She went, with faltering step, toward the other room,
Another hand met hers, with a reassuring clasp. “One step more, Rose.
Now then, forward, march, all flags unfurled.”
When she went in, Allison came to meet her with outstretched hands. He had changed subtly, since she saw him last. Had light been poured over him, it would have changed him in much the same way.
“Golden Rose,” he said, taking both her hands in his, “tell me you are glad—say that you wish me joy.”
Her eyes met his clearly. “I do,” she smiled. “There is no one in the world for whom I wish joy more than I do for you.”
“And I say the same,” chimed in Madame, who had closely followed Rose.
“Dear little foster mother,” said Allison, tenderly, putting a strong arm around her. He had not yet released Rose’s hand, nor did he note that it was growing cold. “I owe you everything,” he went on; “even Isabel.”
He kissed her, then, laughing, turned to Rose. “May I?” he asked. Without waiting for an answer, he turned her face to his, and kissed her on the lips.
Cold as ice and shaken to the depths of her soul, Rose stumbled out of the room, murmuring brokenly of a forgotten letter which must be immediately written. Madame lingered for the space of half an hour, talking brightly of everything under the sun, then followed Rose, turning in the doorway as she went out, to say: “Can’t you even thank me for leaving you alone?”
“Bless her,” said Allison, fondly. “What sweet women they are!”
“Yes,” answered Isabel, spitefully, “especially Rose.”
He laughed heartily. “What a little goose you are, sweetheart. Kiss me, dear—dearest.”
“I won’t,” she flashed back, stubbornly, nor would she, until at last, by superior strength, he took his lover’s privilege from lips that refused to yield.
That night he dreamed that, for a single exquisite instant, Isabel had answered him, giving him love for love. Then, strangely enough, Isabel became Rose, in a gown of gold, with golden roses twined in her hair.
THE THIRTIETH OF JUNE
Dinner that night had been rather a silent affair at Kent’s, as well as at Madame Bernard’s. Being absorbed in his own thoughts, Allison did not realise how unsociable he was, nor that the old man across the table from him perceived that they had reached the beginning of the end.
When Allison spoke, it was always of Isabel. Idealised in her lover’s sight, she stood before him as the one “perfect woman, nobly planned,” predestined, through countless ages, to be his mate. Colonel Kent merely agreed with him in monosyllables until Allison became conscious that his father did not wholly share his enthusiasm.
“I wish you knew her, Dad,” he said, regretfully. “You’ll love her when you do.”