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"If Fanny say Yea," exclaimed I, "let it be so—he is not the man to make any woman happy, and much less my sister-in-law."
"I have heard nothing," said Wells, "of what occurred between Fan and him. I merely spoke of his extraordinary conduct, and a determination on my own part not to submit to a line of behaviour which he is by no means entitled to adopt in my house."
I now began to think, from seeing Wells infinitely more excited than I had ever found him, that the quarrel between Fanny and her intended was a "mighty pretty quarrel as it stood," and that however far advanced the negotiations of the high contracting powers actually were, I might even yet have the satisfaction of seeing them frustrated. It must be admitted that the little contre-temps occurring at the moment was somewhat unseasonable, and yet I can scarcely tell why I did not so much dislike it, inasmuch as it presented "a diversion" (in the military sense of the word) from the u Siege of Troubles" by which we were assailed.
When I had enjoyed a Ute-a-tite with Harriet, I found that Fanny's anger as regarded the Lieutenant was by no means ill-founded. He, without principle, either religious or moral, that anybody had ever yet discovered, chose to arraign Wells's conduct in describing—probably without any serious foundation—the circumstances of the examination. He, Merman, not knowing Lucian from Lucretius, and evidently seizing upon a point in conversation of no importance to him, at all events, to make a quarrel. Fanny told her sister that the mode in which the Lieutenant spoke of her father, and his conduct as what he called himself, "a Christian preacher and teacher," was such that it was to her as incomprehensible as it was unbearable— that he had reproached her with her want of fortune; expressed in strong terms the condescension which he had evinced on his part, in returning to her after his disappointment; and in short, conducted himself with so much abruptness, to call it by no other term, that she had resolved to take her own course upon it without communicating the details to her father, whose high spirit, notwithstanding the difference of their ages and professions, might lead him into some extremity with regard to his intended son-in-law, which would be most distressing under all circumstances, and probably disastrous under some.
The facts were these—what the motives to action on the part of Lieutenant Merman might be, remains to be explained—I admit that although I still dwelt upon the one sad and important theme in which our destinies were unquestionably involved, I was not ill-pleased that this little contention had arisen, inasmuch as it naturally occupied Harriet's mind, and held out to me the prospect of getting rid of a connexion with a man the most odious I had ever fallen in with, and the least likely, as I sincerely believed, to make my kind-hearted sister-in-law a happy woman.
Two days rolled on—the Lieutenant did not return—neither did Fanny receive any letter from him; and so far all that part of our family was involved in mystery and surmise; not so we; the morning of the third day from poor Tom's death brought us a letter from Sniggs, who wrote word that he had arrived safely at Montpelier—that he had communicated the sad story to my poor brother Cuthbert, who was so much overcome as to be utterly unable to decide what he should wish to have done. Sniggs added, in a postscript, that he had expressed himself perfectly satisfied with his care and attention, and that of Mrs. Sniggs, towards the innocent sufferer; but regretted that when I knew the dear child was on the point of death, I had not gone to catch the last wishes of his life from his dying lips, and that Mrs. BrandyIrall had said, sobbingly, "It was most extraordinary how anybody so nearly connected with the dear boy could have abstained from visiting him in his illness."
"Monstrous!" I exclaimed to myself. "The woman knew that one visit might have been as fatal as his constant occupation of his room at Ashmead—that the existence of my first, my only infant, depended upon care and cautipn: and what she did not know, perhaps, was, that up to the moment when I abruptly heard of his death, I was led on by the flattering representation of Sniggs to look for his recovery. These are the things that sting one to the heart—misrepresentations, which one has no means of correcting—falsehoods, which one has no opportunity of controverting. Sniggs said the way in which Mrs. Brandyball was affected was something quite maternal, and added, "If you could only see, my dear Sir, the devoted attention of this excellent lady to your dear brother, you would feel inclined to worship her."
This from Sniggs !—" Et tu, Brute !"—and after what he had hinted—not to me, but to Wells. This was indeed
"the most unkindest cut of all!"
But it was perhaps natural—he was playing his game with Cuthbert—expatiating on his carefulness, and watchfulness, and constant superintendence. If Mrs. Brandyball had occupied poor