“But I don’t mean—”
“I don’t believe you know what you mean. But you aren’t Barbs now; you are my confessor. I confess to you, then, that I am in pretty much the same boat with Harry West. I am going away, partly, to get over you—if I can. Love is a fire. Feed it, and it grows. Let it alone, and it dies. Confessor, there is a certain girl—one Barbara Ferris, I love her with all my heart and soul and have so done for many years. Since this leads to happiness for neither of us, I am going to cut her out of my life.”
“Wilmot! Are you speaking seriously? You’re not going to write to me? I’ll have no news of you? Not know how you are getting on? Not know if you are sick or well?”
“The first night,” said Wilmot, “you cried. The second you slept and thought about work.”
“But you are my oldest friend and my best. Whatever we are to each other, we are that—best friends. We have our roots so deep in the happenings of years and years that we can’t be moved—and get away with it.”
“We shall see,” said Wilmot almost solemnly. “It isn’t going to be easy for me, either. But time will soon show. If after a year we find that we cannot do without each other’s friendship—why, then we must see each other again. That’s all there is to it.”
“At least you’ll write?”
He shook his head.
“But I will.”
“No, Barbs. The sight of your writing would be too much fuel for the fire.”
She was silent for a quarter of a mile. She did not enjoy the idea of being deliberately cut out of Wilmot Allen’s life and heart “Suppose,” she said, “that at the end of the year the fire is still burning bright?”
He slowed the car down so that he could turn and look at her. His face looked very strong and stern. “In that case,” he said, “I will come back and marry you,”
“And supposing that meanwhile, in a fit of loneliness and mistaken zeal, I shall have married some one else?”
“If I feel about you as I do now,” said Allen, “I will take you away from him.”
Once more the car began to run swiftly, so swiftly that Wilmot could not take his eyes from the road to look at Barbara’s face. If he had, he would have seen in her eyes an extraordinary look of trouble and tenderness.
During the week-end Barbara and Allen were much together, to the amusement of the other guests, who said: “It’s on again.” But it was not really.
If Wilmot was going away, Barbara wished him to have good memories of last times together to carry with him. And Wilmot, like a foolish fellow who is going to swear off Monday, and in the meanwhile drinks to excess, saw no reason why he should dress his wounds in the present, since, in time to save his life, he was going to give them every attention possible. That he was going to “get over” Barbara