When Dorothy raised her wet eyes from the cushion in which they had been buried, Lady Saxondale was gone.
Philip Quentin stood in the doorway.
In an instant she was on her feet and struggling to suppress the sobs that had been wrung from her by the words of Lady Saxondale.
“Dorothy,” said Quentin, his voice tender and pleading, “you have heard what Lady Saxondale had to say?”
She was now standing at the window, her back to him, her figure straight and defiant, her hands clenched in the desperate effort to regain her composure.
“Yes,” she responded, hoarsely.
“I have not come to ask your pardon for my action, but to implore you to withhold judgment against the others. I alone am to blame; they are as loyal to you as they have been to me. Whatever hatred you may have in your heart, I deserve it. Spare the others a single reproach, for they were won to my cause only after I had convinced them that they were serving you, not me. You are with true friends, the best that man or woman could have. I have not come to make any appeal for myself. There will be time enough for that later on, when you have come to realize what your deliverance means.”
She faced him, slowly, a steady calm in her face, a soft intensity in her voice.
“You need not hope that I shall forgive this outrage—ever—as long as I live. You may have had motives which from your point of view were good and justifiable—but you must not expect me to agree with you. You have done something that no love on earth could obliterate; you have robbed my memory of a sweet confidence, of the one glorious thing that made me look upon you as the best of men—your nobility. I recognize you as the leader in this cowardly conspiracy, but what must I think of these willing tools you plead for? Are they entitled to my respect any more than you? I am in your power. You can and will do with me as you like, but you cannot compel me to alter that over which I have no control—my reason. Oh, how could you do this dreadful thing, Phil?” she cried, suddenly casting the forced reserve to the winds and relapsing into a very undignified appeal. He smiled wearily and met her gaze with one in which no irresolution flickered.
“It was my only way,” he said, at last.