‘It is so absurd, you know,’ she returned, linking her arm in mine affectionately. ’What ever put such nonsense in your head? you are so comfortable here with us, and you have your own way, and I never tease you now about going to balls. It is so silly of you trying to make yourself miserable, and living in poky lodgings. You might as well be a fakir, or a dervish, or a Protestant nun, or anything else that is unpleasant.’
‘My dear, you do not know anything about it,’ I answered rather angrily. ’You and I are different people, Sara; we shall never think the same about anything.’
‘Well, I don’t know,’ she returned, half affronted: ’when people try to be extra good I always find they succeed in making themselves extra disagreeable. It is far more religious, in my opinion, to be pleasant to every one, and make them believe that there is something cheerful in life, instead of pulling a long face and doing such dreadfully bad things.’ And after this little fling, in which she tried to be very severe, only as usual her dimples betrayed her, she begged me quite earnestly to smooth my hair, as though I were breaking one of the commandments by keeping it rough; and, having obliged her in this particular, and allowed her to peep at her own pretty face over my shoulder, we went down to the drawing-room as though we were the best of friends.
It was impossible to quarrel with Sara; she was as gay and irresponsible as a child; one might as well have been angry with a butterfly for brushing his gold-powdered wings across your face; the gentle flappings of Sara’s speeches never raised a momentary vexation in my mind. I was often weary of her, but then we do weary of children’s company sometimes; in certain moods her bright sparkling effervescence seemed to jar upon me: but I never liked to see her sad. Sadness did not become Sara; when she cried, which was as seldom as possible, and only when some one died, or she lost a pet canary, all her beauty dimmed, and she looked limp and forlorn, like a crushed butterfly or a draggled flower.
I do not think I was quite as cool and unconcerned as I wished to appear when I marched into the drawing-room, and, after greeting Mrs. Fullerton and Lesbia, asked Aunt Philippa for a cup of tea.
Quite a hubbub of voices had struck on my ear as I opened the door, and yet complete silence met me. Lesbia, indeed, whispered ‘Poor Ursula’ as I kissed her, but Mrs. Fullerton looked at me with grave disapproval. Aunt Philippa was sitting bolt upright behind the tea-tray, and handed me my cup, rather as Lady Macbeth did the dagger. I received it, however, as though it were my due, and glanced at Uncle Max; but he was too wise to look at me, so I said, as coolly as possible, ’Why are you so silent, and yet you were talking loudly enough before Sara and I came into the room?’ For there is nothing like taking the bull of a dilemma by the horns; and I had plenty of, let us say, native impudence, only, personally, I should have given it another name; and then, of course, I brought the storm upon me.