"It was my father's last request to me, " replied her husband, "that I should assist his widow and daughters. "
"He did not know what he was talking of, I dare say; ten to one but he was light-headed at the time. Had he been in his right senses, he could not have thought of such a thing as begging you to give away half your fortune from your own child. "
"He did not stipulate for any particular sum, my dear Fanny; he only requested me, in general terms, to assist them, and make their situation more comfortable than it was in his power to do. Perhaps it would have been as well if he had left it wholly to myself. He could hardly suppose I should neglect them. But as he required the promise, I could not do less than give it; at least I thought so at the time. The promise, therefore, was given, and must be performed. Something must be done for them whenever they leave Norland and settle in a new home. "
"Well, then, LET something be done for them; but THAT something need not be three thousand pounds. Consider, " she added, "that when the money is once parted with, it never can return. Your sisters will marry, and it will be gone for ever. If, indeed, it could be restored to our poor little boy--"
"Why, to be sure, " said her husband, very gravely, "that would make great difference. The time may come when Harry will regret that so large a sum was parted with. If he should have a numerous family, for instance, it would be a very convenient addition. "
"To be sure it would. "
"Perhaps, then, it would be better for all parties, if the sum were diminished one half. --Five hundred pounds would be a prodigious increase to their fortunes!"
"Oh! beyond anything great! What brother on earth would do half so much for his sisters, even if REALLY his sisters! And as it is--only half blood!--But you have such a generous spirit!"
"I would not wish to do any thing mean, " he replied. "One had rather, on such occasions, do too much than too little. No one, at least, can think I have not done enough for them: even themselves, they can hardly expect more. "