Fordham was compelled to stay for an uncomfortable luncheon, when there were spasmodic jerks of talk about subjects of the day to keep up appearances before the servants, who flitted about in such an exasperating way that their mistress secretly rejoiced to think how soon she should be rid of the fine courier butler.
Just as the pony-carriage came round for Armine to drive his friend back to the station, the Colonel came in, and was an astonished spectator of the farewells.
“So that’s your young lord,” he said. “Poor lad! if our nobility is made of no tougher stuff, I would not give much for it. What brought him here?”
’Kindness-sympathy-” said Caroline, a little awkwardly.
“Much of that he showed,” said Allen, “just knowing nothing at all about anybody! No! If it were not so utterly ridiculous I should think he had come to make an offer to Babie:” and as his sister flew out of the room, “You don’t mean that he has, mother?”
“Pray, don’t speak of it to any one!” said Caroline. “I would not have it known for the world. It was a generous impulse, poor dear fellow; and Babie has no feeling for him at all.”
“Very lucky,” said the uncle. “He looks as if his life was not worth a year’s purchase. So you refused him? Quite right too. You are a sensible woman, Caroline, in the midst of this severe reverse!”
’Lesbia hath a beaming eye,
But no one knows for whom it beameth,
Right and left its arrows fly,
But what they aim at, no one dreameth.’
By the advice, or rather by the express desire, of her trustees, Mrs. Brownlow remained at Belforest, while they accepted an offer of renting the London house for the season. Mr. Wakefield declared that there was no reason that she should contract her expenditure; but she felt as if everything she spent beyond her original income, except of course the needful outlay on keeping up the house and gardens, were robbery of Elvira, and she therefore did not fill up the establish-ment of servants, nor of horses, using only for herself the little pair of ponies which had been turned out in the park.
No one had perhaps realised the amount of worry that this arrangement entailed. As Barbara said, if they could have gone away at once and worked for their living like sensible people in a book, it would have been all very well-but this half-and-half state was dreadful. Personally it did not affect Babie much, but she was growing up to the part of general sympathiser, and for the first time in their lives there was a pull in contrary directions by her mother, and Armine.
Every expenditure was weighed before it was granted. Did it belong rightly to Belforest estate or to Caroline Brownlow? And the claims of the church and parish at Woodside were doubtful. Armine, under the influence of Miss Parsons, took a wide view of the dues of the parish, thought there was a long arrear to be paid off, and that whatever could be given was so much out of the wolf’s mouth.