Angela winced beneath the taunt, but made no reply.
“But, if you will condescend to look at the matter with a single grain of common-sense, you will see that circumstances have utterly changed since you refused to marry George. Then, Mr. Heigham was alive, poor fellow, and then, too, George wanted to marry you as a wife, now he is merely anxious to marry you that he may be enabled to make reparation to your father. He is a fast-dying man. You would never be his wife except in name. The grave would be his only marriage-bed. Do you not understand the difference?”
“Perfectly, but do you not understand that whether in deed or in name I cannot outrage my dead Arthur’s memory by being for an hour the wife of that man? Do you not know that the marriage service requires a woman to swear to ‘Love, honour, and obey,’ till death parts, whether it be a day or a lifetime away? Can I, even as a mere form, swear to love when I loathe, honour when I despise, obey when my whole life would rise in rebellion against obedience! What are these estates to me that I should do such violence to my conscience and my memories? Estates, of what use are they to one whose future lies in the wards of a hospital or a sisterhood? I will have nothing to do with this marriage, Lady Bellamy.”
“Well, I must say, Angela, you do not make much ado about ruining your father to gratify your own sentimental whims. It must be a comfortable thing to have children to help one in one’s old age.”
Angela reflected on Mr. Fraser’s words about her duty to her father, and for the second time that day she winced beneath Lady Bellamy’s taunt; but, as she returned no answer, her visitor had no alternative but to drop the subject and depart.
Before she went, however, she had a few words with Philip, urging the serious state of George’s health and the terms of his grandfather’s will, which prevented him from leaving the estates to himself, as a reason why he should put pressure on Angela. Somewhat, but not altogether to her surprise, he refused in these terms:
“I don’t know to what depths you have gone in this business, and it is no affair of mine to inquire, but I have kept to my share of the bargain and I expect you to keep to yours. If you can bring about the marriage with George, well or ill, on the terms I have agreed upon with him, I shall throw no obstacle in the way; but as for my trying to force Angela into it, I should never take the responsibility of doing so, nor would she listen to me. If she speaks to me on the subject I shall point out how the family will be advantaged, and leave the matter to her. Further I will not go.”
Three days after her conversation with Lady Bellamy, Angela received the following letter:—
“Isleworth Hall, Roxham, May 2.
“Dear Cousin Angela,