“Ade nun ihr Berge, ihr väterlich Haus!
Es treibt in die Ferne mich mächtig hinans.”
Consent was given. Sir Peter was not mentioned to me by my parents, or by Adelaide. The days of that week flew rapidly by.
I was almost afraid to mention my prospects to Adelaide. I feared she would resent my good fortune in going abroad, and that her anger at having spoiled those other prospects would remain unabated. Moreover, a deeper feeling separated me from her now—the knowledge that there lay a great gulf of feeling, sentiment, opinion between us, which nothing could bridge over or do away with. Outwardly we might be amiable and friendly to each other, but confidence, union, was fled over. Once again in the future, I was destined, when our respective principles had been tried to the utmost, to have her confidence—to see her heart of hearts; but for the present we were effectually divided. I had mortally offended her, and it was not a case in which I could with decency even humble myself to her. Once, however, she mentioned the future.
When the day of our departure had been fixed, and was only two days distant; when I was breathless with hurried repairing of old clothes, and the equally hurried laying in of a small stock of new ones; while I was contemplating with awe the prospect of a first journey to London, to Ostend, to Brussels, she said to me, as I sat feverishly hemming a frill:
“So you are going to Germany?”
“What are you going to do there?”
“My duty, I hope.”
“Charity, my dear, and duty too, begins at home. I should say you were going away leaving your duty undone.”
I was silent, and she went on:
“I suppose you wish to go abroad, May?”
“You know I have always wished to go.”
“So do I.”
“I wish you were going too,” said I, timidly.
“Thank you. My views upon the subject are quite different. When I go abroad I shall go in a different capacity to that you are going to assume. I will let you know all about it in due time.”
“Very well,” said I, almost inaudibly, having a vague idea as to what she meant, but determined not to speak about it.
The following day the curtain rose upon the first act of the play—call it drama, comedy, tragedy, what you will—which was to be played in my absence. I had been up the village to the post-office, and was returning, when I saw advancing toward me two figures which I had cause to remember—my sister’s queenly height, her white hat over her eyes, and her sunshade in her hand, and beside her the pale face, with its ragged eyebrows and hateful sneer, of Sir Peter Le Marchant.
Adelaide, not at all embarrassed by his company, was smiling slightly, and her eyes with drooped lids glanced downward toward the baronet. I shrunk into a cottage to avoid them as they came past, and waited. Adelaide was saying:
“Proud—yes, I am proud, I suppose. Too proud, at least, to—”
There! Out of hearing. They had passed. I hurried out of the cottage, and home.
The next day I met Miss Hallam and her maid (we three traveled alone) at the station, and soon we were whirling smoothly along our southward way—to York first, then to London, and so out into the world, thought I.