"His public acts are enough to satisfy me," replied Carrington, evading a part of the question. "You know that I have never had but one opinion about him."
There was a pause in the conversation. Both parties felt that as yet no good had come of it. At length Madeleine asked, "What would you have me do? Is it a pledge you want that I will under no circumstances marry Mr. Ratcliffe?"
"Certainly not," was the answer; "you know me better than to think I would ask that. I only want you to take time and keep out of his influence until your mind is fairly made up. A year hence I feel certain that you will think of him as I do."
"Then you will allow me to marry him if I find that you are mistaken," said Mrs. Lee, with a marked tone of sarcasm.
Carrington looked annoyed, but he answered quietly, "What I fear is his influence here and now. What I would like to see you do is this: go north a month earlier than you intended, and without giving him time to act. If I were sure you were safely in Newport, I should feel no anxiety."
"You seem to have as bad an opinion of Washington as Mr. Gore," said Madeleine, with a contemptuous smile. "He gave me the same advice, though he was afraid to tell me why. I am not a child. I am thirty years old, and have seen something of the world. I am not afraid, like Mr. Gore, of Washington malaria, or, like you, of Mr. Ratcliffe's influence. If I fall a victim I shall deserve my fate, and certainly I shall have no cause to complain of my friends. They have given me advice enough for a lifetime."
Carrington's face darkened with a deeper shade of regret. The turn which the conversation had taken was precisely what he had expected, and both Sybil and he had agreed that Madeleine would probably answer just in this way.
Nevertheless, he could not but feel acutely the harm he was doing to his own interests, and it was only by a sheer effort of the will that he forced himself to a last and more earnest attack.