“And what has this pretty head got to do with thinking?”
“Not much, I suppose, my lord,” she replied, affecting nobly to acknowledge the weakness of the female creature.
Wilfrid kissed her with an unaccustomed fervour. This delicate mumming was to his taste. It was yet more so when she spoke playfully to him of his going soon to be a married man. He could answer to that in a smiling negative, playing round the question, until she perceived that he really desired to have his feeling for the odd dark girl who had recently shot across their horizon touched, if only it were led to by the muffled ways of innuendo.
As a dog, that cannot ask you verbally to scratch his head, but wishes it, will again and again thrust his head into your hand, petitioning mutely that affection may divine him, so:—but we deal with a sentimentalist, and the simile is too gross to be exact. For no sooner was Wilfrid’s head scratched, than the operation stuck him as humiliating; in other words, the moment he felt his sisters fingers in the ticklish part, he flew to another theme, then returned, and so backward and forward—mystifying her not slightly, and making her think, “Then he has no heart.” She by no means intended to encourage love for Emilia, but she hoped for his sake, that the sentiment he had indulged was sincere. By-and-by he said, that though he had no particular affection for Lady Charlotte, he should probably marry her.
“Without loving her, Wilfrid? It is unfair to her; it is unfair to yourself.”
Wilfrid understood perfectly who it was for whom she pleaded thus vehemently. He let her continue: and when she had dwelt on the horrors of marriages without love, and the supreme duty of espousing one who has our ‘heart’s loyalty,’ he said, “You may be right. A man must not play with a girl. He must consider that he owes a duty to one who is more dependent;”—implying that a woman s duty was distinct and different in such a case.
Cornelia could not rise and plead for her sex. Had she pushed forth the ‘woman,’ she must have stood for her.
This is the game of Fine Shades and Nice Feelings, under whose empire you see this family, and from which they are to emerge considerably shorn, but purified—examples of One present passage of our civilization.
“At least, dear, if” (Cornelia desperately breathed the name) “—if Emilia were forced to give her hand...loving...you...we should be right in pitying her?”