The quick perception of Mrs Keswick told her that it was time to terminate the interview. “I will not say anything more to you now, Robert,” she said. “Of course you have been surprised at my coming to you to-day, and accepting your offer of marriage, and you must have time to quiet your mind, and think it over. I don’t doubt your affection, Robert, and I don’t want to hurry you. I am going to stay here to-night, so that we can have plenty of time to settle everything comfortably. I’ll go now and get one of the servants to show me to a room where I can take off my things. I’ll see you again at dinner.”
And, with a smile of antiquated coyness, she left the room.
Mr Brandon was not a weak man, nor one very susceptible to outside influences, but, in the whole course of his life, nothing so extraordinarily nerve-stirring had occurred to him as this visit of old Mrs Keswick, endeavoring to appear in the character of the young creature he had wooed some forty-five years before. For a long time, Mrs Keswick had been the enemy of himself and his family; and many a bitter onslaught she had made upon him, both by letter, and by word of mouth. These he had borne with the utmost bravery and coolness, and there were times when they even afforded him entertainment. But this most astounding attack was something against which no man could have been prepared; and Mr Brandon, suddenly pounced upon in the midst of his comfortable bachelordom by a malevolent sorceress and hurled back to the days of his youth, was shown himself kneeling, not at the feet of a fair young girl, but before a horrible old woman.
This amazing and startling state of affairs was too much for him immediately to comprehend. It stunned and bewildered him. Such, indeed, was the effect upon him that the first act of his mind, when he was left alone, and it began to act, was to ask of itself if there were really any grounds upon which Mrs Keswick could, with any reason, take up her position? The absolute absurdity of her position, however, became more and more evident, as Mr Brandon’s mind began to straighten itself and stand up. And now he grew angry. Anger was a passion with which he was not at all unfamiliar, and the exercise of it seemed to do him good. When he had walked up and down his library for a quarter of an hour, he felt almost like his natural self; and with many nods of his head and shakes of his fist, he declared that the old woman was crazy, and that he would bundle her home just as soon as he could.
By dinner-time he had cooled down a good deal, and he resolved to treat her with the respect due to her age and former condition of sanity; but to take care that she should not again be alone with him, and to arrange that she should return to her home that day.