“Indeed!” replied Lionel, constrained to say something, but wishing Lady Verner would entertain him with any other topic.
“We had quite a scene here yesterday. Indeed, it has been renewed this morning, and your coming in interrupted it. I tell her that she must have him: at any rate, must take time to consider the advantages of the offer. She obstinately protests that she will not. I cannot think what can be her motive for rejection; almost any girl in the county would jump at Lord Garle.”
“I suppose so,” returned Lionel, pulling at a hole in his glove.
“I must get you to speak to her, Lionel. Ask her why she declines. Show her—”
“I speak to her!” interrupted Lionel in a startled tone. “I cannot speak to her about it, mother. It is no business of mine.”
“Good heavens, Lionel! are you going to turn disobedient?—And in so trifling-a matter as this!—trifling so far as you are concerned. Were it of vital importance to you, you might run counter to me; it is only what I should expect.”
This was a stab at his marriage. Lionel replied by disclaiming any influence over Miss Tempest. “Where your arguments have failed, mine would not be likely to succeed.”
“Then you are mistaken, Lionel. I am certain that you hold a very great influence over Lucy. I observed it first when you were ill, when she and Decima were so much with you. She has betrayed it in a hundred little ways; her opinions are formed upon yours; your tastes unconsciously bias hers. It is only natural. She has no brother, and no doubt has learned to regard you as one.”
Lionel hoped in his inmost heart that she did regard him only as a brother. Lady Verner continued—
“A word from you may have great effect upon her; and I desire, Lionel, that you will, in your duty to me, undertake that word. Point out to her the advantages of the match; tell her that you speak to her as her father; urge her to accept Lord Garle; or, as I say, not to summarily reject him without consideration, upon the childish plea that she ’does not like him.’ She was terribly agitated last night; nearly went into hysterics, Decima tells me, after I left her; all her burden being that she wished she could go away to India.”
“Mother—you know how pleased I should be to obey any wish of yours; but this is really not a proper business for me to interfere with,” urged Lionel, a red spot upon his cheek.
“Why is it not?” pointedly asked Lady Verner, looking hard at him and waiting for an answer.
“I do not deem it to be so. Neither would Lucy consider my interference justifiable.”
“But, Lionel, you take up wrong notions! I wish you to speak in my place, just as if you were her father; in short, acting for her father. As to what Lucy may consider or not consider in the matter, that is of very little consequence. Lucy is so perfectly unsophisticated, so simple in her ideas, that were I to desire my maid Therese to give her a lecture, she would receive it as something proper.”