“And love of compliments.”
“Possibly. I was not conscious of paying them”
“And a disposition to rebel?”
“To challenge authority, at least.”
“That is a dreadful character.”
“At all events, it is a character.”
“Fit for an Alpine comrade?”
“For the best of comrades anywhere.”
“It is not a piece of drawing-room sculpture: that is the most one can say for it!” she dropped a dramatic sigh.
Had he been willing she would have continued the theme, for the pleasure a poor creature long gnawing her sensations finds in seeing herself from the outside. It fell away. After a silence, she could not renew it; and he was evidently indifferent, having to his own satisfaction dissected and stamped her a foreigner. With it passed her holiday. She had forgotten Sir Willoughby: she remembered him and said. “You knew Miss Durham, Mr. Whitford?”
He answered briefly, “I did.”
“Was she? . . .” some hot-faced inquiry peered forth and withdrew.
“Very handsome,” said Vernon.
“Yes; the dashing style of English.”
“I dare say she had a kind of courage.”
“She did very wrong.”
“I won’t say no. She discovered a man more of a match with herself; luckily not too late. We’re at the mercy . . .”
“Was she not unpardonable?”
“I should be sorry to think that of any one.”
“But you agree that she did wrong.”
“I suppose I do. She made a mistake and she corrected it. If she had not, she would have made a greater mistake.”
“The manner. . .”
“That was bad—as far as we know. The world has not much right to judge. A false start must now and then be made. It’s better not to take notice of it, I think.”
“What is it we are at the mercy of?”
“Currents of feeling, our natures. I am the last man to preach on the subject: young ladies are enigmas to me; I fancy they must have a natural perception of the husband suitable to them, and the reverse; and if they have a certain degree of courage, it follows that they please themselves.”
“They are not to reflect on the harm they do?” said Miss Middleton.
“By all means let them reflect; they hurt nobody by doing that.”
“But a breach of faith!”
“If the faith can be kept through life, all’s well.”
“And then there is the cruelty, the injury!”
“I really think that if a young lady came to me to inform me she must break our engagement—I have never been put to the proof, but to suppose it:—I should not think her cruel.”
“Then she would not be much of a loss.”
“And I should not think so for this reason, that it is impossible for a girl to come to such a resolution without previously showing signs of it to her . . . the man she is engaged to. I think it unfair to engage a girl for longer than a week or two, just time enough for her preparations and publications.”