“O! dear,” said Isabel, “I’ve been asleep!”
She sat up rubbing her eyes. “Laura, are you there?” But no one was there. Yet, though she was alone, in the solitude of the alder shade Isabel blushed scarlet. “What a ridiculous dream! worse than ridiculous, What would Val say if he knew? Really, Isabel, you ought to be whipped!” She slipped to her feet and peered suspiciously this way and that into the shadowy corners of the wood. Not a step: not the rustle of a leaf: no one.
Yet Isabel’s cheeks continued to burn, till with a little frightened laugh she buried them in her hands. “O! it was— it was a dream—?”
Lawrence’s reflections when he went to bed that night were more insurgent and disorderly than usual. In his negative philosophy, when he shut the door of his room, it was his custom to shut the door on memory too—to empty his mind of all its contents except the physical disposition to sleep. He cultivated an Indian’s self-involved and deliberate vacancy. On this his second night at Wanhope however—Wanhope which was to bring him a good many white nights before he was done with it—he lay long awake, watching the stars that winked and glittered in the field of his open window, the same stars that were perhaps shining on Isabel’s pillow. . . .
Isabel: it was on her that his thoughts ran with a tiring persistency against which his common sense rebelled. A kiss! what was it after all? A Christmas forfeit, a prank of which even Val Stafford could have said no worse than that it was beneath the dignity of his six and thirty years: only too flattering for such a little country girl, sunburnt, simple, and occasionally tongue-tied. The lady of the ivory frame (whom Lawrence had fished out of her seclusion and set up on his dressing table, to the disgust of Caroline: who was a Baptist, and didn’t care to dust a person who wore so few clothes), the lady of the ivory frame was far handsomer than Isabel, or at least handsome in a far more finished style.