‘In Africa!’ said Albinia, well-nigh asleep, but Genevieve’s laugh roused her again, partly because she thought it less mannerly than accorded with the girl’s usual politeness. No mere sleep was allowed her; an astronomical passion seemed to have possessed the young lady, and she dashed into the tides, and the causes of the harvest-moon, and volcanoes, and thunderbolts, and Lord Rosse’s telescope, forcing her tired friend to reply by direct appeals, till Albinia almost wished her in the moon herself; and was rejoiced when in the dim greyness of the early summer dawn, the carriage drew up at Madame Belmarche’s house. As the light from the weary maid’s candle flashed on Genevieve’s face, it revealed such a glow of deep crimson on each brown cheek, that Albinia perceived that the excitement must have been almost fever, and went to bed speculating on the strange effects of a touch of gaiety on the hereditary French nature, startling her at once from her graceful propriety and humility of demeanour, into such extraordinary obtrusive talkativeness.
She heard more the next morning that vexed her. Lucy was seriously of opinion that Genevieve had not been sufficiently retiring. She herself had heedfully kept under the wing of Mary’s governess, mamma, or Miss Ferrars, and nobody had paid her any particular attention; but Genevieve had been with Gilbert half the day, had had all the gentlemen round her at the archery and in the games, had no end of partners in the dances, and had walked about in the dark with Captain Ferrars. Lucy was sure she was taken for her sister, and whenever she had told people the truth, they had said how pretty she was.
‘You are jealous, Lucy,’ Sophy said.
Lucy protested that it was quite the reverse. She was glad poor little Jenny should meet with any notice, there was no cause for jealousy of her, and she threw back her head in conscious beauty; ’only she was sorry for Jenny, for they were quite turning her head, and laughing at her all the time.’
Albinia’s candour burst out as usual, ’Say no more about it, my dear; it was a mistake from beginning to end. I was too much taken up with my own diversion to attend to you, and now you are punishing me for it. I left you to take care of yourselves, and exposed poor little Genevieve to unkind remarks.’
‘I don’t know what I said,’ began Lucy. ’I don’t mean to blame her; it was just as she always is with Gilbert, so very French.’
That word settled it—Lucy pronounced it with ineffable pity and contempt—she was far less able to forgive another for being attractive, than for trying to attract.
Sophy looked excessively hurt and grieved, and in private asked her step-mother what she thought of Genevieve’s behaviour.
’My dear, I cannot tell; I think she was off her guard with excitement; but all was very new to her, and there was every excuse. I was too happy to be wise, so no wonder she was.’