’I hope the drive won’t tire you; you know the meet is at least five miles from here.’
Emily did not answer. She looked charming with her great boa tied about her throat, and sprang into the dog-cart all lightness and joy.
‘I hope you are well wrapped up about the knees,’ said Mrs. Bentley.
‘Oh yes, thank you; Hubert is looking after me.’
Mrs. Bentley’s calm, statuesque face, whereon no trace of envy appeared, caught Hubert’s attention as he gathered up the reins, and he thought how her altruism contrasted with the passionate egotism of the young girl.
‘I hope Julia was not disappointed. I know she wanted to come; but——’
’Well, no one likes Julia more than I do, and I don’t want to say anything against her; but, having lived so long with her, I see her faults better than you can. She is horribly selfish! It never occurs to her to think of me.’
Hubert did not answer, and Emily looked at him inquiringly. At last she said, ‘I suppose you don’t think so?’
’Well, Emily, since you ask me, I must say that I think she took it very good-humouredly. You said you were ill, and it was all arranged that I should drive her to the meet; then you suddenly interposed, and said you wanted to go; and the moment you mentioned your desire to go, she gave way without a word. I really don’t know what more you want.’
’You don’t know Julia. You cannot read her face. She never forgets anything, and is storing it up, and will pay me out for it sooner or later.’
’My dear Emily, how can you say such things? I never heard—— She is always ready to sacrifice herself for you.’
’You think so. She has a knack of pretending to be more unselfish than another; but she is in reality intensely selfish.’
’All I can say is that it does not strike me so. I never saw any one give way more good-humouredly than she did to-day.’
’I don’t think that that is so wonderful, after all. She is only a paid companion; and I do not see why she should go driving about the country with you, and I be left at home.’
Hubert was somewhat shocked. The conversation paused.
‘She gets on very well with men,’ Emily said at last, breaking an irritating silence somewhat suddenly. ’They say she is very good-looking. Don’t you think so?’
’Oh yes, she is certainly a pretty woman—or, I should say, a good-looking woman. She is too tall to be what one generally understands as a pretty woman.’
‘Do you like tall women?’