“I have your promise?” he repeated: and she bent her head.
“Not,” he resumed, taking jealousy to counsel, now that he had advanced a step: “Not that I would detain you against your will! I can’t expect to make such a figure at the end of the piece as your Count Branciani—who, by the way, served his friends oddly, however well he may have served his country.”
“His friends?” She frowned.
“Did he not betray the conspirators? He handed in names, now and then.”
“Oh!” she cried, “you understand us no better than an Austrian. He handed in names—yes he was obliged to lull suspicion. Two or three of the least implicated volunteered to be betrayed by him; they went and confessed, and put the Government on a wrong track. Count Branciani made a dish of traitors—not true men—to satisfy the Austrian ogre. No one knew the head of the plot till that night of the spy. Do you not see?—he weeded the conspiracy!”
“Poor fellow!” Wilfrid answered, with a contracted mouth: “I pity him for being cut off from his handsome wife.”
“I pity her for having to live,” said Emilia.
And so their duett dropped to a finish. He liked her phrase better than his own, and being denied any privileges, and feeling stupefied by a position which both enticed and stung him, he remarked that he presumed he must not detain her any longer; whereupon she gave him her hand. He clutched the ready hand reproachfully.
“Good-bye,” said she.
“You are the first to say it,” he complained.
“Will you write to that Austrian colonel, your cousin, to say ’Never! never!’ to-morrow, Wilfrid?”
“While you are in England, I shall stay, be sure of that.”
She bade him give her love to all Brookfield.
“Once you had none to give but what I let you take back for the purpose!” he said. “Farewell! I shall see the harp to-night. It stands in the old place. I will not have it moved or touched till you—”
“Ah! how kind you were, Wilfrid!”
“And how lovely you are!”
There was no struggle to preserve the backs of her fingers from his lips, and, as this time his phrase was not palpably obscured by the one it countered, artistic sentiment permitted him to go.
A minute after his parting with Emilia, Wilfrid swung round in the street and walked back at great strides. “What a fool I was not to see that she was acting indifference!” he cried. “Let me have two seconds with her!” But how that was to be contrived his diplomatic brain refused to say. “And what a stiff, formal fellow I was all the time!” He considered that he had not uttered a sentence in any way pointed to touch her heart. “She must think I am still determined to marry that woman.”
Wilfrid had taken his stand on the opposite side of the street, and beheld a male figure in the dusk, that went up to the house and then stood back scanning the windows. Wounded by his audacious irreverence toward the walls behind which his beloved was sheltered, Wilfrid crossed and stared at the intruder. It proved to be Braintop.