’I haven’t been to London. I’ve walked about—all day—and oh, I’m so tired and miserable! Will you let me stay, just for to-night? I shall be so grateful.’
’Of course you may stay, Miss Derrick. It was very far from my wish to see you go off at a moment’s notice. But I really couldn’t stop you.’
Mumford had stepped aside, out of hearing. He forgot his private embarrassment in speculation as to the young woman’s character. That she was acting distress and penitence he could hardly believe; indeed, there was no necessity to accuse her of dishonest behaviour. The trivial concealment between him and her amounted to nothing, did not alter the facts of the situation. But what could be at the root of her seemingly so foolish existence? Emmeline held to the view that she was in love with the man Cobb, though perhaps unwilling to admit it, even in her own silly mind. It might be so, and, if so, it made her more interesting; for one was tempted to think that Louise had not the power of loving at all. Yet, for his own part, he couldn’t help liking her; the eyes at had looked into his at the station haunted him a little, and would not let him think of her contemptuously. But what a woman to make ones wife! Unless—unless—
Louise had gone into the house. Emmeline approached her husband.
‘There! I foresaw it. Isn’t vexing?’
‘Never mind, dear. She’ll go to morrow, or the day after.’
‘I wish I could be sure of that.’
Louise did not appear again that evening. Thoroughly tired, she unpacked her trunks, sat awhile by the open window, listening to a piano in a neighbouring house, and then jumped into bed. From ten o’clock to eight next morning she slept soundly.
At breakfast her behaviour was marked with excessive decorum. To the ordinary civilities of her host and hostess she replied softly, modestly, in the manner of a very young and timid girl; save when addressed, she kept silence, and sat with head inclined; a virginal freshness breathed about her; she ate very little, and that without her usual gusto, but rather as if performing a dainty ceremony. Her eyes never moved in Mumford’s direction.
The threatened letter from Mrs. Higgins had arrived; Emmeline and her husband read it before their guest came down. If Louise continued to reside with them, they entertained her with a full knowledge that no payment must be expected from Coburg Lodge. Emmeline awaited the disclosure of her guest’s project, which had more than once been alluded to yesterday; she could not dream of permitting Louise to stay for more than a day or two, whatever the suggestion offered. This morning she had again heard from her sister, Mrs. Grove, who was strongly of opinion that Miss Derrick should be sent back to her native sphere.
‘I shall always feel,’ she said to her husband, ’that we have behaved badly. I was guilty of false pretences. Fortunately, we have the excuse of her unbearable temper. But for that, I should feel dreadfully ashamed of myself.’