The Painted Veil Chapter 9

She had known him but a little while and had never taken much notice of him. She had no idea when or where they had first met till after their engagement he told her that it was at a dance to which some friends had brought him. She certainly paid no attention to him then and if she danced with him it was because she was goodnatured and was glad to dance with any one who asked her. She didn’t know him from Adam when a day or two later at another dance he came up and spoke to her. Then she remarked that he was at every dance she went to.

‘You know, I’ve danced with you at least a dozen times now and you must tell me your name,’ she said to him at last in her laughing way.

He was obviously taken aback.

‘Do you mean to say you don’t know it? I was introduced to you.’

‘Oh, but people always mumble. I shouldn’t be at all surprised if you hadn’t the ghost of an idea what mine was.’

He smiled at her. His face was grave and a trifle stern, but his smile was very sweet.

‘Of course I know it.’ He was silent for a moment or two. ‘Have you no curiosity?’ he asked then.

‘As much as most women.’

‘It didn’t occur to you to ask somebody or other what my name was?’

She Was faintly amused; she wondered why he thought it could in the least interest her; but she liked to please, so she looked at him with that dazzling smile of hers and her beautiful eyes, dewy ponds under forest trees, held an enchanting kindness.

‘Well, what is it?’

‘Walter Fane.’

She did not know why he came to dances, he did not dance very well, and he seemed to know few people. She had a passing thought that he was in love with her; but she dismissed it with a shrug of the shoulders: she had known girls who thought every man they met was in love with them and had always found them absurd. But she gave Walter Fane just a little more of her attention. He certainly did not behave like any of the other youths who had been in love with her. Most of them told her so frankly and wanted to kiss her: a good many did. But Walter Fane never talked of her and very little of himself. He was rather silent; she did not mind that because she had plenty to say and it pleased her to see him laugh when she made a facetious remark; but when he talked it was not stupidly. He was evidently shy. It appeared that he lived in the East and was home on leave.

One Sunday afternoon he appeared at their house in South Kensington. There were a dozen people there, and he sat for some time, somewhat ill at ease, and then went away. Her mother asked her later who he was.

‘I haven’t a notion. Did you ask him to come here?’

‘Yes, I met him at the Baddeleys. He said he’d seen you at various dances. I said I was always at home on Sundays.’

‘His name is Fane and he’s got some sort of job in the East.’

‘Yes, he’s a doctor. Is he in love with you?’

‘Upon my word, I don’t know.’

‘I should have thought you knew by now when a young man was in love with you.’

‘I wouldn’t marry him if he were,’ said Kitty lightly.

Mrs. Garstin did not answer. Her silence was heavy with displeasure. Kitty flushed: she knew that her mother did not care now whom she married so long as somehow she got her off her hands.