The Stanhopes at Home

We must now return to the Stanhopes, and see how they behaved themselves on their return from Ullathorne.

Charlotte, who came back in the first homeward journey with her sister, waited in palpitating expectation till the carriage drove up to the door a second time. She did not run down or stand at the window, or show in any outward manner that she looked for anything wonderful to occur; but, when she heard the carriage–wheels, she stood up with erect ears, listening for Eleanor’s footfall on the pavement or the cheery sound of Bertie’s voice welcoming her in. Had she heard either, she would have felt that all was right; but neither sound was there for her to hear. She heard only her father’s slow step, as he ponderously let himself down from the carriage, and slowly walked along the hall, till he got into his own private room on the ground floor. ‘Send Miss Stanhope to me,’ he said to the servant.

‘There’s something wrong now,’ said Madeline, who was lying on her sofa in the back drawing–room.

‘It’s all up with Bertie,’ replied Charlotte. ‘I know, I know,’ she said to the servant, as he brought up the message. ‘Tell my father I will be with him immediately.’

‘Bertie’s wooing gone astray,’ said Madeline. ‘I knew it would.’

‘It has been his own fault then. She was ready enough. I am quite sure,’ said Charlotte, with that sort of ill–nature which is not uncommon when one woman speaks of another.

‘What will you say to him now?’ By ‘him’ the signora meant their father.

‘That will be as I find him. He was ready to pay two hundred pounds for Bertie, to stave off the worst of his creditors, if this marriage had gone on. Bertie must now have the money instead, and go and take his chances.’

‘Where is he now?’

‘Heaven knows! Smoking at the bottom of Mr Thorne’s ha–ha, or philandering with some of those Miss Chadwicks. Nothing will ever make an impression on him. But he’ll be furious if I don’t go down.’

‘No; nothing ever will. But don’t be long, Charlotte, for I want my tea.’

And so Charlotte went down to her father. There was a very black cloud on the old man’s brow; blacker than his daughter could ever remember to have seen there. He was sitting in his own arm–chair, not comfortably over the fire, but in the middle of the room, waiting till she should come and listen to him.

‘What has become of your brother?’ he said, as soon as the door was shut.

‘I should rather ask you,’ said Charlotte. ‘I left you both at Ullathorne, when I came away. What have you done with Mrs Bold?’

‘Mrs Bold! nonsense. The woman has gone home as she ought to do. And heartily glad I am that she should not be sacrificed to so heartless a reprobate.’

‘Oh, papa!’

‘A heartless reprobate! Tell me now where he is, and what he is going to do. I have allowed myself to be fooled between you. Marriage indeed! Who on earth that has money, or credit, or respect in the world to lose, would marry him?’

‘It is no use your scolding me, papa. I have done the best I could for him and you.’

‘And Madeline is nearly as bad,’ said the prebendary, who was in truth, very, very angry.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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