Emilia clasped her hands, and looked pensively at the horizon sky, with a face of calm gratefulness.
The cornet was on his legs. “So!” he said. “And you never saw anything more of that fellow you kissed in the park?”
“Kissed?—that gentleman?” returned Emilia. “I have not kissed him. He did not want it. Men kiss us when we are happy, and we kiss them when they are unhappy.”
Wilfrid was perhaps incompetent to test the truth of this profound aphoristic remark, delivered with the simplicity of natural conviction. The narrative had, to his thinking, quite released from him his temporary subjection to this little lady’s sway. All that he felt for her personally now was pity. It speaks something for the strength of the sentiment with which he had first conceived her, that it was not pelted to death, and turned to infinite disgust, by her potatoes. For sentiment is a dainty, delicate thing, incapable of bearing much: revengeful, too, when it is outraged. Bruised and disfigured, it stood up still, and fought against them. They were very fine ones, as Emilia said, and they hit him hard. However, he pitied her, and that protected him like a shield. He told his sisters a tale of his own concerning the strange damsel, humorously enough to make them see that he enjoyed her presence as that of no common oddity.
While Emilia was giving Wilfrid her history in the garden, the ladies of Brookfield were holding consultation over a matter which was well calculated to perplex and irritate them excessively. Mr. Pole had received a curious short epistle from Mrs. Chump, informing him of the atrocious treatment she had met with at the hands of his daughter; and instead of reviewing the orthography, incoherence, and deliberate vulgarity of the said piece of writing with the contempt it deserved, he had taken the unwonted course of telling Arabella that she had done a thing she must necessarily repent of, or in any case make apology for. An Eastern Queen, thus addressed by her Minister of the treasury, could not have felt greater indignation. Arabella had never seen her father show such perturbation of mind. He spoke violently and imperiously. The apology was ordered to be despatched by that night’s post, after having been submitted to his inspection. Mr. Pole had uttered mysterious phrases: “You don’t know what you’ve been doing:—You think the ship’ll go on sailing without wind: You’ll drive the horse till he drops,” and such like; together with mutterings. The words were of no import whatsoever to the ladies. They were writings on the wall; untranslateable. But, as when the earth quakes our noble edifices totter, their Palace of the Fine Shades and the Nice Feelings groaned and creaked, and for a moment they thought: “Where are we?” Very soon they concluded, that the speech Arabella had heard was due to their darling papa’s defective education.