His glance, reverent, full of timid longing, fell on Rachel, and his heart cried aloud, suddenly, “If she loves me, I shall not be able to leave her.”
Look in my face! my
name is Might-have-been;
I am also called No-more, Too-late, Farewell.
—DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI.
It was Sunday afternoon. Mr. Tristram leaned on the stone balustrade that bounded the long terrace at Wilderleigh. He was watching two distant figures, followed by a black dot, stroll away across the park. One of them seemed to drag himself unwillingly. Mr. Tristram congratulated himself on the acumen which had led him to keep himself concealed until Doll and Hugh had started for Beaumere.
Sybell had announced at luncheon, in the tone of one who observes a religious rite, that she should rest till four o’clock, and would be ready to sit for the portrait of her upper lip at that hour.
It was only half-past two now. Mr. Tristram had planted himself exactly in front of Rachel’s windows, with his back to the house. “She will keep me waiting, but she will come out in time,” he said to himself, nervous and self-confident by turns, resting his head rather gracefully on his hand. His knowledge of womankind supported him like a life-belt, but it has been said that life-belts occasionally support their wearers upsidedown. Theories have been known to exhibit the same spiteful tendency towards those who place their trust in them.
“Of course, she has got to show me that she is offended with me,” he reflected, gazing steadily at the Welsh hills. “She would not have come out if I had asked her, but she will certainly come as I did not. I will give her half an hour.”
Rachel, meanwhile, was looking fixedly at Mr. Tristram from her bedroom window with that dispassionate scrutiny to avoid which the vainest would do well to take refuge in noisome caves.
“I wonder,” she said to herself, “whether Hester always saw him as I see him now. I believe she did.”
Rachel put on her hat and took up her gloves. “If this is really I, and that is really he, I had better go down and get it over,” she said to herself.
Mr. Tristram had given her half an hour. She appeared in the low stone doorway before the first five minutes of the allotted time had elapsed, and he gave a genuine start of surprise as he heard her step on the gravel. His respect for her fell somewhat at this alacrity.
“I have been waiting in the hope of seeing you,” he said, after a moment’s hesitation. “I am anxious to have a serious conversation with you.”
“Certainly,” she said.
They walked along the terrace, and presently found themselves in the little coppice adjoining it. They sat down together on a wooden seat round an old cedar, in the heart of the golden afternoon.