“You need not come any further now,” she said to him in a low tone.
“I should see you home,” was his reply, and he held out his arm. Barbara took it.
They walked in silence. Arrived at the back gate of the grove, which gave entrance to the kitchen garden, Wilson went forward. Mr. Carlyle took both Barbara’s hands in his.
“Good-night, Barbara. God bless you.”
She had had time for reflection, and the excitement gone, she saw her outbreak in all its shame and folly. Mr. Carlyle noticed how subdued and white she looked.
“I think I have been mad,” she groaned. “I must have been mad to say what I did. Forget that it was uttered.”
“I told you I would.”
“You will not betray me to—to—your wife?” she panted.
“Thank you. Good-night.”
But he still retained her hands. “In a short time, Barbara, I trust you will find one more worthy to receive your love than I have been.”
“Never!” she impulsively answered. “I do not love and forget so lightly. In the years to come, in my old age, I shall still be nothing but Barbara Hare.”
Mr. Carlyle walked away in a fit of musing. The revelation had given him pain, and possibly a little bit of flattery into the bargain, for he was fond of pretty Barbara. Fond in his way—not hers—not with the sort of fondness he felt for his wife. He asked his conscience whether his manner to her in the past days had been a tinge warmer than we bestow upon a sister, and he decided that it might have been, but he most certainly never cast a suspicion to the mischief it was doing.
“I heartily hope she’ll soon find somebody to her liking and forget me,” was his concluding thought. “As to living and dying Barbara Hare, that’s all moonshine, and sentimental rubbish that girls like to—”
He was passing the very last tree in the park, the nearest to his house, and the interruption came from a dark form standing under it.
“Is it you, my dearest?”
“I came out to meet you. Have you not been very long?”
“I think I have,” he answered, as he drew his wife to his side, and walked on with her.
“We met one of the servants at the second stile, but I went on all the way.”
“You have been intimate with the Hares?”
“Quite so. Cornelia is related to them.”
“Do you think Barbara pretty?”
“Then—intimate as you were—I wonder you never fell in love with her.”
Mr. Carlyle laughed; a very conscious laugh, considering the recent interview.
“Did you, Archibald?”
The words were spoken in a low tone, almost, or he fancied it, a tone of emotion, and he looked at her in amazement. “Did I what, Isabel?”
“You never loved Barbara Hare?”
“Loved her! What is your head running on, Isabel? I never loved but one; and that one I made my own, my cherished wife.”