Elizabeth did not move, not a muscle in her face stirred.
âWhy not? Am I not in every way satisfactory? Has not Lady Davenant told you what a jewel of a governess she has secured? One with the highest references from her friend, Mrs. Sunningdale?â There was an indescribable bitterness in her tone.
Frank Carlynâs boyish face was downcast, his eyes sank before those of the woman opposite.
âOf course I have heard it,â he burst out. âIt seems to me that I have heard nothing else since I came here, but donât you see that all this makes it impossible for you to stop here?â
âAll what?â There was no meekness in the governessâs attitude now, her tone was both passionate and imperious.
Young Carlyn groaned aloud.
âYou must knowâyou must understand that I canât keep silence when I knowâthe Davenants are Barbaraâs friendsââ
âI think I do understand now,â Elizabeth spoke in a dangerously quiet tone; she took off her glasses and threw them on the little rustic table beside her. âI am not good enough to be governess to Miss Burfordâs friend; but youâyou are good enough to marry Miss Burford.â
The scorn in her tone made the man wince as though he had been lashed.
There was a momentary silence, Elizabeth watching his changes of expression contemptuously. At last he spoke, and his tone was curiously changed:
âHeaven knows I donât want to minimize my share in the matter. If the worst had happened I should have spoken out, I should haveââ
âYou would have been very brave, doubtless,â Elizabeth interrupted him mercilessly. âBut, as matters stood, you choose the easier path. I congratulate you on your wisdom, Mr. Carlyn.â
Frank Carlyn passed his hand over his forehead. He thought wearily that never before had man been placed in so horrible a dilemma. He had thought, as they drove to the Priory, that his duty was clear here, there could be no doubt about it. But here, looking at the womanâs white face, at her blazing eyes, it seemed quite a different matter.
âI donât know what I ought to do,â he capitulated weakly. âBut I am sure, Mrs.ââ
âHush!â Elizabeth interrupted him sharply. âNot that. Never that name again. Remember that even the trees and bushes have ears sometimes. I will tell you what you must do, Mr. Carlyn. You must go your way and leave me to go mine. Believe me, I shall not hurt the Davenants, or Maisie, and youâyou can marry Miss Burford and forget all about me.â
âThat is so likely, is it not?â young Carlyn questioned moodily. âYou donât know how the thought of that past day has haunted me ever since.â He kicked a loose stone about carelessly, apparently watching that and not Elizabeth. âI couldnât imagine how you had got away. I thoughtâfeared that some evil had befallen you.â
âThat I was dead, you mean?â Elizabeth said bitterly. âNo, I was not so happy. I got out at the next station and by walking across country got on to another line, then I reached a friend and was safe. It isnât so difficult to escape the police as you think, Mr. Carlyn. And I couldnât stay to face things out. There were peopleââshe put up her hands to her throat as if the simple collar were about to choke herââliving then that it would have killedââ
âYou couldnât have been blamed,â Frank Carlyn began hotly.
âNo?â Elizabeth laughed bitterly. âYet I am not good enough to teach little Maisie. You are not very logical, Mr. Carlyn.â
The manâs face altered indefinably. âThat seems quite different,â he muttered sullenly. âAnd Davenant is such a good chap.â
Elizabeth drew her shrouding cloak closely round her once more.
âOh, yes, I quite appreciate your