‘But why not?’
‘You seem to forget that he married a second wife, John, last year.’
’I’m sure Mrs. Gibson was most friendly when we were there last month. And we’d pay, of course—we’d pay.’
’I’m not going to plant myself and Carrie down on Mrs. Gibson for six months and more, John, so don’t ask me. No, we’ll stay here—we’ll stay here!’
She began to pluck at the grass with her hand, staring before her at the moonlit stream like one who sees visions of the future. The beauty of her faintly visible head and neck suddenly worked on John Fenwick’s senses. He threw his arm round her.
’And I shall soon be back. You little silly, can’t you understand that I shall always be wanting you?’
‘We’ll stay here,’ she repeated, slowly. ’And you’ll be in London making smart friends—and dining with rich folk—and having ladies to sit to you—’
‘Phoebe, you’re not jealous of me?’ he cried, with a great, good-humoured laugh—’that would be the last straw.’
‘Yes, I am jealous of you!’ she said, with low-voiced passion; ’and you know very well that I’ve had some cause to be.’
He was silent. Through both their minds there passed the memory of some episodes in their married life—slight, but quite sufficient to show that John Fenwick was a man of temperament inevitably attracted by womankind.
He murmured that she had made mountains out of mole-hills. She merely raised his hand and kissed it. ‘The women make a fool of you, John,’ she said, ’and I ought to be there to protect you—for you do love me, you know—you do!’
And then with tears she broke down and clung to him again, in a mood that was partly the love of wife for husband and partly an exquisite maternity—the same feeling she gave her child. He responded with eagerness, feeling indeed that he had won his battle.
For she lay in his arms—weak—protesting no more. The note of anguish, of deep, incalculable foreboding, which she had shown, passed away from her manner and words; while on his side he began to draw pictures of the future so full of exultation and of hope that her youth presently could but listen and believe. The sickle moon descended behind the pikes; only the stars glimmered on the great side of the fell, on solitary yews black upon the night, on lines of wall, on dim, mysterious paths, old as the hills themselves, on the softly chiding water. The May night breathed upon them, calmed them, brought out the better self of each. They returned to the cottage like children, hand in hand, talking of a hundred practical details, thankful that the jarring moment had passed away, each refraining from any word that could wound the other. Nor was it till Fenwick was sound asleep beside her that Phoebe, replunged in loneliness and dread, gave herself in the dawn-silence to a passion of unconquerable tears.