“You are young—very young,” he said. “Love may come to you—some day.”
“It will be envy—not love, I fear. I threw away every hope for love two years ago—when I was transformed from the ambitious Miss Beresford to Lady Huntingford, now thoroughly satiated. It was a bad bargain and it has wounded more hearts than one. I am not sorry to have told you this. It gives relief to—to something I cannot define. You despise me, I am sure—”
“No, no! How can you say that? You are paying the penalty for your—of your—”
“Say it! Crime.”
“For your mistake, Lady Huntingford. We all make mistakes. Some of us pay for them more bitterly than others, and none of us is a judge of human nature except from his own point of view. I am afraid you don’t feel the true sympathy I mean to convey. Words are faulty with me to-night. It shall be my pleasure to forget what you have confessed to me. It is as if I never had heard.”
“Some men would presume greatly upon what I have told to you. You are too good, I know, to be anything but a true friend,” she said.
“I think I understand you,” he said, a flush rising to his temples. After all, she was a divine creature. “You shall always find me the true friend you think I am.”
“Thank you.” They were silent for a long time, gazing out over the sombre plain of water in melancholy review of their own emotions. At last she murmured softly, wistfully, “I feel like an outcast. My life seems destined to know none of the joys that other women have in their power to love and to be loved.” The flush again crept into his cheek.
“You have not met the right man, Lady Huntingford,” he said.
“Perhaps that is true,” she agreed, smiling faintly.
“The world is large and there is but one man in it to whom you can give your heart,” he said.
“Why should any man desire possession of a worthless bit of ice?” she asked, her eyes sparkling again.
“The satisfaction of seeing it melt,” he responded.
She thought long over this reply.
THE CONFESSION OF VEATH
“Hugh, have you observed anything strange in Mr. Veath lately?”
The interrogation came suddenly from Grace, the next morning, on deck. They had been discussing the plans for a certain day in May, and all the time there was evidence of trouble in her eyes. At last she had broached a subject that had been on her mind for days.
“Can’t say that I have.” The answer was somewhat brusque.
“I am convinced of one thing,” she said hurriedly, coming direct to the point. “He is in love with me.”
“The scoundrel!” gasped Hugh, stopping short and turning very white. “How dare he do such—”
“Now, don’t be absurd, dear. I can’t see what he finds in me to love, but he has a perfect right to the emotion, you know. He doesn’t know, dear.”