at the prospect of her marriage, and yet she had contrived to win me over to her side of the question, I neither knew how nor why. I had entered the room, feeling that Sir Percival Glyde had fair reason to complain of the manner in which she was treating him. I left it, secretly hoping that matters might end in her taking him at his word and claiming her release. A man of my age and experience ought to have known better than to vacillate in this unreasonable manner. I can make no excuse for myself; I can only tell the truth, and say—so it was.
The hour for my departure was now drawing near. I sent to Mr. Fairlie to say that I would wait on him to take leave if he liked, but that he must excuse my being rather in a hurry. He sent a message back, written in pencil on a slip of paper: "Kind love and best wishes, dear Gilmore. Hurry of any kind is inexpressibly injurious to me. Pray take care of yourself. Good-bye."
Just before I left I saw Miss Halcombe for a moment alone.
"Have you said all you wanted to Laura?" she asked.
"Yes," I replied. "She is very weak and nervous—I am glad she has you to take care of her."
Miss Halcombe's sharp eyes studied my face attentively.
"You are altering your opinion about Laura," she said. "You are readier to make allowances for her than you were yesterday."
No sensible man ever engages, unprepared, in a fencing match of words with a woman. I only answered—
"Let me know what happens. I will do nothing till I hear from you."
She still looked hard in my face. "I wish it was all over, and well over, Mr. Gilmore—and so do you." With those words she left me.
Sir Percival most politely insisted on seeing me to the carriage door.
"If you are ever in my neighbourhood," he said, "pray don't forget that I am sincerely anxious to improve our acquaintance. The tried and trusted old friend of this family will be always a welcome visitor in any house of mine."
A really irresistible man—courteous, considerate, delightfully free from pride—a gentleman, every inch of him. As I drove away to the station I felt as if I could cheerfully do anything to promote the interests of Sir Percival Glyde—anything in the world, except drawing the marriage settlement of his wife.