‘I assure you, nothing of the kind.’
There was a brief silence, then Cobb’s voice again sounded with blunt emphasis.
’We’re neither of us very good-tempered. We’ve known each other about a year, and we must have quarrelled about fifty times.’
‘Do you think, then,’ ventured the hostess, ’that it would ever be possible for you to live peacefully together?’
‘Yes, I do,’ was the robust answer. ’It would be a fight for the upper hand, but I know who’d get it, and after that things would be all right.’
Emmeline could not restrain a laugh, and her visitor joined in it with a heartiness which spoke in his favour.
’I promise you, Mr. Cobb, that I will do nothing whatever against your interests.’
‘That’s very kind of you, and it’s all I wanted to know.’
He stood up. Emmeline, still doubtful how to behave, asked him if he would call on another day, when Miss Derrick might be at home.
‘It’s only by chance I was able to get here this afternoon,’ he replied. ’I haven’t much time to go running about after her, and that’s where I’m at a disadvantage. I don’t know whether there’s anyone else, and I’m not asking you to tell me, if you know. Of course I have to take my chance; but so long as you don’t speak against me—and she thinks a great deal of your advice—’
’I’m very glad to be assured of that. All I shall do, Mr. Cobb, is to keep before her mind the duty of behaving straightforwardly.’
‘That’s the thing! Nobody can ask more than that.’
Emmeline hesitated, but could not dismiss him without shaking hands. That he did not offer to do so until invited, though he betrayed no sense of social inferiority, seemed another point in his favour.
Not half an hour after Cobb’s departure Louise returned. Emmeline was surprised to see her back so soon; they met near the railway station as Mrs. Mumford was on her way to a shop in High Street.
’Isn’t it good of me! If I had stayed longer I should have gone home to quarrel with Cissy; but I struggled against the temptation. Going to the grocer’s? Oh, do let me go with you, and see how you do that kind of thing. I never gave an order at the grocer’s in my life— no, indeed I never did. Mother and Cissy have always looked after that. And I want to learn about housekeeping; you promised to teach me.’
Emmeline made no mention of Mr. Cobb’s call until they reached the house.
‘He came here!’ Louise exclaimed, reddening. ’What impudence! I shall at once write and tell him that his behaviour is outrageous. Am I to be hunted like this?’
Her wrath seemed genuine enough; but she was vehemently eager to learn all that had passed. Emmeline made a truthful report.
’You’re quite sure that was all? Oh, his impertinence! Well, and now that you’ve seen him, don’t you understand how—how impossible it is?’