“When Lord Ballindine was last at Grey Abbey, Miss Wyndham, he had not the honour of an interview with you.”
“No, sir,” said Fanny. Her voice, look, and manner were still sedate and courtly; her heart, however, was beating so violently that she hardly knew what she said.
“Circumstances, I believe, prevented it,” said the parson. “My friend, however, received, through Lord Cashel, a message from you, which—which—which has been very fatal to his happiness.”
Fanny tried to say something, but she was not able.
“The very decided tone in which your uncle then spoke to him, has made Lord Ballindine feel that any further visit to Grey Abbey on his own part would be an intrusion.”
“I never—” said Fanny, “I never—”
“You never authorised so harsh a message, you would say. It is not the harshness of the language, but the certainty of the fact, that has destroyed my friend’s happiness. If such were to be the case—if it were absolutely necessary that the engagement between you and Lord Ballindine should be broken off, the more decided the manner in which it were done, the better. Lord Ballindine now wishes—I am a bad messenger in such a case as this, Miss Wyndham: it is, perhaps, better to tell you at once a plain tale. Frank has desired me to tell you that he loves you well and truly; that he cannot believe you are indifferent to him; that your vows, to him so precious, are still ringing in his ears; that he is, as far as his heart is concerned, unchanged; and he has commissioned me to ascertain from yourself, whether you—have really changed your mind since he last had the pleasure of seeing you.” The parson waited a moment for an answer, and then added, “Lord Ballindine by no means wishes to persecute you on the subject; nor would I do so, if he did wish it. You have only to tell me that you do not intend to renew your acquaintance with Lord Ballindine, and I will leave Grey Abbey.” Fanny still remained silent. “Say the one word ‘go’, Miss Wyndham, and you need not pain yourself by any further speech. I will at once be gone.”
Fanny strove hard to keep her composure, and to make some fitting reply to Mr Armstrong, but she was unable. Her heart was too full; she was too happy. She had, openly, and in spite of rebuke, avowed her love to her uncle, her aunt, to Lady Selina, and her cousin. But she could not bring herself to confess it to Mr Armstrong. At last she said:
“I am much obliged to you for your kindness, Mr Armstrong. Perhaps I owe it to Lord Ballindine to—to . . . I will ask my uncle, sir, to write to him.”
“I shall write to Lord Ballindine this evening, Miss Wyndham; will you intrust me with no message? I came from him, to see you, with no other purpose. I must give him some news: I must tell him I have seen you. May I tell him not to despair?”