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must have foreseen the probable consequences of his hospitality.
Oddly enough, Lord Lannowe had not foreseen them in the least. The Duchess of Leith, acting upon Colonel Gervase's advice, had refrained from nudging him, and it was not in his easy-going, optimistic character to anticipate vexatious occurrences. When, therefore, he returned home in the evening, his daughter's timid, smiling announcement simply knocked all the breath out of his body. Such, at least, was the description that he gave of its effect upon him.
"But—but this is serious, you know!” he proceeded to gasp out; "this is a thing which concerns your whole future life! Do you mean to tell me that that solemn youth–I don't blame him for being solemn, mind you, still solemn he is, and one hardly expects such-such precipitate steps from him-do you mean to tell me that he has fallen in love with you ?"
"He says so," answered Monica, colouring and looking a good deal alarmed.
“Well, well! one ought not to be astonished, I suppose, although one is astonished.
But that point, after all, is of secondary importance. Am I really to understand that you have lost your heart to him, Monnie?"
Poor Monica's colour deepened to an extent which ceased to be becoming and the tears rose into her eyes. Properly brought-up and right-thinking young women do not, of course, lose their hearts before they are married ; or, at any rate, should they have the misfortune to do so, they keep their discreditable secret to themselves.
“I did tell him that he ought to go to you," she faltered, leaving the question unanswered.
"Oh, he'll come to me, no doubt,” returned Lord
Lannowe, with a laugh, followed by a groan. And then, pulling his short, white beard, “You see, my child, the trouble is that young Scarth is not-well, that there are palpable objections to him. I think also that there are objections to your fate being decided at your very early age. Why are you in such a desperate hurry to leave me?"
Monica was not at all in a hurry to leave her father and her home. This she declared with an emphasis which bore every impress of sincerity, dutifully adding that if there were objections to Mr. Scarth, she would think no more about him. On being further pressed, however, she owned that she would rather marry Nigel than anybody whom she had yet seen.
“But perhaps, if you were to wait a little longer, you might see somebody else,” her father suggested.
She shook her head. “I saw many men in London, and I did not like any of them, except Colonel Gervase.”
“H'm! I wonder what Frances and Georgie would say to this !” murmured Lord Lannowe, thinking aloud.
“I am sure Frances would approve," said the girl eagerly ; "she almost told me that she would."
“She did, eh? Then I strongly suspect that she must have neglected to inform herself of all the circumstances. Don't look so penitent, Monnie; you haven't done anything wrong, and I should forgive you if you had; I have made one or two mistakes myself in the course of my career. Still, I mustn't make the mistake of acting hurriedly in this case. I'll talk it over with Nolan and hear what he has to say. For the present, my dear, you must leave the matter in my hands, and try not to be disappointed, whatever the final decision
If Monica was both disappointed and surprised, she did not look so. Her first duty, she conceived, was to her father, and it would never have occurred to her to rebel against any pronouncement of his. Perhaps, too, she counted a little upon the support of Monsignor Nolan, who indeed, when consulted, after dinner that evening, by Lord Lannowe, gave it as his opinion that Miss Ferrand might easily do worse.
“The young fellow is a very good young fellow," he remarked, “and will be a great deal better when once he is married. Marriage, in fact, is what he wants to steady him. Not that I'm saying anything against his moral character ; but-"
“Yes, yes,” interrupted Lord Lannowe impatiently ; “I daresay it would do him a lot of good to be married. Still, I don't know that I am bound to study his soul's welfare to the extent of sacrificing my daughter to him. What security have I against his dying young? And even if he lives to be old, what sort of provision will he be able to make for his widow and a dozen children?"
Monsignor Nolan had thought of that, it seemed, and was in possession of facts and figures which he stated. Nigel Scarth would be able to make what might be called very handsome settlements, and the circumstances were, of course, such as to justify a demand for settlements unusually handsome. For the rest, although his widow probably would not be a very rich woman, there was no reason to apprehend that she would be a poor one.
"I don't see where the deuce the settlements are to come from," said Lord Lannowe.
“ I'd be sorry to swear that old Tom meant them to come out of a big lump of money that he left on deposit at the bank ; but there the money is, and our young friend pockets it under the will. So I'm informed."
Lord Lannowe observed that that would have to be verified. “Assuming that your information is correct, it removes an obstacle, no doubt; others remain, though. Monica is a mere child, you know."
"She is," Monsignor Nolan agreed, taking snuff; “ but don't you think children know what they wish quite as clearly as their elders ? "
“Oh, at a given moment, yes. But they don't know what they will wish a twelvemonth later."
"Nor do grown-up people; every marriage is a leap in the dark. All the same, I see no reason why you shouldn't tell her that, since she is so young, she must wait another year. That would be a measure of precaution against which neither of them could fairly rebel, and—it would be a sort of protection for them both.”
Lord Lannowe jumped at the suggestion. “I think I'll do that,” said he. “Provided that it is all right about the money, I believe that would be the best thing to do. But why do you say that it would be a protection for them?"
Well," answered the other, after taking a second pinch of snuff, “you'll be having the Duchess and Lady Bracebridge here during the summer, I take it, and they'll be provided with candidates of their own as likely as not. Miss Monica is so biddable that there's no saying what she wouldn't consent to if she were bothered, and a provisional engagement would make her feel firmer on her feet. Then as to young Scarth- but you aren't interested in young Scarth."
" It looks as if I had got to be interested in himconfound him!"
"Maybe you'll understand, then, what I was going to say a while ago—that, although he's a decent lad, he has an impulsive, excitable temperament which exposes him to various temptations. I'd like to see him married tomorrow; but, as that can't be, an engagement is the next best thing."
“What do you mean by temptations ?” asked Lord Lannowe suspiciously. "If you are keeping anything back from me, it isn't fair.”
“I'm keeping nothing back, my lord," answered Monsignor Nolan, laughing ; " but I'm a priest and an old priest, and if I didn't know a little about human nature by this time I'd be an old fool into the bargain. Don't be afraid for your daughter, or for your future son-in-law either ; I only wanted to give you all the good excuses I could think of for making two lovers happy."
Lord Lannowe was not sure that love-marriages always turned out happily; whereas his own family furnished instances which seemed to show that a marriage with which love has nothing to do may prove a quite satisfactory success. At the bottom of his heart, however, he had always felt some shame and compunction with regard to the alliances which his wife had arranged, and he certainly did not wish his little Monnie to follow in her sisters' footsteps. If, then, she had really become enamoured of this black-browed youth, she must have her way, he supposed ; only he was a little annoyed with the black-browed youth for hastening a day which had seemed to be comfortably remote, as well as with himself for having failed to detect what had been apparent to Monsignor Nolan.
Nigel, therefore, was received with a good deal less geniality than he had anticipated the next morning. Lord Lannowe was too kind-hearted to be downright rude; but he went rather near being so when he said :
"The fact is, Scarth, that you are no catch. I am sure my married daughters would tell you so—or rather I am sure they will tell me so. Then again, Monica is really much too young to know her own mind yet. You