228 A Mentcd Struggle
minutes—"you mu.st try to trust me a little more than
you do, and bear with me at times."
" I trust you entirely ! " he says fervently; " be sure of
that." All his coldness has vanished with her first kind
word. His hand closes upon hers. " Only try—try to
love me. And now good-night."
He drav.'s her gently towards him, and looks Into her
face; not into her eyes—they are veiled from him.
" ^lay I ? " he asks tremulously.
No refusal comes through her parted lips, and so he
kisses her. It is a -warm, a loving embrace, but it gains no
return, and no soft, fond blush rises to dye her cheeks
and mark the tender act. No happy tremor seizes her;
no gentle girlish agitation fills her breast. Like a marble
statue she stands to receive and endure the caress, going
through her part mechanically, and accepting it as a
portion of the ^vretc•hed task she has undertaken to
perform, feeling numbed and chilled and- lifeless tho
• • • • •
When he Is gone, she moves .slowly aw.ay from the fire,
and goes upstairs again to the room where she had last
seen her father and mother. They are still there : Sir
Hugh standing at the window, gazing out hopelessly at
the mournful darkness; Lady Olivia sitting before the
fireplace, as though in the act of warming herself. But
the fire has gone out long ago without her knowing it,
so deeply is she immersed in saddest thought, and nothing
now remains but the grey, half-warm cinders.
Everything looks cold, cheerless, comfortless. The traces
of tears are still lying upon her mother's cheeks, and even
as Imogen watches her a heavy drop falls with a sullen
sound into her lap.
"Mamma, be comforted!" cries Imogen, starting sud¬
denly forward from wdiere she has been standing unnoticed
in the shadow of the doorv/ay. " I have done what you
wished me to do : I have kept my promise. In a few days
tho money you want will be yours."