“Even so. But, John, St. George will never have a single acre of Melcombe.”
A PRIVATE CONSULTATION.
“Remove from me
the way of lying...I have chosen the way of
truth.”—PSALM cxix. 29, 30.
“Why, you young rogues, you make your father blush for your appetites,” said John Mortimer to his boys, when he saw Valentine at the head of the table, serving out great slices of roast beef at a luncheon which was also to be early dinner for the children.
Valentine had placed Emily at the other end of the table. “Take my place, John,” he now said laughing, “I always was a most wretched carver.”
“No, love, no,” pleaded Emily to her husband in a quick low tone of entreaty, and John, just in time to check himself in the act of rising, turned the large dish toward him instead, and began to carve it, making as if he had not heard Valentine’s request. But Valentine having taken some wine and rested for a few moments, after the slight exertion, which had proved too much for his strength, looked at his sister till she raised her eyes to meet his, smiled, and murmured to her across the table, “You daughter of England, ’I perceive that in many things you are too superstitious.’”
Emily had nothing to say in reply. She had made involuntary betrayal of her thought. She shrank from seeing her husband in her brother’s place, because she was anxious about, afraid for, this same brother. She had even now and then a foreboding fear lest ere long she should see John there for good. But to think so, was to take a good deal for granted, and now Valentine chose to show her that he had understood her feeling perfectly.
She would fain not have spoken, but she could not now amend her words. “Never was any one freer from superstition than he,” she thought, “but after all, in spite of what John tells me of his doctor’s opinion, and how the voyage is to restore him, why must I conceal an anxiety so natural and so plainly called for? I will not. I shall speak. I shall try to break down his reserve; give him all the comfort and counsel I can, and get him to open his mind to me in the view of a possible change.”
Emily was to take a drive at four o’clock, her husband and her brother with her.
In the meantime Valentine told her he was going to be busy, and John had promised to help him. “An hour and a half,” he sighed, as he mounted the stairs with John to his old grandmother’s sitting-room, “an hour and a half, time enough and too much. I’ll have it out, and get it over.”
“Now then,” said John Mortimer, seating himself before a writing-table, “tell me, my dear fellow, what it is that I can do to help you?”
He did not find his position easy. Valentine had let him know pointedly that he should not leave the estate to his half brother. All was in his own power, yet John Mortimer might have been considered the rightful heir. What so natural and likely as that it should be left to him? John did not even feign to his own mind that he was indifferent about this, he had all the usual liking for an old family place or possession. He thought it probable that Valentine meant it to come to him, and wanted to consult with him as to some burdens to be laid on the land for the benefit of his mother’s family.