“I say, Mrs. Tudor, don’t—don’t!” he urged. “What is the matter? You’re not crying because I wouldn’t do as you asked me? You couldn’t care all that for such a trifle?”
His voice was husky with agitation. He felt guiltily that it was all his fault, and he could have kicked himself for his clumsiness.
She did not answer him, nor did her sobs grow less. It was the pent-up misery of weeks to which she was giving vent, and, having yielded, it was no easy matter to check herself again.
Phil became desperate and knelt down by her side, almost as distressed as she.
“I say,” he pleaded—“I say, Audrey, don’t cry! Tell me what is wrong. Let me help you. Give me a chance, anyhow. I—I’d do anything in the world, you know. Only tell me.”
He drew one of her hands away from her face and held it between his own. She did not resist him. Her need of a comforter just then was very great. Her head was bowed almost against his shoulder and it did not occur to either of them that they were transgressing the most elementary laws of conventionality.
“You can’t help me,” she sobbed at last. “No one can. I’m just lonely and miserable and homesick. I hate this place and everyone in it except—except you—and a few others. I wish I were back in England. I wish I’d never left it. I wish—I wish—I’d never married.”
Her voice came muffled and piteous. It was the cry of a desolate child. And all the deep chivalry in Phil’s soul quivered and thrilled in response. Before he knew it, tender, consoling words had sprung to his lips.
“Don’t cry, dear; don’t cry!” he said. “You’ll feel better about it presently. We all go through it, and it’s beastly, I know, I know. But it won’t last. Nothing does in this chancy world. So what’s the good of fretting?”
She could not tell him. Her trouble was too immense at that moment to bear discussion. But he comforted her. She liked the feel of his hand upon her shoulder; the firm, friendly grasp of his fingers about her own.
“I sometimes think I can’t go on,” she whispered through her tears. “It’s like being in prison, and I want to run away. Only I can’t—I can’t. I’ve got to bear it all my life.”
A slight sound from the open window followed this confidence, and Phil looked up sharply. Audrey had not heard it, and she did not notice his movement.
Her head was still bent; and over it Phil, glaring like a tiger, met the quiet, critical eyes of the girl’s husband.
He rose to his feet the next instant, but he did not utter a word.
As for Tudor, he stood quite motionless, quite inscrutable, for the space of seconds, looking gravely in upon them. Then, to Phil’s unspeakable amazement, he turned deliberately and walked away. There was thick matting on Mrs. Raleigh’s veranda, and his receding footsteps made no sound.