“Yes, yes, mother dear, I know,” he said, quickly, and twisted himself round till he got her hand between his, kissing it as he spoke; “but I—I never thought of that—dear old John, he has been the best of brothers to me; and, mother dear, I know it is all your love to me; but you and I, dear, we will not grudge him his happiness, will we?”
He knew so well her weakness—how that she had loved him at the expense of the other son, who was not so dear to her; he loved her for it, and yet he did not at his heart think it right.
Lady Kynaston wiped a few tears away. “You are always right, my boy, always, and I am a foolish old woman. But oh, Maurice, that is only half the trouble! Who is this woman whom he has chosen? Some country girl, ignorant of the ways of the world, unformed and awkward—not fitted to be his wife!”
“Does he say so?” laughed Maurice.
“No, no, of course not. Stay, where is his letter? Oh, there, on the dressing-table; give it me, my dear. No, this is what he says: ’Miss Nevill seems to me in every way to fulfil my ideal of a good and perfect woman, and, if she will consent to marry me, I intend to make her my wife.’”
“Well, a good and perfect woman is a rara avis, at all events mother.”
“Oh, dear! but all men say that of a girl when they are in love—it amounts to very little.”
“You see, he has evidently not proposed to her yet; perhaps she will refuse him.”
“Refuse Sir John Kynaston, of Kynaston Hall! A poor clergyman’s daughter! My dear Maurice, I gave you credit for more knowledge of the world. Besides, John is a fine-looking man. Oh, no, she is not in the least likely to refuse him.”
“Then all we have got to do is to make the best of her,” said Maurice, composedly.
“That is easily said for you, who need see very little of her. But John’s wife is a person who will be of great importance to my happiness. Dear me! and to think he might have had Lady Mary Hendrie for the asking: a charming creature, well born, highly educated and accomplished—everything that a man could wish for. And there were the De Vallery girls—either of them would have married him, and been a suitable wife for him; and he must needs go and throw himself away on a little country chit, who could have been equally happy, and much more suitably mated, with her father’s curate. Maurice, my dear,” with a sudden change of voice, “I wish you would go down and cut him out; if you made love to her ever so little you could turn her head, you know.”
Maurice burst out laughing. “Oh, you wicked, immoral little mother! Did I ever hear such an iniquitous proposition! Do you want me to marry her?”
“No, no!” laughed his mother; “but you might make her think you meant to, and then, perhaps, she would refuse John.”