“He goes to church,” said Essie, too simple to look beyond.
“Only here, to please his mother. My dear, you must put this out of your head. Even if he were very different, we should never let you marry a first cousin, and he knows it. It was very wrong in him to have spoken to you.”
“Please don’t let him do it again,” said Esther, faintly.
“That’s right, my dear,” with a kiss of forgiveness. “I am sure you are too good a girl really to care for him.”
“I wish he would not care for me,” sighed poor Essie, wearily. “He always was so kind, and now they are in trouble I couldn’t vex him.”
“Oh, my dear, young men get over things of this sort half a dozen times in their lives.”
Essie was not delighted with this mode of consolation, and when her mother tenderly smoothed back her hair, and bade her bathe her face and dress for dinner, she clung to her and said-
“Don’t let me see him again.”
It was a wholesome dread, which Mrs. Brownlow encouraged, for both she and her husband were annoyed and perplexed by Robert’s cool reception of their refusal. He quietly declared that he could allow for their prejudices, and that it was merely a matter of time, and he was provokingly calm and secure, showing neither anger nor disappointment. He did not argue, but having once shown that his salary warranted his offer, that the climate was excellent, and that European civilisation prevailed, he treated his uncle and aunt as unreasonably prejudiced mortals, who would in time yield to his patient determination.
His mother was as much annoyed as they were, all the more because her sister-in-law could hardly credit her perfect innocence of Robert’s intentions, and was vexed at her wish to ascertain Esther’s feelings. This was not easy! the poor child was so unhappy and shamefaced, so shocked at her involuntary disobedience, and so grieved at the pain she had given. If Robert had been set before her with full consent of friends, she would have let her whole heart go out to him, loved him, and trusted him for ever, treating whatever opinions were unlike hers as manly idiosyncrasies beyond her power to fathom. But she was no Lydia Languish to need opposition as a stimulus. It rather gave her tender and dutiful spirit a sense of shame, terror, and disobedience; and she thankfully accepted the mandate that sent her on a visit to her married sister for as long as Bobus should remain at Belforest.
He did not show himself downcast, but was quietly assured that he should win her at last, only smiling at the useless precaution, and declaring himself willing to wait, and make a home for her.
But this matter had not tended to make his mother more at ease in her enforced stay at Belforest, which was becoming a kind of gilded prison.
CHAPTER XXXI. SLACK TIDE.
Thou hide thine eyes and make thy peevish moan
Over some broken reed of earth beneath,
Some darling of blind fancy dead and gone.