’Oh, she! Well, you can marry her if you like. That would not be a bad notion. But if you do, you’ll forget all about me and Lady Hayward.’
‘No; I shall never forget you, Rose.’ He stretched his hand to her; but, irrespective of his will, the gesture seemed full of farewell.
‘I’m so much obliged to you,’ he said; ’had it not been for you, I might never have opened that letter.’
’Even if you hadn’t, it wouldn’t have mattered; you would have heard of your good fortune some other way. But it is getting very late. I must say good-night. I hope you will have a pleasant time in the country, and will finish your play. Good-night.’
Returning from the door, he stopped to think. ’We have been very good friends—that is all. How strangely determined she is!... More so than I am. She is bound to succeed. There is in her just that note of individual passion.... Perhaps some one will find her out before I have finished,—that would be a pity. I wonder which of us will succeed first?’
Then the madness of good fortune came upon him suddenly; he could think no more of Rose, and had to go for a long walk in the streets.
‘Dearest Emily, you must prepare yourself for the worst.’
‘Is he dead?’
’Yes; he passed away quite quietly. To look at him one would say he was asleep; he does not appear to have suffered at all.’
’Oh, Julia, Julia, do you think he forgave me? I could not do what he asked me.... I loved him very dearly as a father, but I could not have married him.’
’No, dear, you could not. Such a marriage would have been most unnatural; he was more than forty years older than you.’
’I do not think he ever thought of such a thing until about a month or six weeks ago. You remember how I ran to you? I was as white as a ghost, and I trembled like a leaf. I could hardly speak.... You remember?’
’Yes, I remember; and some hours after, when I came into this room, he was standing there, just there, on the hearth-rug; there was a fearful look of pain and despair on his face—he looked as if he was going mad. I never saw such a look before, and I never wish to see such a look again. And the effort he made to appear unconcerned when he saw me was perhaps the worst part of it. I pretended to see nothing, and walked away towards the window and looked out. But all the while I could feel that some terrible drama was passing behind me. At last I had to look round. He was sitting in that chair, his elbows on his knees, clasping his head with both hands, the old, gnarled fingers twined in the iron-grey hair. Then, unable to contain himself any longer, he rushed out of the room, out of the house, and across the park.’
‘You say that he passed away quietly; he did not seem to suffer at all?’
‘No, he never recovered consciousness.’