Then he stopped short. It was Cicely.
JOAN STRONG FINDS HER BROTHER
Douglas threw away his cigar and held out both his hands. The trouble passed from Cicely’s face. His tone was full of pleasure and his eyes were radiant.
“What fortune, Cissy,” he cried. “You were the last person in my thoughts. Thank God that I have found you again.”
“You are sure you wanted to see me?” she asked, with some timidity.
“Absolutely,” he answered.
“I was foolish to run away—that evening.”
“It was too bad of you—and to keep away.”
“I think that your visitor frightened me, Douglas.”
“Then you need have no more fears,” he said. “She has gone abroad.”
“Do you have many—ladies to see you?” she asked.
“She has never been before or since,” he answered.
“I was foolish,” she said. “I will ask no more questions.”
They had reached the railings, and he pointed downwards to the gardens below.
“There is an empty seat,” he said. “Shall we go there and sit down?”
“Anywhere. Joan is out. I need not go home for an hour.”
“Still,” he asked, with a grim smile, “searching?”
Cicely did not smile. It was the tragedy of her life to see her sister, once devoted purely to domestic interests, quick-tongued, cleanly, severe, calvinistic, spend fruitless hours day by day seeking a futile vengeance. Joan she had always thought of as a typical farmer’s housewife—severe with her tongue perhaps, shrewd, and a trifle of a scold. But this woman who walked the streets of London in her solemn black clothes, pale-faced, untiring, ever with that same glitter in her eyes, was a revelation. She turned to Douglas suddenly.
“Douglas,” she said, “did Joan care for you very much?”
“I should not have said so,” he answered. “She was willing to marry me when your father ordered it. You know what our engagement was like. We were called into the parlour the Sunday morning before I—I—you remember my trial Sunday at Feldwick?
“Well, he just turned to Joan and said, ’Joan, it is my will that you marry Douglas.’ She was evidently prepared, for she held out her hand to me.
“‘I am willing, Douglas,’ she said. That was all. As for me, I was certainly weak, but for the life of me I could think of nothing to say. Then the chapel bell began to ring, and we were hurried away, and your father solemnly announced our engagement as the people came together. There was not any lovemaking, if that is what you mean.”
“Yet, I think,” she said, “that Joan must have cared. I sometimes think that it is not the man whom she believes to have killed Father, for whom she seeks—it is for the man who slighted her.”