“But she knows—” began Harriet, and then stopped, her eyes falling.
“What does she know?” demanded her cousin in surprise; but could get no reply to his question. However, his arguments seemed at length to have a calming effect, and, as he took leave, he even affected to laugh at the whole affair. For all that, he had never suffered such mental trouble in his life as during this visit and throughout the evening which followed. The mere thought of having been obliged to discuss such things with his cousin filled him with inexpressible shame and misery. Waymark came to spend the evening with him, but found poor entertainment. Several times Julian was on the point of relating what had happened, and asking for advice, but he found it impossible to broach the subject. There was an ever-recurring anger against Harriet in his mind, too, for which at the same time he reproached himself. He dreaded the next meeting between them.
Harriet, though herself quite innocent of fine feeling and nice complexities of conscience, was well aware of the existence of such properties in her cousin. She neither admired nor despised him for possessing them; they were of unknown value, indifferent to her, indeed, until she became aware of the practical use that might be made of them. Like most narrow-minded girls, she became a shrewd reader of character, when her affections and interests were concerned, and could calculate Julian’s motives, and the course wherein they would lead him, with much precision. She knew too well that he did not care for her in the way she desired, but at the same time she knew that he was capable of making almost any sacrifice to spare her humiliation and trouble, especially if he felt that her unhappiness was in any way caused by himself.
Thus it came about that, on the Tuesday evening of the ensuing week, Julian was startled by his landlady’s announcing another visit from Miss Smales. Harriet came into the room with a veil over her face, and sank on a chair, sobbing. What she had feared had come to pass. The lodger had told Mrs. Ogle of what had taken place in her absence on the Sunday afternoon, and Harriet had received notice that she must find another place at once. Mrs. Ogle was a woman of severe virtue, and would not endure the suspicion of wrong-doing under her roof. To whom could she come for advice and help, but to Julian?
Julian was overwhelmed. His perfectly sincere nature was incapable of suspecting a far more palpable fraud. He started up with the intention of going forthwith to Gray’s Inn Road, but Harriet clung to him and held him back. The idea was vain. The lodger, Miss Mould, had long entertained a spite against her, Harriet said, and had so exaggerated this story in relating it to Mrs. Ogle, that the latter, and her husband, had declared that Casti should not as much as put foot in their shop again.
“If you only knew what they’ve been told!” sobbed the girl, still clinging to Julian. “They wouldn’t listen to a word you said. As if I could have thought of such a thing happening, and that woman to say all the bad things of us she can turn her tongue to! I sha’n’t never get another place; I’m thrown out on the wide world!”