It was the one thing of which she was certain.
"You think I can forget so soon," he replied reproachfully, but carefully.
"Then tell me my name," said she; she thought it might lead to his mentioning his own.
"I don't know what it is now. It was Mrs. Jerry once."
"It is Mrs. Jerry still."
"Then you did not marry him, after all?"
No wild joy had surged to his face, but when she answered yes, he nodded his head with gentle melancholy three times. He had not the smallest desire to deceive the lady; he was simply an actor who had got his cue and liked his part.
[Illustration: "But my friends still call me Mrs. Jerry," she said softly.]
"But my friends still call me Mrs. Jerry," she said softly. "I suppose it suits me somehow."
"You will always be Mrs. Jerry to me," he replied huskily. Ah, those meetings with old loves!
"If you minded so much," Mrs. Jerry said, a little tremulously (she had the softest heart, though her memory was a trifle defective), "you might have discovered whether I had married him or not."
"Was there no reason why I should not seek to discover it?" Tommy asked with tremendous irony, but not knowing in the least what he meant.
It confused Mrs. Jerry. They always confused her when they were fierce, and yet she liked them to be fierce when she re-met them, so few of them were.
But she said the proper thing. "I am glad you have got over it."
Tommy maintained a masterly silence. No wonder he was a power with women.
"I say I am glad you have got over it," murmured Mrs. Jerry again. Has it ever been noticed that the proper remark does not always gain in propriety with repetition?
It is splendid to know that right feeling still kept Tommy silent.
Yet she went on briskly as if he had told her something: "Am I detaining you? You were walking so quickly that I thought you were in pursuit of someone."
It brought Tommy back to earth, and he could accept her now as an old friend he was glad to meet again. "You could not guess what I was in pursuit of, Mrs. Jerry," he assured her, and with confidence, for words are not usually chased down the Row.
But, though he made the sound of laughter, that terrible face which Mrs. Jerry remembered so well, but could not give a name to, took no part in the revelry; he was as puzzling to her as those irritating authors who print their jokes without a note of exclamation at the end of them. Poor Mrs. Jerry thought it must be a laugh of horrid bitterness, and that he was referring to his dead self or something dreadful of that sort, for which she was responsible.
"Please don't tell me," she said, in such obvious alarm that again he laughed that awful laugh. He promised, with a profound sigh, to carry his secret unspoken to the grave, also to come to her "At Home" if she sent him a card.
He told her his address, but not his name, and she could not send the card to "Occupier."
"Now tell me about yourself," said Mrs. Jerry, with charming cunning. "Did you go away?"
"I came back a few days ago only."
"Had you any shooting?" (They nearly always threatened to make for a distant land where there was big game.)
Tommy smiled. He had never "had any shooting" except once in his boyhood, when he and Corp acted as beaters, and he had wept passionately over the first bird killed, and harangued the murderer.
"No," he replied; "I was at work all the time."
This, at least, told her that his work was of a kind which could be done out of London. An inventor?
"When are we to see the result?" asked artful Mrs. Jerry.
"Very soon. Everything comes out about this time. It is our season, you know."
Mrs. Jerry pondered while she said: "How too entrancing!" What did come out this month? Oh, plays! And whose season was it? The actor's, of course! He could not be an actor with that beard, but--ah, she remembered now!
"Are they really clever this time?" she asked roguishly--"for you must admit that they are usually sticks."
Tommy blinked at this. "I really believe, Mrs. Jerry," he said slowly, "it is you who don't know who I am!"
"You prepare the aristocracy for the stage, don't you?" she said plaintively.