'I think, Anne, you are stupid this morning,' said Mrs. Mel.
'Well, I am, aunt,' said Mrs. Fiske, pretending not to see which was the first to unbend, 'I don't know what it is. The figures seem all dazzled like. I shall really be glad when Evan comes to take his proper place.'
'Ah!' went Mrs. Mel, and Mrs. Fiske heard her muttering. Then she cried out: 'Are Harriet and Caroline as great liars as Louisa?'
Mrs. Fiske grimaced. 'That would be difficult, would it not, aunt?'
'And I have been telling everybody that my son is in town learning his business, when he's idling at a country house, and trying to play his father over again! Upon my word, what with liars and fools, if you go to sleep a minute you have a month's work on your back.'
'What is it, aunt?' Mrs. Fiske feebly inquired.
'A gentleman, I suppose! He wouldn't take an order if it was offered. Upon my word, when tailors think of winning heiresses it's time we went back to Adam and Eve.'
'Do you mean Evan, aunt?' interposed Mrs. Fiske, who probably did not see the turns in her aunt's mind.
'There—read for yourself,' said Mrs. Mel, and left her with the letter.
Mrs. Fiske read that Mr. Goren had been astonished at Evan's non-appearance, and at his total silence; which he did not consider altogether gentlemanly behaviour, and certainly not such as his father would have practised. Mr. Goren regretted his absence the more as he would have found him useful in a remarkable invention he was about to patent, being a peculiar red cross upon shirts—a fortune to the patentee; but as Mr. Goren had no natural heirs of his body, he did not care for that. What affected him painfully was the news of Evan's doings at a noble house, Beckley Court, to wit, where, according to the report of a rich young gentleman friend, Mr. Raikes (for whose custom Mr. Goren was bound to thank Evan), the youth who should have been learning the science of Tailoring, had actually passed himself off as a lord, or the son of one, or something of the kind, and had got engaged to a wealthy heiress, and would, no doubt, marry her if not found out. Where the chances of detection were so numerous, Mr. Goren saw much to condemn in the idea of such a marriage. But 'like father like son,' said Mr. Goren. He thanked the Lord that an honest tradesman was not looked down upon in this country; and, in fact, gave Mrs. Mel a few quiet digs to waken her remorse in having missed the man that he was.
When Mrs. Fiske met her aunt again she returned her the letter, and simply remarked: 'Louisa.'
Mrs. Mel nodded. She understood the implication.
The General who had schemed so successfully to gain Evan time at Beckley Court in his own despite and against a hundred obstructions, had now another enemy in the field, and one who, if she could not undo her work, could punish her. By the afternoon coach, Mrs. Mel, accompanied by Dandy her squire, was journeying to Fallow field, bent upon things. The faithful squire was kept by her side rather as a security for others than for, his particular services. Dandy's arms were crossed, and his countenance was gloomy. He had been promised a holiday that afternoon to give his mistress, Sally, Kilne's cook, an airing, and Dandy knew in his soul that Sally, when she once made up her mind to an excursion, would go, and would not go alone, and that her very force of will endangered her constancy. He had begged humbly to be allowed to stay, but Mrs. Mel could not trust him. She ought to have told him so, perhaps. Explanations were not approved of by this well-intended despot, and however beneficial her resolves might turn out for all parties, it was natural that in the interim the children of her rule should revolt, and Dandy, picturing his Sally flaunting on the arm of some accursed low marine, haply, kicked against Mrs. Mel's sovereignty, though all that he did was to shoot out his fist from time to time, and grunt through his set teeth: 'Iron!' to express the character of her awful rule.
Mrs. Mel alighted at the Dolphin, the landlady of which was a Mrs. Hawkshaw, a rival of Mrs. Sockley of the Green Dragon. She was welcomed by Mrs. Hawkshaw with considerable respect. The great Mel had sometimes slept at the Dolphin.
'Ah, that black!' she sighed, indicating Mrs. Mel's dress and the story it told.
'I can't give you his room, my dear Mrs. Harrington, wishing I could! I'm sorry to say it's occupied, for all I ought to be glad, I dare say, for he's an old gentleman who does you a good turn, if you study him. But there! I'd rather have had poor dear Mr. Harrington in my best bed than old or young—Princes or nobodies, I would—he was that grand and pleasant.'
Mrs. Mel had her tea in Mrs. Hawkshaw's parlour, and was entertained about her husband up to the hour of supper, when a short step and a querulous voice were heard in the passage, and an old gentleman appeared before them.
'Who's to carry up my trunk, ma'am? No man here?'
Mrs. Hawkshaw bustled out and tried to lay her hand on a man. Failing to find the growth spontaneous, she returned and begged the old gentleman to wait a few moments and the trunk would be sent up.
'Parcel o' women!' was his reply. 'Regularly bedevilled. Gets worse and worse. I 'll carry it up myself.'
With a wheezy effort he persuaded the trunk to stand on one end, and then looked at it. The exertion made him hot, which may account for the rage he burst into when Mrs. Hawkshaw began flutteringly to apologize.
'You're sure, ma'am, sure—what are you sure of? I'll tell you what I am sure of—eh? This keeping clear of men's a damned pretence. You don't impose upon me. Don't believe in your pothouse nunneries—not a bit. Just like you! when you are virtuous it's deuced inconvenient. Let one of the maids try? No. Don't believe in 'em.'
Having thus relieved his spleen the old gentleman addressed himself to further efforts and waxed hotter. He managed to tilt the trunk over, and thus gained a length, and by this method of progression arrived at the foot of the stairs, where he halted, and wiped his face, blowing lustily.
Mrs. Mel had been watching him with calm scorn all the while. She saw him attempt most ridiculously to impel the trunk upwards by a similar process, and thought it time to interfere.
'Don't you see you must either take it on your shoulders, or have a help?'
The old gentleman sprang up from his peculiarly tight posture to blaze round at her. He had the words well-peppered on his mouth, but somehow he stopped, and was subsequently content to growl: 'Where 's the help in a parcel of petticoats?'
Mrs. Mel did not consider it necessary to give him an answer. She went up two or three steps, and took hold of one handle of the trunk, saying: 'There; I think it can be managed this way,' and she pointed for him to seize the other end with his hand.
He was now in that unpleasant state of prickly heat when testy old gentlemen could commit slaughter with ecstasy. Had it been the maid holding a candle who had dared to advise, he would have overturned her undoubtedly, and established a fresh instance of the impertinence, the uselessness and weakness of women. Mrs. Mel topped him by half a head, and in addition stood three steps above him; towering like a giantess. The extreme gravity of her large face dispersed all idea of an assault. The old gentleman showed signs of being horribly injured: nevertheless, he put his hand to the trunk; it was lifted, and the procession ascended the stairs in silence.
The landlady waited for Mrs. Mel to return, and then said:
'Really, Mrs. Harrington, you are clever. That lifting that trunk's as good as a lock and bolt on him. You've as good as made him a Dolphin—him that was one o' the oldest Green Dragons in Fallifield. My thanks to you most sincere.'
Mrs. Mel sent out to hear where Dandy had got to after which, she said: 'Who is the man?'
'I told you, Mrs. Harrington—the oldest Green Dragon. His name, you mean? Do you know, if I was to breathe it out, I believe he'd jump out of the window. He 'd be off, that you might swear to. Oh, such a whimsical! not ill-meaning—quite the contrary. Study his whims, and you'll never want. There's Mrs. Sockley—she 's took ill. He won't go there—that 's how I've caught him, my dear—but he pays her medicine, and she looks to him the same. He hate a sick house: but he pity a sick woman. Now, if I can only please him, I can always look on him as half a Dolphin, to say the least; and perhaps to-morrow I'll tell you who he is, and what, but not to-night; for there's his supper to get over, and that, they say, can be as bad as the busting of one of his own vats. Awful!'
'What does he eat?' said Mrs. Mel.
'A pair o' chops. That seem simple, now, don't it? And yet they chops make my heart go pitty-pat.'
'The commonest things are the worst done,' said Mrs. Mel.
'It ain't that; but they must be done his particular way, do you see, Mrs. Harrington. Laid close on the fire, he say, so as to keep in the juice. But he ups and bounces in a minute at a speck o' black. So, one thing or the other, there you are: no blacks, no juices, I say.'
'Toast the chops,' said Mrs. Mel.
The landlady of the Dolphin accepted this new idea with much enlightenment, but ruefully declared that she was afraid to go against his precise instructions. Mrs. Mel then folded her hands, and sat in quiet reserve. She was one of those numerous women who always know themselves to be right. She was also one of those very few whom Providence favours by confounding dissentients. She was positive the chops would be ill-cooked: but what could she do? She was not in command here; so she waited serenely for the certain disasters to enthrone her. Not that the matter of the chops occupied her mind particularly: nor could she dream that the pair in question were destined to form a part of her history, and divert the channel of her fortunes. Her thoughts were about her own immediate work; and when the landlady rushed in with the chops under a cover, and said: 'Look at 'em, dear Mrs. Harrington!' she had forgotten that she was again to be proved right by the turn of events.
'Oh, the chops!' she responded. 'Send them while they are hot.'
'Send 'em! Why you don't think I'd have risked their cooling? I have sent 'em; and what do he do but send 'em travelling back, and here they be; and what objections his is I might study till I was blind, and I shouldn't see 'em.'
'No; I suppose not,' said Mrs. Mel. 'He won't eat 'em?'
'Won't eat anything: but his bed-room candle immediately. And whether his sheets are aired. And Mary says he sniffed at the chops; and that gal really did expect he 'd fling them at her. I told you what he was. Oh, dear!'
The bell was heard ringing in the midst of the landlady's lamentations.
'Go to him yourself,' said Mrs. Mel. 'No Christian man should go to sleep without his supper.'
'Ah! but he ain't a common Christian,' returned Mrs. Hawkshaw.
The old gentleman was in a hurry to know when his bed-room candle was coming up, or whether they intended to give him one at all that night; if not, let them say so, as he liked plain-speaking. The moment Mrs. Hawkshaw touched upon the chops, he stopped her mouth.
'Go about your business, ma'am. You can't cook 'em. I never expected you could: I was a fool to try you. It requires at least ten years' instruction before a man can get a woman to cook his chop as he likes it.'
'But what was your complaint, sir?' said Mrs. Hawkshaw, imploringly.
'That's right!' and he rubbed his hands, and brightened his eyes savagely. 'That's the way. Opportunity for gossip! Thing's well done—down it goes: you know that. You can't have a word over it—eh? Thing's done fit to toss on a dungheap, aha! Then there's a cackle! My belief is, you do it on purpose. Can't be such rank idiots. You do it on purpose. All done for gossip!'
'Oh, sir, no!' The landlady half curtsied.
'Oh, ma'am, yes!' The old gentleman bobbed his head.
'No, indeed, sir!' The landlady shook hers.
'Damn it, ma'am, I swear you do.'
Symptoms of wrath here accompanied the declaration; and, with a sigh and a very bitter feeling, Mrs. Hawkshaw allowed him to have the last word. Apparently this—which I must beg to call the lady's morsel—comforted his irascible system somewhat; for he remained in a state of composure eight minutes by the clock. And mark how little things hang together. Another word from the landlady, precipitating a retort from him, and a gesture or muttering from her; and from him a snapping outburst, and from her a sign that she held out still; in fact, had she chosen to battle for that last word, as in other cases she might have done, then would he have exploded, gone to bed in the dark, and insisted upon sleeping: the consequence of which would have been to change this history. Now while Mrs. Hawkshaw was upstairs, Mrs. Mel called the servant, who took her to the kitchen, where she saw a prime loin of mutton; off which she cut two chops with a cunning hand: and these she toasted at a gradual distance, putting a plate beneath them, and a tin behind, and hanging the chops so that they would turn without having to be pierced. The bell rang twice before she could say the chops were ready. The first time, the maid had to tell the old gentleman she was taking up his water. Her next excuse was, that she had dropped her candle. The chops ready—who was to take them?
'Really, Mrs. Harrington, you are so clever, you ought, if I might be so bold as say so; you ought to end it yourself,' said the landlady. 'I can't ask him to eat them: he was all but on the busting point when I left him.'
'And that there candle did for him quite,' said Mary, the maid.
'I'm afraid it's chops cooked for nothing,' added the landlady.
Mrs. Mel saw them endangered. The maid held back: the landlady feared.
'We can but try,' she said.
'Oh! I wish, mum, you'd face him, 'stead o' me,' said Mary; 'I do dread that old bear's den.'
'Here, I will go,' said Mrs. Mel. 'Has he got his ale? Better draw it fresh, if he drinks any.'
And upstairs she marched, the landlady remaining below to listen for the commencement of the disturbance. An utterance of something certainly followed Mrs. Mel's entrance into the old bear's den. Then silence. Then what might have been question and answer. Then—was Mrs. Mel assaulted? and which was knocked down? It really was a chair being moved to the table. The door opened.
'Yes, ma'am; do what you like,' the landlady heard. Mrs. Mel descended, saying: 'Send him up some fresh ale.'
'And you have made him sit down obedient to those chops?' cried the landlady. 'Well might poor dear Mr. Harrington—pleasant man as he was!—say, as he used to say, "There's lovely women in the world, Mrs. Hawkshaw," he'd say, "and there's Duchesses," he'd say, "and there's they that can sing, and can dance, and some," he says, "that can cook." But he'd look sly as he'd stoop his head and shake it. "Roll 'em into one," he says, "and not any of your grand ladies can match my wife at home."
And, indeed, Mrs. Harrington, he told me he thought so many a time in the great company he frequented.'
Perfect peace reigning above, Mrs. Hawkshaw and Mrs. Mel sat down to supper below; and Mrs. Hawkshaw talked much of the great one gone. His relict did not care to converse about the dead, save in their practical aspect as ghosts; but she listened, and that passed the time. By-and-by, the old gentleman rang, and sent a civil message to know if the landlady had ship's rum in the house.
'Dear! here's another trouble,' cried the poor woman. 'No—none!'
'Say, yes,' said Mrs. Mel, and called Dandy, and charged him to run down the street to the square, and ask for the house of Mr. Coxwell, the maltster, and beg of him, in her name, a bottle of his ship's rum.
'And don't you tumble down and break the bottle, Dandy. Accidents with spirit-bottles are not excused.'
Dandy went on the errand, after an energetic grunt.
In due time he returned with the bottle, whole and sound, and Mr. Coxwell's compliments. Mrs. Mel examined the cork to see that no process of suction had been attempted, and then said:
'Carry it up to him, Dandy. Let him see there's a man in the house besides himself.'
'Why, my dear,' the landlady turned to her, 'it seems natural to you to be mistress where you go. I don't at all mind, for ain't it my profit? But you do take us off our legs.'
Then the landlady, warmed by gratitude, told her that the old gentleman was the great London brewer, who brewed there with his brother, and brewed for himself five miles out of Fallow field, half of which and a good part of the neighbourhood he owned, and his name was Mr. Tom Cogglesby.
'Oh!' said Mrs. Mel. 'And his brother is Mr. Andrew.'
'That 's it,' said the landlady. 'And because he took it into his head to go and to choose for himself, and be married, no getting his brother, Mr. Tom, to speak to him. Why not, indeed? If there's to be no marrying, the sooner we lay down and give up, the better, I think. But that 's his way. He do hate us women, Mrs. Harrington. I have heard he was crossed. Some say it was the lady of Beckley Court, who was a Beauty, when he was only a poor cobbler's son.'
Mrs. Mel breathed nothing of her relationship to Mr. Tom, but continued from time to time to express solicitude about Dandy. They heard the door open, and old Tom laughing in a capital good temper, and then Dandy came down, evidently full of ship's rum.
'He's pumped me!' said Dandy, nodding heavily at his mistress.
Mrs. Mel took him up to his bed-room, and locked the door. On her way back she passed old Tom's chamber, and his chuckles were audible to her.
'They finished the rum,' said Mrs. Hawkshaw.
'I shall rate him for that to-morrow,' said Mrs. Mel. 'Giving that poor beast liquor!'
'Rate Mr. Tom! Oh! Mrs. Harrington! Why, he'll snap your head off for a word.'
Mrs. Mel replied that her head would require a great deal of snapping to come off.
During this conversation they had both heard a singular intermittent noise above. Mrs. Hawkshaw was the first to ask:
'What can it be? More trouble with him? He's in his bed-room now.'
'Mad with drink, like Dandy, perhaps,' said Mrs. Mel.
'Hark!' cried the landlady. 'Oh!'
It seemed that Old Tom was bouncing about in an extraordinary manner. Now came a pause, as if he had sworn to take his rest: now the room shook and the windows rattled.
'One 'd think, really, his bed was a frying-pan, and him a live fish in it,' said the landlady. 'Oh—there, again! My goodness! have he got a flea?'
The thought was alarming. Mrs. Mel joined in:
'Or a ———'
'Don't! don't, my dear!' she was cut short. 'Oh! one o' them little things 'd be ruin to me. To think o' that! Hark at him! It must be. And what's to do? I 've sent the maids to bed. We haven't a man. If I was to go and knock at his door, and ask?'
'Better try and get him to be quiet somehow.'
'Ah! I dare say I shall make him fire out fifty times worse.'
Mrs. Hawkshaw stipulated that Mrs. Mel should stand by her, and the two women went up-stairs and stood at Old Tom's door. There they could hear him fuming and muttering imprecations, and anon there was an interval of silence, and then the room was shaken, and the cursings recommenced.
'It must be a fight he 's having with a flea,' said the landlady. 'Oh! pray heaven, it is a flea. For a flea, my dear-gentlemen may bring that theirselves; but a b——-, that's a stationary, and born of a bed. Don't you hear? The other thing 'd give him a minute's rest; but a flea's hop-hop-off and on. And he sound like an old gentleman worried by a flea. What are you doing?'
Mrs. Mel had knocked at the door. The landlady waited breathlessly for the result. It appeared to have quieted Old Tom.
'What's the matter?' said Mrs. Mel, severely.
The landlady implored her to speak him fair, and reflect on the desperate things he might attempt.
'What's the matter? Can anything be done for you?'
Mr. Tom Cogglesby's reply comprised an insinuation so infamous regarding women when they have a solitary man in their power, that it cannot be placed on record.
'Is anything the matter with your bed?'
'Anything? Yes; anything is the matter, ma'am. Hope twenty live geese inside it's enough-eh? Bed, do you call it? It's the rack! It's damnation! Bed? Ha!'
After delivering this, he was heard stamping up and down the room.
'My very best bed!' whispered the landlady. 'Would it please you, sir, to change—I can give you another?'
'I'm not a man of experiments, ma'am-'specially in strange houses.'
'So very, very sorry!'
'What the deuce!' Old Tom came close to the door. 'You whimpering! You put a man in a beast of a bed—you drive him half mad—and then begin to blubber! Go away.'
'I am so sorry, sir!'
'If you don't go away, ma'am, I shall think your intentions are improper.'
'Oh, my goodness!' cried poor Mrs. Hawkshaw. 'What can one do with him?' Mrs. Mel put Mrs. Hawkshaw behind her.
'Are you dressed?' she called out.
In this way Mrs. Mel tackled Old Tom. He was told that should he consent to cover himself decently, she would come into his room and make his bed comfortable. And in a voice that dispersed armies of innuendoes, she bade him take his choice, either to rest quiet or do her bidding. Had Old Tom found his master at last, and in one of the hated sex? Breathlessly Mrs. Hawkshaw waited his answer, and she was an astonished woman when it came.
'Very well, ma'am. Wait a couple of minutes. Do as you like.'
On their admission to the interior of the chamber, Old Tom was exhibited in his daily garb, sufficiently subdued to be civil and explain the cause of his discomfort. Lumps in his bed: he was bruised by them. He supposed he couldn't ask women to judge for themselves—they'd be shrieking—but he could assure them he was blue all down his back. Mrs. Mel and Mrs. Hawkshaw turned the bed about, and punched it, and rolled it.
'Ha!' went Old Tom, 'what's the good of that? That's just how I found it. Moment I got into bed geese began to put up their backs.'
Mrs. Mel seldom indulged in a joke, and then only when it had a proverbial cast. On the present occasion, the truth struck her forcibly, and she said:
'One fool makes many, and so, no doubt, does one goose.'
Accompanied by a smile the words would have seemed impudent; but spoken as a plain fact, and with a grave face, it set Old Tom blinking like a small boy ten minutes after the whip.
'Now,' she pursued, speaking to him as to an old child, 'look here. This is how you manage. Knead down in the middle of the bed. Then jump into the hollow. Lie there, and you needn't wake till morning.'
Old Tom came to the side of the bed. He had prepared himself for a wretched night, an uproar, and eternal complaints against the house, its inhabitants, and its foundations; but a woman stood there who as much as told him that digging his fist into the flock and jumping into the hole—into that hole under his, eyes—was all that was wanted! that he had been making a noise for nothing, and because he had not the wit to hit on a simple contrivance! Then, too, his jest about the geese—this woman had put a stop to that! He inspected the hollow cynically. A man might instruct him on a point or two: Old Tom was not going to admit that a woman could.
'Oh, very well; thank you, ma'am; that's your idea. I'll try it. Good night.'
'Good night,' returned Mrs. Mel. 'Don't forget to jump into the middle.'
'Head foremost, ma'am?'
'As you weigh,' said Mrs. Mel, and Old Tom trumped his lips, silenced if not beaten. Beaten, one might almost say, for nothing more was heard of him that night.
He presented himself to Mrs. Mel after breakfast next morning.
'Slept well, ma'am.'
'Oh! then you did as I directed you,' said Mrs. Mel.
'Those chops, too, very good. I got through 'em.'
'Eating, like scratching, only wants a beginning,' said Mrs. Mel.
'Ha! you've got your word, then, as well as everybody else. Where's your Dandy this morning, ma'am?'
'Locked up. You ought to be ashamed to give that poor beast liquor. He won't get fresh air to-day.'
'Ha! May I ask you where you're going to-day, ma'am?'
'I am going to Beckley.'
'So am I, ma'am. What d' ye say, if we join company. Care for insinuations?'
'I want a conveyance of some sort,' returned Mrs. Mel.
'Object to a donkey, ma'am?'
'Not if he's strong and will go.'
'Good,' said Old Tom; and while he spoke a donkey-cart stopped in front of the Dolphin, and a well-dressed man touched his hat.
'Get out of that damned bad habit, will you?' growled Old Tom. What do you mean by wearing out the brim o' your hat in that way? Help this woman in.'
Mrs. Mel helped herself to a part of the seat.
'We are too much for the donkey,' she said.
'Ha, that's right. What I have, ma'am, is good. I can't pretend to horses, but my donkey's the best. Are you going to cry about him?'
'No. When he's tired I shall either walk or harness you,' said Mrs. Mel.
This was spoken half-way down the High Street of Fallow field. Old Tom looked full in her face, and bawled out:
'Deuce take it. Are you a woman?'
'I have borne three girls and one boy,' said Mrs. Mel.
'What sort of a husband?'
'He is dead.'
'Ha! that's an opening, but 'tain't an answer. I'm off to Beckley on a marriage business. I 'm the son of a cobbler, so I go in a donkey-cart. No damned pretences for me. I'm going to marry off a young tailor to a gal he's been playing the lord to. If she cares for him she'll take him: if not, they're all the luckier, both of 'em.'
'What's the tailor's name?' said Mrs. Mel.
'You are a woman,' returned Old Tom. 'Now, come, ma'am, don't you feel ashamed of being in a donkeycart?'
'I 'm ashamed of men, sometimes,' said Mrs. Mel; 'never of animals.'
''Shamed o' me, perhaps.'
'I don't know you.'
'Ha! well! I'm a man with no pretences. Do you like 'em? How have you brought up your three girls and one boy? No pretences—eh?'
Mrs. Mel did not answer, and Old Tom jogged the reins and chuckled, and asked his donkey if he wanted to be a racer.
'Should you take me for a gentleman, ma'am?'
'I dare say you are, sir, at heart. Not from your manner of speech.'
'I mean appearances, ma'am.'
'I judge by the disposition.'
'You do, ma'am? Then, deuce take it, if you are a woman, you 're ——-' Old Tom had no time to conclude.
A great noise of wheels, and a horn blown, caused them both to turn their heads, and they beheld a curricle descending upon them vehemently, and a fashionably attired young gentleman straining with all his might at the reins. The next instant they were rolling on the bank. About twenty yards ahead the curricle was halted and turned about to see the extent of the mischief done.
'Pardon, a thousand times, my worthy couple,' cried the sonorous Mr. Raikes. 'What we have seen we swear not to divulge. Franco and Fred—your pledge!'
'We swear!' exclaimed this couple.
But suddenly the cheeks of Mr. John Raikes flushed. He alighted from the box, and rushing up to Old Tom, was shouting, 'My bene—'
'Do you want my toe on your plate?' Old Tom stopped him with.
The mysterious words completely changed the aspect of Mr. John Raikes. He bowed obsequiously and made his friend Franco step down and assist in the task of reestablishing the donkey, who fortunately had received no damage.
EXHIBITS ROSE'S GENERALSHIP; EVAN'S PERFORMANCE ON THE SECOND FIDDLE; AND THE WRETCHEDNESS OF THE COUNTESS
We left Rose and Evan on their way to Lady Jocelyn. At the library-door Rose turned to him, and with her chin archly lifted sideways, said:
'I know what you feel; you feel foolish.'
Now the sense of honour, and of the necessity of acting the part it imposes on him, may be very strong in a young man; but certainly, as a rule, the sense of ridicule is more poignant, and Evan was suffering horrid pangs. We none of us like to play second fiddle. To play second fiddle to a young woman is an abomination to us all. But to have to perform upon that instrument to the darling of our hearts—would we not rather die? nay, almost rather end the duet precipitately and with violence. Evan, when he passed Drummond into the house, and quietly returned his gaze, endured the first shock of this strange feeling. There could be no doubt that he was playing second fiddle to Rose. And what was he about to do? Oh, horror! to stand like a criminal, and say, or worse, have said for him, things to tip the ears with fire! To tell the young lady's mother that he had won her daughter's love, and meant—what did he mean? He knew not. Alas! he was second fiddle; he could only mean what she meant. Evan loved Rose deeply and completely, but noble manhood was strong in him. You may sneer at us, if you please, ladies. We have been educated in a theory, that when you lead off with the bow, the order of Nature is reversed, and it is no wonder therefore, that, having stript us of one attribute, our fine feathers moult, and the majestic cock-like march which distinguishes us degenerates. You unsex us, if I may dare to say so. Ceasing to be men, what are we? If we are to please you rightly, always allow us to play First.
Poor Evan did feel foolish. Whether Rose saw it in his walk, or had a loving feminine intuition of it, and was aware of the golden rule I have just laid down, we need not inquire. She hit the fact, and he could only stammer, and bid her open the door.
'No,' she said, after a slight hesitation, 'it will be better that I should speak to Mama alone, I see. Walk out on the lawn, dear, and wait for me. And if you meet Drummond, don't be angry with him. Drummond is very fond of me, and of course I shall teach him to be fond of you. He only thinks . . . what is not true, because he does not know you. I do thoroughly, and there, you see, I give you my hand.'
Evan drew the dear hand humbly to his lips. Rose then nodded meaningly, and let her eyes dwell on him, and went in to her mother to open the battle.
Could it be that a flame had sprung up in those grey eyes latterly? Once they were like morning before sunrise. How soft and' warm and tenderly transparent they could now be! Assuredly she loved him. And he, beloved by the noblest girl ever fashioned, why should he hang his head, and shrink at the thought of human faces, like a wretch doomed to the pillory? He visioned her last glance, and lightning emotions of pride and happiness flashed through his veins. The generous, brave heart! Yes, with her hand in his, he could stand at bay—meet any fate. Evan accepted Rose because he believed in her love, and judged it by the strength of his own; her sacrifice of her position he accepted, because in his soul he knew he should have done no less. He mounted to the level of her nobleness, and losing nothing of the beauty of what she did, it was not so strange to him.
Still there was the baleful reflection that he was second fiddle to his beloved. No harmony came of it in his mind. How could he take an initiative? He walked forth on the lawn, where a group had gathered under the shade of a maple, consisting of Drummond Forth, Mrs. Evremonde, Mrs. Shorne, Mr. George Uplift, Seymour Jocelyn, and Ferdinand Laxley. A little apart Juliana Bonner was walking with Miss Carrington. Juliana, when she saw him, left her companion, and passing him swiftly, said, 'Follow me presently into the conservatory.'
Evan strolled near the group, and bowed to Mrs. Shorne, whom he had not seen that morning.
The lady's acknowledgement of his salute was constrained, and but a shade on the side of recognition. They were silent till he was out of earshot. He noticed that his second approach produced the same effect. In the conservatory Juliana was awaiting him.
'It is not to give you roses I called you here, Mr. Harrington,' she said.
'Not if I beg one?' he responded.
'Ah! but you do not want them from . . . It depends on the person.'
'Pluck this,' said Evan, pointing to a white rose.
She put her fingers to the stem.
What folly!' she cried, and turned from it.
'Are you afraid that I shall compromise you?' asked Evan.
'You care for me too little for that.'
'My dear Miss Bonner!'
'How long did you know Rose before you called her by her Christian name?'
Evan really could not remember, and was beginning to wonder what he had been called there for. The little lady had feverish eyes and fingers, and seemed to be burning to speak, but afraid.
'I thought you had gone,' she dropped her voice, 'without wishing me good-bye.'
'I certainly should not do that, Miss Bonner.'
'Formal!' she exclaimed, half to herself. 'Miss Bonner thanks you. Do you think I wish you to stay? No friend of yours would wish it. You do not know the selfishness—brutal!—of these people of birth, as they call it.'
'I have met with nothing but kindness here,' said Evan.
'Then go while you can feel that,' she answered; 'for it cannot last another hour. Here is the rose.' She broke it from the stem and handed it to him. 'You may wear that, and they are not so likely to call you an adventurer, and names of that sort. I am hardly considered a lady by them.'
An adventurer! The full meaning of the phrase struck Evan's senses when he was alone. Miss Bonner knew something of his condition, evidently. Perhaps it was generally known, and perhaps it was thought that he had come to win Rose for his worldly advantage! The idea was overwhelmingly new to him. Up started self-love in arms. He would renounce her.
It is no insignificant contest when love has to crush self-love utterly. At moments it can be done. Love has divine moments. There are times also when Love draws part of his being from self-love, and can find no support without it.
But how could he renounce her, when she came forth to him,—smiling, speaking freshly and lightly, and with the colour on her cheeks which showed that she had done her part? How could he retract a step?
'I have told Mama, Evan. That's over. She heard it first from me.'
'Dear Evan, if you are going to be sensitive, I'll run away. You that fear no danger, and are the bravest man I ever knew! I think you are really trembling. She will speak to Papa, and then—and then, I suppose, they will both ask you whether you intend to give me up, or no. I'm afraid you'll do the former.'
'Your mother—Lady Jocelyn listened to you, Rose? You told her all?'
'And what does she think of me?'
'Thinks you very handsome and astonishing, and me very idiotic and natural, and that there is a great deal of bother in the world, and that my noble relatives will lay the blame of it on her. No, dear, not all that; but she talked very sensibly to me, and kindly. You know she is called a philosopher: nobody knows how deep-hearted she is, though. My mother is true as steel. I can't separate the kindness from the sense, or I would tell you all she said. When I say kindness, I don't mean any "Oh, my child," and tears, and kisses, and maundering, you know. You mustn't mind her thinking me a little fool. You want to know what she thinks of you. She said nothing to hurt you, Evan, and we have gained ground so far, and now we'll go and face our enemies. Uncle Mel expects to hear about your appointment, in a day or two, and——'
'Oh, Rose!' Evan burst out.
'What is it?'
'Why must I owe everything to you?'
'Why, dear? Why, because, if you do, it's very much better than your owing it to anybody else. Proud again?'
Not proud: only second fiddle.
'You know, dear Evan, when two people love, there is no such thing as owing between them.'
'Rose, I have been thinking. It is not too late. I love you, God knows! I did in Portugal: I do now—more and more. But Oh, my bright angel!' he ended the sentence in his breast.
Evan sounded down the meaning of his 'but.' Stripped of the usual heroics, it was, 'what will be thought of me?' not a small matter to any of us. He caught a distant glimpse of the little bit of bare selfishness, and shrank from it.
'Too late,' cried Rose. 'The battle has commenced now, and, Mr. Harrington, I will lean on your arm, and be led to my dear friends yonder. Do they think that I am going to put on a mask to please them? Not for anybody! What they are to know they may as well know at once.'
She looked in Evan's face.
'Do you hesitate?'
He felt the contrast between his own and hers; between the niggard spirit of the beggarly receiver, and the high bloom of the exalted giver. Nevertheless, he loved her too well not to share much of her nature, and wedding it suddenly, he said:
'Rose; tell me, now. If you were to see the place where I was born, could you love me still?'
'If you were to hear me spoken of with contempt—'
'Who dares?' cried Rose. 'Never to me!'
'Contempt of what I spring from, Rose. Names used . . . Names are used . . .'
'Tush!—names!' said Rose, reddening. 'How cowardly that is! Have you finished? Oh, faint heart! I suppose I'm not a fair lady, or you wouldn't have won me. Now, come. Remember, Evan, I conceal nothing; and if anything makes you wretched here, do think how I love you.'
In his own firm belief he had said everything to arrest her in her course, and been silenced by transcendent logic. She thought the same.
Rose made up to the conclave under the maple.
The voices hushed as they approached.
'Capital weather,' said Rose. 'Does Harry come back from London to-morrow—does anybody know?'
'Not aware,' Laxley was heard to reply.
'I want to speak a word to you, Rose,' said Mrs. Shorne.
'With the greatest pleasure, my dear aunt': and Rose walked after her.
'My dear Rose,' Mrs. Shorne commenced, 'your conduct requires that I should really talk to you most seriously. You are probably not aware of what you are doing: Nobody likes ease and natural familiarity more than I do. I am persuaded it is nothing but your innocence. You are young to the world's ways, and perhaps a little too headstrong, and vain.'
'Conceited and wilful,' added Rose.
'If you like the words better. But I must say—I do not wish to trouble your father—you know he cannot bear worry—but I must say, that if you do not listen to me, he must be spoken to.'
'Why not Mama?'
'I should naturally select my brother first. No doubt you understand me.'
'Any distant allusion to Mr. Harrington?'
'Pertness will not avail you, Rose.'
'So you want me to do secretly what I am doing openly?'
'You must and shall remember you are a Jocelyn, Rose.'
'Only half, my dear aunt!'
'And by birth a lady, Rose.'
'And I ought to look under my eyes, and blush, and shrink, whenever I come near a gentleman, aunt!'
'Ah! my dear. No doubt you will do what is most telling. Since you have spoken of this Mr. Harrington, I must inform you that I have it on certain authority from two or three sources, that he is the son of a small shopkeeper at Lymport.'
Mrs. Shorne watched the effect she had produced.
'Indeed, aunt?' cried Rose. 'And do you know this to be true?'
'So when you talk of gentlemen, Rose, please be careful whom you include.'
'I mustn't include poor Mr. Harrington? Then my Grandpapa Bonner is out of the list, and such numbers of good worthy men?'
Mrs. Shorne understood the hit at the defunct manufacturer. She said: 'You must most distinctly give me your promise, while this young adventurer remains here—I think it will not be long—not to be compromising yourself further, as you now do. Or—indeed I must—I shall let your parents perceive that such conduct is ruin to a young girl in your position, and certainly you will be sent to Elburne House for the winter.'
Rose lifted her hands, crying: 'Ye Gods!—as Harry says. But I'm very much obliged to you, my dear aunt. Concerning Mr. Harrington, wonderfully obliged. Son of a small——-! Is it a t-t-tailor, aunt?'
'It is—I have heard.'
'And that is much worse. Cloth is viler than cotton! And don't they call these creatures sn-snips? Some word of that sort?'
'It makes little difference what they are called.'
'Well, aunt, I sincerely thank you. As this subject seems to interest you, go and see Mama, now. She can tell you a great deal more: and, if you want her authority, come back to me.'
Rose then left her aunt in a state of extreme indignation. It was a clever move to send Mrs. Shorne to Lady Jocelyn. They were antagonistic, and, rational as Lady Jocelyn was, and with her passions under control, she was unlikely to side with Mrs. Shorne.
Now Rose had fought against herself, and had, as she thought, conquered. In Portugal Evan's half insinuations had given her small suspicions, which the scene on board the Jocasta had half confirmed: and since she came to communicate with her own mind, she bore the attack of all that rose against him, bit by bit. She had not been too blind to see the unpleasantness of the fresh facts revealed to her. They did not change her; on the contrary, drew her to him faster—and she thought she had completely conquered whatever could rise against him. But when Juliana Bonner told her that day that Evan was not only the son of the thing, but the thing himself, and that his name could be seen any day in Lymport, and that he had come from the shop to Beckley, poor Rosey had a sick feeling that almost sank her. For a moment she looked back wildly to the doors of retreat. Her eyes had to feed on Evan, she had to taste some of the luxury of love, before she could gain composure, and then her arrogance towards those she called her enemies did not quite return.
'In that letter you told me all—all—all, Evan?'
'Oh, why did I miss it!'
'Would it give you pleasure?'
She feared to speak, being tender as a mother to his sensitiveness. The expressive action of her eyebrows sufficed. She could not bear concealment, or doubt, or a shadow of dishonesty; and he, gaining force of soul to join with hers, took her hands and related the contents of the letter fully. She was pale when he had finished. It was some time before she was able to get free from the trammels of prejudice, but when she did, she did without reserve, saying: 'Evan, there is no man who would have done so much.' These little exaltations and generosities bind lovers tightly. He accepted the credit she gave him, and at that we need not wonder. It helped him further to accept herself, otherwise could he—his name known to be on a shop-front—have aspired to her still? But, as an unexampled man, princely in soul, as he felt, why, he might kneel to Rose Jocelyn. So they listened to one another, and blinded the world by putting bandages on their eyes, after the fashion of little boys and girls.
Meantime the fair being who had brought these two from the ends of the social scale into this happy tangle, the beneficent Countess, was wretched. When you are in the enemy's country you are dependent on the activity and zeal of your spies and scouts, and the best of these—Polly Wheedle, to wit—had proved defective, recalcitrant even. And because a letter had been lost in her room! as the Countess exclaimed to herself, though Polly gave her no reasons. The Countess had, therefore, to rely chiefly upon personal observation, upon her intuitions, upon her sensations in the proximity of the people to whom she was opposed; and from these she gathered that she was, to use the word which seemed fitting to her, betrayed. Still to be sweet, still to smile and to amuse,—still to give her zealous attention to the business of the diplomatist's Election, still to go through her church-services devoutly, required heroism; she was equal to it, for she had remarkable courage; but it was hard to feel no longer at one with Providence. Had not Providence suggested Sir Abraham to her? killed him off at the right moment in aid of her? And now Providence had turned, and the assistance she had formerly received from that Power, and given thanks for so profusely, was the cause of her terror. It was absolutely as if she had been borrowing from a Jew, and were called upon to pay fifty-fold interest.
'Evan!' she writes in a gasp to Harriet. 'We must pack up and depart. Abandon everything. He has disgraced us all, and ruined himself. Impossible that we can stay for the pic-nic. We are known, dear. Think of my position one day in this house! Particulars when I embrace you. I dare not trust a letter here. If Evan had confided in me! He is impenetrable. He will be low all his life, and I refuse any more to sully myself in attempting to lift him. For Silva's sake I must positively break the connection. Heaven knows what I have done for this boy, and will support me in the feeling that I have done enough. My conscience at least is safe.'
Like many illustrious Generals, the Countess had, for the hour, lost heart. We find her, however, the next day, writing:
'Oh! Harriet! what trials for sisterly affection! Can I possibly—weather the gale, as the old L—— sailors used to say? It is dreadful. I fear I am by duty bound to stop on. Little Bonner thinks Evan quite a duke's son, has been speaking to her Grandmama, and to-day, this morning, the venerable old lady quite as much as gave me to understand that an union between our brother and her son's child would sweetly gratify her, and help her to go to her rest in peace. Can I chase that spark of comfort from one so truly pious? Dearest Juliana! I have anticipated Evan's feeling for her, and so she thinks his conduct cold. Indeed, I told her, point blank, he loved her. That, you know, is different from saying, dying of love, which would have been an untruth. But, Evan, of course! No getting him! Should Juliana ever reproach me, I can assure the child that any man is in love with any woman—which is really the case. It is, you dear humdrum! what the dictionary calls "nascent." I never liked the word, but it stands for a fact.'
The Countess here exhibits the weakness of a self-educated intelligence. She does not comprehend the joys of scholarship in her employment of Latinisms. It will be pardoned to her by those who perceive the profound piece of feminine discernment which precedes it.
'I do think I shall now have courage to stay out the pic-nic,' she continues. 'I really do not think all is known. Very little can be known, or I am sure I could not feel as I do. It would burn me up. George Up—- does not dare; and his most beautiful lady-love had far better not. Mr. Forth may repent his whispers. But, Oh! what Evan may do! Rose is almost detestable. Manners, my dear? Totally deficient!
'An ally has just come. Evan's good fortune is most miraculous. His low friend turns out to be a young Fortunatus; very original, sparkling, and in my hands to be made much of. I do think he will—for he is most zealous—he will counteract that hateful Mr. Forth, who may soon have work enough. Mr. Raikes (Evan's friend) met a mad captain in Fallow field! Dear Mr. Raikes is ready to say anything; not from love of falsehood, but because he is ready to think it. He has confessed to me that Evan told him! Louisa de Saldar has changed his opinion, and much impressed this eccentric young gentleman. Do you know any young girl who wants a fortune, and would be grateful?
'Dearest! I have decided on the pic-nic. Let your conscience be clear, and Providence cannot be against you. So I feel. Mr. Parsley spoke very beautifully to that purpose last Sunday in the morning service. A little too much through his nose, perhaps; but the poor young man's nose is a great organ, and we will not cast it in his teeth more than nature has done. I said so to my diplomatist, who was amused. If you are sparklingly vulgar with the English, you are aristocratic. Oh! what principle we women require in the thorny walk of life. I can show you a letter when we meet that will astonish humdrum. Not so diplomatic as the writer thought! Mrs. Melville (sweet woman!) must continue to practise civility; for a woman who is a wife, my dear, in verity she lives in a glass house, and let her fling no stones. "Let him who is without sin." How beautiful that Christian sentiment! I hope I shall be pardoned, but it always seems to me that what we have to endure is infinitely worse than any other suffering, for you find no comfort for the children of T——s in Scripture, nor any defence of their dreadful position. Robbers, thieves, Magdalens! but, no! the unfortunate offspring of that class are not even mentioned: at least, in my most diligent perusal of the Scriptures, I never lighted upon any remote allusion; and we know the Jews did wear clothing. Outcasts, verily! And Evan could go, and write—but I have no patience with him. He is the blind tool of his mother, and anybody's puppet.'
The letter concludes, with horrid emphasis:
'The Madre in Beckley! Has sent for Evan from a low public-house! I have intercepted the messenger. Evan closeted with Sir Franks. Andrew's horrible old brother with Lady Jocelyn. The whole house, from garret to kitchen, full of whispers!'
A prayer to Providence closes the communication.
TOM COGGLESEY'S PROPOSITION
The appearance of a curricle and a donkey-cart within the gates of Beckley Court, produced a sensation among the men of the lower halls, and a couple of them rushed out, with the left calf considerably in advance, to defend the house from violation. Toward the curricle they directed what should have been a bow, but was a nod. Their joint attention was then given to the donkey-cart, in which old Tom Cogglesby sat alone, bunchy in figure, bunched in face, his shrewd grey eyes twinkling under the bush of his eyebrows.
'Oy, sir—you! my man!' exclaimed the tallest of the pair, resolutely. 'This won't do. Don't you know driving this sort of conveyance slap along the gravel 'ere, up to the pillars, 's unparliamentary? Can't be allowed. Now, right about!'
This address, accompanied by a commanding elevation of the dexter hand, seemed to excite Mr. Raikes far more than Old Tom. He alighted from his perch in haste, and was running up to the stalwart figure, crying, 'Fellow!' when, as you tell a dog to lie down, Old Tom called out, 'Be quiet, Sir!' and Raikes halted with prompt military obedience.
The sight of the curricle acting satellite to the donkey-cart staggered the two footmen.
'Are you lords?' sang out Old Tom.
A burst of laughter from the friends of Mr. Raikes, in the curricle, helped to make the powdered gentlemen aware of a sarcasm, and one with no little dignity replied that they were not lords.
'Oh! Then come and hold my donkey.'
Great irresolution was displayed at the injunction, but having consulted the face of Mr. Raikes, one fellow, evidently half overcome by what was put upon him, with the steps of Adam into exile, descended to the gravel, and laid his hand on the donkey's head.
'Hold hard!' cried Old Tom. 'Whisper in his ear. He'll know your language.'
'May I have the felicity of assisting you to terra firma?' interposed Mr. Raikes, with the bow of deferential familiarity.
'Done that once too often,' returned Old Tom, jumping out. 'There. What's the fee? There's a crown for you that ain't afraid of a live donkey; and there 's a sixpenny bit for you that are—to keep up your courage; and when he's dead you shall have his skin—to shave by.'
'Excellent!' shouted Raikes.
'Thomas!' he addressed a footman, 'hand in my card. Mr. John Feversham Raikes.'
'And tell my lady, Tom Cogglesby's come,' added the owner of that name.
We will follow Tom Cogglesby, as he chooses to be called.
Lady Jocelyn rose on his entering the library, and walking up to him, encountered him with a kindly full face.
'So I see you at last, Tom?' she said, without releasing his hand; and Old Tom mounted patches of red in his wrinkled cheeks, and blinked, and betrayed a singular antiquated bashfulness, which ended, after a mumble of 'Yes, there he was, and he hoped her ladyship was well,' by his seeking refuge in a chair, where he sat hard, and fixed his attention on the leg of a table.
'Well, Tom, do you find much change in me?' she was woman enough to continue.
He was obliged to look up.
'Can't say I do, my lady.'
'Don't you see the grey hairs, Tom?'
'Better than a wig,' rejoined he.
Was it true that her ladyship had behaved rather ill to Old Tom in her youth? Excellent women have been naughty girls, and young Beauties will have their train. It is also very possible that Old Tom had presumed upon trifles, and found it difficult to forgive her his own folly.
'Preferable to a wig? Well, I would rather see you with your natural thatch. You're bent, too. You look as if you had kept away from Beckley a little too long.'
'Told you, my lady, I should come when your daughter was marriageable.'
'Oho! that's it? I thought it was the Election!
'Election be ——— hem!—beg pardon, my lady.'
'Swear, Tom, if it relieves you. I think it bad to check an oath or a sneeze.'
'I 'm come to see you on business, my lady, or I shouldn't have troubled you.'
'You 'll see I don't bear any, my lady.'
'Ah! if you had only sworn roundly twenty-five years ago, what a much younger man you would have been! and a brave capital old friend whom I should not have missed all that time.'
'Come!' cried Old Tom, varying his eyes rapidly between her ladyship's face and the floor, 'you acknowledge I had reason to.'
'Mais, cela va sans dire.'
'Cobblers' sons ain't scholars, my lady.'
'And are not all in the habit of throwing their fathers in our teeth, I hope!'
Old Tom wriggled in his chair. 'Well, my lady, I'm not going to make a fool of myself at my time o' life. Needn't be alarmed now. You've got the bell-rope handy and a husband on the premises.'
Lady Jocelyn smiled, stood up, and went to him. 'I like an honest fist,' she said, taking his. 'We 're not going to be doubtful friends, and we won't snap and snarl. That's for people who're independent of wigs, Tom. I find, for my part, that a little grey on the top of any head cools the temper amazingly. I used to be rather hot once.'
'You could be peppery, my lady.'
'Now I'm cool, Tom, and so must you be; or, if you fight, it must be in my cause, as you did when you thrashed that saucy young carter. Do you remember?'
'If you'll sit ye down, my lady, I'll just tell you what I'm come for,' said Old Tom, who plainly showed that he did remember, and was alarmingly softened by her ladyship's retention of the incident.
Lady Jocelyn returned to her place.
'You've got a marriageable daughter, my lady?'
'I suppose we may call her so,' said Lady Jocelyn, with a composed glance at the ceiling.
''Gaged to be married to any young chap?'
'You must put the question to her, Tom.'
'Ha! I don't want to see her.'
At this Lady Jocelyn looked slightly relieved. Old Tom continued.
'Happen to have got a little money—not so much as many a lord's got, I dare say; such as 'tis, there 'tis. Young fellow I know wants a wife, and he shall have best part of it. Will that suit ye, my lady?'
Lady Jocelyn folded her hands. 'Certainly; I've no objection. What it has to do with me I can't perceive.'
'Ahem!' went Old Tom. 'It won't hurt your daughter to be married now, will it?'
'Oh! my daughter is the destined bride of your "young fellow,"' said Lady Jocelyn. 'Is that how it's to be?'
'She'—Old Tom cleared his throat 'she won't marry a lord, my lady; but she—'hem—if she don't mind that—'ll have a deuced sight more hard cash than many lord's son 'd give her, and a young fellow for a husband, sound in wind and limb, good bone and muscle, speaks grammar and two or three languages, and—'
'Stop!' cried Lady Jocelyn. 'I hope this is not a prize young man? If he belongs, at his age, to the unco quid, I refuse to take him for a son-in-law, and I think Rose will, too.'
Old Tom burst out vehemently: 'He's a damned good young fellow, though he isn't a lord.'
'Well,' said Lady Jocelyn, 'I 've no doubt you're in earnest, Tom. It 's curious, for this morning Rose has come to me and given me the first chapter of a botheration, which she declares is to end in the common rash experiment. What is your "young fellow's" name? Who is he? What is he?'
'Won't take my guarantee, my lady?'
'Rose—if she marries—must have a name, you know?'
Old Tom hit his knee. 'Then there's a pill for ye to swallow, for he ain't the son of a lord.'
'That's swallowed, Tom. What is he?'
'He's the son of a tradesman, then, my lady.' And Old Tom watched her to note the effect he had produced.
'More 's the pity,' was all she remarked.
'And he 'll have his thousand a year to start with; and he's a tailor, my lady.'
Her ladyship opened her eyes.
'Harrington's his name, my lady. Don't know whether you ever heard of it.'
Lady Jocelyn flung herself back in her chair. 'The queerest thing I ever met!' said she.
'Thousand a year to start with,' Old Tom went on, 'and if she marries—I mean if he marries her, I'll settle a thousand per ann. on the first baby-boy or gal.'
'Hum! Is this gross collusion, Mr. Tom?' Lady Jocelyn inquired.
'What does that mean?'
'Have you spoken of this before to any one?'
'I haven't, my lady. Decided on it this morning. Hem! you got a son, too. He's fond of a young gal, or he ought to be. I'll settle him when I've settled the daughter.'
'Harry is strongly attached to a dozen, I believe,' said his mother. 'Well, Tom, we'll think of it. I may as well tell you: Rose has just been here to inform me that this Mr. Harrington has turned her head, and that she has given her troth, and all that sort of thing. I believe such was not to be laid to my charge in my day.'
'You were open enough, my lady,' said Old Tom. 'She's fond of the young fellow? She'll have a pill to swallow! poor young woman!'
Old Tom visibly chuckled. Lady Jocelyn had a momentary temptation to lead him out, but she did not like the subject well enough to play with it.
'Apparently Rose has swallowed it,' she said.
'Goose, shears, cabbage, and all!' muttered Old Tom. 'Got a stomach!—she knows he's a tailor, then? The young fellow told her? He hasn't been playing the lord to her?'
'As far as he's concerned, I think he has been tolerably honest, Tom, for a man and a lover.'
'And told her he was born and bound a tailor?'
'Rose certainly heard it from him.'
Slapping his knee, Old Tom cried: 'Bravo!' For though one part of his nature was disappointed, and the best part of his plot disarranged, he liked Evan's proceeding and felt warm at what seemed to him Rose's scorn of rank.
'She must be a good gal, my lady. She couldn't have got it from t' other side. Got it from you. Not that you—'
'No,' said Lady Jocelyn, apprehending him. 'I'm afraid I have no Republican virtues. I 'm afraid I should have rejected the pill. Don't be angry with me,' for Old Tom looked sour again; 'I like birth and position, and worldly advantages, and, notwithstanding Rose's pledge of the instrument she calls her heart, and in spite of your offer, I shall, I tell you honestly, counsel her to have nothing to do with—'
'Anything less than lords,' Old Tom struck in. 'Very well. Are you going to lock her up, my lady?'
'No. Nor shall I whip her with rods.'
'Leave her free to her choice?'
'She will have my advice. That I shall give her. And I shall take care that before she makes a step she shall know exactly what it leads to. Her father, of course, will exercise his judgement.' (Lady Jocelyn said this to uphold the honour of Sir Franks, knowing at the same time perfectly well that he would be wheedled by Rose.) 'I confess I like this Mr. Harrington. But it's a great misfortune for him to have had a notorious father. A tailor should certainly avoid fame, and this young man will have to carry his father on his back. He 'll never throw the great Mel off.'
Tom Cogglesby listened, and was really astonished at her ladyship's calm reception of his proposal.
'Shameful of him! shameful!' he muttered perversely: for it would have made him desolate to have had to change his opinion of her ladyship after cherishing it, and consoling himself with it, five-and-twenty years. Fearing the approach of softness, he prepared to take his leave.
'Now—your servant, my lady. I stick to my word, mind: and if your people here are willing, I—I 've got a candidate up for Fall'field—I'll knock him down, and you shall sneak in your Tory. Servant, my lady.'
Old Tom rose to go. Lady Jocelyn took his hand cordially, though she could not help smiling at the humility of the cobbler's son in his manner of speaking of the Tory candidate.
'Won't you stop with us a few days?'
'I 'd rather not, I thank ye.'
'Won't you see Rose?'
'I won't. Not till she's married.'
'Well, Tom, we're friends now?'
'Not aware I've ever done you any harm, my lady.'
'Look me in the face.'
The trial was hard for him. Though she had been five-and-twenty years a wife, she was still very handsome: but he was not going to be melted, and when the perverse old fellow obeyed her, it was with an aspect of resolute disgust that would have made any other woman indignant. Lady Jocelyn laughed.
'Why, Tom, your brother Andrew's here, and makes himself comfortable with us. We rode by Brook's farm the other day. Do you remember Copping's pond—how we dragged it that night? What days we had!'
Old Tom tugged once or twice at his imprisoned fist, while these youthful frolics of his too stupid self and the wild and beautiful Miss Bonner were being recalled.
'I remember!' he said savagely, and reaching the door hurled out: 'And I remember the Bull-dogs, too! servant, my lady.' With which he effected a retreat, to avoid a ringing laugh he heard in his ears.
Lady Jocelyn had not laughed. She had done no more than look and smile kindly on the old boy. It was at the Bull-dogs, a fall of water on the borders of the park, that Tom Cogglesby, then a hearty young man, had been guilty of his folly: had mistaken her frank friendliness for a return of his passion, and his stubborn vanity still attributed her rejection of his suit to the fact of his descent from a cobbler, or, as he put it, to her infernal worship of rank.
'Poor old Tom!' said her ladyship, when alone. 'He 's rough at the rind, but sound at the core.' She had no idea of the long revenge Old Tom cherished, and had just shaped into a plot to be equal with her for the Bull-dogs.
PRELUDE TO AN ENGAGEMENT
Money was a strong point with the Elburne brood. The Jocelyns very properly respected blood; but being, as Harry, their youngest representative, termed them, poor as rats, they were justified in considering it a marketable stuff; and when they married they married for money. The Hon. Miss Jocelyn had espoused a manufacturer, who failed in his contract, and deserved his death. The diplomatist, Melville, had not stepped aside from the family traditions in his alliance with Miss Black, the daughter of a bold bankrupt, educated in affluence; and if he touched nothing but L5000 and some very pretty ringlets, that was not his fault. Sir Franks, too, mixed his pure stream with gold. As yet, however, the gold had done little more than shine on him; and, belonging to expectancy, it might be thought unsubstantial. Beckley Court was in the hands of Mrs. Bonner, who, with the highest sense of duty toward her only living child, was the last to appreciate Lady Jocelyn's entire absence of demonstrative affection, and severely reprobated her daughter's philosophic handling of certain serious subjects. Sir Franks, no doubt, came better off than the others; her ladyship brought him twenty thousand pounds, and Harry had ten in the past tense, and Rose ten in the future; but living, as he had done, a score of years anticipating the demise of an incurable invalid, he, though an excellent husband and father, could scarcely be taught to imagine that the Jocelyn object of his bargain was attained. He had the semblance of wealth, without the personal glow which absolute possession brings. It was his habit to call himself a poor man, and it was his dream that Rose should marry a rich one. Harry was hopeless. He had been his Grandmother's pet up to the years of adolescence: he was getting too old for any prospect of a military career he had no turn for diplomacy, no taste for any of the walks open to blood and birth, and was in headlong disgrace with the fountain of goodness at Beckley Court, where he was still kept in the tacit understanding that, should Juliana inherit the place, he must be at hand to marry her instantly, after the fashion of the Jocelyns. They were an injured family; for what they gave was good, and the commercial world had not behaved honourably to them. Now, Ferdinand Laxley was just the match for Rose. Born to a title and fine estate, he was evidently fond of her, and there had been a gentle hope in the bosom of Sir Franks that the family fatality would cease, and that Rose would marry both money and blood.
From this happy delusion poor Sir Franks was awakened to hear that his daughter had plighted herself to the son of a tradesman: that, as the climax to their evil fate, she who had some blood and some money of her own—the only Jocelyn who had ever united the two—was desirous of wasting herself on one who had neither. The idea was so utterly opposed to the principles Sir Franks had been trained in, that his intellect could not grasp it. He listened to his sister, Mrs. Shorne: he listened to his wife; he agreed with all they said, though what they said was widely diverse: he consented to see and speak to Evan, and he did so, and was much the most distressed. For Sir Franks liked many things in life, and hated one thing alone—which was 'bother.' A smooth world was his delight. Rose knew this, and her instruction to Evan was: 'You cannot give me up—you will go, but you cannot give me up while I am faithful to you: tell him that.' She knew that to impress this fact at once on the mind of Sir Franks would be a great gain; for in his detestation of bother he would soon grow reconciled to things monstrous: and hearing the same on both sides, the matter would assume an inevitable shape to him. Mr. Second Fiddle had no difficulty in declaring the eternity of his sentiments; but he toned them with a despair Rose did not contemplate, and added also his readiness to repair, in any way possible, the evil done. He spoke of his birth and position. Sir Franks, with a gentlemanly delicacy natural to all lovers of a smooth world, begged him to see the main and the insurmountable objection. Birth was to be desired, of course, and position, and so forth: but without money how can two young people marry? Evan's heart melted at this generous way of putting it. He said he saw it, he had no hope: he would go and be forgotten: and begged that for any annoyance his visit might have caused Sir Franks and Lady Jocelyn, they would pardon him. Sir Franks shook him by the hand, and the interview ended in a dialogue on the condition of the knees of Black Lymport, and on horseflesh in Portugal and Spain.
Following Evan, Rose went to her father and gave him a good hour's excitement, after which the worthy gentleman hurried for consolation to Lady Jocelyn, whom he found reading a book of French memoirs, in her usual attitude, with her feet stretched out and her head thrown back, as in a distant survey of the lively people screening her from a troubled world. Her ladyship read him a piquant story, and Sir Franks capped it with another from memory; whereupon her ladyship held him wrong in one turn of the story, and Sir Franks rose to get the volume to verify, and while he was turning over the leaves, Lady Jocelyn told him incidentally of old Tom Cogglesby's visit and proposal. Sir Franks found the passage, and that her ladyship was right, which it did not move her countenance to hear.
'Ah!' said he, finding it no use to pretend there was no bother in the world, 'here's a pretty pickle! Rose says she will have that fellow.'
'Hum!' replied her ladyship. 'And if she keeps her mind a couple of years, it will be a wonder.'
'Very bad for her this sort of thing—talked about,' muttered Sir Franks. 'Ferdinand was just the man.'
'Well, yes; I suppose it's her mistake to think brains an absolute requisite,' said Lady Jocelyn, opening her book again, and scanning down a column.
Sir Franks, being imitative, adopted a similar refuge, and the talk between them was varied by quotations and choice bits from the authors they had recourse to. Both leaned back in their chairs, and spoke with their eyes on their books.
'Julia's going to write to her mother,' said he.
'Very filial and proper,' said she.
'There'll be a horrible hubbub, you know, Emily.'
'Most probably. I shall get the blame; 'cela se concoit'.'
'Young Harrington goes the day after to-morrow. Thought it better not to pack him off in a hurry.'
'And just before the pic-nic; no, certainly. I suppose it would look odd.'
'How are we to get rid of the Countess?'
'Eh? This Bautru is amusing, Franks; but he's nothing to Vandy. 'Homme incomparable!' On the whole I find Menage rather dull. The Countess? what an accomplished liar that woman is! She seems to have stepped out of Tallemant's Gallery. Concerning the Countess, I suppose you had better apply to Melville.'
'Where the deuce did this young Harrington get his breeding from?'
'He comes of a notable sire.'
'Yes, but there's no sign of the snob in him.'
'And I exonerate him from the charge of "adventuring" after Rose. George Uplift tells me—I had him in just now—that the mother is a woman of mark and strong principle. She has probably corrected the too luxuriant nature of Mel in her offspring. That is to say in this one. 'Pour les autres, je ne dis pas'. Well, the young man will go; and if Rose chooses to become a monument of constancy, we can do nothing. I shall give my advice; but as she has not deceived me, and she is a reasonable being, I shan't interfere. Putting the case at the worst, they will not want money. I have no doubt Tom Cogglesby means what he says, and will do it. So there we will leave the matter till we hear from Elburne House.'
Sir Franks groaned at the thought.
'How much does he offer to settle on them?' he asked.
'A thousand a year on the marriage, and the same amount to the first child. I daresay the end would be that they would get all.'
Sir Franks nodded, and remained with one eye-brow pitiably elevated above the level of the other.
'Anything but a tailor!' he exclaimed presently, half to himself.
'There is a prejudice against that craft,' her ladyship acquiesced. 'Beranger—let me see—your favourite Frenchman, Franks, wasn't it his father?—no, his grandfather. "Mon pauvre et humble grand-pyre," I think, was a tailor. Hum! the degrees of the thing, I confess, don't affect me. One trade I imagine to be no worse than another.'
'Ferdinand's allowance is about a thousand,' said Sir Franks, meditatively.
'And won't be a farthing more till he comes to the title,' added her ladyship.
'Well,' resumed Sir Franks, 'it's a horrible bother!'
His wife philosophically agreed with him, and the subject was dropped.
Lady Jocelyn felt with her husband, more than she chose to let him know, and Sir Franks could have burst into anathemas against fate and circumstances, more than his love of a smooth world permitted. He, however, was subdued by her calmness; and she, with ten times the weight of brain, was manoeuvred by the wonderful dash of General Rose Jocelyn. For her ladyship, thinking, 'I shall get the blame of all this,' rather sided insensibly with the offenders against those who condemned them jointly; and seeing that Rose had been scrupulously honest and straightforward in a very delicate matter, this lady was so constituted that she could not but applaud her daughter in her heart. A worldly woman would have acted, if she had not thought, differently; but her ladyship was not a worldly woman.
Evan's bearing and character had, during his residence at Beckley Court, become so thoroughly accepted as those of a gentleman, and one of their own rank, that, after an allusion to the origin of his breeding, not a word more was said by either of them on that topic. Besides, Rose had dignified him by her decided conduct.
By the time poor Sir Franks had read himself into tranquillity, Mrs. Shorne, who knew him well, and was determined that he should not enter upon his usual negociations with an unpleasantness: that is to say, to forget it, joined them in the library, bringing with her Sir John Loring and Hamilton Jocelyn. Her first measure was to compel Sir Franks to put down his book. Lady Jocelyn subsequently had to do the same.
'Well, what have you done, Franks?' said Mrs. Shorne.
'Done?' answered the poor gentleman. 'What is there to be done? I've spoken to young Harrington.'
'Spoken to him! He deserves horsewhipping! Have you not told him to quit the house instantly?'
Lady Jocelyn came to her husband's aid: 'It wouldn't do, I think, to kick him out. In the first place, he hasn't deserved it.'
'Not deserved it, Emily!—the commonest, low, vile, adventuring tradesman!'
'In the second place,' pursued her ladyship, 'it's not adviseable to do anything that will make Rose enter into the young woman's sublimities. It 's better not to let a lunatic see that you think him stark mad, and the same holds with young women afflicted with the love-mania. The sound of sense, even if they can't understand it, flatters them so as to keep them within bounds. Otherwise you drive them into excesses best avoided.'
'Really, Emily,' said Mrs. Shorne, 'you speak almost, one would say, as an advocate of such unions.'
'You must know perfectly well that I entirely condemn them,' replied her ladyship, who had once, and once only, delivered her opinion of the nuptials of Mr. and Mrs. Shorne.
In self-defence, and to show the total difference between the cases, Mrs. Shorne interjected: 'An utterly penniless young adventurer!'
'Oh, no; there's money,' remarked Sir Franks.
'Money is there?' quoth Hamilton, respectfully.
'And there's wit,' added Sir John, 'if he has half his sister's talent.'
'Astonishing woman!' Hamilton chimed in; adding, with a shrug, 'But, egad!'
'Well, we don't want him to resemble his sister,' said Lady Jocelyn. 'I acknowledge she's amusing.'
'Amusing, Emily!' Mrs. Shorne never encountered her sister-in-law's calmness without indignation. 'I could not rest in the house with such a person, knowing her what she is. A vile adventuress, as I firmly believe. What does she do all day with your mother? Depend upon it, you will repent her visit in more ways than one.'
'A prophecy?' asked Lady Jocelyn, smiling.
On the grounds of common sense, on the grounds of propriety, and consideration of what was due to themselves, all agreed to condemn the notion of Rose casting herself away on Evan. Lady Jocelyn agreed with Mrs. Shorne; Sir Franks with his brother, and Sir John. But as to what they were to do, they were divided. Lady Jocelyn said she should not prevent Rose from writing to Evan, if she had the wish to do so.
'Folly must come out,' said her ladyship. 'It's a combustible material. I won't have her health injured. She shall go into the world more. She will be presented at Court, and if it's necessary to give her a dose or two to counteract her vanity, I don't object. This will wear off, or, 'si c'est veritablement une grande passion, eh bien' we must take what Providence sends us.'
'And which we might have prevented if we had condescended to listen to the plainest worldly wisdom,' added Mrs. Shorne.
'Yes,' said Lady Jocelyn, equably, 'you know, you and I, Julia, argue from two distinct points. Girls may be shut up, as you propose. I don't think nature intended to have them the obverse of men. I 'm sure their mothers never designed that they should run away with footmen, riding-masters, chance curates, as they occasionally do, and wouldn't if they had points of comparison. My opinion is that Prospero was just saved by the Prince of Naples being wrecked on his island, from a shocking mis-alliance between his daughter and the son of Sycorax. I see it clearly. Poetry conceals the extreme probability, but from what I know of my sex, I should have no hesitation in turning prophet also, as to that.'
What could Mrs. Shorne do with a mother who talked in this manner? Mrs. Melville, when she arrived to take part in the conference, which gradually swelled to a family one, was equally unable to make Lady Jocelyn perceive that her plan of bringing up Rose was, in the present result of it, other than unlucky.
Now the two Generals—Rose Jocelyn and the Countess de Saldar—had brought matters to this pass; and from the two tactical extremes: the former by openness and dash; the latter by subtlety, and her own interpretations of the means extended to her by Providence. I will not be so bold as to state which of the two I think right. Good and evil work together in this world. If the Countess had not woven the tangle, and gained Evan time, Rose would never have seen his blood,—never have had her spirit hurried out of all shows and forms and habits of thought, up to the gates of existence, as it were, where she took him simply as God created him and her, and clave to him. Again, had Rose been secret, when this turn in her nature came, she would have forfeited the strange power she received from it, and which endowed her with decision to say what was in her heart, and stamp it lastingly there. The two Generals were quite antagonistic, but no two, in perfect ignorance of one another's proceedings, ever worked so harmoniously toward the main result. The Countess was the skilful engineer: Rose the General of cavalry. And it did really seem that, with Tom Cogglesby and his thousands in reserve, the victory was about to be gained. The male Jocelyns, an easy race, decided that, if the worst came to the worst, and Rose proved a wonder, there was money, which was something.
But social prejudice was about to claim its champion. Hitherto there had been no General on the opposite side. Love, aided by the Countess, had engaged an inert mass. The champion was discovered in the person of the provincial Don Juan, Mr. Harry Jocelyn. Harry had gone on a mysterious business of his own to London. He returned with a green box under his arm, which, five minutes after his arrival, was entrusted to Conning, in company with a genial present for herself, of a kind not perhaps so fit for exhibition; at least they both thought so, for it was given in the shades. Harry then went to pay his respects to his mother, who received him with her customary ironical tolerance. His father, to whom he was an incarnation of bother, likewise nodded to him and gave him a finger. Duty done, Harry looked round him for pleasure, and observed nothing but glum faces. Even the face of John Raikes was, heavy. He had been hovering about the Duke and Miss Current for an hour, hoping the Countess would come and give him a promised introduction. The Countess stirred not from above, and Jack drifted from group to group on the lawn, and grew conscious that wherever he went he brought silence with him. His isolation made him humble, and when Harry shook his hand, and said he remembered Fallow field and the fun there, Mr. Raikes thanked him.
Harry made his way to join his friend Ferdinand, and furnished him with the latest London news not likely to appear in the papers. Laxley was distant and unamused. From the fact, too, that Harry was known to be the Countess's slave, his presence produced the same effect in the different circles about the grounds, as did that of John Raikes. Harry began to yawn and wish very ardently for his sweet lady. She, however, had too fine an instinct to descend.
An hour before dinner, Juliana sent him a message that she desired to see him.
'Jove! I hope that girl's not going to be blowing hot again,' sighed the conqueror.
He had nothing to fear from Juliana. The moment they were alone she asked him, 'Have you heard of it?'
Harry shook his head and shrugged.
'They haven't told you? Rose has engaged herself to Mr. Harrington, a tradesman, a tailor!'
'Pooh! have you got hold of that story?' said Harry. 'But I'm sorry for old Ferdy. He was fond of Rosey. Here's another bother!'
'You don't believe me, Harry?'
Harry was mentally debating whether, in this new posture of affairs, his friend Ferdinand would press his claim for certain moneys lent.
'Oh, I believe you,' he said. 'Harrington has the knack with you women. Why, you made eyes at him. It was a toss-up between you and Rosey once.'
Juliana let this accusation pass.
'He is a tradesman. He has a shop in Lymport, I tell you, Harry, and his name on it. And he came here on purpose to catch Rose. And now he has caught her, he tells her. And his mother is now at one of the village inns, waiting to see him. Go to Mr. George Uplift; he knows the family. Yes, the Countess has turned your head, of course; but she has schemed, and schemed, and told such stories—God forgive her!'
The girl had to veil her eyes in a spasm of angry weeping.
'Oh, come! Juley!' murmured her killing cousin. Harry boasted an extraordinary weakness at the sight of feminine tears. 'I say! Juley! you know if you begin crying I'm done for, and it isn't fair.'
He dropped his arm on her waist to console her, and generously declared to her that he always had been, very fond of her. These scenes were not foreign to the youth. Her fits of crying, from which she would burst in a frenzy of contempt at him, had made Harry say stronger things; and the assurances of profound affection uttered in a most languid voice will sting the hearts of women.
Harry still went on with his declarations, heating them rapidly, so as to bring on himself the usual outburst and check. She was longer in coming to it this time, and he had a horrid fear, that instead of dismissing him fiercely, and so annulling his words, the strange little person was going to be soft and hold him to them. There were her tears, however, which she could not stop.
'Well, then, Juley, look. I do, upon my honour, yes—there, don't cry any more—I do love you.'
Harry held his breath in awful suspense. Juliana quietly disengaged her waist, and looking at him, said, 'Poor Harry! You need not lie any more to please me.'
Such was Harry's astonishment, that he exclaimed,
'It isn't a lie! I say, I do love you.' And for an instant he thought and hoped that he did love her.
'Well, then, Harry, I don't love you,' said Juliana; which revealed to our friend that he had been mistaken in his own emotions. Nevertheless, his vanity was hurt when he saw she was sincere, and he listened to her, a moody being. This may account for his excessive wrath at Evan Harrington after Juliana had given him proofs of the truth of what she said.
But the Countess was Harrington's sister! The image of the Countess swam before him. Was it possible? Harry went about asking everybody he met. The initiated were discreet; those who had the whispers were open. A bare truth is not so convincing as one that discretion confirms. Harry found the detestable news perfectly true.
'Stop it by all means if you can,' said his father.
'Yes, try a fall with Rose,' said his mother.
'And I must sit down to dinner to-day with a confounded fellow, the son of a tailor, who's had the impudence to make love to my sister!' cried Harry. 'I'm determined to kick him out of the house!—half.'
'To what is the modification of your determination due?' Lady Jocelyn inquired, probably suspecting the sweet and gracious person who divided Harry's mind.
Her ladyship treated her children as she did mankind generally, from her intellectual eminence. Harry was compelled to fly from her cruel shafts. He found comfort with his Aunt Shorne, and she as much as told Harry that he was the head of the house, and must take up the matter summarily. It was expected of him. Now was the time for him to show his manhood.
Harry could think of but one way to do that.
'Yes, and if I do—all up with the old lady,' he said, and had to explain that his Grandmama Bonner would never leave a penny to a fellow who had fought a duel.
'A duel!' said Mrs. Shorne. 'No, there are other ways. Insist upon his renouncing her. And Rose—treat her with a high hand, as becomes you. Your mother is incorrigible, and as for your father, one knows him of old. This devolves upon you. Our family honour is in your hands, Harry.'
Considering Harry's reputation, the family honour must have got low: Harry, of course, was not disposed to think so. He discovered a great deal of unused pride within him, for which he had hitherto not found an agreeable vent. He vowed to his aunt that he would not suffer the disgrace, and while still that blandishing olive-hued visage swam before his eyes, he pledged his word to Mrs. Shorne that he would come to an understanding with Harrington that night.
'Quietly,' said she. 'No scandal, pray.'
'Oh, never mind how I do it,' returned Harry, manfully. 'How am I to do it, then?' he added, suddenly remembering his debt to Evan.
Mrs. Shorne instructed him how to do it quietly, and without fear of scandal. The miserable champion replied that it was very well for her to tell him to say this and that, but—and she thought him demented—he must, previous to addressing Harrington in those terms, have money.
'Money!' echoed the lady. 'Money!'
'Yes, money!' he iterated doggedly, and she learnt that he had borrowed a sum of Harrington, and the amount of the sum.
It was a disastrous plight, for Mrs. Shorne was penniless.
She cited Ferdinand Laxley as a likely lender.
'Oh, I'm deep with him already,' said Harry, in apparent dejection.
'How dreadful are these everlasting borrowings of yours!' exclaimed his aunt, unaware of a trifling incongruity in her sentiments. 'You must speak to him without—pay him by-and-by. We must scrape the money together. I will write to your grandfather.'
'Yes; speak to him! How can I when I owe him? I can't tell a fellow he's a blackguard when I owe him, and I can't speak any other way. I ain't a diplomatist. Dashed if I know what to do!'
'Juliana,' murmured his aunt.
'Can't ask her, you know.'
Mrs. Shorne combated the one prominent reason for the objection: but there were two. Harry believed that he had exhausted Juliana's treasury. Reproaching him further for his wastefulness, Mrs. Shorne promised him the money should be got, by hook or by crook, next day.
'And you will speak to this Mr. Harrington to-night, Harry? No allusion to the loan till you return it. Appeal to his sense of honour.'
The dinner-bell assembled the inmates of the house. Evan was not among them. He had gone, as the Countess said aloud, on a diplomatic mission to Fallow field, with Andrew Cogglesby. The truth being that he had finally taken Andrew into his confidence concerning the letter, the annuity, and the bond. Upon which occasion Andrew had burst into a laugh, and said he could lay his hand on the writer of the letter.
'Trust Old Tom for plots, Van! He'll blow you up in a twinkling, the cunning old dog! He pretends to be hard—he 's as soft as I am, if it wasn't for his crotchets. We'll hand him back the cash, and that's ended. And—eh? what a dear girl she is! Not that I'm astonished. My Harry might have married a lord—sit at top of any table in the land! And you're as good as any man.
That's my opinion. But I say she's a wonderful girl to see it.'
Chattering thus, Andrew drove with the dear boy into Fallow field. Evan was still in his dream. To him the generous love and valiant openness of Rose, though they were matched in his own bosom, seemed scarcely human. Almost as noble to him were the gentlemanly plainspeaking of Sir Franks and Lady Jocelyn's kind commonsense. But the more he esteemed them, the more unbounded and miraculous appeared the prospect of his calling their daughter by the sacred name, and kneeling with her at their feet. Did the dear heavens have that in store for him? The horizon edges were dimly lighted.
Harry looked about under his eye-lids for Evan, trying at the same time to compose himself for the martyrdom he had to endure in sitting at table with the presumptuous fellow. The Countess signalled him to come within the presence. As he was crossing the room, Rose entered, and moved to meet him, with: 'Ah, Harry! back again! Glad to see you.'
Harry gave her a blunt nod, to which she was inattentive.
'What!' whispered the Countess, after he pressed the tips of her fingers. 'Have you brought back the grocer?'
Now this was hard to stand. Harry could forgive her her birth, and pass it utterly by if she chose to fall in love with him; but to hear the grocer mentioned, when he knew of the tailor, was a little too much, and what Harry felt his ingenuous countenance was accustomed to exhibit. The Countess saw it. She turned her head from him to the diplomatist, and he had to remain like a sentinel at her feet. He did not want to be thanked for the green box: still he thought she might have favoured him with one of her much-embracing smiles:
In the evening, after wine, when he was warm, and had almost forgotten the insult to his family and himself, the Countess snubbed him. It was unwise on her part, but she had the ghastly thought that facts were oozing out, and were already half known. She was therefore sensitive tenfold to appearances; savage if one failed to keep up her lie to her, and was guilty of a shadow of difference of behaviour. The pic-nic over, our General would evacuate Beckley Court, and shake the dust off her shoes, and leave the harvest of what she had sown to Providence. Till then, respect, and the honours of war! So the Countess snubbed him, and he being full of wine, fell into the hands of Juliana, who had witnessed the little scene.
'She has made a fool of others as well as of you,' said Juliana.
'How has she?' he inquired.
'Never mind. Do you want to make her humble and crouch to you?'
'I want to see Harrington,' said Harry.
'He will not return to-night from Fallow field. He has gone there to get Mr. Andrew Cogglesby's brother to do something for him. You won't have such another chance of humbling them both—both! I told you his mother is at an inn here. The Countess has sent Mr. Harrington to Fallow field to be out of the way, and she has told her mother all sorts of falsehoods.'
'How do you know all that?' quoth Harry. 'By Jove, Juley! talk about plotters! No keeping anything from you, ever!'
'Never mind. The mother is here. She must be a vulgar woman. Oh! if you could manage, Harry, to get this woman to come—you could do it so easily! while they are at the pie-nic tomorrow. It would have the best effect on Rose. She would then understand! And the Countess!'
'I could send the old woman a message!' cried Harry, rushing into the scheme, inspired by Juliana's fiery eyes. 'Send her a sort of message to say where we all were.'
'Let her know that her son is here, in some way,' Juley resumed.
'And, egad! what an explosion!' pursued Harry. 'But, suppose—'
'No one shall know, if you leave it to me-if you do just as I tell you, Harry. You won't be treated as you were this evening after that, if you bring down her pride. And, Harry, I hear you want money—I can give you some.'
'You're a perfect trump, Juley!' exclaimed her enthusiastic cousin.
'But, no; I can't take it. I must kiss you, though.'
He put a kiss upon her cheek. Once his kisses had left a red waxen stamp; she was callous to these compliments now.
'Will you do what I advise you to-morrow?' she asked.
After a slight hesitation, during which the olive-hued visage flitted faintly in the distances of his brain, Harry said:
'It 'll do Rose good, and make Harrington cut. Yes! I declare I will.'
Then they parted. Juliana went to her bed-room, and flung herself upon the bed hysterically. As the tears came thick and fast, she jumped up to lock the door, for this outrageous habit of crying had made her contemptible in the eyes of Lady Jocelyn, and an object of pity to Rose. Some excellent and noble natures cannot tolerate disease, and are mystified by its ebullitions. It was very sad to see the slight thin frame grasped by those wan hands to contain the violence of the frenzy that possessed her! the pale, hapless face rigid above the torment in her bosom! She had prayed to be loved like other girls, and her readiness to give her heart in return had made her a by-word in the house. She went to the window and leaned out on the casement, looking towards Fallowfield over the downs, weeping bitterly, with a hard shut mouth. One brilliant star hung above the ridge, and danced on her tears.
'Will he forgive me?' she murmured. 'Oh, my God! I wish we were dead together!'
Her weeping ceased, and she closed the window, and undressed as far away from the mirror as she could get; but its force was too much for her, and drew her to it. Some undefined hope had sprung in her suddenly. With nervous slow steps she approached the glass, and first brushing back the masses of black hair from her brow, looked as for some new revelation. Long and anxiously she perused her features: the wide bony forehead; the eyes deep-set and rounded with the scarlet of recent tears, the thin nose-sharp as the dead; the weak irritable mouth and sunken cheeks. She gazed like a spirit disconnected from what she saw. Presently a sort of forlorn negative was indicated by the motion of her head.
'I can pardon him,' she said, and sighed. 'How could he love such a face!'
THE BATTLE OF THE BULL-DOGS. PART I
At the South-western extremity of the park, with a view extending over wide meadows and troubled mill waters, yellow barn-roofs and weather-gray old farm-walls, two grassy mounds threw their slopes to the margin of the stream. Here the bull-dogs held revel. The hollow between the slopes was crowned by a bending birch, which rose three-stemmed from the root, and hung a noiseless green shower over the basin of green it shadowed. Beneath it the interminable growl sounded pleasantly; softly shot the sparkle of the twisting water, and you might dream things half-fulfilled. Knots of fern were about, but the tops of the mounds were firm grass, evidently well rolled, and with an eye to airy feet. Olympus one eminence was called, Parnassus the other. Olympus a little overlooked Parnassus, but Parnassus was broader and altogether better adapted for the games of the Muses. Round the edges of both there was a well-trimmed bush of laurel, obscuring only the feet of the dancers from the observing gods. For on Olympus the elders reclined. Great efforts had occasionally been made to dispossess and unseat them, and their security depended mainly on a hump in the middle of the mound which defied the dance.