Then it was it occurred to her that Herbert Courtland might by some curious mischance--mischances occurred in many of Sarah Bernhardt's plays--have come to hear that she had paid that rather singular visit to Phyllis Ayrton, just at the hour that she had named in that letter which she had written to him. What difference did that make in regard to his unparalleled flight? He was actually aboard the yacht /Water Nymph/ before she had rung for her brougham to take her to Phyllis'. He had been the first to fly.
Then she began to think, as she had thought once before, of her husband's sudden return,--the return of a husband at the exact hour named in the letter to a lover was by no means an unknown incident in a play of Sarah Bernhardt's,--and before she had continued upon this course of thought for many minutes, she had come to the conclusion that she would not be too hard on Herbert Courtland.
He had an interview with Mr. Linton at the city offices of the great Taragonda Creek Mine. (The mine had, as has already been stated, been discovered by Herbert Courtland during his early explorations in Australia, and he had acquired out of his somewhat slender resources-- he had been poor in those days--about a square mile of the wretched country where it was situated, and had then communicated his discovery to Stephen Linton, who understood the science and arts necessary for utilizing such a discovery, the result being that in two years everyone connected with the Taragonda Mine was rich. The sweepings of the crushing rooms were worth twenty thousand pounds a year: and Herbert Courtland had spent about ten thousand pounds--a fourth of his year's income--in the quest of the meteor-bird to make a feather fan for Ella Linton.) And when the business for which he had been summoned to London had been set /en train/, he had paid a visit to his publishers. (They wondered could he give them a novel on New Guinea. If he introduced plenty of dialect and it was sufficiently unintelligible it might thrust the kail yard out of the market; but the novel must be in dialect, they assured him.) After promising to give the matter his attention, he paid his visit to Phyllis, and then went to his rooms to dress; for when Stephen Linton had said:
"Of course you'll dine with us to-night: I told Ella you would come."
He had said, "Thanks; I shall be very pleased."
"Come early; eight sharp," Mr. Linton had added.
And thus it was that at five minutes to eight o'clock Herbert found himself face to face alone with the woman whom he had so grossly humiliated.
Perhaps she was hard on him after all: she addressed him as Mr. Courtland. She felt that she, at any rate, had returned to the straight path of duty when she had done that. (It was Herbert Courtland who had talked to Phyllis of the modern philosopher--a political philosopher or a philosophical politician--who, writing against compromise, became the leading exponent of that science, and had hoped to solve the question of a Deity by using a small g in spelling God. On the same principle Ella had called Herbert "Mr. Courtland.")