Title: The Imaginary Marriage
Author: Henry St. John Cooper
Release Date: February 18, 2005 [EBook #15103]
Character set encoding: ASCII
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THE IMAGINARY MARRIAGE
by Henry St. John Cooper
A MASTERFUL WOMAN
“Don’t talk to me, miss,” said her ladyship. “I don’t want to hear any nonsense from you!”
The pretty, frightened girl who shared the drawing-room at this moment with Lady Linden of Cornbridge Manor House had not dared to open her lips. But that was her ladyship’s way, and “Don’t talk to me!” was a stock expression of hers. Few people were permitted to talk in her ladyship’s presence. In Cornbridge they spoke of her with bated breath as a “rare masterful woman,” and they had good cause.
Masterful and domineering was Lady Linden of Cornbridge, yet she was kind-hearted, though she tried to disguise the fact.
In Cornbridge she reigned supreme, men and women trembled at her approach. She penetrated the homes of the cottagers, she tasted of their foods, she rated them on uncleanliness, drunkenness, and thriftlessness; she lectured them on cooking.
On many a Saturday night she raided, single-handed, the Plough Inn and drove forth the sheepish revellers, personally conducting them to their homes and wives.
They respected her in Cornbridge as the reigning sovereign of her small estate, and none did she rule more autocratically and completely than her little nineteen-year-old niece Marjorie.
A pretty, timid, little maid was Marjorie, with soft yellow hair, a sweet oval face, with large pathetic blue eyes and a timid, uncertain little rosebud of a mouth.
“A rare sweet maid her be,” they said of her in the village, “but terribul tim’rous, and I lay her ladyship du give she a rare time of it....” Which was true.
“Don’t talk to me, miss!” her ladyship said to the silent girl. “I know what is best for you; and I know, too, what you don’t think I know—ha, ha!” Her ladyship laughed terribly. “I know that you have been meeting that worthless young scamp, Tom Arundel!”
“Oh, aunt, he is not worthless—”
“Financially he isn’t worth a sou—and that’s what I mean, and don’t interrupt. I am your guardian, you are entirely in my charge, and until you arrive at the age of twenty-five I can withhold your fortune from you if you marry in opposition to me and my wishes. But you won’t—you won’t do anything of the kind. You will marry the man I select for you, the man I have already selected—what did you say, miss?