When she went into the little drawing-room Audrey was sitting in the deep-cushioned window-seat with a book on her knee; and by the fact that it was open at the index, Barbara judged that she had not been reading too attentively. She showed no signs of agitation at the sight of her visitor, nor any eagerness to hear news of Miltoun. But the girl had not been five minutes in the room before the thought came to her: “Why! She has the same look as Eustace!” She, too, was like an empty tenement; without impatience, discontent, or grief—waiting! Barbara had scarcely realized this with a curious sense of discomposure, when Courtier was announced. Whether there was in this an absolute coincidence or just that amount of calculation which might follow on his part from receipt of a note written from Sea House—saying that Miltoun was well again, that she was coming up and meant to go and thank Mrs. Noel—was not clear, nor were her own sensations; and she drew over her face that armoured look which she perhaps knew Courtier could not bear to see. His face, at all events, was very red when he shook hands. He had come, he told Mrs. Noel, to say good-bye. He was definitely off next week. Fighting had broken out; the revolutionaries were greatly outnumbered. Indeed he ought to have been there long before!
Barbara had gone over to the window; she turned suddenly, and said:
“You were preaching peace two months ago!”
“We are not all perfectly consistent, Lady Barbara. These poor devils have a holy cause.”
Barbara held out her hand to Mrs. Noel.
“You only think their cause holy because they happen to be weak. Good-bye, Mrs. Noel; the world is meant for the strong, isn’t it!”
She intended that to hurt him; and from the tone of his voice, she knew it had.
“Don’t, Lady Barbara; from your mother, yes; not from you!”
“It’s what I believe. Good-bye!” And she went out.
She had told him that she did not want him to go—not yet; and he was going!
But no sooner had she got outside, after that strange outburst, than she bit her lips to keep back an angry, miserable feeling. He had been rude to her, she had been rude to him; that was the way they had said good-bye! Then, as she emerged into the sunlight, she thought: “Oh! well; he doesn’t care, and I’m sure I don’t!”
She heard a voice behind her.
“May I get you a cab?” and at once the sore feeling began to die away; but she did not look round, only smiled, and shook her head, and made a little room for him on the pavement.
But though they walked, they did not at first talk. There was rising within Barbara a tantalizing devil of desire to know the feelings that really lay behind that deferential gravity, to make him show her how much he really cared. She kept her eyes demurely lowered, but she let the glimmer of a smile flicker about her lips; she knew too that her cheeks were glowing, and for that she was not sorry. Was she not to have any—any—was he calmly to go away—without——And she thought: “He shall say something! He shall show me, without that horrible irony of his!”