“This was in the fine first fervor of his term of probation, I suppose,” put in Theron. He made no effort to dissemble the sneer in his voice.
“Well,” answered Alice, with a touch of acerbity, “I have told you now, and it is off my mind. There never would have been the slightest concealment about it, if you hadn’t begun by keeping me at arm’s length, and making it next door to impossible to speak to you at all, and if—”
“And if he hadn’t lied.” Theron, as he finished her sentence for her, rose from the table. Dallying for a brief moment by his chair, there seemed the magnetic premonition in the air of some further and kindlier word. Then he turned and walked sedately into the next room, and closed the door behind him. The talk was finished; and Alice, left alone, passed the knuckle of her thumb over one swimming eye and then the other, and bit her lips and swallowed down the sob that rose in her throat.
It was early afternoon when Theron walked out of his yard, bestowing no glance upon the withered and tarnished show of the garden, and started with a definite step down the street. The tendency to ruminative loitering, which those who saw him abroad always associated with his tall, spare figure, was not suggested today. He moved forward like a man with a purpose.
All the forenoon in the seclusion of the sitting-room, with a book opened before him, he had been thinking hard. It was not the talk with Alice that occupied his thoughts. That rose in his mind from time to time, only as a disagreeable blur, and he refused to dwell upon it. It was nothing to him, he said to himself, what Gorringe’s motives in lying had been. As for Alice, he hardened his heart against her. Just now it was her mood to try and make up to him. But it had been something different yesterday, and who could say what it would be tomorrow? He really had passed the limit of patience with her shifting emotional vagaries, now lurching in this direction, now in that. She had had her chance to maintain a hold upon his interest and imagination, and had let it slip. These were the accidents of life, the inevitable harsh happenings in the great tragedy of Nature. They could not be helped, and there was nothing more to be said.
He had bestowed much more attention upon what the priest had said the previous evening. He passed in review all the glowing tributes Father Forbes had paid to Celia. They warmed his senses as he recalled them, but they also, in a curious, indefinite way, caused him uneasiness. There had been a personal fervor about them which was something more than priestly. He remembered how the priest had turned pale and faltered when the question whether Celia would escape the general doom of her family came up. It was not a merely pastoral agitation that, he felt sure.