For Sir John Ormerod’s courtship was an evident fact to all the family, as, indeed, Adela was heiress enough to be a good deal troubled with suitors, though she had hitherto managed to make them all keep their distance.
Adela laughed at him for his kind wishes, but I could see she meant to plead for him. She had her chance, for Sir John Ormerod brought matters to a crisis at the next ball; and though she thought, as she said, “she had settled him,” he followed it up with her guardian, and Adela was invited to a conference in the library.
It happened that as she ran upstairs, all in a glow, she came on Torwood at the landing. She couldn’t help saying in her odd half-laughing, half-crying voice—
“It will come right, Torwood; I’ve made terms, I’m out of your way.”
“Not Ormerod!” he exclaimed.
“Oh! no, no!” I can hear her dash of scorn now, for I was just behind my brother, but she went on out of breath—
“You may go on seeing her, provided you don’t say a word—till—till she’s been out two years.”
“Adela! you queen of girls, how have you done it?” he began, but she thrust him aside and flew up into my arms; and when I had her in her own room it came out, I hardly know how, that she had so shown that she cared for no one she had ever seen except my father, that they found they did love each other; and—and—in short they were going to be married.”
Really it seemed much less wonderful then than it does in thinking of it afterwards. My father was much handsomer than any young man I ever saw, with a hawk nose, a clear rosy skin, pure pink and white like a boy’s, curly little rings of white hair, blue eyes clear and bright as the sky, a tall upright soldierly figure, and a magnificent stately bearing, courteous and grand to all, but sweetly tender to a very few, and to her above all. It always had been so ever since he had brought her home an orphan of six years old from her mother’s death-bed at Nice. And he was youthful, could ride or hunt all day without so much fatigue as either of his sons, and was as fresh and eager in all his ways as a lad.
And she, our pretty darling! I don’t think Torwood and I in the least felt the incongruity of her becoming our step-mother, only that papa was making her more entirely his own.
I am glad we did not mar the sunshine. It did not last long. She came home thoroughly unwell from their journey to Switzerland, and never got better. By the time the spring had come round again, she was lying in the vault at Trevorsham, and we were trying to keep poor little Alured alive and help my poor father to bear it.
He was stricken to the very heart, and never was the same man again. His age seemed to come upon him all at once; and whereas at sixty-five he had been like a man ten years younger, he suddenly became like one ten years older; and though he never was actually ill, he failed from month to month.