O’Hara’s eyes were ice gray. “I’m no Englishman, Mrs. Lindsay. But some of us in Ireland hold still that we are part of Great Britain though the Colonials may have seen fit to forget it.”
183 The velvety eyes lifted to his were warm with sympathy and concern. “That’s splendid of you; we hear so much bitterness amongst the Irish here, and somehow it seems—ugly. After all, as you say, no matter what she may do—or has done—England is England! But I am distressed to hear that there has been disloyalty elsewhere. You think Canada—Australia?”
“I think neither. It was of other children of England that I was thinking, Mrs. Lindsay—ungrateful and rebellious children.”
“Oh, how stupid. Egypt, of course, and India. But, after all, they are only adopted children, aren’t they? Perhaps if we give them time they’ll grow to be as loyal and steadfast and dependable as you yourselves. Pazienza——”
“I was not——”
She raised a protesting hand, gay and imperious. “No, no, don’t even bother to deny it. You must be discreet, I know—indeed, indeed I honour you for it.” She turned to De Nemours, the sparkling face suddenly grave. “But we must not be forgetting; we are here to discuss more vital matters than England’s colonial policy, vital as that may well be. Will you forgive us—and present my colleague from Italy?”
“Mrs. Lindsay, Signor Celati.” Both De Nemours and Celati were struggling with countenances184 not habitually slaves to mirth, but the look of stony and incredulous amazement on O’Hara’s expressive visage was enough to undermine the Sphinx.
By what miracle of dexterity had she turned the tables on him, leaving him gracefully rebuked for triviality—he, the prophet and crusader? And by what magic had she transformed his very palpable hit at the recalcitrant Americans into a boomerang? He drew a long breath. This woman—this woman was so unscrupulously clever that she could afford to seem stupid. That rendered her pretty nearly invulnerable. The stormy eyes grew still—narrowed intently—smiled.
“Mrs. Lindsay is entirely right,” he agreed. “Let us get to business; Heaven knows that we have enough of it to get through! Mrs. Lindsay, we have gone over a certain amount of ground in your unavoidable absence. I regret——”
“I, too, regret it,” she said quietly. “But it is, as you say, unavoidable. I was greatly honoured by the Government’s choice, but it was impossible for me to drop the Oregon investigations at that stage. If I could have the minutes of the previous meetings——”
“We have no minutes. It has been decided to dispense with the services of a stenographer, as the matters handled are of really incalculable delicacy.185 Each of us, however, keeps an abstract of the proceedings, which we check up together, in order to prevent any possible misunderstandings. These are at your disposal, naturally.”
“I see. Then if it will not be too much trouble, I’ll run through yours. It will only be necessary to see one lot, if they have been checked, of course. Shall we begin where you left off, then? And shall I take this chair? 杭州保健服务 I’m quite ready. I left my hat and cloak and such feminine trappings downstairs. What is under discussion?”
“I’ll have the report for you at the next meeting,” said O’Hara. “We were thrashing out the situation in Rome. You think that the Pope will influence the Blacks to vote against the commonist element, Celati? That’s unusual, isn’t it? A distinct return to temporal power?”
“Unusual, yes. A return to temporal power? Possibly. But the Vatican contends that it is a spiritual and social matter rather than a political matter. It seems——”
For a moment—for more than a moment O’Hara lost track of the even, unemotional voice. He was watching, with a blazing and concentrated curiosity, the face of the American representative. Mrs. Lindsay was listening to the Italian with rapt interest, but O’Hara could have sworn that it was the 杭州足疗店 same interest, fascinated and indulgent, which186 an intelligent small child bestows on a grown-up telling fairy tales—an interest which whispers “It’s so pretty—let’s pretend it’s true!” She looked almost like a small child as she sat facing him across the darkly shining table; almost like a small boy. Her thick, soft hair was cut short and framed her face like a little medi?val page’s—straight across the low white forehead, curling strongly under about her ears. The blue jacket with its white Eton collar and narrow cuffs was boyish, too. And the chin—O’Hara pulled himself up, frowning. He was mad! His cousin Norah was boyish, if you like, with her honest freckled face and puppy eyes, and red hands—but this small smooth creature could clip her shining hair to its roots—it would only betray the eternal feminine more damningly.杭州丝袜按摩 No stiff collar would ever do anything but accentuate the velvety darkness of her eyes, the pure beauty of the wistful mouth. Possibly that was why she wore it! He caught back a grim smile as the velvet eyes met his.
“It’s desperately awkward, of course,” said the voice that De Nemours had accurately described as exquisite. “What solution would you suggest, Mr. O’Hara?”
“I am not yet prepared to offer a solution,” Mr. O’Hara informed her a trifle stiffly. What in187 the name of Gods and Devils had Celati been talking about, anyway?
“But after all,” urged Mrs. Lindsay, “it comes down to a question of two alternatives, doesn’t it? Which seems to you the lesser evil?”
“I prefer to wait until we hear a little more about it.” His back was against the wall, but he thoroughly intended to die fighting.
“More about it? What more is 杭州洗浴那里好 there to hear?” Her amazement was so wide-eyed that it seemed almost impossible that it was not genuine. But if you had put thumb-screws to him, O’Hara would have maintained that in some inexplicable manner the small, demure, deferential fiend across the table was fully aware of the fact that he had not been listening—and fully prepared to make his unsuspicious colleagues aware of it, too.
“Part of it did not seem quite clear to me,” he said curtly.
“Not clear?” repeated Celati, his imperturbable calm severely ruffled, “what do you say, not clear? You find my English at fault, possibly—certainly not my explanation. No child could do that.”
“Surely not,” agreed Mrs. Lindsay, and her voice was as soothing as a cool hand, “I confess that it struck me as—well—limpid. But perhaps Mr. O’Hara will tell us just what part of it he did 杭州桑拿按摩寻欢记 not follow?”
188 “Put it,” said O’Hara, with something perilously like hatred blazing in his eyes, “that I did not follow. We are simply wasting time. Will someone repeat the alternatives?”
Mrs. Lindsay’s gravely solicitous eyes met the look unflinchingly. “Surely. All this is simply wasting time, as you say. It comes down to a question as to whether it is preferable for the Italian Government to countenance or discountenance the Papal entry into politics. In the present case it is naturally an asset, but it is
possible that it might entail serious consequences. I put it baldly and clumsily, but I am trying to be quite clear.”
“You are succeeding admirably,” O’Hara assured her. He was dangerously angry, with the violent and sickening anger of a man who had been made a fool of—and who has richly deserved it. “As you say, it 杭州洗浴哪家好 is—limpid. But why not a third alternative? Why should the Italian Government do anything at all? Why not simply lie quiet and play safe? It would not be for the first time.”
“Mr. O’Hara!” Celati was on his feet, white to the lips.
Mrs. Lindsay stretched out her hands with a prettily eloquent gesture of despair. “Oh, really!” she said quietly. “Is this kind of thing necessary? We are all working together for the same purpose—a189 purpose that has surely too much dignity to be degraded to such pettiness. Mr.
O’Hara, I beg of you——”
“It is not necessary to beg of me.” He leaned across the table, something boyish and winning in his face, his hand outstretched. “I say, Celati, I’m no end of a bounder; do let me off this once—I’m bone tired—haven’t slept for nights, trying to think of ways through this beastly mess. I don’t know what 杭州桑拿按摩特服 I’m saying, and that’s Heaven’s truth. Is it all right?”
“Quite. We are, I think, all tired.”
“Men,” Mrs. Lindsay murmured gently—“men are really wonderful. What two women would have done that?”
O’Hara considered her for a moment in silence.
“Is that a tribute you are paying us?” he inquired quite as gently.
“Why, what else?” Again the soft amazement.
“I was seeking information. It struck me as ambiguous.”
Mrs. Lindsay smiled, that enigmatic smile, wistful and ironic. “It is undue humility on your part, believe me. But shan’t we get back to the matter in hand? Monsieur De Nemours, what is your opinion?”
“I think there is much in Mr. O’Hara’s suggestion190 that the Government should not be over-precipitate,” replied De Nemours pleasantly. He was horribly bored; politics, unless they concerned France, bored him almost beyond 杭州足浴油压打飞机 endurance, but his ennui was somewhat alleviated by the fact that a very pretty woman was asking him a question. “If silence were maintained for a few weeks, it might well be——”
O’Hara was listening—fiercely. He was sure that he could smell violets somewhere; why didn’t the woman take her hands off the table? They lay there, white and fragile and helpless, like broken flowers. Why didn’t she wear a wedding ring? Why—he jerked his tired mind back savagely to De Nemours’ easy, fluent voice, his tired eyes to the worn but amiable mask that the Frenchman substituted for a face. Why didn’t he stop talking?