And Eliza—she went on past the door to the verandah, and stood in sight of the boarders, who were there, in sight of the open street; but she did not see anyone or anything. She was too common a figure at that door to be much noticed, but if anyone had observed her it would have been seen that she was standing stolidly, not taking part in what was before her, but that her white face, which never coloured prettily like other women’s, bore now a deepening tint, as if some pale torturing flame were lapping about her; there was something on her face that suggested the quivering of flames.
In a few minutes she went back into the bar-room.
“Mr. Hutchins,” she said, and here followed a request, that was almost a command, that he should attend to something needing his oversight in the stable-yard.
Hutchins grumbled, apologised to Bates; but Eliza stood still, and he went. She continued to stand, and her attitude, her forbidding air, the whole atmosphere of her presence, was such that the two men who were on the eve of departure went some minutes before they otherwise would have done, though perhaps they hardly knew why they went.
“Mr. Bates! You’re awfully angry with me, Mr. Bates, I’m afraid.”
He got up out of his chair, in his petty vanity trying to stand before her as if he were a strong man. “Angry!” he echoed, for he did not know what he said.
“Yes, you’re angry; I know by the way you looked at me,” she complained sullenly. “You think I’m not fit to look at, or to speak to, and—”
They stood together in the common bar-room. Except for the gay array of bottles behind the bar the place was perfectly bare, and it was open on all sides. She did not look out of door or windows to see who might be staring at them, but he did. He had it so fixed in his faithful heart that he must not compromise her, that he was in a tremor lest she should betray herself. He leaned on the back of his chair, breathing hard, and striving to appear easy.
“No, but I’m thinking, Sissy—”
“You’re dreadfully ill, Mr. Bates, I’m afraid.”
“No, but I was thinking, Sissy, I must see ye again before I go. I’ve that to say to ye that must be said before I go home.”
“Home!” She repeated the word like the word of a familiar language she had not heard for long. “Are you going home?”
“Where will ye see me?” he urged.
“Anywhere you like,” she said listlessly, and then added with sudden determination, “I’ll come.”
“Hoots!” he said, “where will ye come?”
“Where?” she said, looking at him keenly as if to gauge his strength or weakness. “You’re not fit to be much on your feet.”
“Can you come in the bush at the back of the college? It would be little harm for you to speak to me there. When can ye come?”
“How can ye come of a morning? Your time’s not your own.”