Francine rose, and left the room. She turned, and looked at Alban as she opened the door. "Try it," she said--"and you will find I am right."
"Francine sometimes talks in a very ill-natured way," Cecilia gently remarked. "Do you think she means it, Mr. Morris?'
"I had better not offer an opinion," Alban replied.
"I can't speak impartially; I dislike Miss de Sor."
There was a pause. Alban's sense of self-respect forbade him to try the experiment which Francine had maliciously suggested. His thoughts--less easy to restrain--wandered in the direction of the garden. The attempt to make him jealous had failed; but he was conscious, at the same time, that Emily had disappointed him. After what they had said to each other in the park, she ought to have remembered that women are at the mercy of appearances. If Mirabel had something of importance to say to her, she might have avoided exposing herself to Francine's spiteful misconstruction: it would have been easy to arrange with Cecilia that a third person should be present at the interview.
While he was absorbed in these reflections, Cecilia--embarrassed by the silence--was trying to find a topic of conversation. Alban roughly pushed his sketch-book away from him, on the table. Was he displeased with Emily? The same question had occurred to Cecilia at the time of the correspondence, on the subject of Miss Jethro. To recall those letters led her, by natural sequence, to another effort of memory. She was reminded of the person who had been the cause of the correspondence: her interest was revived in the mystery of Miss Jethro.
"Has Emily told you that I have seen your letter?" she asked.
He roused himself with a start. "I beg your pardon. What letter are you thinking of?"