“Well, I find money well thought of everywhere.”
“Has your late school been good for you?”
“This woman, I repeat, is rich, and we want money. Oh! not the ordinary notion of wanting money, but the more we have the more power we have. Our position depends on it.”
“Yes, if we can be tempted to think so,” flashed Cornelia.
“Our position depends on it. If you posture, and are poor, you provoke ridicule: and to think of scorning money, is a piece of folly no girls of condition are guilty of. Now, you know I am fond of you; so I’ll tell you this: you have a chance; don’t miss it. Something unpleasant is threatening; but you may escape it. It would be madness to throw such a chance away, and it is your duty to take advantage of it. What is there plainer? You are engaged to no one.”
Cornelia came timidly close to him. “Pray, be explicit!”
“Yes; but what—there is something to escape from.”
Wilfrid deliberately replied: “There is no doubt of the Pater’s intentions with regard to Mrs. Chump.”
“He means to marry her.”
“And you, Wilfrid?”
“Well, of course, he cuts me out. There—there! forgive me: but what can I do?”
“Do you conspire—Wilfrid, is it possible?—are you an accomplice in the degradation of our house?”
Cornelia had regained her courage, perforce of wrath. Wilfrid’s singular grey eyes shot an odd look at her. He is to be excused for not perceiving the grandeur of the structure menaced; for it was invisible to all the world, though a real fabric.
“If Mrs. Chump were poor, I should think the Pater demented,” he said. “As it is—! well, as it is, there’s grist to the mill, wind to the organ. You must be aware” (and he leaned over to her with his most suspicious gentleness of tone) “you are aware that all organs must be fed; but you will make a terrible mistake if you suppose for a moment that the human organ requires the same sort of feeding as the one in Hillford Church.”
“Good-night,” said Cornelia, closing her lips, as if for good.
Wilfrid pressed her hand. As she was going, the springs of kindness in his heart caused him to say “Forgive me, if I seemed rough.”
“Yes, dear Wilfrid; even brutality, rather than your exultation over the wreck of what was noble in you.”
With which phrase Cornelia swept from the room.
“Seen Wilfrid?” was Mr. Pole’s first cheery call to his daughters, on his return. An answer on that head did not seem to be required by him, for he went on: “Ah the boy’s improved. That place over there, Stornley, does him as much good as the Army did, as to setting him up, you know; common sense, and a ready way of speaking and thinking. He sees a thing now. Well, Martha, what do you,—eh? what’s your opinion?”