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Pages (PDF): 185
Publication Date: 1879
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Cousin Henry is a novel first published in 1879. The story deals with the trouble arising from the indecision of a squire, Indefer Jones, in choosing an heir to his estate.
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"I have a conscience, my dear, on this matter," said an old gentleman to a young lady, as the two were sitting in the breakfast parlour of a country house which looked down from the cliffs over the sea on the coast of Carmarthenshire.
"And so have I, Uncle Indefer; and as my conscience is backed by my inclination, whereas yours is not—"
"You think that I shall give way?"
"I did not mean that."
"If I could only make you understand how very strong is my inclination, or disinclination—how impossible to be conquered, then—"
"Then you would know that I could never give way, as you call it, and you would go to work with your own conscience to see whether it be imperative with you or not. You may be sure of this,—I shall never say a word to you in opposition to your conscience. If there be a word to be spoken it must come from yourself."
There was a long pause in the conversation, a silence for an hour, during which the girl went in and out of the room and settled herself down at her work. Then the old man went back abruptly to the subject they had discussed. "I shall obey my conscience."
"You ought to do so, Uncle Indefer. What should a man obey but his conscience?"
"Though it will break my heart."
"No; no, no!"
"And will ruin you."
"That is a flea's bite. I can brave my ruin easily, but not your broken heart."
"Why should there be either, Isabel?"
"Nay, sir; have you not said but now, because of our consciences? Not to save your heart from breaking,—though I think your heart is dearer to me than anything else in the world,—could I marry my cousin Henry. We must die together, both of us, you and I, or live broken-hearted, or what not, sooner than that. Would I not do anything possible at your bidding?"
"I used to think so."
"But it is impossible for a young woman with a respect for herself such as I have to submit herself to a man that she loathes. Do as your conscience bids you with the old house. Shall I be less tender to you while you live because I shall have to leave the place when you are dead? Shall I accuse you of injustice or unkindness in my heart? Never! All that is only an outside circumstance to me, comparatively of little moment. But to be the wife of a man I despise!" Then she got up and left the room.
A month passed by before the old man returned to the subject, which he did seated in the same room, at the same hour of the day,—at about four o'clock, when the dinner things had been removed.
"Isabel," he said, "I cannot help myself."
"As to what, Uncle Indefer?" She knew very well what was the matter in which, as he said, he could not help himself. Had there been anything in which his age had wanted assistance from her youth there would have been no hesitation between them; no daughter was ever more tender; no father was ever more trusting. But on this subject it was necessary that he should speak more plainly before she could reply to him.
"As to your cousin and the property."
"Then in God's name do not trouble yourself further in looking for help where there is none to be had. You mean that the estate ought to go to a man and not to a woman?"
"It ought to go to a Jones."
"I am not a Jones, nor likely to become a Jones."
"You are as near to me as he is,—and so much dearer!"
"But not on that account a Jones. My name is Isabel Brodrick. A woman not born to be a Jones may have the luck to become one by marriage, but that will never be the case with me."
"You should not laugh at that which is to me a duty."
"Dear, dear uncle!" she said, caressing him, "if I seemed to laugh"—and she certainly had laughed when she spoke of the luck of becoming a Jones—"it is only that you may feel how little importance I attach to it all on my own account."
"But it is important,—terribly important!"
"Very well. Then go to work with two things in your mind fixed as fate. One is that you must leave Llanfeare to your nephew Henry Jones, and the other that I will not marry your nephew Henry Jones. When it is all settled it will be just as though the old place were entailed, as it used to be." "I wish it were."
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