In silence, on his side, Sir Patrick drew back a step, with a faint reflection of her dismay in his face. Married—to the villain who had not hesitated to calumniate the woman whom he had ruined, and then to cast her helpless on the world. Married—to the traitor who had not shrunk from betraying Arnold’s trust in him, and desolating Arnold’s home. Married—to the ruffian who would have struck her that morning, if the hands of his own friends had not held him back. And Sir Patrick had never thought of it! Absorbed in the one idea of Blanche’s future, he had never thought of it, till that horror-stricken face looked at him, and said, Think of my future, too!
He came back to her. He took her cold hand once more in his.
“Forgive me,” he said, “for thinking first of Blanche.”
Blanche’s name seemed to rouse her. The life came back to her face; the tender brightness began to shine again in her eyes. He saw that he might venture to speak more plainly still: he went on.
“I see the dreadful sacrifice as you see it. I ask myself, have I any right, has Blanche any right—”
She stopped him by a faint pressure of his hand.
“Yes,” she said, softly, “if Blanche’s happiness depends on it.”
CHAPTER THE FORTY-FIFTH.
A SOLITARY foreigner, drifting about London, drifted toward Fulham on the day of the Foot-Race.
Little by little, he found himself involved in the current of a throng of impetuous English people, all flowing together toward one given point, and all decorated alike with colors of two prevailing hues—pink and yellow. He drifted along with the stream of passengers on the pavement (accompanied by a stream of carriages in the road) until they stopped with one accord at a gate—and paid admission money to a man in office—and poured into a great open space of ground which looked like an uncultivated garden.
Arrived here, the foreign visitor opened his eyes in wonder at the scene revealed to view. He observed thousands of people assembled, composed almost exclusively of the middle and upper classes of society. They were congregated round a vast inclosure; they were elevated on amphitheatrical wooden stands, and they were perched on the roofs of horseless carriages, drawn up in rows. From this congregation there rose such a roar of eager voices as he had never heard yet from any assembled multitude in these islands. Predominating among the cries, he detected one everlasting question. It began with, “Who backs—?” and it ended in the alternate pronouncing of two British names unintelligible to foreign ears. Seeing these extraordinary sights, and hearing these stirring sounds, he applied to a policeman on duty; and said, in his best producible English, “If you please, Sir, what is this?”