‘But you should first try to prevent it.’
‘What can I do to prevent it?’
Lady Lufton paused a couple of minutes before she replied. She had a scheme in her head, but it seemed to her to savour of cruelty. And yet at present it was her chief duty to assist her old friend, if any assistance could be given. There could hardly be a doubt that such a marriage as this, of which they were speaking, was in itself an evil. In her case, the case of her son, there had been no question of a trial, of money stolen, of aught that was in truth disgraceful. ’I think if I were you, Dr Grantly,’ she said, ’that I would see the young lady while I was here.’
‘See her myself?’ said the archdeacon. The idea of seeing Grace Crawley himself had, up to this moment, never entered his head.
‘I think I would do so.’
‘I think I will,’ said the archdeacon, after a pause. Then he got up from his chair. ‘If I am to do it, I had better do it at once.’
‘Be gentle with her, my friend.’ The archdeacon paused again. He certainly had entertained the idea of encountering Miss Crawley with severity rather than gentleness. Lady Lufton rose from her seat, and coming up to him, took one of his hands between her own two. ’Be gentle to her,’ she said. ‘You have owned that she has done nothing wrong.’ The archdeacon bowed his head in token of assent and left the room.
Poor Grace Crawley.
A DOUBLE PLEDGE
The archdeacon, as he walked across from the Court to the parsonage, was very thoughtful and his steps were very slow. The idea of seeing Miss Crawley herself had been suggested to him suddenly, and he had to determine how he could bear himself towards her, and what he would say to her. Lady Lufton had beseeched him to be gentle with her. Was the mission one in which gentleness would be possible? Must it not be his object to make this young lady understand that she could not be right in desiring to come into his family and share in all his good things when she had no good things of her own—nothing but evil things to bring with her? And how could this be properly explained to the young lady in gentle terms? Must he not be round with her, and give her to understand in plain words—the plainest which he could use—that she would not get his good things, though she would most certainly impose the burden of all her evil things on the man whom she was proposing to herself as a husband. He remembered very well as he went, that he had been told that Miss Crawley had herself refused the offer, feeling herself to be unfit for the honour tendered to her; but he suspected the sincerity of such a refusal. Calculating in his own mind the unreasonably great advantages which would be conferred on such a young lady as Miss Crawley by a marriage with his son, he declared to himself that any girl must be very wicked