The Painted Veil Chapter 5

It couldn’t have been Walter that afternoon. It must have been one of the servants and after all they didn’t matter. Chinese servants knew everything anyway. But they held their tongues.

Her heart beat a little faster as she remembered the way in which that white china knob slowly turned. They mustn’t take risks like that again. It was better to go to the curio shop. No one who saw her go in would think anything of it, and they were absolutely safe there. The owner of the shop knew who Charlie was and he was not such a fool as to put up the back of the Assistant Colonial Secretary. What did anything matter really but that Charlie loved her?

She turned away from the verandah and went back into her sitting-room. She threw herself down on the sofa and stretched out her hand to get a cigarette. Her eye caught sight of a note lying on the top of a book. She opened it. It was written in pencil.

Dear Kitty,

Here is the book you wanted. I was just going to send it when I met Dr. Fane and he said he’d bring it round himself as he was passing the house.


She rang the bell and when the boy came asked him who had brought the book and when.

‘Master bring it, missy, after tiffin,’ he answered.

Then it had been Walter. She rang up the Colonial Secretary’s Office at once and asked for Charlie. She told him what she had just learned. There was a pause before he answered.

‘What shall I do?’ she asked.

‘I’m in the middle of an important consultation. I’m afraid I can’t talk to you now. My advice to you is to sit tight.’

She put down the receiver. She understood that he was not alone and she was impatient with his business.

She sat down again, at a desk, and resting her face in her hands sought to think out the situation. Of course Walter might merely have thought she was sleeping: there was no reason why she should not lock herself in. She tried to remember if they had been talking. Certainly they had not been talking loud. And there was the hat. It was maddening of Charlie to have left it downstairs. But it was no use blaming him for that, it was natural enough, and there was nothing to tell that Walter had noticed it. He was probably in a hurry and had just left the book and note on his way to some appointment connected with his work. The strange thing was that he should have tried the door and then the two windows. If he thought she was asleep it was unlike him to disturb her. What a fool she had been!

She shook herself a little and again she felt that sweet pain in her heart which she always felt when she thought of Charlie. It had been worth it. He had said that he would stand by her, and if the worse came to the worse, well… Let Walter kick up a row if he chose. She had Charlie; what did she care? Perhaps it would be the best thing for him to know. She had never cared for Walter and since she had loved Charlie Townsend it had irked and bored her to submit to her husband’s caresses. She wanted to have nothing more to do with him. She didn’t see how he could prove anything. If he accused her she would deny, and if it came to a pass that she could deny no longer, well, she would fling the truth in his teeth, and he could do what he chose.