It was no secret within their small family circle that James Westfield disliked Margaret Fairfax with a passion that completely defied his common sense; and the fact that he allowed his emotions to affect him to such a degree so as to render his actions non-existent was rather shocking for a man who always prided himself on doing his duty and who had never been known to avoid responsibility before.
No one, who had any notion of his steady character and exemplary conduct, would ever believe upon hearing that it had taken James Westfield almost four years to act upon a solemn promise, concerning his sister-in-law, given to his late wife under the most grievous of circumstances.
On this particular afternoon, Mr Westfield was seated within the solitary comfort of his study with a cup of tea, a frown rapidly taking hold of his face, and a newspaper reluctantly put aside for later perusal, as he was once again pondering the unfortunate matter of his sister-in-law and her impending return to Northbrook Hall.
He had been prompted into this unpleasant contemplation by a report of the most alarming nature that he had received early in the morning: it concerned her latest display of shocking indiscretion and impropriety, made his tea taste bitter, the aforementioned lady’s arrival as unwelcome as ever, and the longing to read the newspaper greater still.
It so happened that while Margaret’s elder sister, Isabella, held such a special place in his heart, she herself occupied a singularly inferior position in his esteem; and as far as his heart was concerned, it had been quite hardened against her. It appeared that he had made up his mind to dislike her and nothing short of a miracle would ever change that.
The roots of his dislike went back to their very first meeting during which Miss Margaret – no more than ten years of age at the time – spoke with great outrage on the subject of Mr Westfield’s intentions of marrying her sister; she had been quite against the whole thing and told him as much without a hint of compunction then or thereafter.
Mr Westfield had been shocked and offended by her impertinent address, not having been accustomed to such preposterous and unjustified (in his opinion) displays of sisterly affection. The scene had created an inevitable rupture between the young lady and her prospective brother-in-law, which both parties eagerly maintained to this day.
However, looking back at the letter, which contained the unfortunate report, Mr Westfield knew that, unless he wished to see Miss Margaret’s reputation and name ruined forever, he had to put his personal sentiments aside and fulfill the task entrusted to him by his dearest Isabella without any further delay.