Chapter XXXII: A Conversation in the Eccleston Square Library

“What is it, my boy?” she said. “You don’t look yourself. Something has gone wrong with you. Surely you’re not keeping anything secret from your old mother?”

“Don’t be so foolish as that, my boy,” said the doctor earnestly. “If you have anything on your mind, out with it. There’s nothing so far wrong but that it can’t be set right, I’ll be bound.”

Thus pressed, their son told them all that had happened, the rumour which he had heard from Von Baumser at the Cock and Cowslip, and the subsequent visit to Eccleston Square. “I can hardly realize it all yet,” he said in conclusion. “My head seems to be in a whirl, and I can’t reason about it.”

The old couple listened very attentively to his narrative, and were silent some little time after he had finished. His mother first broke the silence. “I was always sure,” she said, “that we were wrong to stop our correspondence at the request of Mr. Girdlestone.”

“It’s easy enough to say that now,” said Tom ruefully. “At the time it seemed as if we had no alternative.”

“There’s no use crying over spilt milk,” remarked the old physician, who had been very grave during his son’s narrative. “We must set to work and get things right again. There is one thing very certain, Tom, and that is that Kate Harston is a girl who never did or could do a dishonourable thing. If she said that she would wait for you, my boy, you may feel perfectly safe; and if you doubt her for one moment you ought to be deuced well ashamed of yourself.”

“Well said, governor!” cried Tom, with beaming face. “Now, that is exactly my own feeling, but there is so much to be explained. Why have they left London, and where have they gone to?”

“No doubt that old scoundrel Girdlestone thought that your patience would soon come to an end, so he got the start of you by carrying the girl off into the country.”

“And if he has done this, what can I do?”

“Nothing. It is entirely within his right to do it.”

“And have her stowed away in some little cottage in the country, with that brute Ezra Girdlestone hanging round her all the time. It is the thought of that that drives me wild.”

“You trust in her, my boy,” said the old doctor. “We’ll try our best in the meantime to find out where she has gone to. If she is unhappy or needs a friend you may be sure that she will write to your mother.”

“Yes, there is always that hope,” exclaimed Tom, in a more cheerful voice. “To-morrow I may learn something at the office.”

“Don’t make the mistake of quarrelling with the Girdlestones. After all, they are within their rights in doing what they appear to have done.”

“They may be within their legal rights,” Tom cried indignantly; “but the old man made a deliberate compact with me, which he has broken.”

“Never mind. Don’t give them an advantage by losing your temper.” The doctor chatted away over the matter for some time, and his words, together with those of his mother, cheered the young fellow’s heart. Nevertheless, after they had retired to their rooms, Dr. Dimsdale continued to be very thoughtful and very grave. “I don’t like it,” he said, more than once. “I don’t like the idea of the poor girl being left entirely in the hands of that pair of beauties. God grant that no harm come of it, Matilda!” a prayer which his good wife echoed with all the strength of her kindly nature.

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