“Your uncle had the same means of judging as yourself.”
“No, Colonel, he could do nothing! In the first place, there can be no correspondence with him; and next, he is so devotedly fond of Bessie, that he would no more believe anything against her than Lady Temple would. I have tried that more than once.”
“Then, Alick, there is nothing for it but to let it take its course; and even upon your own view, your sister will be much safer married than single.”
“I had very little expectation of your saying anything else, but in common honesty I felt bound to let you know.”
“And now the best thing to be done is to forget all you have said.”
“Which you will do the more easily as you think it an amiable delusion of mine. Well, so much the better. I dare say you will never think otherwise, and I would willingly believe that my senses went after my fingers’ ends.”
The Colonel almost believed so himself. He was aware of the miserably sensitive condition of shattered nerve in which Alick had been sent home, and of the depression of spirits that had ensued on the news of his father’s death; and he thought it extremely probable that his weary hours and solicitude for his gay young sister might have made molehills into mountains, and that these now weighed on his memory and conscience. At least, this seemed the only way of accounting for an impression so contrary to that which Bessie Keith made on every one else, and, by his own avowal, on the uncle whom he so much revered. Every other voice proclaimed her winning, amiable, obliging, considerate, and devoted to the service of her friends, with much drollery and shrewdness of perception, tempered by kindness of heart and unwillingness to give pain; and on that sore point of residence with the blind uncle, it was quite possibly a bit of Alick’s exaggerated feeling to imagine the arrangement so desirable— the young lady might be the better judge.
On the whole, the expostulation left Colonel Keith more uncomfortable on Alick’s account than on that of his brother.
“And there will be auld Geordie
Who coft a young wife wi’ his gowd.”
“Mamma,” quoth Leoline, “I thought a woman must not marry her grandfather. And she called him the patriarch of her clan.”
“He is a cross old man,” added Hubert. “He said children ought not to be allowed on the esplanade, because he got into the way as I was pushing the perambulator.”
“This was the reason,” said Francis, gravely, “that she stopped me from braying at him. I shall know what people are at, when they talk of disrespect another time.”
“Don’t talk of her,” cried Conrade, flinging himself round; “women have no truth in them.”