He began to laugh again. “Oh no, Alice! Don’t do that! I couldn’t stand it. I want some little chance at the renunciations myself.”
She withdrew still further from his side, and said, with a cold anger, “It’s that detestable Mrs. Brinkley.”
“Mrs. Brinkley!” shouted Dan.
“Yes; with her pessimism. I have heard her talk. She influences you. Nothing is sacred to her. It was she who took up with those army women that night.”
“Well, Alice, I must say you can give things as ugly names as the next one. I haven’t seen Mrs. Brinkley the whole winter, except in your company. But she has more sense than all the other women I know.”
“Oh, thank you!”
“You know I don’t mean you,” he pushed on. “And she isn’t a pessimist. She’s very kindhearted, and that night she was very polite and good to those army women, as you call them, when you had refused to say a word or do anything for them.”
“I knew it had been rankling in your mind all along,” said the girl “I expected it to coma out sooner or later. And you talk about renunciation! You never forget nor forgive the slightest thing. But I don’t ask your forgiveness.”
“No. You are as hard as iron. You have that pleasant outside manner that makes people think you’re very gentle and yielding, but all the time you’re like adamant. I would rather die than ask your forgiveness for anything, and you’d rather let me than give it.”
“Well, then, I ask your forgiveness, Alice, and I’m sure you won’t let me die without it.”
They regarded each other a moment. Then the tenderness gushed up in their hearts, a passionate tide, and swept them into each other’s arms.
“O Dan,” she cried, “how sweet you are! how good! how lovely! Oh, how wonderful it is! I wanted to hate you, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t do anything but love you. Yes, now I understand what love is, and how it can do everything, and last for ever.”
Mavering came to lunch the next day, and had a word with Mrs. Pasmer before Alice came in. Mr. Pasmer usually lunched at the club.
“We don’t see much of Mrs. Saintsbury nowadays,” he suggested.
“No; it’s a great way to Cambridge,” said Mrs. Pasmer, stifling, in a little sigh of apparent regret for the separation, the curiosity she felt as to Dan’s motive in mentioning Mrs. Saintsbury. She was very patient with him when he went on.
“Yes, it is a great way. And a strange thing about it is that when you’re living here it’s a good deal further from Boston to Cambridge than it is from Cambridge to Boston.”
“Yes,” said Mrs. Pasmer; “every one notices that.”
Dan sat absently silent for a time before he said, “Yes, I guess I must go out and see Mrs. Saintsbury.”
“Yes, you ought. She’s very fond of you. You and Alice ought both to go.”