’I am very sorry, but you must not be cross with me; I do so want you to come and see the Eastwicks with me.’
’My dear Emily, I could not think of such a thing this morning. I am very busy—indeed I am.’
’What are you doing? Nothing very important, I can see. You are only writing your play. You might come with me.’
‘My play is as important to me as a visit to the Eastwicks is to you,’ he answered, smiling.
‘I have promised Edith.... I really do wish you would come.’
‘My dear Emily, it is quite impossible: do let me get on with my work!’
Emily’s face instantly changed expression; she turned to leave the room, and Hubert had to go after her and beg her to forgive him—he really had not meant to be rude to her.
‘You don’t care to talk to me. I am not clever enough for you.’
Then pity took him, and he made amends by suggesting they should go for a walk in the park, and she often succeeded in leading him even to dry, uninteresting neighbours. But the burden grew heavier, and soon he could endure no longer the evenings of devotion to her in the drawing-room, where the presence of Mrs. Bentley seemed to fill her with incipient rebellion. One evening after dinner, as he was about to escape up-stairs, Emily took his arm, pleading that he should play at least one game of backgammon with her. He played three; and then, thinking he had done enough, he took up a novel and began to read. Emily was bitterly offended. She sat in a corner, a picture of deep misery; and whenever he spoke to Mrs. Bentley, he thought she would burst into tears. It was exasperating to be the perpetual victim of such folly; and, pressed by the desire to talk to Mrs. Bentley about the book he was reading, he suggested that she should come with him to the meet. The Harriers met for the first time that season at not five miles from Ashwood. Mrs. Bentley pleaded an engagement. She had promised to go over to tea at the rectory.
’Oh, we shall be back in plenty of time; I’ll leave you at the rectory on our way home.’
‘Thank you, Mr. Price; but I do not think I can go.’
‘And why, may I ask?’
‘Well, perhaps Emily would like to go.’
’Emily has a cold, and it would be folly of her to venture a long drive on a cold morning.’
‘My cold is quite well.’
‘You were complaining before dinner how bad it was.’
‘If you don’t want to take me, say so.’ Tears were now streaming down her cheeks.
’My dear Emily, I am only too pleased to have you with me; I was only thinking of your cold.’
‘My cold is quite gone,’ she said, with brightening face; and next morning she came down with her waterproof on her arm, and she had on a new cloth dress which she had just received from London. Hubert recognised in each article of attire a sign that she was determined to carry her point. It seemed cruel to tell her to take her things off, and he glanced at Mrs. Bentley and wondered if she were offended.