The girls both bustled out of the room, and Frank was following them, but his mother called him back. “When is it to be, Frank? Come tell me something about it. I never asked any questions when I thought the subject was a painful one.”
“God bless you, mother, you never did. But I can tell you nothing—only the stupid old earl has begged me to go there at once. Fanny must settle the time herself: there’ll be settlements, and lawyer’s work.”
“That’s true, my love. A hundred thousand pounds in ready cash does want looking after. But look here, my dear; Fanny is of age, isn’t she?”
“She is, mother.”
“Well now, Frank, take my advice; they’ll want to tie up her money in all manner of ways, so as to make it of the least possible use to you, or to her either. They always do; they’re never contented unless they lock up a girl’s money, so that neither she nor her husband can spend the principal or the interest. Don’t let them do it, Frank. Of course she will be led by you, let them settle whatever is fair on her; but don’t let them bother the money so that you can’t pay off the debts. It’ll be a grand thing, Frank, to redeem the property.”
Frank hemmed and hawed, and said he’d consult his lawyer in Dublin before the settlements were signed; but declared that he was not going to marry Fanny Wyndham for her money.
“That’s all very well, Frank,” said the mother; “but you know you could not marry her without the money, and mind, it’s now or never. Think what a thing it would be to have the property unencumbered!”
The son hurried away to throw himself at the feet of his mistress, and the mother remained in her drawing-room, thinking with delight on the renovated grandeur of the family, and of the decided lead which the O’Kellys would again be able to take in Connaught.
Fanny’s joy was quite equal to that of her lover, but it was not shown quite so openly. Her aunt congratulated her most warmly; kissed her twenty times; called her her own dear, darling niece, and promised her to love her husband, and to make him a purse if she could get Griffiths to teach her that new stitch; it looked so easy she was sure she could learn it, and it wouldn’t tease her eyes. Lady Selina also wished her joy; but she did it very coldly, though very sensibly.
“Believe me, my dear Fanny, I am glad you should have the wish of your heart. There were obstacles to your union with Lord Ballindine, which appeared to be insurmountable, and I therefore attempted to wean you from your love. I hope he will prove worthy of that love, and that you may never have cause to repent of your devotion to him. You are going greatly to increase your cares and troubles; may God give you strength to bear them, and wisdom to turn them to advantage!”
The earl made a very long speech to her, in which there were but few pauses, and not one full stop. Fanny was not now inclined to quarrel with him; and he quite satisfied himself that his conduct, throughout, towards his ward, had been dignified, prudent, consistent, and disinterested.