‘I quite agree with you. I am so much obliged to you,’ said Lady Carbury, who was now determined that Felix should run off with the girl. ‘You have been so very kind.’ Then again she gave him her hand, as though to bid him farewell for the night.
‘And now,’ he said, ‘I also have something to say to you.’
‘And now I have something to say to you.’ Mr Broune as he thus spoke to Lady Carbury rose up to his feet and then sat down again. There was an air of perturbation about him which was very manifest to the lady, and the cause and coming result of which she thought that she understood. ’The susceptible old goose is going to do something highly ridiculous and very disagreeable.’ It was thus that she spoke to herself of the scene that she saw was prepared for her, but she did not foresee accurately the shape in which the susceptibility of the ‘old goose’ would declare itself. ‘Lady Carbury,’ said Mr Broune, standing up a second time, ’we are neither of us so young as we used to be.’
’No, indeed;—and therefore it is that we can afford to ourselves the luxury of being friends. Nothing but age enables men and women to know each other intimately.’
This speech was a great impediment to Mr Broune’s progress. It was evidently intended to imply that he at least had reached a time of life at which any allusion to love would be absurd. And yet, as a fact, he was nearer fifty than sixty, was young of his age, could walk his four or five miles pleasantly, could ride his cob in the park with as free an air as any man of forty, and could afterwards work through four or five hours of the night with an easy steadiness which nothing but sound health could produce. Mr Broune, thinking of himself and his own circumstances, could see no reason why he should not be in love. ‘I hope we know each other intimately at any rate,’ he said somewhat lamely.
’Oh, yes;—and it is for that reason that I have come to you for advice. Had I been a young woman I should not have dared to ask you.’
’I don’t see that. I don’t quite understand that. But it has nothing to do with my present purpose. When I said that we were neither of us so young as we once were, I uttered what was a stupid platitude,—a foolish truism.’
‘I do not think so,’ said Lady Carbury smiling.
‘Or would have been, only that I intended something further.’ Mr Broune had got himself into a difficulty and hardly knew how to get out of it. ’I was going on to say that I hoped we were not too old to—love.’