‘Of course I remember that it might have been mine,’ she said, sitting with him under an old, hollow, withered sloping stump of an oak, which still, however, had sufficient of a head growing from one edge of the trunk to give them the shade they wanted; ’and if you wish me to own to regrets I will.’
’It would kill me, I think, if you did; and yet I cannot get it out of my head that if it had not been for me your rank and position in life might have been so so suitable to you.’
’No, Hugh; there you’re wrong. I have thought about it a good deal, too; and I know very well that the cold beef-steak in the cupboard is the thing for me. Caroline will do very well here. She looks like a peeress, and bears her honours grandly; but they will never harden her. I, too, could have been magnificent with fine feathers. Most birds are equal to so much as that. I fancy that I could have looked the part of the fine English lady, and could have patronised clergymen’s wives in the country, could have held my own among my peers in London, and could have kept Mrs Crutch in order; but it would have hardened me, and I should have learned to think that to be a lady of fashion was everything.’
‘I do not believe a bit of it.’
’It is better as it is, Hugh for me at least. I had always a sort of conviction that it would be better, though I had a longing to play the other part. Then you came, and you have saved me. Nevertheless, it is very nice, Hugh, to have the oaks to sit under.’ Stanbury declared that it was very nice.
But still nothing was settled about the wedding. Trevelyan’s condition was so uncertain that it was very difficult to settle anything. Though nothing was said on the subject between Stanbury and Mrs Trevelyan, and nothing written between Nora and her sister, it could not but be remembered that should Trevelyan die, his widow would require a home with them. They were deterred from choosing a house by this reflection, and were deterred from naming a day also by the consideration that were they to do so, Trevelyan’s state might still probably prevent it. But this was arranged, that if Trevelyan lived through the winter, or even if he should not live, their marriage should not be postponed beyond the end of March. Till that time Lord Peterborough would remain at Monkhams, and it was understood that Nora’s invitation extended to that period.
‘If my wife does not get tired of you, I shall not,’ Lord Peterborough said to Nora. ’The thing is that when you do go we shall miss you so terribly.’ In September, too, there happened another event which took Stanbury to Exeter, and all needful particulars as to that event shall be narrated in the next chapter.
MRS BROOKE BURGESS