ON THE HEIGHTS
In vain, at each meal, did Clifford Marsh await Cecily’s appearance. A trifling indisposition kept her to her room, was Mrs. Lessingham’s reply to sympathetic inquiries. Mr. and Mrs. Bradshaw, who were seriously making their preparations for journeying northward, held private talk concerning the young lady, and felt they would like to stay a week longer, just to see if their suspicions would be confirmed. Mrs. Denyer found it difficult to assume the becoming air when she put civil questions to Mrs. Lessingham, for she was now assured that to Miss Doran was attributable the alarming state of things between Clifford and Madeline; Marsh would never have been so intractable but for this new element in the situation. Madeline herself on the other hand, was a model of magnanimity; in Clifford’s very hearing, she spoke of Cecily with tender concern, and then walked past her recreant admirer with her fair head in a pose of conscious grace.
Even Mr. Musselwhite, at the close of the second day, grew aware that the table lacked one of its ornaments. It was his habit now— a new habit came as a blessing of Providence to Mr. Musselwhite— on passing into the drawing-room after dinner, to glance towards a certain corner, and, after slow, undecided “tackings,” to settle in that direction. There sat Barbara Denyer. Her study at present was one of the less-known works of Silvio Pellico, and as Mr. Musselwhite approached, she looked up with an air of absorption. He was wont to begin conversation with the remark, flatteringly toned, “Reading Italian as usual, Miss Denyer?” but this evening a new subject had been suggested to him.
“I hope Miss Doran is not seriously unwell, Miss Denyer?”
“Oh, I think not.”
Mr. Musselwhite reflected, stroking his whiskers in a gentlemanly way.
“One misses her,” was his next remark.
“Yes, so much. She is so charming—don’t you think, Mr. Musselwhite?”
“Very.” He now plucked at the whiskers uneasily. “Oh yes, very.”
Barbara smiled and turned her attention to the book, as though she could spare no more time. Mr. Musselwhite, dimly feeling that this topic demanded no further treatment, racked his brains for something else to say. He was far towards Lincolnshire when a rustle of the pages under Barbara’s finger gave him a happy inspiration.
“I don’t know whether you would care to see English papers now and then, Miss Denyer? I always have quite a number. The Field, for instance, and—”
“You are very kind, I don’t read much English, but I shall be glad to see anything you like to bring me.”
Mrs. Denyer was not wholly without consolation in her troubles about Clifford Marsh.
On the following morning, as she and her daughters were going out, they came face to face with a gentleman who was announcing to the servant his wish to see Miss Doran. Naturally they all glanced at him. Would he be admitted? With much presence of mind, Madeline exclaimed,—