“No one will know.”
Miltoun turned away.
“I shall know,” he said; but he saw clearly that she did not understand him. Her face had a strange, brooding, shut-away look, as though he had frightened her. And the thought that she could not understand, angered him.
He said, stubbornly: “No, I can’t remain in public life.”
“But what has it to do with politics? It’s such a little thing.”
“If it had been a little thing to me, should I have left you at Monkland, and spent those five weeks in purgatory before my illness? A little thing!”
She exclaimed with sudden fire:
“Circumstances aye the little thing; it’s love that’s the great thing.”
Miltoun stared at her, for the first time understanding that she had a philosophy as deep and stubborn as his own. But he answered cruelly:
“Well! the great thing has conquered me!”
And then he saw her looking at him, as if, seeing into the recesses of his soul, she had made some ghastly discovery. The look was so mournful, so uncannily intent that he turned away from it.
“Perhaps it is a little thing,” he muttered; “I don’t know. I can’t see my way. I’ve lost my bearings; I must find them again before I can do anything.”
But as if she had not heard, or not taken in the sense of his words, she said again:
“Oh! don’t let us alter anything; I won’t ever want what you can’t give.”
And this stubbornness, when he was doing the very thing that would give him to her utterly, seemed to him unreasonable.
“I’ve had it out with myself,” he said. “Don’t let’s talk about it any more.”
Again, with a sort of dry anguish, she murmured:
“No, no! Let us go on as we are!”
Feeling that he had borne all he could, Miltoun put his hands on her shoulders, and said: “That’s enough!”
Then, in sudden remorse, he lifted her, and clasped her to him.
But she stood inert in his arms, her eyes closed, not returning his kisses.
On the last day before Parliament rose, Lord Valleys, with a light heart, mounted his horse for a gallop in the Row. Though she was a blood mare he rode her with a plain snaffle, having the horsemanship of one who has hunted from the age of seven, and been for twenty years a Colonel of Yeomanry. Greeting affably everyone he knew, he maintained a frank demeanour on all subjects, especially of Government policy, secretly enjoying the surmises and prognostications, so pleasantly wide of the mark, and the way questions and hints perished before his sphinx-like candour. He spoke cheerily too of Miltoun, who was ‘all right again,’ and ‘burning for the fray’ when the House met again in the autumn. And he chaffed Lord Malvezin about his wife. If anything—he said—could make Bertie take an interest