“I don’t see why they couldn’t. Mrs Simpson is his mother’s sister—”
“Oh, well, we shall see. I don’t know about Deb and Mary, but France can be all sorts of a cat when the fit takes her; and as she is certain to oppose it to the bitter end, she will never have done irritating his people and setting everybody at loggerheads. However, never mind that now.” She enveloped Rose in a comforting embrace. “We’ll just enjoy ourselves while we can. And until we must start the fuss with the girls at home, we’ll keep things dark, shall we? Just you and I and he. You can tell him, when you see him tomorrow, that I am his friend.”
“I will—I will! And he will adore you for your goodness.”
Alice, with still no lover of her own, was pleased with this prospect. And so Rose had a heavenly time for a week or two—Peter extending his visit to match hers—and went home, within a day of him, in good heart for the inevitable struggle.
The starting of the fuss was thus described by the starter in her first letter to her friend:
“Oh, my dear, it is simply awful! There is not a scrap of hope. Dear old Deb is the worst, because she cries—fancy Deb crying! I don’t care what Francie says and does, only, if she were not my sister, I would never speak to her again. Even Mary is antagonistic, though I don’t believe she would be if it were not for that insufferable husband of hers; he thinks himself, and puts it into her head, that we are all going to fall into the bottomless pit if we let trade into the family— as if nine-tenths and more of the aristocracy of the country were not traders, and my Peter is as good as her parson any day. But I don’t care, except for Deb. I do hate her to have to cry, through me, and to be so kind at the same time. She scolds Francie for being horrid—that does no good, she says, and she is quite right—and then asks me if I have any love left for her, and all that kind of thing. It makes me feel like a selfish brute; and yet it would not be unselfish to sacrifice Peter. Really, I am quite distacted. I have hardly slept a wink since I came back.”
Further details followed:
“I did not know until I got a letter from him (by the gardener) that Peter came this morning to call—the call—and was not let in. Keziah had been got at, you must know, and works against us; the old liar told him (under instructions, of course) that none of us was at home!—she that goes to church every Sunday, and pretends to be so pious. Old hypocrite! Well, as I was reading Peter’s letter, the door-bell rings, and who should it be but old Daddy Breen coming to demand what we mean by it, snubbing his precious son, whom he thinks good enough for a princess (and so he is). He was not going to be turned from the door—not he; and presently I heard him and Deb at it hammer and tongs in the drawing-room,