Margaret Oliphant, The Perpetual Curate: Ch. 44

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Chapter XLIV


"Going to be married!" said the Squire; "and to a sister of—I thought you told me she was as old as Dora, Frank? I did not expect to meet with any further complications," the old man said, plaintively: "of course you know very well I don't object to your marrying; but why on earth did you let me speak of Wentworth Rectory to Huxtable?" cried Mr Wentworth. He was almost more impatient about this new variety in the family circumstances than he had been of more serious family distresses. "God bless me, sir," said the Squire, "what do you mean by it? You take means to affront your aunts and lose Skelmersdale; and then you put it into my head to have Mary at Wentworth; and then you quarrel with the Rector, and get into hot water in Carlingford; and, to make an end of all, you coolly propose to an innocent young woman, and tell me you are going to marry—what on earth do you mean?"

"I am going to marry some time, sir, I hope," said the Perpetual Curate, with more cheerfulness than he felt; "but not at the present moment. Of course we both know that is impossible. I should like you to come with me and see her before you leave Carlingford. She would like it, and so should I."

"Well, well," said the Squire. Naturally, having been married so often himself, he could not refuse a certain response to such a call upon his sympathy. "I hope you have made a wise choice," said the experienced father, not without a sigh; "a great deal depends upon that—not only your own comfort, sir, but very often the character of your children and the credit of the family. You may laugh," said Mr Wentworth, to whom it was no laughing matter; "but long before you are as old as I am, you will know the truth of what I say. Your mother, Frank, was a specimen of what a woman ought to be—not to speak of her own children, there was nobody else who ever knew how to manage Gerald and Jack. Of course I am not speaking of Mrs Wentworth, who has her nursery to occupy her," said the Squire, apologetically. "I hope you have made a judicious choice."

"I hope so, too," said Frank, who was somewhat amused by this view of the question—"though I am not aware of having exercised any special choice in the matter," he added, with a laugh. "However, I want you to come with me and see her, and then you will be able to judge for yourself."

The Squire shook his head, and looked as if he had travelled back into the heavy roll of family distresses. "I don't mean to upbraid you, Frank," he said—"I daresay you have done what you thought was your duty—but I think you might have taken a little pains to satisfy your aunt Leonora. You see what Gerald has made of it, with all his decorations and nonsense. That is a dreadful drawback with you clergymen. You fix your eyes so on one point that you get to think things important that are not in the least important. Could you imagine a man of the world like Jack—he is not what I could wish, but still he is a man of the world," said the Squire, who was capable of contradicting himself with perfect composure without knowing it. "Can you imagine him risking his prospects for a bit of external decoration? I don't mind it myself," said Mr Wentworth, impartially—"I don't pretend to see, for my own part, why flowers at Easter should be considered more superstitious than holly at Christmas; but, bless my soul, sir, when your aunt thought so, what was the good of running right in her face for such a trifle? I never could understand you parsons," the Squire said, with an impatient sigh—"nobody, that I know of, ever considered me mercenary; but to ruin your own prospects, all for a trumpery bunch of flowers, and then to come and tell me you want to marry—"