‘No, Mr. Cheek, it is not. Go on,’ said Joanna, and sighed.
‘I thought you would say so,’ observed Charles, also with a sigh, ‘but I hoped that your advice would be contrary.’
Then neither spoke for some time. Far away, behind the hills to the east, the sky was beginning to whiten, but the moon shone so brightly that the tokens of coming day were hardly perceptible.
‘We are old friends, are we not?’ said Charles sadly.
‘Yes—we have known each other since last fifth of November.’
‘What a time it seems since then! So much has happened that it is an age to me.’
‘Also to me. To me it has been the change from childhood to womanhood, from outward hardship to inward suffering. It cannot be other. Mr. Cheek, we must part. We shall see each other no more.’
‘No more!’ he echoed. ‘Nonsense, I intend to see a great deal of you when allowed to return from exile.’
She shook her head. ‘It cannot be.’
‘Why not? The Golden Balls is here, and the door open. If I choose to enter with a pair of silver spoons, who is to thrust me out? And if there be no customers in the shop, I suppose I may perch on the counter and enjoy a pleasant chat?’
‘No,’ she said, ‘never again. You told me yourself you were going into social stays. You are changing your nationality, and about to forget Bohemia.’
‘Not yet,—no—no! I will enjoy my freedom for a while longer.’
‘There is a further reason why I cannot allow it,’ she said, and looked before her into the dark water, and beyond it to the glittering sheet of wavering silver. ‘I am going to be married.’
Both stood silent, so silent that nothing was audible but the lapping of the water on the steps of the pier.
‘Joanna! I will not believe it. To whom?’
‘Joanna!’ There was mingled pain and horror in his tone. She said nothing more, but shivered, though wrapped up well in shawls.
‘Come hither,’ said Charles, almost roughly. ‘The first