“There!” she whispered, smiling while her eyes half filled with mist. “This tree is forever sacred to us. John, it is listening now when I tell you once more that I love you.”
And then she fled.
When once John Derringham had definitely made up his mind to any course in life, he continued in it with decision and skill, and carried off the situation with a high-handed assurance. Thus he felt no qualms of awkwardness in meeting Mrs. Cricklander and treating her with an enchanting ease and friendliness which was completely disconcerting. She had no casus belli; she could not find fault with his manner or his words, and yet she was left with the blank conviction that her hopes in regard to him were over. She despised men in her heart because, as a rule, she was able to calculate with certainty every move in her games with them. Feeling no slightest passion, her very mediocre intellect proved often more than a match for the cleverest. But her supreme belief in herself now received a heavy blow. She was never so near to loving John Derringham as during this Whitsuntide when she felt she had lost him. Cora Lutworth once said of her:
“Cis is one of the happiest women in the world, because when she looks in the glass in the morning she never sees anything but herself, and is perfectly content. Most of us find shadows peeping over our shoulders of what we would like to be.”
Arabella found her employer extremely trying during the Saturday and Sunday, and was almost in tears when she wrote to her mother.
Mr. Derringham has plainly determined not to be ensnared yet. If this did not render M. E. so difficult to please, the situation would be very instructive to watch. And I am not even now certain whether he will escape eventually, because her whole pride in herself is roused and she will stick at nothing. I have a shrewd suspicion as to what has caused the change in his feelings and intentions towards M. E., but I have not imparted my ideas to her, since doing so might do no good, and would in some way certainly injure an innocent person. As yet I believe she is unaware of this person’s existence. We have done everything we can for Mr. Derringham with the most erudite conversation. I have been up half of the night ascertaining facts upon all sorts of classical subjects, as that seems to be more than ever the bent of his mind in these last two visits. (I am given to understand from other sources that the person of whom I made mention above is a highly-trained Greek scholar and of exceptional refinement and cultivation, so that may be the reason.) The strain of preparing M. E. for these talks and then my anxiety when, at meals or after them, I hear her upon the brink of some fatal mistake, has caused me to have most unpleasant headaches, and really, if it were not so modern and silly a phrase, I should say the thing was getting