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 In October I met him at Doubleton; we spent three days there together. He was enjoying his respite1, as he didn’t scruple2 to tell me; and he talked to me a great deal—as usual—about Lady Vandeleur. He did n’t mention Joscelind’s name, except by implication in this assurance of how much he valued his weeks of grace.  
“Do you mean to say that, under the circumstances, Lady Vandeleur is willing to marry you?”
I made this inquiry3 more expressively4, doubtless, than before; for when we had talked of the matter then he had naturally spoken of her consent as a simple contingency6. It was contingent7 upon the lapse8 of the first months of her bereavement9; it was not a question he could begin to press a few days after her husband’s death.
“Not immediately, of course; but if I wait, I think so.” That, I remember, was his answer.
“If you wait till you get rid of that poor girl, of course.”
“She knows nothing about that,—it’s none of her business.”
“Do you mean to say she does n’t know you are engaged?”
“How should she know it, how should she believe it, when she sees how I love her?” the young man exclaimed; but he admitted afterwards that he had not deceived her, and that she rendered full justice to the motives10 that had determined11 him. He thought he could answer for it that she would marry him some day or other.
“Then she is a very cruel woman,” I said, “and I should like, if you please, to hear no more about her.” He protested against this, and, a month later, brought her up again, for a purpose. The purpose, you will see, was a very strange one indeed. I had then come back to town; it was the early part of December. I supposed he was hunting, with his own hounds; but he appeared one afternoon in my drawing-room and told me I should do him a great favor if I would go and see Lady Vandeleur.
“Go and see her? Where do you mean, in Norfolk?”
“She has come up to London—did n’t you know it? She has a lot of business. She will be kept here till Christmas; I wish you would go.”
“Why should I go?” I asked. “Won’t you be kept here till Christmas too, and is n’t that company enough for her?”
“Upon my word, you are cruel,” he said, “and it’s a great shame of you, when a man is trying to do his duty and is behaving like a saint.”
“Is that what you call saintly, spending all your time with Lady Vandeleur? I will tell you whom I think a saint, if you would like to know.”
“You need n’t tell me; I know it better than you. I haven’t a word to say against her; only she is stupid and hasn’t any perceptions. If I am stopping a bit in London you don’t understand why; it’s as if you had n’t any perceptions either! If I am here for a few days, I know what I am about.”
“Why should I understand?” I asked,—not very candidly12, because I should have been glad to. “It’s your own affair; you know what you are about, as you say, and of course you have counted the cost.”
“What cost do you mean? It’s a pretty cost, I can tell you.” And then he tried to explain—if I would only enter into it, and not be so suspicious. He was in London for the express purpose of breaking off.
“Breaking off what,—your engagement?”
“No, no, damn my engagement,—the other thing. My acquaintance, my relations—”
“Your intimacy13 with Lady Van—?” It was not very gentle, but I believe I burst out laughing. “If this is the way you break off, pray what would you do to keep up?”
He flushed, and looked both foolish and angry, for of course it was not very difficult to see my point. But he was—in a very clumsy manner of his own—trying to cultivate a good conscience, and he was getting no credit for it. “I suppose I may be allowed to look at her! It’s a matter we have to talk over. One does n’t drop such a friend in half an hour.”
“One does n’t drop her at all, unless one has the strength to make a sacrifice.”
“It’s easy for you to talk of sacrifice. You don’t know what she is!” my visitor cried.
“I think I know what she is not. She is not a friend, as you call her, if she encourages you in the wrong, if she does n’t help you. No, I have no patience with her,” I declared; “I don’t like her, and I won’t go to see her!”
Mr. Tester looked at me a moment, as if he were too vexed<............
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