Hubert and Mrs. Bentley stood looking at the landscape. The fragrance of his cigar, the presence of the woman, the tenderness of the hour, combined to make him strangely happy; his past life seemed to him like a harsh, cruel pain that had suddenly ceased. More than he had ever desired seemed to be fulfilled; the reality exceeded the dream. What greater happiness than to live here, and with this woman! His thoughts paused, for he had forgotten the girl up-stairs. She was not happy; but he would make her happy—of that he was quite certain. At that moment Mrs. Bentley said—
‘I hope you like your home. Is not the prospect a lovely one?’
’Yes; but I was thinking at that moment of Emily. I suppose I must accustom myself to call her by her Christian name. She is my cousin, and we are going to live together. But, by the way, she cannot stay here alone. I hope—I may trust that you will remain with her?’
Mrs. Bentley turned her face towards him; he noticed the look of pleasure that had passed into it.
’Thank you; it is very good of you. I shall be glad to remain with Emily as long as she cares for my society. It is needless to say I shall do my best to deserve your approval.’
[Illustration: “They dined at the Café Royal.”]
Her voice fell, and he heard her sigh, and in his happiness it seemed to him to be a pity that he should find unhappiness in others.
They went into the drawing-room. Mrs. Bentley asked him if he liked music, and she went to the piano and sang some Scotch songs very sweetly. Then she took a book from the table and bade him good-night. She was sure that he would excuse her. She must go and see after Emily.
When the door closed, the woman who had just left him seemed like some one he had seen in a dream; and still more shadowy and illusive did the girl seem—that pale and plaintive beauty, looking like a pastel, who had so troubled him with her enigmatic eyes! And the lodging-house that he had left only a few hours ago! and Rose.
On Sunday he had taken Rose out to dinner. They dined at the Café-Royal. He had tried to talk to her about Hamilton Brown’s new drama, which they had just heard would follow Divorce; but he was unable to detach his thoughts from Ashwood and the ladies he was going to visit to-morrow evening. Hubert and Rose had felt like two school-fellows, one of whom is leaving school; the link that had bound them had snapped; henceforth their ways lay separate; and they were sad at parting just as school-friends are sad.
’You are not rich; you offered to lend me money once. I want to lend you some now.’
‘Oh yes; five shillings, wasn’t it?’
‘It doesn’t matter what the sum was—we were both very poor then——’
‘And I’m still poorer now.’
’All the more reason why you should allow me to help you.... Allow me to write you a cheque for a hundred pounds. I assure you I can afford it.’