Mirabel waited a minute behind the lodge to recover himself. He had been so completely unnerved that his hair was wet with perspiration. While he used his handkerchief, he shuddered at other recollections than the recollection of the dog. "After that night at the inn," he thought, "the least thing frightens me!"
He was received by the young ladies with cries of derisive welcome. "Oh, for shame! for shame! here are the potatoes already cut, and nobody to fry them!"
Mirabel assumed the mask of cheerfulness--with the desperate resolution of an actor, amusing his audience at a time of domestic distress. He astonished the keeper's wife by showin g that he really knew how to use her frying-pan. Cecilia's omelet was tough--but the young ladies ate it. Emily's mayonnaise sauce was almost as liquid as water--they swallowed it nevertheless by the help of spoons. The potatoes followed, crisp and dry and delicious--and Mirabel became more popular than ever. "He is the only one of us," Cecilia sadly acknowledged, "who knows how to cook."
When they all left the lodge for a stroll in the park, Francine attached herself to Cecilia and Miss Plym. She resigned Mirabel to Emily--in the happy belief that she had paved the way for a misunderstanding between them.
The merriment at the luncheon table had revived Emily's good spirits. She had a light-hearted remembrance of the failure of her sauce. Mirabel saw her smiling to herself. "May I ask what amuses you?" he said.
"I was thinking of the debt of gratitude that we owe to Mr. Wyvil," she replied. "If he had not persuaded you to return to Monksmoor, we should never have seen the famous Mr. Mirabel with a frying pan in his hand, and never have tasted the only good dish at our luncheon."
Mirabel tried vainly to adopt his companion's easy tone. Now that he was alone with her, the doubts that Francine had aroused shook the prudent resolution at which he had arrived in the garden. He ran the risk, and told Emily plainly why he had returned to Mr. Wyvil's house.
"Although I am sensible of our host's kindness," he answered, "I should have gone back to my parsonage--but for You."