“But, what!” shouted the impetuous Greek: “have you no curiosity? A woman! And zen, you saw not her?”
“No,” remarked Cornelia, in the same aggravating sing-song voice of utter indifference: “we don’t know whether it was not a man. Our usual organist is a man, I believe.”
The eyes of the Greek whitened savagely, and he relapsed into frigid politeness.
Wilfrid was not present to point their apprehensions. He had loitered behind; but when he joined them in the house subsequently, he was cheerful, and had a look of triumph about him which made his sisters say, “So, you have been with the Copleys:” and he allowed them to suppose it, if they pleased; the Copleys being young ladies of position in the neighbourhood, of much higher standing than the Tinleys, who, though very wealthy, could not have given their brother such an air, the sisters imagined.
At lunch, Wilfrid remarked carelessly: “By the way, I met that little girl we saw last night.”
“The singer! where?” asked his sisters, with one voice.
“Coming out of church.”
“She goes to church, then!”
This exclamation showed the heathen they took her to be.
“Why, she played the organ,” said Wilfrid.
“And how does she look by day? How does she dress?”
“Oh! very jolly little woman! Dresses quiet enough.”
“She played the organ! It was she, then! An organist! Is there anything approaching to gentility in her appearance?”
“I—really I’m no judge,” said Wilfrid. “You had better ask Laura Tinley. She was talking to her when I went up.”
The sisters exchanged looks. Presently they stood together in consultation. Then they spoke with their aunt, Mrs. Lupin, and went to their papa. The rapacity of those Tinleys for anything extraordinary was known to them, but they would not have conceived that their own discovery, their own treasure, could have been caught up so quickly. If the Tinleys got possession of her, the defection of Mr. Pericles might be counted on, and the display of a phenomenon would be lost to them. They decided to go down to Wilson’s farm that very day, and forestall their rivals by having her up to Brookfield. The idea of doing this had been in a corner of their minds all the morning: it seemed now the most sensible plan in the world. It was patronage, in its right sense. And they might be of great service to her, by giving a proper elevation and tone to her genius; while she might amuse them, and their guests, and be let off, in fact, as a firework for the nonce. Among the queenly cases of women who are designing to become the heads of a circle (if I may use the term), an accurate admeasurement of reciprocal advantages can scarcely be expected to rank; but the knowledge that an act, depending upon us for execution, is capable of benefiting both sides, will make the proceeding appear so unselfish, that