“Do not think anything more about it, dear,” Frank Mallett said, gently. “I have felt sometimes when we have been together, that you were so kindly and frank and pleasant with me that you could feel as I wanted you to. I ought to have known it always. But I suppose in such cases a man deceives himself and shuts his eyes to facts. You have certainly nothing to blame yourself about. Of course, it is a hard blow, but no doubt I shall get over it as other fellows do. At any rate, I know that we shall always be dear friends, and you need not fear that I shall mope over my misfortune. I shall run up to town for a bit, and as you are going up for the season next week, I shall no doubt often meet you. Don’t fret about me. I have been hit pretty hard several times, though not in the same way, and I have always gone through it, and no doubt I shall do so now.
“Goodbye,” and when Bertha looked up, he had left the room.
“Oh, mamma,” she said, when she went into the room where her mother was sitting, “I am so sorry, so dreadfully sorry. Frank Mallett has asked me to be his wife. I have never thought of such a thing and of course I had to say no.”
“I have thought such a thing likely for some time, Bertha, but I thought it best to hold my tongue about it. In such matters the interference of a mother often does more harm than good. I felt sure, by your manner with him, that you had no idea of it; and I must say that much as I like Frank Mallett, I should have been sorry. I have great hopes of your making a really first-class match.”
“I could not make a better match,” Bertha said, indignantly. “No one could be kinder or nicer than Major Mallett, and we know how brave he is and how he has distinguished himself, and he has a good estate and everything that anyone could wish; only unfortunately I do not love him—at least not in that way. He has never shown me what I should consider any particular attention, and never talked to me in the way men do when they are making love to a girl. Nothing could be nicer, and it was all the nicer because I never thought of this. I suppose it is because he is so different from some of the men I met in town last season, who always seemed to be trying to get round me. No, I know it is not a nice expression, mamma, but you know what I mean.”
“I know, my dear,” her mother smiled. “Of course you are a very good match, and though I do not want to flatter you, you were one of the belles of the season. Though some of the men you speak of were by no means desirable—younger sons and barristers and that sort of thing—still, there were two or three whom any girl might have been pleased to see at her feet, and who, I am sure from what I saw, only needed but little encouragement from you to be there. I was a little vexed, dear, you see, that you did not give any of them that encouragement; but I understand, of course, that the novelty of your first season carried you away altogether; and that you liked the dancing and the fetes and the opera for themselves, and not because they brought you in contact with men of excellent class. So far as I could see, it was a matter of indifference to you whether the man was a peer with a splendid rent roll, or a younger son without a farthing, so that he was a good dancer and a pleasant companion; but of course after a season or two you will grow wiser.”