‘Men are always selfish,’ she said sententiously. ’But it really does not matter; things are just the same; he hasn’t succeeded in altering anything—at least, not for the worse. We shall get on very well together.’
The conversation paused. Then Emily went on: ’You won’t tell any one I told you? I only told you because I did not want you to think me selfish. I was afraid that after the foolish way I behaved last night you might think I hated you. Indeed, I do not. Perhaps everything has happened for the best. I was very fond of the old man. I gave him my whole heart; no father ever had a daughter more attached; but I could not marry him. And it was the remembrance of my love for him that made me burst out crying. I do not think I realised until I saw you how cruelly I had been treated. But you won’t tell any one? You won’t tell Mrs. Bentley? She knows, of course; but do not tell her that I told you. I do not care that my feelings should be made a subject of discussion. You promise me?’
‘I promise you.’
They had now reached the tennis-lawn. The gong sounded, and Emily said, ‘That is lunch, and we shall find Julia waiting for us in the dining-room.’ It was as she said. Mrs. Bentley was standing by the sideboard, her basket of keys in her hand; she had not quite finished her housekeeping, and was giving some last instructions to the butler. Hubert noticed that the place at the head of the table was for him, and he sat down a little embarrassed, to carve a chicken. So much home after so many years of homelessness seemed strange.
On the third day, as soon as breakfast was over, Hubert introduced the subject of his departure. Julia waited, but as Emily did not speak, she said, ‘We thought you liked the country better than town.’
‘So I do, but——’
‘He’s tired of us, and we had better leave,’ Emily said, abruptly.
Hubert started a little; he looked appealingly at Julia, and seeing the look of genuine pain upon his face, she took pity on him. ’You should not speak like that, Emily dear; I can see that you pain Mr. Price very much.’
‘I hope, Emily, that you will stay here as long as you like,’ he said, in a low, gentle voice; ‘as long as it is convenient and agreeable to you.’
‘We cannot stay here without you,’ Emily replied; ‘we are your guests.’
‘And,’ said Julia, smiling, ’if there are guests, there must be a host. But if you have business in London, of course you must go.’
‘I was not thinking of myself,’ said Hubert, ’but of you ladies. I was afraid that you were already tired of me; that you might like to be left alone; that you had business, preparations. I daresay I was all wrong; but if Emily knew——’
’I’m sorry, Hubert; I did not mean to offend you. I’m very unlucky. You’ll forgive me.’
’I’ve nothing to forgive; I only hope that you’ll never think again that I want to get rid of you. I hope that you’ll stop at Ashwood as long as ever it suits you to do so. I don’t see how I can say more.’