“What, you didn’t ever expect him to come back?”
“You talk, Nancy, as if you had never heard that we were engaged.”
“If you really are, Christine, why are the Linburnes being divorced?”
“Because they loathe each other, I imagine.”
“What a changeable creature you are, Christine! It seems only the other day that you were crying your eyes out because Lee was engaged.”
Without glancing at Max, Christine became aware that some of the gaiety had gone from his expression.
“Have you seen my pearls, dear?” she said.
It was a complete answer, so far as Nancy was concerned, for she was one of the women who can never harden herself to the sight of another woman’s jewels.
“How beautiful, love,” she answered. “If they were only a trifle larger they might be mistaken for your old imitation string.” Then feeling that she could never better this, she took her departure.
“Oh, dear,” sighed Christine, “do you think I shall ever get so superior that Nancy can’t tease me when she says things like that?”
“Did you really cry, Christine?”
“The night you went away?”
“When you first heard of Linburne’s engagement?”
She nodded at him, like a child who would like to lie its way out of a scrape.
“But then I often cry over trifles,” she added.
“Like my going away?”
“Really, Max, you ought to be able to understand why I cried over Lee’s engagement. It was Nancy who brought me the news, and she was so triumphant over it. She said every one would think he had been making a fool of me. You know she has the power of teasing me more than any one in the world—except, perhaps, you.”
“I have a piece of news for you, Christine.”
“Good or bad?”
“Indifferent, I think you would say. It’s a scientific discovery.”
“An invention, Max? Could I understand it?”
“I think you can if you make an effort.”
“What is it?”
He put his arms suddenly about her. “I find I’m in love with you,” he said, and added a moment later: “And just think that I’ve been engaged to you so long and that’s the first time I’ve kissed you.”
Christine with her head still buried on his shoulders murmured, “But it won’t be the last.”
Riatt’s expression changed. “Not absolutely the last, perhaps,” he answered with something that just wasn’t a sigh.
She looked up at him. “That piece of indifferent news of yours—” she began.
“Didn’t I describe it correctly?”
“It wasn’t news to me.”
“You mean you had already guessed that I loved you?”
“I’ve always known it.”
“You can’t think I would ever have let you go away at all, if I had not felt sure. And if you hadn’t loved me, I couldn’t have brought you back.”
“I came back because—”