Colonel Clifford’s first word was, “Who was that little stuttering dandy I caught spooning your Julia?”
“Only Percy Fitzroy.”
“Only Percy Fitzroy! Never despise your rivals, sir. Always remember that young women are full of vanity, and expect to be courted all day long. I will thank you not to leave the field open a single day till you have secured the prize.”
“What prize, sir?”
“What prize, you ninny? Why, the beautiful girl that can buy back Oddington and Drayton, peaches and fruit and all. They are both to be sold at this moment. What prize? Why, the wife I have secured for you, if you don’t go and play the fool and neglect her.”
Walter Clifford looked aghast.
“Julia Clifford!” said he. “Pray don’t ask me to marry her.”
“Not ask you?—but I do ask you; and what is more, I command you. Would you revolt again against your father, who has forgiven you, and break my heart, now I am enfeebled by disease? Julia Clifford is your wife, or you are my son no more.”
THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE.
The next time Walter Clifford met Mary Bartley he was gloomy at intervals. The observant girl saw he had something on his mind. She taxed him with it, and asked him tenderly what it was.
“Oh, nothing,” said he.
“Don’t tell me!” said she. “Mind, nothing escapes my eye. Come, tell me, or we are not friends.”
“Oh, come, Mary. That is hard.”
“Not in the least. I take an interest in you.”
“Bless you for saying so!”
“And so, if you keep your troubles from me, we are not friends, nor cousins.”
“Nor anything else.”
“Well, dear Mary, sooner than not be anything else to you I will tell you, and yet I don’t like. Well, then, if I must, it is that dear old wrong-headed father of mine. He wants me to marry Julia Clifford.”
Mary turned pale directly. “I guessed as much,” said she. “Well, she is young and beautiful and rich, and it is your duty to obey your father.”
“But I can’t.”
“Oh yes, you can, if you try.”
“But I can’t try.”
“Can’t you guess?”
“Well, then, I love another girl. As opposite to her as light is to darkness.”
Mary blushed and looked down. “Complimentary to Julia,” she said. “I pity her opposite, for Julia is a fine, high-minded girl.”
“Ah, Mary, you are too clever for me; of course I mean the opposite in appearance.”
“As ugly as she is pretty?”
“No; but she is a dark girl, and I don’t like dark girls. It was a dark girl that deceived me so heartlessly years ago.”
“And made me hate the whole sex.”
“Or only the brunettes?”
“The whole lot.”