“I know so well how you are feeling,” he said humbly. “I know how terrible a shock this must seem to you when it comes so near. You are so different from the other women who might do this thing. It is so much harder for you than for them.”
She lifted her head. There was still something of the look of a scared child in her face.
“Don’t imagine me better than I am,” she begged. “I am not really different from any other woman, only it is the first time this sort of thing has ever come into my life.”
“I know. You see,” he went on, a little wistfully, “you have not taken me, as yet, very far into your confidence, Philippa. You know that I love you as a man loves only once. It sounds like an empty phrase to say it, but if you will give me your life to take care of, I shall only have one thought—to make you happy. Could I succeed? That is what you have to ask yourself. You are not happy now. Do you think that, if you stay on here, the future is likely to be any better for you?”
She shook her head drearily.
“I believe,” she confessed, “that I have reached the very limit of my endurance.”
He came a little nearer. His hands rested upon her shoulders very lightly, yet they seemed like some enveloping chain. More than ever in those few moments she realised the spiritual qualities of his face. His eyes were aglow. His voice, a little broken with emotion, was wonderfully tender. He looked at her as though she were some precious and sacred thing.
“I am rich,” he said, “and there are few parts of the world where we could not live. We could find our way to the islands, like your great writer Stevenson in whom you delight so much; islands full of colour, and wonderful birds, and strange blue skies; islands where the peace of the tropics dulls memory, and time heats only in the heart. The world is a great place, Philippa, and there are corners where the sordid crime of this ghastly butchery has scarcely been heard of, where the horror and the taint of it are as though they never existed, where the sun and moon are still unashamed, and the grey monsters ride nowhere upon the sapphire seas.”
“It sounds like a fairy tale,” she murmured, with a half pathetic smile.
“Love always fashions life like a fairy tale,” he replied.
She stood perfectly still.
“You must have my answer now, at this moment?” she asked at last.
“There are yet some hours,” he told her. “I have a very powerful automobile here, and to-night there is a full moon. If we leave here at ten o’clock, we can catch the steamer to-morrow afternoon. Everything has been made very easy for me. And fortune, too, is with us—your vindictive commandant, Captain Griffiths, is in London. You see, you have the whole afternoon for thought. I want you only for your happiness. At ten o’clock I shall come here. If you are coming with me, you must be ready then. You understand?”