“—Evva sinze de firze nighd w’en I big-in to nurze you wid de fivver.”
She was telling him, with that new, sweet boldness so wonderful to a lately accepted lover, how long she had loved him.
Later on they parted at the porte-cochere. Honore and Aurora had got there before them, and were passing on up the stairs. Clotilde, catching, a moment before, a glimpse of her face, had seen that there was something wrong; weather-wise as to its indications she perceived an impending shower of tears. A faint shade of anxiety rested an instant on her own face. Frowenfeld could not go in. They paused a little within the obscurity of the corridor, and just to reassure themselves that everything was “all right,” they—
God be praised for love’s young dream!
The slippered feet of the happy girl, as she slowly mounted the stair alone, overburdened with the weight of her blissful reverie, made no sound. As she turned its mid-angle she remembered Aurora. She could guess pretty well the source of her trouble; Honore was trying to treat that hand-clasping at the bedside of Agricola as a binding compact; “which, of course, was not fair.” She supposed they would have gone into the front drawing-room; she would go into the back. But she miscalculated; as she silently entered the door she saw Aurora standing a little way beyond her, close before Honore, her eyes cast down, and the trembling fan hanging from her two hands like a broken pinion. He seemed to be reiterating, in a tender undertone, some question intended to bring her to a decision. She lifted up her eyes toward his with a mute, frightened glance.
The intruder, with an involuntary murmur of apology, drew back; but, as she turned, she was suddenly and unspeakably saddened to see Aurora drop her glance, and, with a solemn slowness whose momentous significance was not to be mistaken, silently shake her head.
“Alas!” cried the tender heart of Clotilde. “Alas! M. Grandissime!”
If M. Grandissime had believed that he was prepared for the supreme bitterness of that moment, he had sadly erred. He could not speak. He extended his hand in a dumb farewell, when, all unsanctioned by his will, the voice of despair escaped him in a low groan. At the same moment, a tinkling sound drew near, and the room, which had grown dark with the fall of night, began to brighten with the softly widening light of an evening lamp, as a servant approached to place it in the front drawing-room.
Aurora gave her hand and withdrew it. In the act the two somewhat changed position, and the rays of the lamp, as the maid passed the door, falling upon Aurora’s face, betrayed the again upturned eyes.
The lover paused.
“You thing I’m crool.”
She was the statue of meekness.