“Oh, don’t go, Barbara, dear.”
“Can’t you cut the sleep out for once?”
“I must!” said Barbara.
“No,” said I.
And we left our nervous ogre and our poor little elf to fight out between themselves whatever battle they had to fight. Perhaps it was cold-blooded cruelty on our part. But these two had to come to mutual understanding sooner or later. Why not at once? They had the afternoon before them. It was pouring with rain. They had nothing else to do. In order that they should be undisturbed, Barbara had given orders that we were not at home to visitors. Besides, we were actuated by motives not entirely altruistic. If I seem to have posed before you as a noble-minded philanthropist, I have been guilty of careless misrepresentation. At the best I am but a not unkindly, easy-going man who loathes being worried. And I (and Barbara even more than myself) had been greatly worried over our friends’ affairs for a considerable period. We therefore thought that the sooner we were freed from these worries the better for us both. Deliberately we hardened our hearts against their joint appeal and left them together in the drawing-room.
“Whew!” said I, as we walked along the corridor. “What’s going to happen?”
“She’ll marry him, of course.”
“She won’t,” said I.
“She will. My dear Hilary, they always do.”
“If I have any knowledge of feminine character,” said I, “that young woman harbours in her soul a bitter resentment against Jaffery.”
“If,” she said. “But you haven’t.”
“All right,” said I.
“All right,” said Barbara.
We paused at the library door. “What,” I asked, “is going to become of Liosha?”
Barbara sighed. “We’re not out of this wood yet.”
“And with Liosha on our hands, I don’t think we ever shall be.”
“I should like to shake Jaffery,” said Barbara.
“And I should like,” said I, “to kick him.”
So, as I have said, we left those two face to face in the big drawing-room. The man in an agony of self-reproach, helpless pity and realised failure; the woman—as it seemed to me, smoking reflectively in my library armchair, for sleep was impossible—the woman in the calm of desperation. The man who had performed a thousand chivalrous acts to shield her from harm, who lavished on her all the devotion and tenderness of his simple heart; the woman who owed him her life, and, but for fool accident and her own lack of faith in him, would still be owing him the twilight happiness of her Fool’s Paradise. They had not met, or exchanged written words, since the early summer day at the St. John’s Wood flat, when he had told her that he loved her, and by the sheer mischance of his hulking strength had thrown her to the ground; since that day when she had spat out at him her hatred and contempt, when she had called