The American Senator
17. Lord Rufford's Invitation
On that same Wednesday afternoon when Morton returned with the ladies in the
carriage he found that a mounted servant had arrived from Rufford Hall with a
letter and had been instructed to wait for an answer. The man was now
refreshing himself in the servants' hall. Morton, when he had read the letter,
found that it required some consideration before he could answer it. It was to the
following purport. Lord Rufford had a party of ladies and gentlemen at Rufford
Hall, as his sister, Lady Penwether, was staying with him. Would Mr. Morton and
his guests come over to Rufford Hall on Monday and stay till Wednesday? On
Tuesday there was to be a dance for the people of the neighbourhood. Then he
specified, as the guests invited, Lady Augustus and her daughter and Mr.
Gotobed,-- omitting the honourable Mrs. Morton of whose sojourn in the county
he might have been ignorant. His Lordship went on to say that he trusted the
abruptness of the invitation might be excused on account of the nearness of their
neighbourhood and the old friendship which had existed between their families.
He had had, he said, the pleasure of being acquainted with Lady Augustus and
her daughter in London and would be proud to see Mr. Gotobed at his house
during his sojourn in the county. Then he added in a postscript that the hounds
met at Rufford Hall on Tuesday and that he had a horse that carried a lady well if
Miss Trefoil would like to ride him. He could also put up a horse for Mr. Morton.
This was all very civil, but there was something in it that was almost too civil.
There came upon Morton a suspicion, which he did not even define to himself,
that the invitation was due to Arabella's charms. There were many reasons why
he did not wish to accept it. His grandmother was left out and he feared that she
would be angry. He did not feel inclined to take the American Senator to the
lord's house, knowing as he did that the American Senator was interfering in a
ridiculous manner on behalf of Goarly. And he did not particularly wish to be
present at Rufford Hall with the Trefoil ladies. Hitherto he had received very little
satisfaction from their visit to Bragton,--so little that he had been more than once
on the verge of asking Arabella whether she wished to be relieved from her
engagement. She had never quite given him the opportunity. She had always
been gracious to him in a cold, disagreeable, glassy manner,--in a manner that
irked his spirit but still did not justify him in expressing anger. Lady Augustus was
almost uncivil to him, and from time to time said little things which were hard to
bear; but he was not going to marry Lady Augustus, and could revenge himself
against her by resolving in his own breast that he would have as little as possible
to do with her after his marriage., That was the condition of his mind towards
them, and in that condition he did not want to take them to Lord Rufford's house.
Their visit to him would be over on Monday, and it would he thought be better for
him that they should then go on their way to the Gores as they had proposed.
But he did not like to answer the letter by a refusal without saying a word to his
guests on the subject. He would not object to ignore the Senator, but he was
afraid that if nothing were to be said to Arabella she would hear of it hereafter