With Miltoun’s trouble he had the professional sympathy of a brother and the natural intolerance of a confirmed bachelor. Women were to him very kittle-cattle. He distrusted from the bottom of his soul those who had such manifest power to draw things from you. He was one of those men in whom some day a woman might awaken a really fine affection; but who, until that time, would maintain the perfectly male attitude to the entire sex, and, after it, to all the sex but one. Women were, like Life itself, creatures to be watched, carefully used, and kept duly subservient. The only allusion therefore that he made to Miltoun’s trouble was very sudden.
“Old man, I hope you’re going to cut your losses.”
The words were followed by undisturbed silence: But passing Mrs. Noel’s cottage Miltoun said:
“Take my horse on; I want to go in here."....
She was sitting at her piano with her hands idle, looking at a line of music.... She had been sitting thus for many minutes, but had not yet taken in the notes.
When Miltoun’s shadow blotted the light by which she was seeing so little, she gave a slight start, and got up. But she neither went towards him, nor spoke. And he, without a word, came in and stood by the hearth, looking down at the empty grate. A tortoise-shell cat which had been watching swallows, disturbed by his entrance, withdrew from the window beneath a chair.
This silence, in which the question of their future lives was to be decided, seemed to both interminable; yet, neither could end it.
At last, touching his sleeve, she said: “You’re wet!”
Miltoun shivered at that timid sign of possession. And they again stood in silence broken only by the sound of the cat licking its paws.
But her faculty for dumbness was stronger than his, and—he had to speak first.