The Tempting of Tavernake
I.22. Dinner With Elizabeth
The rest of that day was for Tavernake a period of feverish anxieties. He received two
telegrams from Mr. Martin, his solicitor, and he himself was more uneasy than he cared
to admit. At three o'clock in the afternoon, at eight in the evening, and again at eleven
o'clock at night, he presented himself at the Milan Court, always with the same inquiry.
On the last occasion, the hall porter had cheering news for him.
"Mrs. Wenham Gardner returned from the country an hour ago, sir," he announced. "I can
send your name up now, if you wish to see her."
Tavernake was conscious of a sense of immense relief. Of course, he had known that she
had not really gone away for good, but all the same her absence, especially after the event
of the night before last, was a little disquieting.
"My name is Tavernake," he said. "I do not wish to intrude at such an hour, but if she
could see me for a moment, I should be glad."
He sat down and waited patiently. Soon a message came that Mr. Tavernake was to go
up. He ascended in the lift and knocked at the door of her suite. Her maid opened it
grudgingly. She scarcely took the pains to conceal her disapproval of this young man--so
ordinary, so gauche. Why Madame should waste her time upon such a one, she could not
"Mrs. Gardner will see you directly," she told him. "Madame is dressing now to go out
for supper. She will be able to spare you only a few seconds."
Tavernake remained alone in the luxurious little sitting-room for nearly ten minutes.
Then the door of the inner room was opened and Elizabeth appeared. Tavernake, rising
slowly to his feet, looked at her for a moment in reluctant but wondering admiration. She
was wearing an ivory satin gown, without trimming or lace of any sort, a gown the fit of
which seemed to him almost a miracle. Her only jewelry was a long rope of pearls and a
small tiara. Tavernake had never been brought into close contact with any one quite like
She was putting on her gloves as she entered and she gave him her left hand.
"What an extraordinary person you are, Mr. Tavernake!" she exclaimed. "You really do
seem to turn up at the most astonishing times."
"I am very sorry to have intruded upon you to-night," he said. "As regards the last
occasion, however, upon which I made an unexpected appearance, I make no apologies
whatever," he added coolly.