“Your going away made me quite sure,” he added simply. “I can never do without you altogether again. Instead I want to possess you altogether.” He bent his fine face to the level of hers, and took both her hands in his. Elfrida thought that by that light he looked strangely young.
She slipped her hands away, but did not move, He was still very close to her—she could feel his breath upon her hair.
“Oh no!” she said. “Marriage is so absurd!” and immediately it occurred to her that she might have put this more effectively. “Cela n’est pas bien dit!” she thought.
“Let us sit down together and talk about it,” he answered gently, and drew her toward the little sofa in the corner.
“But—I am afraid—there is nothing more to say. And in a quarter of an hour I must go.”
Cardiff smiled masterfully. “I could marry you, little one, in a quarter of an hour,” he said.
But at the end of that time Lawrence Cardiff found himself very far indeed from the altar, and more enlightened perhaps than he had ever been before about the radicalism of certain modern sentiments concerning it. She would change, he averred; might he be allowed to hope that she would change, and to wait—months, years? She would never change, Elfrida avowed, it was useless—quite useless—to think of that. The principle had too deep a root in her being—to tear it up would be to destroy her whole joy in life, she said, leaving Cardiff to wonder vaguely what she meant.
“I will wait,” he said, as she rose to go; “but you will come back with me now, and we will write a book—some other book—together.”
The girl laughed gaily. “All alone by myself I must do it,” she answered. “And I must do this book. You will approve it when it is done. I am not afraid.”
He had her hands again. “Elfrida,” he threatened, “if you go on the stage to-night in the costume I see so graphically advertised—an Austrian hussar, isn’t it?—I will attend. I will take a box,” he added, wondering at his own brutality. But by any means he must prevail.
Elfrida turned a shade paler. “You will not do that,” she said gravely. “Good-by. Thank you for having come to persuade me to give this up. And I wish I could do what you would like. But it is quite, quite impossible.” She bent over him and touched his forehead lightly with her lips. “Good-by,” she said again, and was gone.
An hour later he was on his way back to town. As the mail train whizzed by another, side-tracked to await its passing, Mr. Cardiff might have seen Kendal, if there had been time to look, puffing luxuriously in a smoking compartment, and unfolding a copy of the Illustrated Age.