‘Because I cannot!’ she cried passionately. ‘I only ask to be left alone.’
’A little patience, Emily, and all will come right. Mr. Price does not want to get rid of you. You wrong him just as you wrong me. He has often said how much he likes you; indeed he has.’ Although speaking from the bottom of her heart, it seemed to Julia that she was playing the part of a cruel, false woman, who was designingly plotting to betray a helpless girl; and not understanding why this was so, she was at once puzzled and confused. It seemed to her that she was being borne on in a wind of destiny, and her will seemed to beat vainly against it, like a bird’s wings when a storm is blowing. She was conscious of a curious powerlessness; it surprised her, and she could not understand why she continued talking, so vain and useless did words seem to her—an idle patter. She continued—
’You think that I stand between you and Mr. Price. Now, I assure you that it is not so. I tell you I should refuse Mr. Price, even if he were to ask me to marry him, here, at this very moment. I pledge you my word on this. Give me your hand, Emily. You will not refuse it?’ Emily gave her hand. ’It is quite ridiculous to promise, for he will never ask me; but I promise not to marry him even if he should ask me.’ She gave the promise, determined to keep it; and yet she knew she would not keep it. She argued passionately with herself, a prey to an inward dread; for no matter how firmly she forced resolution upon resolution, they all seemed to melt in her soul like snow on a blazing fire. Then, determined to rid herself of a numb sensation of powerlessness, and achieve the end she desired, she said, ’I’ll tell you, Emily, what I’ll do. I’ll not stay here; I will go away. Let me go away, dear, and then it will be all right.’
’No, no! you mustn’t leave; I don’t want you to leave. It would be said everywhere that I had you sent away.... You promise me not to leave?’ Raising herself, Emily clung to Julia’s arm, detaining her until she had extorted the desired promise.
‘Very well; I promise,’ she said sadly. ’But I think you are wrong; indeed I do. I have always thought that “the only solution of the problem” was my departure.’ Memory had betrayed her into Hubert’s own phrase.
’Why should you go? You think, I suppose, that I’m in love with Hubert? I’m not. All I want is for things to go on just the same—for us to be friends as we were before.’
’Very well, Emily—very well.... But in the meantime you must not neglect your meals as you have been doing lately. If you don’t take care, you’ll lose your health and your looks. I have been noticing how thin you are looking.’
’I suppose you have told him that I am looking thin and ill.... Men like tall, big, healthy women like you—don’t they?’
’I see, Emily, that it is hopeless; every word one utters is misinterpreted. Dinner will be ready in a few minutes; or, if you like, I will dine up-stairs; and you and Mr. Price——’