She heard her sister come into the house, and she raised her head. Presently Carry opened the door; and it was clear she was in high spirits.
“Oh, Mopsy,” said she—and this was a pet name she gave her sister Carry when the latter was in great favor—“did you ever see such a morning in November? Don’t you think papa might take us to Kew Gardens?”
“I want to speak to you, Carry—come here,” she said, gravely; and the younger sister went and stood by the table. “You know you and I are thrown very much on each other; and we ought to have no secrets from each other; and we ought to be always quite sure of each other’s sympathy. Now, Carry, you must be patient, you must be kind: if I don’t get sympathy from you, from whom should I get it?”
Carry withdrew a step, and her manner instantly changed. Gertrude White was a very clever actress; but she had never been able to impose on her younger sister. This imploring look was all very fine; this appeal for sympathy was pathetic enough; but both only awakened Carry’s suspicions. In their ordinary talk sisters rarely use such formal words as “sympathy.”
“What do you mean?” said she, sharply.
“There—already!” exclaimed the other, apparently in deep disappointment. “Just when I most need your kindness and sympathy, you show yourself most unfeeling—”
“I wish you would tell me what it is all about,” Carry said, impatiently.
The elder sister lowered her eyes, and her fingers began to work with a paper-knife that was lying there. Perhaps this was only a bit of stage-business: or perhaps she was really a little apprehensive about the effect of her announcement.
“Carry,” she said, in a low voice, “I have promised to marry Sir Keith Macleod.”
Carry uttered a slight cry of horror and surprise; but this too was only a bit of stage effect, for she had fully anticipated the disclosure.
“Well, Gertrude White!” said she, apparently when she had recovered her breath. “Well—I—I—I—never!”
Her language was not as imposing as her gestures; but then nobody had written the part for her; whereas her very tolerable acting was nature’s own gift.
“Now, Carry, be reasonable—don’t be angry: what is the use of being vexed with what is past recalling? Any other sister would be very glad at such a time—” These were the hurried and broken sentences with which the culprit sought to stave off the coming wrath. But, oddly enough, Miss Carry refrained from denunciations or any other stormy expression of her anger and scorn. She suddenly assumed a cold and critical air.
“I suppose,” said she, “before you allowed Sir Keith Macleod to ask you to become his wife, you explained to him our circumstances.”
“I don’t understand you.”
“You told him, of course, that you had a ne’er-do-well brother in Australia, who might at any moment appear and disgrace the whole family?”