The American Senator HTML version
II.3. At Cheltenham
The month at Cheltenham was passed very quietly and would have been a very happy
month with Mary Masters but that there grew upon her from day to day increasing fears
of what she would have to undergo when she returned to Dillsborough. At the moment
when she was hesitating with Larry Twentyman, when she begged him to wait six
months and then at last promised to give him an answer at the end of two, she had
worked herself up to think that it might possibly be her duty to accept her lover for the
sake of her family. At any rate she had at that moment thought that the question of duty
ought to be further considered, and therefore she had vacillated. When the two months'
delay was accorded to her, and within that period the privilege of a long absence from
Dillsborough, she put the trouble aside for a while with the common feeling that the
chapter of accidents might do something for her. Before she had reached Cheltenham the
chapter of accidents had done much. When Reginald Morton told her that he could not
have congratulated her on such prospects, and had explained to her why in truth he had
been angry at the bridge,--how he had been anxious to be alone with her that he might
learn whether she were really engaged to this man,--then she had known that her answer
to Larry Twentyman at the end of the two months must be a positive refusal.
But as she became aware of this a new trouble arose and harassed her very soul. When
she had asked for the six months she had not at the moment been aware, she had not then
felt, that a girl who asks for time is supposed to have already surrendered. But since she
had made that unhappy request the conviction had grown upon her. She had read it in
every word her stepmother said to her and in her father's manner. The very winks and
hints and little jokes which fell from her younger sisters told her that it was so. She could
see around her the satisfaction which had come from the settlement of that difficult
question,--a satisfaction which was perhaps more apparent with her father than even with
the others. Then she knew what she had done, and remembered to have heard that a girl
who expresses a doubt is supposed to have gone beyond doubting. While she was still at
Dillsborough there was a feeling that no evil would arise from this if she could at last
make up her mind to be Mrs. Twentyman; but when the settled conviction came upon
her, after hearing Reginald Morton's words, then she was much troubled.
He stayed only a couple of days at Cheltenham and during that time said very little to her.
He certainly spoke no word which would give her a right to think that he himself was
attached to her. He had been interested about her, as was his aunt, Lady Ushant, because
she had been known and her mother had been known by the old Mortons. But there was
nothing of love in all that. She had never supposed that there would be; and yet there was
a vague feeling in her bosom that as he had been strong in expressing his objection to Mr.
Twentyman there might have been something more to stir him than the memory of those
old days at Bragton!