“Yes. They wanted to get married. I was opposed to it.”
Leila’s lip curled ever so little. ‘You would be!’ she thought.
“I couldn’t bear to think of Nollie giving herself hastily, like that; they had only known each other three weeks. It was very hard for me, Leila. And then suddenly he was sent to the front.”
Resentment welled up in Leila. The kill-Joys! As if life didn’t kill joy fast enough! Her cousin’s face at that moment was almost abhorrent to her, its gentle perplexed goodness darkened and warped by that monkish look. She turned away, glanced at the clock over the hearth, and thought: ’Yes, and he would stop Jimmy and me! He would say: “Oh, no! dear Leila—you mustn’t love—it’s sin!” How I hate that word!’
“I think the most dreadful thing in life,” she said abruptly, “is the way people suppress their natural instincts; what they suppress in themselves they make other people suppress too, if they can; and that’s the cause of half the misery in this world.”
Then at the surprise on his face at this little outburst, whose cause he could not know, she added hastily: “I hope Noel will get over it quickly, and find someone else.”
“Yes. If they had been married—how much worse it would have been. Thank God, they weren’t!”
“I don’t know. They would have had an hour of bliss. Even an hour of bliss is worth something in these days.”
“To those who only believe in this ’life—perhaps.”
‘Ten minutes more!’ she thought: ‘Oh, why doesn’t he go?’ But at that very moment he got up, and instantly her heart went out to him again.
“I’m so sorry, Edward. If I can help in any way—I’ll try my best with Noel to-morrow; and do come to me whenever you feel inclined.”
She took his hand in hers; afraid that he would sit down again, she yet could not help a soft glance into his eyes, and a little rush of pitying warmth in the pressure of her hand.
Pierson smiled; the smile which always made her sorry for him.
“Good-bye, Leila; you’re very good and kind to me. Good-bye.”
Her bosom swelled with relief and compassion; and—she let him out.
Running upstairs again she thought: ’I’ve just time. What shall I put on? Poor Edward, poor Noel! What colour does Jimmy like? Oh! Why didn’t I keep him those ten years ago—what utter waste!’ And, feverishly adorning herself, she came back to the window, and stood there in the dark to watch, while some jasmine which grew below sent up its scent to her. ‘Would I marry him?’ she thought, ’if he asked me? But he won’t ask me—why should he now? Besides, I couldn’t bear him to feel I wanted position or money from him. I only want love—love—love!’ The silent repetition of that word gave her a wonderful sense of solidity and comfort. So long as she only wanted love, surely he would give it.