Rosemary quivered. Ellen could not, or would not, understand. There was no use arguing with her.
“So you won’t release me, Ellen?”
“No, I won’t. And I won’t talk of it again. You promised and you’ve got to keep your word. That’s all. Go to bed. Look at the time! You’re all romantic and worked up. To-morrow you’ll be more sensible. At any rate, don’t let me hear any more of this nonsense. Go.”
Rosemary went without another word, pale and spiritless. Ellen walked stormily about the room for a few minutes, then paused before the chair where St. George had been calmly sleeping through the whole evening. A reluctant smile overspread her dark face. There had been only one time in her life—the time of her mother’s death—when Ellen had not been able to temper tragedy with comedy. Even in that long ago bitterness, when Norman Douglas had, after a fashion, jilted her, she had laughed at herself quite as often as she had cried.
“I expect there’ll be some sulking, St. George. Yes, Saint, I expect we are in for a few unpleasant foggy days. Well, we’ll weather them through, George. We’ve dealt with foolish children before, Saint. Rosemary’ll sulk a while—and then she’ll get over it—and all will be as before, George. She promised—and she’s got to keep her promise. And that’s the last word on the subject I’ll say to you or her or anyone, Saint.”
But Ellen lay savagely awake till morning.
There was no sulking, however. Rosemary was pale and quiet the next day, but beyond that Ellen could detect no difference in her. Certainly, she seemed to bear Ellen no grudge. It was stormy, so no mention was made of going to church. In the afternoon Rosemary shut herself in her room and wrote a note to John Meredith. She could not trust herself to say “no” in person. She felt quite sure that if he suspected she was saying “no” reluctantly he would not take it for an answer, and she could not face pleading or entreaty. She must make him think she cared nothing at all for him and she could do that only by letter. She wrote him the stiffest, coolest little refusal imaginable. It was barely courteous; it certainly left no loophole of hope for the boldest lover—and John Meredith was anything but that. He shrank into himself, hurt and mortified, when he read Rosemary’s letter next day in his dusty study. But under his mortification a dreadful realization presently made itself felt. He had thought he did not love Rosemary as deeply as he had loved Cecilia. Now, when he had lost her, he knew that he did. She was everything to him—everything! And he must put her out of his life completely. Even friendship was impossible now. Life stretched before him in intolerable dreariness. He must go on—there was his work—his children—but the heart had gone out of him. He sat alone all that evening in his dark, cold, comfortless study with his head bowed on his hands. Up on the hill Rosemary had a headache and went early to bed, while Ellen remarked to St. George, purring his disdain of foolish humankind, who did not know that a soft cushion was the only thing that really mattered,