Down at her right hand, bordering a water, stood a sallow, a dead tree, channelled inside with the brown trail of a goat-moth. Looking in this direction, she saw Cornelia advancing to the tree. When the lady had reached it, she drew a little book from her bosom, kissed it, and dropped it in the hollow. This done, she passed among the firs. Emilia had perceived that she was agitated: and with that strange instinct of hearts beginning to stir, which makes them divine at once where they will come upon the secret of their own sensations, she ran down to the tree and peered on tiptoe at the embedded volume. On a blank page stood pencilled: “This is the last fruit of the tree. Come not to gather more.” There was no meaning for her in that sentimental chord but she must have got some glimpse of a meaning; for now, as in an agony, her lips fashioned the words: “If I forget his face I may as well die;” and she wandered on, striving more and more vainly to call up his features. The—“Does he think of me?” and—“What am I to him?”—such timorous little feather-play of feminine emotion she knew nothing of: in her heart was the strong flood of a passion.
She met Edward Buxley and Freshfield Sumner at a cross-path, on their way to Brookfield; and then Adela joined the party, which soon embraced Mr. Barrett, and subsequently Cornelia. All moved on in a humming leisure, chattering by fits. Mr. Sumner was delicately prepared to encounter Mrs. Chump, “whom,” said Adela, “Edward himself finds it impossible to caricature;” and she affected to laugh at the woman.
“Happy the pencil that can reproduce!” Mr. Barrett exclaimed; and, meeting his smile, Cornelia said: “Do you know, my feeling is, and I cannot at all account for it, that if she were a Catholic she would not seem so gross?”
“Some of the poetry of that religion would descend upon her, possibly,” returned Mr. Barrett.
“Do you mean,” Freshfield said quickly, “that she would stand a fair chance of being sainted?”
Out of this arose some polite fencing between the two. Freshfield might have argued to advantage in a Court of law; but he was no match, on such topics and before such an audience, for a refined sentimentalist. More than once he betrayed a disposition to take refuge in his class (he being son to one of the puisne Judges). Cornelia speedily punished him, and to any correction from her he bowed his head.
Adela was this day gifted with an extraordinary insight. Emilia alone of the party was as a blot to her; but the others she saw through, as if they had been walking transparencies. She divined that Edward and Freshfield had both come, in concert, upon amorous business—that it was Freshfield’s object to help Edward to a private interview with her, and, in return, Edward was to perform the same service for him with Cornelia. So that Mr. Barrett was shockingly in the way of both; and the perplexity