Read FRANCES KANE’S FORTUNE - CHAPTER XIV - "I HATE THE SQUIRE" of Frances Kane's Fortune , free online book, by L. T. Meade, on ReadCentral.com.

It was arranged that Frances should take up her abode at Arden on the following Friday, and on Thursday Fluff was to go to London, to stay ­for a time, at least ­under the sheltering wings of her late school-mistress, Mrs. Hopkins.  With regard to her departure, Fluff made an extraordinary request ­she earnestly begged that Frances should not accompany her to Martinstown.  She gave no reason for this desire; but she enforced it by sundry pettings, by numerous embraces, by both tears and smiles ­in short, by the thousand and one fascinations which the little creature possessed.  A certain Mrs. Mansfield was to escort Fluff to London; and Frances arranged that the two should meet at the railway station, and catch the twelve-o’clock train for town.

“I don’t want you to introduce her to me, darling,” said Fluff.  “I can’t possibly mistake her, for she is tall, and has a hooked nose, and always wears black, you say.  And you know what I am, just exactly like my name; so it will be impossible for us not to recognize each other.”

Thus Fluff got her way, and Frances saw her off, not from the railway platform, but standing under the elm-trees where Fluff had first seen her and Arnold together.

When a turn in the road quite hid Frances Kane from the little girl’s view she clasped her hands with a mixture of ecstasy and alarm.

“Now I can have my way,” she said to herself, “and dear Frances will never, never suspect.”

A cab had been sent for to Martinstown to fetch away Fluff and her belongings.  The driver was a stranger, and Fluff thought it extremely unlikely that, even if he wished to do so he would be able to tell tales.  She arrived in good time at the railway station, instantly assumed a business-like air, looked out for no tall lady with a hooked nose in black, but calmly booked her luggage for a later train, and calling the same cabman, asked him to drive her to the house of the lawyer, Mr. Spens.

The lawyer was at home, and the pretty, excitable little girl was quickly admitted into his presence.  Mr. Spens thought he had seldom seen a more radiant little vision than this white-robed, eager, childish creature ­childish and yet womanly just then, with both purpose and desire in her face.

“You had my letter, hadn’t you?” said Fluff.  “I am Ellen Danvers; Miss Kane is my cousin, and my dearest, and most dear friend.”

“I have had your letter, Miss Danvers, and I remained at home in consequence.  Won’t you sit down?  What a beautiful day this is!”

“Oh, please, don’t waste time over the weather.  I am come to talk to you about Frances.  You have got to prevent it, you know.”

“My dear young lady, to prevent what?”

“Well, she’s not to go to Arden.  She’s not to spend the rest of her days with a dreadful, fanciful old woman!  She’s to do something else quite different.  You’ve got to prevent Frances making herself and ­and ­others miserable all her life.  Do you hear, Mr. Spens?”

“Yes, I certainly hear, Miss Danvers.  But how am I to alter or affect Miss Kane’s destiny is more than I can at present say.  You must explain yourself.  I have a very great regard for Miss Kane; I like her extremely.  I will do anything in my power to benefit her; but as she chose entirely of her own free will ­without any one, as far as I am aware, suggesting it to her ­to become companion to Mrs. Carnegie, I do not really see how I am to interfere.”

“Yes, you are,” said Fluff, whose eyes were now full of tears.  “You are to interfere because you are at the bottom of the mystery.  You know why Frances is going to Mrs. Carnegie, and why she is refusing to marry Philip Arnold, who has loved her for ten years, and whom she loves with all her heart.  Oh, I can’t help telling you this!  It is a secret, a kind of secret, but you have got to give me another confidence in return.”

“I did not know about Arnold, certainly,” responded Spens.  “That alters things.  I am truly sorry; I am really extremely sorry.  Still I don’t see how Miss Kane can act differently.  She has promised her father now:  it is the only way to save him.  Poor girl!  I am sorry for her, but it is the only way to save the squire.”

“Oh, the squire!” exclaimed Fluff, jumping up in her seat, and clasping her hands with vexation.  “Who cares for the squire?  Is he to have everything.  Is nobody to be thought of but him?  Why should Frances make all her days wretched on his account?  Why should Frances give up the man she is so fond of, just to give him a little more comfort and luxuries that he doesn’t want?  Look here, Mr. Spens, it is wrong ­it must not be!  I won’t have it!”

Mr. Spens could not help smiling.

“You are very eager and emphatic,” he said.  “I should like to know how you are going to prevent Miss Kane taking her own way.”

“It is not her own way; it is the squire’s way.”

“Well, it comes to the same thing.  How are you to prevent her taking the squire’s way?”

“Oh, you leave that to me!  I have an idea.  I think I can work it through.  Only I want you, Mr. Spens, to tell me the real reason why Frances is going away from the Firs, and why she has to live at Arden.  She will explain nothing; she only says it is necessary.  She won’t give any reason either to Philip or me.”

“Don’t you think, Miss Danvers, I ought to respect her confidence?  If she wished you to know, she would tell you herself.”

“Oh, please ­please tell me!  Do tell me!  I won’t do any mischief, I promise you.  Oh, if only you knew how important it is that I should find out!”

The lawyer considered for a moment.  Fluff’s pretty words and beseeching gestures were having an effect upon him.  After all, if there was any chance of benefiting Miss Kane, why should the squire’s miserable secret be concealed?  After a time he said: 

“You look like a child, but I believe you have sense.  I suppose whatever I tell you, you intend to repeat straight-way to Mr. Arnold?”

“Well, yes; I certainly mean to tell him.”

“Will you promise to tell no one but Arnold?”

“Yes, I can promise that.”

“Then the facts are simple enough.  The squire owes six thousand pounds to a client of mine in London.  My client wants to sell the Firs in order to recover his money.  The squire says if he leaves the Firs he must die.  Miss Kane comes forward and offers to go as companion to Mrs. Carnegie, Mrs. Carnegie paying her three hundred pounds a year, which sum she hands over to my client as interest at five per cent. on the six thousand pounds.  These are the facts of the case in a nutshell, Miss Danvers.  Do you understand them?”

“I think I do.  I am very much obliged to you.  What is the name of your client?”

“You must excuse me, young lady ­I can not divulge my client’s name.”

“But if Philip wanted to know very badly, you would tell him?”

“That depends on the reason he gave for requiring the information.”

“I think it is all right, then,” said Fluff, rising to her feet.  “Good-bye, I am greatly obliged to you.  Oh, that dear Frances.  Mr. Spens, I think I hate the squire.”