III. BRIDE-ELECT AND FATHER
SCENE.—THREE WEEKS LATER. BREAKFAST TABLE AT DARKGLADE VICARAGE, MR. AVELAND AND EUPHRASIA READING THEIR LETTERS. THREE LITTLE CHILDREN EATING BREAD AND MILK.
E. There! Mary has got the house at Brompton off her hands and can come for good on the 11th. That is the greatest possible comfort. She wants to bring her piano; it has a better tone than ours.
MR. A. Certainly! Little Miss Hilda there will soon be strumming her scales on the old one, and Mary and Cis will send me to sleep in the evening with hers.
MR. A. Why, Phrasie, what’s the matter?
E. This is a blow! Cicely is only coming to be bridesmaid, and then going back to board at Kensington and go on with her studies.
MR. A. To board? All alone?
E. Oh! that’s the way with young ladies!
MR. A. Mary cannot have consented.
E. Have you done, little folks? Then say grace, Hilda, and run out till the lesson bell rings. Yes, poor Mary, I am afraid she thinks all that Cecilia decrees is right; or if she does not naturally believe so, she is made to.
MR. A. Come, come, Phrasie, I always thought Mary a model mother.
E. So did I, and so she was while the children were small, except that they were more free and easy with her than was the way in our time. And I think she is all that is to be desired to her son; but when last I was in London, I cannot say I was satisfied, I thought Cissy had got beyond her.
MR. A. For want of a father?
E. Not entirely. You know I could not think Charles Moldwarp quite worthy of Mary, though she never saw it.
MR. A. Latterly we saw so little of him! He liked to spend his holiday in mountain climbing, and Mary made her visits here alone.
E. Exactly so. Sympathy faded out between them, though she, poor dear, never betrayed it, if she realised it, which I doubt. And as Cissy took after her father, this may have weakened her allegiance to her mother. At any rate, as soon as she was thought to have outgrown her mother’s teaching, those greater things, mother’s influence and culture, were not thought of, and she went to school and had her companions and interests apart; while Mary, good soul, filled up the vacancy with good works, and if once you get into the swing of that sort of thing in town, there’s no end to the demands upon your time. I don’t think she ever let them bore her husband. He was out all day, and didn’t want her; but I am afraid they do bore her daughter, and absorb attention and time, so as to hinder full companionship, till Cissy has grown up an extraneous creature, not formed by her. Mary thinks, in her humility, dear old thing, that it is a much superior creature; but I don’t like it as well as the old sort.
MR. A. The old barndoor hen hatched her eggs and bred up her chicks better than the fine prize fowl. Eh?