“It might not be necessary, my lord. Good morning;” and her courteous bow was an absolute dismissal.
But when Alison came home she found her more depressed than she had allowed herself to be for years, and on asking what was the matter was answered—
“Pride and perverseness, Ailie!” then, in reply to the eager exclamation, “I believe he was justified in all he said. But, Ailie, I have preached to Colin more than I had a right to do about forgiving his brother. I did not know how provoking he can be. I did not think it was still in me to fly out as I did!”
“He had no business to come here interfering and tormenting you,” said Alison, hotly.
“I dare say he thought he had! But one could not think of that when it came to threatening me with his giving no help to Colin if— There was no resisting telling him how little we cared!”
“You have not offended him so that he will keep Colin away!”
“The more he tried, the more Colin would come! No, I am not sorry for having offended him. I don’t mind him; but Ailie, how little one knows! All the angry and bitter feelings that I thought burnt out for ever when I lay waiting for death, are stirred up as hotly as they were long ago. The old self is here as strong as ever! Ailie, don’t tell Colin about this; but to-morrow is a saint’s day, and would you see Mr. Touchett, and try to arrange for me to go to the early service? I think then I might better be helped to conquer this.”
“But, Ermine, how can you? Eight o’clock, you know.”
“Yes, dearest, it will give you a great deal of trouble, but you never mind that, you know; and I am so much stronger than I used to be, that you need not fear. Besides, I want help so much! And it is the day Colin goes away!”
Alison obeyed, as she always obeyed her sister; and Lord Keith, taking his constitutional turn before breakfast on the esplanade, was met by what he so little expected to encounter that he had not time to get out of the way—a Bath chair with Alison walking on one side, his brother on the other. He bowed coldly, but Ermine held out her hand, and he was obliged to come near.
“I am glad to have met you,” she said.
“I am glad to see you out so early,” he answered, confused.
“This is an exception,” she said, smiling and really looking beautiful. “Good-bye, I have thought over what passed yesterday, and I believe we are more agreed than perhaps I gave you reason to think.”
There was a queenly air of dignified exchange of pardon in her manner of giving her hand and bending her head as she again said “Good-bye,” and signed to her driver to move on.
Lord Keith could only say “Good-bye;” then, looking after her, muttered, “After all, that is a remarkable woman.”
WOMAN’S MISSION DISCOVERED.