There was a long silence.
“Do you think,” said Hugh, smiling faintly, “that people are ever given a second chance?”
“Always,” said Rachel. “If not here—afterwards.”
“If I were given another,” said Hugh. “If I might only be given another now in this life I should take it.”
He was thinking if only he might be let off this dreadful self-inflicted death. She thought he meant that he repented of his sin, and would fain do better.
There was a sound of voices near at hand. Sybell and Mr. Gresley came down the grass walk towards them.
“London society,” Mr. Gresley was saying, “to live in a stuffy street away from the beauties of Nature, its birds and flowers, to spend half my days laying traps for invitations, and half my nights grinning like a fool in stifling drawing-rooms, listening to vapid talk. No, thanks! I know better than to care for London society. Hester does, I know, but then Hester does not mind making up to big people, and I do. In fact—”
“I have brought Mr. Gresley, after all, in spite of Dr. Brown,” said Sybell, “because we were in the middle of such an interesting conversation on the snares of society that I knew you would like to hear it. You have had such a dull day with Doll away at his County Council.”
That night, as Rachel sat in her room, she went over that half-made, ruthlessly interrupted confidence.
“He does repent,” she said to herself, recalling the careworn face. “If he does, can I overlook the past? Can I help him to make a fresh start? If he had not done this one dishonorable action, I could have cared for him. Can I now?”
“A fool’s mouth is his destruction.”
The superficial reader of these pages may possibly have forgotten, but the earnest one will undoubtedly remember that in an earlier chapter a sale of work was mentioned which was to take place in the Wilderleigh gardens at the end of August.
The end of August had now arrived, and with it two white tents, which sprang up suddenly one morning, like giant mushrooms, on one of Doll’s smooth-shaven lawns. He groaned in spirit as he watched their erection. They would ruin the turf.
“Might as well iron it with a hot iron,” he said, disconsolately to Hugh. “But, of course, this sort of thing—Diocesan Fund, eh? In these days we must stand by our colors.” He repeated Mr. Gresley’s phrase. Doll seldom ventured on an opinion not sanctioned by the ages, or that he had not heard repeated till its novelty had been comfortably rubbed off by his wife or the Gresleys.
The two men watched the proceedings mournfully. They could not help, at least they were told they could not help the women busily engaged in draping and arranging the stalls. They were still at large, but Doll knew, as well as a dog who is going to be washed, what was in store for him in the afternoon, and he was depressed beforehand.