Waymark was silent.
“Don’t you think,” the other pursued, “it’s about time something was said to her?”
“I can’t see that it matters, and—”
“But I can see. As long as that isn’t known you’re here, to speak plainly, on false pretences.”
“Then I won’t come here at all!”
“Very good,” exclaimed the old man irritably, “so long as you explain to her first.”
Waymark turned away, and stood gazing gloomily at the floor. Abraham regarded him, and a change came over his hard face.
“Now, look here,” he said, “there’s something in all this I can’t make out. Is this engagement a serious one?”
“Serious?” returned the other, with a look of misery. “How can it be otherwise?”
“Very well; in that case you’re bound to let Ida know about it, and at once. Damn it all, don’t you know your own mind?”
Waymark collected himself, and spoke gravely.
“I, of course, understand why you press so for this explanation. You take it for granted that Ida regards me as something more than a friend. If so, my manner since she has been here must have clearly shown her that, on my side, I have not the least thought of offering more than friendship. You yourself will grant so much, I believe. For all that, I don’t deny that our relations have always been unusual; and it would cost me very much to tell her of my engagement. I ask you to relieve me of the painful task, on the understanding that I never come here again. I can’t make you understand my position. You say my behaviour has not been straightforward. In the ordinary sense of the word it has not;— there let it rest. Tell Ida what you will of me, and let me disappear from her world.”
“The plain English of all which,” cried Abraham angrily, “is, that, as far as you are concerned, you would be quite willing to let the girl live on false hopes, just to have the pleasure of her society as long as you care for it”
“Not so, not so at all! I value Ida’s friendship as I value that of no other woman, and I am persuaded that, if I were free with her, I could reconcile her entirely to our connection remaining one of friendship, and nothing more.”
Waymark, in his desperate straits, all but persuaded himself that he told the truth. Mr. Woodstock gazed at him in doubt. He would give him to the end of July to make up his mind; by that time Waymark must either present himself as a free man, or allow Ida to be informed of his position. In the meanwhile he must come to Tottenham not oftener than once a week. To this Waymark agreed, glad of any respite.
He returned to his lodgings in a state of nervous misery. Fortunately, he was not left to his thoughts; in a few minutes a knock at his door announced a visitor in the person of Mr. O’Gree. The Irishman exhibited his wonted liveliness, and at once began to relate an incident to the disadvantage of his archenemy.