I am looking him full in the face, but, to my surprise, I cannot detect the expression of confusion and defeat which I anticipate. There is only the old white-anger look that I have such a happy knack of calling up on his features.
“I am a consummate liar!” he says, quietly, though his eyes flash. “Every one knows that; but, all the same, she did tell me.”
“I do not believe a word of it!” cry I, in a fury.
He makes no answer, but, lifting his hat, begins to walk quickly away. For a hundred yards I allow him to go unrecalled; then, as I note his quickly-diminishing figure and the heavy mists beginning to fold him, my resolution fails me; I take to my heels and scamper after him.
“Stop!” say I, panting as I come up with him, “I dare say—perhaps—you thought you were speaking truth!—there must, must be some mistake!”
He does not answer, but still walks quickly on.
“Tell me!” cry I, posting on alongside of him, breathless and distressed—“when was it? where did you hear it? how long ago?”
“I never heard it?”
“Yes, you did,” cry I, passionately, asseverating what I have so lately and passionately denied. “You know you did; but when was it? how was it? where was it?”
“It was nowhere,” he answers with a cold, angry smile. “I was drawing the long bow!’”
I stop in baffled rage and misery. I stand stock-still, with the long, dying grass wetly and limply clasping my ankles. To my surprise he stops too.
“I wish you were dead!” I say tersely, and it is not a figure of speech. For the moment I do honestly wish it.
“Do you?” he answers, throwing me back a look of hardly inferior animosity; “I dare say I do not much mind.” A little pause, during which we eye each other, like two fighting-cocks. “Even if I were dead,” he says, in a low voice—“mind, I do not blame you for wishing it— sometimes I wish it myself—but even if I were, I do not see how that would hinder Sir Roger and Mrs. Huntley from corresponding.”
“They do not correspond,” cry I, violently; “it is a falsehood!” Then, with a quick change of thought and tone: “But if they do, I—I—do not mind! I—I—am very glad—if Roger likes it! There is no harm in it.”
“Not the slightest.”
“Do you always stay at home?” cry I, in a fury, goaded out of all politeness and reserve by the surface false acquiescence of his tone; “do you never go away? I wish you would! I wish”—(speaking between laughing and crying)—“that you could take your abbey up on your back, as a snail does its shell, and march off with it into another county.”
“But unfortunately I cannot.”
“What have I done to you?” I cry, falling from anger to reproach, “that you take such delight in hurting me? You can be pleasant enough to—to other people. I never hear you hinting and sneering away any one else’s peace of mind; but as for me, I never—never am alone with you that you do not leave me with a pain—a tedious long ache here”— (passionately clasping my hands upon my heart).