“And why should he not settle here? Are we, a Christian community, unable to devise a way of treating him and his brother that would neither hurt their feelings nor our welfare, that would be equally consonant with our duty to God and our own dignity? Or must he go, because our dignity is such a fragile thing that it would need to be supported by actions that we could not offer to God?”
“You know, my dear, if you will excuse my saying so, I think you are pushing this point a little too far. If it were possible to live up to such a high ideal—”
“I would rather die to-night than think that it was impossible.”
“My dear” (he was manifestly annoyed now), “you really express yourself too strongly.”
“But what use would it be to live?” She was going on but she stopped. What use was it to talk? None.
She let the subject pass and they conversed on other things.
She felt strange loneliness. “Am I, in truth, fantastical?” she sighed, “or, if Heaven is witness to the sober truth of that which I conceive, am I so weak as to need other sympathy?” This was the tenor, not the words, of her thought. Yet all the way home, as they talked and walked through the glowing autumn land, her heart was aching.
The day came on which Bates was to go home. He had had a week’s petulant struggle with his malady since he last passed through the door of Trenholme’s house, but now he had conquered it for the hour, and even his host perceived that it was necessary for him to make his journey before the weather grew colder.
His small belongings packed, his morose good-byes said, Alec Trenholme drove him to the railway station.
Both the brothers knew why it was that, in taking leave of them, Bates hardly seemed to notice that he did so; they knew that, in leaving the place, he was all-engrossed in the thought that he was leaving the girl, Eliza Cameron, for ever; but he seemed to have no thought of saying to her a second farewell.
The stern reserve which Bates had maintained on this subject had so wrought on Alec’s sympathy that he had consulted his brother as to the advisability of himself making some personal appeal to Eliza, and the day before Bates started he had actually gone on this mission. If it was not successful, hardly deserved that it should be; for when he stood in front of the girl, he could not conceal the great dislike he felt for her, nor could he bring himself to plead on behalf of a man who he felt was worth a thousand such as she. He said briefly that Bates was to start for home the next day, and by such a train, and that he had thought it might concern her to know it.
“Did he tell you to tell me?” asked Eliza, without expression.
“No, he didn’t; and what’s more, he never told me how you came here. You think he’s been telling tales about you! You can know now that he never did; he’s not that sort. I saw you at Turrifs, and when I saw you again here I knew you. All I’ve got to say about that is, that I, for one, don’t like that kind of conduct. You’ve half killed Bates, and this winter will finish him off.”