“I didn’t want him!” She spoke with sudden vehemence, as if stung into speech. “I’m not the sort of snob-woman who barters herself for a title!”
“No?” said Wentworth, looking at her curiously. “But what did you barter yourself for, I wonder?”
She flinched, and dropped back into silence.
“Won’t you tell me?” he said.
“No.” She spoke almost under her breath. He relinquished the matter with the air of a man who has gained his point. “Do you know,” he said, in a different tone, “if it hadn’t been for that fiendish trial, I’d have been in the same race with Field, and I believe I’d have made better running, too?”
“Ah!” she said.
It was almost a gasp of pain. He stopped deliberately and looked into her face.
“Violet!” he said.
She trembled at his tone and thrust out a protesting hand. “Ah, what is the use?” she cried. “Do you—do you want to break my heart?”
Her voice failed. For the first time her eyes met his fully.
There followed an interval of overwhelming stillness in which neither of them drew a breath. Then, with an odd sound that might have been a laugh strangled at birth. Burleigh Wentworth gathered her to his heart and held her there.
“No!” he said. “No! I want to make you—the happiest woman in the world!”
“Too late! Too late!” she whispered.
But he stopped the words upon her lips, passionately, irresistibly, with his own.
“You are mine!” he swore, with his eyes on hers. “You are mine! No man on earth shall ever take you from me again!”
Violet was in her room ready dressed for dinner that evening, when there came a knock upon her door. She was seated at a writing-table in a corner scribbling a note, but she covered it up quickly at the sound.
“Come in!” she said.
She rose as her husband entered. He also was ready dressed. He came up to her in his quiet, direct fashion, looking at her with those steady eyes that saw so much and revealed so little.
“I just came in to say,” he said, “that I am sorry to cut your pleasure short, but I find we must return to town to-morrow.”
She started at the information. “To-morrow!” she echoed. “Why?”
“I find it necessary,” he said.
She looked at him. Her heart was beating very fast. “Percival, why?” she said again.
He raised his eyebrows slightly. “It would be rather difficult for me to explain.”
“Do you mean you have to go on business?” she said.
He smiled a little. “Yes, on business.”
She turned to the fire with a shiver. There was something in the atmosphere, although the room was warm, that made her cold from head to foot. With her back to him she spoke again:
“Is there any reason why I should go too?”