Miss Derrick had gone back into the drawing-room, and, to Emmeline’s surprise, remained there. This retirement was ominous; the girl must be taking some resolve. Emmeline, on her part, braced her courage for the step on which she had decided. Luncheon awaited them, but it would be much better to arrive at an understanding before they sat down to the meal. She entered the room and found Louise leaning on the back of a chair.
‘I dare say you heard the row,’ Miss Derrick remarked coldly. ’I’m very sorry, but nothing of that kind shall happen again.’
Her countenance was disturbed, she seemed to be putting a restraint upon herself, and only with great effort to subdue her voice.
‘What are you going to do?’ asked Emmeline, in a friendly tone, but, as it were, from a distance.
‘I am going to ask you to do me a great kindness, Mrs. Mumford.’
There was no reply. The girl paused a moment, then resumed impulsively.
’Mr. Higgins says that if I don’t come home, he won’t let me have any more money. They’re going to write and tell you that they won’t be responsible after this for my board and lodging. Of course I shall not go home; I shouldn’t dream of it; I’d rather earn my living as—as a scullery maid. I want to ask you, Mrs. Mumford, whether you will let me stay on, and trust me to pay what I owe you. It won’t be for very long, and I promise you I will pay, every penny.’
The natural impulse of Emmeline’s disposition was to reply with hospitable kindliness; she found it very difficult to maintain her purpose; it shamed her to behave like the ordinary landlady, to appear actuated by mean motives. But the domestic strain was growing intolerable, and she felt sure that Clarence would be exasperated if her weakness prolonged it.
‘Now do let me advise you, Louise,’ she answered gently. ’Are you acting wisely? Wouldn’t it be very much better to go home?’,
Louise lost all her self-control. Flushed with anger, her eyes glaring, she broke into vehement exclamations.
’You want to get rid of me! Very well, I’ll go this moment. I was going to tell you something; but you don’t care what becomes of me. I’ll send for my luggage; you shan’t be troubled with it long. And you’ll be paid all that’s owing. I didn’t think you were one of that kind. I’ll go this minute.’
‘Just as you please,’ said Emmeline, ’Your temper is really so very—’
’Oh, I know. It’s always my temper, and nobody else is ever to blame. I wouldn’t stay another night in the house, if I had to sleep on the Downs!’