I thought it wiser to tell her the truth. ‘They are engaged.’
‘And Giles knows it, and gives his consent?’
‘Most gladly and willingly.’
‘I wish I could kill them both!’ was the sullen reply; and then, without taking any further notice of me, she sat down on one of the boxes and hid her face in her hands, and when I tried to speak to her she shook her head with a gesture of impatience and despair.
‘The game is played out; I may as well go,’ she muttered; and seeing her in this mood I thought it better to leave her; but I slept uneasily, and often started up in bed fancying I heard something. I remembered her words with horror: the whole scene was like a nightmare to me,—the disordered and desolate room, with the great heavily-corded trunks, the dim light, the wretched woman in her yellow dressing-gown sitting crouched on a box. ‘Can this be love?’ I thought, with a shudder,—’this compound of vanity and selfishness?’ and I felt how different was my feeling for Giles. The barrier might never be broken down between us, I might never be to him more than I was now, but all my life I should love and honour him as the noblest man I knew on God’s earth.
NAP BARKS IN THE STABLE-YARD
I was arranging some flowers that Max had sent us the next morning, and waiting for Gladys to join me, when Mr. Hamilton came in.
‘Where is Gladys?’ he asked, looking round the room; but when he heard that she had not finished dressing, he would not hear of my disturbing her.
‘It is no matter,’ he went on. ’I shall be back before she is in bed. I only wanted to tell her that I have seen Cunliffe. I breakfasted with him this morning. He will be up here presently to see her. He looks ten years younger, Miss Garston.’ And, as I smiled at that, he continued, in rather a constrained voice,—
‘Mr. Tudor breakfasted with us.’
‘Yes, I suppose so,’ I returned carelessly. ’What splendid carnations these are, Mr. Hamilton! You have not any so good at Gladwyn.’
‘Cunliffe must spare me some cuttings,’ he replied, rather absently; then, without looking at me, and in a peculiar voice, ’Is it still a secret, Miss Garston, or may I be allowed to congratulate you?’
I dropped the carnations as though they suddenly scorched me.
‘Why should you congratulate me, Mr. Hamilton?’
‘I thought you considered me a friend,’ he replied, rather nervously. ’But, of course, if it be still a secret, I must beg your pardon for my abruptness.’
‘I don’t know what you mean,’ I said, very crossly, but my cheeks were burning. ’If this be a joke, I must tell you once for all that I dislike this sort of jokes: they are not in good taste’: for I was as angry with him as possible, for who knew what nonsense he had got into his head? He looked at me in quite a bewildered fashion; my anger was evidently incomprehensible to him. We were playing at cross-purposes.