Blake sat breathless, dumb. Never had she seemed so far away from him as then; never had she seemed so desirable. He struggled with his voice, but no word came; and it was she who spoke first.
“Now I know—it is the agony!”
At this admission, all the love and all the irritation in him came up together into a force which drove him on. They were alone; none other looked; but had all the world been looking, he might have done what he did. He rose to his feet, he dropped both his hands on her shoulders, he devoured her sapphirine eyes with his eyes, and his voice was steel as he spoke:
“You love me. You have always loved me. In spite of everything, you will marry me! You will say it before you are done with me!”
He stopped suddenly, for her eyelids were drooping. Had he not been a physician, he would have said that she was going to faint. But her color did not change. And suddenly she was speaking in a low tone which mocked his, but with no expression nor intonations:
“I love you. I have always loved you. In spite of everything, I shall marry you.”
He dropped his hands from her shoulders with a bewildered impulse to seize her in his arms; then the publicity of the place came to him, and he drew his hands back. On that motion, her eyes opened and she flashed a little away from him.
“What did I say?” she exclaimed; “and why—oh, don’t touch me—don’t come near—can’t you see it makes it harder for me to renounce?”
“But you said—”
“I said before you touched me—ah, don’t touch me again—that I should make it hard—the harder I make it, the more I shall grow—but I can’t bear so much!” She had risen, was moving away.
“Let’s walk,” he said shortly; and then, “Even if you put me aside, won’t you keep me in your life?”
“The Guides will tell me,” she answered simply.
“But I may see you—call on you in the city?”
“Unless the Guides forbid.”
They were walking side by side now; they had turned from the sunken arena, which surrounded the tennis court, toward the house. Blake saw that the driver of the Mountain House stage was approaching. He waved a yellow envelope as he came on:
“Been looking for you, Miss Markham. Telegram. Charges paid.”
Dr. Blake stepped away as Annette, in the preliminary flutter of fear with which a woman always receives a telegram, tore open the envelope and read the enclosure. Without a word, she handed it over to him. It read:
Take next train home. Advice of Martha. Wire arrival.
“Perhaps the Guides know,” she said, smiling but quivering, too. “Perhaps they’re going to make it easier for me.”
HIS FIRST CALL