How long that look between them lasted, and of all there was in it, she had no clear knowledge; thought after thought, wave after wave of feeling, rushed through her. Revolt and attraction, contempt and admiration, queer sensations of disgust and pleasure, all mingled—as on a May day one may see the hail fall, and the sun suddenly burn through and steam from the grass.
Then he said hoarsely:
“Oh! Babs, you madden me so!”
Smoothing her lips, as if to regain control of them, she answered:
“Yes, I think I have had enough,” and went out into her father’s study.
The sight of Lord and Lady Valleys so intently staring at Miltoun restored hex self-possession.
It struck her as slightly comic, not knowing that the little scene was the outcome of that word. In truth, the contrast between Miltoun and his parents at this moment was almost ludicrous.
Lady Valleys was the first to speak.
“Better comic than romantic. I suppose Barbara may know, considering her contribution to this matter. Your brother is resigning his seat, my dear; his conscience will not permit him to retain it, under certain circumstances that have arisen.”
“Oh!” cried Barbara: “but surely——”
“The matter has been argued, Babs,” Lord Valleys said shortly; “unless you have some better reason to advance than those of ordinary common sense, public spirit, and consideration for one’s family, it will hardly be worth your while to reopen the discussion.”
Barbara looked up at Miltoun, whose face, all but the eyes, was like a mask.
“Oh, Eusty!” she said, “you’re not going to spoil your life like this! Just think how I shall feel.”
Miltoun answered stonily:
“You did what you thought right; as I am doing.”
“Does she want you to?”
“There is, I should imagine,” put in Lord Valleys, “not a solitary creature in the whole world except your brother himself who would wish for this consummation. But with him such a consideration does not weigh!”
“Oh!” sighed Barbara; “think of Granny!”
“I prefer not to think of her,” murmured Lady Valleys.
“She’s so wrapped up in you, Eusty. She always has believed in you intensely.”
Miltoun sighed. And, encouraged by that sound, Barbara went closer.
It was plain enough that, behind his impassivity, a desperate struggle was going on in Miltoun. He spoke at last:
“If I have not already yielded to one who is naturally more to me than anything, when she begged and entreated, it is because I feel this in a way you don’t realize. I apologize for using the word comic just now, I should have said tragic. I’ll enlighten Uncle Dennis, if that will comfort you; but this is not exactly a matter for anyone, except myself.” And, without another look or word, he went out.
As the door closed, Barbara ran towards it; and, with a motion strangely like the wringing of hands, said: