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He lay tossing all night, revolving this new chain of thought so sweet and yet so terrible. By the morning light he had made up his mind to ascertain in some way whether there could be the least hope. If so—well, he would know a happiness which he had never imagined: if not, why, he must fall back into his former way of life, and try to make it as satisfactory as of old, if that were possible. And then he thought of George and his mother; and, very strangely, the Mayor's oft-repeated nonsense about marrying came into his mind and had its effect. He had really participated more or less in the idea that his use or his duty in this world was to take care of his nephew; but why so? If George had been the most dutiful and amiable of nephews, this idea, when it came to be scrutinised, was unreasonable; and seeing that George was rebellious and headstrong, it was absurd.
Once he knew what he was aiming at, Mr Bateman went shrewdly enough to work. It would be tedious to follow him through his devices and experiments, suffice it to say that he relied upon finding out through Mrs Maine whether there was a chance for him or not; and that he managed so dexterously that, without shocking or frightening this lady, he made her comprehend his drift. Of course he set her thinking too. And it is pretty certain that after a day or two of reflection her feeling was not altogether inimical to Mr Bateman's pretensions.
"I cannot bear the thought," he said one day for about the hundredth time, "of Miss Maine working for a living."
"I do not like it myself. I would much rather bear poverty with her. But Patty is a determined person, and it will not be easy to turn her from her resolution."
"Not if an alternative plan of living were proposed?"
"That would depend."
"Well, my dear madam, if a home, a happy home were offered to her, and the same to you, would she, think you, would she entertain?"
"Dear sir, I will not pretend to misunderstand you. I think that when time may have done his work in healing this cruel wound, the vision of a home might have its attractions."
"But at present, or after a month or two?"
"Entirely impossible. Such a proposal would be insulting, and excite resentment accordingly."
"I feared as much: but no matter. It was very —:of course very—absurd. But—I thought"
The quivering of his voice made Mrs Maine look up at him. He was as pale as ashes, and presented the very type of misery. She did not let him see that she had observed him, but went on talking of the fearful suffering that had come on her child, and the long course of healing necessary before she could tolerate the idea of a suitor. After a while the poor man recovered himself and went away, the sunshine looking black to him, the fields and flowers a blot, such desolation had passed over him.
SUNSHINE AND SHADE.
Mrs Maine had not failed to note the emotion which had taken possession of Mr Bateman when he heard that there was no hope except in the long distance. She could not but pity the misery of a man who had shown her much kindness and was willing to show much more. On reflection, she perceived that though she had acted as her duty required in shielding Patty from a lover's attentions at present, yet that Patty ought at least to know the state of Mr Bateman's feelings. Accordingly she took an opportunity of gently breaking to her afflicted daughter intelligence of this other impression which she had made. The result showed that Mrs Maine herself did not thoroughly understand Patty. She had expected, after all her management and preparation, to witness, at least, a
burst of indignation and grief. But there was nothing of the sort. Patty simply asked her mother to explain herself, and, when she understood what was meant, said—
"Do you think, mother, that Mr Bateman would offer you a home; and should you like such a home?"
The mother was almost too surprised at this calmness to answer steadily. She forced herself to say—
"I cannot answer for him, but from the intense affection which he seemed to feel, I should say that he is ready to give himself and anything he may be asked for."
"And you, mother, would it be agreeable to you to live in Mr Bateman's house?"
"Upon my word, my dear, I have never thought of such a thing as possible. At a word, I have a high respect for Mr Bateman, think him a most kind and amiable person, and can see nothing to object to in residing with him; while in many respects such a residence might be to me desirable."
"Then, mother, I can only thank God who has put it into the heart of this good man to befriend