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The moment he had said the words he wished he could recall them. Their substance was right enough; it was the sound of them that was wrong. They sounded like a line from a farce, where the erring husband has been caught by the masterful wife. They were ridiculous. Worse than being merely ridiculous, they created an atmosphere of guilt and evasion.

'Explain! How can you explain? It is impossible to explain. I saw you with my own eyes making an exhibition of yourself with a horrible creature in salmon-pink. I'm not asking you who she is. I'm not questioning you about your relations with her at all. I don't care who she was. The mere fact that you were at a public restaurant with a person of that kind is enough. No doubt you think I am making a great deal of fuss about a very ordinary thing. You consider that it is a man's privilege to do these things, if he can do them without being found out. But it ended everything so far as I am concerned. Am I unreasonable? I don't think so. You steal off to America, thinking I am in England, and behave like this. How could you do that if you really loved me? It's the deceit of it that hurts me.'

Lord Dawlish drew in a few breaths of pure Long Island air, but he did not speak. He felt helpless. If he were to be allowed to withdraw into the privacy of the study and wrap a cold, wet towel about his forehead and buckle down to it, he knew that he could draft an excellent and satisfactory explanation of his presence at Reigelheimer's with the Good Sport. But to do it on the spur of the moment like this was beyond him.

Claire was speaking again. She had paused for a while after her recent speech, in order to think of something else to say; and during this pause had come to her mind certain excerpts from one of those admirable articles on love, by Luella Delia Philpotts, which do so much to boost the reading public of the United States into the higher planes. She had read it that afternoon in the Sunday paper, and it came back to her now.

'I may be hypersensitive,' she said, dropping her voice from the accusatory register to the lower tones of pathos, 'but I have such high ideals of love. There can be no true love where there is not perfect trust. Trust is to love what--'

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She paused again. She could not remember just what Luella Delia Philpotts had said trust was to love. It was something extremely neat, but it had slipped her memory.

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'A woman has the right to expect the man she is about to marry to regard their troth as a sacred obligation that shall keep him as pure as a young knight who has dedicated himself to the quest of the Holy Grail. And I find you in a public restaurant, dancing with a creature with yellow hair, upsetting waiters, and staggering about with pats of butter all over you.'

Here a sense of injustice stung Lord Dawlish. It was true that after his regrettable collision with Heinrich, the waiter, he had discovered butter upon his person, but it was only one pat. Claire had spoken as if he had been festooned with butter.

'I am not angry with you, only disappointed. What has happened has shown me that you do not really love me, not as I think of love. Oh, I know that when we are together you think you do, but absence is the test. Absence is the acid-test of love that separates the base metal from the true. After what has happened, we can't go on with our engagement. It would be farcical. I could never feel that way toward you again. We shall always be friends, I hope. But as for love--love is not a machine. It cannot be shattered and put together again.'

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She turned and began to walk up the drive. Hanging over the top of the gate like a wet sock, Lord Dawlish watched her go. The interview was over, and he could not think of one single thing to say. Her white dress made a patch of light in the shadows. She moved slowly, as if weighed down by sad thoughts, like one who, as Luella Delia Philpotts beautifully puts it, paces with measured step behind the coffin of a murdered heart. The bend of the drive hid her from his sight.

About twenty minutes later Dudley Pickering, smoking sentimentally in the darkness hard by the porch, received a shock. He was musing tenderly on his Claire, who was assisting him in the process by singing in the drawing-room, when he was aware of a figure, the sinister figure of a man who, pressed against the netting of the porch, stared into the lighted room beyond.

Dudley Pickering's first impulse was to stride briskly up to the intruder, tap him on the shoulder, and ask him what the devil he wanted; but a second look showed him that the other was built on too ample a scale to make this advisable. He was a large, fit-looking intruder.

Mr Pickering was alarmed. There had been the usual epidemic of burglaries that season. Houses had been broken into, valuable possessions removed. In one case a negro butler had been struck over the head with a gas-pipe and given a headache. In these circumstances, it was unpleasant to find burly strangers looking in at windows.

'Hi!' cried Mr Pickering.

The intruder leaped a foot. It had not occurred to Lord Dawlish, when in an access of wistful yearning he had decided to sneak up to the house in order to increase his anguish by one last glimpse of Claire, that other members of the household might be out in the grounds. He was just thinking sorrowfully, as he listened to the music, how like his own position was to that of the hero of Tennyson's _Maud_--a poem to which he was greatly addicted, when Mr Pickering's 'Hi!' came out of nowhere and hit him like a torpedo.

He turned in agitation. Mr Pickering having prudently elected to stay in the shadows, there was no one to be seen. It was as if the voice of conscience had shouted 'Hi!' at him. He was just wondering if he had imagined the whole thing, when he perceived the red glow of a cigar and beyond it a shadowy form.