He stooped down, kissed the little hand, and then left the room.
‘The cursed scoundrel!’ he muttered between his teeth, as he closed the door behind him. ’If it were not for Sir Christopher, I should like to pound him into paste to poison puppies like himself.’
That evening Captain Wybrow, returning from a long ride with Miss Assher, went up to his dressing-room, and seated himself with an air of considerable lassitude before his mirror. The reflection there presented of his exquisite self was certainly paler and more worn than usual, and might excuse the anxiety with which he first felt his pulse, and then laid his hand on his heart.
‘It’s a devil of a position this for a man to be in,’ was the train of his thought, as he kept his eyes fixed on the glass, while he leaned back in his chair, and crossed his hands behind his head; ’between two jealous women, and both of them as ready to take fire as tinder. And in my state of health, too! I should be glad enough to run away from the whole affair, and go off to some lotos-eating place or other where there are no women, or only women who are too sleepy to be jealous. Here am I, doing nothing to please myself, trying to do the best thing for everybody else, and all the comfort I get is to have fire shot at me from women’s eyes, and venom spirted at me from women’s tongues. If Beatrice takes another jealous fit into her head—and it’s likely enough, Tina is so unmanageable—I don’t know what storm she may raise. And any hitch in this marriage, especially of that sort, might be a fatal business for the old gentleman. I wouldn’t have such a blow fall upon him for a great deal. Besides, a man must be married some time in his life, and I could hardly do better than marry Beatrice. She’s an uncommonly fine woman, and I’m really very fond of her; and as I shall let her have her own way, her temper won’t signify much. I wish the wedding was over and done with, for this fuss doesn’t suit me at all. I haven’t been half so well lately. That scene about Tina this morning quite upset me. Poor little Tina! What a little simpleton it was, to set her heart on me in that way! But she ought to see how impossible it is that things should be different. If she would but understand how kindly I feel towards her, and make up her mind to look on me as a friend;—but that it what one never can get a woman to do. Beatrice is very good-natured; I’m sure she would be kind to the little thing. It would be a great comfort if Tina would take to Gilfil, if it were only in anger against me. He’d make her a capital husband, and I should like to see the little grass-hopper happy. If I had been in a different position, I would certainly have married her myself: hut that was out of the question with my responsibilities to Sir Christopher. I think a little persuasion from my uncle would bring her to accept Gilfil; I know she would never be able to oppose my uncle’s wishes. And if they were once married, she’s such a loving little thing, she would soon be billing and cooing with him as if she had never known me. It would certainly be the best thing for her happiness if that marriage were hastened. Heigho! Those are lucky fellows that have no women falling in love with them. It’s a confounded responsibility.’