“I shall certainly have to economize,” Bland admitted; “and that is a thing I’m not accustomed to; but I may get some appointment, and by and by a small share in some family property will revert to me. Though I must go straight back to my garrison duties now, I’ll come down for an hour or two and explain things to Sylvia, as soon as I can.” He paused and broke into a faint smile. “I dare say the surprise will be mutual; she may have believed my means to be larger than they are.”
“I should consider it very possible,” replied Herbert dryly. “As I must see Sylvia, I’ll give her an idea how matters stand and clear the ground for you.”
Bland said that he would be glad of this; and after some further conversation he took his leave and walked to the station, disturbed in mind, but conscious of a little ironical amusement. There was no doubt that Sylvia had cleverly deluded him, but he admitted that he had done much the same thing to her. Had he realized the true state of her affairs at the beginning he would have withdrawn; but he had no thought of doing so now. It was obvious that Sylvia’s principles were not very high, and he regretted it, although he could not claim much superiority in this respect. He was tolerant and, after all, she had a charm that atoned for many failings.
It was three or four days later when he arrived at Mrs. Kettering’s house one evening and found Sylvia awaiting him in a room reserved for her hostess’s use. She was very becomingly dressed and looked, he thought, even more attractive than usual. She submitted to his caress with an air of resignation, but he augured a good deal from the fact that she did not repulse him. As it happened, Sylvia had carefully thought over the situation.
“Sit down,” she said; “I want to talk with you.”
“I think I’ll stand. It’s more difficult to feel penitent in a comfortable position. It looks as if you had seen Herbert Lansing.”
“I have.” Sylvia’s tone was harsh. “What have you to say for yourself?”
“Not a great deal, which is fortunate, because I haven’t much time to say it in,” Bland told her with a smile. “To begin with, I’ll state the unflattering truth—it strikes me that, in one way, we’re each as bad as the other. I suppose it’s one of my privileges to mention such facts to you, though I’d never think of admitting them to anybody else.”
“It’s a husband’s privilege,” Sylvia rejoined pointedly. “Don’t be premature.”
“Well,” said Bland, “I can only make one defense, but I think you ought to realize how strong it is. We were thrown into each other’s society, and it isn’t in the least surprising that I lost my head and was carried away. My power of reasoning went when I fell in love with you.”
“That sounds pretty, but it’s unfortunate you didn’t think of me a little more,” pouted Sylvia.
“Think of you?” Bland broke out. “I thought of nothing else!”