She was no longer pale. Her eyes were filled with an exceedingly soft light. She leaned towards him, and her face shone as the face of a woman who prays that she may hear the one thing in life a woman craves to hear from the lips she loves best.
“Go on,” she murmured.
“I want to ask you, Miss Penelope,” he continued, “whether you remember the day when you paid a visit to my house?”
“Very well,” she answered.
“I was showing you a casket,” he went on.
She gripped his arm.
“Don’t!” she begged. “Don’t, I can’t bear any more of that. You don’t know how horrible it seems to me! You don’t know—what fears I have had!”
He looked away from her.
“I have sometimes wondered,” he said, “what your thoughts were at that moment, what you have thought of me since.”
She shivered a little, but did not answer him.
“Very soon,” he reminded her, “I shall have passed out of your life.”
He heard the sudden, half-stifled exclamation. He felt rather than saw the eyes which pleaded with him, and he hastened on.
“You understand what is meant by the inevitable,” he continued. “Whatever has happened in the matters with which I have been concerned has been inevitable. I have had no choice—sometimes no choice in such events is possible. Do not think,” he went on, “that I tell you this to beg for your sympathy. I would not have a thing other than as it is. But when we have said goodbye, I want you to believe the best of me, to think as kindly as you can of the things which you may not be able to comprehend. Remember that we are not so emotional a nation as that to which you belong. Our affections are but seldom touched. We live without feeling for many days, sometimes for longer, even, than many days. It has not been so altogether with me. I have felt more than I dare, at this moment, to speak of.”
“Yet you go,” she murmured.
“Yet I go,” he assented. “Nothing in the world is more certain than that I must say farewell to you and all of my good friends here. In a sense I want this to be our farewell. Leaving out of the question just now the more serious dangers which threaten me, the result of my mission here alone will make me unpopular in this country. As the years pass, I fear that nothing can draw your own land and mine into any sort of accord. That is why I asked you to come here with me and listen while I said these few words to you, why I ask you now that, whatever the future may bring, you will sometimes spare me a kindly thought.”
“I think you know,” she answered, “that you need not ask that.”
“You will marry Sir Charles Somerfield,” he continued, “and you will be happy. In this country men develop late. Somerfield, too, will develop, I am sure. He will become worthy even, I trust, to be your husband, Miss Penelope. Something was said of his going into Parliament. When he is Foreign Minister and I am the Counsellor of the Emperor, we may perhaps send messages to one another, if not across the seas, through the clouds.”