‘You shall tell him.’
’No, dearest, you must tell him. And you must say to him that if he is not good to my girl, and does not love her always, and cling to her, and keep her from harm, and be in truth her loving husband, I will hold him to be the most ungrateful of human beings.’ And before Brooke came, she spoke again. ’I wonder whether he thinks you as pretty as I do, Dolly?’
‘He never said that he thought me pretty at all.’
’Did he not? Then he shall say so, or he shall not have you. It was your looks won me first, Dolly, like an old fool as I am. It is so pleasant to have a little nature after such a deal of artifice.’ In which latter remarks it was quite understood that Miss Stanbury was alluding to her enemies at Heavitree.
THE LIONESS AROUSED
Brooke Burgess had been to Exeter and had gone, for he only remained there one night, and everything was apparently settled. It was not exactly told through Exeter that Miss Stanbury’s heir was to be allowed to marry Miss Stanbury’s niece; but Martha knew it, and Giles Hickbody guessed it, and Dorothy was allowed to tell her mother and sister, and Brooke himself, in his own careless way, had mentioned the matter to his uncle Barty. As Miss Stanbury had also told the secret in confidence to Mrs MacHugh, it cannot be said that it was altogether well kept. Four days after Brooke’s departure the news reached the Frenches at Heavitree. It was whispered to Camilla by one of the shopmen with whom she was still arranging her marriage trousseau, and was repeated by her to her mother and sister with some additions which were not intended to be good-natured. ’He gets her and the money together as a bargain of course,’ said Camilla. ’I only hope the money won’t be found too dear.’
‘Perhaps he won’t get it after all,’ said Arabella.
‘That would be cruel,’ replied Camilla. ’I don’t think that even Miss Stanbury is so false as that.’
Things were going very badly at Heavitree. There was war there, almost everlastingly, though such little playful conversations as the above shewed that there might be an occasional lull in the battle. Mr Gibson was not doing his duty. That was clear enough. Even Mrs French, when she was appealed to with almost frantic energy by her younger daughter, could not but acknowledge that he was very remiss as a lover. And Camilla, in her fury, was very imprudent. That very frantic energy which induced her to appeal to her mother was, in itself, proof of her imprudence. She knew that she was foolish, but she could not control her passion. Twice had she detected Arabella in receiving notes from Mr Gibson, which she did not see, and of which it had been intended that she should know nothing. And once, when she spent a night away at Ottery St. Mary with a friend, a visit which was specially prefatory to marriage, and made in reference to bridesmaids’ dresses, Arabella had had—so at least Camilla was made to believe—a secret meeting with Mr Gibson in some of the lanes which lead down from Heavitree to the Topsham road.