There was something passionately positive in the tone in which she gave him this advice, and he saw a shining candour in her eyes that helped him to believe her. On the whole he felt reassured, and you might have perceived it by the manner in which he said, quite eagerly: "You want simply to travel for two years? I'm quite willing to wait two years, and you may do what you like in the interval. If that's all you want, pray say so. I don't want you to be conventional; do I strike you as conventional myself? Do you want to improve your mind? Your mind's quite good enough for me; but if it interests you to wander about a while and see different countries I shall be delighted to help you in any way in my power."
"You're very generous; that's nothing new to me. The best way to help me will be to put as many hundred miles of sea between us as possible."
"One would think you were going to commit some atrocity!" said Caspar Goodwood.
"Perhaps I am. I wish to be free even to do that if the fancy takes me."
"Well then," he said slowly, "I'll go home." And he put out his hand, trying to look contented and confident.
Isabel's confidence in him, however, was greater than any he could feel in her. Not that he thought her capable of committing an atrocity; but, turn it over as he would, there was something ominous in the way she reserved her option. As she took his hand she felt a great respect for him; she knew how much he cared for her and she thought him magnanimous. They stood so for a moment, looking at each other, united by a hand-clasp which was not merely passive on her side. "That's right," she said very kindly, almost tenderly. "You'll lose nothing by being a reasonable man."
"But I'll come back, wherever you are, two years hence," he returned with characteristic grimness.
We have seen that our young lady was inconsequent, and at this she suddenly changed her note. "Ah, remember, I promise nothing — absolutely nothing!" Then more softly, as if to help him to leave her: "And remember too that I shall not be an easy victim!"
"You'll get very sick of your independence."
"Perhaps I shall; it's even very probable. When that day comes I shall be very glad to see you."
She had laid her hand on the knob of the door that led into her room, and she waited a moment to see whether her visitor would not take his departure. But he appeared unable to move; there was still an immense unwillingness in his attitude and a sore remonstrance in his eyes. "I must leave you now," said Isabel; and she opened the door and passed into the other room.
This apartment was dark, but the darkness was tempered by a vague radiance sent up through the window from the court of the hotel, and Isabel could make out the masses of the furniture, the dim shining of the mirror and the looming of the big four-posted bed. She stood still a moment, listening, and at last she heard Caspar Goodwood walk out of the sitting-room and close the door behind him. She stood still a little longer, and then, by an irresistible impulse, dropped on her knees before her bed and hid her face in her arms.