“She only lived a few weeks. Her death was largely owing to him. But that’s a long story. And after her death I couldn’t stand it any more. I ran away. And soon I heard that he had taken up with an Italian girl. There was a large camp of Italians on the C.P.R., quite close to us. She was the daughter of one of the foremen. So then my brother made me go to his lawyers in Winnipeg. We collected evidence very easily. I got my divorce eighteen months ago. The decree was made absolute last February. So, of course, I’m quite free—quite—quite free!”
She spoke the last words almost savagely, and after them she moved away to the window looking on the down, and stood gazing through it, as though she had forgotten Ellesborough’s presence.
“The action was not defended?” he asked, in a low voice.
She shook her head without speaking. But after a minute she added,—
“I can show you the report.”
There was silence. Ellesborough turned round, put his hands on the mantelpiece, and buried his face on them. Presently she approached him, looked at him with a quivering lip, and said in broken sentences,—
“It has all come so suddenly—hasn’t it? I had been in such good spirits to-day, not thinking of those horrible things at all. I don’t know what I meant to do, if you did ask me—for of course I knew you might. I suppose I intended to put off telling you—so as to be sure first—certain—that you loved me. And then—somehow—when you looked down on me like that, I felt—that I cared—much more than I had thought I cared—too much to let you speak—before you knew—before I’d told you. It’s always been my way—to—put off disagreeable things. And so I thought I could put this off. But every night I have been awake thinking—’if only he knew!’—and I was wretched—for a while—because you didn’t know. But then it went away again—and I forgot it. One does forget things—everything—when one is hard at work. But I’m awfully sorry. And now—I think—we’d better say good-bye.”
Her voice faltered against her will. He raised himself quickly.
“No—no,” he said passionately, “we won’t say good-bye. But you must let me think—for you, as well as for myself.”
“It would be better to say good-bye,” she persisted. “I’m afraid—you expect in me—what I haven’t got. I see that now. Because I’m keen about this work, and I can run this farm, you think—perhaps—I’m a strong character. But I’m not. I’ve no judgment—not in moral things. I give in—I’m weak—and then—I could kill myself!”
She had grown very white again—and her eyes were strangely fixed on him. The words seemed to him incoherent, out of touch somehow even with their tragic conversation. But his first passing bewilderment was lost in pity and passion. He stopped, took her hand, and kissed it. He came nearer.
But again she drew back.