These last words were made doubly significant by a look of tenderness, and a kiss imprinted on the hand Captain Wybrow held in his. Miss Assher was conquered. It was so far from probable that Anthony should love that pale insignificant little thing—so highly probable that he should adore the beautiful Miss Assher. On the whole, it was rather gratifying that other women should be languishing for her handsome lover; he really was an exquisite creature. Poor Miss Sarti! Well, she would get over it.
Captain Wybrow saw his advantage. ‘Come, sweet love,’ he continued, ’let us talk no more about unpleasant things. You will keep Tina’s secret, and be very kind to her—won’t you?—for my sake. But you will ride out now? See what a glorious day it is for riding. Let me order the horses. I’m terribly in want of the air. Come, give me one forgiving kiss, and say you will go.’
Miss Assher complied with the double request, and then went to equip herself for the ride, while her lover walked to the stables.
Meanwhile Mr. Gilfil, who had a heavy weight on his mind, had watched for the moment when, the two elder ladies having driven out, Caterina would probably be alone in Lady Cheverel’s sitting-room. He went up and knocked at the door.
‘Come in,’ said the sweet mellow voice, always thrilling to him as the sound of rippling water to the thirsty.
He entered and found Caterina standing in some confusion as if she had been startled from a reverie. She felt relieved when she saw it was Maynard, but, the next moment, felt a little pettish that he should have come to interrupt and frighten her.
‘Oh, it is you, Maynard! Do you want Lady Cheverel?’
‘No, Caterina,’ he answered gravely; ’I want you. I have something very particular to say to you. Will you let me sit down with you for half an hour?’
‘Yes, dear old preacher,’ said Caterina, sitting down with an air of weariness; ‘what is it?’
Mr. Gilfil placed himself opposite to her, and said, ’I hope you will not be hurt, Caterina, by what I am going to say to you. I do not speak from any other feelings than real affection and anxiety for you. I put everything else out of the question. You know you are more to me than all the world; but I will not thrust before you a feeling which you are unable to return. I speak to you as a brother—the old Maynard that used to scold you for getting your fishing-line tangled ten years ago. You will not believe that I have any mean, selfish motive in mentioning things that are painful to you?’
‘No; I know you are very good,’ said Caterina, abstractedly.
‘From what I saw yesterday evening,’ Mr. Gilfil went on, hesitating and colouring slightly, ’I am led to fear—pray forgive me if I am wrong, Caterina—that you—that Captain Wybrow is base enough still to trifle with your feelings, that he still allows himself to behave to you as no man ought who is the declared lover of another woman.’