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of a bribe as the highest insult and indignity
that could possibly be offered him.
One of Marian's hints, went home; when
she told him that all acquaintance between
him and any member of the Woolgreaves
household must cease, the bolt penetrated.
The easy attention which Mr. Benthall had
just paid to the rather odd, but decidedly
amusing, niece of rich Squire Creswell had
developed into a great liking, which had
grown into a passion deeper and stronger
than this calm, placidwell, not to
disguise the fact, selfishclergyman had ever
imagined he could have experienced; and
although, in his homeward walk, he was
pleased to smile in his complimentary
fashion at Mrs. Creswell' s skill in aiming
the arrow, when he turned the whole
matter over in his mind after dinner, he
was compelled to allow that it was
exceedingly unpleasant, and that he did not
see how affairs between himself and
Gertrude were to be carried out to a happy
issue without bringing matters to a crisis.
For this crisis long-headed and calculating
Mr. Benthall had been for some time
preparedthat is to say, he had long
entertained the idea that, after a time, Mrs.
Creswell, getting tired of the alternations
in the state of armed neutrality or actual
warfare, in one or other of which she always
lived with the young ladies, and feeling
towards them as Haman felt towards
Mordecai, with the aggravation of their all
being women, would certainly do her best
towards getting them removed from
Woolgreaves; and doing her best meant, when
Mr. Creswell was the person to be acted
upon, the accomplishment of her designs.
But Mr. Benthall felt tolerably certain,
from his knowledge of Mr. Creswell, and
the conversation in some degree bearing on
the subject which they had had together,
that though the old gentleman would not
be able to withstand, nor indeed would for
a moment attempt to fight against the
pressure which would be put upon him by his
wife for the accomplishment of her purpose,
even though that preference were to the
disadvantage of his blood relations, that
result once achieved, he would do everything
in his power to ensure the girls'
future comfort, and would not abate one jot
of the liberal pecuniary allowance which he
had always intended for them on the occasion
of their marriage. It was very comforting
to Mr. Benthall, after due deliberation to
come to this conclusion; for though he was
very much attached to Gertrude Creswell,
and though of late he had began to think
she was so indispensable to his future
happiness that he could almost have married
her without any dowry, yet it was pleasant
to think that well, that she would not only
make him a charming wife, but bring a
very handsome increase to his income
when the storm arrived.

The storm arrived sooner than Mr. Benthall
anticipated; it must have been brewing
while he was seated with his feet on
the fender, enjoying that special bottle of
Burgundy and that favourite pipe. As he
sat at his breakfast he received a note from
Gertrude, which said, "There has been the
most terrible fuss here this evening!  I
don't know what you and madam can have
fought about during that dreadfully solemn
interview in the library to which she invited
you, but she is furious against you!
She and uncle were closeted together for
nearly an hour after he came in from
Brocksopp, and when they joined us in the
dining-room, his eyes were quite red and
I'm sure he had been crying. Poor old
darling! isn't it a shame for thatnever
mind! After dinner, just as we were about
to run off as usual, madam said she wanted
to speak to us, and marched us off to the
drawing-room. When we got there she
harangued us, and told us it was only right
we should know that you had behaved in
a most treacherous and unfriendly manner
towards uncle, and that your conduct had
been so base that she had been compelled
to forbid you the house. I was going to
speak at this, but Maud dashed in, and said
she did not believe a word of it, and that
it was all madam's concoction, and that
you were a gentleman, and I don't know
whatyou understand, all sorts of nice
things about you! And then madam
said you had thrown over uncle, to whom
you owed such a debt of gratitude
what for, goodness knows!—and were
going to vote for uncle's opponent, Mr.
Joyce, whoBut then I dashed in, and I
said that, considering what people said
about her and Mr. Joyce, and the engagement
that had existed between them, she
ought not to say anything against him.
And Maud tried to stop me; but my blood
was up, and I would go on; and I said all
kinds of things, and madam grew very
pale, and said that, though she was
disposed to make every allowance for me,
considering the infatuation I was labouring
underthat's what she said, infatuation I
was labouring undershe could not put
up with being insulted in her own house,
and she should appeal to uncle. So she