You are going to tell me'--
'Plainly this, then,' said the son, with an air of great concern, 'that I know where you were last night--from being on the spot, indeed--and whom you saw, and what your purpose was.'
'You don't say so!' cried his father. 'I am delighted to hear it. It saves us the worry, and terrible wear and tear of a long explanation, and is a great relief for both. At the very house! Why didn't you come up? I should have been charmed to see you.'
'I knew that what I had to say would be better said after a night's reflection, when both of us were cool,' returned the son.
''Fore Gad, Ned,' rejoined the father, 'I was cool enough last night. That detestable Maypole! By some infernal contrivance of the builder, it holds the wind, and keeps it fresh. You remember the sharp east wind that blew so hard five weeks ago? I give you my honour it was rampant in that old house last night, though out of doors there was a dead calm. But you were saying'--
'I was about to say, Heaven knows how seriously and earnestly, that you have made me wretched, sir. Will you hear me gravely for a moment?'
'My dear Ned,' said his father, 'I will hear you with the patience of an anchorite. Oblige me with the milk.'
'I saw Miss Haredale last night,' Edward resumed, when he had complied with this request; 'her uncle, in her presence, immediately after your interview, and, as of course I know, in consequence of it, forbade me the house, and, with circumstances of indignity which are of your creation I am sure, commanded me to leave it on the instant.'
'For his manner of doing so, I give you my honour, Ned, I am not accountable,' said his father. 'That you must excuse. He is a mere boor, a log, a brute, with no address in life.--Positively a fly in the jug. The first I have seen this year.'
Edward rose, and paced the room. His imperturbable parent sipped his tea.
'Father,' said the young man, stopping at length before him, 'we must not trifle in this matter. We must not deceive each other, or ourselves. Let me pursue the manly open part I wish to take, and do not repel me by this unkind indifference.'
'Whether I am indifferent or no,' returned the other, 'I leave you, my dear boy, to judge. A ride of twenty-five or thirty miles, through miry roads--a Maypole dinner--a tete-a-tete with Haredale, which, vanity apart, was quite a Valentine and Orson business--a Maypole bed--a Maypole landlord, and a Maypole retinue of idiots and centaurs;--whether the voluntary endurance of these things looks like indifference, dear Ned, or like the excessive anxiety, and devotion, and all that sort of thing, of a parent, you shall determine for yourself.'
'I wish you to consider, sir,' said Edward, 'in what a cruel situation I am placed. Loving Miss Haredale as I do'--
'My dear fellow,' interrupted his father with a compassionate smile, 'you do nothing of the kind. You don't know anything about it. There's no such thing, I assure you. Now, do take my word for it. You have good sense, Ned,--great good sense. I wonder you should be guilty of such amazing absurdities. You really surprise me.'
'I repeat,' said his son firmly, 'that I love her. You have interposed to part us, and have, to the extent I have just now told you of, succeeded. May I induce you, sir, in time, to think more favourably of our attachment, or is it your intention and your fixed design to hold us asunder if you can?'
'My dear Ned,' returned his father, taking a pinch of snuff and pushing his box towards him, 'that is my purpose most undoubtedly.'
'The time that has elapsed,' rejoined his son, 'since I began to know her worth, has flown in such a dream that until now I have hardly once paused to reflect upon my true position. What is it? From my childhood I have been accustomed to luxury and idleness, and have been bred as though my fortune were large, and my expectations almost without a limit. The idea of wealth has been familiarised to me from my cradle. I have been taught to look upon those means, by which men raise themselves to riches and distinction, as being beyond my heeding, and beneath my care.