Will looked at her as if he longed to say something when she bade him good-night, but Daisy was beside her, and he could only give her a tremendous handgrip.
They went away together, and Daisy accompanied her to her room. But the wall of reserve that had been built up between them was not to be shattered at a touch. Neither of them knew exactly how to approach it. There was no awkwardness between them, there was no lack of tenderness, but the door that had closed so long ago was hard to open. Daisy seemed to avoid it with a morbid dread, and it was not in Muriel’s power to make the first move.
So for awhile they lingered together, talking commonplaces, and at length parted for the night, holding each other closely, without words.
It seemed evident that Daisy could not bring herself to speak at present, and Muriel went to bed with a heavy heart.
She was far too weary to lie awake, but her tired brain would not rest. For the first time in many dreary months she dreamed of Nick.
He was jeering at her in devilish jubilation because she had changed her mind about marrying him, but lacked the courage to tell him so.
THE LOWERING OF THE FLAG
The night was very far advanced when Muriel was aroused from her dreams by a sound which she drowsily fancied must have been going on for some time. It did not disturb her very seriously at first; she even subconsciously made an effort to ignore it. But at length a sudden stab of understanding pierced her sleep-laden senses, and in a moment she started up broad awake. Some one was in the room with her. Through the dumb stillness before the dawn there came the sound of bitter weeping.
For a few seconds she sat motionless, startled, bewildered, half afraid. The room was in nearly total darkness. Only in dimmest outline could she discern the long French window that opened upon the verandah.
The weeping continued. It was half smothered, but it sounded agonised. A great wave of compassion swept suddenly over Muriel. All in a moment she understood.
Swiftly she leaned forward into the darkness, feeling outwards till her groping hands touched a figure that crouched beside the bed.
“Daisy! Daisy, my darling!” she said, and there was anguish in her own voice. “What is it?”
In a second the sobbing ceased as if some magic had silenced it. Two hands reached up out of the darkness and tightly clasped hers. A broken voice whispered her name.
“What is it?” Muriel repeated in growing distress.
“Hush, dear, hush!” the trembling voice implored. “Don’t let Will hear! It worries him so.”
“But, my darling,—” Muriel protested.
She began to feel for some matches, but again the nervous hands caught and imprisoned hers.
“Don’t—please!” Daisy begged her earnestly. “I—I have something to tell you—something that will shock you unutterably. And I—I don’t want you to see my face.”