To see the man, whose introduction to Emily it had been Miss Jethro's mysterious object to prevent--at the very moment when he had been speaking of Miss Jethro herself--was, not only a temptation of curiosity, but a direct incentive (in Emily's own interests) to make an effort at discovery. Alban pursued the conversation with Cecilia, in a tone which was loud enough to be heard in the conservatory.
"The one chance of getting any information that I can see," he proceeded, "is to speak to Mr. Mirabel."
"I shall be only too glad, if I can be of any service to Miss Wyvil and Mr. Morris."
With those obliging words, Mirabel made a dramatic entry, and looked at Cecilia with his irresistible smile. Startled by his sudden appearance, she unconsciously assisted Alban's design. Her silence gave him the opportunity of speaking in her place.
"We were talking," he said quietly to Mirabel, "of a lady with whom you are acquainted."
"Indeed! May I ask the lady's name?"
Mirabel sustained the shock with extraordinary self-possession--so far as any betrayal by sudden movement was concerned. But his color told the truth: it faded to paleness--it revealed, even to Cecilia's eyes, a man overpowered by fright.
Alban offered him a chair. He refused to take it by a gesture. Alban tried an apology next. "I am afraid I have ignorantly revived some painful associations. Pray excuse me."