She clasped her hands tensely on her knees; the knuckles showed white. “Nobody can help.”
“Is it as bad as that?”
“Yes.” She looked away from him. “There is somebody else—not Randy. Somebody that I shouldn’t think about. But I—do——”
She was dry-eyed. But he felt that here was something too deep for tears.
“Does Randy know?”
“Yes. I told him. We have always talked about things——”
“I see,” he sat staring into the fire, “and of course it is Randy that you ought to marry——”
“I don’t want to marry anyone. I shall never marry——”
“Tut-tut, my dear.” He laid his hand over hers. “Do you know what I was thinking, Becky, to-day, as we walked the Boston streets? I was thinking of why those big houses were built, rows upon rows of them, and of the people who lived in them. Those old houses speak of homes, Becky, of people who wanted household gods, and neighborly gatherings, and community interests. They weren’t the kind of people who ran around Europe with a paint box, as I have been doing. They had home-keeping hearts and they built for the future.”
He was very much in earnest. She had, indeed, never seen him so much in earnest.
“It is all very well,” he went on, “to talk of a tent in a desert or a hut on a mountain top, but when we walked across the Common this morning, it seemed to me that if I could really have lived the game we played—that life could have held nothing better in the world for me than that, my dear.”
She tried to withdraw her hand, but he held it. “Let me speak to-night, Becky—and then forever, we’ll forget it. I love you—very much. You don’t love me, and I should thank the stars for that, although I am not sure that I do. I am not a man to deal in—futures. I’ll tell you why some day.” He drew a long breath and went on in a lighter tone: “But you, Becky—you’ve got to find a man whose face you will want to see at the other end of the table—for life. It sounds like a prisoner’s sentence, doesn’t it?”
But he couldn’t carry it off like that, and presently he hid his face against her hands. “Oh, Becky, Becky,” she heard him whisper.
Then there was the Admiral’s step in the hall and Archibald was on his feet, staring in the fire when the little man came in.
“Any letters for Charles to mail?”
The Admiral limped away. Becky stood up. Cope turned from the fire.
“If it doesn’t rain to-morrow, I’ll show America to Olga of Petrograd.”
They smiled at each other, and Becky held out her hand. He bent and kissed it. “I shall sleep well to-night because of—to-morrow.”
But when to-morrow came there was a telephone message for Becky that Major Prime and his wife were in town. They had messages for her from Huntersfield, and from King’s Crest.