A few days afterwards, Ellinor’s father bethought himself that same further communication ought to take place between him and his daughter’s lover regarding the approval of the family of the latter to the young man’s engagement, and he accordingly wrote a very gentlemanly letter, saying that of course he trusted that Ralph had informed his father of his engagement; that Mr. Corbet was well known to Mr. Wilkins by reputation, holding the position which he did in Shropshire, but that as Mr. Wilkins did not pretend to be in the same station of life, Mr. Corbet might possibly never even have heard of his name, although in his own county it was well known as having been for generations that of the principal conveyancer and land-agent of —–shire; that his wife had been a member of the old knightly family of Holsters, and that he himself was descended from a younger branch of the South Wales De Wintons, or Wilkins; that Ellinor, as his only child, would naturally inherit all his property, but that in the meantime, of course, some settlement upon her would he made, the nature of which might be decided nearer the time of the marriage.
It was a very good straightforward letter and well fitted for the purpose to which Mr. Wilkins knew it would be applied—of being forwarded to the young man’s father. One would have thought that it was not an engagement so disproportionate in point of station as to cause any great opposition on that score; but, unluckily, Captain Corbet, the heir and eldest son, had just formed a similar engagement with Lady Maria Brabant, the daughter of one of the proudest earls in —–shire, who had always resented Mr. Wilkins’s appearance on the field as an insult to the county, and ignored his presence at every dinner-table where they met. Lady Maria was visiting the Corbets at the very time when Ralph’s letter, enclosing Mr. Wilkins’s, reached the paternal halls, and she merely repeated her father’s opinions when Mrs. Corbet and her daughters naturally questioned her as to who these Wilkinses were; they remembered the name in Ralph’s letters formerly; the father was some friend of Mr. Ness’s, the clergyman with whom Ralph had read; they believed Ralph used to dine with these Wilkinses sometimes, along with Mr. Ness.
Lady Maria was a goodnatured girl, and meant no harm in repeating her father’s words; touched up, it is true, by some of the dislike she herself felt to the intimate alliance proposed, which would make her sister-in-law to the daughter of an “upstart attorney,” “not received in the county,” “always trying to push his way into the set above him,” “claiming connection with the De Wintons of —– Castle, who, as she well knew, only laughed when he was spoken of, and said they were more rich in relations than they were aware of”—“not people papa would ever like her to know, whatever might be the family connection.”