Mericour looked terribly disconcerted at this.
‘Moreover,’ added the knight, ’they will all be at me, so soon as those poor lads come home—Heaven grant they do—to give her to Berenger.’
‘Sir,’ said Mericour, looking up with a sudden smile, ’all that I would ask is, what you are too good a father to do, that you would not put any force on her inclinations.’
‘How now? you said you had never courted her!’
’Nor have I, sir. But I see the force of your words. Should she love another man, my dream were, of course, utterly vain, but if not—–’ He broke off.
’Well, well, I am no man to force a girl to a match against her will; but never trust to that, man. I know what women are; and let a fantastic stranger come across them, there’s an end of old friends. But yours is an honest purpose, and you are a good youth; and if you had anything to keep her with, you should have Lucy to-morrow, with all my heart.’
Then came the further question whether Mericour should be allowed an interview with Lucy. Sir Marmaduke was simple enough to fancy that she need not be made aware of the cause of Mericour’s new arrangement, and decided against it. The young man sorrowfully acquiesced, but whether such a secret could be kept was another thing. To him it would have been impossible to renew their former terms of intercourse without betraying his feelings, and he therefore absented himself. Lady Thistlewood triumphed openly in Sir Marmaduke’s having found him out and banished him from the house; Lucy looked white and shed silent tears. Her father’s soft heart was moved, and one Sunday evening he whispered into her ear that Dame Nan was all wrong, and Mericour only kept away because he was an honourable man. Then Lucy smiled and brightened, and Sir Duke fondly asked her if she were fool enough to fancy herself in love with the man.
’Oh no, how should she, when he had never named love to her? She was only glad her father esteemed him.’
So then foolish, fond Sir Marmaduke told her all that had passed, and if it had not been too late, he would have sent for Mericour from Lady Burnet’s; but his own story did almost as well in bringing back Lucy’s soft pink color. She crept up into Cecily’s room one day, and found that she knew all about it, and was as kind and sympathizing as she could be—when a vocation had been given up, though no vows had been taken. She did not quite understand it, but she would take it on trust.
O ye, wha are sae guid yourself,
Sae pious and sae holy,
Ye’ve naught to do but mark and tell
Your neebour’s fauts and folly.—BURNS