“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.
This was the first domestic discussion upon Besworth. The visit to Richford had produced the usual effect on the ladies, who were now looking to other heights from that level. The ladies said: “We have only to press it with papa, and we shall quit this place.” But at the second discussion they found that they had not advanced. The only change was in the emphasis that their father added to the interrogations already uttered. “What does it lead to? What’s to come after? I see your object. But, am I to go into a new house for the sake of getting you out of it, and then be left there alone? It’s against your interests, too. Never mind how. Leave that to a business man. If your brother had proposed it...but he’s too reasonable.”
The ladies, upon this hint, wrote to Wilfrid to obtain his concurrence and assistance. He laughed when he read the simple sentence: “We hope you will not fancy that we have any peculiar personal interest in view;” and replied to them that he was sure they had none: that he looked upon Besworth with favour, “and I may inform you,” he pursued, “that your taste is heartily applauded by Lady Charlotte Chillingworth, she bids me tell you.” The letter was dated from Stornley, the estate of the marquis, Lady Charlotte’s father. Her ladyship’s brother was a member of Wilfrid’s Club. “He calls Besworth the most habitable place in the county, and promises to be there as many months out of the twelve as you like to have him. I agree with him that Stornley can’t hold a candle to it. There are three residences in England that might be preferred to it, and, of those, two are ducal.”