Sophy, when made aware of what was going on, did not smile or shed a tear, only a strange whiteness came across her face. She made a commonplace remark with visible effort, nor was she quite herself for some time. It was as if the reference to her brother had stirred up the old wound. Genevieve seemed to have been impelled to manifest her determination of resuming her occupation, she wrote letters vigorously, answered advertisements, and in spite of the united protest of her friends, advertised herself as a young person of French extraction, but a member of the Church of England, accustomed to tuition, and competent to instruct in French, Italian, music, and all the ordinary branches of education. Address, G. C. D., Mr. Richardson’s, bookseller, Bayford.
Miss Goldsmith went to spend Christmas with an old friend, leaving Ulick more liberty than he had enjoyed for a long time. He used it a good deal at Willow Lawn, and was there of course on Christmas-day. After dinner the decoration of the church was under discussion. The Bayford neighbourhood was unpropitious to holly, and Sophy and Genevieve had hardly ever seen any, except that Genevieve remembered the sooty bits sold in London. Something passed about sending for a specimen from Fairmead, but Albinia said that would not answer, for her brother’s children were in despair at the absence of berries, and had ransacked Colonel Bury’s plantations in vain.
The next day, about twilight, Albinia and Sophy were arranging some Christmas gifts for the old women, in the morning-room; Genevieve was to come and help them on her return from the child in Tibb’s Alley.
‘Oh, here she comes, up the garden,’ said Sophy, who was by the window.
Presently Albinia heard a strange sound as of tightened breath, and looking up saw Sophy deathly pale, with her eyes fixed on the window. In terror she flew to her side, but Sophy spoke not, she only clutched her hand with fingers cold and tight as iron, and gazed with dilated eyes. Albinia looked—
Ulick had come from the house—there was a scarlet-berried spray in Genevieve’s hand, which she was trying to make him take again—his face was all pleading and imploring—she turned hastily from him, and they saw her cheek glowing with crimson—she tried to force back the holly spray—but her hand was caught—he was kissing it. No, she had rent it away—she had fled in through the conservatory—they heard the doors—she had rushed up to her own room.
Sophy’s grasp grew more rigid—she panted for breath.
‘My child! my child!’ said Albinia, throwing her arms round her, expecting her to faint. ‘Oh! could I have imagined such treason?’ Her eyes flashed, and her frame quivered with indignation. ’He shall never come into this house again!’
‘Mamma! hush!’ said Sophy, releasing herself from her embrace, and keeping her body upright, though obliged to seat herself on the nearest chair. ‘It is not treason,’ she said slowly, as though her mouth were parched.