At last he spoke:
“I have made a foolish mistake, it seems. I believed you were free.”
Her lips just moved for the words to pass: “I thought you knew. I never, dreamed you would want to marry me.”
It seemed to her natural that he should be thinking only of himself, but with the subtlest defensive instinct, she put forward her own tragedy:
“I suppose I had got too used to knowing I was dead.”
“Is there no release?”
“None. We have neither of us done wrong; besides with him, marriage is—for ever.”
She had broken his smile, which had been cruel without meaning to be cruel; and with a smile of her own that was cruel too, she said:
“I didn’t know that you believed in release either.”
Then, as though she had stabbed herself in stabbing him, her face quivered.
He looked at her now, conscious at last that she was suffering. And she felt that he was holding himself in with all his might from taking her again into his arms. Seeing this, the warmth crept back to her lips, and a little light into her eyes, which she kept hidden from him. Though she stood so proudly still, some wistful force was coming from her, as from a magnet, and Miltoun’s hands and arms and face twitched as though palsied. This struggle, dumb and pitiful, seemed never to be coming to an end in the little white room, darkened by the thatch of the verandah, and sweet with the scent of pinks and of a wood fire just lighted somewhere out at the back. Then, without a word, he turned and went out. She heard the wicket gate swing to. He was gone.
Lord Denis was fly-fishing—the weather just too bright to allow the little trout of that shallow, never silent stream to embrace with avidity the small enticements which he threw in their direction. Nevertheless he continued to invite them, exploring every nook of their watery pathway with his soft-swishing line. In a rough suit and battered hat adorned with those artificial and other flies, which infest Harris tweed, he crept along among the hazel bushes and thorn-trees, perfectly happy. Like an old spaniel, who has once gloried in the fetching of hares, rabbits, and all manner of fowl, and is now glad if you will but throw a stick for him, so one, who had been a famous fisher before the Lord, who had harried the waters of Scotland and Norway, Florida and Iceland, now pursued trout no bigger than sardines. The glamour of a thousand memories hallowed the hours he thus spent by that brown water. He fished unhasting, religious, like some good Catholic adding one more to the row of beads already told, as though he would fish himself, gravely, without complaint, into the other world. With each fish caught he experienced a solemn satisfaction.