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- He Knew He Was Right - 80/179 -

'I know you are; but you are unjust. I am doing what I am sure is right.'

'I never saw such a beastly hole as this in all my life.'

'I don't think it beastly at all. You'll find that I'll make it nice. Whatever we want here you shall give us. You are not to think that I am too proud to take anything at your hands. It is not that.'

'It's very like it.'

'I have never refused anything that is reasonable, but it is quite unreasonable that we should go on living in such a place as that, as though we had three or four hundred a year of our own. If mamma got used to the comfort of it, it would be hard then upon her to move. You shall give her what you can afford, and what is reasonable; but it is madness to think of living there. I couldn't do it.'

'You're to have your way at any rate, it seems.'

'But you must not quarrel with me, Hugh. Give me a kiss. I don't have you often with me; and yet you are the only man in the world that I ever speak to, or even know. I sometimes half think that the bread is so hard and the water so bitter, that life will become impossible. I try to get over it; but if you were to go away from me in anger, I should be so beaten for a week or two that I could do nothing.'

'Why won't you let me do anything?'

'I will whatever you please. But kiss me.' Then he kissed her, as he stood among Mr Soames's cabbage-stalks. 'Dear Hugh; you are such a god to me!'

'You don't treat me like a divinity.'

'But I think of you as one when you are absent. The gods were never obeyed when they showed themselves. Let us go and have a walk. Come; shall we get as far as Ridleigh Mill?'

Then they started together, and all unpleasantness was over between them when they returned to the Clock House.



The time had arrived at which Brooke Burgess was to leave Exeter. He had made his tour through the county, and returned to spend his two last nights at Miss Stanbury's house. When he came back Dorothy was still at Nuncombe, but she arrived in the Close the day before his departure. Her mother and sister had wished her to stay at Nuncombe. 'There is a bed for you now, and a place to be comfortable in,' Priscilla had said, laughing, 'and you may as well see the last of us.' But Dorothy declared that she had named a day to her aunt, and that she would not break her engagement. 'I suppose you can stay if you like,' Priscilla had urged. But Dorothy was of opinion that she ought not to stay. She said not a word about Brooke Burgess; but it may be that it would have been matter of regret to her not to shake hands with him once more. Brooke declared to her that had she not come back he would have gone over to Nuncombe to see her; but: Dorothy did not consider herself entitled to believe that.

On the morning of the last day Brooke went over to his uncle's office. 'I've come to say Good-bye, Uncle Barty,' he said.

'Good-bye, my boy. Take care of yourself.'

'I mean to try.'

'You haven't quarrelled with the old woman have you? said Uncle Barty.

'Not yet--that is to say, not to the knife.'

'And you still believe that you are to have her money?'

'I believe nothing one way or the other. You may be sure of this, I shall never count it mine till I've got it; and I shall never make myself so sure of it, as to break my heart because I don't get it. I suppose I've got as good a right to it as anybody else, and I don't see why I shouldn't take it if it come in my way.'

'I don't think it ever will,' said the old man, after a pause.

'I shall be none the worse,' said Brooke.

'Yes, you will. You'll be a broken-hearted man. And she means to break your heart. She does it on purpose. She has no more idea of leaving you her money than I have. Why should she?'

'Simply because she takes the fancy.'

'Fancy! Believe me, there is very little fancy about it. There isn't one of the name she wouldn't ruin if she could. She'd break all our hearts if she could get at them. Look at me and my position. I'm little more than a clerk in the concern. By God I'm not so well off as a senior clerk in many a bank. If there came a bad time, I must lose as the others would lose, but a clerk never loses. And my share in the business is almost a nothing. It's just nothing compared to what it would have been, only for her.'

Brooke had known that his uncle was a disappointed, or at least a discontented man; but he had never known much of the old man's circumstances, and certainly had not expected to hear him speak in the strain that he had now used. He had heard often that his Uncle Barty disliked Miss Stanbury, and had not been surprised at former sharp, biting little words spoken to reference to that lady's character. But he had not expected such a tirade of abuse as the banker had now poured out. 'Of course I know nothing about the bank,' said he; 'but I did not suppose that she had had anything to do with it.'

'Where do you think the money came from that she has got? Did you ever hear that she had anything of her own? She never had a penny, never a penny. It came out of this house. It is the capital on which this business was founded, and on which it ought to be carried on to this day. My brother had thrown her off; by heavens, yes had thrown her off. He had found out what she was and had got rid of her.'

'But he left her his money.'

'Yes she got near him when he was dying, and he did leave her his money --his money, and my money, and your father's money.'

'He could have given her nothing, Uncle Barty, that wasn't his own.'

'Of course that's true it's true in one way. You might say the same of a man who was cozened into leaving every shilling away from his own children. I wasn't in Exeter when the will was made. We none of us were here. But she was here; and when we came to see him die, there we found her. She had had her revenge upon him, and she means to have it on all of us. I don't believe she'll ever leave you a shilling, Brooke. You'll find her out yet, and you'll talk of her to your nephews as I do to you.'

Brooke made some ordinary answer to this, and bade is uncle adieu. He had allowed himself to entertain a half chivalrous idea that he could produce a reconciliation between Miss Stanbury and his uncle Barty; and since he had been at Exeter he had said a word, first to the one and then to the other, hinting at the subject but his hints had certainly not been successful. As he walked from the bank into the High Street he could not fail to ask himself whether there were any grounds for the terrible accusations which he had just heard from his uncle's lips. Something of the same kind, though in form much less violent, had been repeated to him very often by others of the family. Though he had as a boy known Miss Stanbury well, he had been taught to regard her as an ogress. All the Burgesses had regarded Miss Stanbury as an ogress since that unfortunate will had come to light. But she was an ogress from whom something might be gained and the ogress had still persisted in saying that a Burgess should be her heir. It had therefore come to pass that Brooke had been brought up half to revere her and half to abhor her. 'She is a dreadful woman,' said his branch of the family, 'who will not scruple at anything evil. But as it seems that you may probably reap the advantage of the evil that she does, it will become you to put up with her iniquity.' As he had become old enough to understand the nature of her position, he had determined to judge for himself; but his judgment hitherto simply amounted to this, that Miss Stanbury was a very singular old woman, with a kind heart and good instincts, but so capricious withal that no sensible man would risk his happiness on expectations formed on her promises. Guided by this opinion, he had resolved to be attentive to her and, after a certain fashion, submissive; but certainly not to become her slave. She had thrown over her nephew. She was constantly complaining to him of her niece. Now and again she would say a very bitter word to him about himself. When he had left Exeter on his little excursion, no one was so much in favour with her as Mr Gibson. On his return he found that Mr Gibson had been altogether discarded, and was spoken of in terms of almost insolent abuse. 'If I were ever so humble to her,' he had said to himself, 'it would do no good; and there is nothing I hate so much as humility.' He had thus determined to take the goods the gods provided, should it ever come to pass that such godlike provision was laid before him out of Miss Stanbury's coffers but not to alter his mode of life or put himself out of his way in obedience to her behests, as a man might be expected to do who was destined to receive so rich a legacy. Upon this idea he had acted, still believing the old woman to be good, but believing at the same time that she was very capricious. Now he had heard what his Uncle Bartholomew Burgess had had to say upon the matter, and he could not refrain from asking himself whether his uncle's accusations were true.

In a narrow passage between the High Street and the Close he met Mr Gibson. There had come to be that sort of intimacy between the two men which grows from closeness of position rather than from any social desire on either side, and it was natural that Burgess should say a word of farewell. On the previous evening Miss Stanbury had relieved her mind by turning Mr Gibson into ridicule in her description to Brooke of the manner in which the clergyman had carried on his love affair; and she had at the same time declared that Mr Gibson had been most violently impertinent to herself. He knew, therefore, that Miss Stanbury and Mr Gibson had become two, and would on this occasion have passed on without a word relative to the old lady had Mr Gibson allowed him to do so. But Mr Gibson spoke his mind freely.

'Off to-morrow, are you?' he said. 'Good-bye. I hope we may meet again; but not in the same house, Mr Burgess.'

'There or anywhere, I shall be very happy,' said Brooke.

He Knew He Was Right - 80/179

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