He stooped his head. Emilia put her hands on his shoulders, and submitted her face to him.
“There!” went Mr. Pole: “’pon my honour, it does me good:—better than medicine! But you mustn’t give that dose to everybody, my dear. You don’t, of course. All right, all right—I’m quite satisfied. I was only thinking of you going to Italy, among those foreign rascals, who’ve no more respect for a girl than they have for a monkey—their brother. A set of swindlers! I took you for the wife of one when you came in, at first. And now, business is business. Let’s get it over. What have you come about? Glad to see you—understand that.”
Emilia lifted her eyes to his.
“You know I love you, sir.”
“I’m sure you’re a grateful little woman.”
She rose: “Oh! how can I speak it!”
An idea that his daughters had possibly sent her to herald one of the renowned physicians of London, concerning whom he was perpetually being plagued by them, or to lead him to one, flashed through Mr. Pole. He was not in a state to weigh the absolute value of such a suspicion, but it seemed probable; it explained an extraordinary proceeding; and, having conceived, his wrath took it up as a fact, and fought with it.
“Stop! If that’s what you’ve come for, we’ll bring matters to a crisis. You fancy me ill, don’t you, my dear?”
“You do not look well, sir.”
Emilia’s unhesitating reply confirmed his suspicion.
“I am well. I am, I say! And now, understand that, if that’s your business, I won’t go to the fellow, and I won’t see him here. They’ll make me out mad, next. He shall never have a guinea from me while I live. No, nor when I die. Not a farthing! Sit down, my dear, and wait for the biscuits. I wish to heaven they’d come. There’s brandy coming, too. Where’s Braintop?”
He took out his handkerchief to wipe his forehead, and jerked it like a bell-rope.
Emilia, in a singular bewilderment, sat eyeing a beam of sombre city sunlight on the dusty carpet. She could only suppose that the offending “he” was Wilfrid; but, why he should be so, she could not guess: and how to plead for him, divided her mind.
“Don’t blame him; be angry with me, if you are angry,” she began softly. “I know he thinks of you anxiously. I know he would do nothing to hurt you. No one is so kind as he is. Would you deprive him of money, because he offends you?”
“Deprive him of money,” repeated Mr. Pole, with ungrudging accentuation. “Well, I’ve heard about women, but I never knew one so anxious for a doctor to get his fee as you are.”
Emilia wonderingly fixed her sight on him an instant, and, quite unillumined, resumed: “Blame me, sir. But, I know you will be too kind. Oh! I love him. So, I must love you, and I would not give you pain. It is true he loves me. You will not see him, because he loves me?”