Mrs Wyllys started, no less at the fervid manner of the lad than at the language. Rising from her seat, she approached nigher to him, and in a situation where the light of the lamp fell full upon his lineaments. She saw the large drop that broke out from beneath a long and silken lash, to roll down a cheek which, though embrowned by the sun, was deepening with a flush that gradually stole into it, as her own gaze became more settled; and then her eyes fell slowly and keenly along the person of the lad, until they reached even the delicate feet, that seemed barely able to uphold him. The usually pensive and mild countenance of the governess changed to a look of cold regard, and her whole form appeared to elevate itself, in chaste matronly dignity, as she sternly asked,—
“Boy, have you a mother?”
“I know not,” was the answer that came from lips that scarcely severed to permit the smothered sounds to escape.
“It is enough; another time I will speak further to you. Cassandra will in future do the service of this cabin; when I have need of you, the gong shall be touched.”
The head of Roderick fell nearly to his bosom He shrunk from before that cold and searching eye which followed his form, until it had disappeared through the hatch, and whose look was then bent rapidly, and not without a shade of alarm, on the face of the wondering but silent Gertrude.
A gentle tap at the door broke in upon the flood of reflection which was crowding on the mind of the governess. She gave the customary answer; and, before time was allowed for any interchange of ideas between her and her pupil, the Rover entered.
“I melt, and am not of stronger earth than others.”—Coriolanus
The females received their visiter with a restraint which will be easily understood when the subject of their recent conversation is recollected. The sinking of Gertrude’s form was deep and hurried, but her governess maintained the coldness of her air with greater self-composure. Still, there was a gleaming of powerful anxiety in the watchful glance that she threw towards her guest, as though she would divine the motive of the visit by the wanderings of his changeful eye, even before his lips had parted in the customary salute.
The countenance of the Rover himself was thoughtful to gravity. He bowed as he came within the influence of the lamp, and his voice was heard muttering some low and hasty syllables, that conveyed no meaning to the ears of his listeners. Indeed, so great was the abstraction in which he was lost, that he had evidently prepared to throw his person on the vacant divan, without explanation or apology, like one who took possession of his own; though recollection returned just in time to prevent this breach of decorum. Smiling, and repeating his bow, with a still deeper inclination, he advanced with perfect self-possession to the table, where he expressed his fears that Mrs Wyllys might deem his visit unseasonable or perhaps not announced with sufficient ceremony. During this short introduction his voice was bland as woman’s, and his mien courteous, as though he actually felt himself an intruder in the cabin of a vessel in which he was literally a monarch.