Chloe threw a faltering scorn of him into her voice, as much as her heart’s sharp throbs would allow. ’I question you, sir, how you came to this full knowledge you boast of?’
’I have it; let that suffice. Nay, I will be particular; his coach is ordered for the time I name to you; her maid is already at a station on the road of the flight.’
‘You have their servants in your pay?’
’For the mine—the countermine. We must grub dirt to match deceivers. You, madam, have chosen to be delicate to excess, and have thrown it upon me to be gross, and if you please, abominable, in my means of defending you. It is not too late for you to save the lady, nor too late to bring him to the sense of honour.’
‘I cannot think Colonel Poltermore so dishonourable.’
’Poor Colonel Poltermore! The office he is made to fill is an old one. Are you not ashamed, Chloe?’
‘I have listened too long,’ she replied.
‘Then, if it is your pleasure, depart.’
He made way for her. She passed him. Taking two hurried steps in the gloom of the twilight, she stopped, held at her heart, and painfully turning to him, threw her arms out, and let herself be seized and kissed.
On his asking pardon of her, which his long habit of respect forced him to do in the thick of rapture and repetitions, she said, ’You rob no one.’
‘Oh,’ he cried, ’there is a reward, then, for faithful love. But am I the man I was a minute back? I have you; I embrace you; and I doubt that I am I. Or is it Chloe’s ghost?’
‘She has died and visits you.’
‘And will again?’
Chloe could not speak for languor.
The intensity of the happiness she gave by resting mutely where she was, charmed her senses. But so long had the frost been on them that their awakening to warmth was haunted by speculations on the sweet taste of this reward of faithfulness to him, and the strange taste of her own unfaithfulness to her. And reflecting on the cold act of speculation while strong arm and glowing mouth were pressing her, she thought her senses might really be dead, and she a ghost visiting the good youth for his comfort. So feel ghosts, she thought, and what we call happiness in love is a match between ecstasy and compliance. Another thought flew through her like a mortal shot: ’Not so with those two! with them it will be ecstasy meeting ecstasy; they will take and give happiness in equal portions.’ A pang of jealousy traversed her frame. She made the shrewdness of it help to nerve her fervour in a last strain of him to her bosom, and gently releasing herself, she said, ’No one is robbed. And now, dear friend, promise me that you will not disturb Mr. Beamish.’
‘Chloe,’ said he, ‘have you bribed me?’
‘I do not wish him to be troubled.’
‘The duchess, I have told you—’