To my surprise, my return plunged me at once into the kind of vexation which Eveena had so anxiously endeavoured to spare me, and which I had hoped Eunane’s greater decision and less exaggerated tenderness would have avoided. She seemed excited and almost fretful, and before we had been half an hour at home had greeted me with a string of complaints which, on her own showing, seemed frivolous, and argued as much temper on her part as customary petulance on that of others. On one point, however, her report confirmed the suggestions of Eveena’s previous experience. She had wrested at once from Eive’s hand the pencil that had hitherto been used in absolute secrecy, and the consequent quarrel had been sharp enough to suggest, if not to prove, that the privilege was of practical as well as sentimental moment. Though aggravated by no rebuke, my tacit depreciation of her grievances irritated Eunane to an extreme of petulance unusual with her of late; which I bore so long as it was directed against myself, but which, turned at last on Eveena, wholly exhausted my patience. But no sooner had I dismissed the offender than Eveena herself interposed, with even more than her usual tenderness for Eunane.
“Do not blame my presumption,” she said; “do not think that I am merely soft or weak, if I entreat you to take no further notice of Eunane’s mood. I cannot but think that, if you do, you will very soon repent it.”
She could not or would not give a reason for her intercession; but some little symptoms I might have seen without observing, some perception of the exceptional character of Eunane’s outbreak, or some unacknowledged misgiving accordant with her own, made me more than willing to accept Eveena’s wish as a sufficient cause for forbearance. When we assembled at the morning meal Eunane appeared to be conscious of error; at all events, her manner and temper were changed. Watching her closely, I thought that neither shame for an outbreak of unwonted extravagance nor fear of my displeasure would account for her languor and depression. But illness is so rare among a race educated for countless generations on principles scientifically sound and sanitary, inheriting no seeds of disease from their ancestry, and safe from the infection of epidemics long extirpated, that no apprehension of serious physical cause for her changes of temper and complexion entered into my mind. To spare her when she deserved no indulgence was the surest way to call forth Eunane’s best impulses; and I was not surprised to find her, soon after the party had dispersed, in Eveena’s chamber. That all the amends I could desire had been made and accepted was sufficiently evident. But Eunane’s agitation was so violent and persistent, despite all Eveena’s soothing, that I was at last seriously apprehensive of its effect upon the latter. The moment we were alone Eveena said—
“I have never seen illness, but if Eunane is not ill, and very ill, all I have gathered in my father’s household from such books as he has allowed me, and from his own conversation, deceives me wholly; and yet no illness of which I have ever heard in the slightest degree resembles this.”