It was not that, precisely. In fact he had fine, decisive features of the sort one might expect incised on an old coin, half obscured by passing time and many hands, faintly unreal in full daylight and animated conversation. It was his manner that, once one knew his secret, smacked of a certain sententious reserve even beyond her years let alone his. Helen, all unknowing, might have approved, but it gave Harriet a case of social claustrophobia.
"You look as though you wish you were fifty already," she informed him, and stubbed her cigarette out in the proffered ashtray, "and it only seems polite to bring you as near it as possible."
He laughed a little, a soundless gasp she saw as much as heard, escaping in the frigid air. "I've been recalling as near as I could a very martinet of a captain I had very young; it's the only way I can get by without flattening Straike."
"We really ought to get hold of his credentials," she said, and waved off his offer of a third cigarette. "Pity he wasn't at Oxford."
"Cambridge man," Lanyon agreed, and drew meditatively on his own cigarette, cheeks hollowing. "I know a man who might have been up with him, and was a Fellow after, so a few years one way or another shouldn't affect matters. I can go down to the post office and call him tomorrow, since getting near the phone here is an ordeal and a half. He's still up there, can get hold of the records easily."
Something about the gesture had made Harriet's mind swing to fleshly matters like a magnetized needle north. What a filthy little mind I have under the sophistication, she thought, and having administered a quick reprimand, said, "Were you a Cambridge man?"
This time Lanyon's smile was all teeth and no humour, a bright slash. "I was a fishing trawler man, my lady. My father refused to pay for university after I got thrown out of school for touching children wrongly." He finished his cigarette in a long pull and flicked the ash and smouldering stub into the empty carton. "I'd ask you to keep it quiet in the house but you will regardless. Lord Peter knows already, of course."