astonish me!" "The clothes are a perfect fit, sir," the man observed, "and I think that we are exactly the same height."
He had gripped Norgate by the left shoulder and held him with his face to the light. "Speak up," he insisted. "It is now or never, if you mean to go through with this. You're not funking it, eh?" "Not in the least," Norgate declared. For the space of almost thirty seconds Selingman did not remove his gaze. All the time his hand was like a vice upon Norgate's shoulder.
"Perfectly," Norgate replied. "A prince who apparently has not learnt how to behave himself in a public place." The young man took a quick step forward. Norgate's fists were clenched and his eyes glittering. The Baroness stepped between them. "Mr. Norgate," she said, "you will please give me your escort home." The Prince's companions had seized him, one by either arm.
Diana did not take Gervase Norgate's backsliding to her very heart, was not wounded to death by it as if she had loved him. But she did not give him up. She was a tenacious woman, and Gervase Norgate's salvation was her one chance of moral redemption from the base barter of her marriage. She did not reproach him: she was too proud a woman, too cold to him, to goad and sting him by reproaches.