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Chapter 24
"The offender's sorrow brings but small relief
To him who wears the strong offence's cross."
I am sorry to say that only the third day after the propitious events at Houndsley
Fred Vincy had fallen into worse spirits than he had known in his life before. Not
that he had been disappointed as to the possible market for his horse, but that
before the bargain could be concluded with Lord Medlicote's man, this Diamond,
in which hope to the amount of eighty pounds had been invested, had without the
slightest warning exhibited in the stable a most vicious energy in kicking, had just
missed killing the groom, and had ended in laming himself severely by catching
his leg in a rope that overhung the stable-board. There was no more redress for
this than for the discovery of bad temper after marriage-- which of course old
companions were aware of before the ceremony. For some reason or other, Fred
had none of his usual elasticity under this stroke of ill-fortune: he was simply
aware that he had only fifty pounds, that there was no chance of his getting any
more at present, and that the bill for a hundred and sixty would be presented in
five days. Even if he had applied to his father on the plea that Mr. Garth should
be saved from loss, Fred felt smartingly that his father would angrily refuse to
rescue Mr. Garth from the consequence of what he would call encouraging
extravagance and deceit. He was so utterly downcast that he could frame no
other project than to go straight to Mr. Garth and tell him the sad truth, carrying
with him the fifty pounds, and getting that sum at least safely out of his own
hands. His father, being at the warehouse, did not yet know of the accident:
when he did, he would storm about the vicious brute being brought into his
stable; and before meeting that lesser annoyance Fred wanted to get away with
all his courage to face the greater. He took his father's nag, for he had made up
his mind that when he had told Mr. Garth, he would ride to Stone Court and
confess all to Mary. In fact, it is probable that but for Mary's existence and Fred's
love for her, his conscience would hare been much less active both in previously
urging the debt on his thought and impelling him not to spare himself after his
usual fashion by deferring an unpleasant task, but to act as directly and simply as
he could. Even much stronger mortals than Fred Vincy hold half their rectitude in
the mind of the being they love best. "The theatre of all my actions is fallen," said
an antique personage when his chief friend was dead; and they are fortunate
who get a theatre where the audience demands their best. Certainly it would
have made a considerable difference to Fred at that time if Mary Garth had had
no decided notions as to what was admirable in character.
Mr. Garth was not at the office, and Fred rode on to his house, which was a little
way outside the town--a homely place with an orchard in front of it, a rambling,
old-fashioned, half-timbered building, which before the town had spread had
been a farm-house, but was now surrounded with the private gardens of the
townsmen. We get the fonder of our houses if they have a physiognomy of their
own, as our friends have. The Garth family, which was rather a large one, for