“It is quite over,” she said savagely, springing up, and growing even angrier when she found the rain had really stopped, so that her indignation sounded only like acquiescence. She strode ahead of him, silent, through the wet bracken, her frock growing a limp rag as it brushed aside the glistening ferns.
As she struck the broader path to the house, the cackling laugh of a goat chained to a roadside log followed her cynically. Where had she heard this bleat before? Ah, yes, from the Marquis of Woodham.
Walter Bassett had spoken truly. He did not admire love—that blind force. Women seemed to him delightfully aesthetic objects—to be kept at a distance, however closely one embraced them. They were unreasoning beings at the best, even when unbiassed by that supreme prejudice—love.
It was not his conception of the strong man that he must needs become as water at some woman’s touch and go dancing and babbling like a sylvan brook. Women were the light of life—he was willing enough to admit it, but one must be able to switch the light on and off at will. All these were reasons for not falling in love—they were not reasons for not marrying. And so, Amber being determined to marry him, there was really less difficulty than if it had been necessary for him to fall in love with her.
It took, however, many letters and interviews, full of the subtlest comedy, infinite advancing and retiring, and recrossing and bowing, and courtesying and facing and half-turning, before this leap-year dance could end in the solemn Wedding March.
“You know,” she said once, “how I should love the fun of seeing you plough your way through all the mediocrities.”
“That is the means, not the end,” he reminded her, rebukingly. “One only wants the world to swallow one’s pills for the world’s sake.”
“I don’t believe you,” she said frankly. “Else you’d move mountains to get the money for the pills, not turn up your nose at the mountain when it comes to you.”
He laughed heartily. “What a delightful confusion of metaphors! I’m sure you’ve got Irish blood somewhere.”
“Of course I have. Did I never tell you I am descended from the kings of Ireland?”
He took off his hat mockingly. “I salute Miss Brian Boru.”
“You’re an awfully good fellow,” he told her on a later occasion. “I almost believe I’d take your money if you were not a woman.” “If I were not a woman I should not offer it to you—I should want a career of my own.”
“And my career would content you?” he asked, touched.
“Absolutely,” she lied. “The interest I should take in it—wouldn’t that be sufficient interest on the loan?”
“There is one thing you have taught me,” he said slowly—“how conventional I am! But every prejudice in me shrinks from your proposition, much as I admire your manliness.”