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- He Knew He Was Right - 130/179 -


'Have you, indeed?'

'You have complained that my work is not permanent. I have shewn that it is so permanent that there is no possibility of its coming to an end. There must be newspapers, and the people trained to write them must be employed. I have been at it now about two years. You know what I earn. Could I have got so far in so short a time as a lawyer, a doctor, a clergyman, a soldier, a sailor, a Government clerk, or in any of those employments which you choose to call professions? I think that is urging a great deal. I think it is urging everything.'

'Very well, Mr Stanbury. I have listened to you, and in a certain degree I admire your your your zeal and ingenuity, shall I say.'

'I didn't mean to call for admiration, Sir Marmaduke; but suppose you say good sense and discrimination.'

'Let that pass. You must permit me to remark that your position is not such as to justify me in trusting my daughter to your care. As my mind on that matter is quite made up, as is that also of Lady Rowley, I must ask you to give me your promise that your suit to my daughter shall be discontinued.'

'What does she say about it, Sir Marmaduke?'

'What she has said to me has been for my ears, and not for yours.'

'What I say is for her ears and for yours, and for her mother's ears, and for the ears of any who may choose to hear it. I will never give up my suit to your daughter till I am forced to do so, by a full conviction given me up. It is best to be plain, Sir Marmaduke, of course.'

'I do not understand this, Mr Stanbury.'

'I mean to be quite clear.'

'I have always thought that when a gentleman was told by the head of a family that he could not be made welcome in that family, it was considered to be the duty of that gentleman, as a gentleman, to abandon his vain pursuit. I have been brought up with that idea.'

'And I, Sir Marmaduke, have been brought up in the idea that when a man has won the affections of a woman, it is the duty of that man, as a man, to stick to her through thick and thin; and I mean to do my duty, according to my idea.'

'Then, sir, I have nothing further to say, but to take my leave. I must only caution you not to enter my doors.' As the passages were dark and intricate, it was necessary that Stanbury should shew Sir Marmaduke out, and this he did in silence. When they parted each of them lifted his hat, and not a word more was said.

That same night there was a note put into Nora's hands as she was following her mother out of one of the theatres. In the confusion she did not even see the messenger who had handed it to her. Her sister Lucy saw that she had taken the note, and questioned her about it afterwards with discretion, however, and in privacy. This was the note:

'Dearest Love,

I have seen your father, who is stern after the manner of fathers. What granite equals a parent's flinty bosom! For myself, I do not prefer clandestine arrangements and rope-ladders; and you, dear, have nothing of the Lydia about you. But I do like my own way, and like it especially when you are at the end of the path. It is quite out of the question that you should go back to those islands. I think I am justified in already assuming enough of the husband to declare that such going back must not be held for a moment in question. My proposition is that you should authorise me to make such arrangements as may be needed, in regard to licence, banns, or whatever else, and that you should then simply walk from the house to the church and marry me. You are of age, and can do as you please. Neither your father nor mother can have any right to stop you. I do not doubt but that your mother would accompany you, if she were fully satisfied of your purpose. Write to me to the D. R.

Your own, ever and ever, and always,

H. S.

I shall try and get this given to you as you leave the theatre. If it should fall into other hands, I don't much care. I'm not in the least ashamed of what I am doing; and I hope that you are not.'

CHAPTER LXXII

THE DELIVERY OF THE LAMB

It is hoped that a certain quarter of lamb will not have been forgotten-- a quarter of lamb that was sent as a peace-offering from Exeter to Nuncombe Putney by the hands of Miss Stanbury's Martha, not with purposes of corruption, not intended to buy back the allegiance of Dorothy, folded delicately and temptingly in one of the best table napkins, with no idea of bribery, but sent as presents used to be sent of old in the trains of great ambassadors as signs of friendship and marks of true respect. Miss Stanbury was, no doubt, most anxious that her niece should return to her, but was not, herself, low spirited enough to conceive that a quarter of lamb could be efficacious in procuring such return. If it might be that Dorothy's heart could be touched by mention of the weariness of her aunt's solitary life; and if, therefore, she would return, it would be very well; but it could not be well unless the offer should come from Dorothy herself. All of which Martha had been made to understand by her mistress, considerable ingenuity having been exercised in the matter on each side.

On her arrival at Lessboro', Martha had hired a fly, and been driven out to Nuncombe Putney; but she felt, she knew not why, a dislike to be taken in her carriage to the door of the cottage; and was put down in the middle of the village, from whence she walked out to Mrs Stanbury's abode, with the basket upon her arm. It was a good half mile, and the lamb was heavy, for Miss Stanbury had suggested that a bottle of sherry should be put in under the napkin and Martha was becoming tired of her burden, when whom should she see on the road before her but Brooke Burgess! As she said herself afterwards, it immediately occurred to her, 'that all the fat was in the fire.' Here had this young man come down, passing through Exeter without even a visit to Miss Stanbury, and had clandestinely sought out the young woman whom he wasn't to marry; and here was the young woman herself flying in her aunt's face, when one scratch of a pen might ruin them both! Martha entertained a sacred, awful, overcoming feeling about her mistress's will. That she was to have something herself she supposed, and her anxiety was not on that score; but she had heard so much about it, had realised so fully the great power which Miss Stanbury possessed, and had had her own feelings so rudely invaded by alterations in Miss Stanbury's plans, that she had come to entertain an idea that all persons around her should continually bear that will in their memory. Hugh had undoubtedly been her favourite, and, could Martha have dictated the will herself, she would still have made Hugh the heir; but she had realised the resolution of her mistress so far as to confess that the bulk of the property was to go back to a Burgess. But there were very many Burgesses; and here was the one who had been selected, flying in the very face of the testatrix! What was to be done? Were she to go back and not tell her mistress that she had seen Brooke Burgess at Nuncombe, then, should the fact be found out, would the devoted anger of Miss Stanbury fall upon her own head? It would be absolutely necessary that she should tell the story, let the consequences be what they might; but the consequences, probably, would be very dreadful. 'Mr Brooke, that is not you?' she said, as she came up to him, putting her basket down in the middle of the dusty road.

'Then who can it be?' said Brooke, giving her his hand to shake.

'But what do bring you here, Mr Brooke? Goodness me, what will missus say?'

'I shall make that all straight. I'm going back to Exeter tomorrow.' Then there were many questions and many answers. He was sojourning at Mrs Crocket's, and had been there for the last two days. 'Dear, dear, dear,' she said over and over again. 'Deary me, deary me!' and then she asked him whether it was 'all along of Miss Dorothy' that he had come. Of course, it was all along of Miss Dorothy. Brooke made no secret about it. He had come down to see Dorothy's mother and sister, and to say a bit of his own mind about future affairs and to see the beauties of the country. When he talked about the beauties of the country, Martha looked at him as the people of Lessboro' and Nuncombe Putney should have looked at Colonel Osborne, when he talked of the church porch at Cockchaffington. 'Beauties of the countries, Mr Brooke you ought to be ashamed of yourself!' said Martha.

'But I ain't the least in the world,' said Brooke.

Then Martha took up her basket, and went on to the cottage, which had been close in sight during their conversation in the road. She felt angry with Dorothy. In such matters a woman is always angry with the woman who has probably been quite passive, and rarely with the man, who is ever the real transgressor. Having a man down after her at Nuncombe Putney! It had never struck Martha as very horrible that Brooke Burgess should fall in love with Dorothy in the city, but this meeting, in the remoteness of the country, out of sight even of the village, was almost indecent; and all, too, with Miss Stanbury's will just, as one might say, on the balance! Dorothy ought to have buried herself rather than have allowed Brooke to see her at Nuncombe Putney; and Dorothy's mother and Priscilla must be worse. She trudged on, however, with her lamb, and soon found herself in the presence of the three ladies.

'What Martha!' said Dorothy.

'Yes, miss here I am. I'd have been here half-an-hour ago amost, if I hadn't been stopped on the road.'

'And who stopped you?' asked Priscilla.

'Why Mr Brooke, of course.'

'And what did Mr Brooke say to you?' asked Dorothy.

Martha perceived at once that Dorothy was quite radiant. She told her mistress that she had never seen Miss Dorothy look half so comely before. 'Laws, ma'am, she brightened up and speckled about, till it did your heart good to see her in spite of all.' But this was some time afterwards.


He Knew He Was Right - 130/179

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