"No! But you should not ask. You have no right to ask. It is not proper."
"No; I am not engaged to him. I do not love him. As you will ask, I tell you. But you should not ask; and he is not accursed. He is better than you -- though I do not love him. You should not have driven me to say this. I do not ask you questions." "There is none that I would not answer. Stay, Ayala," for now she was going to leave the room. "Stay yet a moment. Do you know that you are tearing my heart in pieces? Why is it that you should make me so wretched? Dear Ayala -- dearest Ayala -- stay yet a moment."
"Tom, there is nothing more that I can say. I am very, very sorry if you are unhappy. I do think that you are good and true; and if you will shake hands with me, there is my hand. But I cannot say what you want me to say." Tom took her by the hand and tried to hold her, without, however, speaking to her again. But she slid away from him and left the room, not having for a moment sat down in his presence.
When the door was closed he stood awhile looking round him, trying to resolve what he might do or what he might say next. He was now at any rate in the house with her, and did not know whether such an opportunity as that might ever occur to him again. He felt that there were words within his bosom which, if he could only bring them up to his mouth, would melt the heart of a stone. There was his ineffable love, his whole happiness at stake, his purpose -- his holy purpose -- to devote himself, and all that he had, to her well-being. Of all this he had a full conception within his own heart, if only he could express it so that others should believe him! But of what use was it now? He had had this further liberty of speech accorded to him, and in it he had done nothing, made no inch of progress. She had hardly spoken a dozen words to him, but of those she had spoken two remained clear upon his memory. He must never hope, she had said; and she had said also that that other man was better than he. Had she said that he was dearer, the word would hardly have been more bitter. All the old feeling came upon him of rage against his rival, and of a desire that something desperate should be done by which he might wreak his vengeance.
But there he was standing alone in Mrs Dosett's drawing-room, and it was necessary that he should carry himself off. As for dining in that house, sitting down to eat and drink in Ayala's presence after such a conversation as that which was past, that he felt to be quite out of the question. He crammed his hat upon his head, left the room, and hurried down the stairs towards the door.
In the passage he was met by his uncle, coming out of the dining-room. "Tom," he said, "you'll stay and eat your dinner?"
"No, indeed," said Tom, angrily.
"You shouldn't let yourself be disturbed by little trifles such as these," said his uncle, trying to put a good face upon the matter.