"I cannot," she said sternly. And her eyes were still fixed before her, and her fingers were still bound in one with another. And yet she loved him. Yet she knew that she loved him. She could have hung upon his arm and smiled up into his face, and frowned her refusal only with mock anger as he pressed to his bosom -- only that those dreams were so palpable to her and so dear, had been to her so vast a portion of her young life! "I cannot," she said again. "I cannot."
"Is that to be your answer for ever?" To this she made no immediate reply. "Must it be so, Ayala?"
"I cannot," she said. But the last little word was so impeded by the sobs which she could not restrain as almost to be inaudible. "I will not make you unhappy, Ayala." Yes, she was unhappy. She was unhappy because she knew that she could not rule herself to her own happiness; because, even at this moment, she was aware that she was wrong. If she could only release part of herself from the other, then could she fly into his arms and tell him that that spirit which had troubled her had flown. But the spirit was too strong for her, and would not fly. "Shall we go and join them?" he asked her in a voice altered, but still so sweet to her ears.
"If you think so," she replied.
"Perhaps it will be best, Ayala. Do not be angry with me now. I will not call you so again." Angry! Oh, no! She was not angry with him! But it was very bitter to her to be told that she should never hear the word again from his lips.
"The hunted fox never went up Buddlecombe Hill -- never. If he did I'll eat every fox in the Rufford and Offord country." This was heard, spoken in most angry tones by Captain Glomax, as the Colonel and Ayala joined the rest of the party.
Ayala, on her return from the walk to the wood, spent the remainder of the afternoon in tears.
During the walk she kept close to Sir Harry, pretending to listen to the arguments about the fox, but she said nothing. Her ears were really intent on endeavouring to catch the tones of her lover's voice as he went on in front of them talking to Nina. Nothing could be more pleasant than the sound as he said a word or two now and again, encouraging Nina in her rhapsodies as to Lord George and all Lord George's family. But Ayala learned nothing from that. She had come to know the man well enough to be aware that he could tune his voice to the occasion, and could hide his feelings let them be ever so strong. She did not doubt his love now. She did not doubt but that at this moment his heart was heavy with rejected love. She quite believed in him. But nevertheless his words were pleasant and kind as he encouraged Nina.