“Thank you very much, sir,” said Webster.
“You will like Noel McAllister,” went on the cure; “he is a fine manly young fellow, and was my pupil for many years, so I know him well.”
“I am infinitely obliged to you, sir,” said Webster, gratefully. “I suppose we may call at the cottage the first thing in the morning. The only house on the road with a red-tiled roof you said? Thanks. We shall not detain you longer. Good-evening, sir, good-evening.”
And Webster, having obtained the desired information, marched off with his clerk, leaving the cure in wondering perplexity as to his relations with the McAllisters.
“The love of money is the root of all evil.”
“Yes, Mr. McAllister, there is no choice. The estates are so left by the old lord that unless you marry your cousin you can have no part of them. An empty title you will have, to be sure; much good that is to anyone nowadays! In case of your refusing the conditions imposed upon you by the late lord’s will, which Lady McAllister is determined to see faithfully carried out, my advice to you is to stay here and remain a fisherman all your life. A pleasant prospect that for a young fellow of your talents.”
“I must marry my cousin?” questioned Noel.
“Yes, that is imperative.”
“What is she like?”
“Oh, she is like herself, no one else I ever saw. I’m not good at descriptions, especially of ladies. She has yellow hair, I can tell you that.”
“Yellow hair—yes, yes; but her disposition, her character? Is she amiable?”
“Well, I don’t think that amiable is quite the word to apply to Lady Margaret. She is self-reliant, sensible, a thorough woman of business, and the very one to help you on in the world.”
“Oh, indeed; but if I ever possess Dunmorton I shall be helped on enough.”
“What! have you no wish for more? Would you not like to go into Parliament to make a name for yourself? Your cousin could help you in that. They say she used to write all her father’s speeches, and very good speeches they were.”
“And Marie Gourdon?” said Noel slowly. “What of her? How can I leave her?”
“Oh, nonsense!” said the little lawyer impatiently; “really I wonder at a man of your sense hesitating in such a matter. This Marie will get over it; all girls do. It’s only a matter of time. She’ll forget all about you in a month.”
Noel’s thoughts went back to the scene on the beach two evenings ago, and he did not consider it at all probable that Marie Gourdon would ever forget him. At any rate, he did not care to entertain the possibility.
“Yes,” went on Webster, “I don’t see that you can have any hesitation. Here you are, at the opening of your life, offered one of the finest chances I ever heard of, hesitating because of a little French girl. Umph! I’ve no patience with you, but, young man, you’ve got to decide before to-morrow’s mail goes out. I must write to Lady McAllister. Good-bye I’m going for a walk to the light-house. The keeper is a most interesting man, and a great mathematician. Good-bye. I hope next time I see you you’ll have come to your senses.”