’I am so glad. For, of course, Mr Gibson, when we heard it we thought a great deal about it. A man’s happiness depends so much on whom he marries doesn’t it? And a clergyman’s more than anybody else’s. And we didn’t think she was quite the sort of woman that you would like. You see, she has had no advantages, poor thing! She has been shut up in a little country cottage all her life, just a labourer’s hovel, no more, and though it wasn’t her fault, of course, and we all pitied her, and were so glad when Miss Stanbury brought her to the Close—still, you know, though one was very glad of her as an acquaintance, yet, you know, as a wife and for such a dear, dear friend.’ She went on, and said many other things with equal enthusiasm, and then wiped her eyes, and then smiled and laughed. After that she declared that she was quite happy, so happy; and so she left him. The poor man, after the falsehood had been extracted from him, said nothing more; but sat, in patience, listening to the raptures and enthusiasm of his friend. He knew that he had disgraced himself; and he knew also that his disgrace would be known, if Dorothy Stanbury should accept his offer on the morrow. And yet how hardly he had been used! What answer could he have given compatible both with the truth and with his own personal dignity?
About half an hour afterwards, he was walking back to Exeter with Brooke Burgess, and then Brooke did ask him a question or two.
‘Nice girls those Frenches, I think,’ said Brooke.
‘Very nice,’ said Mr Gibson.
‘How Miss Stanbury does hate them,’ says Brooke.
‘Not hate them, I hope,’ said Mr Gibson.
‘She doesn’t love them does she?’
’Well, as for love, yes; in one sense I hope she does. Miss Stanbury, you know, is a woman who expresses herself strongly.’
’What would she say, if she were told that you and I were going to marry those two girls? We are both favourites, you know.’
‘Dear me! What a very odd supposition,’ said Mr Gibson.
‘For my part, I don’t think I shall,’ said Brooke.
‘I don’t suppose I shall either,’ said Mr Gibson, with a gravity which was intended to convey some smattering of rebuke.
‘A fellow might do worse, you know,’ said Brooke. ’For my part, I rather like girls with chignons, and all that sort of get-up. But the worst of it is, one can’t marry two at a time.’
‘That would be bigamy,’ said Mr Gibson. ‘Just so,’ said Brooke.
MISS STANBURY’S WRATH