Merefleet ignored the qualification. He was bent on something more important than the satisfaction of his own personal honour. “And now,” he said, with deliberate purpose, “I am going to have a private interview with your cousin.”
“You are going to do nothing of the sort,” he said instantly.
Merefleet looked him over gravely.
“Look here, Seton!” he said. “You’re making a fool of yourself. Take a friend’s advice—don’t!”
Seton choked back his anger with a great effort. In spite of this there was a passionate ring in his voice when he spoke that betrayed the exceeding precariousness of his self-control.
“I can’t let you see her,” he said. “She is upset enough already. I have promised her that she shall not be worried.”
“Have you promised her to keep me from speaking to her?” Merefleet grimly enquired.
“No.” Seton spoke reluctantly.
“Then do this,” said Merefleet. “Go to her and ask her if she will see me alone. If she says ‘No,’ I give you my word that I will leave this place and trouble neither of you any further.”
Seton seemed to hesitate, but Merefleet was sure of his acquiescence. After a pause of several seconds he fulfilled his expectations and went.
Merefleet sat down again and waited. Seton returned heavy-footed.
“She will see you,” he said curtly. “You will find her in the billiard-room.”
“Alone?” said Merefleet, rising.
And Merefleet walked away.
He found her sitting in a great arm-chair at one end of the empty billiard-room. She did not rise to meet him. He thought she looked tired out and frightened.
He went to her and stooped over her, taking her hands. She did not resist him, but neither did she welcome. Her lips were quivering painfully.
“What have I done that you should run away from me?” Merefleet asked her very gently.
She shook her head with a helpless gesture.
“Mr. Merefleet,” she whispered, “try—try not to be cross any! I’m afraid I’ve made a big mistake.”
“My dear, we all make them,” Merefleet said with grave kindliness.
“I know,” she faltered. “I know. But mine was a real bad one.”
“Never mind, child!” he said tenderly. “Why should you tell me?”
She threw a swift look into his face. She was trembling violently.
“Big Bear,” she cried with sudden vehemence, “you don’t understand.”
He knelt down beside her and put his arm about her.
“Listen to me, my darling,” he said, and she shrank at the deep thrill in his voice. “To me you are all that is beautiful and good and holy. I do not want to know what lies behind you. I know you have had trouble. But it is over. You may have made mistakes. But they are over, too. Tell me nothing! Leave the past alone! Only give me your present and your future. I shall be quite content.”