from our present position. The breaking of our engagement must be entirely your wish and your act, Sir Percival— not mine."
The uneasy beating of his foot suddenly stopped, and he leaned forward eagerly across the table.
"My act?" he said. "What reason can there be on my side for withdrawing?"
I heard her breath quickening—I felt her hand growing cold. In spite of what she had said to me when we were alone, I began to be afraid of her. I was wrong.
"A reason that it is very hard to tell you," she answered. "There is a change in me, Sir Percival—a change which is serious enough to justify you, to yourself and to me, in breaking off our engagement."
His face turned so pale again that even his lips lost their colour. He raised the arm which lay on the table, turned a little away in his chair, and supported his head on his hand, so that his profile only was presented to us.
"What change?" he asked. The tone in which he put the question jarred on me—there was something painfully suppressed in it.
She sighed heavily, and leaned towards me a little, so as to rest her shoulder against mine. I felt her trembling, and tried to spare her by speaking myself. She stopped me by a warning pressure of her hand, and then addressed Sir Percival one more, but this time without looking at him.
"I have heard," she said, "and I believe it, that the fondest and truest of all affections is the affection which a woman ought to bear to her husband. When our engagement began that affection was mine to give, if I could, and yours to win, if you could. Will you pardon me, and spare me, Sir Percival, if I acknowledge that it is not so any longer?"
A few tears gathered in her eyes, and dropped over her cheeks slowly as she paused and waited for his answer. He did not utter a word. At the beginning of her reply he had moved the hand on which his head rested, so that it hid his face. I saw nothing but the upper part of his figure at the table. Not a muscle of him moved. The fingers of t