‘Why don’t you go to Mr Gibson yourself, mamma?’
But nothing was said to Camilla about Mr Crump—nothing as yet. Camilla did not love Mr Crump, but there was no other house except that of Mr Crump’s at Gloucester to which she might be sent, if it could be arranged that Mr Gibson and Bella should be made one. Mrs French took her eldest daughter’s advice, and went to Mr Gibson, taking Mr Crump’s letter in her pocket. For herself she wanted nothing, but was it not the duty of her whole life to fight for her daughters? Poor woman! If somebody would only have taught her how that duty might best be done, she would have endeavoured to obey the teaching. ’You know I do not want to threaten you,’ she said to Mr Gibson; ’but you see what my brother says. Of course I wrote to my brother. What could a poor woman do in such circumstances except write to her brother?’
’If you choose to set the bloodhounds of the law at me, of course you can,’ said Mr Gibson.
‘I do not want to go to law at all God; knows I do not!’ said Mrs French. Then there was a pause. ‘Poor dear Bella!’ ejaculated Mrs French.
‘Dear Bella!’ echoed Mr Gibson.
‘What do you mean to do about Bella?’ asked Mrs French.
’I sometimes think that I had better take poison and have done with it!’ said Mr Gibson, feeling himself to be very hard pressed.
Mr Crump arrived at Exeter. Camilla was not told of his coming till the morning of the day on which he arrived; and then the tidings were communicated, because it was necessary that a change should be made in the bed-rooms. She and her sister had separate rooms when there was no visitor with them, but now Mr Crump must be accommodated. There was a long consultation between Bella and Mrs French, but at last it was decided that Bella should sleep with her mother. There would still be too much of the lioness about Camilla to allow of her being regarded as a safe companion through the watches of the night. ’Why is Uncle Jonas coming now?’ she asked.
‘I thought it better to ask him,’ said Mrs French.
After a long pause, Camilla asked another question. ’Does Uncle Jonas mean to see Mr Gibson?’
‘I suppose he will,’ said Mrs French.
’Then he will see a low, mean fellow: the lowest, meanest fellow that ever was heard of! But that won’t make much difference to Uncle Jonas. I wouldn’t have him now, if he was to ask me ever so, that I wouldn’t!’
Mr Crump came, and kissed his sister and two nieces. The embrace with Camilla was not very affectionate.’so your Joe has been and jilted you?’ said Uncle Jonas ’it’s like one of them clergymen. They say so many prayers, they think they may do almost anything afterwards. Another man would have had his head punched.’