“It is true, my friend,” she answered. “But the American in question was a person of culture and intelligence, and at heart he was no more a democrat than I am. Further, I am an extravagant woman, and he was a millionaire.”
“And you, after his death, without necessity—went to bury yourself in his country.”
“I am jealous of every year of your life which lies hidden from me,” he said slowly.
“Dear me—how uncomfortable!”
“Before you—reappeared,” he said, “I had learnt, yes I had learnt to do without you. I had sealed up the one chapter of my life which had in it anything to do with sentiment. Your coming has altered all that. You have disturbed the focus of my ambitions. Lucille! I have loved you for more than half a lifetime. Isn’t it time I had my reward?”
He took a quick step towards her. In his tone was the ring of mastery, the light in his eyes was compelling. She shrank back, but he seized one of her hands. It lay between his, a cold dead thing.
“What have my politics to do with it?” he asked fiercely. “You are not an Englishwoman. Be content that I shall set you far above these gods of my later life. There is my work to be done, and I shall do it. Let me be judge of these things. Believe me that it is a great work. If you are ambitious—give your ambitions into my keeping, and I will gratify them. Only I cannot bear this suspense-these changing moods. Marry me-now at once, or send me back to the old life.”
She drew her fingers away, and sank down into her easy-chair. Her head was buried in her hands. Was she thinking or weeping? He could not decide. While he hesitated she looked up, and he saw that there was no trace of tears upon her face.
“You are too masterful,” she said gently. “I will not marry you. I will not give myself body and soul to any man. Yet that is what you ask. I am not a girl. My opinions are as dear to me in their way as yours are to you. You want me to close my eyes while you drop sugar plums into my mouth. That is not my idea of life. I think that you had better go away. Let us forget these things.”
“Very well,” he answered. “It shall be as you say.” He did not wait for her to ring, nor did he attempt any sort of farewell. He simply took up his hat, and before she could realise his intention he had left the room. Lucille sat quite still, looking into the fire.
“If only,” she murmured, “if only this were the end.”
Duson entered the sitting-room, noiseless as ever, with pale, passionless face, the absolute prototype of the perfect French servant, to whom any expression of vigorous life seems to savour of presumption. He carried a small silver salver, on which reposed a card.
“The gentleman is in the ante-room, sir,” he announced.