A good deal that was likely to mortify Valentine followed this, but it was no more than he deserved.
John laughed. “Well, Giles is a dear fellow,” he said, throwing down the paper. “I am pleased at his marriage, and they must submit to be laughed at like other people.”
WEARING THE WILLOW.
“My Lord Sebastian,
The truth you speak doth lack some gentleness
And time to speak it in; you rub the sore
When you should bring the plaster.”
When John Mortimer reached the banking-house next morning, he found Valentine waiting for him in his private sitting-room.
“I thought my uncle would hardly be coming so early, John,” he said, “and that perhaps you would spare me a few minutes to talk things over.”
“To be sure,” said John, and looking more directly at Valentine, he noticed an air of depression and gloom which seemed rather too deep to be laid to the account of the True Blue.
He was stooping as he sat, and slightly swinging his hat by the brim between his knees. He had reddened at first, with a sullen and half-defiant expression, but this soon faded, and, biting his lips, he brought himself with evident effort to say—
“Well, John, I’ve done for myself, you see; Giles has married her. Serves me right, quite right. I’ve nothing to say against it.”
“No, I devoutly hope you have not,” exclaimed John, to whom the unlucky situation became evident in an instant.
“Grand always has done me the justice to take my part as regards my conduct about this hateful second engagement. He always knew that I would have married poor Lucy if they would have let me—married her and made the best of my frightful, shameful mistake. But as you know, Mrs. Nelson, Lucy’s mother, made me return her letters a month ago, and said it must be broken off, unless I would let it go dragging on and on for two years at least, and that was impossible, you know, John, because—because, I so soon found out what I’d done.”
“Wait a minute, my dear fellow,” John interrupted hastily, “you have said nothing yet but what expresses very natural feelings. I remark, in reply, that your regret at what you have long seen to be unworthy conduct need no longer disturb you on the lady’s account, she having now married somebody else.”
“Yes,” said Valentine, sighing restlessly.
“And,” John went on, looking intently at him, “on your own account I think you need not at all regret that you had no chance of going and humbly offering yourself to her again, for I feel certain that she would have considered it insulting her to suppose she could possibly overlook such a slight. Let me speak plainly, and say that she could have regarded such a thing in no other light.”
Then, giving him time to think over these words, which evidently impressed him, John presently went on, “It would be ridiculous, however, now, for Dorothea to resent your former conduct, or St. George either. Of course they will be quite friendly towards you, and you may depend upon it that all this will very soon appear as natural as possible; you’ll soon forget your former relation towards your brother’s wife; in fact you must.”