The man approached promptly—he was quite weary of throwing stones.
“Take us somewhere to lunch,” his mistress directed, “and get back to New York at six o’clock.”
It was not until they were crossing Brooklyn Bridge, on their way into the city, that she asked him that question. They crawled along, one of an interminable, tangled line of vehicles of all sorts and conditions, the trains rattling overhead, and endless streams of earnest people passing along the footway. Below them, the evening sunlight flashed upon the murky waters, glittered from the windows of the tall buildings, and shone a little mercilessly upon the unlovely purlieus of the great human hive. The wind had turned cool, and Elizabeth, with a little shiver, had drawn her furs around her neck. All through the day, during the luncheon in an unpretentious little inn, and the leisurely homeward drive, she had been once more entirely herself, pleasant and sympathetic, ignoring absolutely the intangible barrier which had grown up between them, soon to be thrown down for ever or to remain for all time.
“We left our heroine,” she said, “at an interesting crisis in her career. I am waiting to hear from you—what would you have done in her place?”
He answered her at once, and he spoke from the lesser heights. He was fiercely jealous.
“It is not a reasonable question,” he declared. “I am not a woman. I am just a man who has led an unusually narrow and cramped life until these last few months.”
“That is scarcely fair,” she objected. “You profess to have loved—to love still, I hope. That in itself makes a man of any one. Then you, too, have sinned. You, too, are one of those who have yielded to passion of a sort. Therefore, your judgment ought to be the better worth having.”
He winced as though he had been struck, and looked at her with eyes momentarily wild. He felt that the deliberate cruelty of her words was of intent, an instinct of her brain, defying for the moment her heart.
“I don’t know,” he faltered. “I won’t answer your question. I can’t. You see, the love you speak of is my love for you. You ask me to ignore that—I, who am clinging on to life by one rope.”
“You are like all men,” she sighed. “We do not blame you for it—perhaps we love you the more—but when a great crisis comes you think only of yourselves. You disappoint me a little, Philip. I fancied that you might have thought a little of me, something of Sylvanus Power.”
“I haven’t your sympathy for other people,” he declared hoarsely.
“No,” she assented, “sympathy is the one thing a man lacks. It isn’t your fault, Philip. You are to be pitied for it. And, after all, it is a woman’s gift, isn’t it?”
There followed then a silence which seemed interminable. It was not until they were nearing the theatre that he suddenly spoke with a passion which startled her.