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manner, returned on him in contrast with poor Marilda's heavy uncouthness, and the shock she inflicted on his taste by plain speaking-worse in manner, if better in matter.
On his return home, he found that Edgar had arrived, having travelled day and night ever since the tidings had met his eye. He was very much tired, and genuinely grieved and overcome, too much even to battle with the manifestation of his feelings. Always affectionate, he mourned for one who had, as he said, been far kinder to him than he deserved, and though often angered with him, had pardoned and overlooked his offences with the partiality of a father. That their final farewell had been one of sharp remonstrance on the one hand, and of gay defiant coolness on the other, added poignancy to his regret; and there was so much more of actual self-reproach than usually came from his tongue, that a gleam of hope glanced through the minds of Felix and Cherry that this shock might be the beginning of better things.
They certainly had never seen him so subdued as when he set out for Centry the next morning with his brothers and Wilmet; and the meeting with Marilda was like that of an orphan brother and sister. With all her esteem and confidence for Felix, her affection for Edgar was a much warmer and more instinctive feeling; and the sight of him brought her tears freely and heartily, while she told him the history of her father's last hours, and his gentle warmth of manner soothed and comforted her.
He was sent for to her mother's dressing-room; and when he left it only to join the funeral party, he looked pale, shaken, and overwhelmed by grief he had shared as well as witnessed. The position of son of the house seemed his right. It was he who led Marilda to the carriage, and handed in first her, then Wilmet followed. Felix was just about to step in, when another person thrust forward, and had his hand on the door, when Edgar said, I believe my brother comes with us,' and 'Come Felix,' was hastily murmured from under Marilda's veil. He obeyed, and met a shrug and scowl of displeasure and amazement; but nothing could be thought of except poor Marilda's choking sobs under her veil.
It is one curious effect of good breeding, that while in one class publicity seems to stifle the expression of grief, in another it
enhances it; and when Marilda's excitement had once dissolved in tears, her agitation became so excessive, that her cousins watched her anxiously, Wilmet attempting all that salts and kind pressures of the hand could do, and the brothers supporting her, when she clung to Edgar's arm, as if resting her whole weight on him, when the movement to the church began.
It was one of the regular conventional, and therefore most oppressive of funerals, with a great array of pall-bearers, friends from London, and a train of persons with whom Thomas Underwood had been associated; and after all was over, most of them came to a great cold luncheon, which was to occupy them till the next train.
There they trooped, a black multitude, into the dreary big dining-room; and Felix, knowing nobody, and unwilling to take the lead, was much relieved when Edgar returned from taking Marilda upstairs and went round with greetings and replies to every one. When he came to the gentleman who would have entered the carriage, he said, 'Good morning, Fulbert. Here-my eldest brother.'
Felix held out his hand, but met an ungracious bend. 'You muster strong here,' were the words, chiefly addressed to Edgar. 'I am sorry not to show you any more of us,' said Edgar, with a spice of malice; 'the others have walked home.'
Then Felix made some courteous inquiry for the elder Fulbert, and was answered in the coldest and haughtiest of tones, and the Vicar of Vale. Leston turned away. In this company, all in mourning, he would not have been taken for a clergyman, chiefly from a sort of free-and-easy air about his dress, and his unclerical cast of countenance, which was wearied, bored and supercilious.
'Take the other end of the table,' indicated Edgar; but Felix would have abstained, had not Mr. Harford summoned him by a look; and another scowl from the Reverend Fulbert was the consequence.
Before long that gentleman was examining the lawyer as to when the will was to be read; and hearing in return that so few were concerned that there was to be no public opening. Did Miss Underwood know that he-Fulbert-was here ?—Yes, certainly. He should like to see her and her mother. Mr.
Harford applied to Edgar, who undertook to ascertain whether they would wish it.
'What can it be for ?' said Marilda, who was sitting between the twin sisters, calm, though spent with weeping, and unusually gentle.
To warn you against us,' said Edgar. He is ready every moment to insult Felix ; but if you can bear it, you had better face him, or he will say we beset you, and let no one have access to you.'
'That would be better than his teazing her,' said Wilmet.
'No, I don't mind whom I see now,' said Marilda. 'I must stand alone. Send him to me in the library, Edgar.'
This left Wilmet for the first time alone with Alda, longing to enter fully into her sister's new life, and hearing that Ironbeam Park was delightful; beautiful house, splendid drawing-rooms, beautiful grounds, sheet of water, swans, deer, good neighbourhood, people calling, dinner invitations without number, guests who had had to be put off. There was a little attempt at complaint at being overwhelmed by the welcome, but pleasure and exultation were visible enough; only it seemed to Wilmet that there was more of the splendour and less of the Adrian, than she would have expected. Marilda soon came back.
'Well, was it as Edgar said?' asked Alda.
'He offers his wife to come and stay with me.'
'I dare say!'
'I shouldn't wonder if he meant to be kind!'
'Now, Marilda, you aren't going to let yourself be talked over!' cried Alda.
'He is my relation,' said Marilda, bluffly, in a tone that showed she meant to be mistress of her own actions. 'I came back to say that there are things to be done. There are Felix and Edgar walking in the garden; I want them in the library.'
She was going to ring to have them summoned; but Wilmet undertook to fetch them, going through an ante-room with a glass door; which she was just unfastening, when she heard a voice behind her- Holloa, where are you going now?' She perceived her brother-in-law, lounging on a sofa with a newspaper.
'I am looking for my brothers.'
'I say, haven't I told you that I'll not have you eternally running after that concern?'
She faced about, and looked full at him with her grave eyes, and neck held like a stag's.
'I beg your pardon,' he stammered. This confounded mourning makes everybody alike.'
She did not wait to hear more, but was gone as soon as the bolt had yielded.
The Tartar had shown himself without a scratch. Were these his domestic manners to his three months' bride?
She said nothing to her brothers, but brought them to the library, where Marilda was awaiting them, with the lawyer, Harford, and the manager, Spooner, to settle about the will.
Alda's five thousand pounds had been made over to her at her marriage, so that she was not mentioned. A large share in the mercantile house already belonged to Mrs. Underwood, and to her was bequeathed the lease of the Kensington house, with the furniture; but Centry Park was absolutely left to Mary Alda, the daughter, with all the property in the funds, or embarked in the business, coupled with a request that in case of her marriage she should carry with her the name and arms of Underwood. Among the legacies were fifteen hundred pounds to Felix Chester Underwood, and one thousand pounds apiece to Thomas Edgar, Theodore Benjamin, and Stella Eudora—Felix and Mr. Harford trustees for these last, with liberty to use the interest for their benefit, or let it accumulate, as might be best.
No one made any remark; and the lawyer was beginning to tell the two executors what immediate steps they must take, when Edgar rose, saying, 'I suppose I'm not wanted!'
Marilda jumped up. Edgar, you ain't vexed ! Poor Papa thought the executorship might take time, trouble, and expense, that ought to be made up for.'
Now, Polly,' said Edgar, with his sweet candid smile, ‘you are not thinking me grudging dear old Fee anything man could give I only wish he had mine. He'd do some good with it ;' and he fondly laid his hand on the shoulder of Felix, who, not being used, like him, to view Harford and Spooner as tame cats, had rather have had this more in private.
'You'll leave it in our hands, and let us make the most of it for you, Edgar,' said warm-hearted Marilda; 'that Pampas railway is never less than seven per cent., you know.'
'All very well, Poll, if the item could be suppressed when the will is blazoned abroad. It is not ingratitude, dear old girl. It is more than I deserve or expected, and will give me a hoist.'
'I hope began Marilda eagerly.
'Never mind me. The best part of it is that nest-egg for those babies.'
'It is indeed,' said Felix; 'I cannot express how thankful I am, especially for poor Theodore's sake.'
'It will not do much in the funds,' said Marilda, gratified; 'but leave it in our hands, and little Stella shall have quite a fortune. You will judge of our security when you look into our books.'
Marilda's habit of identifying herself with the firm had begun half in play years ago; and in fact, the house now chiefly consisted of herself, her mother, and grandmother, with Spooner, who had shares enough to give him a personal interest in the transactions.
'You do not mean to go on with the business?' asked Felix.
Why not? I have worked at it, and like it much better than the piano or bead-work-and I can, can't I, Mr. Spooner ?' 'We all know your competence, Miss Underwood. not wish for a more sagacious head, if—'
'Yes, if,' said Marilda more sadly; 'but you see, Felix, you may trust me. Let me keep your own and the twins, for you.'
'For the twins, I do not know how the law stands. Mr. Harford will tell me ; but for myself, it may make a great difference to have this capital just now,' said Felix, who had already perceived what it might do for him.
Charles Froggatt had been dead about a month, and with him his father had lost all personal hope or interest in the business, and the few times he had come into the town, had shrunk from meetings even with old friends, and crept upstairs to talk to Geraldine. He wished to retire, and he would have liked to have put Felix Underwood, who had for nearly nine years been as a dutiful son, into a son's place; but he had relations to whom he must do justice, and he was unwilling to bring in a new partner, who might, as a moneyed man, lord it over Felix; while if he left things in their