I neither ring for my maid, nor attempt to undress myself. I either keep walking restlessly to and fro, or I sit by the casement, while the cold little wind lifts my dusty hair, or blows against my hot, stiff eyes; or I stand stupidly before the glass; bitterly regarding the ruins of my one night’s fairness. I do not know for how long; it must be hours, but I could not say how many.
The fiddles’ shrill voices grow silent at last; the bounding and stamping ceases; the departing carriage-wheels grind and crunch on the gravel drive. I shall not have much longer to wait; he will be coming soon now. But there is yet another interval. In ungovernable impatience, I open my door and listen. It seems to me that there reaches me from the hall, the sound of voices in loud and angry altercation; it is too far off for me to distinguish to whom they belong. Then there is silence again, and then at last—at last Roger comes. I hear his foot along the passage, and run to the door to intercept him, on his way to his dressing-room. He utters an exclamation of surprise on seeing me.
“Not in bed yet? Not undressed? They told me that you were tired and had gone to bed hours ago!”
I can say only these two little words. I am panting so, as if I had run hard. We are both in the room now, and the door is shut. I suppose I look odd; wild and gray and haggard through the poor remains of my rouge.
“You are late,” I say presently, in a voice of low constraint, “are not you? everybody went some time ago.”
“I know,” he answers, with a slight accent of irritation; “it is Algy’s fault! I do not know what has come to that boy; he hardly seems in his right mind to-night; he has been trying to pick a quarrel with Parker, because he lit Mrs. Huntley’s candle for her.”
“Yes,” say I, breathing short and hard. Has not he himself introduced her name?
“And you know Parker is always ready for a row—loves it—and as he is as screwed to-night as he well can be, it has been as much as we could do to make them keep their hands off each other!” After a moment he adds: “Silly boy! he has been doing his best to fall out with me, but I would not let him compass that.”
Roger has begun to walk up and down, as I did a while ago; on his face a look of unquiet discontent.
“It was a mistake his coming here this time,” he says with a sort of anger, and jet compassion, in his tone. “If he had had a grain of sense, he would have staid away!”
“It is a thousand pities that you cannot send us all home again!” I say, with a tight, pale smile—“send us packing back again, Algy and Barbara and me—replace me on the wall among the broken bottles, where you found me.”
My voice shakes as I make this dreary joke.
“Why do you say that?” he cries, passionately. “Why do you torment me? You know as well as I do, that it is impossible—out of the question! You know that I am no more able to free you than—”