Excerpt: ... mamma! how can you joke about such a thing!" "I am not quite joking, my child. There is no knowing what altogether unsuitable things men will do!-Who can blame them when they see how women consent to many unsuitable things!" "But, mamma, he is old enough to be my father!" "Of course he is! Poor man! it would be a hard fate to have fallen in love with both mother and daughter in vain!" "I won't go with him, mamma!" "You had better go, my dear. You need not be much afraid. He is really a gentleman, however easily mistaken for something else. You must not forget how much we owe him for Mark!" "Do you mean, mamma," said Hester, with a strange look out of her eyes, "that I ought to marry him if he asks me?" Hester was sometimes oddly stupid for a moment as to the intent of those she knew best. Her mother laughed heartily. "What a goose you are, my darling! Don't you know your mother from a miscreant yet?" But in truth her mother so rarely jested that there was some excuse for her. Relieved from the passing pang of a sudden dread, Hester went without more words and put on her bonnet to go with the cause of it. She did not like the things at all, for no one could be certain what absurd thing he might not do. They set out together, but until they were some distance from the house walked in absolute silence, which seemed to Hester to bode no good. But how changed the poor man was, she thought. It would be pitiful to have to make him still more miserable! Steadily the major marched along, his stick under his arm like a sword, and his eyes looking straight before him. "Cousin Hester," he said at length, "I am about to talk to you very strangely-to conduct myself indeed in a very peculiar manner. Can you imagine a man rendering himself intensely, unpardonably disagreeable, from the very best of motives?" It was a speech very different from any to be expected of him. That he should behave oddly seemed natural-not that he should knowingly intend to do so!...
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