Caspar Goodwood, during this speech, had kept his eyes fixed upon the name of his hatter, and it was not until some time after she had ceased speaking that he raised them. When he did so the sight of a rosy, lovely eagerness in Isabel's face threw some confusion into his attempt to analyse her words. "I'll go home — I'll go to-morrow — I'll leave you alone," he brought out at last. "Only," he heavily said, "I hate to lose sight of you!"
"Never fear. I shall do no harm."
"You'll marry some one else, as sure as I sit here," Caspar Goodwood declared.
"Do you think that a generous charge?"
"Why not? Plenty of men will try to make you."
"I told you just now that I don't wish to marry and that I almost certainly never shall."
"I know you did, and I like your 'almost certainly'! I put no faith in what you say."
"Thank you very much. Do you accuse me of lying to shake you off? You say very delicate things."
"Why should I not say that? You've given me no pledge of anything at all."
"No, that's all that would be wanting!"
"You may perhaps even believe you're safe — from wishing to be. But you're not," the young man went on as if preparing himself for the worst.
"Very well then. We'll put it that I'm not safe. Have it as you please."
"I don't know, however," said Caspar Goodwood, "that my keeping you in sight would prevent it."
"Don't you indeed? I'm after all very much afraid of you. Do you think I'm so very easily pleased?" she asked suddenly, changing her tone.
"No — I don't; I shall try to console myself with that. But there are a certain number of very dazzling men in the world, no doubt; and if there were only one it would be enough. The most dazzling of all will make straight for you. You'll be sure to take no one who isn't dazzling."
"If you mean by dazzling brilliantly clever," Isabel said — "and I can't imagine what else you mean — I don't need the aid of a clever man to teach me how to live. I can find it out for myself."
"Find out how to live alone? I wish that, when you have, you'd teach me!"
She looked at him a moment; then with a quick smile, "Oh, you ought to marry!" she said.
He might be pardoned if for an instant this exclamation seemed to him to sound the infernal note, and it is not on record that her motive for discharging such a shaft had been of the clearest. He oughtn't to stride about lean and hungry, however — she certainly felt THAT for him. "God forgive you!" he murmured between his teeth as he turned away.
Her accent had put her slightly in the wrong, and after a moment she felt the need to right herself. The easiest way to do it was to place him where she had been. "You do me great injustice — you say what you don't know!" she broke out. "I shouldn't be an easy victim — I've proved it."
"Oh, to me, perfectly."
"I've proved it to others as well." And she paused a moment. "I refused a proposal of marriage last week; what they call — no doubt — a dazzling one."
"I'm very glad to hear it," said the young man gravely.
"It was a proposal many girls would have accepted; it had everything to recommend it." Isabel had not proposed to herself to tell this story, but, now she had begun, the satisfaction of speaking it out and doing herself justice took possession of her. "I was offered a great position and a great fortune — by a person whom I like extremely."
Caspar watched her with intense interest. "Is he an Englishman?"
"He's an English nobleman," said Isabel.
Her visitor received this announcement at first in silence, but at last said: "I'm glad he's disappointed."
"Well then, as you have companions in misfortune, make the best of it."
"I don't call him a companion," said Casper grimly.
"Why not — since I declined his offer absolutely?"
"That doesn't make him my companion. Besides, he's an Englishman."
"And pray isn't an Englishman a human being?" Isabel asked.
"Oh, those people They're not of my humanity, and I don't care what becomes of them."
"You're very angry," said the girl. "We've discussed this matter quite enough."
"Oh yes, I'm very angry. I plead guilty to that!"
She turned away from him, walked to the open window and stood a moment looking into the dusky void of the street, where a turbid gaslight alone represented social animation. For some time neither of these young persons spoke; Caspar lingered near the chimney-piece with eyes gloomily attached. She had virtually requested him to go — he knew that; but at the risk of making himself odious he kept his ground. She was far too dear to him to be easily renounced, and he had crossed the sea all to wring from her some scrap of a vow. Presently she left the window and stood again before him. "You do me very little justice — after my telling you what I told you just now. I'm sorry I told you — since it matters so little to you."