“What! you can’t even speak to such a perfectly pliable person as Lady Lundie? You may have been a very useful fellow at sea. A more helpless young man I never met with on shore. Get out with you into the garden among the other sparrows! Somebody must confront her ladyship. And if you won’t—I must.”
He pushed Arnold out of the library, and applied meditatively to the knob of his cane. His gayety disappeared, now that he was alone. His experience of Lady Lundie’s character told him that, in attempting to win her approval to any scheme for hurrying Blanche’s marriage, he was undertaking no easy task. “I suppose,” mused Sir Patrick, thinking of his late brother—“I suppose poor Tom had some way of managing her. How did he do it, I wonder? If she had been the wife of a bricklayer, she is the sort of woman who would have been kept in perfect order by a vigorous and regular application of her husband’s fist. But Tom wasn’t a bricklayer. I wonder how Tom did it?” After a little hard thinking on this point Sir Patrick gave up the problem as beyond human solution. “It must be done,” he concluded. “And my own mother-wit must help me to do it.”
In that resigned frame of mind he knocked at the door of Lady Lundie’s boudoir.
SIR PATRICK found his sister-in-law immersed in domestic business. Her ladyship’s correspondence and visiting list, her ladyship’s household bills and ledgers; her ladyship’s Diary and Memorandum-book (bound in scarlet morocco); her ladyship’s desk, envelope-case, match-box, and taper candlestick (all in ebony and silver); her ladyship herself, presiding over her responsibilities, and wielding her materials, equal to any calls of emergency, beautifully dressed in correct morning costume, blessed with perfect health both of the secretions and the principles; absolutely void of vice, and formidably full of virtue, presented, to every properly-constituted mind, the most imposing spectacle known to humanity—the British Matron on her throne, asking the world in general, When will you produce the like of Me?
“I am afraid I disturb you,” said Sir Patrick. “I am a perfectly idle person. Shall I look in a little later?”
Lady Lundie put her hand to her head, and smiled faintly.
“A little pressure here, Sir Patrick. Pray sit down. Duty finds me earnest; Duty finds me cheerful; Duty finds me accessible. From a poor, weak woman, Duty must expect no more. Now what is it?” (Her ladyship consulted her scarlet memorandum-book.) “I have got it here, under its proper head, distinguished by initial letters. P.—the poor. No. H.M.—heathen missions. No. V.T.A.—Visitors to arrive. No. P. I. P.—Here it is: private interview with Patrick. Will you forgive me the little harmless familiarity of omitting your title? Thank you! You are always so good. I am quite at your service when you like to begin. If it’s any thing painful, pray don’t hesitate. I am quite prepared.”