“You do not appear to have overmuch confidence in us,” said Edward.
“I have not much in arbitrary matters,” Charlotte answered. “Where it is a case of inclination, we women know better how to control ourselves than you.”
It was settled; the dispositions were made, and the work was begun at once.
The Captain being always on the spot, Charlotte was almost daily a witness to the strength and clearness of his understanding. He, too, learnt to know her better; and it became easy for them both to work together, and thus bring something to completeness. It is with work as with dancing; persons who keep the same step must grow indispensable to one another. Out of this a mutual kindly feeling will necessarily arise; and that Charlotte had a real kind feeling toward the Captain, after she came to know him better, was sufficiently proved by her allowing him to destroy her pretty seat, which in her first plans she had taken such pains in ornamenting, because it was in the lay of his own, without experiencing the slightest feeling about the matter.
Now that Charlotte was occupied with the Captain, it was a natural consequence that Edward should attach himself more to Ottilie. Independently of this, indeed, for some time past he had begun to feel a silent kind of attraction toward her. Obliging and attentive she was to every one, but his self-love whispered that toward him she was particularly so. She had observed his little fancies about his food. She knew exactly what things he liked, and the way in which he liked them to be prepared; the quantity of sugar which he liked in his tea; and so on. Moreover, she was particularly careful to prevent draughts, about which he was excessively sensitive, and, indeed, about which, with his wife, who could never have air enough, he was often at variance. So, too, she had come to know about fruit-gardens and flower-gardens; whatever he liked, it was her constant effort to procure for him, and to keep away whatever annoyed him; so that very soon she grew indispensable to him—she became like his guardian angel, and he felt it keenly whenever she was absent. Besides all this, too, she appeared to grow more open and conversible as soon as they were alone together.
Edward, as he advanced in life, had retained something childish about himself, which corresponded singularly well with the youthfulness of Ottilie. They liked talking of early times, when they had first seen each other; and these reminiscences led them up to the first epoch of Edward’s affection for Charlotte. Ottilie declared that she remembered them both as the handsomest pair about the court; and when Edward would question the possibility of this, when she must have been so exceedingly young, she insisted that she recollected one particular incident as clearly as possible. He had come into the room where her aunt was, and she had hid her face in Charlotte’s lap—not from fear, but from a childish surprise. She might have added, because he had made so strong an impression upon her—because she had liked him so much.