The American Senator by Anthony Trollope - HTML preview
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14. The Dillsborough Feud
"It's that nasty, beastly, drunken club," said Mrs. Masters to her unfortunate husband on the Wednesday morning. It may perhaps be remembered that the poisoned fox was found on the Saturday, and it may be imagined that Mr. Goarly had risen in importance since that day. On the Saturday Bean with a couple of men employed by Lord Rufford, had searched the wood, and found four or five red herrings poisoned with strychnine. There had been no doubt about the magnitude of the offence. On the Monday a detective policeman, dressed of course in rustic disguise but not the less known to every one in the place, was wandering about between Dillsborough and Dillsborough Wood and making futile inquiries as to the purchase of strychnine,--and also as to the purchase of red herrings. But every one knew, and such leading people as Runciman and Dr. Nupper were not slow to declare, that Dillsborough was the only place in England in which one might be sure that those articles had not been purchased. And on the Tuesday it began to be understood that Goarly had applied to Bearside, the other attorney, in reference to his claim against Lord Rufford's pheasants. He had contemptuously refused the 7s. 6d. an acre offered him, and put his demand at 40s. As to the poisoned fox and the herrings and the strychnine Goarly declared that he didn't care if there were twenty detectives in the place. He stated it to be his opinion that Larry Twentyman had put down the poison. It was all very well, Goarly said, for Larry to be fond of gentlemen and to ride to hounds, and make pretences;--but Larry liked his turkeys as well as anybody else, and Larry had put down the poison. In this matter Goarly overreached himself. No one in Dillsborough could be brought to believe that. Even Harry Stubbings was ready to swear that he should suspect himself as soon. But nothing was clearer than this,--that Goarly was going to make a stand against the hunt and especially against Lord Rufford. He had gone to Bearside and Bearside had taken up the matter in a serious way. Then it became known very quickly that Bearside had already received money, and it was surmised that Goarly had some one at his back. Lord Rufford had lately ejected from a house of his on the other side of the county a discontented litigious retired grocer from Rufford, who had made some money and had set himself up in a pretty little residence with a few acres of land. The man had made himself objectionable and had been dispossessed. The man's name was Scrobby; and hence had come these sorrows. This was the story that had already made itself known in Dillsborough on the Tuesday evening. But up to that time not a tittle of evidence had come to light as to the purchase of the red herrings or the strychnine. All that was known was the fact that had not Tony Tuppett stopped the hounds before they reached the wood, there must have been a terrible mortality. "It's that nasty, beastly, drunken club," said Mrs. Masters to her husband. Of course it was at this time known to the lady that her husband had thrown away Goarly's business and that it had been transferred to Bearside. It was also surmised by her, as it was by the town in general, that Goarly's business would come to considerable dimensions;--just the sort of case as would have been sure to bring popularity if carried through, as Nickem, the senior clerk, would have carried it. And as soon as Scrobby's name was heard by Mrs. Masters, there was no end to the money in the lady's imagination to which this very case might not have amounted.
"The club had nothing to do with it, my dear."
"What time did you come home on Saturday night;--or Sunday morning I mean? Do you mean to tell me you didn't settle it there?"
"There was no nastiness, and no beastliness, and no drunkenness about it. I told you before I went that I wouldn't take it"
"No;--you didn't. How on earth are you to go on if you chuck the children's bread out of their mouths in that way?"
"You won't believe me. Do you ask Twentyman what sort of a man Goarly is." The attorney knew that Larry was in great favour with his wife as being the favoured suitor for Mary's hand, and had thought that this argument would be very strong.
"I don't want Mr. Twentyman to teach me what is proper for my family,--nor yet to teach you your business. Mr. Twentyman has his own way of living. He brought home Kate the other day with hardly a rag of her sister's habit left. She don't go out hunting any more."
"Very well, my dear."
"Indeed for the matter of that I don't see how any of them are to do anything. What'll Lord Rufford do for you?"
"I don't want Lord Rufford to do anything for me." The attorney was beginning to have his spirit stirred within him.
"You don't want anybody to do anything, and yet you will do nothing yourself, just because a set of drinking fellows in a tap-room, which you call a club--" "It isn't a tap-room."
"It's worse, because nobody can see what you're doing. I know how it was. You hadn't the pluck to hold to your own when Runciman told you not" There was a spice of truth in this which made it all the more bitter. "Runciman knows on which side his bread is buttered. He can make his money out of these swearing-tearing fellows. He can send in his bills, and get them paid too. And it's all very well for Larry Twentyman to be hobbing and nobbing with the likes of them Botseys. But for a father of a family like you to be put off his business by what Mr. Runciman says is a shame."
"I shall manage my business as I think fit," said the attorney.
"And when we're all in the poor-house what'll you do then?" said Mrs. Masters,-with her handkerchief out at the spur of the moment. Whenever she roused her husband to a state of bellicose ire by her taunts she could always reduce him again by her tears. Being well aware of this he would bear the taunts as long as he could, knowing that the tears would be still worse. He was so soft-hearted that when she affected to be miserable, he could not maintain the sternness of his demeanour and leave her in her misery. "When everything has gone away from us, what are we to do? My little bit of money has disappeared ever so long." Then she sat herself down in her chair and had a great cry. It was useless for him to remind her that hitherto she had never wanted anything for herself or her children. She was resolved that everything was going to the dogs because Goarly's case had been refused. "And what will all those sporting men do for you?" she repeated. "I hate the very name of a gentleman;--so I do. I wish Goarly had killed all the foxes in the county. Nasty vermin! What good are the likes of them?"
Nickem, the senior clerk, was at first made almost as unhappy as Mrs. Masters by the weak decision to which his employer had come, and had in the first flush of his anger resolved to leave the office. He was sure that the case was one which would just have suited him. He would have got up the evidence as to the fertility of the land, the enormous promise of crop, and the ultimate absolute barrenness, to a marvel. He would have proved clouds of pheasants. And then Goarly's humble position, futile industry, and general poverty might have been contrasted beautifully with Lord Rufford's wealth, idleness, and devotion to sport. Anything above the 7s. 6d. an acre obtained against the lord would have been a triumph, and he thought that if the thing had been well managed, they might probably have got 15s. And then, in such a case, Lord Rufford could hardly have taxed the costs. It was really suicide for an attorney to throw away business so excellent as this. And now it had gone to Bearside whom Nickem remembered as a junior to himself when they were both young hobbledehoys at Norrington,--a dirty, blear-eyed, pimply-faced boy who was suspected of purloining halfpence out of coat-pockets. The thing was very trying to Nat Nickem. But suddenly, before that Wednesday was over, another idea had occurred to him, and he was almost content. He knew Goarly, and he had heard of Scrobby and Scrobby's history in regard to the tenement at Rufford. As he could not get Goarly's case why should he not make something of the case against Goarly? That detective was merely eking out his time and having an idle week among the public-houses. If he could set himself up as an amateur detective he thought that he might perhaps get to the bottom of it all. It is not a bad thing to be concerned on the same side with a lord when the lord is in earnest. Lord Rufford was very angry about the poison in the covert and would probably be ready to pay very handsomely for having the criminal found and punished. The criminal of course was Goarly. Nickem did not doubt that for a moment, and would not have doubted it whichever side he might have taken. Nickem did not suppose that any one for a moment really doubted Goarly's guilt. But to his eyes such certainty amounted to nothing, if evidence of the crime were not forthcoming. He probably felt within his own bosom that the last judgment of all would depend in some way on terrestrial evidence, and was quite sure that it was by such that a man's conscience should be affected. If Goarly had so done the deed as to be beyond the possibility of detection, Nickem could not have brought himself to regard Goarly as a sinner. As it was he had considerable respect for Goarly;--but might it not be possible to drop down upon Scrobby? Bearside with his case against the lord would be nowhere, if Goarly could be got to own that he had been suborned by Scrobby to put down the poison. Or, if in default of this, any close communication could be proved between Goarly and Scrobby,--Scrobby's injury and spirit of revenge being patent,--then too Bearside would not have much of a case. A jury would look at that question of damages with a very different eye if Scrobby's spirit of revenge could be proved at the trial, and also the poisoning, and also machinations between Scrobby and Goarly.
Nickem was a little red-haired man about forty, who wrote a good flourishing hand, could endure an immense amount of work, and drink a large amount of alcohol without being drunk. His nose and face were all over blotches, and he looked to be dissipated and disreputable. But, as he often boasted, no one could say that "black was the white of his eye;"--by which he meant to insinuate that he had not been detected in anything dishonest and that he was never too tipsy to do his work. He was a married man and did not keep his wife and children in absolute comfort; but they lived, and Mr. Nickem in some fashion paid his way. There was another clerk in the office, a very much younger man, named Sundown, and Nickem could not make his proposition to Mr. Masters till Sundown had left the office. Nickem himself had only matured his plans at dinner time and was obliged to be reticent, till at six o'clock Sundown took himself off. Mr. Masters was, at the moment, locking his own desk, when Nickem winked at him to stay. Mr. Masters did stay, and Sundown did at last leave the office. "You couldn't let me leave home for three days?" said Nickem. "There ain't much a doing."
"What do you want it for?"
"That Goarly is a great blackguard, Mr. Masters."
"Very likely. Do you know anything about him?"
Nickem scratched his head and rubbed his chin. "I think I could manage to know something."
"In what way?"
"I don't think I'm quite prepared to say, sir. I shouldn't use your name of course. But they're down upon Lord Rufford, and if you could lend me a trifle of 30s., sir, I think I could get to the bottom of it. His lordship would be awful obliged to any one who could hit it off"
Mr. Masters did give his clerk leave for three days, and did advance him the required money. And when he suggested in a whisper that perhaps the circumstance need not be mentioned to Mrs. Masters, Nickem winked again and put his fore-finger to the side of his big carbuncled nose.
That evening Larry Twentyman came in, but was not received with any great favour by Mrs. Masters. There was growing up at this moment in Dillsborough the bitterness of real warfare between the friends and enemies of sport in general, and Mrs. Masters was ranking herself thereby among the enemies. Larry was of course one of the friends. But unhappily there was a slight difference of sentiment even in Larry's own house, and on this very morning old Mrs. Twentyman had expressed to Mrs. Masters a feeling of wrong which had gradually risen from the annual demolition of her pet broods of turkeys. She declared that for the last three years every turkey poult had gone, and that at last she was beginning to feel it. "It's over a hundred of 'em they've had, and it is wearing," said the old woman. Larry had twenty times begged her to give up the rearing turkeys, but her heart had been too high for that. "I don't know why Lord Rufford's foxes are to be thought of always, and nobody is to think about your poor mother's poultry," said Mrs. Masters, lugging the subject in neck and heels. "Has she been talking to you, Mrs. Masters, about her turkeys?"
"Your mother may speak to me I suppose if she likes it, without offence to Lord Rufford."
"Lord Rufford has got nothing to do with it"
"The wood belongs to him," said Mrs. Masters.
"Foxes are much better than turkeys anyway," said Kate Masters. "If you don't hold your tongue, miss, you'll be sent to bed. The wood belongs to his lordship, and the foxes are a nuisance."
"He keeps the foxes for the county, and where would the county be without them?" began Larry. "What is it brings money into such a place as this?" "To Runciman's stables and Harry Stubbings and the like of them. What money does it bring in to steady honest people?"
"Look at all the grooms," said Larry.
"The impudentest set of young vipers about the place," said the lady. "Look at Grice's business." Grice was the saddler.
"Grice indeed! What's Grice?"
"And the price of horses?"
"Yes;--making everything dear that ought to be cheap. I don't see and I never shall see and I never will see any good in extravagant idleness. As for Kate she shall never go out hunting again. She has torn Mary's habit to pieces. And shooting is worse. Why is a man to have a flock of voracious cormorants come down upon his corn fields? I'm The American Senator, all in favour of Goarly, and so, I tell you, Mr. Twentyman." After this poor Larry went away, finding that he had no opportunity for saying a word to Mary Masters.
15. A Fit Companion,--For Me And My Sisters
On that same Wednesday Reginald Morton had called at the attorney's house, had asked for Miss Masters, and had found her alone. Mrs. Masters at the time had been out, picking up intelligence about the great case, and the two younger girls had been at school. Reginald, as he walked home from Bragton all alone on that occasion when Larry had returned with Mary, was quite sure that he would never willingly go into Mary's presence again. Why should he disturb his mind about such a girl,--one who could rush into the arms of such a man as Larry Twentyman? Or, indeed, why disturb his mind about any girl? That was not the manner of life which he planned for himself. After that he shut himself up for a few days and was not much seen by any of the Dillsborough folk. But on this Wednesday he received a letter, and,--as he told himself, merely in consequence of that letter,--he called at the attorney's house and asked for Miss Masters. He was shown up into the beautiful drawing-room, and in a few minutes Mary came to him. "I have brought you a letter from my aunt," he said.
"From Lady Ushant? I am so glad."
"She was writing to me and she put this under cover. I know what it contains. She wants you to go to her at Cheltenham for a month."
"Oh, Mr. Morton!"
"Would you like to go?"
"How should I not like to go? Lady Ushant is my dearest, dearest friend. It is so very good of her to think of me."
"She talks of the first week in December and wants you to be there for Christmas."
"I don't at all know that I can go, Mr. Morton"
"Why not go?"
"I'm afraid mamma will not spare me." There were many reasons. She could hardly go on such a visit without some renewal of her scanty wardrobe, which perhaps the family funds would not permit. And, as she knew very well, Mrs. Masters was not at all favourable to Lady Ushant. If the old lady had altogether kept Mary it might have been very well; but she had not done so and Mrs. Masters had more than once said that that kind of thing must be all over;-meaning that Mary was to drop her intimacy with high-born people that were of no real use. And then there was Mr. Twentyman and his suit. Mary had for some time felt that her step-mother intended her to understand that her only escape from home would be by becoming Mrs. Twentyman. "I don't think it will be possible, Mr. Morton."
"My aunt will be very sorry."
"Oh,--how sorry shall I be! It is like having another little bit of heaven before me." Then he said what he certainly should not have said. "I thought, Miss Masters, that your heaven was all here."
"What do you mean by that, Mr. Morton?" she asked blushing up to her hair. Of course she knew what he meant, and of course she was angry with him. Ever since that walk her mind had been troubled by ideas as to what he would think about her, and now he was telling her what he thought.
"I fancied that you were happy here without going to see an old woman who after all has not much amusement to offer to you."
"I don't want any amusement."
"At any rate you will answer Lady Ushant?"
"Of course I shall answer her."
"Perhaps you can let me know. She wishes me to take you to Cheltenham. I shall go for a couple of days, but I shall not stay longer. If you are going perhaps you would allow me to travel with you."
"Of course it would be very kind; but I don't suppose that I shall go. I am sure Lady Ushant won't believe that I am kept away from her by any pleasure of my own here. I can explain it all to her and she will understand me." She hardly meant to reproach him. She did not mean to assume an intimacy sufficient for reproach. But he felt that she had reproached him. "I love Lady Ushant so dearly that I would go anywhere to see her if I could."
"Then I think it could be managed. Your father----"
"Papa does not attend much to us girls. It is mamma that manages all that. At any rate, I will write to Lady Ushant, and will ask papa to let you know" Then it seemed as though there were nothing else for him but to go;--and yet he wanted to say some other word. If he had been cruel in throwing Mr. Twentyman in her teeth, surely he ought to apologize. "I did not mean to say anything to offend you."
"You have not offended me at all, Mr. Morton."
"If I did think that,--that----"
"It does not signify in the least. I only want Lady Ushant to understand that if I could possibly go to her I would rather do that than anything else in the world. Because Lady Ushant is kind to me I needn't expect other people to be so." Reginald Morton was of course the "other people."
Then he paused a moment. "I did so long," he said, "to walk round the old place with you the other day before these people came there, and I was so disappointed when you would not come with me."
"I was coming."
"But you went back with--that other man"
"Of course I did when you showed so plainly that you didn't want him to join you. What was I to do? I couldn't send him away. Mr. Twentyman is a very intimate friend of ours, and very kind to Dolly and Kate."
"I wished so much to talk to you about the old days."
"And I wish to go for your aunt, Mr. Morton; but we can't all of us have what we wish. Of course I saw that you were very angry, but I couldn't help that. Perhaps it was wrong in Mr. Twentyman to offer to walk with you."
"I didn't say so at all."
"You looked it at any rate, Mr. Morton. And as Mr. Twentyman is a friend of ours-"
"You were angry with me."
"I don't say that. But as you were too grand for our friend of course you were too grand for us."
"That is a very unkind way of putting it. I don't think I am grand. A man may wish to have a little conversation with a very old friend without being interrupted, and yet not be grand. I dare say Mr. Twentyman is just as good as I am." "You don't think that, Mr. Morton"
"I believe him to be a great deal better, for he earns his bread, and takes care of his mother, and as far as I know does his duty thoroughly."
"I know the difference, Mr. Morton, and of course I know how you feel it. I don't suppose that Mr. Twentyman is a fit companion for any of the Mortons, but for all that he may be a fit companion for me,--and my sisters." Surely she must have said this with the express object of declaring to him that in spite of the advantages of her education she chose to put herself in the ranks of the Twentymans, Runcimans and such like. He had come there ardently wishing that she might be allowed to go to his aunt, and resolved that he would take her himself if it were possible. But now he almost thought that she had better not go. If she had made her election, she must be allowed to abide by it. If she meant to marry Mr. Twentyman what good could she get by associating with his aunt or with him? And had she not as good as told him that she meant to marry Mr. Twentyman? She had at any rate very plainly declared that she regarded Mr. Twentyman as her equal in rank. Then he took his leave without any further explanation. Even if she did go to Cheltenham he would not take her. After that he walked straight out to Bragton. He was of course altogether unconscious what grand things his cousin John had intended to do by him, had not the Honourable old lady interfered; but he had made up his mind that duty required him to call at the house. So he walked by the path across the bridge and when he came out on the gravel road near the front door he found a gentleman smoking a cigar and looking around him. It was Mr. Gotobed who had just returned from a visit which he had made, the circumstances of which must be narrated in the next chapter. The Senator lifted his hat and remarked that it was a very fine afternoon. Reginald lifted his hat and assented. "Mr. Morton, Sir, I think is out with the ladies, taking a drive."
"I will leave a card then."
"The old lady is at home, sir, if you wish to see her," continued the Senator following Reginald up to the door.
"Oh, Mr. Reginald, is that you?" said old Mrs. Hopkins taking the card. "They are all out,--except herself." As he certainly did not wish to see "herself," he greeted the old woman and left his card.
"You live in these parts, sir?" asked the Senator.
"In the town yonder."
"Because Mr. Morton's housekeeper seems to know you."
"She knows me very well as I was brought up in this house. Good morning to you."
"Good afternoon to you, sir. Perhaps you can tell me who lives in that country residence,--what you call a farm-house,--on the other side of the road." Reginald said that he presumed the gentleman was alluding to Mr. Twentyman's house. "Ah, yes,--I dare say. That was the name I heard up there. You are not Mr. Twentyman, sir?"
"My name is Morton"
"Morton is it;--perhaps my friend's;--ah--ah,--yes." He didn't like to say uncle because Reginald didn't look old enough, and he knew he ought not to say brother, because the elder brother in England would certainly have had the property.
"I am Mr. John Morton's cousin."
"Oh;--Mr. Morton's cousin. I asked whether you were the owner of that farmhouse because I intruded just now by passing through the yards, and I would have apologized. Good afternoon to you, sir." Then Reginald having thus done his duty returned home.
Mary Masters when she was alone was again very angry with herself. She knew thoroughly how perverse she had been when she declared that Larry Twentyman was a fit companion for herself, and that she had said it on purpose to punish the man who was talking to her. Not a day passed, or hardly an hour of a day, in which she did not tell herself that the education she had received and the early associations of her life had made her unfit for the marriage which her friends were urging upon her. It was the one great sorrow of her life. She even repented of the good things of her early days because they had given her a distaste for what might have otherwise been happiness and good fortune. There had been moments in which she had told herself that she ought to marry Larry Twentyman and adapt herself to the surroundings of her life. Since she had seen Reginald Morton frequently, she had been less prone to tell herself so than before; and yet to this very man she had declared her fitness for Larry's companionship!
16. Mr. Gotobed's Philanthropy
Mr. Gotobed, when the persecutions of Goarly were described to him at the scene of the dead fox, had expressed considerable admiration for the man's character as portrayed by what he then heard. The man,--a poor man too and despised in the land, was standing up for his rights, all alone, against the aristocracy and plutocracy of the county. He had killed the demon whom the aristocracy and plutocracy worshipped, and had appeared there in arms ready to defend his own territory,--one against so many, and so poor a man against men so rich! The Senator had at once said that he would call upon Mr. Goarly, and the Senator was a man who always carried out his purposes. Afterwards, from John Morton, and from others who knew the country better than Morton, he learned further particulars. On the Monday and Tuesday he fathomed,--or nearly fathomed,--that matter of the 7s. 6d. an acre. He learned at any rate that the owner of the wood admitted a damage done by him to the corn and had then, himself, assessed the damage without consultation with the injured party; and he was informed also that Goarly was going to law with the lord for a fuller compensation. He liked Goarly for killing the fox, and he liked him more for going to law with Lord Rufford.
He declared openly at Bragton his sympathy with the man and his intention of expressing it. Morton was annoyed and endeavoured to persuade him to leave the man alone; but in vain. No doubt had he expressed himself decisively and told his friend that he should be annoyed by a guest from his house taking part in such a matter, the Senator would have abstained and would merely have made one more note as to English peculiarities and English ideas of justice; but Morton could not bring himself to do this. "The feeling of the country will be altogether against you," he had said, hoping to deter the Senator. The Senator had replied that though the feeling of that little bit of the country might be against him he did not believe that such would be the case with the feeling of England generally. The ladies had all become a little afraid of Mr. Gotobed and hardly dared to express an opinion. Lady Augustus did say that she supposed that Goarly was a low vulgar fellow, which of course strengthened the Senator in his purpose. The Senator on Wednesday would not wait for lunch but started a little before one with a crust of bread in his pocket to find his way to Goarly's house. There was no difficulty in this as he could see the wood as soon as he had got upon the high road. He found Twentyman's gate and followed directly the route which the hunting party had taken, till he came to the spot on which the crowd had been assembled. Close to this there was a hand-gate leading into Dillsborough wood, and standing in the gateway was a man. The Senator thought that this might not improbably be Goarly himself, and asked the question, "Might your name be Mr. Goarly, sir?"
"Me Goarly!" said the man in infinite disgust. "I ain't nothing of the kind,--and you knows it" That the man should have been annoyed at being taken for Goarly, that man being Bean the gamekeeper who would willingly have hung Goarly if he could, and would have thought it quite proper that a law should be now passed for hanging him at once, was natural enough. But why he should have told the Senator that the Senator knew he was not Goarly it might be difficult to explain. He probably at once regarded the Senator as an enemy, as a man on the other side, and therefore as a cunning knave who would be sure to come creeping about on false pretences. Bean, who had already heard of Bearside and had heard of Scrobby in connection with this matter, looked at the Senator very hard. He knew Bearside. The man certainly was not the attorney, and from what he had heard of Scrobby be didn't think he was Scrobby. The man was not like what in his imagination Scrobby would be. He did not know what to make of Mr. Gotobed,--who was a person of an imposing appearance, tall and thin, with a long nose and look of great acuteness, dressed in black from head to foot, but yet not looking quite like an English gentleman. He was a man to whom Bean in an ordinary way would have been civil,--civil in a cold guarded way; but how was he to be civil to anybody who addressed him as Goarly?
"I did not know it," said the Senator. "As Goarly lives near here I thought you might be Goarly. When I saw Goarly he had a gun, and you have a gun. Can you tell me where Goarly lives?"
"Tother side of the wood," said Bean pointing back with his thumb. "He never had a gun like this in his hand in all his born days."
"I dare say not, my friend. I can go through the wood I guess;" for Bean had pointed exactly over the gateway.
"I guess you can't then," said Bean. The man who, like other gamekeepers, lived much in the company of gentlemen, was ordinarily a civil courteous fellow, who knew how to smile and make things pleasant. But at this moment he was very much put out. His covert had been found full of red herrings and strychnine, and his fox had been poisoned. He had lost his guinea on the day of the hunt, the guinea which would have been his perquisite had they found a live fox in his wood. And all this was being done by such a fellow as Goarly! And now this abandoned wretch was bringing an action against his Lordship and was leagued with such men as Scrobby and Bearside! It was a dreadful state of things! How was it likely that he should give a passage through the wood to anybody coming after Goarly? "You're on Mr. Twentyman's land now, as I dare say you know." "I don't know anything about it"
"Well; that wood is Lord Rufford's wood."
"I did know as much as that, certainly."
"And you can't go into it."
"How shall I find Mr. Goarly's house?"
"If you'll get over that there ditch you'll be on Mister Goarly's land and that's all about it" Bean as he said this put a strongly ironical emphasis on the term of respect and then turned back into the wood.
The Senator made his way down the fence to the bank on which Goarly had stood with his gun, then over into Goarly's field, and so round the back of the wood till he saw a small red brick house standing perhaps four hundred yards from the covert, just on the elbow of a lane. It was a miserable-looking place with a pigsty and a dung heap and a small horse-pond or duck-puddle all close around it. The stack of chimneys seemed to threaten to fall, and as he approached from behind he could see that the two windows opening that way were stuffed with rags. There was a little cabbage garden which now seemed to be all stalks, and a single goose waddling about the duck-puddle. The Senator went to the door, and having knocked, was investigated by a woman from behind it. Yes, this was Goarly's house. What did the gentleman want? Goarly was at work in the field. Then she came out, the Senator having signified his friendly intentions, and summoned Goarly to the spot.
"I hope I see you well, sir," said the Senator putting out his hand as Goarly came up dragging a dung-York behind him.
Goarly rubbed his hand on his breeches before he gave it to be shaken and declared himself to be "pretty tidy, considering."
"I was present the other day, Mr. Goarly, when that dead fox was exposed to view."
"Was you, sir?"
"I was given to understand that you had destroyed the brute."
"Don't you believe a word on it then," said the woman interposing. "He didn't do nothing of the kind. Who ever seed him a' buying of red herrings and p'ison?" "Hold your jaw," said Goarly,--familiarly. "Let 'em prove it. I don't know who you are, sir; but let 'em prove it"
"My name, Mr. Goarly, is Elias Gotobed. I am an American citizen, and Senator for the State of Mickewa." Mr. and Mrs. Goarly shook their heads at every separate item of information tendered to them. "I am on a visit to this country and am at present staying at the house of my friend, Mr. John Morton." "He's the gentl'man from Bragton, Dan."
"Hold your jaw, can't you?" said the husband. Then he touched his hat to the Senator intending to signify that the Senator might, if he pleased, continue his narrative.
"If you did kill that fox, Mr. Goarly, I think you were quite right to kill him." Then Goarly winked at him, "I cannot imagine that even the laws of England could justify a man in perpetuating a breed of wild animals that are destructive to his neighbours' property."
"I could shoot 'un; not a doubt about that, Mister. I could shoot 'un; and I wull." "Have a care, Dan," whispered Mrs. Goarly.
"Hold your jaw,--will ye? I could shoot 'un, Mister. I don't rightly know about p'ison."
"That fox we saw was poisoned I suppose," said the Senator carelessly. "Have a care, Dan;--have a care!" whispered the wife.
"Allow me to assure both of you," said the Senator, "that you need fear nothing from me. I have come quite as a friend."
"Thank 'ee, sir," said Goarly again touching his hat.
"It seems to me," said the Senator, "that in this matter a great many men are leagued together against you."
"You may say that, sir. I didn't just catch your name, sir."
"My name is Gotobed;--Gotobed; Elias Gotobed, Senator from the State of Mickewa to the United States Congress." Mrs. Goarly who understood nothing of all these titles, and who had all along doubted, dropped a suspicious curtsey. Goarly, who understood a little now, took his hat altogether off. He was very much puzzled but inclined to think that if he managed matters rightly, profit might be got out of this very strange meeting. "In my country, Mr. Goarly, all men are free and equal."
"That's a fine thing, sir."
"It is a fine thing, my friend, if properly understood and properly used. Coming from such a country I was shocked to see so many rich men banded together against one who I suppose is not rich."
"Very far from it," said the woman.
"It's my own land, you know," said Goarly who was proud of his position as a landowner. "No one can't touch me on it, as long as the rates is paid. I'm as good a man here,"--and he stamped his foot on the ground,--"as his Lordship is in that there wood."
This was the first word spoken by the Goarlys that had pleased the Senator, and this set him off again. "Just so;--and I admire a man that will stand up for his own rights. I am told that you have found his Lordship's pheasants destructive to your corn."
"Didn't leave him hardly a grain last August," said Mrs. Goarly.
"Will you hold your jaw, woman, or will you not?" said the man turning round fiercely at her. "I'm going to have the law of his Lordship, sir. What's seven and six an acre? There's that quantity of pheasants in that wood as'd eat up any mortal thing as ever was grooved. Seven and six!"
"Didn't you propose arbitration?"
"I never didn't propose nothin'. I've axed two pound, and my lawyer says as how I'll get it. What I sold come off that other bit of ground down there. Wonderful crop! And this 'd've been the same. His Lordship ain't nothin' to me, Mr. Gotobed."
"You don't approve of hunting, Mr. Goarly."
"Oh, I approves if they'd pay a poor man for what harm they does him. Look at that there goose." Mr. Gotobed did look at the goose. "There's nine and twenty they've tuk from me, and only left un that." Now Mrs. Goarly's goose was well known in those parts. It was declared that she was more than a match for any fox in the county, but that Mrs. Goarly for the last two years had never owned any goose but this one.
"The foxes have eaten there all?" asked the Senator.
"Every mortal one."
"And the gentlemen of the hunt have paid you nothing."
"I had four half-crowns once," said the woman.
"If you don't send the heads you don't get it," said the man, "and then they'll keep you waiting months and months, just for their pleasures. Who's a going to put up with that? I ain't."
"And now you're going to law?"
"I am,--like a man. His Lordship ain't nothin' to me. I ain't afeard of his Lordship." "Will it cost you much?"
"That's just what it will do, sir," said the woman.
"Didn't I tell you, hold your jaw?"
"The gentleman was going to offer to help us a little, Dan."
"I was going to say that I am interested in the case, and that you have all my good wishes. I do not like to offer pecuniary help."
"You're very good, sir; very good. This bit of land is mine; not a doubt of it;--but we're poor, sir."
"Indeed we is," said the woman. "What with taxes and rates, and them foxes as won't let me rear a head of poultry and them brutes of birds as eats up the corn, I often tells him he'd better sell the bit o' land and just set up for a public." "It belonged to my feyther and grandfeyther," said Goarly.
Then the Senator's heart was softened again and he explained at great length that he would watch the case and if he saw his way clearly, befriend it with substantial aid. He asked about the attorney and took down Bearside's address. After that he shook hands with both of them, and then made his way back to Bragton through Mr. Twentyman's farm.
Mr. and Mrs. Goarly were left in a state of great perturbation of mind. They could not in the least make out among themselves who the gentleman was, or whether he had come for good or evil. That he called himself Gotobed Goarly did remember, and also that he had said that he was an American. All that which had referred to senatorial honours and the State of Mickewa had been lost upon Goarly. The question of course arose whether he was not a spy sent out by Lord Rufford's man of business, and Mrs. Goarly was clearly of opinion that such had been the nature of his employment. Had he really been a friend, she suggested, he would have left a sovereign behind him. "He didn't get no information from me," said Goarly.
"Only about Mr. Bearside."
"What's the odds of that? They all knows that. Bearside! Why should I be ashamed of Bearside? I'll do a deal better with Bearside than I would with that old woman, Masters."
"But he took it down in writing, Dan."
"What the d--'s the odds in that?"
"I don't like it when they puts it down in writing."
"Hold your jaw," said Goarly as he slowly shouldered the dung-fork to take it back to his work. But as they again discussed the matter that night the opinion gained ground upon them that the Senator had been an emissary from the enemy.
17. Lord Rufford's Invitation
On that same Wednesday afternoon when Morton returned with the ladies in the carriage he found that a mounted servant had arrived from Rufford Hall with a letter and had been instructed to wait for an answer. The man was now refreshing himself in the servants' hall. Morton, when he had read the letter, found that it required some consideration before he could answer it. It was to the following purport. Lord Rufford had a party of ladies and gentlemen at Rufford Hall, as his sister, Lady Penwether, was staying with him. Would Mr. Morton and his guests come over to Rufford Hall on Monday and stay till Wednesday? On Tuesday there was to be a dance for the people of the neighbourhood. Then he specified, as the guests invited, Lady Augustus and her daughter and Mr. Gotobed,-- omitting the honourable Mrs. Morton of whose sojourn in the county he might have been ignorant. His Lordship went on to say that he trusted the abruptness of the invitation might be excused on account of the nearness of their neighbourhood and the old friendship which had existed between their families. He had had, he said, the pleasure of being acquainted with Lady Augustus and her daughter in London and would be proud to see Mr. Gotobed at his house during his sojourn in the county. Then he added in a postscript that the hounds met at Rufford Hall on Tuesday and that he had a horse that carried a lady well if Miss Trefoil would like to ride him. He could also put up a horse for Mr. Morton. This was all very civil, but there was something in it that was almost too civil. There came upon Morton a suspicion, which he did not even define to himself, that the invitation was due to Arabella's charms. There were many reasons why he did not wish to accept it. His grandmother was left out and he feared that she would be angry. He did not feel inclined to take the American Senator to the lord's house, knowing as he did that the American Senator was interfering in a ridiculous manner on behalf of Goarly. And he did not particularly wish to be present at Rufford Hall with the Trefoil ladies. Hitherto he had received very little satisfaction from their visit to Bragton,--so little that he had been more than once on the verge of asking Arabella whether she wished to be relieved from her engagement. She had never quite given him the opportunity. She had always been gracious to him in a cold, disagreeable, glassy manner,--in a manner that irked his spirit but still did not justify him in expressing anger. Lady Augustus was almost uncivil to him, and from time to time said little things which were hard to bear; but he was not going to marry Lady Augustus, and could revenge himself against her by resolving in his own breast that he would have as little as possible to do with her after his marriage., That was the condition of his mind towards them, and in that condition he did not want to take them to Lord Rufford's house. Their visit to him would be over on Monday, and it would he thought be better for him that they should then go on their way to the Gores as they had proposed. But he did not like to answer the letter by a refusal without saying a word to his guests on the subject. He would not object to ignore the Senator, but he was afraid that if nothing were to be said to Arabella she would hear of it hereafter and would complain of such treatment. He therefore directed that the man might be kept waiting while he consulted the lady of his choice. It was with difficulty that he found himself alone with her,--and then only by sending her maid in quest of her. He did get her at last into his own sitting-room and then, having placed her in a chair near the fire, gave her Lord Rufford's letter to read. "What can it be," said she looking up into his face with her great inexpressive eyes, "that has required all this solemnity?" She still looked up at him and did not even open the letter. "I did not like to answer that without showing it to you. I don't suppose you would care to go."
"It is from Lord Rufford,--for Monday."
"From Lord Rufford!"
"It would break up all your plans and your mother's, and would probably be a great bore."
Then she did read the letter, very carefully and very slowly, weighing every word of it as she read it. Did it mean more than it said? But though she read it slowly and carefully and was long before she made him any answer, she had very quickly resolved that the invitation should be accepted. It would suit her very well to know Lady Penwether. It might possibly suit her still better to become intimate with Lord Rufford. She was delighted at the idea of riding Lord Rufford's horse. As her eyes dwelt on the paper she, too, began to think that the invitation had been chiefly given on her account. At any rate she would go. She had understood perfectly well from the first tone of her lover's voice that he did not wish to subject her to the allurements of Rufford Hall. She was clever enough, and could read it all. But she did not mean to throw away a chance for the sake of pleasing him. She must not at once displease him by declaring her purpose strongly, and therefore, as she slowly continued her reading, she resolved that she would throw the burden upon her mother. "Had I not better show this to mamma?" she said.
"You can if you please. You are going to the Gores on Monday."
"We could not go earlier; but we might put it off for a couple of days if we pleased. Would it bore you?"
"I don't mind about myself. I'm not a very great man for dances."
"You'd sooner write a report,--wouldn't you,--about the products of the country?" "A great deal sooner," said the Paragon.
"But you see we haven't all of us got products to write about. I don't care very much about it myself;--but if you don't mind I'll ask mamma." Of course he was obliged to consent, and merely informed her as she went off with the letter that a servant was waiting for an answer.
"To go to Lord Rufford's!" said Lady Augustus.
"From Monday till Wednesday, mamma. Of course we must go:"
"I promised poor Mrs. Gore."
"Nonsense, mamma! The Gores can do very well without us. That was only to be a week and we can still stay out our time. Of course this has only been sent because we are here."
"I should say so. I don't suppose Lord Rufford would care to know Mr. Morton. Lady Penwether goes everywhere; doesn't she?"
"Everywhere. It would suit me to a `t' to get on to Lady Penwether's books. But, mamma, of course it's not that. If Lord Rufford should say a word it is so much easier to manage down in the country than up in London. He has 40,000 pounds a year, if he has a penny."
"How many girls have tried the same thing with him! But I don't mind. I've always said that John Morton and Bragton would not do?"
"No, mamma; you haven't. You were the first to say they would do." "I only said that if there were nothing else--"
"Oh, mamma, how can you say such things! Nothing else,--as if he were the last man! You said distinctly that Bragton was 7,000 pounds a year, and that it would do very well. You may change your mind if you like; but it's no good trying to back out of your own doings."
"Then I have changed my mind."
"Yes,--without thinking what I have to go through. I'm not going to throw myself at Lord Rufford's head so as to lose my chance here;-- but we'll go and see how the land lies. Of course you'll go, mamma."
"If you think it is for your advantage, my dear."
"My advantage! It's part of the work to be done and we may as well do it. At any rate I'll tell him to accept. We shall have this odious American with us, but that can't be helped."
"And the old woman?"
"Lord Rufford doesn't say anything about her. I don't suppose he's such a muff but what he can leave his grandmother behind for a couple of days." Then she went back to Morton and told him that her mother was particularly anxious to make the acquaintance of Lady Penwether and that she had decided upon going to Rufford Hall. "It will be a very nice opportunity," said she, "for you to become acquainted with Lord Rufford."
Then he was almost angry. "I can make plenty of such opportunities for myself, when I want them," he said. "Of course if you and Lady Augustus like it, we will go. But let it stand on its right bottom."
"It may stand on any bottom you please."
"Do you mean to ride the man's horse?"
"Certainly I do. I never refuse a good offer. Why shouldn't I ride the man's horse? Did you never hear before of a young lady borrowing a gentleman's horse?" "No lady belonging to me will ever do so, unless the gentleman be a very close friend indeed."
"The lady in this case does not belong to you, Mr. Morton, and therefore, if you have no other objection, she will ride Lord Rufford's horse. Perhaps you will not think it too much trouble to signify the lady's acceptance of the mount in your letter." Then she swam out of the room knowing that she left him in anger. After that he had to find Mr. Gotobed. The going was now decided on as far as he was concerned, and it would make very little difference whether the American went or not,--except that his letter would have been easier to him in accepting the invitation for three persons than for four. But the Senator was of course willing. It was the Senator's object to see England, and Lord Rufford's house would be an additional bit of England. The Senator would be delighted to have an opportunity of saying what he thought about Goarly at Lord Rufford's table. After that, before this weary letter could be written, he was compelled to see his grandmother and explain to her that she had been omitted.
"Of course, ma'am, they did not know that you were at Bragton, as you were not in the carriage at the 'meet.'"
"That's nonsense, John. Did Lord Rufford suppose that you were entertaining ladies here without some one to be mistress of the house? Of course he knew that I was here. I shouldn't have gone;-- you may be sure of that. I'm not in the habit of going to the houses of people I don't know. Indeed I think it's an impertinence in them to ask in that way. I'm surprised that you would go on such an invitation."
"The Trefoils knew them."
"If Lady Penwether knew them why could not Lady Penwether ask them independently of us? I don't believe they ever spoke to Lady Penwether in their lives. Lord Rufford and Miss Trefoil may very likely be London acquaintances. He may admire her and therefore choose to have her at his ball. I know nothing about that. As far as I am concerned he's quite welcome to keep her." All this was not very pleasant to John Morton. He knew already that his grandmother and Lady Augustus hated each other, and said spiteful things not only behind each other's backs, but openly to each other's faces. But now he had been told by the girl who was engaged to be his wife that she did not belong to him; and by his grandmother, who stood to him in the place of his mother, that she wished that this girl belonged to some one else! He was not quite sure that he did not wish it himself. But, even were it to be so, and should there be reason for him to be gratified at the escape, still he did not relish the idea of taking the girl himself to the other man's house. He wrote the letter, however, and dispatched it. But even the writing of it was difficult and disagreeable. When various details of hospitality have been offered by a comparative stranger a man hardly likes to accept them all. But in this case he had to do it. He would be delighted, he said, to stay at Rufford Hall from the Monday to the Wednesday;-Lady Augustus and Miss Trefoil would also be delighted; and so also would Mr. Gotobed be delighted. And Miss Trefoil would be further delighted to accept Lord Rufford's offer of a horse for the Tuesday. As for himself, if he rode at all, a horse would come for him to the meet. Then he wrote another note to Mr. Harry Stubbings, bespeaking a mount for the occasion.
On that evening the party at Bragton was not a very pleasant one. "No doubt you are intimate with Lady Penwether, Lady Augustus," said Mrs. Morton. Now Lady Penwether was a very fashionable woman whom to know was considered an honour.
"What makes you ask, ma'am?" said Lady Augustus.
"Only as you were taking your daughter to her brother's house, and as he is a bachelor."
"My dear Mrs. Morton, really you may leave me to take care of myself and of my daughter too. You have lived so much out of the world for the last thirty years that it is quite amusing."
"There are some persons' worlds that it is a great deal better for a lady to be out of," said Mrs. Morton. Then Lady Augustus put up her hands, and turned round, and affected to laugh, of all which things Mr. Gotobed, who was studying English society, made notes in his own mind.
"What sort of position does that man Goarly occupy here?" the Senator asked immediately after dinner.
"No position at all," said Morton.
"Every man created holds some position as I take it. The land is his own." "He has I believe about fifty acres."
"And yet he seems to be in the lowest depth of poverty and ignorance." "Of course he mismanages his property and probably drinks."
"I dare say, Mr. Morton. He is proud of his rights, and talked of his father and his grandfather, and yet I doubt whether you would find a man so squalid and so ignorant in all the States. I suppose he is injured by having a lord so near him." "Quite the contrary if he would be amenable."
"You mean if he would be a creature of the lord's. And why was that other man so uncivil to me;--the man who was the lord's gamekeeper?"
"Because you went there as a friend of Goarly."
"And that's his idea of English fair play?" asked the Senator with a jeer. "The truth is, Mr. Gotobed," said Morton endeavouring to explain it all, "you see a part only and not the whole. That man Goarly is a rascal."
"So everybody says."
"And why can't you believe everybody?"
"So everybody says on the lord's side. But before I'm done I'll find out what people say on the other side. I can see that he is ignorant and squalid; but that very probably is the lord's fault. It may be that he is a rascal and that the lord is to blame for that too. But if the lord's pheasants have eaten up Goarly's corn, the lord ought to pay for the corn whether Goarly be a rascal or not" Then John Morton made up his mind that he would never ask another American Senator to his house.
18. The Attorney's Family Is Disturbed
On that Wednesday evening Mary Masters said nothing to any of her family as to the invitation from Lady Ushant. She very much wished to accept it. Latterly, for the last month or two, her distaste to the kind of life for which her stepmother was preparing her, had increased upon her greatly. There bad been days in which she had doubted whether it might not be expedient that she should accept Mr. Twentyman's offer. She believed no ill of him. She thought him to be a fine manly young fellow with a good heart and high principles. She never asked herself whether he were or were not a gentleman. She had never even inquired of herself whether she herself were or were not especially a lady. But with all her efforts to like the man,--because she thought that by doing so she would relieve and please her father,--yet he was distasteful to her; and now, since that walk home with him from Bragton Bridge, he was more distasteful than ever. She did not tell herself that a short visit, say for a month, to Cheltenham, would prevent his further attentions, but she felt that there would be a temporary escape. I do not think that she dwelt much on the suggestion that Reginald Morton should be her companion on the journey, but the idea of such companionship, even for a short time, was pleasant to her. If he did this surely then he would forgive her for having left him at the bridge. She had much to think of before she could resolve how she should tell her tidings. Should she show the letter first to her stepmother or to her father? In the ordinary course of things in that house the former course would be expected. It was Mrs. Masters who managed everything affecting the family. It was she who gave permission or denied permission for every indulgence. She was generally fair to the three girls, taking special pride to herself for doing her duty by her stepdaughter;--but on this very account she was the more likely to be angry if Mary passed her by on such an occasion as this and went to her father. But should her stepmother have once refused her permission, then the matter would have been decided against her. It would be quite useless to appeal from her stepmother to her father; nor would such an appeal come within the scope of her own principles. The Mortons, and especially Lady Ushant, had been her father's friends in old days and she thought that perhaps she might prevail in this case if she could speak to her father first. She knew well what would be the great, or rather the real objection. Her mother would not wish that she should be removed so long from Larry Twentyman. There might be difficulties about her clothes, but her father, she knew would be kind to her. At last she made up her mind that she would ask her father. He was always at his office-desk for half an hour in the morning, before the clerks had come, and on the following day, a minute or two after he had taken his seat, she knocked at the door. He was busy reading a letter from Lord Rufford's man of business, asking him certain questions about Goarly and almost employing him to get up the case on Lord Rufford's behalf. There was a certain triumph to him in this. It was not by his means that tidings had reached Lord Rufford of his refusal to undertake Goarly's case. But Runciman, who was often allowed by his lordship to say a few words to him in the hunting-field, had mentioned the circumstance. "A man like Mr. Masters is better without such a blackguard as that," the Lord had said. Then Runciman had replied, "No doubt, my Lord; no doubt. But Dillsborough is a poor place, and business is business, my Lord." Then Lord Rufford had remembered it, and the letter which the attorney was somewhat triumphantly reading had been the consequence.
"Is that you, Mary? What can I do for you, my love?"
"Papa, I want you to read this." Then Mr. Masters read the letter. "I should so like to go."
"Should you, my dear?"
"Oh yes! Lady Ushant has been so kind to me, all my life! And I do so love her!" "What does mamma say?"
"I haven't asked mamma."
"Is there any reason why you shouldn't go?"
Of that one reason,--as to Larry Twentyman,--of course she would say nothing. She must leave him to discuss that with her mother. "I should want some clothes, papa; a dress, and some boots, and a new hat, and there would be money for the journey and a few other things." The attorney winced, but at the same time remembered that something was due to his eldest child in the way of garments and relaxation. "I never like to be an expense, papa."
"You are very good about that, my dear. I don't see why you shouldn't go. It's very kind of Lady Ushant. I'll talk to mamma." Then Mary went away to get the breakfast, fearing that before long there would be black looks in the house. Mr. Masters at once went up to his wife, having given himself a minute or two to calculate that he would let Mary have twenty pounds for the occasion,--and made his proposition. "I never heard of such nonsense in my life," said Mrs. Masters. "Nonsense,--my dear! Why should it be nonsense?"
"Cocking her up with Lady Ushant! What good will Lady Ushant do her? She's not going to live with ladies of quality all her life."
"Why shouldn't she live with ladies?"
"You know what I mean, Gregory. The Mortons have dropped you, for any use they were to you, long ago, and you may as well make up your mind to drop them. You'll go on hankering after gentlefolks till you've about ruined yourself." When he remembered that he had that very morning received a commission from Lord Rufford he thought that this was a little too bad. But he was not now in a humour to make known to her this piece of good news. "I like to feel that she has got friends," he said, going back to Mary's proposed visit.
"Of course she has got friends, if she'll only take up with them as she ought to do. Why does she go on shilly-shallying with that young man, instead of closing upon it at once? If she did that she wouldn't want such friends as Lady Ushant. Why did the girl come to you with all this instead of asking me?"
"There would be a little money wanted."
"Money! Yes, I dare say. It's very easy to want money but very hard to get it. If you send clients away out of the office with a flea in their ear I don't see how she's to have all manner of luxuries. She ought to have come to me" "I don't see that at all, my dear."
"If I'm to look after her she shall be said by me;--that's all. I've done for her just as I have for my own and I'm not going to have her turn up her nose at me directly she wants anything for herself. I know what's fit for Mary, and it ain't fit that she should go trapesing away to Cheltenham, doing nothing in that old woman's parlour, and losing her chances for life. Who is to suppose that Larry Twentyman will go on dangling after her in this way, month after month? The young man wants a wife, and of course he'll get one."
"You can't make her marry the man if she don't like him."
"Like him! She ought to be made to like him. A young man well off as he is, and she without a shilling! All that comes from Ushanting." It never occurred to Mrs. Masters that perhaps the very qualities that had made poor Larry so vehemently in love with Mary had come from her intercourse with Lady Ushant. "If I'm to have my way she won't go a yard on the way to Cheltenham."
"I've told her she may go," said Mr. Masters, whose mind was wandering back to old days,--to his first wife, and to the time when he used to be an occasional guest in the big parlour at Bragton. He was always ready to acknowledge to himself that his present wife was a good and helpful companion to him and a careful mother to his children; but there were moments in which he would remember with soft regret a different phase of his life. Just at present he was somewhat angry, and resolving in his own mind that in this case he would have his own way.
"Then I shall tell her she mayn't," said Mrs. Masters with a look of dogged determination.
"I hope you will do nothing of the kind, my dear. I've told her that she shall have a few pounds to get what she wants, and I won't have her disappointed." After that Mrs. Masters bounced out of the room, and made herself very disagreeable indeed over the tea-things.
The whole household was much disturbed that day. Mrs. Masters said nothing to Mary about Lady Ushant all the morning, but said a great deal about other things. Poor Mary was asked whether she was not ashamed to treat a young man as she was treating Mr. Twentyman. Then again it was demanded of her whether she thought it right that all the house should be knocked about for her. At dinner Mrs. Masters would hardly speak to her husband but addressed herself exclusively to Dolly and Kate. Mr. Masters was not a man who could, usually, stand this kind of thing very long and was accustomed to give up in despair and then take himself off to the solace of his office-chair. But on the present occasion he went through his meal like a Spartan, and retired from the room without a sign of surrender. In the afternoon about five o'clock Mary watched her opportunity and found him again alone. It was incumbent on her to reply to Lady Ushant. Would it not be better that she should write and say how sorry she was that she could not come? "But I want you to go," said he.
"Oh, papa;--I cannot bear to cause trouble."
"No, my dear; no; and I'm sure I don't like trouble myself. But in this case I think you ought to go. What day has she named?" Then Mary declared that she could not possibly go so soon as Lady Ushant had suggested, but that she could be ready by the 18th of December. "Then write and tell her so, my dear, and I will let your mother know that it is fixed." But Mary still hesitated, desiring to know whether she had not better speak to her mother first. "I think you had better write your letter first,"--and then he absolutely made her write it in the office and give it to him to be posted. After that he promised to communicate to Reginald Morton what had been done.
The household was very much disturbed the whole of that evening. Poor Mary never remembered such a state of things, and when there had been any difference of opinion, she had hitherto never been the cause of it. Now it was all owing to her! And things were said so terrible that she hardly knew how to bear them. Her father had promised her the twenty pounds, and it was insinuated that all the comforts of the family must be stopped because of this lavish extravagance. Her father sat still and bore it, almost without a word. Both Dolly and Kate were silent and wretched. Mrs. Masters every now and then gurgled in her throat, and three or four times wiped her eyes. "I'm better out of the way altogether," she said at last, jumping up and walking towards the door as though she were going to leave the room,--and the house, for ever.
"Mamma," said Mary, rising from her seat, "I won't go. I'll write and tell Lady Ushant that I can't do it."
"You're not to mind me," said Mrs. Masters. "You're to do what your papa tells you. Everything that I've been striving at is to be thrown away. I'm to be nobody, and it's quite right that your papa should tell you so."
"Dear mamma, don't talk like that," said Mary, clinging hold of her stepmother. "Your papa sits there and won't say a word," said Mrs. Masters, stamping her foot.
"What's the good of speaking when you go on like that before the children?" said Mr. Masters, getting up from his chair. "I say that it's a proper thing that the girl should go to see the old friend who brought her up and has been always kind to her,--and she shall go." Mrs. Masters seated herself on the nearest chair and leaning her head against the wall, began to go into hysterics. "Your letter has already gone, Mary; and I desire you will write no other without letting me know." Then he left the room and the house,--and absolutely went over to the Bush. This latter proceeding was, however, hardly more than a bravado; for he merely took the opportunity of asking Mrs. Runciman a question at the bar, and then walked back to his own house, and shut himself up in the office.
On the next morning he called on Reginald Morton and told him that his daughter had accepted Lady Ushant's invitation, but could not go till the 18th. "I shall be proud to take charge of her," said Reginald. "And as for the change in the day it will suit me all the better." So that was settled.
On the next day, Friday, Mrs. Masters did not come down to breakfast, but was waited upon up-stairs by her own daughters. This with her was a most unusual circumstance. The two maids were of opinion that such a thing had never occurred before, and that therefore Master must have been out half the night at the public-house although they had not known it. To Mary she would hardly speak a word. She appeared at dinner and called her husband Mr. Masters when she helped him to stew. All the afternoon she averred that her head was splitting, but managed to say many very bitter things about gentlemen in general, and expressed a vehement hope that that poor man Goarly would get at least a hundred pounds. It must be owned, however, that at this time she had heard nothing of Lord Rufford's commission to her husband. In the evening Larry came in and was at once told the terrible news. "Larry," said Kate, "Mary is going away for a month."
"Where are you going, Mary?" asked the lover eagerly.
"To Lady Ushant's, Mr. Twentyman."
"For a month!"
"She has asked me for a month," said Mary.
"It's a regular fool's errand," said Mrs. Masters. "It's not done with my consent, Mr. Twentyman. I don't think she ought to stir from home till things are more settled."
"They can be settled this moment as far as I am concerned," said Larry standing up.
"There now," said Mrs. Masters. At this time Mr. Masters was not in the room. "If you can make it straight with Mr. Twentyman I won't say a word against your going away for a month."
"Mamma, you shouldn't!" exclaimed Mary.
"I hate such nonsense. Mr. Twentyman is behaving honest and genteel. What more would you have? Give him an answer like a sensible girl."
"I have given him an answer and I cannot say anything more," said Mary as she left the room.
19. Who Valued The Geese?
Before the time had come for the visit to Rufford Hall Mr. Gotobed had called upon Bearside the attorney and had learned as much as Mr. Bearside chose to tell him of the facts of the case. This took place on the Saturday morning and the interview was on the whole satisfactory to the Senator. But then having a theory of his own in his head, and being fond of ventilating his own theories, he explained thoroughly to the man the story which he wished to hear before the man was called upon to tell his story. Mr. Bearside of course told it accordingly. Goarly was a very poor man, and very ignorant; was perhaps not altogether so good a member of society as he might have been; but no doubt he had a strong case against the lord. The lord, so said Mr. Bearside, had fallen into a way of paying a certain recompense in certain cases for crops damaged by game; and having in this way laid down a rule for himself did not choose to have that rule disturbed. "Just feudalism!" said the indignant Senator. "No better, nor yet no worse than that, sir," said the attorney who did not in the least know what feudalism was. "The strong hand backed by the strong rank and the strong purse determined to have its own way!" continued the Senator. "A most determined man is his lordship," said the attorney. Then the Senator expressed his hope that Mr. Bearside would be able to see the poor man through it, and Mr. Bearside explained to the Senator that the poor man was a very poor man indeed, who had been so unfortunate with his land that he was hardly able to provide bread for himself and his children. He went so far as to insinuate that he was taking up this matter himself solely on the score of charity, adding that as he could not of course afford to be money out of pocket for expenses of witnesses, etc, he did not quite see how he was to proceed. Then the Senator made certain promises. He was, he said, going back to London in the course of next week, but he did not mind making himself responsible to the extent of fifty dollars if the thing were carried on, bona fide, to a conclusion. Mr. Bearside declared that it would of course be bona fide, and asked the Senator for his address. Would Mr. Gotobed object to putting his name to a little docket certifying to the amount promised? Mr. Gotobed gave an address, but thought that in such a matter as that his word might be trusted. If it were not trusted then the offer might fall to the ground. Mr. Bearside was profuse in his apologies and declared that the gentleman's word was as good as his bond.
Mr. Gotobed made no secret of his doings. Perhaps he had a feeling that he could not justify himself in so strange a proceeding without absolute candour. He saw Mr. Mainwaring in the street as he left Bearside's office and told him all about it. "I just want, sir, to see what'll come of it"
"You'll lose your fifty dollars, Mr. Gotobed, and only cause a little vexation to a high-spirited young nobleman."
"Very likely, sir. But neither the loss of my dollars, nor Lord Rufford's slight vexation will in the least disturb my rest. I'm not a rich man, sir, but I should like to watch the way in which such a question will be tried and brought to a conclusion in this aristocratic country. I don't quite know what your laws may be, Mr. Mainwaring."
"Just the same as your own, Mr. Gotobed, I take it"
"We have no game laws, sir. As I was saying I don't understand your laws, but justice is the same everywhere. If this great lord's game has eaten up the poor man's wheat the great lord ought to pay for it."
"The owners of game pay for the damage they do three times over," said the parson, who was very strongly on that side of the question. "Do you think that such men as Goarly would be better off if the gentry were never to come into the country at all?"
"Perhaps, Mr. Mainwaring, I may think that there would be no Goarlys if there were no Ruffords. That, however, is a great question which cannot be argued on this case. All we can hope here is that one poor man may have an act of justice done him though in seeking for it he has to struggle against so wealthy a magnate as Lord Rufford."
"What I hope is that he may be found out," replied Mr. Mainwaring with equal enthusiasm, "and then he will be in Rufford gaol before long. That's the justice I look for. Who do you think put down the poison in Dillsborough wood?" "How was it that the poor woman lost all her geese?" asked the Senator. "She was paid for a great many more than she lost, Mr. Gotobed." "That doesn't touch upon the injustice of the proceeding. Who assessed the loss, sir? Who valued the geese? Am I to keep a pet tiger in my garden, and give you a couple of dollars when he destroys your pet dog, and think myself justified because dogs as a rule are not worth more than two dollars each? She has a right to her own geese on her own ground."
"And Lord Rufford, sir, as I take it," said Runciman, who had been allowed to come up and hear the end of the conversation, "has a right to his own foxes in his own coverts."
"Yes,--if he could keep them there, my friend. But as it is the nature of foxes to wander away and to be thieves, he has no such right."
"Of course, sir, begging your pardon," said Runciman, "I was speaking of England." Runciman had heard of the Senator Gotobed, as indeed had all Dillsborough by this time.
"And I am speaking of justice all the world over," said the Senator slapping his hand upon his thigh. "But I only want to see. It may be that England is a country in which a poor man should not attempt to hold a few acres of land." On that night the Dillsborough club met as usual and, as a matter of course, Goarly and the American Senator were the subjects chiefly discussed. Everybody in the room knew,--or thought that he knew,--that Goarly was a cheating fraudulent knave, and that Lord Rufford was, at any rate, in this case acting properly. They all understood the old goose, and were aware, nearly to a bushel, of the amount of wheat which the man had sold off those two fields. Runciman knew that the interest on the mortgage had been paid, and could only have been paid out of the produce; and Larry Twentyman knew that if Goarly took his 7s. 6d. an acre he would be better off than if the wood had not been there. But yet among them all they didn't quite see how they were to confute the Senator's logic. They could not answer it satisfactorily, even among themselves; but they felt that if Goarly could be detected in some offence, that would confute the Senator. Among themselves it was sufficient to repeat the well-known fact that Goarly was a rascal; but with reference to this aggravating, interfering, and most obnoxious American it would be necessary to prove it.
"His Lordship has put it into Masters's hands, I'm told," said the doctor. At this time neither the attorney nor Larry Twentyman were in the room.
"He couldn't have done better," said Runciman, speaking from behind a long clay pipe.
"All the same he was nibbling at Goarly," said Ned Botsey.
"I don't know that he was nibbling at Goarly at all, Mr. Botsey," said the landlord. "Goarly came to him, and Goarly was refused. What more would you have?" "It's all one to me," said Botsey; "only I do think that in a sporting county like this the place ought to be made too hot to hold a blackguard like that. If he comes out at me with his gun I'll ride over him. And I wouldn't mind riding over that American too."
"That's just what would suit Goarly's book," said the doctor.
"Exactly what Goarly would like," said Harry Stubbings.
Then Mr. Masters and Larry entered the room. On that evening two things had occurred to the attorney. Nickem had returned, and had asked for and received an additional week's leave of absence. He had declined to explain accurately what he was doing but gave the attorney to understand that he thought that he was on the way to the bottom of the whole thing. Then, after Nickem had left him, Mr. Masters had a letter of instructions from Lord Rufford's steward. When he received it, and found that his paid services had been absolutely employed on behalf of his Lordship, he almost regretted the encouragement he had given to Nickem. In the first place he might want Nickem. And then he felt that in his present position he ought not to be a party to anything underhand. But Nickem was gone, and he was obliged to console himself by thinking that Nickem was at any rate employing his intellect on the right side. When he left his house with Larry Twentyman he had told his wife nothing about Lord Rufford. Up to this time he and his wife had not as yet reconciled their difference, and poor Mary was still living in misery. Larry, though he had called for the attorney, had not sat down in the parlour, and had barely spoken to Mary. "For gracious sake, Mr. Twentyman, don't let him stay in that place there half the night," said Mrs. Masters. "It ain't fit for a father of a family."
"Father never does stay half the night," said Kate, who took more liberties in that house than any one else.
"Hold your tongue, miss. I don't know whether it wouldn't be better for you, Mr. Twentyman, if you were not there so often yourself." Poor Larry felt this to be hard. He was not even engaged as yet, and as far as he could see was not on the way to be engaged. In such condition surely his possible mother-in-law could have no right to interfere with him. He condescended to make no reply, but crossed the passage and carried the attorney off with him.
"You've heard what that American gentleman has been about, Mr. Masters?" asked the landlord.
"I'm told he's been with Bearside."
"And has offered to pay his bill for him if he'll carry on the business for Goarly. Whoever heard the like of that?"
"What sort of a man is he?" asked the doctor. "A great man in his own country everybody says," answered Runciman. "I wish he'd stayed there. He comes over here and thinks he understands everything just as though he had lived here all his life. Did you say gin cold, Larry; and rum for you, Mr. Masters?" Then the landlord gave the orders to the girl who had answered the bell.
"But they say he's actually going to Lord Rufford's," said young Botsey who would have given one of his fingers to be asked to the lord's house. "They are all going from Bragton," said Runciman.
"The young squire is going to ride one of my horses," said Harry Stubbings. "That'll be an easy three pounds in your pockets, Harry," said the doctor. In answer to which Harry remarked that he took all that as it came, the heavies and lights together, and that there was not much change to be got out of three sovereigns when some gentlemen had had a horse out for the day,--particularly when a gentleman didn't pay perhaps for twelve months.
"The whole party is going," continued the landlord. "How he is to have the cheek to go into his Lordship's house after what he is doing is more than I can understand."
"What business is it of his?" said Larry angrily. "That's what I want to know. What'd he think if we went and interfered over there? I shouldn't be surprised if he got a little rough usage before he's out of the county. I'm told he came across Bean when he was ferreting about the other day, and that Bean gave him quite as good as he brought."
"I say he's a spy," said Ribbs the butcher from his seat on the sofa. "I hates a spy."
Soon after that Mr. Masters left the room and Larry Twentyman followed him. There was something almost ridiculous in the way the young man would follow the attorney about on these Saturday evenings,--as though he could make love to the girl by talking to the father. But on this occasion he had something special to say. "So Mary's going to Cheltenham, Mr. Masters."
"Yes, she is. You don't see any objection to that, I hope."
"Not in the least, Mr. Masters. I wish she might go anywhere to enjoy herself. And from all I've heard Lady Ushant is a very good sort of lady."
"A very good sort of lady. She won't do Mary any harm, Twentyman." "I don't suppose she will. But there's one thing I should like to know. Why shouldn't she tell me before she goes that she'll have me?"
"I wish she would with all my heart."
"And Mrs. Masters is all on my side."
"And the girls have always been my friends."
"I think we are all your friends, Twentyman. I'm sure Mary is. But that isn't marrying; is it?"
"If you would speak to her, Mr. Masters."
"What would you have me say? I couldn't bid my girl to have one man or another. I could only tell her what I think, and that she knows already."
"If you were to say that you wished it! She thinks so much about you:' "I couldn't tell her that I wished it in a manner that would drive her into it. Of course it would be a very good match. But I have only to think of her happiness and I must leave her to judge what will make her happy."
"I should like to have it fixed some way before she starts," said Larry in an altered tone.
"Of course you are your own master, Twentyman. And you have behaved very well"
"This is a kind of thing that a man can't stand," said the young farmer sulkily. "Good night, Mr. Masters" Then he walked off home to Chowton Farm meditating on his own condition and trying to make up his mind to leave the scornful girl and become a free man. But he couldn't do it. He couldn't even quite make up his mind that he would try to do it. There was a bitterness within as he thought of permanent fixed failure which he could not digest. There was a craving in his heart which he did not himself quite understand, but which made him think that the world would be unfit to be lived in if he were to be altogether separated from Mary Masters. He couldn't separate himself from her. It was all very well thinking of it, talking of it, threatening it; but in truth he couldn't do it. There might of course be an emergency in which he must do it. She might declare that she loved some one else and she might marry that other person. In that event he saw no other alternative but,-- as he expressed it to himself,--"to run a mucker." Whether the "mucker" should be run against Mary, or against the fortunate lover, or against himself, he did not at present resolve.
But he did resolve as he reached his own hall door that he would make one more passionate appeal to Mary herself before she started for Cheltenham, and that he would not make it out on a public path, or in the Masters' family parlour before all the Masters' family;-- but that he would have her secluded, by herself, so that he might speak out all that was in him, to the best of his ability.
20. There are Convenances
Before the Monday came the party to Rufford Hall had become quite a settled thing and had been very much discussed. On the Saturday the Senator had been driven to the meet, a distance of about ten miles, on purpose that he might see Lord Rufford and explain his views about Goarly. Lord Rufford had bowed and stared, and laughed, and had then told the Senator that he thought he would "find himself in the wrong box." "That's quite possible, my Lord. I guess, it won't be the first time I've been in the wrong box, my Lord. Sometimes I do get right. But I thought I would not enter your lordship's house as a guest without telling you what I was doing." Then Lord Rufford assured him that this little affair about Goarly would make no difference in that respect. Mr. Gotobed again scrutinised the hounds and Tony Tuppett, laughed in his sleeve because a fox wasn't found in the first quarter of an hour, and after that was driven back to Bragton. The Sunday was a day of preparation for the Trefoils. Of course they didn't go to church. Arabella indeed was never up in time for church and Lady Augustus only went when her going would be duly registered among fashionable people. Mr. Gotobed laughed when he was invited and asked whether anybody was ever known to go to church two Sundays running at Bragton. "People have been known to refuse with less acrimony," said Morton. "I always speak my mind, sir," replied the Senator. Poor John Morton, therefore, went to his parish church alone.
There were many things to be considered by the Trefoils. There was the question of dress. If any good was to be done by Arabella at Rufford it must be done with great despatch. There would be the dinner on Monday, the hunting on Tuesday, the ball, and then the interesting moment of departure. No girl could make better use of her time; but then, think of her difficulties! All that she did would have to be done under the very eyes of the man to whom she was engaged, and to whom she wished to remain engaged,--unless, as she said to herself, she could "pull off the other event." A great deal must depend on appearance. As she and her mother were out on a lengthened cruise among long-suffering acquaintances, going to the De Brownes after the Gores, and the Smijthes after the De Brownes, with as many holes to run to afterwards as a four-year-old fox,-- though with the same probability of finding them stopped,--of course she had her wardrobe with her. To see her night after night one would think that it was supplied with all that wealth would give. But there were deficiencies and there were make-shifts, very well known to herself and well understood by her maid. She could generally supply herself with gloves by bets, as to which she had never any scruple in taking either what she did win or did not, and in dunning any who might chance to be defaulters. On occasions too, when not afraid of the bystanders, she would venture on a hat, and though there was difficulty as to the payment, not being able to give her number as she did with gloves, so that the tradesmen could send the article, still she would manage to get the hat,--and the trimmings. It was said of her that she once offered to lay an Ulster to a sealskin jacket, but that the young man had coolly said that a sealskin jacket was beyond a joke and had asked her whether she was ready to "put down" her Ulster. These were little difficulties from which she usually knew how to extricate herself without embarrassment; but she had not expected to have to marshal her forces against such an enemy as Lord Rufford, or to sit down for the besieging of such a city this campaign. There were little things which required to be done, and the lady'smaid certainly had not time to go to church on Sunday.
But there were other things which troubled her even more than her clothes. She did not much like Bragton, and at Bragton, in his own house, she did not very much like her proposed husband. At Washington he had been somebody. She had met him everywhere then, and had heard him much talked about. At Washington he had been a popular man and had had the reputation of being a rich man also; but here, at home, in the country he seemed to her to fall off in importance, and he certainly had not made himself pleasant. Whether any man could be pleasant to her in the retirement of a country house,--any man whom she would have no interest in running down,-- she did not ask herself. An engagement to her must under any circumstances be a humdrum thing,--to be brightened only by wealth. But here she saw no signs of wealth. Nevertheless she was not prepared to shove away the plank from below her feet, till she was sure that she had a more substantial board on which to step. Her mother, who perhaps did not see in the character of Morton all the charms which she would wish to find in a son-in-law, was anxious to shake off the Bragton alliance; but Arabella, as she said so often both to herself and to her mother, was sick of the dust of the battle and conscious of fading strength. She would make this one more attempt, but must make it with great care. When last in town this young lord had whispered a word or two to her, which then had set her hoping for a couple of days; and now, when chance had brought her into his neighbourhood, he had gone out of his way,-- very much out of his way,--to renew his acquaintance with her. She would be mad not to give herself the chance; but yet she could not afford to let the plank go from under her feet.
But the part she had to play was one which even she felt to be almost beyond her powers. She could perceive that Morton was beginning to be jealous,--and that his jealousy was not of that nature which strengthens a tie but which is apt to break it altogether. His jealousy, if fairly aroused, would not be appeased by a final return to himself. She had already given him occasion to declare himself off, and if thoroughly angered he would no doubt use it. Day by day, and almost hour by hour, he was becoming more sombre and hard, and she was well aware that there was reason for it. It did not suit her to walk about alone with him through the shrubberies. It did not suit her to be seen with his arm round her waist. Of course the people of Bragton would talk of the engagement, but she would prefer that they should talk of it with doubt. Even her own maid had declared to Mrs. Hopkins that she did not know whether there was or was not an engagement,-her own maid being at the time almost in her confidence. Very few of the comforts of a lover had been vouchsafed to John Morton during this sojourn at Bragton and very little had been done in accordance with his wishes. Even this visit to Rufford, as she well knew, was being made in opposition to him. She hoped that her lover would not attempt to ride to hounds on the Tuesday, so that she might be near the lord unseen by him,--and that he would leave Rufford on the Wednesday before herself and her mother. At the ball of course she could dance with Lord Rufford, and could keep her eye on her lover at the same time. She hardly saw Morton on the Sunday afternoon, and she was again closeted on the Monday till lunch. They were to start at four and there would not be much more than time after lunch for her to put on her travelling gear, Then, as they all felt, there was a difficulty about the carriages. Who was to go with whom? Arabella, after lunch, took the bull by the horns. "I suppose," she said as Morton followed her out into the hall, "mamma and I had better go in the phaeton." "I was thinking that Lady Augustus might consent to travel with Mr. Gotobed and that you and I might have the phaeton."
"Of course it would be very pleasant," she answered smiling.
"Then why not let it be so?"
"There are convenances."
"How would it be if you and I were going without anybody else? Do you mean to say that in that case we might not sit in the same carriage?"
"I mean to say that in that case I should not go at all. It isn't done in England. You have beer in the States so long that you forget all our old-fashioned ways." "I do think that is nonsense." She only smiled and shook her head. "Then the Senator shall go in the phaeton, and I will go with you and your mother." "Yes,--and quarrel with mamma all the time as you always do. Let me have it my own way this time."
"Upon my word I believe you are ashamed of me," he said leaning back upon the hall table. He had shut the dining-room door and she was standing close to him. "What nonsense!"
"You have only got to say so, Arabella, and let there be an end of it all." "If you wish it, Mr. Morton."
"You know I don't wish it. You know I am ready to marry you to-morrow." "You have made ever so many difficulties as far as I can understand." "You have unreasonable people acting for you, Arabella, and of course I don't mean to give way to them."
"Pray don't talk to me about money. I know nothing about it and have taken no part in the matter. I suppose there must be settlements?"
"Of course there must"
"And I can only do what other people tell me. You at any rate have something to do with it all, and I have absolutely nothing."
"That is no reason you shouldn't go in the same carriage with me to Rufford." "Are you coming back to that, just like a big child? Do let us consider that as settled. I'm sure you'll let mamma and me have the use of the phaeton." Of course the little contest was ended in the manner proposed by Arabella. "I do think," said Arabella, when she and her mother were seated in the carriage, "that we have treated him very badly."
"Quite as well as he deserves! What a house to bring us to; and what people! Did you ever come across such an old woman before! And she has him completely under her thumb. Are you prepared to live with that harridan?"
"You may let me alone, mamma, for all that. She won't be in my way after I'm married, I can tell you."
"You'll have something to do then."
"I ain't a bit afraid of her."
"And to ask us to meet such people as this American!"
"He's going back to Washington and it suited him to have him. I don't quarrel with him for that. I wish I were married to him and back in the States."
"You have given it all up about Lord Rufford then?"
"No;--that's just where it is. I haven't given it up, and I still see trouble upon trouble before me. But I know how it will be. He doesn't mean anything. He's only amusing himself."
"If he'd once say the word he couldn't get back again. The Duke would interfere then."
"What would he care for the Duke? The Duke is no more than anybody else nowadays. I shall just fall to the ground between two stools. I know it as well as if it were done already. And then I shall have to begin again! If it comes to that I shall do something terrible. I know I shall." Then they turned in at Lord Rufford's gates; and as they were driven up beneath the oaks, through the gloom, both mother and daughter thought how charming it would be to be the mistress of such a park.
21. The First Evening At Rufford Hall
The phaeton arrived the first, the driver having been especially told by Arabella that he need not delay on the road for the other carriage. She had calculated that she might make her entrance with better effect alone with her mother than in company with Morton and the Senator. It would have been worth the while of any one who had witnessed her troubles on that morning to watch the bland serenity and happy ease with which she entered the room. Her mother was fond of a prominent place but was quite contented on this occasion to play a second fiddle for her daughter. She had seen at a glance that Rufford Hall was a delightful house. Oh,--if it might become the home of her child and her grandchildren,--and possibly a retreat for herself! Arabella was certainly very handsome at this moment. Never did she look better than when got up with care for travelling, especially as seen by an evening light. Her slow motions were adapted to heavy wraps, and however she might procure her large sealskin jacket she graced it well when she had it. Lord Rufford came to the door to meet them and immediately introduced them to his sister. There were six or seven people in the room, mostly ladies, and tea was offered to the new-comers. Lady Penwether was largely made, like her brother; but was a languidly lovely woman, not altogether unlike Arabella herself in her figure and movements, but with a more expressive face, with less colour, and much more positive assurance of high breeding. Lady Penwether was said to be haughty, but it was admitted by all people that when Lady Penwether had said a thing or had done a thing, it might be taken for granted that the way in which she had done or said that thing was the right way. The only other gentleman there was Major Caneback, who had just come in from hunting with some distant pack and who had been brought into the room by Lord Rufford that he might give some account of the doings of the day. According to Caneback, they had been talking in the Brake country about nothing but Goarly and the enormities which had been perpetrated to the U.R.U. "By-thebye, Miss Trefoil," said Lord Rufford, "what have you done with your Senator?" "He's on the road, Lord Rufford, examining English institutions as he comes along. He'll be here by midnight."
"Imagine the man coming to me and telling me that he was a friend of Goarly's. I rather liked him for it. There was a thorough pluck about it. They say he's going to find all the money."
"I thought Mr. Scrobby was to do that?" said Lady Penwether.
"Mr. Scrobby will not have the slightest objection to have that part of the work done for him. If all we hear is true Miss Trefoil's Senator may have to defend both Scrobby and Goarly."
"My Senator as you call him will be quite up to the occasion."
"You knew him in America, Miss Trefoil?" asked Lady Penwether. "Oh yes. We used to meet him and Mrs. Gotobed everywhere. But we didn't exactly bring him over with us;--though our party down to Bragton was made up in Washington," she added, feeling that she might in this way account in some degree for her own presence in John Morton's house. "It was mamma and Mr. Morton arranged it all."
"Oh my dear it was you and the Senator," said Lady Augustus, ready for the occasion.
"Miss Trefoil," said the lord, "let us have it all out at once. Are you taking Goarly's part?"
"Taking Goarly's part!" ejaculated the Major. Arabella affected to give a little start, as though frightened by the Major's enthusiasm. "For heaven's. sake let us know our foes," continued Lord Rufford. "You see the effect such an announcement had upon Major Caneback. Have you made an appointment before dawn with Mr. Scrobby under the elms? Now I look at you I believe in my heart you're a Goarlyite,--only without the Senator's courage to tell me the truth beforehand." "I really am very much obliged to Goarly," said Arabella, "because it is so nice to have something to talk about."
"That's just what I think, Miss Trefoil," declared a young lady, Miss Penge, who was a friend of Lady Penwether. "The gentlemen have so much to say about hunting which nobody can understand! But now this delightful man has scattered poison all over the country there is something that comes home to our understanding. I declare myself a Goarlyite at once, Lord Rufford, and shall put myself under the Senator's leading directly he comes."
During all this time not a word had been said of John Morton, the master of Bragton, the man to whose party these new-comers belonged. Lady Augustus and Arabella clearly understood that John Morton was only a peg on which the invitation to them had been hung. The feeling that it was so grew upon them with every word that was spoken,--and also the conviction that he must be treated like a peg at Rufford. The sight of the hangings of the room, so different to the oldfashioned dingy curtains at Bragton, the brilliancy of the mirrors, all the decorations of the place, the very blaze from the big grate, forced upon the girl's feelings a conviction that this was her proper sphere. Here she was, being made much of as a new-comer, and here if possible she must remain. Everything smiled on her with gilded dimples, and these were the smiles she valued. As the softness of the cushions sank into her heart, and mellow nothingnesses from well-trained voices greeted her ears, and the air of wealth and idleness floated about her cheeks, her imagination rose within her and assured her that she could secure something better than Bragton. The cautions with which she had armed herself faded away. This, this was the kind of thing for which she had been striving. As a girl of spirit was it not worth her while to make another effort even though there might be danger? Aut Caesar aut nihil. She knew nothing about Caesar; but before the tardy wheels which brought the Senator and Mr. Morton had stopped at the door she had declared to herself that she would be Lady Rufford. The fresh party was of course brought into the drawing-room and tea was offered; but Arabella hardly spoke to them, and Lady Augustus did not speak to them at all, and they were shown up to their bedrooms with very little preliminary conversation.
It was very hard to put Mr. Gotobed down;--or it might be more correctly said, as there was no effort to put him down,--that it was not often that he failed in coming to the surface. He took Lady Penwether out to dinner and was soon explaining to her that this little experiment of his in regard to Goarly was being tried simply with the view of examining the institutions of the country. "We don't mind it from you," said Lady Penwether, "because you are in a certain degree a foreigner." The Senator declared himself flattered by being regarded as a foreigner only "in a certain degree." "You see you speak our language, Mr. Gotobed, and we can't help thinking you are half-English."
"We are two-thirds English, my lady," said Mr. Gotobed; "but then we think the other third is an improvement."
"We have nothing so nice as this;" as he spoke he waved his right hand to the different corners of the room. "Such a dinner-table as I am sitting down to now couldn't be fixed in all the United States though a man might spend three times as many dollars on it as his lordship does."
"That is very often done, I should think."
"But then as we have nothing so well done as a house like this, so also have we nothing so ill done as the houses of your poor people."
"Wages are higher with you, Mr. Gotobed"
"And public spirit, and the philanthropy of the age, and the enlightenment of the people, and the institutions of the country all round. They are all higher." "Canvas-back ducks," said the Major, who was sitting two or three off on the other side.
"Yes, sir, we have canvas-back ducks."
"Make up for a great many faults," said the Major.
"Of course, sir, when a man's stomach rises above his intelligence he'll have to argue accordingly," said the Senator.
"Caneback, what are you going to ride to-morrow?" asked the lord who saw the necessity of changing the conversation, as far at least as the Major was concerned.
"Jemima;--mare of Purefoy's; have my neck broken, they tell me." "It's not improbable," said Sir John Purefoy who was sitting at Lady Penwether's left hand. "Nobody ever could ride her yet."
"I was thinking of asking you to let Miss Trefoil try her," said Lord Rufford. Arabella was sitting between Sir John Purefoy and the Major.
"Miss Trefoil is quite welcome," said Sir John. "It isn't a bad idea. Perhaps she may carry a lady, because she has never been tried. I know that she objects strongly to carry a man."
"My dear," said Lady Augustus, "you shan't do anything of the kind." And Lady Augustus pretended to be frightened.
"Mamma, you don't suppose Lord Rufford wants to kill me at once." "You shall either ride her, Miss Trefoil, or my little horse Jack. But I warn you beforehand that as Jack is the easiest ridden horse in the country, and can scramble over anything, and never came down in his life, you won't get any honour and glory; but on Jemima you might make a character that would stick to you till your dying day."
"But if I ride Jemima that dying day might be to-morrow. I think I'll take Jack, Lord Rufford, and let Major Caneback have the honour. Is Jack fast?" In this way the anger arising between the Senator and the Major was assuaged. The Senator still held his own, and, before the question was settled between Jack and Jemima, had told the company that no Englishman knew how to ride, and that the only seat fit for a man on horseback was that suited for the pacing horses of California and Mexico. Then he assured Sir John Purefoy that eighty miles a day was no great journey for a pacing horse, with a man of fourteen stone and a saddle and accoutrements weighing four more. The Major's countenance, when the Senator declared that no Englishman could ride, was a sight worth seeing. That evening, even in the drawing-room, the conversation was chiefly about horses and hunting, and those terrible enemies Goarly and Scrobby. Lady Penwether and Miss Penge who didn't hunt were distantly civil to Lady Augustus of whom of course a woman so much in the world as Lady Penwether knew something. Lady Penwether had shrugged her shoulders when consulted as to these special guests and had expressed a hope that Rufford "wasn't going to make a goose of himself." But she was fond of her brother and as both Lady Purefoy and Miss Penge were special friends of hers, and as she had also been allowed to invite a couple of Godolphin's girls to whom she wished to be civil, she did as she was asked. The girl, she said to Miss Penge that evening, was handsome, but penniless and a flirt. The mother she declared to be a regular old soldier. As to Lady Augustus she was right; but she had perhaps failed to read Arabella's character correctly. Arabella Trefoil was certainly not a flirt. In all the horsey conversation Arabella joined, and her low, clear, slow voice could be heard now and then as though she were really animated with the subject. At Bragton she had never once spoken as though any matter had interested her. During this time Morton fell into conversation first with Lady Purefoy and then with the two Miss Godolphins, and afterwards for a few minutes with Lady Penwether who knew that he was a county gentleman and a respectable member of the diplomatic profession. But during the whole evening his ear was intent on the notes of Arabella's voice; and also, during the whole evening, her eye was watching him. She would not lose her chance with Lord Rufford for want of any effort on her own part. If aught were required from her in her present task that might be offensive to Mr. Morton,--anything that was peremptorily demanded for the effort,--she would not scruple to offend the man. But if it might be done without offence, so much the better. Once he came across the room and said a word to her as she was talking to Lord Rufford and the Purefoys. "You are really in earnest about riding to-morrow."
"Oh dear, yes. Why shouldn't I be in earnest?"
"You are coming out yourself I hope," said the Lord.
"I have no horses here of my own, but I have told that man Stubbings to send me something, and as I haven't been at Bragton for the last seven years I have nothing proper to wear. I shan't be called a Goarlyite I hope if I appear in trowsers."
"Not unless you have a basket of red herrings on your arm," said Lord Rufford. Then Morton retired back to the Miss Godolphins finding that he had nothing more to say to Arabella.
He was very angry,--though he hardly knew why or with whom. A girl when she is engaged is not supposed to talk to no one but her recognised lover in a mixed party of ladies and gentlemen, and she is especially absolved from such a duty when they chance to meet in the house of a comparative stranger. In such a house and among such people it was natural that the talk should be about hunting, and as the girl had accepted the loan of a horse it was natural that she should join in such conversation. She had never sat for a moment apart with Lord Rufford. It was impossible to say that she had flirted with the man,--and yet Morton felt that he was neglected, and felt also that he was only there because this pleasure-seeking young Lord had liked to have in his house the handsome girl whom he, Morton, intended to marry. He felt thoroughly ashamed of being there as it were in the train of Miss Trefoil. He was almost disposed to get up and declare that the girl was engaged to marry him. He thought that he could put an end to the engagement without breaking his heart; but if the engagement was an engagement he could not submit to treatment such as this, either from her or from others. He would see her for the last time in the country at the ball on the following evening,--as of course he would not be near her during the hunting,-and then he would make her understand that she must be altogether his or altogether cease to be his. And so resolving he went to bed, refusing to join the gentlemen in the smoking-room.
"Oh, mamma," Arabella said to her mother that evening, "I do so wish I could break my arm tomorrow."
"Break your arm, my dear!"
"Or my leg would be better. I wish I could have the courage to chuck myself off going over some gate. If I could be laid up here now with a broken limb I really think I could do it."
As the meet on the next morning was in the park the party at Rufford Hall was able to enjoy the luxury of an easy morning together with the pleasures of the field. There was no getting up at eight o'clock, no hurry and scurry to do twenty miles and yet be in time, no necessity for the tardy dressers to swallow their breakfasts while their more energetic companions were raving at them for compromising the chances of the day by their delay. There was a public breakfast down-stairs, at which all the hunting farmers of the country were to be seen, and some who, only pretended to be hunting farmers on such occasions. But up-stairs there was a private breakfast for the ladies and such of the gentlemen as preferred tea to champagne and cherry brandy. Lord Rufford was in and out of both rooms, making himself generally agreeable. In the public room there was a great deal said about Goarly, to all of which the Senator listened with eager ears,--for the Senator preferred the public breakfast as offering another institution to his notice. "He'll swing on a gallows afore he's dead," said one energetic farmer who was sitting next to Mr. Gotobed,--a fat man with a round head, and a bullock's neck, dressed in a black coat with breeches and top-boots. John Runce was not a riding man. He was too heavy and short-winded;--too fond of his beer and port wine; but he was a hunting man all over, one who always had a fox in the springs at the bottom of his big meadows, one to whom it was the very breath of his nostrils to shake hands with the hunting gentry and to be known as a staunch friend to the U.R.U. A man did not live in the county more respected than John Runce, or who was better able to pay his way. To his thinking an animal more injurious than Goarly to the best interests of civilisation could not have been produced by all the evil influences of the world combined. "Do you really think," said the Senator calmly, "that a man should be hanged for killing a fox?" John Runce, who was not very ready, turned round and stared at him. "I haven't heard of any other harm that he has done, and perhaps he had some provocation for that." Words were wanting to Mr. Runce, but not indignation. He collected together his plate and knife and fork and his two glasses and his lump of bread, and, looking the Senator full in the face, slowly pushed back his chair and, carrying his provisions with him, toddled off to the other end of the room. When he reached a spot where place was made for him he had hardly breath left to speak. "Well," he said, "I never--!" He sat a minute in silence shaking his head, and continued to shake his head and look round upon his neighbours as he devoured his food.
Up-stairs there was a very cosy party who came in by degrees. Lady Penwether was there soon after ten with Miss Penge and some of the gentlemen, including Morton, who was the only man seen in that room in black. Young Hampton, who vas intimate in the house, made his way up there and Sir John Purefoy joined the party. Sir John was a hunting man who lived in the county and was an old friend of the family. Lady Purefoy hunted also, and came in later. Arabella was the last,
-not from laziness, but aware that in this way the effect might be the best. Lord Rufford was in the room when she entered it and of course she addressed herself to him. "Which is it to be, Lord Rufford, Jack or Jemima?"
"Which ever you like."
"I am quite indifferent. If you'll put me on the mare I'll ride her,--or try." "Indeed you won't," said Lady Augustus.
"Mamma knows nothing about it, Lord Rufford. I believe I could do just as well as Major Caneback."
"She never had a lady on her in her life," said Sir John.
"Then it's time for her to begin. But at any rate I must have some breakfast first" Then Lord Rufford brought her a cup of tea and Sir John gave her a cutlet, and she felt herself to be happy. She was quite content with her hat, and though her habit was not exactly a hunting habit, it fitted her well. Morton had never before seen her in a riding dress and acknowledged that it became her. He struggled to think of something special to say to her, but there was nothing. He was not at home on such an occasion. His long trowsers weighed him down, and his ordinary morning coat cowed him. He knew in his heart that she thought no thing of him as he was now. But she said a word to him,--with that usual smile of hers. "Of course, Mr. Morton, you are coming with us."
"A little way perhaps."
"You'll find that any horse from Stubbings can go," said Lord Rufford. "I wish I could say as much of all mine."
"Jack can go, I hope, Lord Rufford." Lord Rufford nodded his head. "And I shall expect you to give me a lead." To this he assented, though it was perhaps more than he had intended. But on such an occasion it is almost impossible to refuse such a request.
At half-past eleven they were all out in the park, and Tony was elate as a prince having been regaled with a tumbler of champagne. But the great interest of the immediate moment were the frantic efforts made by Jemima to get rid of her rider. Once or twice Sir John asked the Major to give it up, but the Major swore that the mare was a good mare and only wanted riding. She kicked and squealed and backed and went round the park with him at a full gallop. In the park there was a rail with a ha-ha ditch, and the Major rode her at it in a gallop. She went through the timber, fell in the ditch, and then was brought up again without giving the man a fall. He at once put her back at the same fence, and she took it, almost in her stride, without touching it. "Have her like a spaniel before the day's over," said the Major, who thoroughly enjoyed these little encounters.
Among the laurels at the bottom of the park a fox was found, and then there was a great deal of riding about the grounds. All this was much enjoyed by the ladies who were on foot,--and by the Senator who wandered about the place alone. A gentleman's park is not always the happiest place for finding a fox. The animal has usually many resources there and does not like to leave it. And when he does go away it is not always easy to get after him. But ladies in a carriage or on foot on such occasions have their turn of the sport. On this occasion it was nearly one before the fox allowed himself to be killed, and then he had hardly been outside the park palings. There was a good deal of sherry drank before the party got away and hunting men such as Major Caneback began to think that the day was to be thrown away. As they started off for Shugborough Springs, the little covert on John Runce's farm which was about four miles from Rufford Hall, Sir John asked the Major to get on another animal. "You've had trouble enough with her for one day, and given her enough to do." But the Major was not of that way of thinking. "Let her have the day's work," said the Major. "Do her good. Remember what she's learned." And so they trotted off to Shugborough. While they were riding about the park Morton had kept near to Miss Trefoil. Lord Rufford, being on his own place and among his own coverts, had had cares on his hand and been unable to devote himself to the young lady. She had never for a moment looked up at her lover, or tried to escape from him. She had answered all his questions, saying, however, very little, and had bided her time. The more gracious she was to Morton now the less ground would he have for complaining of her when she should leave him by-and-by. As they were trotting along the road Lord Rufford came up and apologized. "I'm afraid I've been very inattentive, Miss Trefoil; but I dare say you've been in better hands."
"There hasn't been much to do;--has there?"
"Very little. I suppose a man isn't responsible for having foxes that won't break. Did you see the Senator? He seemed to think it was all right. Did you hear of John Runce?" Then he told the story of John Runce, which had been told to him. "What a fine old fellow! I should forgive him his rent"
"He is much better able to pay me double. Your Senator, Mr. Morton, is a very peculiar man."
"He is peculiar," said Morton, "and I am sorry to say can make himself very disagreeable."
"We might as well trot on as Shugborough is a small place, and a fox always goes away from it at once. John Runce knows how to train them better than I do. Then they made their way on through the straggling horses, and John Morton, not wishing to seem to be afraid of his rival, remained alone. "I wish Caneback had left that mare behind," said the lord as they went. "It isn't the country for her, and she is going very nastily with him. Are you fond of hunting, Miss Trefoil?" "Very fond of it," said Arabella who had been out two or three times in her life. "I like a girl to ride to hounds," said his lordship. "I don't think she ever looks so well." Then Arabella determined that come what might she would ride to hounds. At Shugborough Springs a fox was found before half the field was up, and he broke almost as soon as he was found. "Follow me through the hand gates," said the lord, "and from the third field out it's fair riding. Let him have his head, and remember he hangs a moment as he comes to his fence. You won't be left behind unless there's something out of the way to stop us." Arabella's heart was in her mouth, but she was quite resolved. Where he went she would follow. As for being left behind she would not care the least for that if he were left behind with her. They got well away, having to pause a moment while the hounds came up to Tony's horn out of the wood. Then there was plain sailing and there were very few before them. "He's one of the old sort, my lord," said Tony as he pressed on, speaking of the fox. "Not too near me, and you'll go like a bird," said his lordship. "He's a nice little horse, isn't he? When I'm going to be married, he'll be the first present I shall make her."
"He'd tempt almost any girl," said Arabella.
It was wonderful how well she went, knowing so little about it as she did. The horse was one easily ridden, and on plain ground she knew what she was about in a saddle. At any rate she did not disgrace herself and when they had already run some three or four miles Lord Rufford had nearly the best of it and she had kept with him. "You don't know where you are I suppose," he said when they came to a check.
"And I don't in the least care, if they'd only go on," said she eagerly. "We're back at Rufford Park. We've left the road nearly a mile to our left, but there we are. Those trees are the park."
"But must we stop there?"
"That's as the fox may choose to behave. We shan't stop unless he does." Then young Hampton came up, declaring that there was the very mischief going on between Major Caneback and Jemima. According to Hampton's account, the Major had been down three or four times, but was determined to break either the mare's neck or her spirit. He had been considerably hurt, so Hampton said, in one shoulder, but had insisted on riding on. "That's the worst of him," said Lord Rufford. "He never knows when to give up."
Then the hounds were again on the scent and were running very fast towards the park. "That's a nasty ditch before us," said the Lord. "Come down a little to the left. The hounds are heading that way, and there's a gate." Young Hampton in the meantime was going straight for the fence. "I'm not afraid," said Arabella. "Very well. Give him his head and he'll do it"
Just at that moment there was a noise behind them and the Major on Jemima rushed up. She was covered with foam and he with dirt, and her sides were sliced with the spur. His hat was crushed, and he was riding almost altogether with his right hand. He came close to Arabella and she could see the rage in his face as the animal rushed on with her head almost between her knees. "He'll have another fall there," said Lord Rufford.
Hampton who had passed them was the first over the fence, and the other three all took it abreast. The Major was to the right, the lord to the left and the girl between them. The mare's head was perhaps the first. She rushed at the fence, made no leap at all, and of course went headlong into the ditch. The Major still stuck to her though two or three voices implored him to get off. He afterwards declared that he had not strength to lift himself out of the saddle. The mare lay for a moment;--then blundered out, rolled over him, jumped on to her feet, and lunging out kicked her rider on the head as he was rising. Then she went away and afterwards jumped the palings into Rufford Park. That evening she was shot. The man when kicked had fallen back close under the feet of Miss Trefoil's horse. She screamed and half-fainting, fell also;--but fell without hurting herself. Lord Rufford of course stopped, as did also Mr. Hampton and one of the whips, with several others in the course of a minute or two. The Major was senseless,-but they who understood what they were looking at were afraid that the case was very bad. He was picked up and put on a door and within half an hour was on his bed in Rufford Hall. But he did not speak for some hours and before six o'clock that evening the doctor from Rufford had declared that he had mounted his last horse and ridden his last hunt!
"Oh Lord Rufford," said Arabella, "I shall never recover that. I heard the horse's feet against his head." Lord Rufford shuddered and put his hand round her waist to support her. At that time they were standing on the ground. "Don't mind me if you can do any good to him." But there was nothing that Lord Rufford could do as four men were carrying the Major on a shutter. So he and Arabella returned together, and when she got off her horse she was only able to throw herself into his arms.
23. Poor Caneback
A closer intimacy will occasionally be created by some accident, some fortuitous circumstance, than weeks of ordinary intercourse will produce. Walk down Bond Street in a hailstorm of peculiar severity and you may make a friend of the first person you meet, whereas you would be held to have committed an affront were you to speak to the same person in the same place on a fine day. You shall travel smoothly to York with a lady and she will look as though she would call the guard at once were you so much as to suggest that it were a fine day; but if you are lucky enough to break a wheel before you get to Darlington, she will have told you all her history and shared your sherry by the time you have reached that town. Arabella was very much shocked by the dreadful accident she had seen. Her nerves had suffered, though it may be doubted whether her heart had been affected much. But she was quite conscious when she reached her room that the poor Major's misfortune, happening as it had done just beneath her horse's feet, had been a godsend to her. For a moment the young lord's arm had been round her waist and her head had been upon his shoulder. And again when she had slipped from her saddle she had felt his embrace. His fervour to her had been simply the uncontrolled expression of his feeling at the moment,--as one man squeezes another tightly by the hand in any crisis of sudden impulse. She knew this; but she knew also that he would probably revert to the intimacy which the sudden emotion had created. The mutual galvanic shock might be continued at the next meeting,--and so on. They had seen the tragedy together and it would not fail to be a bond of union. As she told the tragedy to her mother, she delicately laid aside her hat and whip and riding dress, and then asked whether it was not possible that they might prolong their stay at Rufford. "But the Gores, my dear! I put them off, you know, for two days only." Then Arabella declared that she did not care a straw for the Gores. In such a matter as this what would it signify though they should quarrel with a whole generation of Gores? For some time she thought that she would not come down again that afternoon or even that evening. It might well be that the sight of the accident should have made her too ill to appear. She felt conscious that in that moment and in the subsequent half hour she had carried herself well, and that there would be an interest about her were she to own herself compelled to keep her room. Were she now to take to her bed they could not turn her out on the following day. But at last her mother's counsel put an end to that plan. Time was too precious. "I think you might lose more than you'd gain," said her mother.
Both Lord Rufford and his sister were very much disturbed as to what they should do on the occasion. At half-past six Lord Rufford was told that the Major had recovered his senses, but that the case was almost hopeless. Of course he saw his guest. "I'm all right," said the Major. The Lord sat there by the bedside, holding the man's hand for a few moments, and then got up to leave him. "No nonsense about putting off," said the Major in a faint voice; "beastly bosh all that!"
But what was to be done? The dozen people who were in the house must of course sit down to dinner. And then all the neighbourhood for miles round were coming to a ball. It would be impossible to send messages to everybody. And there was the feeling too that the man was as yet only ill, and that his recovery was possible. A ball, with a dead man in one of the bedrooms, would be dreadful. With a dying man it was bad enough;--but then a dying man is always also a living man! Lord Rufford had already telegraphed for a first-class surgeon from London, it having been whispered to him that perhaps Old Nokes from Rufford might be mistaken. The surgeon could not be there till four o'clock in the morning by which time care would have been taken to remove the signs of the ball; but if there was reason to send for a London surgeon, then also was there reason for hope; and if there were ground for hope, then the desirability of putting off the ball was very much reduced. "He's at the furthest end of the corridor," the Lord said to his sister, "and won't hear a sound of the music."
Though the man were to die why shouldn't the people dance? Had the Major been dying three or four miles off, at the hotel at Rufford, there would only have been a few sad looks, a few shakings of the head, and the people would have danced without any flaw in their gaiety. Had it been known at Rufford Hall that he was lying at that moment in his mortal agony at Aberdeen, an exclamation or two,-- "Poor Caneback!"--"Poor Major!"--would have been the extent of the wailing, and not the pressure of a lover's hand would have been lightened, or the note of a fiddle delayed. And nobody in that house really cared much for Caneback. He was not a man worthy of much care. He was possessed of infinite pluck, and now that he was dying could bear it well. But he had loved no one particularly, had been dear to no one in these latter days of his life, had been of very little use in the world, and had done very little more for society than any other horse-trainer! But nevertheless it is a bore when a gentleman dies in your house,--and a worse bore if he dies from an accident than if from an illness for which his own body may be supposed to be responsible. Though the gout should fly to a man's stomach in your best bedroom, the idea never strikes you that your burgundy has done it! But here the mare had done the mischief.
Poor Caneback;--and poor Lord Rufford! The Major was quite certain that it was all over with himself. He had broken so many of his bones and had his head so often cracked that he understood his own anatomy pretty well. There he lay quiet and composed, sipping small modicums of brandy and water, and taking his outlook into such transtygian world as he had fashioned for himself in his dull imagination. If he had misgivings he showed them to no bystander. If he thought then that he might have done better with his energies than devote them to dangerous horses, he never said so. His voice was weak, but it never quailed; and the only regret he expressed was that he had not changed the bit in Jemima's mouth. Lord Rufford's position was made worse by an expression from Sir John Purefoy that the party ought to be put off. Sir John was in a measure responsible for what his mare had done, and was in a wretched state. "If it could possibly affect the poor fellow I would do it," said Lord Rufford; "but it would create very great inconvenience and disappointment. I have to think of other people." "Then I shall send my wife home," said Sir John. And Lady Purefoy was sent home. Sir John himself of course could not leave the house while the man was alive. Before they all sat down to dinner the Major was declared to be a little stronger. That settled the question and the ball was not put off.
The ladies came down to dinner in a melancholy guise. They were not fully dressed for the evening and were of course inclined to be silent and sad. Before Lord Rufford came in Arabella managed to get herself on to the sofa next to Lady Penwether, and then to undergo some little hysterical manifestation, "Oh Lady Penwether; if you had seen it;--and heard it!"
"I am very glad that I was spared anything so horrible."
"And the man's face as he passed me going to the leap! It will haunt me to my dying day!" Then she shivered, and gurgled in her throat, and turning suddenly round, hid her face on the elbow of the couch.
"I've been afraid all the afternoon that she would be ill," whispered Lady Augustus to Miss Penge. "She is so susceptible!"
When Lord Rufford came into the room Arabella at once got up and accosted him with a whisper. Either he took her or she took him into a distant part of the room where they conversed apart for five minutes. And he, as he told her how things were going and what was being done, bent over her and whispered also. "What good would it do, you know?" she said with affected intimacy as he spoke of his difficulty about the ball. "One would do anything if one could be of service,--but that would do nothing." She felt completely that her presence at the accident had given her a right to have peculiar conversations and to be consulted about everything. Of course she was very sorry for Major Caneback. But as it had been ordained that Major Caneback was to have his head split in two by a kick from a horse, and that Lord Rufford was to be there to see it, how great had been the blessing which had brought her to the spot at the same time!
Everybody there saw the intimacy and most of them understood the way in which it was being used. "That girl is very clever, Rufford," his sister whispered to him before dinner. "She is very much excited rather than clever just at present," he answered;-- upon which Lady Penwether shook her head. Miss Penge whispered to Miss Godolphin that Miss Trefoil was making the most of it; and Mr. Morton, who had come into the room while the conversation apart was going on, had certainly been of the same opinion.
She had seated herself in an arm-chair away from the others after that conversation was over, and as she sat there Morton came up to her. He had been so little intimate with the members of the party assembled and had found himself so much alone, that he had only lately heard the story about Major Caneback, and had now only heard it imperfectly. But he did see that an absolute intimacy had been effected where two days before there had only been a slight acquaintance; and he believed that this sudden rush had been in some way due to the accident of which he had been told. "You know what has happened?" he said.
"Oh, Mr. Morton; do not talk to me about it."
"Were you not speaking of it to Lord Rufford?"
"Of course I was. We were together."
"Did you see it?" Then she shuddered, put her handkerchief up to her eyes, and turned her face away. "And yet the ball is to go on?" he asked.
"Pray, pray, do not dwell on it,--unless you wish to force me back to my room. When I left it I felt that I was attempting to do too much." This might have been all very well had she not been so manifestly able to talk to Lord Rufford on the same subject. If there is any young man to whom a girl should be able to speak when she is in a state of violent emotion, it is the young man to whom she is engaged. So at least thought Mr. John Morton.
Then dinner was announced, and the dinner certainly was sombre enough. A dinner before a ball in the country never is very much of a dinner. The ladies know that there is work before them, and keep themselves for the greater occasion. Lady Purefoy had gone, and Lady Penwether was not very happy in the prospects for the evening. Neither Miss Penge nor either of the two Miss Godolphins had entertained personal hopes in regard to Lord Rufford, but nevertheless they took badly the great favour shown to Arabella. Lady Augustus did not get on particularly well with any of the other ladies,--and there seemed during the dinner to be an air of unhappiness over them all. They retired as soon as it was possible, and then Arabella at once went up to her bedroom. "Mr. Nokes says he is a little stronger, my Lord," said the butler coming into the room. Mr. Nokes had gone home and had returned again.
"He might pull through yet," said Mr. Hampton. Lord Rufford shook his head. Then Mr. Gotobed told a wonderful story of an American who had had his brains knocked almost out of his head and had sat in Congress afterwards. "He was the finest horseman I ever saw on a horse," said Hampton.
"A little too much temper," said Captain Battersby, who was a very old friend of the Major.
"I'd give a good deal that that mare had never been brought to my stables," said Lord Rufford. "Purefoy will never get over it, and I shan't forget it in a hurry." Sir John at this time was up-stairs with the sufferer. Even while drinking their wine they could not keep themselves from the subject, and were convivial in a cadaverous fashion.
24. The Ball
The people came of course, but not in such numbers as had been expected. Many of those in Rufford had heard of the accident, and having been made acquainted with Nokes's report, stayed away. Everybody was told that supper would be on the table at twelve, and that it was generally understood that the house was to be cleared by two. Nokes seemed to think that the sufferer would live at least till the morrow, and it was ascertained to a certainty that the music could not affect him. It was agreed among the party in the house that the ladies staying there should stand up for the first dance or two, as otherwise the strangers would be discouraged and the whole thing would be a failure. This request was made by Lady Penwether because Miss Penge had said that she thought it impossible for her to dance. Poor Miss Penge, who was generally regarded as a brilliant young woman, had been a good deal eclipsed by Arabella and had seen the necessity of striking out some line for herself. Then Arabella had whispered a few words to Lord Rufford, and the lord had whispered a few words to his sister, and Lady Penwether had explained what was to be done to the ladies around. Lady Augustus nodded her head and said that it was all right. The other ladies of course agreed, and partners were selected within the house party. Lord Rufford stood up with Arabella and John Morton with Lady Penwether. Mr. Gotobed selected Miss Penge, and Hampton and Battersby the two Miss Godolphins. They all took their places with a lugubrious but businesslike air, as aware that they were sacrificing themselves in the performance of a sad duty. But Morton was not allowed to dance in the same quadrille with the lady of his affections. Lady Penwether explained to him that she and her brother had better divide themselves,--for the good of the company generally,--and therefore he and Arabella were also divided.
A rumour had reached Lady Penwether of the truth in regard to their guests from Bragton. Mr. Gotobed had whispered to her that he had understood that they certainly were engaged; and, even before that, the names of the two lovers had been wafted to her ears from the other side of the Atlantic. Both John Morton and Lady Augustus were "somebodies," and Lady Penwether generally knew what there was to be known of anybody who was anybody. But it was quite clear to her,--more so even than to poor John Morton, that the lady was conducting herself now as though she were fettered by no bonds, and it seemed to Lady Penwether also that the lady was very anxious to contract other bonds. She knew her brother well. He was always in love with somebody; but as he had hitherto failed of success where marriage was desirable, so had he avoided disaster when it was not. He was one of those men who are generally supposed to be averse to matrimony. Lady Penwether and some other relatives were anxious that he should take a wife;--but his sister was by no means anxious that he should take such a one as Arabella Trefoil. Therefore she thought that she might judiciously ask Mr. Morton a few questions. "I believe you knew the Trefoils in Washington?" she said. Morton acknowledged that he had seen much of them there. "She is very handsome certainly."
"I think so."
"And rides well I suppose."
"I don't know. I never heard much of her riding."
"Has she been staying long at Bragton?" "Just a week."
"Do you know Lord Augustus?" Morton said that he did not know Lord Augustus and then answered sundry other questions of the same nature in the same uncommunicative way. Though he had once or twice almost fancied that he would like to proclaim aloud that the girl was engaged to him, yet he did not like to have the fact pumped out of him. And if she were such a girl as she now appeared to be, might it not be better for him to let her go? Surely her conduct here at Rufford Hall was opportunity enough. No doubt she was handsome. No doubt he loved her,--after his fashion of loving. But to lose her now would not break his heart, whereas to lose her after he was married to her, would, he knew well, bring him to the very ground. He would ask her a question or two this very night, and then come to some resolution. With such thoughts as these crossing his mind he certainly was not going to proclaim his engagement to Lady Penwether. But Lady Penwether was a determined woman. Her smile, when she condescended to smile, was very sweet,-- lighting up her whole face and flattering for the moment the person on whom it shone. It was as though a rose in emitting its perfume could confine itself to the nostrils of its one favoured friend. And now she smiled on Morton as she asked another question. "I did hear," she said, "from one of your Foreign Office young men that you and Miss Trefoil were very intimate."
"Who was that, Lady Penwether?"
"Of course I shall mention no name. You might call out the poor lad and shoot him, or, worse still, have him put down to the bottom of his class. But I did hear it. And then, when I find her staying with her mother at your house, of course I believe it to be true."
"Now she is staying at your brother's house,--which is much the same thing." "But I am here."
"And my grandmother is at Bragton."
"That puts me in mind, Mr. Morton. I am so sorry that we did not know it, so that we might have asked her."
"She never goes out anywhere, Lady Penwether."
"And there is nothing then in the report that I heard?"
Morton paused a moment before he answered, and during that moment collected his diplomatic resources. He was not a weak man, who could be made to tell anything by the wiles of a pretty woman. "I think," he said, "that when people have anything of that kind which they wish to be known, they declare it." "I beg your pardon. I did not mean to unravel a secret."
"There are secrets, Lady Penwether, which people do like to unravel, but which the owners of them sometimes won't abandon." Then there was nothing more said on the subject. Lady Penwether did not smile again, and left him to go about the room on her business as hostess, as soon as the dance was over. But she was sure that they were engaged.
In the meantime, the conversation between Lord Rufford and Arabella was very different in its tone, though on the same subject. He was certainly very much struck with her, not probably ever waiting to declare to himself that she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life, but still feeling towards her an attraction which for the time was strong. A very clever girl would frighten him; a very horsey girl would disgust him; a very quiet girl would bore him; or a very noisy girl annoy him. With a shy girl he could never be at his ease, not enjoying the labour of overcoming such a barrier; and yet he liked to be able to feel that any female intimacy which he admitted was due to his own choice and not to that of the young woman. Arabella Trefoil was not very clever, but she had given all her mind to this peculiar phase of life, and, to use a common phrase, knew what she was about. She was quite alive to the fact that different men require different manners in a young woman; and as she had adapted herself to Mr. Morton at Washington, so could she at Rufford adapt herself to Lord Rufford. At the present moment the lord was in love with her as much as he was wont to be in love. "Doesn't it seem an immense time since we came here yesterday?" she said to him. "There has been so much done"
"There has been a great misfortune."
"I suppose that is it. Only for that how very very pleasant it would have been!" "Yes, indeed. It was a nice run, and that little horse carried you charmingly. I wish I could see you ride him again" She shook her head as she looked up into his face. "Why do you shake your head?"
"Because I am afraid there is no possible chance of such happiness. We are going to such a dull house to-morrow! And then to so many dull houses afterwards."
"I don't know why you shouldn't come back and have another day or two;--when all this sadness has gone by."
"Don't talk about it, Lord Rufford."
"I never like to talk about any pleasure because it always vanishes as soon as it has come;--and when it has been real pleasure it never comes back again. I don't think I ever enjoyed anything so much as our ride this morning, till that tragedy came."
"I suppose there is no hope?" He shook his head. "And we must go on to those Gores to-morrow without knowing anything about it. I wonder whether you could send me a line."
"Of course I can, and I will." Then he asked her a question looking into her face. "You are not going back to Bragton?"
"Oh dear, no."
"Was Bragton dull?"
"Awfully dull; frightfully dull."
"You know what they say?"
"What who say, Lord Rufford? People say anything,--the more ill-natured the better they like it, I think."
"Have you not heard what they say about you and Mr. Morton?"
"Just because mamma made a promise when in Washington to go to Bragton with that Mr. Gotobed. Don't you find they marry you to everybody?" "They have married me to a good many people. Perhaps they'll marry me to you to-morrow. That would not be so bad."
"Oh, Lord Rufford! Nobody has ever condemned you to anything so terrible as that."
"There was no truth in it then, Miss Trefoil?"
"None at all, Lord Rufford. Only I don't know why you should ask me." "Well; I don't know. A man likes sometimes to be sure how the land lies. Mr. Morton looks so cross that I thought that perhaps the very fact of my dancing with you might be an offence."
"Is he cross?"
"You know him better than I do. Perhaps it's his nature. Now I must do one other dance with a native and then my work will be over."
"That isn't very civil, Lord Rufford."
"If you do not know what I meant, you're not the girl I take you to be." Then as she walked with him back out of the ball-room into the drawing-room she assured him that she did know what he meant, and that therefore she was the girl he took her to be.
She had determined that she would not dance again and had resolved to herd with the other ladies of the house,--waiting for any opportunity that chance might give her for having a last word with Lord Rufford before they parted for the night,
-when Morton came up to her and demanded rather than asked that she would stand up with him for a quadrille. "We settled it all among ourselves, you know," she said. "We were to dance only once, just to set the people off." He still persisted, but she still refused, alleging that she was bound by the general compact; and though he was very urgent she would not yield. "I wonder how you can ask me," she said. "You don't suppose that after what has occurred I can have any pleasure in dancing." Upon this he asked her to take a turn with him through the rooms, and to that she found herself compelled to assent. Then he spoke out to her. "Arabella," he said, "I am not quite content with what has been going on since we came to this house."
"I am sorry for that."
"Nor, indeed, have I been made very happy by all that has occurred since your mother and you did me the honour of coming to Bragton."
"I must acknowledge you haven't seemed to be very happy, Mr. Morton." "I don't want to distress you;--and as far as possible I wish to avoid distressing myself. If it is your wish that our engagement should be over, I will endeavour to bear it. If it is to be continued, I expect that your manner to me should be altered" "What am I to say?"
"Say what you feel."
"I feel that I can't alter my manner, as you call it."
"You do wish the engagement to be over then?"
"I did not say so. The truth is, Mr. Morton, that there is some trouble about the lawyers."
"Why do you always call me Mr. Morton?"
"Because I am aware how probable it is that all this may come to nothing. I can't walk out of the house and marry you as the cook maid does the gardener. I've got to wait till I'm told that everything is settled; and at present I'm told that things are not settled because you won't agree."
"I'll leave it to anybody to say whether I've been unreasonable."
"I won't go into that. I haven't meddled with it, and I don't know anything about it. But until it is all settled as a matter of course there must be some little distance between us. It's the commonest thing in the world, I should say."
"What is to be the end of it?"
"I do not know. If you think yourself injured you can back out of it at once. I've nothing more to say about it."
"And you think I can like the way you're going on here?"
"If you're jealous, Mr. Morton, there's an end of it. I tell you fairly once for all, that as long as I'm a single woman I will regulate my conduct as I please. You can do the same, and I shall not say a word to you." Then she withdrew her arm from him, and, leaving him, walked across the room and joined her mother. He went off at once to his own room resolving that he would write to her from Bragton. He had made his propositions in regard to money which he was quite aware were as liberal as was fit. If she would now fix a day for their marriage, he would be a happy man. If she would not bring herself to do this, then he would have no alternative but to regard their engagement as at an end.
At two o'clock the guests were nearly all gone. The Major was alive, and likely to live at least for some hours, and the Rufford people generally were glad that they had not put off the ball. Some of them who were staying in the house had already gone to bed, and Lady Penwether, with Miss Penge at her side, was making her last adieux in the drawing-room. The ball-room was reached from the drawingroom, with a vestibule between them, and opening from this was a small chamber, prettily furnished but seldom used, which had no peculiar purpose of its own, but in which during the present evening many sweet words had probably been spoken. Now, at this last moment, Lord Rufford and Arabella Trefoil were there alone together. She had just got up from a sofa, and he had taken her hand in his. She did not attempt to withdraw it, but stood looking down upon the ground. Then he passed his arm round her waist and lifting her face to his held her in a close embrace from which she made no effort to free herself. As soon as she was released she hastened to the door which was all but closed, and as she opened it and passed through to the drawing-room said some ordinary word to him quite aloud in her ordinary voice. If his action had disturbed her she knew very well how to recover her equanimity.
25. The Last Morning At Rufford Hall
"Well, my love?" said Lady Augustus, as soon as her daughter had joined her in her bedroom. On such occasions there was always a quarter of an hour before going to bed in which the mother and daughter discussed their affairs, while the two lady's maids were discussing their affairs in the other room. The two maids probably did not often quarrel, but the mother and daughter usually did. "I wish that stupid man hadn't got himself hurt."
"Of course, my dear; we all wish that. But I really don't see that it has stood much in your way.
"Yes it has. After all there is nothing like dancing, and we shouldn't all have been sent to bed at two o'clock."
"Then it has come to nothing?"
"I didn't say that at all, mamma. I think I have done uncommonly well. Indeed I know I have. But then if everything had not been upset, I might have done so much better."
"What have you done?" asked Lady Augustus, timidly. She knew perfectly well that her daughter would tell her nothing, and yet she always asked these questions and was always angry when no information was given to her. Any young woman would have found it very hard to give the information needed. "When we were alone he sat for five minutes with his arm round my waist, and then he kissed me. He didn't say much, but then I knew perfectly well that he would be on his guard not to commit himself by words. But I've got him to promise that he'll write to me, and of course I'll answer in such a way that he must write again. I know he'll want to see me, and I think I can go very near doing it. But he's an old stager and knows what he's about: and of course there'll be ever so many people to tell him I'm not the sort of girl he ought to marry. He'll hear about Colonel de B--, and Sir C. D--, and Lord E. F--, and there are ever so many chances against me. But I've made up my mind to try it. It's taking the long odds. I can hardly expect to win, but if I do pull it off I'm made for ever!" A daughter can hardly say all that to her mother. Even Arabella Trefoil could not say it to her mother,--or, at any rate, she would not. "What a question that is to ask, mamma?" she did say tossing her head.
"Well, my dear, unless you tell me something how can I help you?" "I don't know that I want you to help me,--at any rate not in that way." "In what way?"
"Oh, mamma, you are so odd."
"Has he said anything?"
"Yes, he has. He said he liked dry champagne and that he never ate supper." "If you won't tell me how things are going you may fight your own battles by yourself."
"That's just what I must do. Nobody else can fight my battles for me." "What are you going to do about Mr. Morton?"
"I saw him talking to you and looking as black as thunder."
"He always looks as black as thunder."
"Is that to be all off? I insist upon having an answer to that question." "I believe you fancy, mamma, that a lot of men can be played like a parcel of chessmen, and that as soon as a knight is knocked on the head you can take him up and put him into the box and have done with him."
"You haven't done with Mr. Morton then?"
"Poor Mr. Morton! I do feel he is badly used because he is so honest. I sometimes wish that I could afford to be honest too and to tell somebody the downright truth. I should like to tell him the truth and I almost think I will. `My dear fellow, I did for a time think I couldn't do better, and I'm not at all sure now that I can. But then you are so very dull, and I'm not certain that I should care to be Queen of the English society at the Court of the Emperor of Morocco! But if you'll wait for another six months, I shall be able to tell you.' That's what I should have to say to him."
"Who is talking nonsense now, Arabella?"
"I am not. But I shan't say it. And now, mamma, I'll tell you what we must do." "You must tell me why also?"
"I can do nothing of the kind. He knows the Duke." The Duke with the Trefoils always meant the Duke of Mayfair who was Arabella's ducal uncle. "Intimately?"
"Well enough to go there. There is to be a great shooting at Mistletoe,"--Mistletoe was the Duke's place,--"in January. I got that from him, and he can go if he likes. He won't go as it is: but if I tell him I'm to be there, I think he will."
"What did you tell him?"
"Well;--I told him a tarradiddle of course. I made him understand that I could be there if I pleased, and he thinks that I mean to be there if he goes." "But I'm sure the Duchess won't have me again."
"She might let me come."
"And what am I to do?"
"You could go to Brighton with Miss De Groat;--or what does it matter for a fortnight? You'll get the advantage when it's done. It's as well to have the truth out at once, mamma,--I cannot carry on if I'm always to be stuck close to your apron-strings. There are so many people won't have you."
"Arabella, I do think you are the most ungrateful, hard-hearted creature that ever lived."
"Very well; I don't know what I have to be grateful about, and I need to be hardhearted. Of course I am hard-hearted. The thing will be to get papa to see his brother."
"Yes; that's what I mean to try. The Duke of course would like me to marry Lord Rufford. Do you think that if I were at home here it wouldn't make Mistletoe a very different sort of place for you? The Duke does like papa in a sort of way, and he's civil enough to me when I'm there. He never did like you."
"Everybody is so fond of you! It was what you did when young Stranorlar was there which made the Duchess almost turn us out of the house."
"What's the good of your saying that, mamma? If you go on like that I'll separate myself from you and throw myself on papa."
"Your father wouldn't lift his little finger for you."
"I'll try at any rate. Will you consent to my going there without you if I can manage it?"
"What did Lord Rufford say?" Arabella here made a grimace. "You can tell me something. What are the lawyers to say to Mr. Morton's people?"
"Whatever they like."
"If they come to arrangements do you mean to marry him?"
"Not for the next two months certainly. I shan't see him again now heaven knows when. He'll write no doubt,--one of his awfully sensible letters, and I shall take my time about answering him. I can stretch it out for two months. If I'm to do any good with this man it will be all arranged before that time. If the Duke could really be made to believe that Lord Rufford was in earnest I'm sure he'd have me there. As to her, she always does what he tells her."
"He is going to write to you?"
"I told you that before, mamma. What is the good of asking a lot of questions? You know now what my plan is, and if you won't help me I must carry it out alone. And, remember, I don't want to start to-morrow till after Morton and that American have gone." Then without a kiss or wishing her mother good night she went off to her own room.
The next morning at about nine Arabella heard from her maid that the Major was still alive but senseless. The London surgeon had been there and had declared it to be possible that the patient should live, but barely possible. At ten they were all at breakfast, and the carriage from Bragton was already at the door to take back Mr. Morton and his American friend. Lady Augustus had been clever enough to arrange that she should have the phaeton to take her to the Rufford Station a little later on in the day, and had already hinted to one of the servants that perhaps a cart might be sent with the luggage. The cart was forthcoming. Lady Augustus was very clever in arranging her locomotion and seldom paid for much more than her railway tickets.
"I had meant to say a few words to you, my lord, about that man Goarly," said the Senator, standing. before the fire in the breakfast-room, "but this sad catastrophe has stopped me."
"There isn't much to say about him, Mr. Gotobed."
"Perhaps not; only I would not wish you to think that I would oppose you without some cause. If the man is in the wrong according to law let him be proved to be so. The cost to you will be nothing. To him it might be of considerable importance."
"Just so. Won't you sit down and have some breakfast. If Goarly ever makes himself nuisance enough it may be worth my while to buy him out at three times the value of his land. But he'll have to be a very great nuisance before I shall do that. Dillsborough wood is not the only fox covert in the county." After that there was no more said about it; but neither did Lord Rufford understand the Senator nor did the Senator understand Lord Rufford. John Runce had a clearer conviction on his mind than either of them. Goarly ought to be hanged, and no American should under any circumstances be allowed to put his foot upon British soil. That was Runce's idea of the matter.
The parting between Morton and the Trefoils was very chill and uncomfortable. "Good-bye, Mr. Morton;--we had such a pleasant time at Bragton!" said Lady Augustus. "I shall write to you this afternoon," he whispered to Arabella as he took her hand. She smiled and murmured a word of adieu, but made him no reply. Then they were gone, and as he got into the carriage he told himself that in all probability he would never see her again. It might be that he would curtail his leave of absence and get back to Washington as quickly as possible. The Trefoils did not start for an hour after this, during which Arabella could hardly find an opportunity for a word in private. She could not quite appeal to him to walk with her in the grounds, or even to take a turn with her round the empty ballroom. She came down dressed for walking, thinking that so she might have the best chance of getting him for a quarter of an hour to herself, but he was either too wary or else the habits of his life prevented it. And in what she had to do it was so easy to go beyond the proper line! She would wish him to understand that she would like to be alone with him after what had passed between them on the previous evening, but she must be careful not to let him imagine that she was too anxious. And then whatever she did she had to do with so many eyes upon her! And when she went, as she would do now in so short a time, so many hostile tongues would attack her! He had everything to protect him; and she had nothing, absolutely nothing, to help her! It was thus that she looked at it; and yet she had courage for the battle. Almost at the last moment she did get a word with him in the hall. "How is he?"
"Oh, better, decidedly."
"I am so glad. If I could only think that he could live! Well, my Lord, we have to say good-bye."
"I suppose so."
"You'll write me a line,--about him."
"I shall be so glad to have a line from Rufford. Maddox Hall, you know; Stafford." "I will remember."
"And dear old Jack. Tell me when you write what Jack has been doing." Then she put out her hand and he held it. "I wonder whether you will ever remember--" But she did not quite know what to bid him remember, and therefore turned away her face and wiped away a tear, and then smiled as she turned her back on him. The carriage was at the door, and the ladies flocked into the hall, and then not another word could be said.
"That's what I call a really nice country house," said Lady Augustus as she was driven away. Arabella sat back in the phaeton lost in thought and said nothing. "Everything so well done, and yet none of all that fuss that there is at Mistletoe." She paused but still her daughter did not speak. "If I were beginning the world again I would not wish for a better establishment than that. Why can't you answer me a word when I speak to you?"
"Of course it's all very nice. What's the good of going on in that way? What a shame it is that a man like that should have so much and that a girl like me should have nothing at all. I know twice as much as he does, and am twice as clever, and yet I've got to treat him as though he were a god. He's all very well, but what would anybody think of him if he were a younger brother with 300 pounds a year." This was a kind of philosophy which Lady Angustus hated. She threw herself back therefore in the phaeton and pretended to go to sleep. The wheels were not out of sight of the house before the attack on the Trefoils began. "I had heard of Lady Augustus before," said Lady Penwether, "but I didn't think that any woman could be so disagreeable."
"So vulgar," said Miss Penge.
"Wasn't she the daughter of an ironmonger?" asked the elder Miss Godolphin. "The girl of course is handsome," said Lady Penwether.
"But so self-sufficient," said Miss Godolphin.
"And almost as vulgar as her mother," said Miss Penge.
"She may be clever," said Lady Penwether, "but I do not think I should ever like her."
"She is one of those girls whom only gentlemen like," said Miss Penge. "And whom they don't like very long," said Lady Penwether.
"How well I understand all this," said Lord Rufford turning to the younger Miss Godolphin. "It is all said for my benefit, and considered to be necessary because I danced with the young lady last night."
"I hope you are not attributing such a motive to me," said Miss Penge. "Or to me," said Miss Godolphin.
"I look on both of you and Eleanor as all one on the present occasion. I am considered to be falling over a precipice, and she has got hold of my coat tails. Of course you wouldn't be Christians if you didn't both of you seize a foot" "Looking at it in that light I certainly wish to be understood as holding on very fast," said Miss Penge.
26. Give Me Six Months
There was a great deal of trouble and some very genuine sorrow in the attorney's house at Dillsborough during the first week in December. Mr. Masters had declared to his wife that Mary should go to Cheltenham and a letter was written to Lady Ushant accepting the invitation. The twenty pounds too was forthcoming and the dress and the boots and the hat were bought. But while this was going on Mrs. Masters took care that there should be no comfort whatever around them and made every meal a separate curse to the unfortunate lawyer. She told him ten times a day that she had been a mother to his daughter, but declared that such a position was no longer possible to her as the girl had been taken altogether out of her hands. To Mary she hardly spoke at all and made her thoroughly wish that Lady Ushant's kindness had been declined. "Mamma," she said one day, "I had rather write now and tell her that I cannot come." "After all the money has been wasted!"
"I have only got things that I must have had very soon."
"If you have got anything to say you had better talk to your father. I know nothing about it"
"You break my heart when you say that, mamma."
"You think nothing about breaking mine;--or that young man's who is behaving so well to you. What makes me mad is to see you shilly-shallying with him." "Mamma, I haven't shilly-shallied."
"That's what I call it. Why can't you speak him fair and tell him you'll have him and settle yourself down properly? You've got some idea into your silly head that what you call a gentleman will come after you."
"Mamma, that isn't fair."
"Very well, miss. As your father takes your part of course you can say what you please to me. I say it is so." Mary knew very well what her another meant and was safe at least from any allusion to Reginald Morton. There was an idea prevalent in the house, and not without some cause, that Mr. Surtees the curate had looked with an eye of favour on Mary Masters. Mr. Surtees was certainly a gentleman, but his income was strictly limited to the sum of 120 pounds per annum which he received from Mr. Mainwaring. Now Mrs. Masters disliked clergymen, disliked gentlemen, and especially disliked poverty; and therefore was not disposed to look upon Mr. Surtees as an eligible suitor for her stepdaughter. But as the curate's courtship had hitherto been of the coldest kind and as it had received no encouragement from the young lady, Mary was certainly justified in declaring that the allusion was not fair. "What I want to know is this;--are you prepared to marry Lawrence Twentyman?" To this question, as Mary could not give a favourable answer, she thought it best to make none at all. "There is a man as has got a house fit for any woman, and means to keep it; who can give a young woman everything that she ought to want;--and a handsome fellow too, with some life in him; one who really dotes on you,--as men don't often do on young women now as far as I can see. I wonder what it is you would have?"
"I want nothing, mamma."
"Yes you do. You have been reading books of poetry till you don't know what it is you do want. You've got your head full of claptraps and tantrums till you haven't a grain of sense belonging to you. I hate such ways. It's a spurning of the gifts of Providence not to have such a man as Lawrence Twentyman when he comes in your way. Who are you, I wonder, that you shouldn't be contented with such as him? He'll go and take some one else and then you'll be fit to break your heart, fretting after him, and I shan't pity you a bit. It'll serve you right and you'll die an old maid, and what there will be for you to live upon God in heaven only knows. You're breaking your father's heart, as it is." Then she sat down in a rocking-chair and throwing her apron over her eyes gave herself up to a deluge of hysterical tears.
This was very hard upon Mary for though she did not believe all the horrible things which her stepmother said to her she did believe some of them. She was not afraid of the fate of an old maid which was threatened, but she did think that her marriage with this man would be for the benefit of the family and a great relief to her father. And she knew too that he was respectable, and believed him to be thoroughly earnest in his love. For such love as that it is impossible that a girl should not be grateful. There was nothing to allure him, nothing to tempt him to such a marriage, but a simple appreciation of her personal merits. And in life he was at any rate her equal. She had told Reginald Morton that Larry Twentyman was a fit companion for her and for her sisters, and she owned as much to herself every day. When she acknowledged all this she was tempted to ask herself whether she ought not to accept the man, if not for her own sake at least for that of the family.
That same evening her father called her into the office after the clerks were gone and spoke to her thus. "Your mamma is very unhappy, my dear," he said. "I'm afraid I have made everybody unhappy by wanting to go to Cheltenham." "It is not only that. That is reasonable enough and you ought to go. Mamma would say nothing more about that,--if you would make up your mind to one thing."
"What thing, papa?" Of course she knew very well what the thing was. "It is time for you to think of settling in life, Mary. I never would put it into a girl's head that she ought to worry herself about getting a husband unless the opportunity seemed to come in her way. Young women should be quiet and wait till they're sought after. But here is a young man seeking you whom we all like and approve. A good house is a very good thing when it's fairly come by." "Yes, papa."
"And so is a full house. A girl shouldn't run after money, but plenty is a great comfort in this world when it can be had without blushing for."
"And so is an honest man's love. I don't like to see any girl wearying after some fellow to be always fal-lalling with her. A good girl will be able to be happy and contented without that. But a lone life is a poor life, and a good husband is about the best blessing that a young woman can have." To this proposition Mary perhaps agreed in her own mind but she gave no spoken assent. "Now this young man that is wanting to marry you has got all these things, and as far as I can judge with my experience in the world, is as likely to make a good husband as any one I know." He paused for an answer but Mary could only lean close upon his arm and be silent. "Have you anything to say about it, my dear? You see it has been going on now a long time, and of course he'll look to have it decided." But still she could say nothing. "Well, now;--he has been with me today."
"Yes,---Mr. Twentyman. He knows you're going to Cheltenham and of course he has nothing to say against that. No young man such as he would be sorry that his sweetheart should be entertained by such a lady as Lady Ushant. But he says that he wants to have an answer before you go."
"I did answer him, papa."
"Yes,--you refused him. But he hopes that perhaps you may think better of it. He has been with me and I have told him that if he will come to-morrow you will see him. He is to be here after dinner and you had better just take him up-stairs and hear what he has to say. If you can make up your mind to like him you will please all your family. But if you can't, I won't quarrel with you, my dear." "Oh papa, you are always so good."
"Of course I am anxious that you should have a home of your own;-- but let it be how it may I will not quarrel with my child."
All that evening, and almost all the night, and again on the following morning Mary turned it over in her mind. She was quite sure that she was not in love with Larry Twentyman; but she was by no means sure that it might not be her duty to accept him without being in love with him. Of course he must know the whole truth; but she could tell him the truth and then leave it for him to decide. What right had she to stand in the way of her friends, or to be a burden to them when such a mode of life was offered to her? She had nothing of her own, and regarded herself as being a dead weight on the family. And she was conscious in a certain degree of isolation in the household,--as being her father's only child by the first marriage. She would hardly know how to look her father in the face and tell him that she had again refused the man. But yet there was something awful to her in the idea of giving herself to a man without loving him,--in becoming a man's wife when she would fain remain away from him! Would it be possible that she should live with him while her feelings were of such a nature? And then she blushed as she lay in the dark, with her cheek on her pillow, when she found herself forced to inquire within her own heart whether she did not love some one else. She would not own it, and yet she blushed, and yet she thought of it. If there might be such a man it was not the young clergyman to whom her mother had alluded.
Through all that morning she was very quiet, very pale, and in truth very unhappy. Her father said no further word to her, and her stepmother had been implored to be equally reticent. "I shan't speak another word," said Mrs. Masters; "her fortune is in her own hands and if she don't choose to take it I've done with her. One man may lead a horse to water but a hundred can't make him drink. It's just the same with an obstinate pig-headed young woman."
At three o'clock Mr. Twentyman came and was at once desired to go up to Mary who was waiting for him in the drawing-room. Mrs. Masters smiled and was gracious as she spoke to him, having for the moment wreathed herself in good humour so that he might go to his wooing in better spirit. He had learned his lesson by heart as nearly as he was able and began to recite it as soon as he had closed the door. "So you're going to Cheltenham on Thursday?" he said. "Yes, Mr. Twentyman."
"I hope you'll enjoy your visit there. I remember Lady Ushant myself very well. I don't suppose she will remember me, but you can give her my compliments." "I certainly will do that."
"And now, Mary, what have you got to say to me?" He looked for a moment as though he expected she would say what she had to say at once,--without further question from him; but he knew that it could not be so and he had prepared his lesson further than that. "I think you must believe that I really do love you with all my heart."
"I know that you are very good to me, Mr. Twentyman."
"I don't say anything about being good; but I'm true:--that I am. I'd take you for my wife tomorrow if you hadn't a friend in the world, just for downright love. I've got you so in my heart, Mary, that I couldn't get rid of you if I tried ever so. You must know that it's true."
"I do know that it's true."
"Well! Don't you think that a fellow like that deserves something from a girl?" "Indeed I do."
"He deserves a great deal too much for any girl to deceive him. You wouldn't like a young woman to marry you without loving you. I think you deserve a great deal too well of me for that."
He paused a moment before he replied. "I don't know about that," he said at last. "I believe I should be glad to take you just anyhow. I don't think you can hate me."
"Certainly not. I like you as well, Mr. Twentyman, as one friend can like another,-without loving."
"I'll be content with that, Mary, and chance it for the rest. I'll be that kind to you that I'll make you love me before twelve months are over. You come and try. You shall be mistress of everything. Mother isn't one that will want to be in the way." "It isn't that, Larry," she said.
She hadn't called him Larry for a long time and the sound of his own name from her lips gave him infinite hope. "Come and try. Say you'll try. If ever a man did his best to please a woman I'll do it to please you." Then he attempted to take her in his arms but she glided away from him round the table. "I won't ask you not to go to Cheltenham, or anything of that. You shall have your own time. By George you shall have everything your own way." Still she did not answer him but stood looking down upon the table. "Come; say a word to a fellow."
Then at last she spoke--"Give me six months to think of it."
"Six months! If you'd say six weeks."
"It is such a serious thing to do."
"It is serious, of course. I'm serious, I know. I shouldn't hunt above half as often as I do now; and as for the club,--I don't suppose I should go near the place once a month. Say six weeks, and then, if you'll let me have one kiss, I'll not trouble you till you're back from Cheltenham."
Mary at once perceived that he had taken her doubt almost as a complete surrender, and had again to become obdurate. At last she promised to give him a final answer in two months, but declared as she said so that she was afraid she could not bring herself to do as he desired. She declined altogether to comply with that other request which he made, and then left him in the room declaring that at present she could say nothing further. As she did so she felt sure that she would not be able to accept him in two months' time whatever she might bring herself to do when the vast abyss of six months should have passed by. Larry made his way down into the parlour with hopes considerably raised. There he found Mrs. Masters and when he told her what had passed she assured him that the thing was as good as settled. Everybody knew, she said, that when a girl doubted she meant to yield. And what were two months? The time would have nearly gone by the end of her visit to Cheltenham. It was now early in December, and they might be married and settled at home before the end of April. Mrs. Masters, to give him courage, took out a bottle of currant wine and drank his health, and told him that in three months' time she would give him a kiss and call him her son. And she believed what she said. This, she thought, was merely Mary's way of letting herself down without a sudden fall.
Then the attorney came in and also congratulated him. When the attorney was told that Mary had taken two months for her decision he also felt that the matter was almost as good as settled. This at any rate was clear to him,--that the existing misery of his household would for the present cease, and that Mary would be allowed to go upon her visit without further opposition. He at present did not think it wise to say another word to Mary about the young man; nor would Mrs. Masters condescend to do so. Mary would of course now accept her lover like any other girl, and had been such a fool,--so thought Mrs. Masters,--that she had thoroughly deserved to lose him.
27. Wonderful Bird!
There were but two days between the scenes described in the last chapter and the day fixed for Mary's departure, and during these two days Larry Twentyman's name was not mentioned in the house. Mrs. Masters did not make herself quite pleasant to her stepdaughter, having still some grudge against her as to the twenty pounds. Nor, though she had submitted to the visit to Cheltenham, did she approve of it. It wasn't the way, she said, to make such a girl as Mary like her life at Chowton Farm, going and sitting and doing nothing in old Lady Ushant's drawing-room. It was cocking her up with gimcrack notions about ladies till she'd be ashamed to look at her own hands after she had done a day's work with them. There was no doubt some truth in this. The woman understood the world and was able to measure Larry Twentyman and Lady Ushant and the rest of them. Books and pretty needlework and easy conversation would consume the time at Cheltenham, whereas at Chowton Farm there would be a dairy and a poultry yard,--under difficulties on account of the foxes,--with a prospect of baby linen and children's shoes and stockings. It was all that question of gentlemen and ladies, and of non-gentlemen and non-ladies! They ought, Mrs. Masters thought, to be kept distinct. She had never, she said, wanted to put her finger into a pie that didn't belong to her. She had never tried to be a grand lady. But Mary was perilously near the brink on either side, and as it was to be her lucky fate at last to sit down to a plentiful but work-a-day life at Chowton Farm she ought to have been kept away from the maundering idleness of Lady Ushant's lodgings at Cheltenham. But Mary heard nothing of this during these two days, Mrs. Masters bestowing the load of her wisdom upon her unfortunate husband. Reginald Morton had been twice over at Mrs. Masters' house with reference to the proposed journey. Mrs. Masters was hardly civil to him, as he was supposed to be among the enemies;--but she had no suspicion that he himself was the enemy of enemies. Had she entertained such an idea she might have reconciled herself to it, as the man was able to support a wife, and by such a marriage she would have been at once relieved from all further charge. In her own mind she would have felt very strongly that Mary had chosen the wrong man, and thrown herself into the inferior mode of life. But her own difficulties in the matter would have been solved. There was, however, no dream of such a kind entertained by any of the family. Reginald Morton was hardly regarded as a young man, and was supposed to be gloomy, misanthropic, and bookish. Mrs. Masters was not at all averse to the companionship for the journey, and Mr. Masters was really grateful to one of the old family for being kind to his girl.
Nor must it be supposed that Mary herself had any expectations or even any hopes. With juvenile aptness to make much of the little things which had interested her, and prone to think more than was reasonable of any intercourse with a man who seemed to her to be so superior to others as Reginald Morton, she was anxious for an opportunity to set herself right with him about that scene at the bridge. She still thought that he was offended and that she had given him cause for offence. He had condescended to make her a request to which she had acceded,--and she had then not done as she had promised. She thought she was sure that this was all she had to say to him, and yet she was aware that she was unnaturally excited at the idea of spending three or four hours alone with him. The fly which was to take him to the railway station called for Mary at the attorney's door at ten o'clock, and the attorney handed her in. "It is very good of you indeed, Mr. Morton, to take so much trouble with my girl," said the attorney, really feeling what he said. "It is very good of you to trust her to me," said Reginald, also sincerely. Mary was still to him the girl who had been brought up by his aunt at Bragton, and not the fit companion for Larry Twentyman. Reginald Morton had certainly not made up his mind to ask Mary Masters to be his wife. Thinking of Mary Masters very often as he had done during the last two months, he was quite sure that he did not mean to marry at all. He did acknowledge to himself that were he to allow himself to fall in love with any one it would be with Mary Masters,--but for not doing so there were many reasons. He had lived so long alone that a married life would not suit him; as a married man he would be a poor man; he himself was averse to company, whereas most women prefer society. And then, as to this special girl, had he not reason for supposing that she preferred another man to him, and a man of such a class that the very preference showed her to be unfit to mate with him? He also cozened himself with an idea that it was well that he should have the opportunity which the journey would give him of apologising for his previous rudeness to her. In the carriage they had the compartment to themselves with the exception of an old lady at the further end who had a parrot in a cage for which she had taken a first-class ticket. "I can't offer you this seat," said the old lady, "because it has been booked and paid for my bird." As neither of the new passengers had shown the slightest wish for the seat the communication was perhaps unnecessary. Neither of the two had any idea of separating from the other for the sake of the old lady's company.
They had before them a journey of thirty miles on one railway, then a stop of half an hour at the Hinxton junction; and then another journey of about equal length. In the first hour very little was said that might not have been said in the presence of Lady Ushant,--or even of Mrs. Masters. There might be a question whether, upon the whole, the parrot had not the best of the conversation, as the bird, which the old lady declared to be the wonder of his species, repeated the last word of nearly every sentence spoken either by our friends or by the old lady herself. "Don't you think you'd be less liable to cold with that window closed?" the old lady said to Mary. "Cosed,--cosed,--cosed," said the bird, and Morton was of course constrained to shut the window. "He is a wonderful bird," said the old lady. "Wonderful bird;--wonderful bird;--wonderful bird," said the parrot, who was quite at home with this expression. "We shall be able to get some lunch at Hinxton," said Reginald. "Inxton," screamed the bird--"Caw,--caw--caw." "He's worth a deal of money," said the old lady. "Deal o' money, Deal o' money," repeated the bird as he scrambled round the wire cage with a tremendous noise, to the great triumph of the old lady.
No doubt the close attention which the bird paid to everything that passed, and the presence of the old lady as well, did for a time interfere with their conversation. But, after awhile, the old lady was asleep, and the bird, having once or twice attempted to imitate the somnolent sounds which his mistress was making, seemed also to go to sleep himself. Then Reginald, beginning with Lady Ushant and the old Morton family generally, gradually got the conversation round to Bragton and the little bridge. He had been very stern when he had left her there, and he knew also that at that subsequent interview, when he had brought Lady Ushant's note to her at her father's house, he had not been cordially kind to her. Now they were thrown together for an hour or so in the closest companionship, and he wished to make her comfortable and happy. "I suppose you remember Bragton?" he said.
"Every path and almost every tree about the place."
"So do I. I called there the other day. Family quarrels are so silly, you know." "Did you see Mr. Morton?"
"No;--and he hasn't returned my visit yet. I don't know whether he will,--and I don't much mind whether he does or not. That old woman is there, and she is very bitter against me. I don't care about the people, but I am sorry that I cannot see the place."
"I ought to have walked with you that day," she said in a very low tone. The parrot opened his eyes and looked at them as though he were striving to catch his cue.
"Of course you ought." But as he said this he smiled and there was no offence in his voice. "I dare say you didn't guess how much I thought of it. And then I was a bear to you. I always am a bear when I am not pleased."
"Peas, peas, peas," said the parrot.
"I shall be a bear to that brute of a bird before long."
"What a very queer bird he is."
"He is a public nuisance,--and so is the old lady who brought him here," This was said quite in a whisper. "It is very odd, Miss Masters, but you are literally the only person in all Dillsborough in regard to whom I have any genuine feeling of old friendship."
"You must remember a great many."
"But I did not know any well enough. I was too young to have seen much of your father. But when I came back at that time you and I were always together." "Gedder, gedder, gedder," said the parrot.
"If that bird goes on like that I'll speak to the guard," said Mr. Morton with affected anger. "Polly mustn't talk," said the old lady waking up.
"Tok, tok, tok, tok," screamed the parrot. Then the old lady threw a shawl over him and again went to sleep.
"If I behaved badly I beg your pardon," said Mary.
"That's just what I wanted to say to you, Miss Masters,--only a man never can do those things as well as a lady. I did behave badly, and I do beg your pardon. Of course I ought to have asked Mr. Twentyman to come with us. I know that he is a very good fellow."
"Indeed he is," said Mary Masters, with all the emphasis in her power. "Deedy is, deedy is, deedy is, deedy is," repeated the parrot in a very angry voice about a dozen times under his shawl, and while the old lady was remonstrating with her too talkative companion their tickets were taken and they ran into the Hinxton Station. "If the old lady is going on to Cheltenham we'll travel third class before we'll sit in the same carriage again with that bird," said Morton laughing as he took Mary into the refreshment-room. But the old lady did not get into the same compartment as they started, and the last that was heard of the parrot at Hinxton was a quarrel between him and the guard as to certain railway privileges. When they had got back into the railway carriage Morton was very anxious to ask whether she was in truth engaged to marry the young man as to whose good fellowship she and the parrot had spoken up so emphatically, but he hardly knew how to put the question. And were she to declare that she was engaged to him, what should he say then? Would he not be bound to congratulate her? And yet it would be impossible that any word of such congratulation should pass his lips? "You will stay a month at Cheltenham?" he said.
"Your aunt was kind enough to ask me for so long."
"I shall go back on Saturday. If I were to stay longer I should feel myself to be in her way. And I have come to live a sort of hermit's life. I hardly know how to sit down and eat my dinner in company, and have no idea of seeing a human being before two o'clock."
"What do you do with yourself?"
"I rush in and out of the garden and spend my time between my books and my flowers and my tobacco pipes."
"Do you mean to live always like that?" she asked, in perfect innocency. "I think so. Sometimes I doubt whether it's wise."
"I don't think it wise at all," said Mary.
"People should live together, I think."
"You mean that I ought to have a wife?"
"No;--I didn't mean that. Of course that must be just as you might come to like any one well enough. But a person need not shut himself up and be a hermit because he is not married. Lord Rufford is not married and he goes everywhere." "He has money and property and is a man of pleasure."
"And your cousin, Mr. John Morton."
"He is essentially a man of business, which I never could have been. And they say he is going to be married to that Miss Trefoil who has been staying there. Unfortunately I have never had anything that I need do in all my life, and therefore I have shut myself up as you call it. I wonder what your life will be." Mary blushed and said nothing. "If there were anything to tell I wish I knew it" "There is nothing to tell."
She thought a moment before she answered him and then she said, "Nothing. What should I have to tell?" she added trying to laugh.
He remained for a few minutes silent, and then put his head out towards her as he spoke. "I was afraid that you might have to tell that you were engaged to marry Mr. Twentyman."
"I am not"
"Oh!--I am so glad to hear it"
"I don't know why you should be glad. If I had said I was, it would have been very uncivil if you hadn't declared yourself glad to hear that"
"Then I must have been uncivil for I couldn't have done it. Knowing how my aunt loves you, knowing what she thinks of you and what she would think of such a match, remembering myself what I do of you, I could not have congratulated you on your engagement to a man whom I think so much inferior to yourself in every respect. Now you know it all,--why I was angry at the bridge, why I was hardly civil to you at your father's house; and, to tell the truth, why I have been so anxious to be alone with you for half an hour. If you think it an offence that I should take so much interest in you, I will beg your pardon for that also." "Oh, no!"
"I have never spoken to my aunt about it, but I do not think that she would have been contented to hear that you were to become the wife of Mr. Twentyman." What answer she was to make to this or whether she was to make any she had not decided when they were interrupted by the reappearance of the old lady and the bird. She was declaring to the guard at the window, that as she had paid for a first-class seat for her parrot she would get into any carriage she liked in which there were two empty seats. Her bird had been ill-treated by some scurrilous illconditioned travellers and she had therefore returned to the comparative kindness of her former companions. "They threatened to put him out of the window, sir," said the old woman to Morton as she was forcing her way in. "Windersir, windersir," said the parrot.
"I hope he'll behave himself here, ma'am," said Morton.
"Heremam, heremam, heremam," said the parrot.
"Now go to bed like a good bird," said the old lady putting her shawl over the cage,--whereupon the parrot made a more diabolical noise than ever under the curtain.
Mary felt that there was no more to be said about Mr. Twentyman and her hopes and prospects, and for the moment she was glad to be left in peace. The old lady and the parrot continued their conversation till they had all arrived in Cheltenham;--and Mary as she sat alone thinking of it afterwards might perhaps feel a soft regret that Reginald Morton had been interrupted by the talkative animal.
"So Peter Boyd is to go to Washington in the Paragon's place, and Jack Slade goes to Vienna, and young Palliser is to get Slade's berth at Lisbon." This information was given by a handsome man, known as Mounser Green, about six feet high, wearing a velvet shooting coat,--more properly called an office coat from its present uses, who had just entered a spacious well-carpeted comfortable room in which three other gentlemen were sitting at their different tables. This was one of the rooms in the Foreign Office and looked out into St. James's Park. Mounser Green was a distinguished clerk in that department,--and distinguished also in various ways, being one of the fashionable men about town, a great adept at private theatricals, remarkable as a billiard player at his club, and a contributor to various magazines. At this moment he had a cigar in his mouth, and when he entered the room he stood with his back to the fire ready for conversation and looking very unlike a clerk who intended to do any work. But there was a general idea that Mounser Green was invaluable to the Foreign Office. He could speak and write two or three foreign languages; he could do a spurt of work,--ten hours at a sitting when required; he was ready to go through fire and water for his chief; and was a gentleman all round. Though still nominally a young man, being perhaps thirty-five years of age--he had entered the service before competitive examination had assumed its present shape and had therefore the gifts which were required for his special position. Some critics on the Civil Service were no doubt apt to find fault with Mounser Green. When called upon at his office he was never seen to be doing anything, and he always had a cigar in his mouth. These gentlemen found out too that he never entered his office till half-past twelve, perhaps not having also learned that he was generally there till nearly seven. No doubt during the time that he remained there he read a great many newspapers, and wrote a great many private notes,--on official paper! But there may be a question whether even these employments did not help to make Mounser Green the valuable man he was.
"What a lounge for Jack Slade," said young Hoffmann.
"I'll tell you who it won't be a lounge for, Green," said Archibald Currie, the clerk who held the second authority among them. "What will Bell Trefoil think of going to Patagonia?"
"That's all off," said Mounser Green.
"I don't think so," said Charley Glossop, one of the numerous younger sons of Lord Glossop. "She was staying only the other day down at the Paragon's place in Rufford, and they went together to my cousin Rufford's house. His sister, that's Lady Penwether, told me they were certainly engaged then."
"That was before the Paragon had been named for Patagonia. To tell you a little bit of my own private mind,--which isn't scandal," said Mounser Green, "because it is only given as opinion,--I think it just possible that the Paragon has taken this very uncomfortable mission because it offered him some chance of escape." "Then he has more sense about him than I gave him credit for," said Archibald Currie.
"Why should a man like Morton go to Patagonia?" continued Green. "He has an independent fortune and doesn't want the money. He'd have been sure to have something comfortable in Europe very soon if he had waited, and was much better off as second at a place like Washington. I was quite surprised when he took it."
"Patagonia isn't bad at all," said Currie.
"That depends on whether a man has got money of his own. When I heard about the Paragon and Bell Trefoil at Washington, I knew there had been a mistake made. He didn't know what he was doing. I'm a poor man, but I wouldn't take her with 5,000 pounds a year, settled on myself." Poor Mounser Green! "I think she's the handsomest girl in London," said Hoffmann, who was a young man of German parentage and perhaps of German taste.
"That may be," continued Green; "but, heaven and earth! what a life she would lead a man like the Paragon! He's found it out, and therefore thought it well to go to South America. She has declined already, I'm told; but he means to stick to the mission." During all this time Mounser Green was smoking his cigar with his back to the fire, and the other clerks looked as though they had nothing to do but talk about the private affairs of ministers abroad and their friends. Of course it will be understood that since we last saw John Morton the position of Minister Plenipotentiary at Patagonia had been offered to him and that he had accepted the place in spite of Bragton and of Arabella Trefoil.
At that moment a card was handed to Mounser Green by a messenger who was desired to show the gentleman up. "It's the Paragon himself," said Green. We'll make him tell us whether he's going out single or double," said Archibald Currie.
"After what the Rufford people said to me I'm sure he's going to marry her," said young Glossop. No doubt Lady Penwether had been anxious to make it understood by every one connected with the family that if any gossip should be heard about Rufford and Arabella Trefoil there was nothing in it.
Then the Paragon was shown into the room and Mounser Green and the young men were delighted to see him. Colonial governors at their seats of government, and Ministers Plenipotentiary in their ambassadorial residences are very great persons indeed; and when met in society at home, with the stars and ribbons which are common among them now, they are, less indeed, but still something. But at the colonial and foreign offices in London, among the assistant secretaries and clerks, they are hardly more than common men. All the gingerbread is gone there. His Excellency is no more than Jones, and the Representative or Alter Ego of Royalty mildly asks little favours of the junior clerks.
"Lord Drummond only wants to know what you wish and it shall be done," said Mounser Green. Lord Drummond was the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the day. "I hope I need hardly say that we were delighted that you accepted the offer." "One doesn't like to refuse a step upward," said Morton; "otherwise Patagonia isn't exactly the place one would like."
"Very good climate," said Currie. "Ladies I have known who have gone there have enjoyed it very much."
"A little rough I suppose?"
"They didn't seem to say so. Young Bartletot took his wife out there, just married. He liked it. There wasn't much society, but they didn't care about that just at first" "Ah;--I'm a single man," said Morton laughing. He was too good a diplomate to be pumped in that simple way by such a one as Archibald Currie.
"You'll like to see Lord Drummond. He is here and will be glad to shake hands with you. Come into my room," Then Mounser Green led the way into a small inner sanctum in which it may be presumed that he really did his work. It was here at any rate that he wrote the notes on official note paper.
"They haven't settled as yet how they're to be off it," said Currie in a whisper, as soon as the two men were gone, "but I'll bet a five-pound note that Bell Trefoil doesn't go out to Patagonia as his wife."
"We know the Senator here well enough." This was said in the inner room by Mounser Green to Morton, who had breakfasted with the Senator that morning and had made an appointment to meet him at the Foreign Office. The Senator wanted to secure a seat for himself at the opening of Parliament which was appointed to take place in the course of the next month, and being a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the American Senate of course thought himself entitled to have things done for him by the Foreign Office clerks. "Oh yes, I'll see him. Lord Drummond will get him a seat as a matter of course. How is he getting on with your neighbour at Dillsborough?"
"So you've heard of that."
"Heard of it! who hasn't heard of it?"--At this moment the messenger came in again and the Senator was announced. "Lord Drummond will manage about the seats in the House of Lords, Mr. Gotobed. Of course he'll see you if you wish it; but I'll take a note of it"
"If you'll do that, Mr. Green, I shall be fixed up straight. And I'd a great deal sooner see you than his lordship."
"That's very flattering, Mr. Gotobed, but I'm sure I don't know why." "Because Lord Drummond always seems to me to have more on hand than he knows how to get through, and you never seem to have anything to do." "That's not quite so flattering,--and would be killing, only that I feel that your opinion is founded on error. Mens conscia recti, Mr. Gotobed."
"Exactly. I understand English pretty well; better as far as I can see than some of those I meet around me here; but I don't go beyond that, Mr. Green." "I merely meant to observe, Mr. Gotobed, that as, within my own breast, I am conscious of my zeal and diligence in Her Majesty's service your shafts of satire pass me by without hurting me. Shall I offer you a cigar? A candle burned at both ends is soon consumed." It was quite clear that as quickly as the Senator got through one end of his cigar by the usual process of burning, so quickly did he eat the other end. But he took that which Mounser Green offered him without any displeasure at the allusion. "I'm sorry to say that I haven't a spittoon," said Mounser Green, "but the whole fire-place is at your service." The Senator could hardly have heard this, as it made no difference in his practice.
Morton at this moment was sent for by the Secretary of State, and the Senator expressed his intention of waiting for him in Mr. Green's room. "How does the great Goarly case get on, Mr. Gotobed?" asked the clerk.
Well! I don't know that it's getting on very much."
"You are not growing tired of it, Senator?"
"Not by any means. But it's getting itself complicated, Mr. Green. I mean to see the end of it, and if I'm beat,--why I can take a beating as well as another man." "You begin to think you will be beat?"
"I didn't say so, Mr. Green. It is very hard to understand all the ins and outs of a case like that in a foreign country."
"Then I shouldn't try it, Senator."
"There I differ. It is my object to learn all I can."
"At any rate I shouldn't pay for the lesson as you are like to do. What'll the bill be? Four hundred dollars?"
"Never mind, Mr. Green. If you'll take the opinion of a good deal older man than yourself and one who has perhaps worked harder, you'll understand that there's no knowledge got so thoroughly as that for which a man pays." Soon after this Morton came out from the great man's room and went away in company with the Senator.