“I have not Kynaston Hall at my back, remember, after which you have given her the credit of angling. Besides, mother dear, to speak plainly, I honestly do not think my taste in women is in the least likely to be the same as John’s. No, I think I will keep out of the way whilst the love-making is going on. I will go down and have a look at the young woman by-and-by when it is all settled, and let you know what I think of her. I dare say a good, honest country lass will suit John far better than a beautiful woman of the world, who would be sure to be miserable with him. Don’t fret, little mother; make the best of her if you can.”
He rose and stretched himself up to his full height before the fire. Lady Kynaston looked up at him admiringly. Oh, she thought, if the money and the name could only have been his! How well he would have made use of it; how proud she would have been of him—her handsome boy, whom all men liked, and all women would gladly love.
“A good son makes a good husband,” she said aloud, following her own thoughts.
“And John has been a good son, mother,” said Maurice, cordially.
“Yes, yes, in his way, perhaps; but I was thinking of you, my boy, not of him, and how lucky will be the woman who is your wife, Maurice—will it be——”
Maurice stooped quickly, and laid his hand playfully over her lips.
“I don’t know, mother dear—never ask me—for I don’t know it myself.” And then he kissed her, and wished her good-night, and left her.
She sat long over her fire, dreaming, by herself, thinking a little, perhaps, of the elder son, and the bride he was going to bring her, whom she should have to welcome whether she liked her or no, but thinking more of the younger, whose inner life she had studied, and who was so entirely dear and precious to her. It was very little to her that he had been extravagant and thoughtless, that he had lost money in betting and racing—these were minor faults—and she and John between them had always managed to meet his difficulties; they had not been, in truth, very tremendous. But for that, he had never caused her one day’s anxiety, never given her one instant’s pain. “God grant he may get a wife who deserves him,” was the mother’s prayer that night. “I doubt if Helen be worthy of him; but if he loves her, as I believe he must do, no word of mine shall stand between him and his happiness.”
And then she went to bed, and dreamed, as mothers dream of the child they love best.
THE MEMBER FOR MEADOWSHIRE.
Honour and shame from no condition rise;
Act well your part, there all the honour lies.
Pope, “Essay on Man.”
About five miles from Kynaston Hall, as the crow flies, across the fields, stood, as the house-agents would have described it, “a large and commodious modern mansion, standing in about eighty acres of well-timbered park land.”