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 Five years ago he told me his father insisted on his marrying,—would not hear of his putting it off any longer. Sir Edmund had been harping1 on this string ever since he came back from Germany, had made it both a general and a particular request, not only urging him to matrimony in the abstract, but pushing him into the arms of every young woman in the country. Ambrose had promised, procrastinated2, temporized3; but at last he was at the end of his evasions4, and his poor father had taken the tone of supplication5. “He thinks immensely of the name, of the place and all that, and he has got it into his head that if I don’t marry before he dies, I won’t marry after.” So much I remember Ambrose Tester said to me. “It’s a fixed6 idea; he has got it on the brain. He wants to see me married with his eyes, and he wants to take his grandson in his arms. Not without that will he be satisfied that the whole thing will go straight. He thinks he is nearing his end, but he isn’t,—he will live to see a hundred, don’t you think so?—and he has made me a solemn appeal to put an end to what he calls his suspense7. He has an idea some one will get hold of me—some woman I can’t marry. As if I were not old enough to take care of myself!”  
“Perhaps he is afraid of me,” I suggested, facetiously8.
“No, it is n’t you,” said my visitor, betraying by his tone that it was some one, though he didn’t say whom. “That’s all rot, of course; one marries sooner or later, and I shall do like every one else. If I marry before I die, it’s as good as if I marry before he dies, is n’t it? I should be delighted to have the governor at my wedding, but it is n’t necessary for the legality, is it?”
I asked him what he wished me to do, and how I could help him. He knew already my peculiar9 views, that I was trying to get husbands for all the girls of my acquaintance and to prevent the men from taking wives. The sight of an ummarried woman afflicted10 me, and yet when my male friends changed their state I took it as a personal offence. He let me know that so far as he was concerned I must prepare myself for this injury, for he had given his father his word that another twelvemonth should not see him a bachelor. The old man had given him carte blanche; he made no condition beyond exacting11 that the lady should have youth and health. Ambrose Tester, at any rate, had taken a vow12 and now he was going seriously to look about him. I said to him that what must be must be, and that there were plenty of charming girls about the land, among whom he could suit himself easily enough. There was no better match in England, I said, and he would only have to make his choice. That however is not what I thought, for my real reflections were summed up in the silent exclamation13, “What a pity Lady Vandeleur isn’t a widow!” I hadn’t the smallest doubt that if she were he would marry her on the spot; and after he had gone I wondered considerably14 what she thought of this turn in his affairs. If it was disappointing to me, how little it must be to her taste! Sir Edmund had not been so much out of the way in fearing there might be obstacles to his son’s taking the step he desired. Margaret Vandeleur was an obstacle. I knew it as well as if Mr. Tester had told me.
I don’t mean there was anything in their relation he might not freely have alluded15 to, for Lady Vandeleur, in spite of her beauty and her tiresome16 husband, was not a woman who could be accused of an indiscretion. Her husband was a pedant17 about trifles,—the shape of his hatbrim, the pose of his coachman, and cared for nothing else; but she was as nearly a saint as one may be when one has rubbed shoulders for ten years with the best society in Europe. It is a characteristic of that society that even its saints are suspected, and I go too far in saying that little pinpricks were not administered, in considerable numbers to her reputation. But she did n’t feel them, for still more than Ambrose Tester she was a person to whose happiness a good conscience was necessary. I should almost say that for her happiness it was sufficient, and, at any rate, it was only those who didn’t know her that pretended to speak of her lightly. If one had the honor of her acquaintance one might have thought her rather shut up to her beauty and her grandeur18, but one could n’t but feel there was something in her composition that would keep her from vulgar aberrations19. Her husband was such a feeble type that she must have felt doubly she had been put upon her honor. To deceive such a man as that was to make him more ridiculous than he was already, and from such a result a woman bearing his name may very well have shrunk. Perhaps it would have been worse for Lord Vandeleur, who had every pretension20 of his order and none of its amiability21, if he had been a better, or at least, a cleverer man. When a woman behaves so well she is not obliged to be careful, and there is no need of consulting appearances when one is one’s self an appearance. Lady Vandeleur accepted Ambrose Tester’s attentions, and Heaven knows they were frequent; but she had such an air of perfect equilibrium22
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