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 In reality, what the young man had been doing was thinking it over beneath his ancestral oaks and beeches1. His countenance2 showed this,—showed it more than Miss Bernardstone could have liked. He looked like a man who was crossed, not like a man who was happy, in love. I was no more disposed than before to help him out with his plot, but at the end of ten minutes we were articulately discussing it. When I say we were, I mean he was; for I sat before him quite mute, at first, and amazed at the clearness with which, before his conscience, he had argued his case. He had persuaded himself that it was quite a simple matter to throw over poor Joscelind and keep himself free for the expiration3 of Lady Vandeleur’s term of mourning. The deliberations of an impulsive4 man sometimes land him in strange countries. Ambrose Tester confided5 his plan to me as a tremendous secret. He professed6 to wish immensely to know how it appeared to me, and whether my woman’s wit could n’t discover for him some loophole big enough round, some honorable way of not keeping faith. Yet at the same time he seemed not to foresee that I should, of necessity, be simply horrified7. Disconcerted and perplexed8 (a little), that he was prepared to find me; but if I had refused, as yet, to come to his assistance, he appeared to suppose it was only because of the real difficulty of suggesting to him that perfect pretext9 of which he was in want. He evidently counted upon me, however, for some illuminating10 proposal, and I think he would have liked to say to me, “You have always pretended to be a great friend of mine,”—I hadn’t; the pretension11 was all on his side,—“and now is your chance to show it. Go to Joscelind and make her feel (women have a hundred ways of doing that sort of thing), that through Vandeleur’s death the change in my situation is complete. If she is the girl I take her for, she will know what to do in the premises12.”  
I was not prepared to oblige him to this degree, and I lost no time in telling him so, after my first surprise at seeing how definite his purpose had become. His contention13, after all, was very simple. He had been in love with Lady Vandeleur for years, and was now more in love with her than ever. There had been no appearance of her being, within a calculable period, liberated14 by the death of her husband. This nobleman was—he didn’t say what just then (it was too soon)—but he was only forty years old, and in such health and preservation15 as to make such a contingency16 infinitely17 remote. Under these circumstances, Ambrose had been driven, for the most worldly reasons—he was ashamed of them, pah!—into an engagement with a girl he did n’t love, and did n’t pretend to love. Suddenly the unexpected occurred; the woman he did love had become accessible to him, and all the relations of things were altered.
Why should n’t he alter, too? Why should n’t Miss Bernardstone alter, Lady Emily alter, and every one alter? It would be wrong in him to marry Joscelind in so changed a world;—a moment’s consideration would certainly assure me of that. He could no longer carry out his part of the bargain, and the transaction must stop before it went any further. If Joscelind knew, she would be the first to recognize this, and the thing for her now was to know.
“Go and tell her, then, if you are so sure of it,” I said. “I wonder you have put it off so many days.”
He looked at me with a melancholy18 eye. “Of course I know it’s beastly awkward.”
It was beastly awkward certainly; there I could quite agree with him, and this was the only sympathy he extracted from me. It was impossible to be less helpful, less merciful, to an embarrassed young man than I was on that occasion. But other occasions followed very quickly, on which Mr. Tester renewed his appeal with greater eloquence19. He assured me that it was torture to be with his intended, and every hour that he did n’t break off committed him more deeply and more fatally. I repeated only once my previous question,—asked him only once why then he did n’t tell her he had changed his mind. The inquiry20 was idle, was even unkind, for my young man was in a very tight place. He did n’t tell her, simply because he could n’t, in spite of the anguish21 of feeling that his chance to right himself was rapidly passing away. When I asked him if Joscelind appeared to have guessed nothing, he broke out, “How in the world can she guess, when I am so kind to her? I am so sorry for her, poor little wretch22, that I can’t help being nice to her. And from the moment I am nice to her she thinks it’s all right.”
I could see perfectly23 what he meant by that, and I liked him more for this little generosity24 than I disliked him for his nefarious25 scheme. In fact, I did n’t dislike him at all when I saw what an influence my judgment26 would have on him. I very soon gave him the full benefit of it. I had thought over his case with all the advantages of his own presentation of it, and it was impossible for me to see how he could decently get rid of the girl. That, as I have said, had been my original opinion, and quickened reflection only confirmed it. As I have also said, I had n’t in the least recommended him to become engaged; but once he had done so I recommended him to abide27 by it. It was all very well being in love with Lady Vandeleur; he might be in love with her, but he had n’t promised to marry her. It was all very well not being in love with Miss Bernardstone; but, as it happened, he had promised to marry her, and in my country a gentleman was supposed to keep such promises. If it was a question of keeping them only so long as was convenient, where would any of us be? I assure you I became very eloquent28 and moral,—yes, moral, I maintain the word, in spite of your perhaps thinking (as you are very capable of doing) that I ought to have advised him in just the opposite sense. It was not a question of love, but of marriage, for he had never promised to love poor Joscelind. It was useless his saying it was dreadful to marry without love; he knew that he thought it, and the people he lived with thought it, nothing of the kind. Half his friends had married on those terms. “Yes, and a pretty sight their private life presented!” That might be, but it was the first time I had ever heard him say it. A fortnight before he had been quite ready to do like the others. I knew what I thought, and I suppose I expressed it with some clearness, for my arguments made him still more uncomfortable, unable as he was either to accept them or to act in contempt of them. Why he should have cared so much for my opinion is a mystery I can’t elucidate29; to understand my little story, you must simply swallow it. That he did care is proved by the exasperation30............
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