Certainly Bella’s manner agreed with her words—never was so important a piece of news told by one girl to another, in so calm and business-like a style. Lucia, rather given to romance herself, was puzzled and half shocked.
When the visitors were gone, she repeated what she had heard to her mother, with wondering comments on a compact so coolly arranged, and was rather surprised to find that Mrs. Costello completely approved of it.
“I dare say,” she said, “it may be a very happy marriage. Doctor Morton is a sensible man, and Bella too honest a girl to marry him if she did not mean to behave as he would like her.”
And this, then, was her mother’s idea of a happy marriage. Lucia wondered still more, yet less than she would have done if she had known how gladly Mrs. Costello would have seen her, also, safely bestowed in the keeping of “a sensible man.”
At the time when Bella informed Lucia of her engagement, her newly-accepted lover was having a long conversation with her brother-in-law and guardian. There was no reason why the marriage once arranged should be delayed; on the contrary, everybody was happily agreed in the opinion that it might take place almost immediately. The conference of the two gentlemen, therefore, passed readily into the region of business, and chiefly concerned dollars and cents.
Mr. Latour, the father of Mrs. Bellairs and Bella, had died rich; all his property in hind, houses, and money was carefully divided between the sisters; and as he had been dead less than two years, very slight changes had taken place during Mr. Bellairs’ guardianship. Bella spoke reasonably enough when she said her fortune would be acceptable to Doctor Morton. He made no secret of the fact that it would be very acceptable, and Mr. Bellairs—though, for his own part, he would have married his charming Elise with exactly the same eagerness if she had been penniless—was too sensible to be at all displeased with his future brother-in-law’s clear and straightforward manner of treating so important a subject. It is true that his brains and his diploma were almost all the capital the young man had to bring on his side, but these, had their acknowledged value, and, after all, Bella was very nearly of age, and it would be rather a comfort to see her safely disposed of, instead of having to give up her guardianship into her own giddy keeping.
Mr. Bellairs’ office was a small wooden-frame building containing two rooms. In the outer one half-a-dozen budding lawyers, in various stages, sat at their desks; the inner one, where the two gentlemen discussed their arrangements, was small, and contained only a stove, a writing-table, two chairs, and some cupboards. Mr. Bellairs sat at the table with a pile of papers before him: in the second chair—an easy one—Doctor Morton lounged, and amused himself while he talked, by tracing the pattern of the empty stove with the end of a small cane. He was a good-looking young man, with very black eyes, and a small black beard; of middle height and strongly built, and noted in Cacouna as the boldest rider, the best swimmer, and one of the best shots, in the neighbourhood.