Adela, worn with fatigue, sobbed, “Oh! Oh!”
“By the way, Sir Twickenham called, and wished to see you,” said Arabella curiously.
“Oh! so weary!” the fair girl ejaculated, half-dreaming that she saw herself as she threw back her head and gazed at stars and clouds. “We met Captain Gambier in town.” Here she pinched Arabella’s arm.
The latter said, “Where?”
“In a miserable street, where he looked like a peacock in a quagmire.”
Arabella entreated Wilfrid to be careful in his management of their father. “Pray, do not thwart him. He has been anxious to know where you have gone. He—he thinks you have conducted Mrs. Chump, and will bring her back. I did not say it—I merely let him think so.”
She added presently, “He has spoken of money.”
“Yes?” went Adela, in a low breath.
“Cornelia imagines that—that we—he is perhaps in—in want of it. Merchants are, sometimes.”
“Did Sir Twickenham say he would call to-morrow?” asked Adela.
“He said that most probably he would.”
Wilfrid had been silent. As he entered the house, Mr. Pole’s bedroom-bell rang, and word came that he was to go to his father. As soon as the sisters were alone, Adela groaned: “We have been hunting that girl all day in vile neighbourhoods. Wilfrid has not spoken more than a dozen sentences. I have had to dine on buns and hideous soup. I am half-dead with the smell of cabs. Oh! if ever I am poor it will kill me. That damp hay and close musty life are too intolerable! Yes! You see I care for what I eat. I seem to be growing an animal. And Wilfrid is going to drag me over the same course to-morrow, if you don’t prevent him. I would not mind, only it is absolutely necessary that I should see Sir Twickenham.”
She gave a reason why, which appeared to Arabella so cogent that she said at once: “If Cornelia does not take your place I will.”
The kiss of thanks given by Adela was accompanied by a request for tea. Arabella regretted that she had sent the servants to bed.
“To bed!” cried her sister. “But they are the masters, not we! Really, if life were a round of sensual pleasure, I think our servants might congratulate themselves.”
Arabella affected to show that they had their troubles; but her statement made it clear that the servants of Brookfield were peculiarly favoured servants, as it was their mistress’s pride to make them. Eventually Adela consented to drink some sparkling light wine; and being thirsty she drank eagerly, and her tongue was loosed, insomuch that she talked of things as one who had never been a blessed inhabitant of the kingdom of Fine Shades. She spoke of ‘Cornelia’s chances;’ of ’Wilfrid’s headstrong infatuation—or worse;’ and of ‘Papa’s position,’ remarking that she could both laugh and cry.
Arabella, glad to see her refreshed, was pained by her rampant tone; and when Adela, who had fallen into one of her reflective ‘long-shot’ moods, chanced to say, “What a number of different beings there are in the world!” her reply was, “I was just then thinking we are all less unlike than we suppose.”