So Stephen Whitelaw took his time, contented to behold the object of his affection two or three evenings a week, and to gaze admiringly upon her beauty as he smoked his pipe in the snug little oak-wainscoted parlour at the Grange, while his passion grew day by day, until it did really become a very absorbing feeling, second only to his love of money and Wyncomb Farm. These dull sluggish natures are capable of deeper passions than the world gives them credit for; and are as slow to abandon an idea as they are to entertain it.
It was Ellen Carley’s delight to tell Marian of her trouble, and to protest to this kind confidante again and again that no persuasion or threats of her father’s should ever induce her to marry Stephen Whitelaw—which resolution Mrs. Holbrook fully approved. There was a little gate opening from a broad green lane into one of the fields at the back of the Grange; and here sometimes of a summer evening they used to find Frank Randall, who had ridden his father’s white pony all the way from Malsham for the sake of smoking his evening cigar on that particular spot. They used to find him seated there, smoking lazily, while the pony cropped the grass in the lane close at hand. He was always eager to do any little service for Mrs. Holbrook; to bring her books or anything else she wanted from Malsham—anything that might make an excuse for his coming again by appointment, and with the certainty of seeing Ellen Carley. It was only natural that Marian should be inclined to protect this simple love-affair, which offered her favourite a way of escape from the odious marriage that her father pressed upon her. The girl might have to endure poverty as Frank Randall’s wife; but that seemed a small thing in the eyes of Marian, compared with the horror of marrying that pale-faced mean-looking little man, whom she had seen once or twice sitting by the fire in the oak parlour, with his small light-grey eyes fixed in a dull stare upon the bailiff’s daughter.