The Tempting of Tavernake
I.23. On An Errand Of Chivalry
The seconds passed; the woman beside him showed no sign of life. Tavernake felt a fear
run cold in his blood, such as in all his days he had never known. This, indeed, was
something belonging to a world of which he knew nothing. What was it? Illness? Pain?
Surprise? There was only his instinct to tell him. It was terror, the terror of one who looks
beyond the grave.
"Mrs. Gardner!" he exclaimed. "Elizabeth!"
The sound of his voice seemed to break the spell. A half-choked sob came through her
teeth; the struggle for composure commenced.
"I am ill," she murmured. "Give me my glass. Give it to me."
Her fingers were feeling for it but it seemed as though she dared not move her head. He
filled it with wine and placed the stem in her hand. Even then she spilled some of it upon
the tablecloth. As she raised it to her lips, the man who stood still upon the threshold of
the restaurant looked into her face. Slowly, as though his quest were over, he came down
"Go away," she said to Tavernake. "Go away, please. He is coming to speak to me. I want
to be alone with him."
Strangely enough, at that moment Tavernake saw nothing out of the common in her
request. He rose at once, without any formal leave-taking, and made his way toward the
other end of the caf‚. As he turned the corner towards the smoking-room, he glanced once
behind. The man had approached quite close to Elizabeth; he was standing before her
table, they seemed to be exchanging greetings.
Tavernake went on into the smoking-room and threw himself into an easy-chair. He had
been there perhaps for ten minutes when Pritchard entered. Certainly it was a night of
surprises! Even Pritchard, cool, deliberate, slow in his movements and speech, seemed
temporarily flurried. He came into the room walking quickly. As the door swung back, he
turned round as though to assure himself that he was not being followed. He did not at
first see Tavernake. He sat on the arm of an easy-chair, his hands in his pockets, his
eternal cigar in the corner of his mouth, his eyes fixed upon the doors through which he
had issued. Without a doubt, something had disturbed him. He had the look of a man who
had received a blow, a surprise of some sort over which he was still ruminating. Then he
glanced around the room and saw Tavernake.
"Hullo, young man!" he exclaimed. "So this is the way you follow my advice!"
"I never promised to follow it," Tavernake reminded him.