"I wonder," she said, "if there is any foundation for a doubt that has troubled me?" To his unutterable relief, she at once explained what the doubt was. "I am afraid I offended you, in replying to your letter about Miss Jethro."
In this case, Alban could enjoy the luxury of speaking unreservedly. He confessed that Emily's letter had disappointed him.
"I expected you to answer me with less reserve," he replied; "and I began to think I had acted rashly in writing to you at all. When there is a better opportunity, I may have a word to say--" He was apparently interrupted by something that he saw in the conservatory. Looking that way, Emily perceived that Mirabel was the object which had attracted Alban's attention. The vile anonymous letter was in his mind again. Without a preliminary word to prepare Emily, he suddenly changed the subject. "How do you like the clergyman?" he asked.
"Very much indeed," she replied, without the slightest embarrassment. "Mr. Mirabel is clever and agreeable--and not at all spoiled by his success. I am sure," she said innocently, "you will like him too."
Alban's face answered her unmistakably in the negative sense--but Emily's attention was drawn the other way by Francine. She joined them at the moment, on the lookout for any signs of an encouraging result which her treachery might already have produced. Alban had been inclined to suspect her when he had received the letter. He rose and bowed as she approached. Something--he was unable to r ealize what it was--told him, in the moment when they looked at each other, that his suspicion had hit the mark.
In the conservatory the ever-amiable Mirabel had left his friends for a while in search of flowers for Cecilia. She turned to her father when they were alone, and asked him which of the gentlemen was to take her in to dinner--Mr. Mirabel or Mr. Morris?
"Mr. Morris, of course," he answered. "He is the new guest--and he turns out to be more than the equal, socially-speaking, of our other friend. When I showed him his room, I asked if he was related to a man who bore the same name--a fellow student of mine, years and years ago, at college. He is my friend's younger son; one of a ruined family--but persons of high distinction in their day."
Mirabel returned with the flowers, just as dinner was announced.