‘God bless her, poor child,’ said Sir Marmaduke, rubbing the tears away from his eyes with his red silk pocket-handkerchief.
’I will acknowledge that those letters—there may have been one or two— were the beginning of the trouble. It was these that made this man show himself to be a lunatic. I do admit that. I was bound not to talk about your coming, and I told her to keep the secret. He went spying about, and found her letters, I suppose, and then he took fire because there was to be a secret from him. Dirty, mean dog! And now I’m to be told by such a fellow as Outhouse that it’s my fault, that I have caused all the trouble, because, when I happened to be in Devonshire, I went to see your daughter!’ We must do the Colonel the justice of supposing that he had by this time quite taught himself to believe that the church porch at Cockchaffington had been the motive cause of his journey into Devonshire. ‘Upon my word it is too hard,’ continued he indignantly. ’As for Outhouse, only for the gown upon his hack, I’d pull his nose. And I wish that you would tell him that I say so.’
‘There is trouble enough without that,’ said Sir Marmaduke.
’But it is hard. By G—, it is hard. There is this comfort: if it hadn’t been me, it would have been some one else. Such a man as that couldn’t have gone two or three years without being jealous of some one. And as for poor Emily, she is better off perhaps with an accusation so absurd as this, than she might have been had her name been joined with a younger man, or with one whom you would have less reason for trusting.’
There was so much that seemed to be sensible in this, and it was spoken with so well assumed a tone of injured innocence, that Sir Marmaduke felt that he had nothing more to say. He muttered something further about the cruelty of the case, and then slunk away out of the club, and made his way home to the dull gloomy house in Manchester Street. There was no comfort for him there but neither was there any comfort for him at the club. And why did that vexatious Secretary of State send him messages about blue books? As he went, he expressed sundry wishes that he was back at the Mandarins, and told himself that it would be well that he should remain there till he died.
When the thirty-first of March arrived, Exeter had not as yet been made gay with the marriage festivities of Mr Gibson and Camilla French. And this delay had not been the fault of Camilla. Camilla had been ready, and when, about the middle of the month, it was hinted to her that some postponement was necessary, she spoke her mind out plainly, and declared that she was not going to stand that kind of thing. The communication had not been made to her by Mr Gibson in person. For some days previously he had not been seen at Heavitree, and Camilla had from day to