“Not she-in reason; but the worst of it is, Dolores, that the wretched woman avers that she deceived my father, and had an old rascally tyrant of an Italian husband, who might have been alive when she married.”
Dolores stood still and looked at him with her eyes opened in horror.
“Yes, you may well say Gerald. ’Tis the only name I have a right to if this is true.”
“But you are still yourself,” and she held out her hand.
He did not take it, however, only saying-
“You know what this means?”
“Of course I do, but that does not alter you-yourself in yourself.”
“If you say that, Dolores, it will only alter me to make me-more- more myself.”
She held out her hand again, and this time he did take it and press it, but he started, dropped it, and said-
“It is not fair.”
“Oh yes, it is. I know what it means,” she repeated, “and it makes no difference,” and this time it was she who took his hand.
“It means that unless this marriage is disproved, or the man’s death proved, I am an outcast, dependent on myself, instead of the curled darling the Grinsteads-blessings on them!-have brought me up.”
“I don’t know whether I don’t like you better so,” exclaimed she, looking into his clear eyes and fine open face, full of resolution, not of shame.
“While you say so-” He broke off. “Yes, thus I can bear it better. The estate is almost an oppression to me. The Bohemian nature is in me, I suppose. I had rather carve out life for myself than have the landlord business loaded on my shoulders. Clement and Lance will make the model parson and squire far better than I. ’The Inspector’s Tour’ was a success-between that and the Underwood music there’s no fear but I shall get an independent career.”
“Oh! that is noble! You will be much more than your old self-as you said.”
“The breaking of Cherie’s heart is all that I care about,” said he. “To her I was comfort, almost compensation for those brothers. I don’t know how-” He paused. “We’ll let her alone till all this is over; so, Dolores, not one word to any one.”
“No, no, no!” she exclaimed. “I will-I will be true to you through everything, Gerald; I will wait till you have seen your way, and be proud of you through all.”
“Then I can bear it-I have my incentive,” he said. “First, you see, I must try to rescue my sister. I do not think it will be hard, for the maternal heart seems to be denied to that woman. Then proofs must be sought, and according as they are found or not-”
Loud calls of “Gerald” and “Mr. Underwood” began to resound. He finished-
“Must be the future.”
“Our future,” repeated Dolores.
CHAPTER XX. FRENCH LEAVE
She came, she is gone, we have met,
And meet perhaps never again.-Cowper.