"At any rate, I won't. Men don't call each other out nowadays. I know what ought to be done in these kind of things, and such interference as that would be altogether improper."
"Then, Tom," said she, raising herself in bed, and looking round upon him, "I will never call you my brother again!'
"Probably you are not aware, Sir, that I am not at present the young lady's guardian." This was said at the office in Lombard Street by Sir Thomas, in answer to an offer made to him by Captain Batsby for Ayala's hand. Captain Batsby had made his way boldly into the great man's inner room, and had there declared his purpose in a short and businesslike manner. He had an ample income of his own, he said, and was prepared to make a proper settlement on the young lady. If necessary, he would take her without any fortune -- but it would, of course, be for the lady's comfort and for his own if something in the way of money were forthcoming. So much he added, having heard of this uncle's enormous wealth, and having also learned the fact that if Sir Thomas were not at this moment Ayala's guardian he had been not long ago. Sir Thomas listened to him with patience, and then replied to him as above.
"Just so, Sir Thomas. I did hear that. But I think you were once; and you are still her uncle."
"And when I was so ill-treated in Kingsbury Crescent I thought I would come to you. It could not be right that a gentleman making an honourable proposition -- and very liberal, as you must acknowledge -- should not be allowed to see the young lady. It was not as though I did not know her. I had been ten days in the same house with her. Don't you think, Sir Thomas, I ought to have been allowed to see her?"
"I have nothing to do with her," said Sir Thomas -- "that is, in the way of authority." Nevertheless, before Captain Batsby left him, he became courteous to that gentleman, and though he could not offer any direct assurance he acknowledged that the application was reasonable. He was, in truth, becoming tired of Ayala, and would have been glad to find a husband whom she would accept, so that she might be out of Tom's way. He had been quite willing that Tom should marry the girl if it were possible, but he began to be convinced that it was impossible. He had offered again to open his house to her, with all its wealth, but she had refused to come into it. His wife had told him that, if Ayala could be brought back in place of Lucy, she would surely yield. But Ayala would not allow herself to be brought back. And there was Tom as bad as ever. If Ayala were once married then Tom could go upon his travels, and come back, no doubt, a sane man. Sir Thomas thought it might be well to make inquiry about this Captain, and then see if a marriage might be arranged. Mrs Dosett, he told himself, was a hard stiff woman, and would never get the girl married unless she allowed such a suitor as this Captain Batsby to have access to the house. He did make inquiry, and before the week was over had determined that if Ayala would become Mrs Batsby there might probably be an end to one of his troubles. As he went down to Merle Park he arranged his plan. He would, in the first place, tell Tom that Ayala had as many suitors as Penelope, and that one had come up now who would probably succeed. But when he reached home he found that his son was gone. Tom had taken a sudden freak, and had run up to London. "He seemed quite to have got a change," said Lady Tringle.
"I hope it was a change for the better as to that stupid girl." Lady Tringle could not say that there had been any change for the better, but she thought that there had been a change about the girl. Tom had, as she said, quite "brisked up", had declared that he was not going to stand this thing any longer, had packed up three or four portmanteaus, and had had himself carried off to the nearest railway station in time for an afternoon train up to London. "What is he going to do when he gets there?" asked Sir Thomas. Lady Tringle had no idea what her son intended to do, but thought that something special was intended in regard to Ayala.
"He is an ass," said the father