“It’s a beastly day,” remarked Nevill. “I shouldn’t like to live by the river in winter. You need cheering up. What do you say to a box at the Savoy to-night? There is plenty of time to arrange—”
“I don’t care to go, thank you,” was the indifferent reply.
The girl drew her furs closer about her throat, and watched a grimy barge that was creeping up stream. She had become resigned to seeing a good deal of Victor Nevill lately, but her treatment of him was little altered. She knew his real name now, and that he was the heir of Sir Lucius Chesney. She had accepted his excuses—listened to him with resentment and indignation when he explained that he had assumed the name of Royle because he wanted to win her for himself alone, and not for the sake of his prospects. She realized whither she was trending, but she felt powerless to resist her fate.
They paused a short distance beyond the Black Bull, where the quay jutted out a little like a pier. It was guarded by a railing, and Madge leaned on this and looked down at the black, incoming tide lapping below her. No other person was in sight, and the white mist seemed suddenly to close around the couple. The paddles of a receding steamer churned and splashed monotonously. From Kew Bridge floated a faint murmur of rumbling traffic. It was four o’clock, and the sun was hidden.
“You are shivering,” said Nevill.
“It is very cold. Will you take me home, please?”
As she spoke, the girl turned toward him, and he moved impulsively nearer.
“I will take you home,” he said; “but first I want to ask you a question—you must hear me. Madge, are you utterly heartless? Twice, when I told you of my love, you rejected it. But I persevered—I did not lose hope. And now I ask you again, for the third time, will you be my wife? Do I not deserve my reward?”
The girl did not answer. Her eyes were downcast, and one little foot tapped the flagstone nervously.
“I love you with all my heart, Madge,” he went on, with deep and sincere passion in his voice. “You cannot doubt that, whatever you may think of me. You are the best and sweetest of women—the only one in the world for me. I will make your life happy. You shall want for nothing.”
“Mr. Nevill, you know that I do not love you.”
“But you will learn to in time.”
“I fear not. No, I am sure of it.”
“I will take the risk. I will hope that love will come.”
“And you would marry me, knowing that I do not care for you in that way?”
“Yes, gladly. I cannot live without you. Say yes, Madge, and make me the happiest of men.”
“I suppose I must,” she replied. She did not look him in the face. “My father wishes it, and has urged me to consent. It will please him.”
“Then you will be my wife, Madge?”
“Some day, if you still desire it.”