The Tempting of Tavernake
I.16. An Offer Of Marriage
The next afternoon, at half-past four, Tavernake was having tea with Beatrice in the tiny
flat which she was sharing with another girl, off Kingsway. She opened the door to him
herself, and though she chattered ceaselessly, it seemed to him that she was by no means
at her ease. She installed him in the only available chair, an absurd little wicker thing
many sizes too small for him, and seated herself upon the hearth-rug a few feet away.
"You have soon managed to find me out, Leonard," she remarked.
"Yes," he answered. "I had to go to the stage doorkeeper for your address."
"He hadn't the slightest right to give it you," she declared.
Tavernake shrugged his shoulders.
"I had to have it," he said simply.
"The power of the purse again!" she laughed. "Now that you are here, I don't believe that
you are a bit glad to see me. Are you?"
He did not answer for a moment. He was thinking of that vigil upon the Embankment, of
the long walk home, of the battle with himself, the continual striving to tear from his
heart this new thing, for which, with a curious and most masculine inconsistency, he
persisted in holding her responsible.
"You know, Leonard," she continued, getting up abruptly and beginning to make the tea,
"I believe that you are angry with me. If you are, all I can say is that you are a very
foolish person. I had to come away. Can't you see that?"
"I cannot," he answered stolidly.
"You are not a reasonable person," she declared. "I suppose it is because you have led
such a queer life, and had no womenfolk to look after you. You don't understand. It was
absurd, in a way, that I should ever have called myself your sister, that we should even
have attempted such a ridiculous experiment. But after--after the other night--"
"Can't we forget that?" he interrupted.
She raised her eyes and looked at him.
"Can you?" she asked.