“Of all the detestable!—–” Wilfrid had no time for more, owing to fresh arrivals. He hastened in, with his smiling, wary face, half trusting that there might after all be purification in Alderman’s Bouquet, and promising heaven due gratitude if Emilia’s senses discerned not the curse on him. In the hall a gust from the great opening contention between Alderman’s Bouquet and bad beer, stifled his sickly hope. Frantic, but under perfect self-command outwardly, he glanced to right and left, for the suggestion of a means of escape. They were seven steps up the stairs before his wits prompted him to say to Georgiana, “I have just heard very serious news from home. I fear—”
“What?—or, pardon me: does it call you away?” she asked, and Emilia gave him a steady look.
“I fear I cannot remain here. Will you excuse me?”
His face spoke plainly now of mental torture repressed. Georgiana put her hand out in full sympathy, and Emilia said, in her deep whisper, “Let me hear to-morrow.” Then they bowed. Wilfrid was in the street again.
“Thank God, I’ve seen her!” was his first thought, overhearing “What did she think of me?” as he sighed with relief at his escape. For, lo! the Branciani dress was not on her shoulders, and therefore he might imagine what he pleased:—that she had arrayed herself so during the day to delight his eyes; or that, he having seen her in it, she had determined none others should. Though feeling utterly humiliated, he was yet happy. Driving to the station, he perceived starlight overhead, and blessed it; while his hand waved busily to conduct a current of fresh, oblivious air to his nostrils. The quiet heavens seemed all crowding to look down on the quiet circle of the firs, where Emilia’s harp had first been heard by him, and they took her music, charming his blood with imagined harmonies, as he looked up to them. Thus all the way to Brookfield his fancy soared, plucked at from below by Alderman’s Bouquet.
The Philosopher, up to this point rigidly excluded, rushes forward to the footlights to explain in a note, that Wilfrid, thus setting a perfume to contend with a stench, instead of wasting for time, change of raiment, and the broad lusty airs of heaven to blow him fresh again, symbolizes the vice of Sentimentalism, and what it is always doing. Enough!
“Let me hear to-morrow.” Wilfrid repeated Emilia’s petition in the tone she had used, and sent a delight through his veins even with that clumsy effort of imitation. He walked from the railway to Brookfield through the circle of firs, thinking of some serious tale of home to invent for her ears to-morrow. Whatever it was, he was able to conclude it—“But all’s right now.” He noticed that the dwarf pine, under whose spreading head his darling sat when he saw her first, had been cut down. Its absence gave him an ominous chill.