She turned to Geoffrey, and pointed to the back of the summer-house.
“It’s my turn to play,” she said. “And Blanche is coming here to look for me. Wait there, and I’ll stop her on the steps.”
She went out at once. It was a critical moment. Discovery, which meant moral-ruin to the woman, meant money-ruin to the man. Geoffrey had not exaggerated his position with his father. Lord Holchester had twice paid his debts, and had declined to see him since. One more outrage on his father’s rigid sense of propriety, and he would be left out of the will as well as kept out of the house. He looked for a means of retreat, in case there was no escaping unperceived by the front entrance. A door—intended for the use of servants, when picnics and gipsy tea-parties were given in the summer-house—had been made in the back wall. It opened outward, and it was locked. With his strength it was easy to remove that obstacle. He put his shoulder to the door. At the moment when he burst it open he felt a hand on his arm. Anne was behind him, alone.
“You may want it before long,” she said, observing the open door, without expressing any surprise, “You don’t want it now. Another person will play for me—I have told Blanche I am not well. Sit down. I have secured a respite of five minutes, and I must make the most of it. In that time, or less, Lady Lundie’s suspicions will bring her here—to see how I am. For the present, shut the door.”
She seated herself, and pointed to a second chair. He took it—with his eye on the closed door.
“Come to the point!” he said, impatiently. “What is it?”
“You can marry me privately to-day,” she answered. “Lis ten—and I will tell you how!”
SHE took his hand, and began with all the art of persuasion that she possessed.
“One question, Geoffrey, before I say what I want to say. Lady Lundie has invited you to stay at Windygates. Do you accept her invitation? or do you go back to your brother’s in the evening?”
“I can’t go back in the evening—they’ve put a visitor into my room. I’m obliged to stay here. My brother has done it on purpose. Julius helps me when I’m hard up—and bullies me afterward. He has sent me here, on duty for the family. Somebody must be civil to Lady Lundie—and I’m the sacrifice.”
She took him up at his last word. “Don’t make the sacrifice,” she said. “Apologize to Lady Lundie, and say you are obliged to go back.”
“Because we must both leave this place to-day.”
There was a double objection to that. If he left Lady Lundie’s, he would fail to establish a future pecuniary claim on his brother’s indulgence. And if he left with Anne, the eyes of the world would see them, and the whispers of the world might come to his father’s ears.