“Lady Halifax means it to be a year,” she answered—and surely, since it was to be a year, he might keep her hand an instant longer.
The full knowledge of what this woman was to him seemed to descend upon John Kendal then, and he stood silent under it, pale and grave-eyed, baring his heart to the rush of the first serious emotion life had brought him, filled with a single conscious desire—that she should show him that sweetness in her eyes again. But she looked wilfully down, and he could only come closer to her, with a sudden muteness upon his ready lips, and a strange new-born fear wrestling for possession of him. For in that moment Janet, hitherto so simple, so approachable, as it were so available, had become remote, difficult, incomprehensible. Kendal invested her with the change in himself, and quivered in uncertainty as to what it might do with her. He seemed to have nothing to trust to but that one glance for knowledge of the girl his love had newly exalted; and still she stood before him looking down. He took two or three vague steps into the middle of the room, drawing her with him. In their nearness to each other the silence between them held them intoxicatingly, and he had her in his arms before he found occasion to say, between his lingering kisses upon her hair, “You can’t go, Janet. You must stay—and marry me.”
* * * * * * * *
“I don’t know,” wrote Lawrence Cardiff in a postscript to a note to Miss Bell that evening, “that Janet will thank me for forestalling her with such all-important news, but I can’t resist the pleasure of telling you that she and Kendal got themselves engaged, without so much as a ‘by your leave’ to me, this afternoon. The young man shamelessly stayed to dinner, and I am informed that they mean to be married in June. Kendal is full of your portrait; we are to see it to-morrow. I hope he has arranged that we shall have the advantage of comparing it with the original.”
“Miss Cardiff’s in the lib’ry, sir,” said the housemaid, opening, the door for Kendal next morning with a smile which he did not find too broadly sympathetic. He went up the stairs two steps at a time, whistling like a schoolboy.
“Lady Halifax says,” he announced, taking immediate possession of Janet where she stood, and drawing her to a seat beside him on the lounge, “that the least we can do by way of reparation is to arrange our wedding-trip in their society. She declares she will wait any reasonable time; but I assured her delicately that her idea of compensation was a little exaggerated.”
Janet looked at him with an, absent smile. “Yes, I think so,” she said, but her eyes were preoccupied, and the lover in him resented it.
“What is it?” he asked. “What has happened, dear?”
She looked down at an open letter in her hand, and for a moment said nothing. “I don’t know whether I ought to tell you; but it would be a relief.”