Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.
Mrs. Buxton used to always make an effort to be in the drawing room after dinner on Christmas; Mr. Buxton wistfully looks at the door as if hoping she might be there. Erminia tries to liven the mood but oddly enough it’s Edward’s flow of clever small talk that keeps everyone distracted. His motives are purely selfish, he speaks not to ease tensions but to flaunt his ‘wit’. Mrs. Browne proudly beams as she notices that Frank’s waistcoat isn’t half as fashionable as her son’s, once again showing a shallow mind. During Edward’s time away she’s become dependent on Maggie and more respectful towards her but the love for her daughter is dull and torpid, nothing compared to the exulting pride and fond love she has for her son.
After dinner when the men were left alone Edward tells them some of his cases, turning the phrases to shed the best light on his knowledge of law. Frank is repelled and leaves to join the ladies. But Mr. Buxton is completely taken in and consults about some of his property in Woodchester, twenty-one cottages, which bring in very little and are badly situated. Could they be sold? Edward has no doubt, he’ll find a purchaser in a short time; Mr. Buxton tells him to draws up the deeds of transfer.
Frank is charmed at Maggie’s unjealous admiration of Ermina’s musical talent and thinks how Wordsworth could have been referring to her when he wrote Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower. He begins to visit home more often, Mr. Buxton is glad, thinking Erminia the reason, but Frank doesn’t examined his motives until one summer day:
“Don’t go yet, Maggie,” said he, putting his hand on hers to stop her; but, somehow, when that purpose was effected, he forgot to take it off again. “I have come all the way from Cambridge to see you. I could not bear suspense any longer. I grew so impatient for certainty of some kind, that I went up to town last night, in order to feel myself on my way to you, even though I knew I could not be here a bit earlier to-day for doing so.”
Mrs. Browne doesn’t believe Maggie at first, how could she be engaged to Frank Buxton? She was sure that there was an understanding with him and Erminia. Oh, and there’s only sour milk to offer with tea, if only Edward had let her buy that cow! Are you sure you’re not mistaken, Maggie? I suppose he must be worth… four thousand a year. It will be a great benefit to Edward’s career!
Nancy’s happiness for Maggie is sincere. It’s wonderful to see Frank’s tenderness towards her.
After tea, Frank asked Maggie if she would walk out with him; and accordingly they climbed the Fell-Lane and went out upon the moors, which seemed vast and boundless as their love.
Mr. Buxton doesn’t approve of the match, his feelings are violently against it and while Frank doesn’t tell Maggie how opposed his father is, she senses it. Erminia comes to visit, curious to know what it’s like to be in love, and tells her not to worry about the objections.
“The difficulty would be to find any one he did think fit for his paragon of a son.”