SELF-WONDER AND SELF-SCORN.
is moves me to love, and I
Do know I love, but know not how, nor why.”
As John and his children withdrew together through the garden, Justina Fairbairn sat with her work on her knees, watching them.
“Mr. Mortimer is six-and-thirty, is he not?” she asked.
“Yes,” answered Emily.
“How much he improves in appearance!” she observed; “he used not to be thought handsome when he was very young—he is both handsome and stately now.”
“It is the way with the Mortimers, I think,” said Emily. “I should not wonder if in ten years’ time Val is just as majestic as the old men used to be, though he has no dignity at all about him now.”
“Yes, majesty is the right word,” said Justina serenely. “Mr. Mortimer has a finer presence, a finer carriage than formerly; it may be partly because he is not so very thin as he used to be.”
“Perhaps so,” said Emily.
“And this was his first call,” continued Justina, obliged to make openings for herself through which to push what she had to say. “I suppose, dear, you could hardly fail to notice how matters were going. This calling at once, and his bringing the children too; and his wish to find out my opinions, and tell me his own on various subjects.”
Silence on the part of the hostess.
“I could almost have wished, dear Emily, that you had not——”
She paused. “Had not what?” asked Emily.
Miss Fairbairn remembered that she was Mrs. Walker’s guest, and that it behoved her not to offend her hostess, because she wanted to stay in that house as long as possible. She would like to have finished her speech thus: “that you had not engrossed the children so completely;” but she said instead, with a little smile meant to look conscious, “I believe I meant, dear, that I should have been very glad to talk to the children myself.”
She felt that this reply fell rather flat, but she knew that Emily must immediately be made aware of what she now hoped was really the state of the case, and must also be made to help her.
No surprise was expressed, but Mrs. Walker did not make any reply whatever, so she continued,—
“You look surprised, dear, but surely what I have hinted at cannot be a new thought to you,” and as it did not suit her to drop the subject yet, she proceeded. “No, I see by your smile that it is not. I confess I should have liked to talk to them, for,” she added, with a sigh of contentment, “the task, I see very plainly before me, is always a difficult one to undertake.”
Still Emily was silent; she seemed lost in thought; indeed, she was considering among other things that it was little more than a year since she and John had discussed Justina together; was there, could there really be, anything between them now?