“Mamma, what are you talking about?—you’re dreaming.”
“Dreaming, my dear? I’m not dreaming at all: it’s a fact. Who’d’ve thought of all this happening so soon, out of this party, which gave us so much trouble! However, I knew your father was right. I said all along that he was in the right to ask the people.”
“Mamma,” said Lady Selina, gravely, “listen to me: calmly now, and attentively. I don’t know what papa has told you; but I tell you Fanny does not dream of marrying Adolphus. He has never asked her, and if he did she would never accept him. Fanny is more than ever in love with Lord Ballindine.”
The countess opened her eyes wide, and looked up into her daughter’s face, but said nothing.
“Tell me, mamma, as nearly as you can recollect, what it is papa has said to you, that, if possible, we may prevent mischief and misery. Papa couldn’t have said that Fanny had accepted Adolphus?”
“He didn’t say exactly that, my dear; but he said that it was his wish they should be married; that Adolphus was very eager for it, and that Fanny had received his attentions and admiration with evident pleasure and satisfaction. And so she has, my dear; you couldn’t but have seen that yourself.”
“Well, mamma, what else did papa say?”
“Why, he said just what I’m telling you: that I wasn’t to be surprised if we were called on to be ready for the wedding at a short notice; or at any rate to be ready to congratulate Fanny. He certainly didn’t say she had accepted him. But he said he had no doubt about it; and I’m sure, from what was going on last week, I couldn’t have any doubt either. But he told me not to speak to anyone about it yet; particularly not to Fanny; only, my dear, I couldn’t help, you know, talking it over with you;” and the countess leaned back in her chair, very much exhausted with the history she had narrated.
“Now, mamma, listen to me. It is not many hours since Fanny told me she was unalterably determined to throw herself at Lord Ballindine’s feet.”
“Goodness gracious me, how shocking!” said the countess.
“She even said that she would ask Adolphus to be the means of bringing Lord Ballindine back to Grey Abbey.”
“Lord have mercy!” said the countess.
“I only tell you this, mamma, to show you how impossible it is that papa should be right.”
“What are we to do, my dear? Oh, dear, there’ll be such a piece of work! What a nasty thing Fanny is. I’m sure she’s been making love to Adolphus all the week!”
“No, mamma, she has not. Don’t be unfair to Fanny. If there is anyone in fault it is Adolphus; but, as you say, what shall we do to prevent further misunderstanding? I think I had better tell papa the whole.”
And so she did, on the following morning. But she was too late; she did not do it till after Lord Kilcullen had offered and had been refused.