“Come into the library, Sir Patrick; and I’ll soon settle the settlements! A bit of paper, and a dip of ink. ’I hereby give every blessed farthing I have got in the world to my dear Blanche.’ Sign that; stick a wafer on at the side; clap your finger on the wafer; ’I deliver this as my act and deed;’ and there it is—done!”
“Is it, really? You are a born legislator. You create and codify your own system all in a breath. Moses-Justinian-Mahomet, give me your arm! There is one atom of sense in what you have just said. ’Come into the library’—is a suggestion worth attending to. Do you happen, among your other superfluities, to have such a thing as a lawyer about you?”
“I have got two. One in London, and one in Edinburgh.”
“We will take the nearest of the two, because we are in a hurry. Who is the Edinburgh lawyer? Pringle of Pitt Street? Couldn’t be a better man. Come and write to him. You have given me your abstract of a marriage settlement with the brevity of an ancient Roman. I scorn to be outdone by an amateur lawyer. Here is my abstract: You are just and generous to Blanche; Blanche is just and generous to you; and you both combine to be just and generous together to your children. There is a model settlement! and there are your instructions to Pringle of Pitt Street! Can you do it by yourself? No; of course you can’t. Now don’t be slovenly-minded! See the points in their order as they come. You are going to be married; you state to whom, you add that I am the lady’s guardian; you give the name and address of my lawyer in Edinburgh; you write your instructions plainly in the fewest words, and leave details to your legal adviser; you refer the lawyers to each other; you request that the draft settlements be prepared as speedily as possible, and you give your address at this house. There are the heads. Can’t you do it now? Oh, the rising generation! Oh, the progress we are making in these enlightened modern times! There! there! you can marry Blanche, and make her happy, and increase the population—and all without knowing how to write the English language. One can only say with the learned Bevorskius, looking out of his window at the illimitable loves of the sparrows, ‘How merciful is Heaven to its creatures!’ Take up the pen. I’ll dictate! I’ll dictate!”
Sir Patrick read the letter over, approved of it, and saw it safe in the box for the post. This done, he peremptorily forbade Arnold to speak to his niece on the subject of the marriage without his express permission. “There’s somebody else’s consent to be got,” he said, “besides Blanche’s consent and mine.”
“Lady Lundie. Strictly speaking, I am the only authority. But my sister-in-law is Blanche’s step-mother, and she is appointed guardian in the event of my death. She has a right to be consulted—in courtesy, if not in law. Would you like to do it?”
Arnold’s face fell. He looked at Sir Patrick in silent dismay.