‘You speak,’ said Louise, after a short silence, ’just as if you were making an agreement with a servant.’
’That’s all nonsense, and you know it. I’ve told you how I think, often enough, in letters, and I’m not good at saying it. Look here, I don’t think it’s very wise to stand out in the middle of the Common in a thunderstorm. Let us walk on, and I think I would put down your umbrella.’
‘It wouldn’t trouble you much if I were struck with lightning.’
‘All right, take it so. I shan’t trouble to contradict.’
Louise followed his advice, and they began to walk quickly down the slope towards Streatham. Neither spoke until they were in the high road again. A strong wind was driving the rain-clouds to other regions and the thunder had ceased; there came a grey twilight; rows of lamps made a shimmering upon the wet ways.
‘What sort of a house would you take?’ Louise asked suddenly.
‘Oh, a decent enough house. What kind do you want?’
‘Something like the Mumfords’. It needn’t be quite so large,’ she added quickly; ’but a house with a garden, in a nice road, and in a respectable part.’
‘That would suit me well enough,’ answered Cobb cheerfully. ’You seem to think I want to drag you down, but you’re very much mistaken. I’m doing pretty well, and likely, as far as I can see, to do better. I don’t grudge you money; far from it. All I want to know is, that you’ll marry me for my own sake.’
He dropped his voice, not to express tenderness, but because other people were near. Upon Louise, however, it had a pleasing effect, and she smiled.
‘Very well,’ she made answer, in the same subdued tone. ’Then let us settle it in that way.’
They talked amicably for the rest of the time that they spent together. It was nearly an hour, and never before had they succeeded in conversing so long without a quarrel. Louise became light-hearted and mirthful; her companion, though less abandoned to the mood of the moment, wore a hopeful countenance. Through all his roughness, Cobb was distinguished by a personal delicacy which no doubt had impressed Louise, say what she might of pretended fears. At parting, he merely shook hands with her, as always.
Glad of a free evening, Emmeline, after dinner, walked round to Mrs. Fentiman’s. Louise had put a restraint upon the wonted friendly intercourse between the Mumfords and their only familiar acquaintances at Sutton. Mrs. Fentiman liked to talk of purely domestic matters, and in a stranger’s presence she was never at ease. Coming alone, and when the children were all safe in bed, Emmeline had a warm welcome. For the first time she spoke of her troublesome guest without reserve. This chat would have been restful and enjoyable but for a most unfortunate remark that fell from the elder lady, a perfectly innocent mention of something her husband had told her, but, secretly, so disturbing Mrs. Mumford that, after hearing it, she got away as soon as possible, and walked quickly home with dark countenance.