“There is no time now,” he says, glancing toward father, whose head appears through the dining-room windows. “See! they are going to breakfast!—afterward I will tell you—afterward—and child—” (putting his hands on my shoulders, and essaying to look at me with an altogether cheered and careless face,) “do not you worry your head about it!—eat your breakfast with an easy mind; after all, it is nothing very bad!—it could not be any thing very bad, as long as—.” He stops abruptly, and adds hastily, “let us have a look at your mushrooms! well, you have a quantity!”
“Yes, have not I?” say I, triumphantly, “more than any of them, except Tou Tou—.” Then, not quite satisfied with the impression our late talk has left upon me: “General!” say I, lowering my face and reddening, “I hope you do not think that I am quite a baby because I like childish things—gathering mushrooms—running about with the boys—talking to Jacky. I can understand serious things too, I assure you. I think I could enter into your trouble—I think, if you gave me the chance, that you would find that I could!”
Then a sort of idiotic false shame overtakes me, and without waiting for his answer I disappear.
I meet Bobby retiring to the kitchen to cook his mushrooms himself. He invites me to join him, but I refuse. It is the first time in the annals of history that I was ever known to say no to such an offer. Bobby regards me with reproachful anger, and makes a muffled remark, the drift of which I understand to be that, though I may pretend not to be, I am grown fine, as he always said I should. To-day it seems to me as if breakfast would never end. It is one of our fixed laws that no one shall leave the table until father gives the signal by saying grace. Sometimes, when he is in one of his unfortunate moods, he keeps us all staring at our empty cups and platters for half an hour. To-day I watch with warm anxiety the progress downward of the tea in his cup. At last he has come to the grounds. He lays down the Times. We all joyfully half bow our heads, in expectation of the wonted “For what we have received.” etc., but speedily and disappointedly raise them again.
“Jane, can you spare me another cup?” and reburies himself in a long leader. Behind the shelter of the great sheet, I make a hideous contortion across the table at Sir Roger, who has fallen with great docility into our ways, and is looking back at me now with that gentle, steadfast serenity which is the leading characteristic of his face, but which this morning is, I cannot help thinking, a dood [Transcriber’s note: sic] deal disturbed, hard as he is trying to hide it. There are, thank Heaven, no more false starts. Next time that he lays down the paper, we are all afraid to bend our heads, for fear that the movement shall break the charm, and induce him to send for a fourth cup—he has already had three—but no! release has come at last.