“And we haven’t had a good time, because—unfortunately—we’ve quarrelled!”
“I should describe it differently. There are certain proofs and tests of friendship that any friend may ask for. But when they are all refused—”
“Friendship itself is strained!” laughed Constance, looking round at her companion. She was breathing quickly. “In other words, we have been quarrelling—about Radowitz—and there seems no way of making it up.”
“You have only to promise me the very little thing I asked,” said Falloden stiffly.
“That I shouldn’t dance with him to-night, or again this week? You call that a little thing?”
“I should have thought it a small thing, compared—”
He turned and faced her. His dark eyes were full of proud agitation—of things unspoken. But she met them undaunted.
He was silent, but his eyes held her.
“Well then”—said Constance—“let me repeat that—in my opinion, friendship which asks unreasonable things—is not friendship—but tyranny!”
She drew herself up passionately, and gave a smart touch with her whip to the mare’s flank, who bounded forward, and had to be checked by Falloden’s hand on her bridle.
“Don’t get run away with, while you are denouncing me!” he said, smiling, as they pulled up.
“I really didn’t want any help!” said Constance, panting. “I could have stopped her quite easily.”
“I doubt it. She is really not the lamb you think her!”
“Nor is her mistress: I return the remark.”
“Which has no point. Because only a mad-man—”
“Could have dreamed of comparing me—to anything soft and docile?” laughed Constance.
There was another silence. Before them at the end of a long green vista the gate opening on the main road could be seen.
Constance broke it. “Wounded pride, and stubborn will were hot within her.
“Well, it is a great pity we should have been sparring like this. I can’t remember who began it. But now I suppose I may do what I like with the dances I promised you?”
“I keep no one to their word who means to break it,” said Falloden coldly.
Constance grew suddenly white.
“That”—she said quietly—“was unpardonable!”
“It was. I retract it.”
“No. You have said it—which means that you could think it. That decides it.”
They rode on in silence. As they neared the gate, Constance, whose face showed agitation and distress, said abruptly—
“Of course I know I must seem very ungrateful—”
A sound, half bitter, half scornful from Falloden stopped her. She threw her head back defiantly.