“Why, he certainly did ask for a last interview—which, anticipating your wishes, I have refused.”
“But was he satisfied? Did he appear to think that he had been badly treated?”
“Rejected lovers,” answered the earl with a stately smile, “seldom express much satisfaction with the terms of their rejection; but I cannot say that Lord Ballindine testified any strong emotion.” He rose from the sofa as he said this, and then, intending to clinch the nail, added as he went to the door—“to tell the truth, Fanny, I think Lord Ballindine is much more eager for an alliance with your fair self now, than he was a few days back, when he could never find a moment’s time to leave his horses, and his friend Mr Blake, either to see his intended wife, or to pay Lady Cashel the usual courtesy of a morning visit.” He then opened the door, and, again closing it, added—“I think, however, Fanny, that what has now passed between us will secure you from any further annoyance from him.”
Lord Cashel, in this last speech, had greatly overshot his mark; his object had been to make the separation between his ward and her lover permanent; and, hitherto, he had successfully appealed to her pride and her judgment. Fanny had felt Lord Cashel to be right, when he told her that she was neglected, and that Frank was dissipated, and in debt. She knew she should be unhappy as the wife of a poor nobleman, and she felt that it would break her proud heart to be jilted herself. She had, therefore, though unwillingly, still entirely agreed with her, guardian as to the expediency of breaking off, the match; and, had Lord Cashel been judicious, he might have confirmed her in this resolution; but his last thunderbolt, which had been intended to crush Lord Ballindine, had completely recoiled upon himself. Fanny now instantly understood the allusion, and, raising her face, which was again resting on her hands, looked at him with an indignant glance through her tears.
Lord Cashel, however, had left the room without observing the indignation expressed in Fanny’s eyes; but she was indignant; she knew Frank well enough to be sure that he had come to Grey Abbey that morning with no such base motives as those ascribed to him. He might have heard of Harry’s death, and come there to express his sorrow, and offer that consolation which she felt she could accept from him sooner than from any living creature:—or, he might have been ignorant of it altogether; but that he should come there to press his suit because her brother was dead—immediately after his death—was not only impossible; but the person who could say it was possible, must be false and untrue to her. Her uncle could not have believed it himself: he had basely pretended to believe it, that he might widen the breach which he had made.
Fanny was alone, in the drawing-room—for her cousin had left it as soon as her father began to talk about Lord Ballindine, and she sat there glowering through her tears for a long time. Had Lord Ballindine been able to know all her thoughts at this moment, he would have felt little doubt as to the ultimate success of his suit.