Wives and Daughters, by Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter XXIX

Bush-Fighting

During all the months that had elapsed since Mrs. Hamley’s death, Molly had wondered many a time about the secret she had so unwittingly become possessed of that last day in the Hall library. It seemed so utterly strange and unheard-of a thing to her inexperienced mind, that a man should be married, and yet not live with his wife — that a son should have entered into the holy state of matrimony without his father’s knowledge, and without being recognized as the husband of some one known or unknown by all those with whom he came in daily contact, that she felt occasionally as if that little ten minutes of revelation must have been a vision in a dream. Both Roger and Osborne had kept the most entire silence on the subject ever since. Not even a look, or a pause, betrayed any allusion to it; it even seemed to have passed out of their thoughts. There had been the great sad event of their mother’s death to fill their minds on the next occasion of their meeting Molly; and since then long pauses of intercourse had taken place; so that she sometimes felt as if each of the brothers must have forgotten how she had come to know their important secret. She often found herself entirely forgetting it, but perhaps the consciousness of it was present to her unawares, and enabled her to comprehend the real nature of Osborne’s feelings towards Cynthia. At any rate she never for a moment had supposed that his gentle kind manner towards Cynthia was anything but the courtesy of a friend; strange to say, in these latter days Molly had looked upon Osborne’s relation to herself as pretty much the same as that in which at one time she had considered Roger’s; and she thought of the former as of some one as nearly a brother both to Cynthia and herself, as any young man could well be, whom they had not known in childhood, and who was in nowise related to them. She thought that he was very much improved in manner, and probably in character, by his mother’s death. He was no longer sarcastic, or fastidious, or vain, or self-confident. She did not know how often all these styles of talk or of behaviour were put on to conceal shyness or consciousness, and to veil the real self from strangers.

Osborne’s conversation and ways might very possibly have been just the same as before, had he been thrown amongst new people; but Molly only saw him in their own circle in which he was on terms of decided intimacy. Still there was no doubt that he was really improved, though perhaps not to the extent for which Molly gave him credit; and this exaggeration on her part arose very naturally from the fact, that he, perceiving Roger’s warm admiration for Cynthia, withdrew a little out of his brother’s way; and used to go and talk to Molly in order not to intrude himself between Roger and Cynthia. Of the two, perhaps, Osborne preferred Molly; to her he needed not to talk if the mood was not on him — they were on those happy terms where silence is permissible, and where efforts to act against the prevailing mood of the mind are not required. Sometimes, indeed, when Osborne was in the humour to be critical and fastidious as of yore, he used to vex Roger by insisting upon it that Molly was prettier than Cynthia.

‘You mark my words, Roger. Five years hence the beautiful Cynthia’s red and white will have become just a little coarse, and her figure will have thickened, while Molly’s will only have developed into more perfect grace. I don’t believe the girl has done growing yet; I am sure she is taller than when I first saw her last summer.’

‘Miss Kirkpatrick’s eyes must always be perfection. I cannot fancy any could come up to them: soft, grave, appealing, tender; and such a heavenly colour — I often try to find something in nature to compare them to; they are not like violets — that blue in the eyes is too like physical weakness of sight; they are not like the sky — that colour has something of cruelty in it.’

‘Come, don’t go on trying to match her eyes as if you were a draper, and they a bit of ribbon; say at once “her eyes are loadstars,” and have done with it! I set up Molly’s grey eyes and curling black lashes, long odds above the other young woman’s; but, of course, it’s all a matter of taste.’

And now both Osborne and Roger had left the neighbourhood. In spite of all that Mrs. Gibson had said about Roger’s visits being ill-timed and intrusive, she began to feel as if they had been a very pleasant variety, now they had ceased altogether. He brought in a whiff of a new atmosphere from that of Hollingford. He and his brother had been always ready to do numberless little things which only a man can do for women; small services which Mr. Gibson was always too busy to render. For the good doctor’s business grew upon him. He thought that this increase was owing to his greater skill and experience, and he would probably have been mortified if he could have known how many of his patients were solely biassed in sending for him, by the fact that he was employed at the Towers. Something of this sort must have been contemplated in the low scale of payment adopted long ago by the Cumnor family. Of itself the money he received for going to the Towers would hardly have paid him for horse-flesh, but then as Lady Cumnor in her younger days had worded it —

‘It is such a thing for a man just setting up in practice for himself to be able to say he attends at this house!’

So the prestige was tacitly sold and paid for; but neither buyer nor seller defined the nature of the bargain. On the whole, it was as well that Mr. Gibson spent so much of his time from home. He sometimes thought so himself when he heard his wife’s plaintive fret or pretty babble over totally indifferent things, and perceived of how flimsy a nature were all her fine sentiments. Still, he did not allow himself to repine over the step he had taken; he wilfully shut his eyes and waxed up his ears to many small things that he knew would have irritated him if he had attended to them; and, in his solitary rides, he forced himself to dwell on the positive advantages that had accrued to him and his through his marriage. He had obtained an unexceptionable chaperone, if not a tender mother, for his little girl; a skilful manager of his formerly disorderly household; a woman who was graceful and pleasant to look at for the head of his table. Moreover, Cynthia reckoned for something in the favourable side of the balance. She was a capital companion for Molly; and the two were evidently very fond of each other. The feminine companionship of the mother and daughter was agreeable to him as well as to his child — when Mrs. Gibson was moderately sensible and not over-sentimental, he mentally added; and then he checked himself, for he would not allow himself to become more aware of her faults and foibles by defining them. At any rate, she was harmless, and wonderfully just to Molly for a stepmother. She piqued herself upon this indeed, and would often call attention to the fact of her being unlike other women in this respect. Just then sudden tears came into Mr. Gibson’s eyes, as he remembered how quiet and undemonstrative his little Molly had become in her general behaviour to him; but how once or twice, when they had met upon the stairs, or were otherwise unwitnessed, she had caught him and kissed him — hand or cheek — in a sad passionateness of affection. But in a moment he began to whistle an old Scotch air he had heard in his childhood, and which had never recurred to his memory since; and five minutes afterwards he was too busily treating a case of white swelling in the knee of a little boy, and thinking how to relieve the poor mother, who went out charring all day, and had to listen to the moans of her child all night, to have any thought for his own cares, which, if they really existed, were of so trifling a nature compared to the hard reality of this hopeless woe.

Osborne came home first. He returned, in fact, not long after Roger had gone away; but he was languid and unwell, and, though he did not complain, he felt unequal to any exertion. Thus a week or more elapsed before any of the Gibsons knew that he was at the Hall; and then it was only by chance that they became aware of it. Mr. Gibson met him in one of the lanes near Hamley; the acute surgeon noticed the gait of the man as he came near, before he recognized who it was. When he overtook him he said —

‘Why, Osborne, is it you? I thought it was an old man of fifty loitering before me! I didn’t know you had come back.’

‘Yes,’ said Osborne, ‘I’ve been at home nearly ten days. I daresay I ought to have called on your people, for I made a half promise to Mrs. Gibson to let her know as soon as I returned; but the fact is, I’m feeling very good-for-nothing — this air oppresses me; I could hardly breathe in the house, and yet I’m already tired with this short walk.’

‘You’d better get home at once; and I’ll call and see you as I come back from Rowe’s.’

‘No, you mustn’t, on any account!’ said Osborne, hastily; my father is annoyed enough about my going from home, so often, he says, though it was six weeks. He puts down all my languor to my having been away — he keeps the purse-strings, you know,’ he added, with a faint smile, ‘and I’m in the unlucky position of a penniless heir, and I’ve been brought up so — In fact, I must leave home from time to time, and, if my father gets confirmed in this notion of his that my health is worse for my absences, he will stop the supplies altogether.’

‘May I ask where you do spend your time when you are not at Hamley Hall?’ asked Mr. Gibson, with some hesitation in his manner.

‘No!’ replied Osborne, reluctantly. ‘I will tell you this:— I stay with friends in the country. I lead a life which ought to be conducive to health, because it is thoroughly simple, rational, and happy. And now I’ve told you more about it than my father himself knows. He never asks me where I have been; and I shouldn’t tell him if he did — at least, I think not.’

Mr. Gibson rode on by Osborne’s side, not speaking for a moment or two.

‘Osborne, whatever scrapes you may have got into, I should advise your telling your father boldly out. I know him; and I know he’ll be angry enough at first, but he’ll come round, take my word for it; and, somehow or another, he’ll find money to pay your debts and set you free, if it’s that kind of difficulty; and if it’s any other kind of entanglement, why still he’s your best friend. It’s this estrangement from your father that’s telling on your health, I’ll be bound.’

‘No,’ said Osborne, ‘I beg your pardon; but it’s not that; I am really out of order. I daresay my unwillingness to encounter any displeasure from my father is the consequence of my indisposition; but I’ll answer for it, it is not the cause of it. My instinct tells me there is something real the matter with me.’

‘Come, don’t be setting up your instinct against the profession,’ said Mr. Gibson, cheerily. He dismounted, and throwing the reins of his horse round his arm, he looked at Osborne’s tongue and felt his pulse, asking him various questions. At the end he said —

‘We’ll soon bring you about, though I should like a little more quiet talk with you, without this tugging brute for a third. If you’ll manage to ride over and lunch with us tomorrow, Dr Nicholls will be with us; he’s coming over to see old Rowe; and you shall have the benefit of the advice of two doctors instead of one. Go home now, you’ve had enough exercise for the middle of a day as hot as this is. And don’t mope in the house, listening to the maunderings of your stupid instinct.’

‘What else have I to do?’ said Osborne. ‘My father and I are not companions; one can’t read and write for ever, especially when there is no end to be gained by it. I don’t mind telling you — but in confidence, recollect — that I’ve been trying to get some of my poems published; but there’s no one like a publisher for taking the conceit out of one. Not a man among them would take them as a gift.’

‘O ho! so that’s it, is it, Master Osborne? I thought there was some mental cause for this depression of health. I wouldn’t trouble my head about it, if I were you, though that’s always very easily said, I know. Try your hand at prose, if you can’t manage to please the publishers with poetry; but, at any rate, don’t go on fretting over spilt milk. But I mustn’t lose my time here. Come over to us tomorrow, as I said; and what with the wisdom of two doctors, and the wit and folly of three women, I think we shall cheer you up a bit.’

So saying, Mr. Gibson remounted, and rode away at the long, slinging trot so well known to the country people as the doctor’s pace.

‘I don’t like his looks,’ thought Mr. Gibson to himself at night, as over his daybooks he reviewed the events of the day. ‘And then his pulse. But how often we’re all mistaken; and, ten to one, my own hidden enemy lies closer to me than his does to him — even taking the worse view of the case.’

Osborne made his appearance a considerable time before luncheon the next morning; and no one objected to the earliness of his call. He was feeling better. There were few signs of the invalid about him; and what few there were disappeared under the bright pleasant influence of such a welcome as he received from all. Molly and Cynthia had much to tell him of the small proceedings since he went away, or to relate the conclusions of half-accomplished projects. Cynthia was often on the point of some gay, careless inquiry as to where he had been, and what he had been doing; but Molly, who conjectured the truth, as often interfered to spare him the pain of equivocation — a pain that her tender conscience would have felt for him, much more than he would have felt it for himself.

Mrs. Gibson’s talk was desultory, complimentary, and sentimental, after her usual fashion; but still, on the whole, though Osborne smiled to himself at much that she said, it was soothing and agreeable. Presently, Dr Nicholls and Mr. Gibson came in; the former had had some conference with the latter on the subject of Osborne’s health; and, from time to time, the skilful old physician’s sharp and observant eyes gave a comprehensive look at Osborne.

Then there was lunch, when every one was merry and hungry, excepting the hostess, who was trying to train her midday appetite into the genteelest of all ways, and thought (falsely enough) that Dr Nicholls was a good person to practise the semblance of ill-health upon, and that he would give her the proper civil amount of commiseration for her ailments, which every guest ought to bestow upon a hostess who complains of her delicacy of health. The old doctor was too cunning a man to fall into this trap. He would keep recommending her to try the coarsest viands on the table; and, at last, he told her if she could not fancy the cold beef to try a little with pickled onions. There was a twinkle in his eye as he said this, that would have betrayed his humour to any observer; but Mr. Gibson, Cynthia, and Molly were all attacking Osborne on the subject of some literary preference he had expressed, and Dr Nicholls had Mrs. Gibson quite at his mercy. She was not sorry when luncheon was over to leave the room to the three gentlemen; and ever afterwards she spoke of Dr Nicholls as ‘that bear.’

Presently, Osborne came upstairs, and, after his old fashion, began to take up new books, and to question the girls as to their music. Mrs. Gibson had to go out and pay some calls, so she left the three together; and after a while they adjourned into the garden, Osborne lounging on a chair, while Molly employed herself busily in tying up carnations, and Cynthia gathered flowers in her careless, graceful way.

‘I hope you notice the difference in our occupations, Mr. Hamley. Molly, you see, devotes herself to the useful, and I to the ornamental. Please, under what head do you class what you are doing? I think you might help one of us, instead of looking on like the Grand Seigneur.’

‘I don’t know what I can do,’ said he, rather plaintively. ‘I should like to be useful, but I don’t know how; and my day is past for purely ornamental work. You must let me be, I am afraid. Besides, I am really rather exhausted by being questioned and pulled about by those good doctors.’

‘Why, you don’t mean to say they have been attacking you since lunch!’ exclaimed Molly.

‘Yes; indeed, they have; and they might have gone on till now if Mrs Gibson had not come in opportunely.’

‘I thought mamma had gone out some time ago!’ said Cynthia, catching wafts of the conversation as she flitted hither and thither among the flowers.

‘She came into the dining-room not five minutes ago. Do you want her, for I see her crossing the hall at this very moment?’ and Osborne half rose.

‘Oh, not at all!’ said Cynthia. ‘Only she seemed to be in such a hurry to go out, I fancied she had set off long ago. She had some errand to do for Lady Cumnor, and she thought she could manage to catch the housekeeper, who is always in the town on Thursday.’

‘Are the family coming to the Towers this autumn?’

‘I believe so. But I don’t know, and I don’t much care. They don’t take kindly to me,’ continued Cynthia, ‘and so I suppose I am not generous enough to take kindly to them.’

‘I should have thought that such a very unusual blot in their discrimination would have interested you in them as extraordinary people,’ said Osborne, with a little air of conscious gallantry.

‘Isn’t that a compliment?’ said Cynthia, after a pause of mock meditation. ‘If any one pays me a compliment, please let it be short and clear. I’m very stupid at finding out hidden meanings.’

‘Then such speeches as “you are very pretty,” or “you have charming manners,” are what you prefer. Now, I pique myself on wrapping up my sugar-plums delicately.’

‘Then would you please to write them down, and at my leisure I’ll parse them.’

‘No! It would be too much trouble. I’ll meet you half way, and study clearness next time.’

‘What are you two talking about?’ said Molly, resting on her light spade.

‘It’s only a discussion on the best way of administering compliments,’ said Cynthia, taking up her flower-basket again, but not going out of the reach of the conversation.

‘I don’t like them at all in any way,’ said Molly. ‘But, perhaps, it’s rather sour grapes with me,’ she added.

‘Nonsense!’ said Osborne. ‘Shall I tell you what I heard of you at the ball?’

‘Or shall I provoke Mr. Preston,’ said Cynthia, ‘to begin upon you? It is like turning a tap, such a stream of pretty speeches flow out at the moment.’ Her lip curled with scorn.

‘For you, perhaps,’ said Molly; ‘but not for me.’

‘For any woman. It is his notion of making himself agreeable. If you dare me, Molly, I will try the experiment, and you’ll see with what success.’

‘No, don’t, pray!’ said Molly, in a hurry. ‘I do so dislike him!’

‘Why?’ said Osborne, roused to a little curiosity by her vehemence.

‘Oh! I don’t know. He never seems to know what one is feeling.’

‘He wouldn’t care if he did know,’ said Cynthia. ‘And he might know he is not wanted,’

‘If he chooses to stay, he cares little whether he is wanted or not.’

‘Come, this is very interesting,’ said Osborne. ‘It is like the strophe and anti-strophe in a Greek chorus. Pray, go on.’

‘Don’t you know him?’ asked Molly.

‘Yes, by sight, and I think we were once introduced. But, you know, we are much farther from Ashcombe, at Hamley, than you are here, at Hollingford.’

‘Oh! but he is coming to take Mr. Sheepshanks’ place, and then he will live here altogether,’ said Molly.

‘Molly! who told you that?’ said Cynthia, in quite a different tone of voice to that in which she had been speaking hitherto.

‘Papa, didn’t you hear him? Oh, no! it was before you were down this morning. Papa met Mr. Sheepshanks yesterday, and he told him it was all settled: you know we heard a rumour about it in the spring!’

Cynthia was very silent after this. Presently, she said that she had gathered all the flowers she wanted, and that the heat was so great she would go indoors. And then Osborne went away. But Molly had set herself a task to dig up such roots as had already flowered, and to put down some bedding-out plants in their stead. Tired and heated as she was she finished it, and then went upstairs to rest, and change her dress. According to her wont, she sought for Cynthia; there was no reply to her soft knock at the bedroom-door opposite to her own, and, thinking that Cynthia might have fallen asleep, and be lying uncovered in the draught of the open window, she went in softly. Cynthia was lying upon the bed as if she had thrown herself down on it without caring for the ease or comfort of her position. She was very still; and Molly took a shawl, and was going to place it over her, when she opened her eyes, and spoke —

‘Is that you, dear? Don’t go. I like to know that you are there.’

She shut her eyes again, and remained quite quiet for a few minutes longer. Then she started up into a sitting posture, pushed her hair away from her forehead and burning eyes, and gazed intently at Molly.

‘Do you know what I’ve been thinking, dear?’ said she. ‘I think I’ve been long enough here, and that I had better go out as a governess.’

‘Cynthia, what do you mean?’ asked Molly, aghast. ‘You’ve been asleep — you’ve been dreaming. You’re overtired,’ continued she, sitting down on the bed, and taking Cynthia’s passive hand, and stroking it softly — a mode of caressing that had come down to her from her mother — whether as an hereditary instinct, or as a lingering remembrance of the tender ways of the dead woman, Mr Gibson often wondered within himself when he observed it.

‘Oh, how good you are, Molly. I wonder, if I had been brought up like you, if I should have been as good. But I’ve been tossed about so.’

‘Then, don’t go and be tossed about any more,’ said Molly, softly.

‘Oh, dear! I had better go. But, you see, no one ever loved me like you, and, I think, your father — doesn’t he, Molly? And it’s hard to be driven out.’

‘Cynthia, I am sure you’re not well, or else you’re not half awake.’ Cynthia sate with her arms encircling her knees, and looking at vacancy.

‘Well!’ said she, at last, heaving a great sigh; but, then, smiling as she caught Molly’s anxious face, ‘I suppose there’s no escaping one’s doom; and anywhere else I should be much more forlorn and unprotected.’

‘What do you mean by your doom?’

‘Ah, that’s telling, little one,’ said Cynthia, who seemed now to have recovered her usual manner. ‘I don’t mean to have one, though. I think that, though I am an arrant coward at heart, I can show fight.’

‘With whom?’ asked Molly, really anxious to probe the mystery — if, indeed, there was one — to the bottom, in the hope of some remedy being found for the distress Cynthia was in when first Molly had entered,

Again Cynthia was lost in thought; then, catching the echo of Molly’s last words in her mind, she said —

‘“With whom?”— oh! show fight with whom — with my doom, to be sure. Am not I a grand young lady to have a doom? Why, Molly, child, how pale and grave you look!’ said she, kissing her all of a sudden. ‘You ought not to care so much for me; I’m not good enough for you to worry yourself about me. I’ve given myself up a long time ago as a heartless baggage!’

‘Nonsense! I wish you wouldn’t talk so, Cynthia!’

‘And I wish you wouldn’t always take me “at the foot of the letter,” as an English girl at school used to translate it. Oh, how hot it is! Is it never going to get cool again? My child! what dirty hands you’ve got, and face too; and I’ve been kissing you — I daresay I’m dirty with it, too. Now, isn’t that like one of mamma’s speeches? But, for all that, you look more like a delving Adam than a spinning Eve.’

This had the effect that Cynthia intended; the daintily clean Molly became conscious of her soiled condition, which she had forgotten while she had been attending to Cynthia, and she hastily withdrew to her own room. When she had gone, Cynthia noiselessly locked the door; and, taking her purse out of her desk, she began to count over her money. She counted it once — she counted it twice, as if desirous of finding out some mistake which should prove it to be more than it was; but the end of it all was a sigh.

‘What a fool! — what a fool I was!’ she said, at length. ‘But even if I don’t go out as a governess, I shall make it up in time.’

Some weeks after the time he had anticipated when he had spoken of his departure to the Gibsons, Roger returned back to the Hall. One morning when he called, Osborne told them that his brother had been at home for two or three days.

‘And why has he not come here, then?’ said Mrs. Gibson. ‘It is not kind of him not to come and see us as soon as he can. Tell him I say so — pray do.’

Osborne had gained one or two ideas as to her treatment of Roger the last time he had called. Roger had not complained of it, or even mentioned it, till that very morning; when Osborne was on the point of starting, and had urged Roger to accompany him, the latter had told him something of what Mrs. Gibson had said. He spoke rather as if he was more amused than annoyed; but Osborne could read that he was chagrined at those restrictions placed upon calls which were the greatest pleasure of his life. Neither of them let out the suspicion which had entered both their minds — the well-grounded suspicion arising from the fact that Osborne’s visits, be they paid early or late, had never yet been met with a repulse.

Osborne now reproached himself with having done Mrs. Gibson injustice. She was evidently a weak, but probably a disinterested, woman; and it was only a little bit of ill-temper on her part which had caused her to speak to Roger as she had done.

‘I daresay it was rather impertinent of me to call at such an untimely hour,’ said Roger.

‘Not at all; I call at all hours, and nothing is ever said about it. It was just because she was put out that morning. I’ll answer for it she’s sorry now, and I’m sure you may go there at any time you like in the future.’

Still, Roger did not choose to go again for two or three weeks, and the consequence was that the next time he called the ladies were out. Once again he had the same ill-luck, and then he received a little pretty three-cornered note from Mrs. Gibson:—

MY DEAR SIR — How is it that you are become so formal all on a sudden, leaving cards, instead of awaiting our return? Fie for shame! If you had seen the faces of disappointment that I did when the horrid little bits of pasteboard were displayed to our view, you would not have borne malice against me so long; for it is really punishing others as well as my naughty self. If you will come tomorrow — as early as you like — and lunch with us, I’ll own I was cross, and acknowledge myself a penitent. — Yours ever, HYACINTH C. K. GIBSON.

There was no resisting this, even if there had not been strong inclination to back up the pretty words. Roger went, and Mrs. Gibson caressed and petted him in her sweetest, silkiest manner. Cynthia looked lovelier than ever to him for the slight restriction that had been laid for a time on their intercourse. She might be gay and sparkling with Osborne; with Roger she was soft and grave. Instinctively she knew her men. She saw that Osborne was only interested in her because of her position in a family with whom he was intimate; that his friendship was without the least touch of sentiment; and that his admiration was only the warm criticism of an artist for unusual beauty. But she felt how different Roger’s relation to her was. To him she was the one, alone, peerless. If his love was prohibited, it would be long years before he could sink down into tepid friendship; and to him her personal loveliness was only one of the many charms that made him tremble into passion. Cynthia was not capable of returning such feelings; she had had too little true love in her life, and perhaps too much admiration to do so; but she appreciated this honest ardour, this loyal worship that was new to her experience. Such appreciation, and such respect for his true and affectionate nature, gave a serious tenderness to her manner to Roger, which allured him with a fresh and separate grace. Molly sate by, and wondered how it would all end, or, rather, how soon it would all end, for she thought that no girl could resist such reverent passion; and on Roger’s side there could be no doubt — alas! there could be no doubt. An older spectator might have looked far ahead, and thought of the question of pounds, shillings, and pence. Where was the necessary income for a marriage to come from? Roger had his fellowship now, it is true; but the income of that would be lost if he married; he had no profession, and the life interest of the two or three thousand pounds that he inherited from his mother, belonged to his father. This older spectator might have been a little surprised at the empressement of Mrs. Gibson’s manner to a younger son, always supposing this said spectator to have read to the depths of her worldly heart. Never had she tried to be more agreeable to Osborne; and though her attempt was a great failure when practised upon Roger, and he did not know what to say in reply to the delicate Batteries which he felt to be insincere, he saw that she intended him to consider himself henceforward free of the house; and he was too glad to avail himself of this privilege to examine over-closely into what might be her motives for her change of manner. He shut his eyes, and chose to believe that she was now desirous of making up for her little burst of temper on his previous visit.

The result of Osborne’s conference with the two doctors had been certain prescriptions which appeared to have done him much good, and which would in all probability have done him yet more, could he have been free of the recollection of the little patient wife in her solitude near Winchester. He went to her whenever he could; and, thanks to Roger, money was far more plentiful with him now than it had been. But he still shrank, and perhaps even more and more, from telling his father of his marriage. Some bodily instinct made him dread all agitation inexpressibly. If he had not had this money from Roger, he might have been compelled to tell his father all, and to ask for the necessary funds to provide for the wife and the coming child. But with enough in hand, and a secret, though remorseful, conviction that as long as Roger had a penny his brother was sure to have half of it, made him more reluctant than ever to irritate his father by a revelation of his secret. ‘Not just yet, not just at present,’ he kept saying both to Roger and to himself. ‘By and by, if we have a boy, I will call it Roger’— and then visions of poetical and romantic reconciliations brought about between father and son, through the medium of a child, the offspring of a forbidden marriage, became still more vividly possible to him, and at any rate it was a staving-off of an unpleasant thing. He atoned to himself for taking so much of Roger’s fellowship money by reflecting that, if Roger married, he would lose this source of revenue; yet Osborne was throwing no impediment in the way of this event, rather forwarding it by promoting every possible means of his brother’s seeing the lady of his love. Osborne ended his reflections by convincing himself of his own generosity.

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Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 22:18