Lady Bassett, then, for these reasons, would not forbid Compton to be kind to Ruperta in moderation.
"Yes; I will engage myself to Cousin Compton, if papa's consent can be obtained. Without his consent I could not marry any one." "Nobody can obtain it, if you cannot," said Mrs. Bassett. Ruperta shook her head. "Mark my words, mamma, it will take me years to gain it. Papa is as obstinate as a mule. To be sure, I am as obstinate as fifty."
"But," said Lady Bassett, tenderly, "it is something to have two mothers when you marry, instead of one; and you would have two, my love; I would try and live for you." This touched Ruperta to the heart; she curled round Lady Bassett's neck, and they kissed each other like mother and daughter. "This is too great a temptation," said Ruperta.
"No, no; you were cross." "Story! Well, never mind: we did quarrel. And you were miserable directly." "Not so very," said Compton, tossing his head. "I was, then," said Ruperta, with unguarded candor. "So was I." "Good boy! Kiss me, dear." "There and there and there and " "That will do. I want to talk, Compton." "Yes, dear."
Then he came sheepishly to the palings and said, "It is not my fault, Miss Bassett; he would not come to mamma without, and she wants to speak to him." "Oh! he is hurt! he is wounded!" cried Ruperta. "Come here to me." He came to her, and she pressed her white handkerchief tenderly on his eyebrow; it was bleeding a little.
"They will let her die else," said she. Richard Bassett assented to that, too. Ruperta, for some weeks, almost lived at the Hall, and in this emergency revealed great qualities.
She went on: "And we are very grateful to you for the lift. Sister Ruperta was on duty last night, and Sister Hilda Antony the rosy Sister is not as well as she would have us believe. Ah " With her grave eyes screened by her lifted hand, she had been watching the progress of the spider westward over the dun-yellow veld.
Lady Bassett thought Ruperta a beautiful and noble girl, that any house might be proud to adopt; and Ruperta was charmed by Lady Bassett's exquisite manners, and touched and interested by her pale yet still beautiful face and eyes. They made friends; but it was not till the third visit, when many kind things had passed between them, that Lady Bassett ventured on the subject she had at heart.
Well, then, I will. Who are you?" "I am Compton. Who are you, please?" "I am Ruperta." "I never heard that name before." "No more did I. I think they measured me for it: you live in the great house there, don't you?" "Yes, Ruperta." "Well, then, I live in the little house. It is not very little either. It's Highmore. I saw you in church one day; is that lady with the hair your mamma?"
"Oh, mamma!" said he, "I never thought you would do that: how good you are! You couldn't ask Ruperta, could you? Just in a little postscript, you know." Lady Bassett shook her head. "That would not be wise, my dear. Let me hook that fish for you, not frighten her away."