“By-the-by,” say I, with a labored and not altogether successful attempt at appearing to speak with suddenness and want of premeditation, “what did you mean this morning, about that la—about Mrs. Huntley?”
“I meant nothing,” he answers, but the faint quiver of a smile about his mouth contradicts his words.
“That is not true!” reply I, with impatient brusqueness; “why were you surprised at my not having heard of her?”
“I was not surprised.”
“What is the use of so many falsehoods?” cry I, indignantly; “at least I would choose some better time than when I was going to church for telling them. What reason have you for supposing that—that Roger knows more about her than I—than Barbara do?”
“How persistent you are!” he says, with that same peculiar smile—not latent now, but developed—curbing his lips and lightening in his eyes. “There is no baffling you! Since you dislike falsehoods, I will tell you no more. I will own to you that I made a slip of the tongue; I took it for granted that you had been told a certain little history, which it seems you have not been told.”
The blood rushes headlong to my face. It feels as if every drop in my body were throbbing and tingling in my cheeks, but I look back at him hardily.
“I don’t believe there is any such history.”
“I dare say not.”
More silence. Swish through the butter-cups and the yellow rattle; a lark, miles above our heads, singing the music he has overheard in heaven. Frank does not seem inclined to speak again.
“Your story is not true,” say I, presently, laughing uncomfortably, and unable to do the one wise thing in my reach, and leave the subject alone—“but untrue stories are often amusing, more amusing than the true ones. You may tell yours, if you like.”
“I have not the slightest wish.”
A few steps more. How quickly we are getting through the park! We shall reach the church, and I shall not have heard. I shall sit and stand and kneel all through the service with the pain of that gnawing curiosity— that hateful new vague jealousy aching at my heart.
It is impossible! I stop. I stand stock-still in the summer grass.
“I hate your hints! I hate your innuendoes!” I say, passionately. “I have always lived with people who spoke their thoughts straight out! Tell me this moment! I will not move a step from this spot till you do.”
“I have nothing worth speaking of to tell,” he answers, slightly. “It is only that never having had a wife myself, I have taken an outsider’s view; I have taken it for granted that when two people marry each other they make a clean breast of their past history—make a mutual confession of their former—”
He pauses, as if in search of a word.
“But supposing,” cry I, eagerly, “that they have nothing to tell, nothing to confess—”