‘He is bound to abstain from evil doing,’ said Mrs Outhouse; ’and he oughtn’t to have come. There; let that be enough, my dear. Your uncle doesn’t wish to have it talked about.’ Nevertheless it was talked about between the two sisters. Nora was of opinion that Colonel Osborne had been wrong, whereas Emily defended him. ’It seems to me to have been the most natural thing in life,’ said she.
Had Colonel Osborne made the visit as Sir Marmaduke’s friend, feeling himself to be an old man, it might have been natural. When a man has come to regard himself as being, on the score of age, about as fit to be a young lady’s lover as though he were an old woman instead of an old man, which some men will do when they are younger even than was Colonel Osborne, he is justified in throwing behind him as utterly absurd the suspicions of other people. But Colonel Osborne cannot be defended altogether on that plea.
MISS STANBURY AND MR GIBSON BECOME TWO
There came to be a very gloomy fortnight at Miss Stanbury’s house in the Close. For two or three days after Mr Gibson’s dismissal at the hands of Miss Stanbury herself, Brooke Burgess was still in the house, and his presence saved Dorothy from the full weight of her aunt’s displeasure. There was the necessity of looking after Brooke, and scolding him, and of praising him to Martha, and of dispraising him, and of seeing that he had enough to eat, and of watching whether he smoked in the house, and of quarrelling with him about everything under the sun, which together so employed Miss Stanbury that she satisfied herself with glances at Dorothy which were felt to be full of charges of ingratitude. Dorothy was thankful that it should be so, and bore the glances with abject submission.
And then there was a great comfort to her in Brooke’s friendship. On the second day after Mr Gibson had gone she found herself talking to Brooke quite openly upon the subject. ’The fact was, Mr Burgess, that I didn’t really care for him. I know he’s very good and all that, and of course Aunt Stanbury meant it all for the best. And I would have done it if I could, but I couldn’t.’ Brooke patted her on the back not in the flesh but in the spirit and told her that she was quite right. And he expressed an opinion too that it was not expedient to yield too much to Aunt Stanbury. ’I would yield to her in anything that was possible to me,’ said Dorothy. ‘I won’t,’ said he; ’and I don’t think I should do any good if I did. I like her, and I like her money. But I don’t like either well enough to sell myself for a price.’
A great part too of the quarrelling which went on from day to day between Brooke and Miss Stanbury was due to the difference of their opinions respecting Dorothy and her suitor. ’I believe you put her up to it,’ said Aunt Stanbury.
‘I neither put her up nor down, but I think that she was quite right.’