By this time Damaris’ mind wheeled in a vicious circle, perpetually swinging round to the original starting-point. The moral puzzle proved too complicated for her, the practical one equally hard of solution. She stood between them, her father and her brother. Their interests conflicted, as did the duty she owed each; and her heart, her judgment, her piety were torn two ways at once. Would it always be thus—or would the pull of one prove conclusively the stronger? Would she be compelled finally to choose between them? Not that either openly did or ever would strive to coerce her. Both were honourable, both magnanimous. And, out of her heart, she desired to serve both justly and equally—only—only—upon youth the pull of youth is very great.
She put her hands over her eyes, shrinking, frightened. Was it possible she loved Darcy Faircloth best?
A knocking. Damaris slipped the letter into the pocket of her dress, and rising crossed the room and opened the door.
Hordle stood in the pale spacious corridor without. He presented Marshall Wace’s card. The gentleman, he said rather huffily, had called, bringing a message from Mrs. Frayling as Hordle understood, which he requested to deliver to Miss Damaris in person. He begged her to believe he was in no hurry. If she was engaged he could perfectly well wait.—He would do so in the hotel drawing-room, until it was convenient to her to allow him a few minutes’ conversation.
So, for the second time, this young man’s intrusion proved by no means unwelcome, as offering Damaris timely escape. She went down willingly to receive him. Yesterday he struck her as a pleasant and agreeable person—and of a type with which she was unacquainted. It would be interesting to talk to him.—She felt anxious, moreover, to learn what Henrietta, lovely if not entirely satisfactory Henrietta, could possibly want.
BLOWING OF ONE’S OWN TRUMPET PRACTISED AS A FINE ART
The slender little Corsican horses, red-chestnut in colour and active as cats, trotted, with a tinkle of bells, through the barred sunshine and shadow of the fragrant pine and cork woods. The road, turning inland, climbed steadily, the air growing lighter and fresher as the elevation increased—a nip in it testifying that January was barely yet out. And that nip justified the wearing of certain afore-mentioned myrtle-green, fur-trimmed pelisse, upon which Damaris’ minor affections were, at this period, much set. Though agreeably warm and thick, it moulded her bosom, neatly shaped her waist, and that without any defacing wrinkle. The broad fur band at the throat compelled her to carry her chin high, with a not unbecoming effect. Her cheeks bloomed, her eyes shone bright, as she sat beside Mrs. Frayling in the open victoria, relishing the fine air, the varying prospect, her own good clothes, her companion’s extreme prettiness and lively talk.