That was how Herbert Pryme came to be once more re-instated in the good graces of his lady love’s father and mother.
Mr. Esterworth contrived to give them so terrifying an account of the danger in which Beatrice had been placed, and so graphic and highly-coloured a description of Herbert Pryme’s pluck and sagacity in rushing to her rescue, that Mr. and Mrs. Miller had no other course left than to shake hands gratefully with the man to whom, as uncle Tom said, they literally owed her life.
“I could not have saved her without him,” said uncle Tom, drawing slightly upon his imagination; “in another minute she must have been kicked to pieces, or dashed violently to the earth among the broken fragments of the cart, and”—with a happy after-thought—“the steam plough would have crushed its way over her mangled body.”
Mrs. Miller shuddered.
“Oh, Tom, I never can trust her to you again!”
“No, my dear; but I think you must trust her to Mr. Pryme; that young man deserves to be rewarded.”
“But, my dear Tom, there are things against his character. I assure you, Andrew himself saw——”
“Pooh! pooh!” interrupted Mr. Esterworth. “Young men who sow their wild oats early are all the better husbands for it afterwards. I will give him a talking to if you like, but you and your husband must let Pussy have her own way; it is the least you can do after his conduct; and don’t worry about his being poor, Caroline; I have nothing better to do with my money, and I shall take care that Pussy is none the worse off for my death. She is worth all the rest of your children put together—an Esterworth, every inch of her!”
That, it is to be imagined, was the clenching argument in Mrs. Miller’s mind. Uncle Tom’s money was not to be despised, and, by reason of his money, uncle Tom’s wishes were bound to carry some weight with them.
Mr. Pryme, who had been staying for a few days at Kynaston, where, however, the cordial welcome given to him by its master was, in a great measure, neutralised by the coldness and incivility of its mistress, removed himself and his portmanteau, by uncle Tom’s invitation, to Lutterton, and his engagement to Miss Miller became a recognised fact.
“All the same, it is a very bad match for her,” said Mrs. Miller, in confidence, to her husband.
“And I should very much like to know who that sunshade belonged to,” added the M.P. for Meadowshire, severely.
“I think, my dear, we shall have to overlook that part of the business, for, as Tom will leave them his money, why——”
“Yes, yes, I quite understand; we must hope the young man has had a good lesson. Let bygones be bygones, certainly,” and Mr. Miller took a pinch of snuff reflectively, and wondered what Tom Esterworth would “cut up for.”
“But I am determined,” said Mrs. Miller, ere she closed the discussion, “I am determined that I will do better for Geraldine.”