The Black Moth (Chapter 7, page 3 of 10)

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Chapter 7

She discovered that Mr. Everard was an entertaining and harmless enough companion, and even expanded a little, allowing him a glimpse of her whimsical nature with its laughter and its hint of tears.

His Grace of Andover saw enough to guess at the unsounded depths in her soul, and he became lover-like. Diana recoiled instinctively, throwing up a barrier of reserve between them. It was not what he said that alarmed her, but it was the way in which he said it, and the vague something in the purring, faintly sinister voice that she could not quite define, that made her heart beat unpleasantly fast, and the blood rush to her temples. She began first to dread the morning promenade, and then to avoid it. One day she had a headache; the next her foot was sore; another time she wanted to work at her fancy stitchery, until her aunt, who knew how she disliked her needle, and how singularly free from headaches and all petty ailments she was wont to be, openly taxed her with no longer wishing to walk abroad.

They were in the girl's bedroom at the time, Diana seated before her dressing-table, brushing out her hair for the night. When her aunt put the abrupt question she hesitated, caught a long strand in her comb, and pretended to be absorbed in its disentanglement. The clouds of rippling hair half hid her face, but Miss Betty observed how her fingers trembled, and repeated her question. Then came the confession. Mr. Everard was unbearable; his attentions were odious; his continued presence revolting to Mistress Di. She was afraid of him, afraid of his dreadful green eyes and of his soft voice. She wished they had never come to Bath, and still more that they had not met him. He looked at her as if-as if-oh, in short, he was hateful!

Miss Betty was horrified.

"You cannot mean it! Dear, dear, dear! Here was I thinking what a pleasant gentleman he was, and all the time he was persecuting my poor Di, the wretch! I know the type, my love, and I feel inclined to give him a good piece of my mind!"

"Oh, no-no!" implored Diana. "Indeed, you must do no such thing, Auntie! He has said nought that I could possibly be offended at-'tis but his manner, and the-and the way he looked at me. Indeed, indeed, you must not!"

"Tut, child! Of course I shall say nought. But it makes me so monstrous angry to think of my poor lamb being tormented by such as he that I declare I could tear his eyes out! Yes, my dear, I could! Thank goodness we are leaving Bath next week!"

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