“I didn’t know you had Rossetti,” he said, without looking up. “You never mentioned him.”
“I seem to have had no opportunity.”
“No. I too have many things that I have wanted to speak to you about, but opportunity was wanting. I have sometimes been on the point of asking you to let me write to you again.”
He glanced inquiringly at her. Her eyes fell, and she tried to speak, but failed. Waymark went to a seat at a little distance from her.
“You do not look as well as when I met you in the summer,” he said. “I have feared you might be studying too hard. I hope you threw away your books whilst you were at the sea-side.”
“I did, but it was because I found little pleasure in them. It was not rest that took the place of reading.”
“Are your difficulties of a kind you could speak of to me?” he asked, with some hesitation.
She kept her eyes lowered, and her fingers writhed nervously on the arm of the chair.
“My only fear would be lest you should think my troubles unreal. Indeed it is so hard to make them appear anything more than morbid fancies. They are traceable, no doubt, to my earliest years. To explain them fully, I should have to tell you circumstances of my life which could have little interest for you.”
“Tell me—do,” Waymark replied earnestly.
“Will you let me?” she said, with a timid pleasure in her voice. “I believe you could understand me. I have a feeling that you must have experienced something of these troubles yourself, and have overcome them. Perhaps you could help me to understand myself.”
“If I thought I could, it would give me great happiness.”
She was silent a little, then, with diffidence which lessened as she went on, she related the history, as far as she knew it, of her childhood, and described the growth of her mind up to the time when she had left home to begin life as a governess. It was all very simply, but very vividly, told; that natural command of impressive language which had so struck Waymark in her letters displayed itself as soon as she had gained confidence. Glimpses of her experience Waymark had already had, but now for the first time he understood the full significance of her early years. Whilst she spoke, he did not move his eyes from her face. He was putting himself in her position, and imagining himself to be telling his own story in the same way. His relation, he knew, would have been a piece of more or less clever acting, howsoever true; he would have been considering, all the time, the effect of what he said, and, indeed, could not, on this account, have allowed himself to be quite truthful. How far was this the case with Maud Enderby? Could he have surprised the faintest touch of insincerity in look or accent, it would have made a world’s difference in his position towards her. His instinct was unfailing in the detection of the note of affected feeling; so much