“You did?” and Helen gazed at him with wet, tragic eyes,—“And she ...”
“She bade me be silent. She told me I must not speak—not yet. She said she would give me her answer when we were all together at the Mena House Hotel.”
“You intend to be one of the party there then?” said Helen faintly.
“Of course I do. And so do you, I hope.”
“No, Denzil, I cannot. Don’t ask me. I will stay here with Lady Fulkeward. She is not going, nor are the Chetwynd Lyles. I shall be quite safe with them. I would rather not go to the Mena House,- -I could not bear it ...”
Her voice gave way entirely, and she broke out crying bitterly.
Denzil stood still and regarded her with a kind of sullen shame and remorse.
“What a very sympathetic sister you are!” he observed. “When you see me madly in love with a woman—a perfectly beautiful, adorable woman—you put yourself at once in the way and make out that my marriage with her will be a misery to you. You surely do not expect me to remain single all my life, do you?”
“No, Denzil,” sobbed Helen, “but I had hoped to see you marry some sweet girl of our own land who would be your dear and true companion,—who would be a sister to me,—who ... there! don’t mind me! Be happy in your own way, my dear brother. I have no business to interfere. I can only say that if the Princess Ziska consents to marry you, I will do my best to like her, for your sake.”
“Well, that’s something, at any rate,” said Denzil, with an air of relief. “Don’t cry, Helen, it bothers me. As for the ‘sweet girl’ you have got in view for me, you will permit me to say that ’sweet girls’ are becoming uncommonly scarce in Britain. What with bicycle riders and great rough tomboys generally, with large hands and larger feet, I confess I do not care about them. I like a womanly woman,—a graceful woman,—a fascinating, bewitching woman, and the Princess is all that and more. Surely you consider her beautiful?”
“Very beautiful indeed!” sighed poor Helen.—“Too beautiful!”
“Nonsense! As if any woman can be too beautiful! I am sorry you won’t come to the Mena House. It would be a change for you,—and Gervase is going.”
“Is he better to-day?” inquired Helen timidly.
“Oh, I believe he is quite well again. It was the heat or the scent of the flowers, or something of that sort, that made him faint last night. He is not acclimatized yet, you know. And he said that the Princess’s dancing made him giddy.”
“I don’t wonder at that,” murmured Helen.
“It was marvellous—glorious!” said Denzil dreamily. “It was like nothing else ever seen or imagined!”
“If she were your wife, would you care for her to dance before people?” inquired Helen tremblingly.
Denzil turned upon her in haughty wrath.
“How like a woman that is! To insinuate a nasty suggestion—to imply an innuendo without uttering it! If she were my wife, she would do nothing unbecoming that position.”