“You are certainly in love, Courtenay,” said Molly, “but it’s the old love and not a new one. I’m rather glad. I should have hated to have you head-over-heels in love with a pretty woman, even for a short time. You’ll be much happier as it is. And I’m going to put all my feelings in the background, and tell you to go in and win. You’ve got to marry a rich woman, and if she’s nice and will make a good hostess, so much the better for everybody. You’ll be happier in your married life than I shall be in mine, when it comes; you’ll have other interests to absorb you. I shall just have the garden and dairy and nursery and lending library, as like as two peas to all the gardens and dairies and nurseries for hundreds of miles round. You won’t care for your wife enough to be worried every time she has a finger-ache, and you’ll like her well enough to be pleased to meet her sometimes at your own house. I shouldn’t wonder if you were quite happy. She will probably be miserable, but any woman who married you would be.”
There was a short pause; they were both staring at the pheasant cages. Then Molly spoke again, with the swift nervous tone of a general who is hurriedly altering the disposition of his forces for a strategic retreat.
“When you are safely married and honey-mooned and all that sort of thing, and have put your wife through her paces as a political hostess, some time, when the House isn’t sitting, you must come down by yourself, and do a little hunting with us. Will you? It won’t be quite the same as old times, but it will be something to look forward to when I’m reading the endless paragraphs about your fashionable political wedding.”
“You’re looking forward pretty far,” laughed Youghal; “the lady may take your view as to the probable unhappiness of a future shared with me, and I may have to content myself with penurious political bachelorhood. Anyhow, the present is still with us. We dine at Kettner’s to-night, don’t we?”
“Rather,” said Molly, “though it will be more or less a throat-lumpy feast as far as I am concerned. We shall have to drink to the health of the future Mrs. Youghal. By the way, it’s rather characteristic of you that you haven’t told me who she is, and of me that I haven’t asked. And now, like a dear boy, trot away and leave me. I haven’t got to say good-bye to you yet, but I’m going to take a quiet farewell of the Pheasantry. We’ve had some jolly good talks, you and I, sitting on this seat, haven’t we? And I know, as well as I know anything, that this is the last of them. Eight o’clock to-night, as punctually as possible.”
She watched his retreating figure with eyes that grew slowly misty; he had been such a jolly comely boy-friend, and they had had such good times together. The mist deepened on her lashes as she looked round at the familiar rendezvous where they had so often kept tryst since the day when they had first come there together, he a schoolboy and she but lately out of her teens. For the moment she felt herself in the thrall of a very real sorrow.