The appeal of her helplessness touched in him, as it always did, a latent chord of inclination.
Lily had such an air of always getting what she wanted that she was used to being appealed to as an intermediary, and, relieved of her vague apprehension, she took refuge in the conventional formula.
In her inmost heart Lily knew it was not by appealing to the fraternal instinct that she was likely to move Gus Trenor; but this way of explaining the situation helped to drape its crudity, and she was always scrupulous about keeping up appearances to herself.
The multiplicity of its appeals—the perpetual surprise of its contrasts and resemblances!
It was perhaps her very manner of holding herself aloof that appealed to his collector’s passion for the rare and unattainable.
Men do not, at worst, suffer much from such exposure; and in this instance the flash of divination which had carried the meaning of the letters to Lily’s brain had revealed also that they were appeals—repeated and therefore probably unanswered—for the renewal of a tie which time had evidently relaxed.
It was part of the game to make him feel that her appeal had been an uncalculated impulse, provoked by the liking he inspired; and the renewed sense of power in handling men, while it consoled her wounded vanity, helped also to obscure the thought of the claim at which his manner hinted.
All her concern had hitherto been for young Silverton, not only because, in such affairs, the woman’s instinct is to side with the man, but because his case made a peculiar appeal to her sympathies.
So frank an appeal for participation—so outspoken a recognition of the holiday vein in human nature—struck refreshingly on a mind jaded by prolonged hard work in surroundings made for the discipline of the senses.
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She had supplemented her first gift by personal assistance to one or two of Miss Farish’s most appealing subjects, and the admiration and interest her presence excited among the tired workers at the club ministered in a new form to her insatiable desire to please.
"Lily!" he exclaimed, with a note of despairing appeal; but—"Oh, not now," she gently admonished him; and then, in all the sweetness of her recovered composure: "Since I must find shelter somewhere, and since you’re so kindly here to help me——"
He would not, in other words, yield to the growth of an affection which might appeal to pity yet leave the understanding untouched: sympathy should no more delude him than a trick of the eyes, the grace of helplessness than a curve of the cheek.
But can’t I at least appeal to your pity?
But to this direct appeal it was impossible to give an assent; and she said with friendly decisiveness: "I’m sorry—but you know why I can’t."
For there was no mistaking the definite intention behind his vague appeal; she could have filled up the blanks without the help of Mrs. Fisher’s insinuations.
"I’m only tired—it is nothing," she found voice to say in a moment; and then, as she met the timid appeal of her companion’s eyes, she added involuntarily: "I have been unhappy—in great trouble."
Bewildered and indignant, Lily resolved to try the effect of a personal appeal; but she returned from her expedition with a sense of the powerlessness of beauty and charm against the unfeeling processes of the law.
Whatever her share in the situation—and he had always honestly tried to resist judging her by her surroundings—however free she might be from any personal connection with it, she would be better out of the way of a possible crash; and since she had appealed to him for help, it was clearly his business to tell her so.
…with extravagant tastes and no money had better marry the first rich man she could get; but with the subject of discussion at his side, turning to him for sympathy, making him feel that he understood her better than her dearest friends, and confirming the assurance by the appeal of her exquisite nearness, he was ready to swear that such a marriage was a desecration, and that, as a man of honour, he was bound to do all he could to protect her from the results of her disinterestedness.
In Lily’s present mood there was no resisting the honest friendliness of this appeal, and she said with a smile: "I am at loose ends for the moment, but Gerty Farish is still in town, and she’s good enough to let me be with her whenever she can spare the time."
To hear that she was in need of help—even such vague help as he could offer—was to be at once repossessed by that thought; and by the time he reached the street he had sufficiently convinced himself of the urgency of his cousin’s appeal to turn his steps directly toward Lily’s hotel.
When his cousin ended, he said with a slight smile: "Since you’ve learned the wisdom of waiting, I don’t see why you urge me to rush in—" but the troubled appeal of her eyes made him add, as he rose to take leave: "Still, I’ll do what you wish, and not hold you responsible for my failure."
The very apprehensions he aroused hardened her against him: she had been on the alert for the note of personal sympathy, for any sign of recovered power over him; and his attitude of sober impartiality, the absence of all response to her appeal, turned her hurt pride to blind resentment of his interference.
"To save my neck, you know!" he explained, with a glance that appealed to Lily for some recognition of his promptness; and the Duchess added, with her noble candour: "Mr.
Hang it, if he could find a way out of such difficulties for a professional sponge like Carry Fisher, who was simply a mental habit corresponding to the physical titillations of the cigarette or the cock-tail, he could surely do as much for a girl who appealed to his highest sympathies, and who brought her troubles to him with the trustfulness of a child.