“It is a curious history,” she said. “You are right in thinking I should not find it quite easy to understand. We make those—arrangements—so much more for ourselves over here. Perhaps we think them more important than they are.”
“But they are of the highest importance.” He stopped short, confounded.
“I shall try to consecrate my marriage,” he said presently, more to himself than to Advena.
Her thought told him bitterly: “I am afraid it is the only thing you can do with it,” but something else came to her lips.
“I have not congratulated you. I am not sure,” she went on, with astonishing candour, “whether I can. But I wish you happiness with all my heart. Are you happy now?”
He turned his great dark eyes on her. “I am as happy, I dare say, as I have any need to be.”
“But you are happier since your letter came?”
“No,” he said. The simple word fell on her heart, and she forbore.
They went on again in silence until they arrived at a place from which they saw the gleam of the river and the line of the hills beyond. Advena stopped.
“We came here once before together—in the spring. Do you remember?” she asked.
“I remember very well.” She had turned, and he with her. They stood together with darkness about them, through which they could just see each other’s faces.
“It was spring then, and I went back alone. You are still living up that street? Good night, then, please. I wish again—to go back—alone.”
He looked at her for an instant in dumb bewilderment, though her words were simple enough. Then as she made a step away from him he caught her hand.
“Advena,” he faltered, “what has happened to us? This time I cannot let you.”
“Lorne,” said Dora Milburn, in her most animated manner, “who do you think is coming to Elgin? Your London friend, Mr Hesketh! He’s going to stay with the Emmetts, and Mrs Emmett is perfectly distracted; she says he’s accustomed to so much, she doesn’t know how he will put up with their plain way of living. Though what she means by that, with late dinner and afternoon tea every day of her life, is more than I know.”
“Why, that’s splendid!” replied Lorne. “Good old Hesketh! I knew he thought of coming across this fall, but the brute hasn’t written to me. We’ll have to get him over to our place. When he gets tired of the Emmetts’ plain ways he can try ours—they’re plainer. You’ll like Hesketh; he’s a good fellow, and more go-ahead than most of them.”
“I don’t think I should ask him to stay if I were you, Lorne. Your mother will never consent to change her hours for meals. I wouldn’t dream of asking an Englishman to stay if I couldn’t give him late dinner; they think so much of it. It’s the trial of Mother’s life that Father will not submit to it. As a girl she was used to nothing else. Afternoon tea we do have, he can’t prevent that, but Father kicks at anything but one o’clock dinner and meat tea at six, and I suppose he always will.”