“And do I not act a lie?” she cried fiercely. “Is not my whole marriage a lie? I despise myself for my weakness in yielding, and yet, God help me, what else could I do when Garvington’s fair fame was in question? Think of the disgrace, had he been prosecuted by Hubert. And Hubert knows that you and I loved; that I could not give him the love he desired. He was content to accept me on those terms. I don’t say he was right; but am I right, are you right, is Garvington right? Is any one of us right? Not one, not one. The whole thing is horrible, but I make the best of it, since I did what I did do, openly and for a serious purpose of which the world knows nothing. Do your part, Noel, and come to The Manor, if only to show that you no longer care for me. You understand”—she clasped her hands in agony. “You surely understand.”
“Yes,” said Lambert in a low voice, and suddenly looked years older. “I understand at last, Agnes. You shall no longer bear the burden alone. I shall be a loyal friend to you, my dear,” and he took her hand.
“Will you be a loyal friend to my husband?” she asked, withdrawing it.
“Yes,” said Lambert, and he bit his lip. “God helping me, I will.”
The man and the woman.
The interview between Lady Agnes and Lambert could scarcely be called a love-scene, since it was dominated by a stern sense of duty. Chaldea, lying at length amongst the crushed and fragrant flowers, herself in her parti-colored attire scarcely distinguishable from the rainbow blossoms, was puzzled by the way in which the two reined in their obvious passions. To her simple, barbaric nature, the situation appeared impossible. If he loved her and she loved him, why did they not run away to enjoy life together? The husband who had paid money for the wife did not count, nor did the brother, who had sold his sister to hide his criminal folly. That Lady Agnes should have traded herself to save Garvington from a well-deserved punishment, seemed inexcusable to the gypsy. If he had been the man she loved, then indeed might she have acted rightly. But having thrown over that very man in this silly fashion, for the sake of what did not appear to be worth the sacrifice, Chaldea felt that Agnes did not deserve Lambert, and she then and there determined that the Gentile lady should never possess him.
Of course, on the face of it, there was no question of possession. The man being weaker than the woman would have been only too glad to elope, and thus cut the Gordian knot of the unhappy situation. But the woman, having acted from a high sense of duty, which Chaldea could not rise to, evidently was determined to continue to be a martyr. The question was, could she keep up that pose in the face of the undeniable fact that she loved her cousin? The listening girl thought not. Sooner or later the artificial