“Desert my post?” Tracy hugged his arms tight together. “Not if I freeze here!”
The doubt in Lady Charlotte’s eyes was transient. She dropped her glass. Visible adieux were being waved between Mr. Pericles and Laura Tinley on the one hand, and Wilfrid and Emilia, on the other. After which, and at a quick pace, manifestly shivering, Mr. Pericles drew Laura into the shadows, and Emilia, clad in the immense bearskin, as with a trailing black barbaric robe, walked toward the oaks. Wilfrid’s head was stooped to a level with Emilia’s, into whose face he was looking obliviously, while the hot words sprang from his lips. They neared the oak, and Emilia slanted her direction, so as to avoid the neighbourhood of the tree. Tracy felt a sudden grasp of his arm. It was momentary, coming simultaneously with a burst of Wilfrid’s voice.
“Do I know what I love, you ask? I love your footprints! Everything you have touched is like fire to me. Emilia! Emilia!”
“Then,” came the clear reply, “you do not love Lady Charlotte?”
“Love her!” he shouted scornfully, and subdued his voice to add: “she has a good heart, and whatever scandal is talked of her and Lord Eltham, she is a well-meaning friend. But, love her! You, you I love!”
“Theatrical business,” Lady Charlotte murmured, and imagined she had expected it when she promised Emilia she would step out into the night air, as possibly she had.
The lady walked straight up to them.
“Well, little one!” she addressed Emilia; “I am glad you have recovered your voice. You play the game of tit-for-tat remarkably well. We will now sheath our battledores. There is my hand.”
The unconquerable aplomb in Lady Charlotte, which Wilfrid always artistically admired, and which always mastered him; the sight of her pale face and courageous eyes; and her choice of the moment to come forward and declare her presence;—all fell upon the furnace of Wilfrid’s heart like a quenching flood. In a stupefaction, he confessed to himself that he could say actually nothing. He could hardly look up.
Emilia turned her eyes from the outstretched hand, to the lady’s face.
“What will it mean?” she said.
“That we are quits, I presume; and that we bear no malice. At any rate, that I relinquish the field. I like a hand that can deal a good stroke. I conceived you to be a mere little romantic person, and correct my mistake. You win the prize, you see.”
“You would have made him an Austrian, and he is now safe from that. I win nothing more,” said Emilia.
When Tracy and Emilia stood alone, he cried out in a rapture of praise, “Now I know what a power you have. You may bid me live or die.”