Doctor Thorne, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XVIII

The Rivals

The intimacy between Frank and Miss Dunstable grew and prospered. That is to say, it prospered as an intimacy, though perhaps hardly as a love affair. There was a continued succession of jokes between them, which no one else in the castle understood; but the very fact of there being such a good understanding between them rather stood in the way of, than assisted, that consummation which the countess desired. People, when they are in love with each other, or even when they pretend to be, do not generally show it by loud laughter. Nor is it frequently the case that a wife with two hundred thousand pounds can be won without some little preliminary despair.

Lady de Courcy, who thoroughly understood that portion of the world in which she herself lived, saw that things were not going quite as they should do, and gave much and repeated advice to Frank on the subject. She was the more eager in doing this, because she imagined Frank had done what he could to obey her first precepts. He had not turned up his nose at Miss Dunstable’s curls, nor found fault with her loud voice: he had not objected to her as ugly, nor even shown any dislike to her age. A young man who had been so amenable to reason was worthy of further assistance; and so Lady de Courcy did what she could to assist him.

‘Frank, my dear boy,’ she would say, ‘you are a little too noisy, I think. I don’t mean for myself, you know; I don’t mind it. But Miss Dunstable would like it better if you were a little more quiet with her.’

‘Would she, aunt?’ said Frank, looking demurely up into the countess’s face. ‘I rather think she likes fun and noise, and that sort of thing. You know she’s not very quiet herself.’

‘Ah! — but, Frank, there are times, you know, when that sort of thing should be laid aside. Fun, as you call it, is all very well in its place. Indeed, no one likes it better than I do. But that’s not the way to show admiration. Young ladies like to be admired; and if you’ll be a little more soft-mannered with Miss Dunstable, I’m sure you’ll find it will answer better.’

And so the old bird taught the young bird how to fly — very needlessly — for in this matter of flying, Nature gives her own lessons thoroughly; and the ducklings will take the water, even though the maternal hen warn them against the perfidious element never so loudly.

Soon after this, Lady de Courcy began to be not very well pleased in the matter. She took it into her head that Miss Dunstable was sometimes almost inclined to laugh at her; and on one or two occasions it almost seemed as though Frank was joining Miss Dunstable in doing so. The fact indeed was, that Miss Dunstable was fond of fun; and, endowed as she was with all the privileges which two hundred thousand pounds may be supposed to give to a young lady, did not very much care at whom she laughed. She was able to make a tolerably correct guess at Lady De Courcy’s plan towards herself; but she did not for a moment think that Frank had any intention of furthering his aunt’s views. She was, therefore, not at all ill-inclined to have her revenge on the countess.

‘How very fond your aunt is of you!’ she said to him one wet morning, as he was sauntering through the house; now laughing, and almost romping with her — then teasing his sister about Mr Moffat — and then bothering his lady-cousins out of all their propriety.

‘Oh, very!’ said Frank: ‘she is a dear, good woman, is my Aunt De Courcy.’

‘I declare she takes more notice of you and your doings than of any of your cousins. I wonder they aren’t jealous.’

‘Oh! they’re such good people. Bless me, they’d never be jealous.’

‘You are so much younger than they are, that I suppose she thinks you want more of her care.’

‘Yes; that’s it. You see she is fond of having a baby to nurse.’

‘Tell me, Mr Gresham, what was it she was saying to you last night? I know we have been misbehaving ourselves dreadfully. It was all your fault; you would make me laugh so.’

‘That’s just what I said to her.’

‘She was talking about it, then?’

‘How on earth should she talk of any one else as long as you are here? Don’t you know that all the world is talking about you?’

‘Is it? — dear me, how kind! But I don’t care a straw about any world at present but Lady de Courcy’s world. What did she say?’

‘She said you were very beautiful —’

‘Did she? — how good of her!’

‘No; I forgot. It — it was I that said that; and she said — what was it she said? She said, that after all, beauty was but skin deep — and that she valued you for your virtues and prudence rather than your good looks.’

‘Virtues and prudence! She said I was prudent and virtuous?’

‘Yes.’

‘And you talked of my beauty? That was so kind of you. You didn’t either of you say anything about other matters?’

‘What other matters?’

‘Oh! I don’t know. Only some people are sometimes valued rather for what they’ve got than for any good qualities belonging to themselves intrinsically.’

‘That can never be the case with Miss Dunstable; especially not at Courcy Castle,’ said Frank, bowing easily from the corner of the sofa over which he was leaning.

‘Of course not,’ said Miss Dunstable; and Frank at once perceived that she spoke in a tone of voice differing much from that half-bantering, half-good-humoured manner that was customary with her. ‘Of course not: any such idea would be quite out of the question with Lady de Courcy.’ She paused for a moment, and then added in a tone different again, and unlike any that he had yet heard from her:—‘It is, at any rate, out of the question with Mr Frank Gresham — of that I am quite sure.’

Frank ought to have understood her, and have appreciated the good opinion which she intended to convey; but he did not entirely do so. He was hardly honest himself towards her; and he could not at first perceive that she intended to say that she thought him so. He knew very well that she was alluding to her own huge fortune, and was alluding also to the fact that people of fashion sought her because of it; but he did not know that she intended to express a true acquittal as regarded him of any such baseness.

And did he deserve to be acquitted? Yes, upon the whole he did; — to be acquitted of that special sin. His desire to make Miss Dunstable temporarily subject to his sway arose, not from a hankering after her fortune, but from an ambition to get the better of a contest in which other men around him seemed to be failing.

For it must not be imagined that, with such a prize to be struggled for, all others stood aloof and allowed him to have his own way with the heiress, undisputed. The chance of a wife with two hundred thousand pounds is a godsend, which comes in a man’s life too seldom to be neglected, let that chance be never so remote.

Frank was the heir to a large embarrassed property; and, therefore, the heads of families, putting their wisdoms together, had thought it most meet that this daughter of Plutus should, if possible, fall to his lot. But not so thought the Honourable George; and not so thought another gentleman who was at that time an inmate of Courcy Castle.

These suitors perhaps somewhat despised their young rival’s efforts. It may be that they had sufficient worldly wisdom to know that so important a crisis of life is not settled among quips and jokes, and that Frank was too much in jest to be in earnest. But be that as it may, his love-making did not stand in the way of their love-making; nor his hopes, if he had any, in the way of their hopes.

The Honourable George had discussed the matter with the Honourable John in a properly fraternal manner. It may be that John had also an eye to the heiress; but, if so, he had ceded his views to his brother’s superior claims; for it came about that they understood each other very well, and John favoured George with salutary advice on the occasion.

‘If it is to be done at all, it should be done very sharp,’ said John.

‘As sharp as you like,’ said George. ‘I’m not the fellow to be studying three months in what attitude I’ll fall at a girl’s feet.’

‘No: and when you are there you mustn’t take three months more to study how you’ll get up again. If you do it at all, you must do it sharp,’ repeated John, putting great stress on his advice.

‘I have said a few soft words to her already, and she didn’t seem to take them badly,’ said George.

‘She’s no chicken, you know,’ remarked John; ‘and with a woman like that, beating about the bush never does any good. The chances are she won’t have you — that’s of course; plums like that don’t fall into a man’s mouth merely for shaking the tree. But it’s possible she may; and if she will, she’s as likely to take you today as this day six months. If I were you I’d write her a letter.’

‘Write her a letter — eh?’ said George, who did not altogether dislike the advice, for it seemed to take from his shoulders the burden of preparing a spoken address. Though he was so glib in speaking about the farmers’ daughters, he felt that he should have some little difficulty in making known his passion to Miss Dunstable, by word of mouth.

‘Yes; write a letter. If she’ll take you at all, she’ll take you that way; half the matches going are made up by writing letters. Write her a letter and get it put on her dressing-table.’ George said that he would, and so he did.

George spoke quite truly when he hinted that he had said a few soft things to Miss Dunstable. Miss Dunstable, however, was accustomed to hear soft things. She had been carried much about in society among fashionable people since, on the settlement of her father’s will, she had been pronounced heiress to all the ointment of Lebanon; and many men had made calculations respecting her similar to those which were now animating the brain of the Honourable George de Courcy. She was already quite accustomed to being a target at which spendthrifts and the needy rich might shoot their arrows: accustomed to being shot at, and tolerably accustomed to protect herself without making scenes in the world, or rejecting the advantageous establishments offered to her with any loud expressions of disdain. The Honourable George, therefore, had been permitted to say soft things very much as a matter of course.

And very little more outward fracas arose from the correspondence which followed than had arisen from the soft things so said. George wrote the letter, and had it duly conveyed to Miss Dunstable’s bed-chamber. Miss Dunstable duly received it, and had her answer conveyed back discreetly to George’s hands. The correspondence ran as follows:—

‘Courcy Castle, Aug. — 185-. ‘MY DEAREST MISS DUNSTABLE,

‘I cannot but flatter myself that you must have perceived from my manner that you are not indifferent to me. Indeed, indeed, you are not. I may truly say, and swear’ (these last strong words had been put in by the special counsel of the Honourable John), ‘that if ever a man loved a woman truly, I truly love you. You may think it very odd that I should say this in a letter instead of speaking it out before your face; but your powers of raillery are so great’ (‘touch her up about her wit’ had been the advice of the Honourable John) ‘that I am all but afraid to encounter them. Dearest, dearest Martha — oh do not blame me for so addressing you! — if you will trust your happiness to me you shall never find that you have been deceived. My ambition shall be to make you shine in that circle which you are so well qualified to adorn and to see you firmly fixed in that sphere of fashion for which your tastes adapt you.

‘I may safely assert — and I do assert it with my hand on my heart — that I am actuated by no mercenary motives. Far be it from me to marry any woman — no, not a princess — on account of her money. No marriage can be happy without mutual affection; and I do fully trust — no, not trust, but hope — that there may be such between you and me, dearest Miss Dunstable. Whatever settlements you might propose I would accede to. It is you, your sweet person, that I love, not your money.

‘For myself, I need not remind you that I am the second son of my father; and that, as such, I hold no inconsiderable station in the world. My intention is to get into Parliament, and to make a name for myself, if I can, among those who shine in the House of Commons. My elder brother, Lord Porlock, is, you are aware, unmarried; and we all fear that the family honours are not likely to be perpetuated by him, as he has all manner of troublesome liaisons which will probably prevent his settling in life. There is nothing at all of that kind in my way. It will indeed be a delight to place a coronet on the head of my lovely Martha: a coronet which can give no fresh grace to her, but which will be so much adorned by her wearing it.

‘Dearest, Miss Dunstable, I shall wait with the utmost impatience for your answer; and now, burning with hope that it may not be altogether unfavourable to my love, I beg permission to sign myself

‘Your own most devoted, ‘GEORGE DE COURCY’

The ardent lover had not to wait long for an answer from his mistress. She found this letter on her toilet-table one night as she went to bed. The next morning she came down to breakfast and met her swain with the most unconcerned air in the world; so much so that he began to think, as he munched his toast with rather a shamefaced look, that the letter on which so much was to depend had not yet come safely to hand. But his suspense was not of a prolonged duration. After breakfast, as was his wont, he went out to the stables with his brother and Frank Gresham; and while there, Miss Dunstable’s man, coming up to him, touched his hat, and put a letter into his hand.

Frank, who knew the man, glanced at the letter and looked at his cousin; but he said nothing. He was, however, a little jealous, and felt that an injury was done to him by any correspondence between Miss Dunstable and his cousin George.

Miss Dunstable’s reply was as follows; and it may be remarked that it was written in a very clear and well-penned hand, and one which certainly did not betray much emotion of the heart:-

‘MY DEAR MR DE COURCY,

‘I am sorry to say that I had not perceived from your manner that you entertained any peculiar feelings towards me; as, had I done so, I should at once have endeavoured to put an end to them. I am much flattered by the way in which you speak of me; but I am in too humble a position to return your affection; and can, therefore, only express a hope that you may be soon able to eradicate it from your bosom. A letter is a very good way of making an offer, and as such I do not think it at all odd; but I certainly did not expect such an honour last night. As to my raillery, I trust it has never yet hurt you. I can assure you that it never shall. I hope you will soon have a worthier ambition than that to which you allude; for I am well aware that no attempt will ever make me shine anywhere.

‘I am quite sure you have had no mercenary motives: such motives in marriage are very base, and quite below your name and lineage. Any little fortune that I may have must be a matter of indifference to one who looks forward, as you do, to put a coronet on his wife’s brow. Nevertheless, for the sake of the family, I trust that Lord Porlock, in spite of his obstacles, may live to do the same for a wife of his own some of these days. I am glad to hear that there is nothing to interfere with your own prospects of domestic felicity.

‘Sincerely hoping that you may be perfectly successful in your proud ambition to shine in Parliament, and regretting extremely that I cannot share that ambition with you, I beg to subscribe myself, with very great respect,

‘Your sincere well-wisher, ‘MARTHA DUNSTABLE’

The Honourable George, with that modesty which so well became him, accepted Miss Dunstable’s reply as a final answer to his little proposition, and troubled her with no further courtship. As he said to his brother John, no harm had been done, and he might have better luck next time. But there was an intimate of Courcy Castle who was somewhat more pertinacious in his search after love and wealth. This was no other than Mr Moffat: a gentleman whose ambition was not satisfied by the cares of his Barchester contest, or the possession of one affianced bride.

Mr Moffat was, as we have said, a man of wealth; but we all know, from the lessons of early youth, how the love of money increases and gains strength by its own success. Nor was he a man of so mean a spirit as to be satisfied with mere wealth. He desired also place and station, and gracious countenance among the great ones of the earth. Hence had come his adherence to the De Courcys; hence his seat in Parliament; and hence, also, his perhaps ill-considered match with Miss Gresham.

There is no doubt but that the privilege of matrimony offers opportunities to money-loving young men which ought not to be lightly abused. Too many young men marry without giving any consideration to the matter whatever. It is not that they are indifferent to money, but that they recklessly miscalculate their own value, and omit to look around and see how much is done by those who are more careful. A man can be young but once, and, except in cases of a special interposition of Providence, can marry but once. The chance once thrown away may be said to be irrevocable! How, in after-life, do men toil and turmoil through long years to attain some prospect of doubtful advancement! Half that trouble, half that care, a tithe of that circumspection would, in early youth, have probably secured to them the enduring comfort of a wife’s wealth.

You will see men labouring night and day to become bank directors; and even a bank direction may only be the road to ruin. Others will spend years in degrading subserviency to obtain a niche in a will; and the niche, when at last obtained and enjoyed, is but a sorry payment for all that has been endured. Others again, struggle harder still, and go through even deeper waters: they make wills for themselves, forge stock-shares, and fight with unremitting, painful labour to appear to be the thing they are not. Now, in many of these cases, all this might have been spared had the men made adequate use of those opportunities which youth and youthful charms afford once — and once only. There is no road to wealth so easy and respectable as that of matrimony; that, is of course, provided that the aspirant declines the slow course to honest work. But then, we can so seldom put old heads on young shoulders!

In the case of Mr Moffat, we may perhaps say that a specimen was produced of this bird, so rare in the land. His shoulders were certainly young, seeing that he was not yet six-and-twenty; but his head had ever been old. From the moment when he was first put forth to go alone — at the age of twenty-one — his life had been one calculation how he could make the most of himself. He had allowed himself to be betrayed into folly by an unguarded heart; no youthful indiscretion had marred his prospects. He had made the most of himself. Without wit or depth, or any mental gift — without honesty of purpose or industry for good work — he had been for two years sitting member for Barchester; was the guest of Lord de Courcy; was engaged to the eldest daughter of one of the best commoners’ families in England; and was, when he first began to think of Miss Dunstable, sanguine that his re-election to Parliament was secure.

When, however, at this period he began to calculate what his position in the world really was, it occurred to him that he was doing an ill-judged thing in marrying Miss Gresham. Why marry a penniless girl — for Augusta’s trifle of a fortune was not a penny in his estimation — while there was Miss Dunstable in the world to be won? His own six or seven thousand a year, quite unembarrassed as it was, was certainly a great thing; but what might he not do if to that he could add the almost fabulous wealth of the great heiress? Was she not here, put absolutely in his path? Would it not be a wilful throwing away of a chance not to avail himself of it? He must, to be sure, lose the De Courcy friendship; but if he should then have secured his Barchester seat for the usual term of parliamentary session, he might be able to spare that. He would also, perhaps, encounter some Gresham enmity: this was a point on which he did think more than once: but what will a man not encounter for the sake of two hundred thousand pounds?

It was thus that Mr Moffat argued with himself, with much prudence, and brought himself to resolve that he would at any rate become the candidate for the great prize. He also, therefore, began to say soft things; and it must be admitted that he said them with more considerate propriety than had the Honourable George. Mr Moffat had an idea that Miss Dunstable was not a fool, and that in order to catch her he must do more than endeavour to lay salt on her tail, in the guise of flattery. It was evident to him that she was a bird of some cunning, not to be caught by an ordinary gin, such as those commonly in use with the Honourable Georges of Society.

It seemed to Mr Moffat, that though Miss Dunstable was so sprightly, so full of fun, and so ready to chatter on all subjects, she well knew the value of her own money, and of her position as dependent on it: he perceived that she never flattered the countess, and seemed to be no whit absorbed by the titled grandeur of her host’s family. He gave her credit, therefore, for an independent spirit: and an independent spirit in his estimation was one that placed its sole dependence on a respectable balance at its banker’s.

Working on these ideas, Mr Moffat commenced operations in such manner that his overtures to the heiress should not, if unsuccessful, interfere with the Greshamsbury engagement. He began by making common cause with Miss Dunstable: their positions in the world, he said to her, were closely similar. They had both risen from the lower classes by the strength of honest industry: they were both now wealthy, and had both hitherto made such use of their wealth as to induce the highest aristocracy in England to admit them into their circles.

‘Yes, Mr Moffat,’ had Miss Dunstable remarked; ‘and if all that I hear be true, to admit you into their very families.’

At this Mr Moffat slightly demurred. He would not affect, he said, to misunderstand what Miss Dunstable meant. There had been something said on the probability of such an event; but he begged Miss Dunstable not to believe all that she heard on such subjects.

‘I do not believe much,’ said she; ‘but I certainly did think that that might be credited.’

Mr Moffat went on to show how it behoved them both, in holding out their hands half-way to meet the aristocratic overtures that were made to them, not to allow themselves to be made use of. The aristocracy, according to Mr Moffat, were people of a very nice sort; the best acquaintance in the world; a portion of mankind to be noticed by whom should be one of the first objects in the life of the Dunstables and the Moffats. But the Dunstables and Moffats should be very careful to give little or nothing in return. Much, very much in return, would be looked for. The aristocracy, said Mr Moffat, were not a people to allow in the light of their countenance to shine forth without looking for a quid pro quo, for some compensating value. In all their intercourse with the Dunstables and Moffats, they would expect a payment. It was for the Dunstables and Moffats to see that, at any rate, they did not pay more for the article they got than its market value.

They way in which she, Miss Dunstable, and he, Mr Moffat, would be required to pay would be by taking each of them some poor scion of the aristocracy in marriage; and thus expending their hard-earned wealth in procuring high-priced pleasures for some well-born pauper. Against this, peculiar caution was to be used. Of course, the further induction to be shown was this: that people so circumstanced should marry among themselves; the Dunstables and the Moffats each with the other and not tumble into the pitfalls prepared for them.

Whether these great lessons had any lasting effect on Miss Dunstable’s mind may be doubted. Perhaps she had already made up her mind on the subject which Mr Moffat so well discussed. She was older than Mr Moffat, and, in spite of his two years of parliamentary experience, had perhaps more knowledge of the world with which she had to deal. But she listened to what he said with complacency; understood his object as well as she had that of his aristocratic rival; was no whit offended; but groaned in her spirit as she thought of the wrongs of Augusta Gresham.

But all this good advice, however, would not win the money for Mr Moffat without some more decided step; and that step he soon decided on taking, feeling assured that what he had said would have its due weight with the heiress.

The party at Courcy Castle was now soon about to be broken up. The male De Courcys were going down to a Scotch mountain. The female De Courcys were to be shipped off to an Irish castle. Mr Moffat was to go up to town to prepare his petition. Miss Dunstable was again about to start on a foreign tour in behalf of her physician and attendants; and Frank Gresham was at last to be allowed to go to Cambridge; that is to say, unless his success with Miss Dunstable should render such a step on his part quite preposterous.

‘I think you may speak now, Frank,’ said the countess. ‘I really think you may: you have known her now for a considerable time; and, as far as I can judge, she is very fond of you.’

‘Nonsense, aunt,’ said Frank; ‘she doesn’t care a button for me.’

‘I think differently; and lookers-on, you know, always understand the game best. I suppose you are not afraid to ask her.’

‘Afraid!’ said Frank, in a tone of considerable scorn. He almost made up his mind that he would ask her to show that he was not afraid. His only obstacle to doing so was, that he had not the slightest intention of marrying her.

There was to be but one other great event before the party broke up, and that was a dinner at the Duke of Omnium’s. The duke had already declined to come to Courcy; but he had in a measure atoned for this by asking some of the guests to join a great dinner which he was about to give to his neighbours.

Mr Moffat was to leave Courcy Castle the day after the dinner-party, and he therefore determined to make his great attempt on the morning of that day. It was with some difficulty that he brought about an opportunity; but at last he did so, and found himself alone with Miss Dunstable in the walks of Courcy Park.

‘It is a strange thing, is it not,’ said he, recurring to his old view of the same subject, ‘that I should be going to dine with the Duke of Omnium — the richest man, they say, among the whole English aristocracy?’

‘Men of that kind entertain everybody, I believe, now and then,’ said Miss Dunstable, not very civilly.

‘I believe they do; but I am not going as one of the everybodies. I am going from Lord de Courcy’s house with some of his own family. I have no pride in that — not the least; I have more pride in my father’s honest industry. But it shows what money does in this country of ours.’

‘Yes, indeed; money does a great deal many queer things.’ In saying this Miss Dunstable could not but think that money had done a very queer thing in inducing Miss Gresham to fall in love with Mr Moffat.

‘Yes; wealth is very powerful: here we are, Miss Dunstable, the most honoured guests in the house.’

‘Oh! I don’t know about that; you may be, for you are a member of Parliament, and all that —’

‘No; not a member now, Miss Dunstable.’

‘Well, you will be, and that’s all the same; but I have no such title to honour, thank God.’

They walked on in silence for a little while, for Mr Moffat hardly knew who to manage the business he had in hand. ‘It is quite delightful to watch these people,’ he said at last; ‘now they accuse us of being tuft-hunters.’

‘Do they?’ said Miss Dunstable. ‘Upon my word I didn’t know that anybody ever so accused me.’

‘I didn’t mean you and me personally.’

‘Oh! I’m glad of that.’

‘But that is what the world says of persons of our class. Now it seems to me that toadying is all on the other side. The countess here does toady you, and so do the young ladies.’

‘Do they? if so, upon my word I didn’t know it. But, to tell the truth, I don’t think much of such things. I live mostly to myself, Mr Moffat.’

‘I see that you do, and I admire you for it; but, Miss Dunstable, you cannot always live so,’ and Mr Moffat looked at her in a manner which gave her the first intimation of his coming burst of tenderness.

‘That’s as may be, Mr Moffat,’ said she.

He went on beating about the bush for some time — giving her to understand now necessary it was that persons situated as they were should live either for themselves or for each other, and that, above all things, they should beware of falling into the mouths of voracious aristocratic lions who go about looking for prey — till they came to a turn in the grounds; at which Miss Dunstable declared her intention of going in. She had walked enough, she said. As by this time Mr Moffat’s immediate intentions were becoming visible she thought it prudent to retire. ‘Don’t let me take you in, Mr Moffat; but my boots are a little damp, and Dr Easyman will never forgive me if I do not hurry in as fast as I can.’

‘Your feet damp? — I hope not: I do hope not,’ said he, with a look of the greatest solicitude.

‘Oh! it’s nothing to signify; but it’s well to be prudent, you know. Good morning, Mr Moffat.’

‘Miss Dunstable!’

‘Eh — yes!’ and Miss Dunstable stopped in the grand path. ‘I won’t let you return with me, Mr Moffat, because I know you were coming in so soon.’

‘Miss Dunstable; I shall be leaving here tomorrow.’

‘Yes; and I go myself the day after.’

‘I know it. I am going to town and you are going abroad. It may be long — very long — before we meet again.’

‘About Easter,’ said Miss Dunstable; ‘that is, if the doctor doesn’t known up on the road.’

‘And I had, had wish to say something before we part for so long a time. Miss Dunstable —’

‘Stop! — Mr Moffat. Let me ask you one question. I’ll hear anything that you have got to say, but on one condition: that is, that Miss Augusta Gresham shall be by while you say it. Will you consent to that?’

‘Miss Augusta Gresham,’ said he, ‘has no right to listen to my private conversation.’

‘Has she not, Mr Moffat? then I think she should have. I, at any rate, will not so far interfere with what I look on as her undoubted privileges as to be a party to any secret in which she may not participate.’

‘But, Miss Dunstable —’

And to tell you fairly, Mr Moffat, any secret that you do tell me, I shall most undoubtedly repeat to her before dinner. Good morning, Mr Moffat; my feet are certainly a little damp, and if I stay a moment longer, Dr Easyman will put off my foreign trip for at least a week.’ And so she left him standing alone in the middle of the gravel-walk.

For a moment or two, Mr Moffat consoled himself in his misfortune by thinking how he might avenge himself on Miss Dunstable. Soon, however, such futile ideas left his brain. Why should he give over the chase because the rich galleon had escaped him on this, his first cruise in pursuit of her? Such prizes were not to be won so easily. His present objection clearly consisted in his engagement to Miss Gresham, and in that only. Let that engagement be at an end, notoriously and publicly broken off, and this objection would fall to the ground. Yes; ships so richly freighted were not to be run down in one summer morning’s plain sailing. Instead of looking for his revenge on Miss Dunstable, it would be more prudent in him — more in keeping with his character — to pursue his object, and overcome such difficulties as he might find his way.

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