But, oh mamma,’ said Gillian, feeling as if the thorn in her thoughts must be extracted, ‘are you sure it is not all her beauty?’
’Her beauty, no doubt, began it, and gratifies the artist eye; but I am sure his perseverance is due to appreciation of her noble character,’ said Lady Merrifield.
’Oh, mamma, would he if she had been ever so good, and no prettier than other people?’
’Don’t pick motives so, my child; her beauty helps to make up the sum and substance of his adoration, and she would not have the countenance she has without the goodness. Let that satisfy you.’
The wedding was imminent by this time. The sisters returned from London, the younger looking brilliant and in unusual health, and the elder fagged and weary. Shopping, or rather looking on at shopping, had been a far more wearying occupation than all the schools and districts in Rockquay afforded.
And besides the being left alone, there was the need of considering her future. The family had certainly expected that a rich and open-handed man like Mr. White would bethink him that half what was sufficient for two was not enough for one to live in the same style, and would have resigned his bride’s fortune to her sister, but, as a rule, he never did what was expected of him, and he had, perhaps, been somewhat annoyed by Mr. Mohun’s pertinacity about settlements, showing a certain distrust of commercial wealth. At any rate, all he did was to insist on paying handsomely for Maura’s board; but still Miss Mohun believed she should have to give up the pretty house built by themselves, and go into smaller quarters, more especially as it was universally agreed that Adeline must have Mrs. Mount with her, and Mrs. Mount would certainly be miserable in ‘foreign parts’ unless her daughter went with her. It was demonstrated that the remaining means would just suffice to keep up Beechcroft; but Jane knew that it could be only done at the cost of her subscriptions and charities, and she merely undertook to take no measures till winter—–the Rockquay season.
Sir Jasper, who thought she behaved exceedingly well about it, authorised an earnest invitation to make her home at Clipston; but though she was much gratified, she knew she should be in his way, and, perhaps, in that of the boys, and it was too far from the work to which she meant to devote herself even more completely, when it would be no longer needful to be companionable to a semi-invalid fond of society.
However, just then her brother, the Colonel, came at last for his long leave. He knew that his retirement was only a matter of months, and declared his intention of joining forces with her, if she would have him, and, in the meantime, he was desirous of contributing his full share in keeping up the home. Nor did Jane feel it selfish to accept his offer, for she knew that Clipston would give him congenial society and shooting, and that there was plenty of useful layman work for him in the town; and that ‘old Reggie’ should wish to set up his staff with her raised her spirits, so that cheerfulness was no longer an effort.