Eustace literally gasped with the magnitude of the revelation.
“Great Heavens! and I offered to go with him instead of her.”
“Yes, you great blundering baby!”
“Oh, my dear, are you sure—are you quite sure? Remember his position and Vera’s.”
“Well, and isn’t Vera good enough, and beautiful enough, for any position?” answered her sister, proudly.
“Yes, yes; that is true; God bless her!” he said, fervently. “Marion, what a clever woman you are to find it out.”
“Of course I am clever, sir. But, Eustace, it is only beginning, you know; so we must just let things take their course, and not seem to notice anything. And, mind, not a word to your mother.”
Meanwhile Vera and Sir John Kynaston were walking down the village street together. The man awkward and ill at ease, the woman calm and composed, and thoroughly mistress of the occasion.
“It is very good of you about the chancel,” said Vera, softly, breaking the embarrassment of the silence between them.
“You knew I should do it,” he said, looking at her.
She smiled. “I thought perhaps you would.”
“You know why I am going to do it—for whose sake, do you not?” he pursued, still keeping his eyes upon her downcast face.
“Because it is the right thing to do, I hope; and for the sake of doing good,” she answered, sedately; and Sir John felt immediately reproved and rebuked, as though by the voice of an angelic being.
“Tell me,” he said, presently, “is it true that they want you to marry—that parson—Gisburne, of Tripton? Forgive me for asking.”
Vera coloured a little and laughed.
“What dreadful things little boys are!” was all she said.
“Nay, but I want to know. Are you—are you engaged to him?” with a sudden painful eagerness of manner.
“Most decidedly I am not,” she answered, earnestly.
Sir John breathed again.
“I don’t know what you will think of me; you will, perhaps, say I am very impertinent. I know I have no right to question you.”
“I only think you are very kind to take an interest in me,” she answered, gently, looking at him with that wonderful look in her shadowy eyes that came into them unconsciously when she felt her softest and her best.
They had passed through the village by this time into the quiet lane beyond; needless to say that no thought of Hoggs, the clerk, or his cottage, had come into either of their heads by the way.
Sir John stopped short, and Vera of necessity stopped too.
“I thought—it seemed to me by what I overheard,” he said, hesitatingly, “that they were tormenting you—persecuting you, perhaps—into a marriage you do not wish for.”
“They have wished me to marry Mr. Gisburne,” Vera admitted, in a low voice, rustling the fallen brown leaves with her foot, her eyes fixed on the ground.