BOOK VIII. SUNSET AND SUNRISE.
81. CHAPTER LXXXI.
Rosamond, wrapping her soft shawl around her as she walked
towards Dorothea, was inwardly wrapping her soul in cold reserve.
Had Mrs. Casaubon come to say anything to her about Will? If so,
it was a liberty that Rosamond resented; and she prepared herself
to meet every word with polite impassibility. Will had bruised
her pride too sorely for her to feel any compunction towards
him and Dorothea: her own injury seemed much the greater.
Dorothea was not only the "preferred" woman, but had also a
formidable advantage in being Lydgate's benefactor; and to poor
Rosamond's pained confused vision it seemed that this Mrs. Casaubon--
this woman who predominated in all things concerning her--must have
come now with the sense of having the advantage, and with animosity
prompting her to use it. Indeed, not Rosamond only, but any one else,
knowing the outer facts of the case, and not the simple inspiration
on which Dorothea acted, might well have wondered why she came.
Looking like the lovely ghost of herself, her graceful slimness
wrapped in her soft white shawl, the rounded infantine mouth
and cheek inevitably suggesting mildness and innocence, Rosamond
paused at three yards' distance from her visitor and bowed.
But Dorothea, who had taken off her gloves, from an impulse
which she could never resist when she wanted a sense of freedom,
came forward, and with her face full of a sad yet sweet openness,
put out her hand. Rosamond could not avoid meeting her glance,
could not avoid putting her small hand into Dorothea's, which clasped
it with gentle motherliness; and immediately a doubt of her own
prepossessions began to stir within her. Rosamond's eye was quick
for faces; she saw that Mrs. Casaubon's face looked pale and changed
since yesterday, yet gentle, and like the firm softness of her hand.
But Dorothea had counted a little too much on her own strength:
the clearness and intensity of her mental action this morning
were the continuance of a nervous exaltation which made her frame
as dangerously responsive as a bit of finest Venetian crystal;
and in looking at Rosamond, she suddenly found her heart swelling,
and was unable to speak--all her effort was required to keep back tears.
She succeeded in that, and the emotion only passed over her face
like the spirit of a sob; but it added to Rosamond's impression
that Mrs. Casaubon's state of mind must be something quite different
from what she had imagined.