MY hand dropped from the curtain. But don't suppose--oh, don't suppose--that the dreadful embarrassment of my situation was the uppermost idea in my mind! So fervent still was the sisterly interest I felt in Mr. Godfrey, that I never stopped to ask myself why he was not at the concert. No! I thought only of the words--the startling words--which had just fallen from his lips. He would do it to-day. He had said, in a tone of terrible resolution, he would do it to-day. What, oh what, would he do? Something even more deplorably unworthy of him than what he had done already? Would he apostatize from the faith? Would he abandon us at the Mothers'-Small-Clothes? Had we seen the last of his angelic smile in the committee- room? Had we heard the last of his unrivalled eloquence at Exeter Hall? I was so wrought up by the bare idea of such awful eventualities as these in connection with such a man, that I believe I should have rushed from my place of concealment, and implored him in the name of all the Ladies' Committees in London to explain himself--when I suddenly heard another voice in the room. It penetrated through the curtains; it was loud, it was bold, it was wanting in every female charm. The voice of Rachel Verinder!
`Why have you come up here, Godfrey?' she asked. `Why didn't you go into the library?'
He laughed softly, and answered, `Miss Clack is in the library.'
`Clack in the library!' She instantly seated herself on the ottoman in the back drawing-room. `You are quite right, Godfrey. We had much better stop here.'
I had been in a burning fever, a moment since, and in some doubt what to do next. I became extremely cold now, and felt no doubt whatever. To show myself, after what I had heard, was impossible. To retreat-- except into the fireplace--was equally out of the question. A martyrdom was before me. In justice to myself, I noiselessly arranged the curtains so that I could both see and hear. And then I met my martyrdom, with the spirit of a primitive Christian.
`Don't sit on the ottoman,' the young lady proceeded. `Bring a chair, Godfrey. I like people to be opposite to me when I talk to them.'
He took the nearest seat. It was a low chair. He was very tall, and many sizes too large for it. I never saw his legs to such disadvantage before.
`Well?' she went on. `What did you say to them?'
`Just what you said, dear Rachel, to me.'
`That mamma was not at all well to-day? And that I didn't quite like leaving her to go to the concert?'
`Those were the words. They were grieved to lose you at the concert, but they quite understood. All sent their love; and all expressed a cheering belief that Lady Verinder's indisposition would soon pass away.'
`You don't think it's serious, do you, Godfrey?'
`Far from it! In a few days, I feel quite sure, all will be well again.'
`I think so too. I was a little frightened at first, but I think so too. It was very kind to go and make my excuses for me to people who are almost strangers to you. But why not have gone with them to the concert? It seems very hard that you should miss the music too.'
`Don't say that, Rachel! If you only knew how much happier I am--here, with you!'
He clasped his hands, and looked at her. In the position which he occupied, when he did that, he turned my way. Can words describe how I sickened when I noticed exactly the same pathetic expression on his face, which had charmed me when he was pleading for destitute millions of his fellow-creatures on the platform at Exeter Hall!
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