Sorell sat on impatiently in the darkening garden, hoping always that Connie would explain, would confess; for he was certain that she had somehow schemed for this preposterous reconciliation—if it was a reconciliation. She wanted no doubt to heal Falloden’s conscience, and so to comfort her own. And she would sacrifice Otto, if need be, in the process! He vowed to himself that he would prevent it, if he could.
Connie eyed him wistfully. Confidences seemed to be on her very lips; and then stopped there. In the end she neither explained nor confessed. But when he was gone, she walked up and down the lawn under the evening sky, her hands behind her—passionately dreaming.
She had never thought of any such plan as had actually sprung to light. And she understood Sorell’s opposition.
All the same, her heart sang over it. When she had asked Radowitz and Douglas to meet, each unbeknown to the other, when she had sent away the kind old aunts and prepared it all, she had reckoned on powers of feeling in Falloden, in which apparently only she and Aunt Marcia believed; and she had counted on the mystical and religious fervour she had long since discovered in Radowitz. That night—after Sir Arthur’s death—she had looked tremblingly into the boy’s very soul, had perceived his wondering sense of a special message to him through what had happened, from a God who suffered and forgives.
Yes, she had tried to make peace.
And she guessed—the tears blinding her as she walked—at the true meaning of Falloden’s sudden impulse, and Otto’s consent. Falloden’s was an impulse of repentance; and Otto’s had been an impulse of pardon, in the Christian sense. “If I am to die, I will die at peace with him.” Was that the thought—the tragic and touching thought—in the boy’s mind?
As to Falloden, could he do it?—could he rise to the height of what was offered him? She prayed he might; she believed he could.
Her whole being was aflame. Douglas was no longer in love with her; that was clear. What matter, if he made peace with his own soul? As for her, she loved him with her whole heart, and meant to go on loving him, whatever any one might say. And that being so, she would of course never marry.
Could she ever make Nora understand the situation? By letter, it was certainly useless to try!
Constance Bledlow stepped out of the Bletchley train into the crowded Oxford station. Annette was behind her. As they made their way towards the luggage van, Connie saw a beckoning hand and face. They belonged to Nora Hooper, and in another minute Connie found herself taken possession of by her cousin. Nora was deeply sunburnt. Her colour was more garishly red and brown, her manner more trenchant than ever. At sight of Connie her face flushed with a sudden smile, as though the owner of the face could not help it. Yet they had only been a few minutes together before Connie had discovered that, beneath the sunburn, there was a look of tension and distress, and that the young brown eyes, usually so bright and bold, were dulled with fatigue. But to notice such things in Nora was only to be scorned. Connie held her tongue.