‘Look here, Hetta,’ he said. ’It is no good going on like this. I love Roger Carbury,—as well as one man can love another. He is all that you say,—and more. You hardly know how he denies himself, and how he thinks of everybody near him. He is a gentleman all round and every inch. He never lies. He never takes what is not his own. I believe he does love his neighbour as himself.’
‘Oh, Mr Montague! I am so glad to hear you speak of him like that.’
’I love him better than any man,—as well as a man can love a man. If you will say that you love him as well as a woman can love a man,—I will leave England at once, and never return to it.’
‘There’s mamma,’ said Henrietta;—for at that moment there was a double knock at the door.
So it was. Lady Carbury had returned home from the soiree of learned people, and had brought Roger Carbury with her. They both came up to the drawing-room and found Paul and Henrietta together. It need hardly be said that they were both surprised. Roger supposed that Montague was still at Liverpool, and, knowing that he was not a frequent visitor in Welbeck Street, could hardly avoid a feeling that a meeting between the two had now been planned in the mother’s absence. The reader knows that it was not so. Roger certainly was a man not liable to suspicion, but the circumstances in this case were suspicious. There would have been nothing to suspect,—no reason why Paul should not have been there,—but from the promise which had been given. There was, indeed, no breach of that promise proved by Paul’s presence in Welbeck Street; but Roger felt rather than thought that the two could hardly have spent the evening together without such breach. Whether Paul had broken the promise by what he had already said the reader must be left to decide.
Lady Carbury was the first to speak. ’This is quite an unexpected pleasure, Mr Montague.’ Whether Roger suspected anything or not, she did. The moment she saw Paul the idea occurred to her that the meeting between Hetta and him had been preconcerted.
‘Yes,’ he said making a lame excuse, where no excuse should have been made,—’I had nothing to do, and was lonely, and thought that I would come up and see you.’ Lady Carbury disbelieved him altogether, but Roger felt assured that his coming in Lady Carbury’s absence had been an accident. The man had said so, and that was enough.
‘I thought you were at Liverpool,’ said Roger.
’I came back to-day,—to be present at that Board in the city. I have had a good deal to trouble me. I will tell you all about it just now. What has brought you to London?’
‘A little business,’ said Roger.
Then there was an awkward silence. Lady Carbury was angry, and hardly knew whether she ought not to show her anger. For Henrietta it was very awkward. She, too, could not but feel that she had been caught, though no innocence could be whiter than hers. She knew well her mother’s mind, and the way in which her mother’s thoughts would run. Silence was frightful to her, and she found herself forced to speak. ‘Have you had a pleasant evening, mamma?’