“I beg yours—so we are. Well, my dear Sir, I must be allowed a day or two—say two days—to ascertain what my daughter’s feelings are, and to consider your proposals, which have taken me very much by surprise, as you may in fact see. But I assure you I am most flattered, most honoured, most anxious—“.
“I hope you will consider my anxieties, Mr. Sherwin, and let me know the result of your deliberations as soon as possible.”
“Without fail, depend upon it. Let me see: shall we say the second day from this, at the same time, if you can favour me with a visit?”
“And between that time and this, you will engage not to hold any communication with my daughter?”
“I promise not, Mr. Sherwin—because I believe that your answer will be favourable.”
“Ah, well—well! lovers, they say, should never despair. A little consideration, and a little talk with my dear girl—really now, won’t you change your mind and have a glass of sherry? (No again?) Very well, then, the day after tomorrow, at five o’clock.”
With a louder crack than ever, the brand-new drawing-room door was opened to let me out. The noise was instantly succeeded by the rustling of a silk dress, and the banging of another door, at the opposite end of the passage. Had anybody been listening? Where was Margaret?
Mr. Sherwin stood at the garden-gate to watch my departure, and to make his farewell bow. Thick as was the atmosphere of illusion in which I now lived, I shuddered involuntarily as I returned his parting salute, and thought of him as my father-in-law!
The nearer I approached to our own door, the more reluctance I felt to pass the short interval between my first and second interview with Mr. Sherwin, at home. When I entered the house, this reluctance increased to something almost like dread. I felt unwilling and unfit to meet the eyes of my nearest and dearest relatives. It was a relief to me to hear that my father was not at home. My sister was in the house: the servant said she had just gone into the library, and inquired whether he should tell her that I had come in. I desired him not to disturb her, as it was my intention to go out again immediately.
I went into my study, and wrote a short note there to Clara; merely telling her that I should be absent in the country for two days. I had sealed and laid it on the table for the servant to deliver, and was about to leave the room, when I heard the library door open. I instantly drew back, and half-closed my own door again. Clara had got the book she wanted, and was taking it up to her own sitting-room. I waited till she was out of sight, and then left the house. It was the first time I had ever avoided my sister—my sister, who had never in her life asked a question, or uttered a word that could annoy me; my sister, who had confided all her own little secrets to my keeping, ever since we had been children. As I thought on what I had done, I felt a sense of humiliation which was almost punishment enough for the meanness of which I had been guilty.