They drove the few blocks in silence. He went up the steps of her house, and when the door was opened he said: “May I come in for a few minutes? I shan’t have time to-morrow probably.”
“Do,” said Christine. She went into the drawing-room and sank into a chair. “Who ever heard of not saying good-by to one’s fiancee?”
He saw that she was in her most teasing mood, and somehow this made him more serious.
“Perhaps,” he said rather stiffly, “you think I carry out your instructions too exactly. Perhaps I show a more scrupulous devotion in public than you meant.”
“Oh, no. It looked so well.”
“It would not have looked so well for Linburne to take you home.”
She clapped her hands. “Excellent,” she said, “but you know it is not necessary to take that proprietary tone when we are alone.”
“Even as a mere acquaintance I might offer you some advice,” he said.
“I’m rather sleepy as it is,” she returned, yawning slightly.
For the first time Riatt had a sense of crisis. He knew he must either save her, or leave her. He could not give her a little sage advice and abandon her. It would be like advising a starving man not to steal and going away with your pockets full. He could not say, “Have nothing to do with a selfish materialist like Linburne,” when he knew better perhaps than any one how empty of any ideality or hope her relation to Hickson was bound to be. Yet on the other hand, he could not say, “Come to me, instead.” He despised her method of life, distrusted her character, disliked her ideas, and was under no illusion as to her feeling for himself. If he had come to her without money she would have laughed in his face. What chance would either of them have under such circumstances? It was simple madness to consider it. And why was he considering it? Just because she looked lovely and wan, sunk in a deep chair in all her black and gold finery, just because her face had the lines of an Italian saint and her voice had strange and moving tones in it.
“Good-by,” he said briefly.
She sprang up. “Good gracious,” she said, “and are you going just like that? You know it is customary to extract a promise to write. At least to beg for a lock of the hair.” (She drew out a golden lock, and let it crinkle back into place again.) “Or do you think you will remember me without it?”
“I’m not so sure I want to remember you.”
“I hope you don’t. It’s the things you don’t want to remember that you never can get out of your head.”
“Good-by,” he said again.
“Haven’t you one nice thing to say to me before you go?”
“Wouldn’t you at least admit that I had enlarged your point of view?”
“Aren’t you going to shake hands with me?” he said.
She shook her head, and began to approach him. He felt afterward as if he had known exactly what she meant to do, and yet he seemed to lack all power to prevent her—or perhaps it was will that was lacking. She came up to him, very deliberately put her arms about his neck, and, almost as tall as he, laid her head on his shoulder; and then murmured under his chin: “But you must never, never come back.”