She looked at him quickly. “Yes, dear. Something about yourself?”
“About myself. You say you’re not tired: well, I am. Horribly tired . . .”
In an instant she was all tender anxiety. “Oh, I’ve seen it coming on, Newland! You’ve been so wickedly overworked—”
“Perhaps it’s that. Anyhow, I want to make a break—”
“A break? To give up the law?”
“To go away, at any rate—at once. On a long trip, ever so far off—away from everything—”
He paused, conscious that he had failed in his attempt to speak with the indifference of a man who longs for a change, and is yet too weary to welcome it. Do what he would, the chord of eagerness vibrated. “Away from everything—” he repeated.
“Ever so far? Where, for instance?” she asked.
“Oh, I don’t know. India—or Japan.”
She stood up, and as he sat with bent head, his chin propped on his hands, he felt her warmly and fragrantly hovering over him.
“As far as that? But I’m afraid you can’t, dear . . .” she said in an unsteady voice. “Not unless you’ll take me with you.” And then, as he was silent, she went on, in tones so clear and evenly-pitched that each separate syllable tapped like a little hammer on his brain: “That is, if the doctors will let me go . . . but I’m afraid they won’t. For you see, Newland, I’ve been sure since this morning of something I’ve been so longing and hoping for—”
He looked up at her with a sick stare, and she sank down, all dew and roses, and hid her face against his knee.
“Oh, my dear,” he said, holding her to him while his cold hand stroked her hair.
There was a long pause, which the inner devils filled with strident laughter; then May freed herself from his arms and stood up.
“You didn’t guess—?”
“Yes—I; no. That is, of course I hoped—”
They looked at each other for an instant and again fell silent; then, turning his eyes from hers, he asked abruptly: “Have you told any one else?”
“Only Mamma and your mother.” She paused, and then added hurriedly, the blood flushing up to her forehead: “That is—and Ellen. You know I told you we’d had a long talk one afternoon—and how dear she was to me.”
“Ah—” said Archer, his heart stopping.
He felt that his wife was watching him intently. “Did you mind my telling her first, Newland?”
“Mind? Why should I?” He made a last effort to collect himself. “But that was a fortnight ago, wasn’t it? I thought you said you weren’t sure till today.”
Her colour burned deeper, but she held his gaze. “No; I wasn’t sure then—but I told her I was. And you see I was right!” she exclaimed, her blue eyes wet with victory.
Newland Archer sat at the writing-table in his library in East Thirty-ninth Street.