KINGSTON BROOKS, PHILANTHROPIST
“It is my deliberate intention,” Lord Arranmore said, leaning over towards her from his low chair, “to make myself a nuisance to you.” Lady Caroom smiled at him thoughtfully.
“Thank you for the warning,” she said, “but I can take care of myself. I do not feel even obliged to deny myself the pleasure of your society.”
“No, you won’t do that,” he remarked. “You see, so many people bore you, and I don’t.”
“It is true,” she admitted. “You pay me nothing but unspoken compliments, and you devote a considerable amount of ingenuity to conceal the real meaning of everything you say. Now some people might not like that. I adore it.”
“Catherine, will you marry me?”
“Certainly not! I’m much too busy looking after Sybil, and in any case you’ve had your answer, my friend.”
“You will marry me,” he said, deliberately, “in less than two years—perhaps in less than one. Why can’t you make your mind up to it?”
“You know why, Arranmore,” she said, quietly. “If you were the man I remember many years ago, the man I have wasted many hours of my life thinking about, I would not hesitate for a moment. I loved that man, and I have always loved him. But, Arranmore, I cannot recognize him in you. If these terrible things which you have suffered, these follies which you have committed, have withered you up so that there remains no trace of the man I once cared for, do you blame me for refusing you? I will not marry a stranger, Arranmore, and I not only don’t know you, but I am a little afraid of you.”
“Perhaps you are right,” he said, softly. “I believe that the only thing I have carried with me from the beginning, and shall have with me to the end, is my love for you. Nothing else has survived.”
Her eyes filled with tears. She leaned over to him.
“Dear friend,” she said, “listen! At least I will promise you this. If ever I should see the least little impulse or action which seems to me to come from the Philip I once knew, and not Lord Arranmore, anything which will convince me that some part, however slight, of the old has survived, I will come to you.”
“You alone,” he said, “might work such a miracle.”
“Then come and see me often,” she said, with a brilliant smile, “and I will try.”
He moved his chair a little nearer to her.
“You encourage me to hope,” he said. “I remember that one night in the conservatory I was presumptuous enough—to take your hand. History repeats itself, you see, and I claim the prize, for I have fulfilled the condition.”
She drew her hand away firmly, but without undue haste.
“If you are going to be frivolous,” she said, “I will have all the callers shown in. You know very well that that is not what I mean. There must be some unpremeditated action, some impulse which comes from your own heart. Frankly, Arranmore, there are times now when I am afraid of you. You seem to have no heart—to be absolutely devoid of feeling, to be cold and calculating even in your slightest actions. There, now I have told you just what I feel sometimes, and it doesn’t sound nice, does it?”