“That red-haired fox has plotted in vain,” he thought, with secret exultation. And then he set himself to consider the desirability of falling in with his father’s wishes as regards marriage. Of Maria he was, as the reader is aware, very fond; indeed, a few years before he had been in love with her, or something very like it; he knew too that she would make him a very good wife, and the match was one that in every way commended itself to his common sense and his interests. Yes, he would certainly take his father’s advice. But every time he said this to himself—and he said it pretty often that evening—there would arise before his mind’s eye a vision of the sweet blue eyes of Miss Lee’s stately companion. What eyes they were, to be sure! It made Philip’s blood run warm and quick merely to think of them; indeed, he could almost find it in his heart to wish that Hilda was Maria and Maria was in Hilda’s shoes.
What between thoughts of the young lady he had set himself to marry, and of the young lady he did not mean to marry, but whose eyes he admired, Philip did not sleep so well as usual that night.
Philip did not neglect to go to luncheon at Rewtham house, and a very pleasant luncheon it was; indeed, it would have been difficult for him to have said which he found the pleasantest: Maria’s cheerful chatter and flattering preference, or Hilda’s sweet and gracious presence.
After luncheon, at Maria’s invitation he gave Fraulein von Holtzhausen her first lesson in writing in English character; and to speak truth he found the task of guiding her fair hand through the mysteries of the English alphabet a by no means uncongenial occupation. When he came away his admiration of Hilda’s blue eyes was more pronounced than ever; but, on the other hand, so was his conviction that he would be very foolish if he allowed it to interfere with his intention of making Maria Lee his wife.
He who would drive two women thus in double harness must needs have a light hand and a ready lash, and it is certainly to the credit of Philip’s cleverness that he managed so well as he did. For as time went on he discovered his position to be this. Both Hilda and Maria were in love with him, the former deeply and silently, the latter openly and ostensibly. Now, however gratifying this fact might be to his pride, it was in some ways a thorny discovery, since he dared not visibly pay his attentions to either. For his part he returned Hilda von Holtzhausen’s devotion to a degree that surprised himself; his passion for her burnt him like a fire, utterly searing away the traces of his former affection for Maria Lee. Under these circumstances, most young men of twenty-one would have thrown prudence to the winds and acknowledged, either by acts or words, the object of their love; but not so Philip, who even at that age was by no means deficient in the characteristic caution of the Caresfoot family. He saw clearly that his father would never consent to his marriage with Hilda, nor, to speak truth, did he himself at all like the idea of losing Miss Lee and her estates.