The Tempting of Tavernake
I.24. Close To Tragedy
The actual words of greeting which passed between Elizabeth and the man whose advent
had caused her so much emotion were unimpressive. The newcomer, with the tips of his
fingers resting upon the tablecloth, leaned slightly towards her. At close quarters, he was
even more unattractive than when Tavernake had first seen him. He was faultily shaped;
there was something a little decadent about his deep-set eyes and receding forehead.
Neither was his expression prepossessing. He looked at her as a man looks upon the thing
"So, Elizabeth," he said, "this pleasure has come at last!"
"I heard that you were back in England," she replied. "Pray sit down."
Even then her eyes never left his. All the time they seemed to be fiercely questioning,
seeking for something in his features which eluded them. It was terrible to see the change
which the last few minutes had wrought in her. Her smooth, girlish face had lost its
comeliness. Her eyes, always a little narrow, seemed to have receded. It was such a
change, this, as comes to a brave man who, in the prime of life, feels fear for the first
"I am glad to find you at supper," he declared, taking up the menu. "I am hungry. You
can bring me some grilled cutlets at once," he added to the waiter who stood by his side,
"and some brandy. Nothing else."
The waiter bowed and hurried off. The woman played with her fan but her fingers were
"I fear," he remarked, "that my coming is rather a shock to you. I am sorry to see you
looking so distressed."
"It is not that," she answered with some show of courage. "You know me too well to
believe me capable of seeking a meeting which I feared. It is the strange thing which has
happened to you during these last few months--this last year. Do you know--has any one
told you--that you seem to have become even more like --the image of--"
He nodded understandingly.
"Of poor Wenham! Many people have told me that. Of course, you know that we were
always appallingly alike, and they always said that we should become more so in middle-
age. After all, there is only a year between us. We might have been twins."
"It is the most terrible thing in likenesses I have ever seen," the woman continued slowly.
"When you entered the room a few seconds ago, it seemed to me that a miracle had
happened. It seemed to me that the dead had come to life."