Arthur though himself very strong to do so much, but when he arose to ring for the servant who was to take this note to Collingwood, his courage all forsook him. Why need he cast her off entirely? Why throw away the only chance for happiness there was left for him? ’Twas Arthur’s weaker manhood which spoke, and he listened, for Edith Hastings was in the scale, a mighty, overwhelming weight. She might come just once more, he said, and his heart swelled within his throat as he thought of being alone with her, no jealous Richard hovering near, like a dark, brooding cloud, his blind eyes shielding her from harm even more than they could have done had they been imbued with sight. The next time she came, the restraint would be removed. She would be alone, and the hot blood poured swiftly through his veins as he thought how for one brief moment he would be happy. He would wind his arm around that girlish waist, where no other manly arm save that of Richard had ever been; he would hug her to his bosom, where no other head than hers could ever lie; he would imprint one burning kiss upon her lips; would tell her how dear she was to him; and then—his brain reeled and grew dizzy as he thought that then he must bid her leave him forever, for an interview like that must not he repeated. But for once, just once, he would taste of the forbidden fruit, and so the good angel Arthur St. Claire wept over the wayward man and then flew sadly away, leaving him to revel in anticipations of what the next Friday would bring him.
It was just beginning to be light when Edith opened her eyes, and lifting up her head, looked about the room to see if Lulu had been in to make her fire. She always awoke earlier on lesson day, so as to have a good long time to think, and now as she counted the hours, one, two, three and a half, which must intervene before she saw Arthur St. Claire again, she hid her blushing face in the pillow, as if ashamed to let the gray daylight see just how happy she was. These lessons had become the most important incidents in her life, and this morning there was good cause why she should anticipate the interview. She believed Richard was not going, and though she was of course very sorry to leave him behind, she tried hard to be reconciled, succeeding so well that when at 8 o’clock she descended to the breakfast room, Victor asked what made her look so unusually bright and happy.
“I don’t know,” she replied, “unless it is because we are going to ride,” and she glanced inquiringly at Richard, seating himself at the table.
Victor shrugged his shoulders. He knew more than Edith thought he did, and waited like herself for Richard’s answer. Richard had intended to remain at home, but it seemed that Edith expected him to go, by her saying we, and rather than disappoint her he began to think seriously of martyring himself again. Something like this he said, adding that he found it vastly tedious, but was willing to endure it for Edith’s sake.