“Categorically I reply: Have I loved Miss Emilia Belloni?—No. Do I?—No. Do I love Charlotte Chillingworth?—Yes, ten thousand times! And now let Britomart disarm.”
He sought to get his reward by gentle muscular persuasion. Her arms alone yielded: and he judged from the angle of the neck, ultra-sharp though it was, that her averted face might be her form of exhibiting maidenly reluctance, feminine modesty. Suddenly the fingers in his grasp twisted, and not being at once released, she turned round to him.
“For God’s sake, spare the girl!”
Emilia stood in the doorway.
A knock at Merthyr’s chamber called him out while he sat writing to Marini on the national business. He heard Georgiana’s voice begging him to come to her quickly. When he saw her face the stain of tears was there.
“Anything the matter with Charlotte?” was his first question.
“No. But, come: I will tell you on the way. Do not look at me.”
“No personal matter of any kind?”
“Oh, no! I can have none;” and she took his hand for a moment.
They passed into the dark windy street smelling of the sea.
“Emilia is here,” said Georgiana. “I want you to persuade her—you will have influence with her. Oh, Merthyr! my darling brother! I thank God I love my brother with all my love! What a dreadful thing it is for a woman to love a man:”
“I suppose it is, while she has nothing else to do,” said Merthyr. “How did she come?—why?”
“If you had seen Emilia to-night, you would have felt that the difference is absolute.” Georgiana dealt first with the general case, “she came, I think, by some appointment.”
“Also just as absolute between her and her sex,” he rejoined, controlling himself, not to be less cool. “What has happened?”
Georgiana pointed to the hotel whither their steps were bent. “That is where Charlotte sleeps. Her going there was not a freak; she had an object. She wished to cure Emilia of her love for Mr. Wilfrid Pole. Emilia had come down to see him. Charlotte put her in an adjoining room to hear him say—what I presume they do say when the fit is on them! Was it not singular folly?”
It was a folly that Merthyr could not understand in his friend Charlotte. He said so, and then he gave a kindly sad exclamation of Emilia’s name.
“You do pity her still!” cried Georgiana, her heart leaping to hear it expressed so simply.
“Why, what other feeling can I have?” said he unsuspiciously.
“No, dear Merthyr,” she replied; and only by her tone he read the guilty little rejoicing in her heart, marvelling at jealousy that could twist so straight a stem as his sister’s spirit. This had taught her, who knew nothing of love, that a man loving does not pity in such a ease.”