“Y-yes. Good Lord! Loyal! Why, of course I am. Why, you didn’t suppose I’d be anything else, did you?”
She opened her pallid lips to speak and could not.
“Loyal!” he repeated indignantly. “There’s no merit in that when a man’s been in love with a girl all his life and didn’t know it until she’d got good and tired of him! You know I’m for you every time, Sylvia; what’s the game in pretending you didn’t know it?”
“No game.... I didn’t—know it.”
“Well, you do now, don’t you?”
Her face was colourless as marble. She said, looking at him: “Suppose the rumour is true?”
His face flamed: “You don’t know what you are saying!” he retorted, horrified.
“Suppose it is true?”
“Sylvia—for Heaven’s sake——”
“Suppose it is true,” she repeated in a dead, even voice; “how loyal would you remain to me then?”
“As loyal as I am now!” he answered angrily, “if you insist on my answering such a silly question——”
“Is that your answer?”
“Are you sure?”
He glared at her; something struck coldly through him, checking breath and pulse, then releasing both till the heavy beating of his heart made speech impossible.
“I thought you were not sure,” she said.
“I am sure!” he broke out. “Good God, Sylvia, what are you doing to me?”
“Destroying your faith in me.”
“You can’t! I love you!”
She gave a little gasp:
“The rumour is true,” she said.
He reeled to his feet; she sat looking up at him, white, silent hands twisted on her lap.
“Now you know,” she managed to say. “Why don’t you go? If you’ve any self-respect, you’ll go. I’ve told you what I am; do you want me to speak more plainly?”
“Yes,” he said between his teeth.
“Very well; what do you wish to know?”
“Only one thing.... Do you—care for him?”
She sat, minute after minute, head bent, thinking, thinking. He never moved a muscle; and at last she lifted her head.
“No,” she said.
“Could you care for—me?”
She made a gesture as though to check him, half rose, fell back, sat swaying a moment, and suddenly tumbled over sideways, lying a white heap on the rug at his feet.
IN SEARCH OF HERSELF
As his train slowed down through the darkness and stopped at the snow-choked station, Duane, carrying suit-case, satchel, and fur coat, swung himself off the icy steps of the smoker and stood for a moment on the platform in the yellow glare of the railway lanterns, looking about him.
Sleigh-bells sounded near—chiming through the still, cold air; he caught sight of two shadowy restive horses, a gaily plumed sleigh, and, at the same moment, the driver leaned sideways from her buffalo-robed seat, calling out to him by name.