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he is young
"I wish you a better temper," says Lenore hastily, moving on. They pass out into the passage.
Why have you come here?" cries the girl fretfully; " it is draughty. I shiver; let us go back to Sylvia—to Mrs. Websteranywhere !"
“ You do not shiver when you are with other men,” says Scrope, resentfully.
“ Other men do not stare at one, as if they were going to eat one !" cries the girl, indignantly. “ Good heavens, Charlie ! how much better I liked you when you were only a stupid, silent, sulky boy, before you adopted these unpleasant man's airs.
In defiance of appearances, Scrope stands stock still; he is enough to be galled by allusions to his age.
“ Lenore,” he says, almost imperatively, “ stop gibing at me; after to-night, I give you carte blanche to abuse me as much as you please behind my back-to mimic me for your friends' amusementto show me up in as humiliating a light as it pleases you—you are quite capable of it—but, for to-night, be civil.”
“ Mend your own manners, then,” cries the girl, tartly.“ Who gave you leave to call me 'Lenore'? For the last few days I have remarked that you have been slurring over the “Miss'; please to replace my style and title immediately."
“ Is it worth while,” asks the young fellow, more calmly, but with great bitterness; “ is it worth while accustoming oneself to call you : Miss,' when you will so soon be · Mrs.'? For all my future life, I swear to you, I will try to think of you only as · Mrs. Le Mesurier ;' but, for to-night, be Lenore, plain Lenore !"
For all answer, she bursts out laughing. “Excuse me; it is rude, I know; but you reminded me so forcibly of the tale of the man at a ball, who, when the music stopped suddenly, was heard saying to his partner, at the top of his voice : Do not call me Mr. Smith; call me plain William ! and, as he was remarkably ugly, he was called plain William’ever after.”
WHAT THE AUTHOR SAYS.
In the meantime, Mrs. Prodgers has been restored to her eminent position on the bench: she has been danced and talked and walked about, into a state of even more than her usual complaisance.
Jemima still stands where she left her.
“ Have you been dancing, dear? Yes ? Oh, I am so glad—I thought you would. I don't know what has come to the people to-night; they would tear one in pieces, if one would let them. One thing I do set my face against, and that is, those passages. I said to young Anson, “There is no one fonder of laughing and talking, and fun, than I am, but if you talk from now till Doomsday you will not persuade me to sit out with you.' I daresay there is no harm in it really, but people do let their tongues run on so, when a person is young and tolerable looking."
Jemima makes no answer.
Sylvia's conversation is like a Gregorian chant; there is a certain sameness about it.
Miss Webster has been valsing with an Eton boy, in a round jacket: her shins are black with bruises, her elbow is scratched, but at least she has not been a wallflower.
Another galop strikes up. Sylvia's talk drops into silence; she fiddles with her bouquet, and tries to look as if she would not dance if she were asked. Men hurry hither and thither, seeking for their promised partners; raising and dashing in the same instant false hopes in unengaged girls, by making apparently straight for them, staring hard at them, and then flying off at a tangent on discovering that they are not the right ones. Jemima scans the crowd to see whether she can discover any one likely to ask her (in many women the love of dancing survives the probability of being invited), but finding no one, resigns herself with philosophy to her fate. Other people's enjoyment is not so good as one's own, but it is perhaps better
It is some people's lot to be spectators through life. She looks on. The pink calico; the laurels, the mirrors, the pretty rose-red ladies, the plunging grocers and floundering groceresses ; a tremendous thud !-two people fallen like one log; now sprawling in a confused heap of broadcloth and illusion on the floor; the lady has ingeniously wound herself, like swaddling clothes, round her squire's legs: she is unwound, feels for her head, settles her wreath, and off again! There are so many people, and they go so quickly, that it is difficult to follow any one: a blue couple, a pink couple, a white couple; they dazzle the eyeballs with the celerity with which they shoot across them! A black couple—taller than most of the others; the soft sparkle of silver flowers flashing like meteors down the room.
Why, it is Lenore! Lenore and Scrope again!
“I thought I had understood that your sister's fiancé was a plain man,” says an old woman, who, unable to find room on a bench, is standing behind Jemima, and tapping her, on her bare shoulder to attract her attention.
“Quite the contrary” (with a complimentary smile). “Have you ever seen him ?” asks Jemima.
"Is not it he with whom ele is dancing ?" "Oh, dear no!"
Really? What a stupid mistake! I thought it must be, because I bave always seen them together. A cousin, no doubt ?"
Jemima does not relieve her curiosity. She affects not to hear.
Turning her head aside a little, she finds Paul at her elbow. Judging by his face he has heard, apparently.
“Oh, there you are !" cries Sylvia, catching sight of him at the same moment and resuming her animation. “You are in disgrace, do you know, deep disgrace? You have not asked me to dance once to-night,” (looking at him with large round eyes, and smiling archly).
Paul smiles too, but not very cheerfully.
“My dancing is such that it is only on very old acquaintance that I dare inflict it."
“I saw you dancing with Lenore.” He shrugs his shoulders.
“I believe I did shamble round the room once or twice, but it was not a very successful experiment.”
After the dance, which is surely ten minutes longer than any galop that ever was played before, after a prolonged stroll in the corridors, after tea, Lenore returns to her chaperone ; returns, laughing and flushed, but with a look of uneasy excitement underlying the surface merriment of her face.
Paul has been waiting, with no outward sign of impatience on his grave sad face. He goes up to her.
May I have five minutes' talk with you ?” he asks formally. She takes his arm, and they walk off.
Neither speaks till they reach the bench on which, in the earlier and happier part of the evening, they had sat together, gaily chattering. Then Paul addresses her with cutting, cold politeness.
May I ask, Lenore, what is inducing you to make yourself so remarkable with Scrope to-night? Is it solely for your own satisfaction, or for the double pleasure of amusing yourself and annoying me?"
The opening is not conciliatory. The colour rushes red and headlong to Lenore's cheeks: she flings up her proud head.
"I killed two birds with one stone,” she says, in angry jest; “he dances like an archangel, and it makes you jealous.”
"I do not doubt your first assertion,” says Paul, more coldly than ever, "and I fully agree with your last; perhaps I am more prone to jealousy than other men. I have not been so used to women and their ways. But I confess I do not enjoy seeing my future wife hauled about by a man, who is (as is evident to the most casual observer) making passionate and unrestrained love to her.”
She is about to interrupt him, but he stops her.
“I confess I do not relish seeing him pointed out as occupying the position which, till to-night, I supposed was mine.”
" What do you mean?”
“I mean " (in a tone where the persuasive is quite swamped in the imperative) “ that I distinctly object to your dancing with Scrope.”
“That is unfortunate," retorts Lenore, to whose ears the imperative has been, from her youth up, an unknown mood, and whose gorge has always risen at the faintest attempt at coercion; "for I have every intention of dancing with him again-once-twice-if not more."
“After the opinion I have just expressed ?” cries Paul, his anger effectually breaking through the armour of his coldness, voice raised, and grey eyes lightening.
“Most decidedly,” she answers with distinct emphasis. “I am not in the habit of breaking my word, and last night I promised him that, on condition that he leaves Sylvia's house to-morrow, I would valse four times with him to-night-and valse four times with him I will !"
“ You promised him ?" repeats Paul, hardly any longer master of his indignation. “Am I to understand that you have been making terms-bargaining with him? How ought his comings or goings to affect you ?"
“ In this way,” she answers, her lips quivering with anger, but articulating with slow clearness. “I have, or fancy I have, a considerable regard for you and a slight regard for him, and I have no wish to see you kick each other downstairs—a dénoûment which is only a question of time as long as you are in the same house.”
“ Lenore !” (snatching her hand, and holding it with almost painful tightness, while his eyes glow bright and deeply angry in this dim place,)“ are you mad, or are you bent on driving me mad? After what has often passed between us about that fellow, can you dare to tell me to my face that you have a regard for him ?” Whom the Gods wish to destroy they first deprive of understanding.
“ Dare!" she says, while her eyes meet his unflinchingly, though, within, her spirit quails—her heart yearns to him in his honest anger. “What an ugly word! Yes, I do dare! why should not I?, He is handsome, and I love to look at beautiful things and people; he admires me blindly, and admiration is food and drink to me; he can sce no fault in me, and I hate to be eternally carped at, and picked holes in !"
“I see,” says Paul, dropping her hand, and speaking in a tone of smothered resentment, which (if she could but have understood it) was more alarming than his outspoken anger, “I understand; you cannot see our unsuitability more clearly than I do; from the first, I felt it profoundly, and every day I live I feel it more. But Lenore, why” (grasping her arm with unconscious fierceness), why-if, from the first, you only meant to torment me—why did you make me love
you? There were hundreds of other victims that would have done you more credit. Why could not you leave me alone ?"
“Leave you alone !” (turning as white as a sheet); "what do you mean?”
“I mean,” he answers firmly, “what you know as well as I do, that you could have hindered me from loving you, if you had wished; I was not given to falling in love ; till I met you I hated ladies' society; I avoided women; I did not understand them, and they thought me a bore. I left them alone, and they left me alone; until you-solely for the gratification of your own vanity, as I now seemade me love you, against my wish, against my better judgment, as, for the same reason, no doubt, you have now made Scrope.”
She sits, with her head bent, silent; she cannot command her voice to answer.
"He is a more creditable conquest than I, I own," continues Paul bitterly; "but for all that you will be the ruin of him. When he joined me at Dinan he was as nice a boy and as good a fellow as ever lived ; I looked upon him as a brother, and he-he swore by me! You have made him hate me! You have made me detest the sight of him! I congratulate you on your handiwork.”
She lifts her eyes to him, all the softness gone out of them, scintillating with anger. "Have you done ?" she asks in a choked voice; " have you insulted me enough for one day ?”
“I have not insulted you,” he answers resolutely, "unless God's truth be an insult; I never was a good hand at telling smooth lies; my love for you has never been blind enough to hinder my seeing that you are, in some respects, different from what I could wish you to be ; if it is an insult to tell you so, I can only say it would have been a thousand times better if we had never met.”
A pain like a knife goes through her HEART, but she makes no sign.
"I quite agree with you,” she answers, commanding her voice into calmness by an immense effort; “ will you be so kind as to take me back to Sylvia ?”
He gives her his arm and they begin to retrace their steps ; but before they have gone six paces he turns aside into one of the rooms that open out of the passage. It is empty; he shuts the door. His soul is in a tumult; full, not indeed of the unnamed pain of Lenore's, but of confusion and doubt. If he marries this woman he will be a miserable man; he has long suspected it, and choked back the suspicion; to-night he has realised it—but yet—but yet—she is as beautiful as a summer moonrise-he cannot give her up without an effort. They are as much alone as if they were on a desert island; he stands facing her.
" Lenore,” he says, earnestly, “let us understand one another. If this is only a silly quarrel, for Heaven's sake let us make it up; if it