“But, Lord Cashel,” he said, “I am ready to do whatever you please. I’ll take any steps you’ll advise. But I really cannot see why I’m to be told that the engagement between me and Miss Wyndham is off, without hearing any reason from herself. I’ll make any sacrifice you please, or she requires; I’m sure she was attached to me, and she cannot have overcome that affection so soon.”
“I have already said that we require—Miss Wyndham requires—no sacrifice from you. The time for sacrifice is past; and I do not think her affection was of such a nature as will long prey on her spirits.”
“My affection for her is, I can assure you—”
“Pray excuse me—but I think this is hardly the time either to talk of, or to show, your affection. Had it been proved to be of a lasting, I fear I must say, a sincere nature, it would now have been most valued. I will leave yourself to say whether this was the case.”
“And so you mean to say, Lord Cashel, that I cannot see Miss Wyndham?”
“Assuredly, Lord Ballindine. And I must own, that I hardly appreciate your delicacy in asking to do so at the present moment.”
There was something very hard in this. The match was to be broken off without any notice to him; and when he requested, at any rate, to hear this decision from the mouth of the only person competent to make it, he was told that it was indelicate for him to wish to do so. This put his back up.
“Well, my lord,” he said with some spirit, “Miss Wyndham is at present your ward, and in your house, and I am obliged to postpone the exercise of the right, to which, at least, I am entitled, of hearing her decision from her own mouth. I cannot think that she expects I should be satisfied with such an answer as I have now received. I shall write to her this evening, and shall expect at any rate the courtesy of an answer from herself.”
“My advice to my ward will be, not to write to you; at any rate for the present. I presume, my lord, you cannot doubt my word that Miss Wyndham chooses to be released from an engagement, which I must say your own conduct renders it highly inexpedient for her to keep.”
“I don’t doubt your word, of course, Lord Cashel; but such being the case, I think Miss Wyndham might at least tell me so herself.”
“I should have thought, Lord Ballindine, that you would have felt that the sudden news of a dearly loved brother’s death, was more than sufficient to excuse Miss Wyndham from undergoing an interview which, even under ordinary circumstances, would be of very doubtful expediency.”
“Her brother’s death! Good gracious! Is Harry Wyndham dead!”
Frank was so truly surprised—so effectually startled by the news, which he now for the first time heard, that, had his companion possessed any real knowledge of human nature, he would at once have seen that his astonishment was not affected. But he had none, and, therefore, went on blundering in his own pompous manner.