"I am sure no one can complain of your actions, Kate, whatever your opinions may be," replied Charlie; and whatever might have been his estimate of Clapp's views, he forbore to utter a syllable on the subject; for he respected the wife's affection, and knew that his brother-in-law had at least one good quality--he was kind and faithful as a husband and father, according to common-place ideas of faithfulness at least; for he would any day risk their character and peace, to make a little money.
The conversation of the young people soon turned upon their trifling, foolish, unfortunate cousin, Mrs. Hilson; and this was a subject, upon which both brother and sister agreed entirely.
Before long, they drove up to Mr. Clapp's door, and were received by the lawyer himself, who had just returned with his client; this latter individual was also seen lounging in the office. Mr. Clapp professed himself entirely satisfied with the result of his journey; and declared that they were now quite ready for Mr. Hazlehurst--sure of a victory, beyond all doubt.
The time had not been lost by Harry and his friends, however; they too, thought themselves ready for the trial. As the important day was drawing near, Mr. Ellsworth was obliged to leave Wyllys-Roof; he had done all he could at Longbridge, and there were still various matters to be looked after in Philadelphia. Mrs. Creighton accompanied her brother, and they were not to return to Wyllys-Roof until after the important question was decided. Hazlehurst was then to come with them; whether defeated or triumphant could not yet be known. Harry's friends, however, were generally sanguine; and Mrs. Creighton was full of sympathy, and in excellent spirits.
There remained another affair, which must also be finally settled in a few weeks. When Mr. Ellsworth returned to Wyllys-Roof, the appointed three months of probation would have expired, and he would either remain there as the affianced husband of Elinor, or leave Longbridge her rejected suitor.
During the past three months, Elinor had taken an important step in life; she had reached a point in experience, where she had never stood before. The whole responsibility of deciding upon a subject, highly important to herself, and to those connected with her, had been thrown entirely upon her alone. The fate of her whole life would be much involved in the present decision. During the last two or three years, or in other words, since she had first discovered that Harry loved Jane, she had intended to remain single. It seemed very improbable to her, that any one would seek to gain her affections, unless with the view of enjoying the fortune which she had now the reputation of possessing; it was only natural that she should exaggerate those personal disadvantages, which had lost the heart of him whom she had once loved so truly. She had been so much attached to Hazlehurst, that she shrunk from the idea of ever becoming the wife of another; and she considered herself as having tacitly made choice of a single life, which her mother's letter seemed to suggest. But as she never spoke of her views, or alluded to them, her grandfather and aunt were ignorant of this intention; and she soon began to observe with regret that they wished her to marry, and were indeed anxious that she should accept Mr. Ellsworth.
This was the first occasion of any importance, on which their wishes and her own had been at variance; it was a new position for Elinor to be placed in. When Mr. Ellsworth made his proposal, it was owing to the strong, but affectionate representations of Mr. Wyllys and Miss Agnes, that he was not immediately rejected.
Elinor was, in fact, the last person to be convinced of his regard for her; but she had known his character and standing too well to believe him a mere fortune-hunter; and after he had once offered himself, could not doubt his sincerity. She mentioned to Miss Wyllys her previous intention of remaining single.
"Make no rash decision, my love," was the reply at the time. "You are too reasonable, for me to believe that you will do so; look at your own position, Elinor; you will be alone in the world, more so than most women. Your grandfather is advanced in years, and my health warns me not to expect a long life. I do not wish to distress you, but to place the truth plainly before you, my Elinor. You have neither brother nor sister; Jane and Harry, your intimate companions in childhood, will be separated from you by ties and duties of their own. What will you do, my child? An affectionate disposition like yours cannot be happy alone. On the other hand, here is Mr. Ellsworth, who is certainly attached to you; a man of excellent character, with every important quality that can be desired. You say you wish to be reasonable; judge for yourself what is the wisest course under these circumstances."
Elinor was silent for a moment; at length she spoke.
"It has always been one of your own lessons to me, dearest aunt, to profit by the past, to improve the present, and leave the future to Providence. Yet, now, you would have me think of the future only; and you urge me to marry, while you are single, and happy, yourself!"
"Yes, my child; but I have had your grandfather and you, to make me happy and useful. Most single women have near relatives, to whom they can attach themselves, whom it is a duty and a pleasure to love and serve; but that is not your case. Elinor, your grandfather is very anxious you should accept Mr. Ellsworth."
"I know it," said Elinor; "he has told me so himself."