The First Blue-stocking

Miss Keeldar and her uncle had characters that would not harmonize—that never had harmonized. He was irritable, and she was spirited; he was despotic, and she liked freedom; he was worldly, and she, perhaps, romantic.

Not without purpose had he come down to Yorkshire; his mission was clear, and he intended to discharge it conscientiously: he anxiously desired to have his niece married; to make for her a suitable match; give her in charge to a proper husband, and wash his hands of her for ever.

The misfortune was, from infancy upwards, Shirley and he had disagreed on the meaning of the words ‘suitable’ and ‘proper.’ She never yet had accepted his definition, and it was doubtful whether, in the most important step of her life, she would consent to accept it.

The trial soon came.

Mr. Wynne proposed in form for his son, Samuel Fawthrop Wynne.

‘Decidedly suitable! Most proper!’ pronounced Mr. Sympson. ‘A fine unencumbered estate; real substance; good connections. It must be done!’

He sent for his niece to the oak parlour; he shut himself up there with her alone; he communicated the offer; he gave his opinion; he claimed her consent.

It was withheld.

‘No; I shall not marry Samuel Fawthrop Wynne.’

‘I ask why? I must have a reason. In all respects he is more than worthy of you.’

She stood on the hearth; she was pale as the white marble slab and cornice behind her; her eyes flashed large, dilated, unsmiling.

‘And I ask in what sense that young man is worthy of me?’

‘He has twice your money, twice your commonsense, equal connections, equal respectability.’

‘Had he my money counted five-score times I would take no vow to love him.’

‘Please to state your objections.’

‘He has run a course of despicable, commonplace profligacy. Accept that as the first reason why I spurn him.’

‘Miss Keeldar, you shock me!’

‘That conduct alone sinks him in a gulf of immeasurable inferiority. His intellect reaches no standard I can esteem; there is a second stumbling-block. His views are narrow; his feelings are blunt; his tastes are coarse; his manners vulgar.’

‘The man is a respectable, wealthy man. To refuse him is presumption on your part.’

‘I refuse point-blank. Cease to annoy me with the subject; I forbid it!’

‘Is it your intention ever to marry, or do you prefer celibacy?’

‘I deny your right to claim an answer to that question.’

‘May I ask if you expect some man of title—some peer of the realm—to demand your hand?’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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