Now in reality this condition was wormwood to Mrs. Little; but she knew that if she let her son see her feeling, all was over. She was all the mother now, and fighting for her son's happiness: so she sacrificed truth to love with an effort, but without a scruple. "It is not as if it was a strange name. Henry, you compel me to say things that tear my heart to say, but--which has been your best friend, your mother, or your poor dear father?"
Henry was grieved at the question: but he was a man who turned his back on nothing. "My father loved me," said he: "I can remember that; but he deserted me, and you, in trouble; but you--you have been friend, parent, lover, and guardian angel to me. And, oh, how little I have done to deserve it all!"
"Well, dear, the mother you value so highly, her name was Raby. Yes, love; and, forgive me, I honor and love my mother's name even more than I do the name of Little"--(the tears ran out of her eyes at this falsehood)--"pray take it, to oblige me, and reconcile me to my dear brother, and end our troubles forever." Then she wept on his neck, and he cried with her.
After a while, he said, "I feel my manhood all melting away together. I am quite confused. It is hard to give up a noble game. It is hard to refuse such a mother as you. Don't cry any more, for mercy's sake! I'm like to choke. Mind, crying is work I'm not used to. What does SHE say? I am afraid I shall win her, but lose her respect."
"She says she admires your pride; but you have shown enough. If you refuse any longer, she will begin to fear you don't love her as well as she loves you."
This master-stroke virtually ended the battle. Henry said nothing, but the signs of giving way were manifest in him, so manifest that Mrs. Little became quite impatient for the doctor's arrival to crown all.
He drove up to the door at last, and Henry ran out and brought him in. He looked pale, and sat down exhausted.
Mrs. Little restrained her impatience, and said, "We are selfish creatures to send you on our business before you are half well."