The good lady had recovered her composure somewhat, and was just wondering why her niece had not come with Madam Conway, as had been arranged, when Anna appeared, and in her delight at once more beholding a child of her only sister, and her husband’s brother, she forgot in a measure how injured she had felt. Ere long the breakfast bell rang; but Anna declared herself too weary to go down, and as Mrs. Jeffrey felt that she could not yet meet Madam Conway face to face, they both remained in their room, Anna again falling away to sleep, while her aunt, grown more calm, sought, and this time found, comfort in her favorite volume. Very cool, indeed, was that breakfast, partaken in almost unbroken silence below. The toast was cold, the steak was cold, the coffee was cold, and frosty as an icicle was the lady who sat where the merry Maggie had heretofore presided. Scarcely a word was spoken by anyone; but in the laughing eyes of Maggie there was a world of fun, to which the mischievous mouth of Henry Warner responded by a curl exceedingly annoying to his stately hostess, who, in passing him his coffee, turned her head in another direction lest she should be too civil!
Breakfast being over, George Douglas, who began to understand Madam Conway tolerably well, asked of her a private interview, which was granted, when he conciliated her first by apologizing for anything ungentlemanly he might have done in her house, and startled her next by asking for Theo as his wife.
“You can,” said he, “easily ascertain my character and standing in Worcester, where for the last ten years I have been known first as clerk, then as junior partner, and finally as proprietor of the large establishment which I now conduct.”
Madam Conway was at first too astonished to speak. Had it been Maggie for whom he asked, the matter would have been decided at once, for Maggie was her pet, her pride, the intended bride of Arthur Carrollton; but Theo was a different creature altogether, and though the Conway blood flowing in her veins entitled her to much consideration, she was neither showy nor brilliant, and if she could marry two hundred thousand dollars, even though it were American coin, she would perhaps be doing quite as well as could be expected. So Madam Conway replied at last that she would consider the matter, and if she found that Theo’s feelings were fully enlisted she would perhaps return a favorable answer. “I know the firm of Douglas & Co. by reputation,” said she, “and I know it to be a wealthy firm; but with me family is quite as important as money.”
“My family, madam, are certainly respectable,” interrupted George Douglas, a deep flush overspreading his face.
He was indignant at her presuming to question his respectability, Madam Conway thought, and so she hastened to appease him by saying: “Certainly, I have no doubt of it. There are marks by which I can always tell.”
George Douglas bowed low to the far-seeing lady, while a train of thought, not altogether complimentary to her discernment in this case, passed through his mind.