“I just happened to glance at St. George then, and you can’t think, Laura, how astonished I was. He turned away his face, and sister, who was standing close by, lifted up the child and let her kiss him. Then he got down from the dresser and went away; but, Laura, if he had wished more than anything in the world to marry Dorothea, he might have looked just so.
“Don’t tell any one what I have said about this. Perhaps I was mistaken. I will write again soon.
“Ever affectionately yours,
“Well,” said Mrs. Melcombe, “it’s the most disgraceful thing I ever heard of.”
“And here is a postscript,” remarked Laura; “nothing particular, though:—’P.S.—Dorothea was ill at first; but she is better. I must tell you that dear old Grand, the next morning, apologized to sister for having so lost his temper; he said it was the old Adam that was strong in him still.’”
“If he had known where
he was going to fall, he could have put down
Laura wrote with difficulty an answer to Lizzy Grant’s letter. It is easier for the sister to say, “My brother is a dishonourable young fellow, and has behaved shamefully,” than for the friend to answer without offence, “I quite agree with you.”
But the next letter made matters in some degree easier, for it at least showed the direction that his family gave to the excuses they now offered for the behaviour of the young scapegrace. First, he had been very unwell in London—almost seriously unwell; and next, Lizzy said she had been quite right as to St. George’s love for Dorothea, for he had made her an offer before she left the house.
“In fact,” continued Liz, “we have all decided, so far as we can, to overlook what Val has done, for he is deeply attached to the girl who, without any fault of her own, has supplanted Dorothea. He is already engaged to her, and if he is allowed to marry her early in the spring, and sail for New Zealand, he is not likely ever to return; at any rate, he will not for very many years. In that case, you know, Laura, we shall only be with him about six weeks longer; so I hope our friends will forgive us for forgiving him.”
“They are fond of him, that is the fact,” observed Mrs. Melcombe; “and to be sure the other brother, wanting to marry Miss Graham, does seem to make some difference, some excuse; but as to his illness, I don’t think much of that. I remember when his old father came here to the funeral, I remarked that Valentine looked overgrown, and not strong, and Mr. Mortimer said he had been very delicate himself all his youth, and often had a cough (far more delicate, in fact, than his son was); but he had outgrown it, and enjoyed very fair health for many years.”
Then Laura went on reading:—
“Besides, we think that, though Dorothea refused St. George point blank when he made her an offer, yet she would hardly write to him every week as she does, if she did not like him, and he would hardly be so very silent and reserved about her, and yet evidently in such good spirits, if he did not think that something in the end would come of it.”