"I can be serious," said Cynthia.
"I don't think it would suit you if you were," said her sister.
The desire to please, combined with a painful sensitiveness to anything approaching ridicule, from no matter how contemptible a critic, was the essential weakness in Cynthia's character. She had enough sense to be conscious of this, and the knowledge was gall and wormwood; for she liked to think herself proud and independent, with a mind above other people's opinions. But, as she told Lady Theodosia, in one of her rare bursts of confidence, "What is the use of despising their opinions when I am at the mercy of their giggles?" That morning Agatha's cold smile was almost more than she could bear. She was on the point of promising to go abroad, the next day if need be, when another powerful weakness—namely, obstinacy—came to the rescue. She got up and put on her bonnet.
"Where are you going?" said Agatha.
"I am going to the British Museum," said Cynthia, flushing a little. "I am not likely to meet any one I know there, and this veil is thick. I can't sit here all day."
"You had much better lie down and have some beef-tea," said Agatha. "But of course if you insist upon going, and don't feel yourself that it's the most extraordinary, unheard-of thing to do, in the circumstances, it isn't for me to interfere."
"I wish you wouldn't look meek, Agatha, when you know you want to be disagreeable."
The sorrowful reproach on Agatha's countenance—which meant plainly that, although Cynthia might