The Tempting of Tavernake
I.8. Woman's Wiles
At eleven o'clock the next morning, Tavernake presented himself at the Milan Court and
inquired for Mrs. Wenham Gardner. He was sent at once to her apartments in charge of a
page. She was lying upon a sofa piled up with cushions, wrapped in a wonderful blue
garment which seemed somehow to deepen the color of her eyes. By her side was a small
table on which was some chocolate, a bowl of roses, and a roll of newspapers. She held
out her hand toward Tavernake, but did not rise. There was something almost spiritual
about her pallor, the delicate outline of her figure, so imperfectly concealed by the thin
silk dressing-gown, the faint, tired smile with which she welcomed him.
"You will forgive my receiving you like this, Mr. Tavernake?" she begged. "To-day I
have a headache. I have been anxious for your coming. You must sit by my side, please,
and tell me at once whether you have seen Beatrice."
Tavernake did exactly as he was bidden. The chair toward which she had pointed was
quite close to the sofa, but there was no other unoccupied in the room. She raised herself
a little on the couch and turned towards him. Her eyes were fixed anxiously upon his, her
forehead slightly wrinkled, her voice tremulous with eagerness.
"You have seen her?"
"I have," he admitted, looking steadily into the lining of his hat.
"She has been cruel," Elizabeth declared. "I can tell it from your face. You have bad news
"I do not know," Tavernake replied, "whether she has been cruel or not. She refuses to
allow me to tell you her address. She begged me, indeed, to keep away from you
"Why? Did she tell you why?"
"She says that you are her sister, that you have no money of your own and that your
husband has left you," Tavernake answered, deliberately.
"Is that all?"
"No, it is not all," he continued. "As to the rest, she told me nothing definite. It is quite
clear, however, that she is very anxious to keep away from you."
"But her reason?" Elizabeth persisted. "Did she give you no reason?"
Tavernake looked her in the face.