She stopped again, and supported herself by resting her hand on the table. The faintness was stealing back on her. She tried to go on again. It was useless—she could only look at him now.
“What do you want?” he asked, in the tone of a man who was putting an unimportant question to a total stranger.
A last gleam of her old energy flickered up in her face, like a dying flame.
“I am broken by what I have gone through,” she said. “Don’t insult me by making me remind you of your promise.”
“For shame, Geoffrey! for shame! Your promise to marry me.”
“You claim my promise after what you have done at the inn?”
She steadied herself against the table with one hand, and put the other hand to her head. Her brain was giddy. The effort to think was too much for her. She said to herself, vacantly, “The inn? What did I do at the inn?”
“I have had a lawyer’s advice, mind! I know what I am talking about.”
She appeared not to have heard him. She repeated the words, “What did I do at the inn?” and gave it up in despair. Holding by the table, she came close to him and laid her hand on his arm.
“Do you refuse to marry me?” she asked.
He saw the vile opportunity, and said the vile words.
“You’re married already to Arnold Brinkworth.”
Without a cry to warn him, without an effort to save herself, she dropped senseless at his feet; as her mother had dropped at his father’s feet in the by-gone time.
He disentangled himself from the folds of her dress. “Done!” he said, looking down at her as she lay on the floor.
As the word fell from his lips he was startled by a sound in the inner part of the house. One of the library doors had not been completely closed. Light footsteps were audible, advancing rapidly across the hall.
He turned and fled, leaving the library, as he had entered it, by the open window at the lower end of the room.
BLANCHE came in, with a glass of wine in her hand, and saw the swooning woman on the floor.
She was alarmed, but not surprised, as she knelt by Anne, and raised her head. Her own previous observation of her friend necessarily prevented her from being at any loss to account for the fainting fit. The inevitable delay in getting the wine was—naturally to her mind—alone to blame for the result which now met her view.
If she had been less ready in thus tracing the effect to the cause, she might have gone to the window to see if any thing had happened, out-of-doors, to frighten Anne—might have seen Geoffrey before he had time to turn the corner of the house—and, making that one discovery, might have altered the whole course of events, not in her coming life only, but in the coming lives of others. So do we shape our own destinies, blindfold. So do we hold our poor little tenure of happiness at the capricious mercy of Chance. It is surely a blessed delusion which persuades us that we are the highest product of the great scheme of creation, and sets us doubting whether other planets are inhabited, because other planets are not surrounded by an atmosphere which we can breathe!