“Oh, he can very well afford to wait. If he values my opinion so highly he can give me time to make up my mind.”
“And I’m not responsible,” the general continued, significantly, “for the delay altogether. If you had told me this before—Now, I don’t know whether Stoller is still in town.”
He was not behaving openly with her; but she had not behaved openly with him. She owned that to herself, and she got what comfort she could from his making the affair a question of what Burnamy had done to Stoller rather than of what Burnamy had said to her, and what she had answered him. If she was not perfectly clear as to what she wanted to do, or wished to have happen, there was now time and place in which she could delay and make sure. The accepted theory of such matters is that people know their minds from the beginning, and that they do not change them. But experience seems to contradict this theory, or else people often act contrary to their convictions and impulses. If the statistics were accessible, it might be found that many potential engagements hovered in a doubtful air, and before they touched the earth in actual promise were dissipated by the play of meteorological chances.
When General Triscoe put down his napkin in rising he said that he would step round to Pupp’s and see if Stoller were still there. But on the way he stepped up to Mrs. Adding’s hotel on the hill, and he came back, after an interval which he seemed not to have found long, to report rather casually that Stoller had left Carlsbad the day before. By this time the fact seemed not to concern Agatha herself very vitally.
He asked if the Marches had left any address with her, and she answered that they had not. They were going to spend a few days in Nuremberg, and then push on to Holland for Mr. March’s after-cure. There was no relevance in his question unless it intimated his belief that she was in confidential correspondence with Mrs. March, and she met this by saying that she was going to write her in care of their bankers; she asked whether he wished to send any word.
“No. I understand,” he intimated, “that there is nothing at all in the nature of a—a—an understanding, then, with—”
“Hm!” The general waited a moment. Then he ventured, “Do you care to say—do you wish me to know—how he took it?”
The tears came into the girl’s eyes, but she governed herself to say, “He—he was disappointed.”
“He had no right to be disappointed.”
It was a question, and she answered: “He thought he had. He said—that he wouldn’t—trouble me any more.”
The general did not ask at once, “And you don’t know where he is now—you haven’t heard anything from him since?”
Agatha flashed through her tears, “Papa!”
“Oh! I beg your pardon. I think you told me.”