Lady Charlotte was too late for Emilia, when she went forth to her to speak for Wilfrid. She found the youth Braintop resting heavily against a tree, muttering to himself that he had no notion where he was, as an excuse for his stationary posture, while the person he presumed he should have detained was being borne away. Near him a scrap of paper lay on the ground, struck out of darkness by long slips of light from the upper windows. Thinking this might be something purposely dropped, she took possession of it; but a glance subsequently showed her that the writing was too fervid for a female hand. “Or does the girl write in that way?” she thought. She soon decided that it was Wilfrid who had undone her work in the line of thirsty love-speech. “How can a little fool read them and not believe any lie that he may tell!” she cried to herself. She chose to say contemptuously: “It’s like a child proclaiming he is hungry.” That it was couched in bad taste she positively conceived— taking the paper up again and again to correct her memory. The termination, “Your lover,” appeared to her, if not laughable, revolting. She was uncertain in her sentiments at this point.
Was it amusing? or simply execrable? Some charity for the unhappy document Lady Charlotte found when she could say: “I suppose this is the general run of the kind of again.” “Was it?” she reflected; and drank at the words again. “No,” she came to think; “men don’t commonly write as he does, whoever wrote this.” She had no doubt that it was Wilfrid. By fits her wrath was directed against him. “It’s villany,” she said. But more and more frequently a crouching abject longing to call the words her own—to have them poured into her heart and brain—desire for the intoxication of the naked speech of love usurped her spirit of pride, until she read with envious tears, half loathing herself, but fascinated and subdued: “Mine! my angel! You will see me to-morrow.—Your Lover.”
Of jealousy she felt very little—her chief thought coming like a wave over her: “Here is a man that can love!”
She was a woman of chaste blood, which spoke to her as shyly as a girl’s, now that it was in tumult: so indeed that, pressing her heart, she thought youth to have come back, and feasted on the exultation we have when, at an odd hour, we fancy we have cheated time. The sensation of youth and strength seemed to set a seal of lawfulness and naturalness, hitherto wanting, on her feeling for Wilfrid. “I can help him,” she thought. “I know where he fails, and what he can do. I can give him position, and be worth as much as any woman can be to a man.” Thus she justified the direction taken by the new force in her.