Very slowly she walked back to the house, to meet Helen’s questioning eyes.
“I am glad, dear, that there seems to be a better understanding between you and Johnny,” Helen said.
“There is a perfect understanding between us. Johnny is not going to marry me. He is choosing someone who will love him more and understand him better than I could.”
“Then—then, after all, it is over? You and he are to part?”
“Have parted—as lovers, but not as friends.”
“And after all I have done,” Helen said miserably.
Hugh had gone home. He had had a letter from Lady Linden telling about the accident to Tom Arundel, about his serious illness, and Marjorie’s devoted nursing. And now he was shaping his course for Hurst Dormer. He had debated in his mind whether he should wait and see her, and then had decided against it.
“She knows that I love her, and she loves me. She is letting her pride stand between us. Everard is too good and too fine a fellow to keep her bound by a promise if he thought it would hurt her to keep it. Her future and Everard’s and mine must lay in her own hands.” And so, doing violence to his feelings and his desires, he had left Starden, and now was back in Hurst Dormer, wandering about, looking at the progress the workmen had made during his absence. He had come home, and though he loved the place, its loneliness weighed heavily on him. The rooms seemed empty. He wanted someone to talk things over with, to discuss this and that. He was not built to be self-centred.
For two days and two nights he bore with Hurst Dormer and its shadows and its solitude, and then he called out the car and motored over to Cornbridge.
“Oh, it’s you,” said her ladyship. “I suppose you got my letter?”
“Yes; I had it sent on to me.”
“It’s a pity you don’t stay at home now and again.”
“Perhaps I shall in future.”
She looked at him. He was unlike himself, careworn and weary, and a little ill.
“Tom is mending rapidly, a wonderful constitution; but it was touch and go. Marjorie was simply wonderful, I’ll do her that credit. Between ourselves, Hugh, I always regarded Marjorie as rather weak, namby-pamby, early Victorian—you know what I mean; but she’s a woman, and it has touched her. She wouldn’t leave him. Honestly, I believe she did more for him than all the doctors.”
“I am sure she did.”
Marjorie was changed; her face was thinner, some of its colour gone. Yet the little she had lost was more than atoned for in the much that she had gained. She held his hand, she looked him frankly in the eyes.
“So it is all right, little girl, all right now?”
She nodded. “It is all right. I am happier than I deserve to be. Oh, Hugh, I have been weak and foolish, wavering and uncertain. I can see it all now, but now at last I know—I do know my own mind.”