‘But you are not—you are not offended, Julia?’
‘Julia?’ she answered, smiling. ’No, but I think it is time I relieved your Highness from attendance. For one thing, I am not quite sure whether that pretty flattery was addressed to Clarissa—or to Pamela. And for another,’ she continued more coldly, seeing Sir George wince under this first stroke—he was far from having his mind made up—’I see Lady Dunborough watching us from the windows at the corner of the house. And I would not for worlds relieve her ladyship’s anxiety by seeming unfaithful to her son.’
‘You can be spiteful, then?’ Soane said, laughing.
‘I can—and grateful,’ she answered. ’In proof of which I am going to make a strange request, Sir George. Do not misunderstand it. And yet—it is only that before you leave here—whatever be the circumstances under which you leave—you will see me for five minutes.’
Sir George stared, bowed, and muttered ‘Too happy.’ Then observing, or fancying he observed, that she was anxious to be rid of him, he took his leave and went into the house.
For a man who had descended the stairs an hour before, hipped to the last degree, with his mind on a pistol, it must be confessed that he went up with a light step; albeit, in a mighty obfuscation, as Dr. Johnson might have put it. A kinder smile, more honest eyes he swore he had never seen, even in a plain face. Her very blushes, of which the memory set his blase blood dancing to a faster time, were a character in themselves. But—he wondered. She had made such advances, been so friendly, dropped such hints—he wondered. He was fresh from the masquerades, from Mrs. Cornely’s assemblies, Lord March’s converse, the Chudleigh’s fantasies; the girl had made an appointment—he wondered.
For all that, one thing was unmistakable. Life, as he went up the stairs, had taken on another and a brighter colour; was fuller, brisker, more generous. From a spare garret with one poor casement it had grown in an hour into a palace, vague indeed, but full of rich vistas and rosy distances and quivering delights. The corridor upstairs, which at his going out had filled him with distaste—there were boots in it, and water-cans—was now the Passage Beautiful; for he might meet her there. The day which, when he rose, had lain before him dull and monotonous—since Lord Chatham was too ill to see him, and he had no one with whom to game—was now full-furnished with interest, and hung with recollections—recollections of conscious eyes and the sweetest lips in the world. In a word, Julia had succeeded in that which she had set herself to do. Sir George might wonder. He was none the less in love.
A SPOILED CHILD