Mr. Pole was one of those men whose characters are read off at a glance. He was neat, insignificant, and nervously cheerful; with the eyes of a bird, that let you into no interior. His friends knew him thoroughly. His daughters were never in doubt about him. At the period of the purchase of Brookfield he had been excitable and feverish, but that was ascribed to the projected change in his habits, and the stern necessity for an occasional family intercommunication on the subject of money. He had a remarkable shyness of this theme, and reversed its general treatment; for he would pay, but would not talk of it. If it had to be discussed with the ladies, he puffed, and blinked, and looked so much like a culprit that, though they rather admired him for what seemed to them the germ of a sense delicate above his condition, they would have said of any man they had not known so perfectly, that he had painful reasons for wishing to avoid it. Now that they spoke to him of Besworth, assuring him that they were serious in their desire to change their residence, the fit of shyness was manifested, first in outrageous praise of Brookfield, which was speedily and inexplicably followed by a sort of implied assent to the proposition to depart from it. For Besworth displayed numerous advantages over Brookfield, and to contest one was to plunge headlong into the money question. He ventured to ask his daughters what good they expected from the change. They replied that it was simply this: that one might live fifty years at Brookfield and not get such a circle as in two might be established at Besworth. They were restricted. They had gathering friends, and no means of bringing them together. And the beauty of the site of Besworth made them enthusiastic.
“Well, but,” said Mr. Pole: “what does it lead to? Is there nothing to come after?”
He explained: “You’re girls, you know. You won’t always stop with me. You may do just as well at Brookfield for yourselves, as over there.”
The ladies blushed demurely.
“You forecast very kindly for us, papa,” said Cornelia. “Our object is entirely different.”
“I wish I could see it,” he returned.
“But, you do see, papa, you do see,” interposed Adela, “that a select life is preferable to that higgledy-piggledy city-square existence so many poor creatures are condemned to!”
“Select!” said Mr. Pole, thinking that he had hit upon a weakness in their argument; “how can it be select when you want to go to a place where you may have a crowd about you?”
“Selection can only be made from a crowd,” remarked Arabella, with terrible placidity. “It is where we see few that we are at the mercy of kind fortune for our acquaintances.”
“Don’t you see, papa, that the difference between the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie is, that the former choose their sets, and the latter are obliged to take what comes to them?” said Adela.