Alcott, Louisa May - SSC 14

Alcott, Louisa May - SSC 14 by Behind a Mask (v1.1)

Book: Alcott, Louisa May - SSC 14 by Behind a Mask (v1.1) Read Free Book Online
Authors: Behind a Mask (v1.1)
useful and happy here, and I am
unwilling that your folly should rob her of a home which she likes."
                            
"You are very thoughtful and devoted all at once, but I beg you will not
trouble yourself. Jean's happiness and home will be my care now."
                            
"My dear boy, do be reasonable. The thing is impossible. Miss Muir sees it
herself; she came to tell me, to ask how best to arrange matters without
troubling my mother. I've been to town to attend to your affairs, and you may
be off now very soon."
                            
"I have no desire to go. Last month it was the wish of my heart. Now I'll
accept nothing from you." And Edward turned moodily away from his brother.
                            
"What folly! Ned, you must leave
home. It is all arranged and cannot be given up now. A change is what you need,
and it will make a man of you. We shall miss you, of course, but you will be
where you'll see something of life, and that is better for you than getting
into mischief here."
                            
"Are you going away, Jean?" asked Edward, ignoring his brother
entirely and bending over the girl, who still hid her face and wept. She did
not speak, and Gerald answered for her.
                            
"No, why should she if you are gone?"
                            
"Do you mean to stay?" asked the lover eagerly of Jean.
                            
"I wish to remain, but—" She paused and looked up. Her eyes went from
one face to the other, and she added, decidedly, "Yes, I must go, it is
not wise to stay even when you are gone."
                            
Neither of the young men could have explained why that hurried glance affected
them as it did, but each felt conscious of a willful desire to oppose the
other. Edward suddenly felt that his brother loved Miss Muir, and was bent on
removing her from his way. Gerald had a vague idea that Miss Muir feared to remain
on his account, and he longed to show her that he was quite safe. Each felt
angry, and each showed it in a different way, one being violent, the other satirical.
                            
"You are right, Jean, this is not the place for you; and you must let me
see you in a safer home before I go," said Ned, significantly.
                            
"It strikes me that this will be a particularly safe home when your
dangerous self is removed," began Coventry , with an aggravating smile of calm
superiority.
                            
"And I think that I leave a more
dangerous person than myself behind me, as poor Lucia can testify."
                            
"Be careful what you say, Ned, or I shall be forced to remind you that I
am master here. Leave Lucia's name out of this disagreeable
affair, if you please."
                            
"You are master here, but not of
me, or my actions, and you have no right to expect obedience or respect, for
you inspire neither. Jean, I asked you to go with me secretly; now I ask you
openly to share my fortune. In my brother's presence I ask, and will have an answer."
                            
He caught her hand impetuously, with a defiant look at Coventry , who still smiled, as if at boy's play,
though his eyes were kindling and his face changing with the still, white wrath
which is more terrible than any sudden outburst. Miss Muir looked frightened;
she shrank away from her passionate young lover, cast an appealing glance at
Gerald, and seemed as if she longed to claim his protection yet dared not.
                            
"Speak!" cried Edward, desperately. "Don't look to him, tell me
truly, with your own lips, do you, can you love me, Jean?"
     

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