’Nay, my dinner doon’t sinnify a bit; but I moosn’t kaep ye if my ledy wants ye. Though I hevn’t thanked ye half anoof for the comfiter—the wrapraskil, as they call’t. My feckins, it’s a beauty. But ye look very whaite and sadly, Miss Tiny; I doubt ye’re poorly; an’ this walking i’ th’ wet isn’t good for ye.’
‘O yes, it is indeed,’ said Caterina, hastening out, and taking up her umbrella from the kitchen floor. ‘I must really go now; so good-bye.’
She tripped off, calling Rupert, while the good gardener, his hands thrust deep in his pockets, stood looking after her and shaking his head with rather a melancholy air.
‘She gets moor nesh and dillicat than iver,’ he said, half to himself and half to Hester. ’I shouldn’t woonder if she fades away laike them cyclamens as I transplanted. She puts me i’ maind on ’em somehow, hangin’ on their little thin stalks, so whaite an’ tinder.’
The poor little thing made her way back, no longer hungering for the cold moist air as a counteractive of inward excitement, but with a chill at her heart which made the outward chill only depressing. The golden sunlight beamed through the dripping boughs like a Shechinah, or visible divine presence, and the birds were chirping and trilling their new autumnal songs so sweetly, it seemed as if their throats, as well as the air, were all the clearer for the rain; but Caterina moved through all this joy and beauty like a poor wounded leveret painfully dragging its little body through the sweet clover-tufts—for it, sweet in vain. Mr. Bates’s words about Sir Christopher’s joy, Miss Assher’s beauty, and the nearness of the wedding, had come upon her like the pressure of a cold hand, rousing her from confused dozing to a perception of hard, familiar realities. It is so with emotional natures whose thoughts are no more than the fleeting shadows cast by feeling: to them words are facts, and even when known to be false, have a mastery over their smiles and tears. Caterina entered her own room again, with no other change from her former state of despondency and wretchedness than an additional sense of injury from Anthony. His behaviour towards her in the morning was a new wrong. To snatch a caress when she justly claimed an expression of penitence, of regret, of sympathy, was to make more light of her than ever.
That evening Miss Assher seemed to carry herself with unusual haughtiness, and was coldly observant of Caterina. There was unmistakably thunder in the air. Captain Wybrow appeared to take the matter very easily, and was inclined to brave it out by paying more than ordinary attention to Caterina. Mr. Gilfil had induced her to play a game at draughts with him, Lady Assher being seated at picquet with Sir Christopher, and Miss Assher in determined conversation with Lady Cheverel. Anthony, thus left as an odd unit, sauntered up to Caterina’s chair, and leaned behind her, watching the game. Tina, with all the remembrances of the morning thick upon her, felt her cheeks becoming more and more crimson, and at last said impatiently, ’I wish you would go away.’