Man and Wife
IT was still early in the afternoon when the guests at Lady Lundie's lawn-party began to
compare notes together in corners, and to agree in arriving at a general conviction that
"some thing was wrong."
Blanche had mysteriously disappeared from her partners in the dance. Lady Lundie had
mysteriously abandoned her guests. Blanche had not come back. Lady Lundie had
returned with an artificial smile, and a preoccupied manner. She acknowledged that she
was "not very well." The same excuse had been given to account for Blanche's absence--
and, again (some time previously), to explain Miss Silvester's withdrawal from the
croquet! A wit among the gentlemen declared it reminded him of declining a verb. "I am
not very well; thou art not very well; she is not very well"--and so on. Sir Patrick too!
Only think of the sociable Sir Patrick being in a state of seclusion--pacing up and down
by himself in the loneliest part of the garden. And the servants again! it had even spread
to the servants! They were presuming to whisper in corners, like their betters. The house-
maids appeared, spasmodically, where house maids had no business to be. Doors banged
and petticoats whisked in the upper regions. Something wrong--depend upon it,
something wrong! "We had much better go away. My dear, order the carriage"--"Louisa,
love, no more dancing; your papa is going."--"Good-afternoon, Lady Lundie!"--"Haw!
thanks very much!"--"So sorry for dear Blanche!"--"Oh, it's been too charming!" So
Society jabbered its poor, nonsensical little jargon, and got itself politely out of the way
before the storm came.
This was exactly the consummation of events for which Sir Patrick had been waiting in
the seclusion of the garden.
There was no evading the responsibility which was now thrust upon him. Lady Lundie
had announced it as a settled resolution, on her part, to trace Anne to the place in which
she had taken refuge, and discover (purely in the interests of virtue) whether she actually
was married or not. Blanche (already overwrought by the excitem ent of the day) had
broken into an hysterical passion of tears on hearing the news, and had then, on
recovering, taken a view of her own of Anne's flight from the house. Anne would never
have kept her marriage a secret from Blanche; Anne would never have written such a
formal farewell letter as she had written to Blanche--if things were going as smoothly
with her as she was trying to make them believe at Windygates. Some dreadful trouble
had fallen on Anne and Blanche was determined (as Lady Lundie was determined) to find
out where she had gone, and to follow, and help her.
It was plain to Sir Patrick (to whom both ladies had opened their hearts, at separate
interviews) that his sister-in-law, in one way, and his niece in another, were equally
likely--if not duly restrained--to plunge headlong into acts of indiscretion which might
lead to very undesirable results. A man in authority was sorely needed at Windygates that
afternoon--and Sir Patrick was fain to acknowledge that he was the man.
"Much is to be said for, and much is to be said against a single life," thought the old
gentleman, walking up and down the sequestered garden-path to which he had retired ,
and applying himself at shorter intervals than usual to the knob of his ivory cane. "This,
however, is, I take it, certain. A man's married friends can't prevent him from leading the
life of a bachelor, if he pleases. But they can, and do, take devilish good care that he
sha'n't enjoy it!"