“Yes. Leave me to the solitude that is best for me, and to the sorrow that I have deserved. Thank you—and good-by.”
Arnold made no attempt to disguise his disappointment and surprise.
“If I must go, I must,” he said, “But why are you in such a hurry?”
“I don’t want you to call me your wife again before the people of this inn.”
“Is that all? What on earth are you afraid of?”
She was unable fully to realize her own apprehensions. She was doubly unable to express them in words. In her anxiety to produce some reason which might prevail on him to go, she drifted back into that very conversation about Blanche into which she had declined to enter but the moment before.
“I have reasons for being afraid,” she said. “One that I can’t give; and one that I can. Suppose Blanche heard of what you have done? The longer you stay here—the more people you see—the more chance there is that she might hear of it.”
“And what if she did?” asked Arnold, in his own straightforward way. “Do you think she would be angry with me for making myself useful to you?”
“Yes,” rejoined Anne, sharply, “if she was jealous of me.”
Arnold’s unlimited belief in Blanche expressed itself, without the slightest compromise, in two words:
Anxious as she was, miserable as she was, a faint smile flitted over Anne’s face.
“Sir Patrick would tell you, Mr. Brinkworth, that nothing is impossible where women are concerned.” She dropped her momentary lightness of tone, and went on as earnestly as ever. “You can’t put yourself in Blanche’s place—I can. Once more, I beg you to go. I don’t like your coming here, in this way! I don’t like it at all!”
She held out her hand to take leave. At the same moment there was a loud knock at the door of the room.
Anne sank into the chair at her side, and uttered a faint cry of alarm. Arnold, perfectly impenetrable to all sense of his position, asked what there was to frighten her—and answered the knock in the two customary words:
THE knock at the door was repeated—a louder knock than before.
“Are you deaf?” shouted Arnold.
The door opened, little by little, an inch at a time. Mr. Bishopriggs appeared mysteriously, with the cloth for dinner over his arm, and with his second in command behind him, bearing “the furnishing of the table” (as it was called at Craig Fernie) on a tray.
“What the deuce were you waiting for?” asked Arnold. “I told you to come in.”
“And I tauld you,” answered Mr. Bishopriggs, “that I wadna come in without knocking first. Eh, man!” he went on, dismissing his second in command, and laying the cloth with his own venerable hands, “d’ye think I’ve lived in this hottle in blinded eegnorance of hoo young married couples pass the time when they’re left to themselves? Twa knocks at the door—and an unco trouble in opening it, after that—is joost the least ye can do for them! Whar’ do ye think, noo, I’ll set the places for you and your leddy there?”