“You see, dear Philip, I love George Anderson—”
Anderson gave a low cry—and, moving to her side, he grasped her hand. She gave it to him, smiling—and went on:
“I love him—partly—because he is so true to his own people—because I saw him first—and knew him first—among them. No! dear Philip, he has his work to do in Canada—in that great, great nation that is to be. He has been trained for it—no one else can do it but he—and neither you nor I must tempt him from it.”
The eyes of the brother and sister met. Elizabeth tried for a lighter tone.
“But as neither of us could tempt him from it—it is no use talking—is it?”
Philip looked from her to Anderson in a frowning silence. No one spoke for a little while. Then it seemed to them as though the young man recognised that his effort had failed, and his physical weakness shrank from renewing it. But he still resisted his mother’s attempt to put an end to the scene.
“That’s all very well, Lisa,” he said at last, “but what are you going to do?”
Elizabeth withdrew her hand from Anderson’s.
“What am I going to do? Wait—just that!”
But her lip trembled. And to hide it she sank down again in the low chair in front of her brother, propping her face in both hands.
“Wait?” repeated Philip, scornfully—“and what for?”
“Till you and mother—come to my way of thinking—and”—she faltered—“till Mr. Anderson—”
Her voice failed her a moment. Anderson stood motionless, bending towards her, hanging upon her every gesture and tone.
“Till Mr. Anderson—” she resumed, “is—well!—is brave enough to—trust a woman! and—oh! good Heavens!”—she dashed the tears from her eyes, half laughing, as her self-control broke down—“clever enough to save her from proposing to him in this abominable way!”
She sprang to her feet impatiently. Anderson would have caught her in his arms; but with a flashing look, she put him aside. A wail broke from Mrs. Gaddesden:
“Lisa—you won’t leave us!”
“Never, darling—unless you send me!—or come with me! And now, don’t you think, Philip dearest, you might let us all go to bed? You are really not worse, you know; and Mother and I are going to carry you off south—very, very soon.”
She bent to him and kissed his brow. Philip’s face gradually changed beneath her look, from the tension and gloom with which he had begun the scene to a kind of boyish relief—a touch of pleasure—of mischief even. His high, majestical pretensions vanished away; a light and volatile mind thought no more of them; and he turned eagerly to another idea.
“Elizabeth, do you know that you have proposed to Anderson?”
“If I have, it was your fault.”
“He hasn’t said Yes?”
Elizabeth was silent. Anderson came forward—but Philip stopped him with a gesture.