He read it with a sickening palpitation of his heart, but gave no outward sign of surprise. He handed it back to Mildred with a smile, calmly.
"Did you enjoy your lunch?"
"Rather," she said emphatically.
He felt that his hands were trembling, so he put them under the table.
"You mustn't take Griffiths too seriously. He's just a butterfly, you know."
She took the letter and looked at it again.
"I can't help it either," she said, in a voice which she tried to make nonchalant. "I don't know what's come over me."
"It's a little awkward for me, isn't it?" said Philip.
She gave him a quick look.
"You're taking it pretty calmly, I must say."
"What do you expect me to do? Do you want me to tear out my hair in handfuls?"
"I knew you'd be angry with me."
"The funny thing is, I'm not at all. I ought to have known this would happen. I was a fool to bring you together. I know perfectly well that he's got every advantage over me; he's much jollier, and he's very handsome, he's more amusing, he can talk to you about the things that interest you."
"I don't know what you mean by that. If I'm not clever I can't help it, but I'm not the fool you think I am, not by a long way, I can tell you. You're a bit too superior for me, my young friend."
"D'you want to quarrel with me?" he asked mildly.
"No, but I don't see why you should treat me as if I was I don't know what."
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you. I just wanted to talk things over quietly. We don't want to make a mess of them if we can help it. I saw you were attracted by him and it seemed to me very natural. The only thing that really hurts me is that he should have encouraged you. He knew how awfully keen I was on you. I think it's rather shabby of him to have written that letter to you five minutes after he told me he didn't care twopence about you."
"If you think you're going to make me like him any the less by saying nasty things about him, you're mistaken."
Philip was silent for a moment. He did not know what words he could use to make her see his point of view. He wanted to speak coolly and deliberately, but he was in such a turmoil of emotion that he could not clear his thoughts.
"It's not worth while sacrificing everything for an infatuation that you know can't last. After all, he doesn't care for anyone more than ten days, and you're rather cold; that sort of thing doesn't mean very much to you."
"That's what you think."
She made it more difficult for him by adopting a cantankerous tone.
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