Here Mr. George is much dismayed by the graces and accomplishments of his nieces that are and by the beauty of Rosa, his niece that is to be, and by the affectionate salutations of these young ladies, which he receives in a sort of dream. He is sorely taken aback, too, by the dutiful behaviour of his nephew and has a woeful consciousness upon him of being a scapegrace. However, there is great rejoicing and a very hearty company and infinite enjoyment, and Mr. George comes bluff and martial through it all, and his pledge to be present at the marriage and give away the bride is received with universal favour. A whirling head has Mr. George that night when he lies down in the state-bed of his brother's house to think of all these things and to see the images of his nieces (awful all the evening in their floating muslins) waltzing, after the German manner, over his counterpane.
The brothers are closeted next morning in the ironmaster's room, where the elder is proceeding, in his clear sensible way, to show how he thinks he may best dispose of George in his business, when George squeezes his hand and stops him.
"Brother, I thank you a million times for your more than brotherly welcome, and a million times more to that for your more than brotherly intentions. But my plans are made. Before I say a word as to them, I wish to consult you upon one family point. How," says the trooper, folding his arms and looking with indomitable firmness at his brother, "how is my mother to be got to scratch me?"
"I am not sure that I understand you, George," replies the ironmaster.
"I say, brother, how is my mother to be got to scratch me? She must be got to do it somehow."
"Scratch you out of her will, I think you mean?"
"Of course I do. In short," says the trooper, folding his arms more resolutely yet, "I mean--TO--scratch me!"
"My dear George," returns his brother, "is it so indispensable that you should undergo that process?"
"Quite! Absolutely! I couldn't be guilty of the meanness of coming back without it. I should never be safe not to be off again. I have not sneaked home to rob your children, if not yourself, brother, of your rights. I, who forfeited mine long ago! If I am to remain and hold up my head, I must be scratched. Come. You are a man of celebrated penetration and intelligence, and you can tell me how it's to be brought about."
"I can tell you, George," replies the ironmaster deliberately, "how it is not to be brought about, which I hope may answer the purpose as well. Look at our mother, think of her, recall her emotion when she recovered you. Do you believe there is a consideration in the world that would induce her to take such a step against her favourite son? Do you believe there is any chance of her consent, to balance against the outrage it would be to her (loving dear old lady!) to propose it? If you do, you are wrong. No, George! You must make up your mind to remain UNscratched, I think." There is an amused smile on the ironmaster's face as he watches his brother, who is pondering, deeply disappointed. "I think you may manage almost as well as if the thing were done, though."
"Being bent upon it, you can dispose by will of anything you have the misfortune to inherit in any way you like, you know."
"That's true!" says the trooper, pondering again. Then he wistfully asks, with his hand on his brother's, "Would you mind mentioning that, brother, to your wife and family?"
"Not at all."
"Thank you. You wouldn't object to say, perhaps, that although an undoubted vagabond, I am a vagabond of the harum-scarum order, and not of the mean sort?"
The ironmaster, repressing his amused smile, assents.
"Thank you. Thank you. It's a weight off my mind," says the trooper with a heave of his chest as he unfolds his arms and puts a hand on each leg, "though I had set my heart on being scratched, too!"
The brothers are very like each other, sitting face to face; but a certain massive simplicity and absence of usage in the ways of the world is all on the trooper's side.