The American Senator
26. Give Me Six Months
There was a great deal of trouble and some very genuine sorrow in the attorney's
house at Dillsborough during the first week in December. Mr. Masters had
declared to his wife that Mary should go to Cheltenham and a letter was written
to Lady Ushant accepting the invitation. The twenty pounds too was forthcoming
and the dress and the boots and the hat were bought. But while this was going
on Mrs. Masters took care that there should be no comfort whatever around them
and made every meal a separate curse to the unfortunate lawyer. She told him
ten times a day that she had been a mother to his daughter, but declared that
such a position was no longer possible to her as the girl had been taken
altogether out of her hands. To Mary she hardly spoke at all and made her
thoroughly wish that Lady Ushant's kindness had been declined. "Mamma," she
said one day, "I had rather write now and tell her that I cannot come."
"After all the money has been wasted!"
"I have only got things that I must have had very soon."
"If you have got anything to say you had better talk to your father. I know nothing
"You break my heart when you say that, mamma."
"You think nothing about breaking mine;--or that young man's who is behaving so
well to you. What makes me mad is to see you shilly-shallying with him."
"Mamma, I haven't shilly-shallied."
"That's what I call it. Why can't you speak him fair and tell him you'll have him
and settle yourself down properly? You've got some idea into your silly head that
what you call a gentleman will come after you."
"Mamma, that isn't fair."
"Very well, miss. As your father takes your part of course you can say what you
please to me. I say it is so." Mary knew very well what her another meant and
was safe at least from any allusion to Reginald Morton. There was an idea
prevalent in the house, and not without some cause, that Mr. Surtees the curate
had looked with an eye of favour on Mary Masters. Mr. Surtees was certainly a
gentleman, but his income was strictly limited to the sum of 120 pounds per
annum which he received from Mr. Mainwaring. Now Mrs. Masters disliked
clergymen, disliked gentlemen, and especially disliked poverty; and therefore
was not disposed to look upon Mr. Surtees as an eligible suitor for her
stepdaughter. But as the curate's courtship had hitherto been of the coldest kind
and as it had received no encouragement from the young lady, Mary was
certainly justified in declaring that the allusion was not fair. "What I want to know
is this;--are you prepared to marry Lawrence Twentyman?" To this question, as
Mary could not give a favourable answer, she thought it best to make none at all.
"There is a man as has got a house fit for any woman, and means to keep it; who
can give a young woman everything that she ought to want;--and a handsome
fellow too, with some life in him; one who really dotes on you,--as men don't often