Suddenly she found him sitting beside her. Perforce she looked him in the face.
‘Don’t give notice again!’ he said, almost with passion.
‘It’s not so easy now,’ she said, with a rather uncertain voice.
’Because you’ve done so much for me?—because you’ve slaved and put your heart into it? That’s true. Well now, look here. We’ll put that beastly thing away to-night—perhaps I shall be in a better temper in a few days.’
There was a note in his voice he seemed unable to keep out of it. Elizabeth looking up caught the fire light on the sketch of Desmond. Had the Squire’s eyes been on it too? Impossible to say—for he had already turned away.
‘Oh, yes,—put it away!’ she said hurriedly.
‘And I’ll go over the woods with you on—Friday,’ said the Squire after a pause. ’Oh, I don’t deny that the money is tempting. I’m not such a pauper as I once was, thanks to you. I seem to have some money in the bank—astonishing situation! And—there’s a jolly good sale at Christie’s coming on.’
He looked at her half-shamefaced, half-ready to resent it if she laughed at him.
Her eyes laughed.
‘I thought you’d forgotten that. I saw you mark the catalogue.’
’Beech and oak between two and three hundred years old—in exchange for Greek gems, between two and three thousand. Well—I’ll consider it. Now then, are you feeling better?’
And to her amazement he approached her with an outstretched hand. Elizabeth mechanically placed her own in it.
‘I know what you want,’ he said impetuously. ’You’ve got a head full of dreams. They’re not my dreams—but you’ve a right to them—so long as you’re kind to mine.’
‘I try to be,’ she said with a rather tremulous lip.
At that moment the library door opened. Neither perceived it. Desmond came in softly, lest his father should be at work. A carved oak screen round the door hid his entrance, and as he emerged into the light his eyes caught the two distant figures standing hand in hand.
Instinctively he stepped back a few paces and noisily opened the door. The Squire walked away.
‘Why, Desmond!’ said his father, as the boy emerged into the light, ’your train’s punctual for once. Thank you, Miss Bremerton—that’ll do. Kindly write to those people and say that I am considering the matter. I needn’t keep you any longer....’
That night a demon came to Elizabeth and offered her a Faust-like bargain. Ambition—noble ambition on the one side—an ’elderly lunatic’ on the other. And she began to consider it!
Everybody in Mannering had gone to bed but Desmond and Pamela. It was not certain indeed that the Squire had gone to bed, but as there was a staircase beside one of the doors of the library leading direct to his room, it was not likely that he would cross the hall again. The twins felt themselves alone.