No sound of her any more! Gone! It was unbearable; and, seizing his hat, he ran out. Which way? At random he ran towards the Square. There she was, over by the railings; languidly, irresolutely moving towards home.
But now that she was within reach, he wavered; he had given his word—was he going to break it? Then she turned, and saw him; and he could not go back. In the biting easterly wind her face looked small, and pinched, and cold, but her eyes only the larger, the more full of witchery, as if beseeching him not to be angry, not to send her away.
“I had to come; I got frightened. Why did you write such a tiny little note?”
He tried to make his voice sound quiet and ordinary.
“You must be brave, Nell. I have had to tell her.”
She clutched at his arm; then drew herself up, and said in her clear, clipped voice:
“Oh! I suppose she hates me, then!”
“She is terribly unhappy.”
They walked a minute, that might have been an hour, without a word; not round the Square, as he had walked with Oliver, but away from the house. At last she said in a half-choked voice: “I only want a little bit of you.”
And he answered dully: “In love, there are no little bits—no standing still.”
Then, suddenly, he felt her hand in his, the fingers lacing, twining restlessly amongst his own; and again the half-choked voice said:
“But you will let me see you sometimes! You must!”
Hardest of all to stand against was this pathetic, clinging, frightened child. And, not knowing very clearly what he said, he murmured:
“Yes—yes; it’ll be all right. Be brave—you must be brave, Nell. It’ll all come right.”
But she only answered:
“No, no! I’m not brave. I shall do something.”