As he spoke a terrific zigzag of fire crossed the windows, and the house shook in the almost immediate crash. Like a child Joyselle threw his arms round Brigit and hid his face against the embroidery on her corsage, holding her tight. It seemed to her an eternity before either of them moved, and when, abruptly, he let her go, and rose, his face had changed.
“Good-bye—I must go—I beg your pardon——”
He stammered piteously, and did not look at her, but stood holding the lapels of his coat as if he was trying to tear them off. Then, without another word, he was gone, out into the storm.
Brigit was not at all surprised when, early the next morning, a note from Joyselle was brought to her.
She had slept very badly, for she seemed to have reached a crisis in her relations with Joyselle; and lying awake in the heat that the storm had but increased, she passed hours in unprofitable forecastings. What would he do, now that he knew? Would he make love to her? Or would he try to hurry on the wedding? Or——
Of course, what he did do proved an utter surprise to her.
“My dear Brigit,” he wrote, “just
a line to say good-bye to you for a time. I am
accepting an offer to do two months’ touring
in the United States (which country I do not like,
but which likes me), and shall come back laden with
dollars with which to buy you a beautiful wedding
present. What shall it be—diamonds?
I hope you will say lace—yards and yards
of exquisite lace of all kinds—it is so
much more poetic than stones. So au revoir,
my dear, and may all happiness be yours.
She sat up in bed and drew a long, uneven breath. She had not counted on the possibility of flight! And she could not bear it.
There had been some talk of his going to America, but he had disliked the idea, and she had not dreamed that he would even seriously consider it. There was not the slightest doubt that his decision was entirely due to the little scene of the evening before. That moment when his nervous horror of the lightning had impelled him to put his arms round her had, she knew, opened his eyes to his own danger. And it was characteristic of the man to act immediately and without hesitation. He would go—it was Saturday, and very probably he would leave by the noon train for Liverpool. It was now eight.
She lay for a long time with her eyes shut, trying to realise what life would be like without him. And then her undisciplined, wayward mind revolted. It was unbearable; therefore she would not bear it. She would not let him go.
Half an hour later she was in a hansom, trying to decide the details relative to her decision. He should not go, but which of the several possible ways should she employ to prevent it?
Before she could decide on anything more than the great fact that, cost what it may, she would not let him go, the hansom drew up at the house, and she was about to get out when the front door opened and Joyselle himself appeared.