“As Rose says, we can take care of ourselves. Do you for one moment think that I acknowledge any restraining right on your part, any privilege of question even? But come, if M. Elliot is an old friend you are a much older. Do not let us quarrel.”
“It takes two to make a quarrel,” said the foolish fellow, not observing the olive-branch.
If his display of annoyance was only a mask of jealousy she fancied that she could deal with it, and forgive it, but if it should be really a sign of indifference? so reasoned her rapid female brain; the cruder masculine mind was but too ready to supply the solution of the problem.
“Voyons, Marguerite,” said her lover, almost blubbering. “I have loved you all your life. Ever since you were a little totterer whom I carried in my arms and planted on the top of the garden wall to pick coquelicots, I have thought of you as one to be some day mine. I see now how foolish I have been. I will put the sea between us; and I hope my boat will go to the bottom; and then perhaps you will be sorry.” ... And in the fervour of self-pity he actually shed tears.
Marguerite watched him, with a joyous sense of triumph. Secure of her victory, she could now assume her turn to show anger. But she did not feel it; and she had not much skill in the feigning of unbecoming passions.
“That is ungenerous, Monsieur. You do not think of the poor boatmen who would go to the bottom with you. They are not sulky young men who have quarrelled with harmless women. The Race of Alderney will do without them; dame! it may afford to wait for you too.”
If Alain had but caught the look with which these final words were accompanied! But he was still sitting in the distant darkness, with his moistened eyes bent obstinately on the ground.
And so the misunderstanding widened and deepened; and presently Rose returned. Taking in the situation with a rapid glance, she passed through the room and out into the buttery, whence she soon returned with the materials of a modest supper. “We must be our own domestics,” she said with an attempt at lightness: but the attempt was hollow; a cloud seemed to fill the low room, and press upon the inmates. The three sate down, but neither of the young people did much justice to her hospitality. After supper she held a brief consultation with Alain; and after giving him a bag of gold and a letter for her husband, dismissed him, to rest if not to slumber, in the chamber that stood at the head of the stair on which the door in the wainscot opened. Then she and Marguerite retired by the other door to their own part of the upper floor, where I fear the young lady received a lecture before she went to her virgin couch.
Next morning the Militia Captain left before the house was awake, to return to Lempriere in London. When the ladies went, later in the forenoon, to arrange the chamber in which he had passed the night, they found that the bed had not been used during Le Gallais’ occupation. A copy of Ben Jonson’s Poems lay on the table; by the side of which were pen and ink, and a burnt-out candle. On opening the book, Mdlle. de St. Martin found some lines written on the fly-leaf, which ran as follows:—