Some persons very sensibly bring their mental atmosphere along with them. You are compelled to breathe it whether you like or not. The atmosphere Charles Verity brought with him, at this juncture, was too masculine, intellectually too abstract yet too keenly critical, for comfortable absorption by Henrietta’s lungs. Her self-complacency shrivelled in it. She felt but a mean and pitiful creature, especially in her recent treatment of Damaris. It was a nasty moment, the more difficult to surmount because of that wretchedly betraying squeak. Fury against herself gingered her up to action. She must be the first to speak.
“Ah! how delightful to see you,” she said, a little over-playing the part—“though only for an instant. I was in the act of bidding Damaris farewell. As it is I have scandalously outstayed my leave; but we had a thousand and one things, hadn’t we, to say to one another.”
She smiled upon both father and daughter with graceful deprecation.
“Au, revoir, darling child—we must manage to meet somehow, just once more before I take my family north”—
And still talking, new lavender dress, trinkets, faint fragrance and all, she passed out on to the corridor accompanied by Sir Charles Verity.
WHICH RECOUNTS A TAKING OF SANCTUARY
Left alone Damaris sat down on the window-seat, within the shelter of the wooden shutters which interposed a green barred coolness between her and the brilliant world without. That those two, her father and Henrietta Frayling, should thus step off together, the small, softly crisp, feminine figure beside the tall, fine-drawn and—in a way—magnificent masculine one, troubled her. Yet she made no attempt to accompany or to follow them. Her head ached. Her mind and soul ached too. She felt spent and giddy, as from chasing round and round in an ever-shifting circle some tormenting, cleverly lovely thing which perpetually eluded her. Which thing, finally, floated out of the door there, drawing a personage unmeasurably its superior, away with it, and leaving her—Damaris—deserted.
Leaving, moreover, every subject on which its nimble tongue had lighted, damaged by that contact—at loose ends, frayed and ravelled, its inwove pattern just slightly discoloured and defaced. The patterned fabric of Damaris’ thought and inner life had not been spared, but suffered disfigurement along with the rest. She felt humiliated, felt unworthy. The ingenious torments of a false conscience gnawed her. Her better judgment pronounced that conscience veritably false; or would, as she believed, so pronounce later when she had time to get a true perspective. But, just now, she could only lamentably, childishly, cry out against injustice. For wasn’t Henrietta mainly responsible for the character of her intercourse with Marshall Wace? Hadn’t Henrietta repeatedly entreated her to see much of him, be kind to him?—Wishing, even in her present rebellion to be quite fair, she acknowledged that she had enjoyed his singing and reading; that she had felt pleased at his eagerness to confide his troubles to her and talk confidentially about himself. She not unwillingly accepted a mission towards him, stimulated thereto by Henrietta’s plaudits and thanks.