BROOKS HEARS THE NEWS
Unchanged! Her first eager glance into his face told her that. Waxen white, his lips smiled their courteous greeting upon her, his tone was measured and cold as ever. She set her teeth as she rose from her seat, and gathered her skirts in her hand.
“You, too, a pilgrim?” she exclaimed. “I thought you preferred salt water.”
“We had a pleasant fortnight’s yachting,” he answered. “Then I went with Hennibul to Wiesbaden, and I came on here to see you.
“Have you met Sybil and Atherstone?” she asked him.
“Yes,” he answered, gravely.
“Come into my room,” she said, “and I will give you some tea. These young people are sure to have it on the terrace. I will join you when I have got rid of some of this dust.”
He was alone for ten minutes. At the end of that time she came out through the folding-doors with the old smile upon her lips and the old lithesomeness in her movements. He rose and watched her until she had settled down in her low chair.
“So Sybil is going to marry Atherstone!”
“Yes. He really deserves it, doesn’t he? He is a very nice boy.”
Arranmore shrugged his shoulders.
“What an everlasting fool Brooks is,” he said, in a low tone.
“He keeps his word,” she answered. “It is a family trait with you, Arranmore. You are all stubborn, all self-willed, self-centred, selfish!”
“You can’t deny it.”
I won’t try. I suppose it is true. Besides, I want to keep you in a good humour.”
“Do tell me why!”
“If Sybil is going to be married you can’t live alone.”
“I won’t admit that, but what about it? Do you know of a nice respectable companion?”
She shook her head.
“You may be nice,” she answered, “but you certainly aren’t respectable.”
“I am what you make me,” he answered, in a low tone. “Catherine! A moment ago you accused me of stubbornness. What about yourself?”
“Yes, you. You have been the one woman of my life. You are free, you know that there is no other man who could make you happy as I could, yet you will not come to me—for the sake of an idea. If I am heartless and callous, an infidel, an egotist, whatever you choose, at least I love you. You need never fear me. You would always be safe.”
She shook her head.
“Arranmore,” she said, “this is so painful to me. Do let us cease to discuss it. I have tried so hard to make you understand how I feel. I cannot alter. It is impossible!”
“You tempt me,” he cried, “to play the hypocrite.”
“No, I do not, Arranmore,” she answered, gently, “for there is no acting in this world which would deceive me.”
“You do not doubt that I should make you a good husband?”