“Will not you sit down?”
“No, thank you,” reply I, bending my neck back to get a view behind an intervening group; “I had rather stand.”
“Are you looking for any one?”
Again, I wish that I did not know his voice so well—that I did not so clearly recognize that slightly guardedly malicious intonation.
“Looking for any one?” I cry, sharply, and reddening even through my rouge—“of course not!—whom should I be looking for?—but, after all, I do not think I care about having any thing!—there’s—there’s nothing that I fancy.”
This is a libel at once upon myself and on General Parker’s hospitality. He answers nothing, and perhaps the smile, almost imperceptible—which I fancy in his eyes, and in the clean curve of his lips—exists only in my imagination. He again offers me his arm, and I again take it. I have clean forgotten his existence. His arm is no more to me than if it were a piece of wood.
“Where are they? where can they be?” is the thought that engrosses all my attention.
I hardly notice that he is leading me away from the ballroom—down the long corridor, on which almost all the sitting-rooms open. They are, one and all, lit up to-night; and in each of them there are guests. I glance in at the drawing-room: they are not there! We take a turn in the conservatory. We find Mr. Parker sitting very carefully upright, for his costume does not allow of any lolling, or of any tricks being played with it under a magnolia, with a pretty girl—(I wonder, have my cheeks grown as streaky as his?)—but they are not there. We go back to the corridor. We peep into the library: two or three bored old gentlemen—martyrs to their daughters’ prospects—yawning over the papers and looking at their watches. They are not here. Where can they be? Only one room yet remains—one room at the very end of the passage— the billiard-room, shut off by double doors to deaden the sound of the balls. One of the double doors is wide open, the other closed—not absolutely sJiut, but not ajar. Musgrave pushes it, and we look in. I do not know why I do. I do not expect to see any one. I hardly think it will be lit, probably blank darkness will meet us. But it is not so. The lamps above the table are shining subduedly under their green shades; and on a couch against the wall two people are sitting. They are here. I found them at last.
Evidently they are in deep and absorbing talk. Roger’s elbow rests on the top of the couch. His head is on his hand. On his face there is an expression of grave and serious concern; and she—she—is it possible?—she is evidently—plainly weeping. Her face is hidden in her handkerchief, and she is sobbing quietly, but quite audibly. In an instant, with ostentatious hurry, Musgrave has reclosed the door, and we stand together in the passage.
I am not mistaken now: I could not be: that can be no other expression than triumph that so darkly shines in his great and eager eyes.