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- Thyrza - 90/122 -
'I can't talk about it! It's very hard to bear. We shall never be what we were to each other, Thyrza. Something's come between us, and it always will be between us. You must take your own way, dear. Yes, I promise, and there's an end of it.'
Thyrza sprang forward.
'What is it you're afraid of?' she pleaded. 'Why do you speak like this? What are you thinking?'
'I think that Mr. Egremont 'll know where you are.'
'Lyddy, he won't know! I give you my solemn word he won't know.'
'Do you write to him? Perhaps you meant that, when you said you hadn't _spoken_ to him?'
'I meant what I said, that I've neither written nor spoken, nor him to me. He won't know where I am; I shall have nothing to do with him in any way. But of course if you refuse to believe me, what's the use of saying it!'
There was a strange intonation in Thyrza's voice as she added these words. She looked and spoke with a certain pride, which Lydia had never before remarked in her. Lydia mused a little, then said:
'I don't doubt the truth of your words, Thyrza. I promise not to tell any one anything about you, and I'll keep my promise. But can't you tell me what you're going to do?'
'I don't really know myself. Mrs. Ormonde took me to her house the day before yesterday, and there was a lady there that I had to sing to. I think she wanted to see what sort of a voice I had. She played a sound on the piano, and asked me to sing the same, if I could. She seemed satisfied, I thought, though she didn't say anything. Then Mrs. Ormonde brought me back in her carriage, but she didn't say anything about the singing. She's very strange in some things, you know.'
Lydia asked presently:
'Then was it Mrs. Ormonde gave you this money?'
And she took the post-office order from her pocket.
'What! you didn't use it?'
'No; I had enough of my own. Please give it back.'
'Oh, Lyddy, how proud you are! You never would take any help from anybody, and yet you went on so about grandad when he made bother. Oh, how is poor grandad?'
'The same as usual, dear.'
'And you go to work every day just the same? My poor Lyddy!'
The contention was over, and the tenderness came back.
'Speak something for me to Gilbert, Lyddy! Say I--what can I say? I do feel for him; I can never forget his goodness as long as I live. Tell him to forget all about me, How wrong I was ever to say that I loved him!'
Then again, in a whisper:
'What about Mr. Ackroyd, dearest?'
'The same. They're not married yet. I dare say they will be soon.'
They spent long hours together by the ebb and flow of the tide. Lydia almost forgot her troubles now and then. As for Thyrza, she seemed to drink ecstasy from the live air.
'It's a good friend to me,' she said several times, looking out upon the grey old deep. 'It's made me well again, Lyddy. I shall always love the sound of it, and the salt taste on my lips!'
'We are going first of all to the Pilkingtons', in Warwickshire,' said Annabel, talking with Mrs. Ormonde at the latter's hotel in the last week of July. 'Mr. Lanyard--the poet, you know--will be there; I am curious to see him. Father remembers him a 'scrubby starveling'--to use his phrase--a reviewer of novels for some literary paper. He has just married Lady Emily Quell--you heard of it? How paltry it is for people to laugh and sneer whenever a poor man marries a rich woman. I know nothing of him except from his poetry, but that convinces me that he is above sordid motives.'
'Then you do still retain some of your idealism, Bell?'
'All that I ever had, I hope. Why? You have feared for me?'
'Yes, I know,' Annabel answered, rather absently, letting her eyes stray. 'Never mind. You had something particular to say to me, Mrs. Ormonde.'
'Yes, I have a good-bye for you from an old acquaintance.'
Annabel's complexion had not borne the season as well as those of women whose whole and sole preoccupation it is to combat Nature in the matter of their personal appearance. Her tint was, as they say, a little fatigued. Fatigued, too, were her eyes, which seemed ever looking for something lost; that gaze she had in sitting by Ullswater with 'Sesame and Lilies' on her lap would not be easily recovered. Her beauty was of rarer quality and infinitely more suggestive than on that day something more than a year ago; to the modern mind nothing is complete that has not an element of morbidity. At Mrs. Ormonde's words she turned with grave interest.
'Where, then, is he going?' she asked, just smiling.
'To a small manufacturing town in Pennsylvania. His firm has just opened works there, and he has it in view to prepare himself for superintending them.'
'You are serious?'
'Quite. I think it was chiefly my persuasion that decided him. I have no doubt that in a year or two he will thank me, though he is not very ardent about it at present.'
'But surely he--No, I think you are right.'
'I have not advised him to become an American,' Mrs. Ormonde continued, smiling, when Annabel abandoned an apparent intention of saying more. 'No doubt he will come to England now and then, and probably, with his disposition, he will some day make his home here again. I hardly expect to see him for some two years.'
'I hope it is right. I think it is.'
Annabel paused a little, then made an unforced transition to other matters. She rose to leave before long. Whilst her hand was in Mrs. Ormonde's, she asked:
'May I know anything more than father told me?'
She had said it with a little difficulty, but without confusion of face.
'What did your father tell you?'
'Only that she is in your care, and that you think her voice can be cultivated, so as to serve her.'
'Yes, I will tell you more than that, dear. He is absolutely without bond as regards her. They have never met since her flight from home, and, more, she has no suspicion that he ever took an interest in her save as Mr. Grail's future wife.'
'She does not know that?'
'She has no idea of it. They have never exchanged a more than friendly word. He believed, when absent from England, that she was already married, and of _his_ movements since then she is wholly ignorant.'
She listened with frank surprise; her face showed nothing more than that.
'But,' she said, hesitatingly, 'I cannot quite understand. He holds himself quite without responsibility? He leaves England without troubling about her future?'
'Not at all. He knows I have her in my care. She being my ward, I have a perfect right to demand that the child's fate shall not be trifled with, that she shall be allowed to grow older and wiser before any one asks her to take an irrevocable step--say for the space of two years. Mr. Egremont grants my right, and I have never yet had real grounds for doubting his honour.'
'I never doubted it, even on seeming grounds,' said Annabel, quietly.
'You are justified, Bell. Well, as you asked me, I thought it better to tell you thus much. He leaves England morally as free as if he had never heard her name.'
'One more question. How do you _know_ that she has no assurance of his--affection?'
'He has himself told me that there has been not a word of that between them. The only other possible source was her sister, who has seen her. I did not see Lydia before the interview, because it was repugnant to me to do so; their love for each other is something very sacred, and a stranger had no right to come between them before they met. But I subsequently saw Lydia in London. She soon spoke to
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