HotFreeBooks.com
Is He Popenjoy?
by Anthony Trollope
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"I don't think he likes the idea of being a burden to you."

"Exactly. He has not cordiality enough to feel that when two men are in a boat together, as he and I are because of you, all that feeling should go to the wind. He ought not to be more ashamed to sit at my table and drink of my cup than you are. If it were all well between us and he had the property, should I scruple to go and stay at Manor Cross."

"You would still have your own house to go back to."

"So will he,—after a while. But it can't be altered, dear, and God forbid that I should set you against him. He is not a rake nor a spendthrift, nor will he run after other women." Mary thought of Mrs. Houghton, but she held her tongue. "He is not a bad man and I think he loves you."

"I am sure he does."

"But I can't help feeling sad at parting with you. I suppose I shall at any rate be able to see you up in town next season." The Dean as he said this was almost weeping.

Mary, when she was alone in her room, of course thought much of Captain De Baron and his story. It was a pity,—a thousand pities,—that it should be so. It was to be regretted,—much regretted,—that he had been induced to tell his story. She was angry with herself because she had been indiscreet, and she was still angry,—a little angry with him,—because he had yielded to the temptation. But there had been something sweet in it. She was sorry, grieved in her heart of hearts that he should love her. She had never striven to gain his love. She had never even thought of it. It ought not to have been so. She should have thought of it; she should not have shown herself to be so pleased with his society. But yet,—yet it was sweet. Then there came upon her some memory of her old dreams, before she had been engaged to Lord George. She knew how vain had been those dreams, because she now loved Lord George with her whole heart; but yet she remembered them, and felt as though they had come true with a dreamy half truth. And she brought to mind all those flattering words with which he had spoken her praises,—how he had told her that she was an angel, too good and pure to be supposed capable of evil; how he had said that in his castles in the air he would still think of her as his wife. Surely a man may build what castles in the air he pleases, if he will only hold his tongue! She was quite sure that she did not love him, but she was sure also that his was the proper way of making love. And then she thought of Guss Mildmay. Could she not in pure charity do a good turn to that poor girl? Might she not tell Captain De Baron that it was his duty to marry her? And if he felt it to be his duty would he not do so? It may be doubted whether in these moments she did not think much better of Captain De Baron than that gentleman deserved.

On the next day the Manor Cross carriage came over for her. The Dean had offered to send her, but Lord George had explained that his mother was anxious that the carriage should come. There would be a cart for the luggage. As to Lady George herself there was a general feeling at Manor Cross that in the present circumstances the family carriage should bring her home. But it came empty. "God bless you, dearest," said the Dean as he put her into the vehicle.

"Good-bye, papa. I suppose you can come over and see me."

"I don't know that I can. I saw none of the ladies when I was there yesterday."

"I don't care a bit for the ladies. Where I go, papa, you can come. Of course George will see you, and you could ask for me." The Dean smiled, and kissed her again, and then she was gone.

She hardly knew what grand things were in store for her. She was still rebelling in her heart against skirts and petticoats, and resolving that she would not go to church twice on Sundays unless she liked it, when the carriage drove up to the door. They were all in the hall, all except the Marchioness. "We wouldn't go in," said Lady Amelia, "because we didn't like to fill the carriage."

"And George wanted us to send it early," said Lady Sarah, "before we had done our work." They all kissed her affectionately, and then she was again in her husband's arms. Mrs. Toff curtseyed to her most respectfully. Mary observed the curtsey and reminded herself at the moment that Mrs. Toff had never curtseyed to her before. Even the tall footman in knee-breeches stood back with a demeanour which had hitherto been vouchsafed only to the real ladies of the family. Who could tell how soon that wicked Marquis would die; and then,—then how great would not be the glory of the Dean's daughter! "Perhaps you won't mind coming up to mamma as soon as you have got your hat off," said Lady Susanna. "Mamma is so anxious to see you." Mary's hat was immediately off, and she declared herself ready to go to the Marchioness. "Mamma has had a great deal to trouble her since you were here," said Lady Susanna, as she led the way upstairs. "She has aged very much. You'll be kind to her, I know."

"Of course I'll be kind," said Mary; "I hope I never was unkind."

"She thinks so much of things now, and then she cries so often. We do all we can to prevent her from crying, because it does make her so weak. Beef-tea is best, we think; and then we try to get her to sleep a good deal. Mary has come, mamma. Here she is. The carriage has only just arrived." Mary followed Lady Susanna into the room, and the Marchioness was immediately immersed in a flood of tears.

"My darling!" she exclaimed; "my dearest, if anything can ever make me happy again it is that you should have come back to me." Mary kissed her mother-in-law and submitted to be kissed with a pretty grace, as though she and the old lady had always been the warmest, most affectionate friends. "Sit down, my love. I have had the easy chair brought there on purpose for you. Susanna, get her that footstool." Susanna, without moving a muscle of her face, brought the footstool. "Now sit down, and let me look at you. I don't think she's much changed." This was very distressing to poor Mary, who, with all her desire to oblige the Marchioness could not bring herself to sit down in the easy chair. "So that poor little boy has gone, my dear?"

"I was so sorry to hear it."

"Yes, of course. That was quite proper. When anybody dies we ought to be sorry for them. I'm sure I did all I could to make things comfortable for him. Didn't I, Susanna?"

"You were quite anxious about him, mamma."

"So I was,—quite anxious. I have no doubt his mother neglected him. I always thought that. But now there will be another, won't there?" This was a question which the mother expectant could not answer, and in order to get over the difficulty Susanna suggested that Mary should be allowed to go down to lunch.

"Certainly, my dear. In her condition she ought not to be kept waiting a minute. And mind, Susanna, she has bottled porter. I spoke about it before. She should have a pint at lunch and a pint at dinner."

"I can't drink porter," said Mary, in despair.

"My dear, you ought to; you ought indeed; you must. I remember as well as if it were yesterday Sir Henry telling me it was the only sure thing. That was before Popenjoy was born,—I mean Brotherton. I do so hope it will be a Popenjoy, my dear." This was the last word said to her as Mary was escaping from the room.

She was not expected to make cloaks and skirts, but she was obliged to fight against a worse servitude even than that. She almost longed for the cloaks and skirts when day after day she was entreated to take her place in the easy chair by the couch of the Marchioness. There was a cruelty in refusing, but in yielding there was a crushing misery. The Marchioness evidently thought that the future stability of the family depended on Mary's quiescence and capability for drinking beer. Very many lies were necessarily told her by all the family. She was made to believe that Mary never got up before eleven; and the doctor who came to see herself and to whose special care Mary was of course recommended, was induced to say that it was essential that Lady George should be in the open air three hours every day. "You know I'm not the least ill, mother," Mary said to her one day. Since these new hopes and the necessity for such hopes had come up the Marchioness had requested that she might be called mother by her daughter-in-law.

"No, my dear, not ill; but I remember as though it were yesterday what Sir Henry said to me when Popenjoy was going to be born. Of course he was Popenjoy when he was born. I don't think they've any physicians like Sir Henry now. I do hope it'll be a Popenjoy."

"But that can't be, mother. You are forgetting."

The old woman thought for a while, and then remembered the difficulty. "No, not quite at once." Then her mind wandered again. "But if this isn't a Popenjoy, my dear,—and it's all in the hands of God,—then the next may be. My three first were all girls; and it was a great trouble; but Sir Henry said the next would be a Popenjoy; and so it was. I hope this will be a Popenjoy, because I might die before the next." When a week of all this had been endured Mary in her heart was glad that the sentence of expulsion from Manor Cross still stood against her husband, feeling that six months of reiterated longings for a Popenjoy would kill her and the possible Popenjoy also.

Then came the terrible question of an immediate residence. The month was nearly over, and Lord George had determined that he would go up to town for a few days when the time came. Mary begged to be taken with him, but to this he would not accede, alleging that his sojourn there would only be temporary, till something should be settled. "I am sure," said Mary, "your brother would dislike my being here worse than you." That might be true, but the edict, as it had been pronounced, had not been against her. The Marquis had simply ordered that in the event of Lord George remaining in the house, the house and park should be advertised for letting. "George, I think he must be mad," said Mary.

"He is sane enough to have the control of his own property."

"If it is let, why shouldn't you take it?"

"Where on earth should I get the money?"

"Couldn't we all do it among us?"

"He wouldn't let it to us; he will allow my mother and sisters to live here for nothing; and I don't think he has said anything to Mr. Knox about you. But I am to be banished."

"He must be mad."

"Mad or not, I must go."

"Do,—do let me go with you! Do go to the deanery. Papa will make it all square by coming up to us in London."

"Your father has a right to be in the house in London," said Lord George with a scowl.

When the month was over he did go up to town, and saw Mr. Knox. Mr. Knox advised him to go back to Manor Cross, declaring that he himself would take no further steps without further orders. He had not had a line from the Marquis. He did not even know where the Marquis was, supposing, however, that he was in his house on the lake; but he did know that the Marchioness was not with him, as separate application had been made to him by her Ladyship for money. "I don't think I can do it," said Lord George. Mr. Knox shrugged his shoulders, and again said that he saw no objection. "I should be very slow in advertising, you know," said Mr. Knox.

"But I don't think that I have a right to be in a man's house without his leave. I don't think I am justified in staying there against his will because he is my brother." Mr. Knox could only shrug his shoulders.

He remained up in town doing nothing, doubtful as to where he should go and whither he should take his wife, while she was still at Manor Cross, absolutely in the purple, but still not satisfied with her position. She was somewhat cheered at this time by a highspirited letter from her friend Mrs. Jones, written from Killancodlem.

"We are all here," said Mrs. Jones, "and we do so wish you were with us. I have heard of your condition at last, and of course it would not be fit that you should be amusing yourself with wicked idle people like us, while all the future of all the Germains is, so to say, in your keeping. How very opportune that that poor boy should have gone just as the other is coming! Mind that you are a good girl and take care of yourselves. I daresay all the Germain ladies are looking after you day and night, so that you can't misbehave very much. No more Kappa-kappas for many a long day for you!

"We have got Lord Giblet here. It was such a task! I thought cart-ropes wouldn't have brought him? Now he is as happy as the day is long, and like a tame cat in my hands. I really think he is very much in love with her, and she behaves quite prettily. I took care that Green pere should come down in the middle of it, and that clenched it. The lover didn't make the least fight when papa appeared, but submitted himself like a sheep to the shearers. I shouldn't have done it if I hadn't known that he wanted a wife and if I hadn't been sure that she would make a good one. There are some men who never really get on their legs till they're married, and never would get married without a little help. I'm sure he'll bless me, or would do, only he'll think after a bit that he did it all by himself.

"Our friend Jack is with us, behaving very well, but not quite like himself. There are two or three very pretty girls here, but he goes about among them quite like a steady old man. I got him to tell me that he'd seen you at Brotherton, and then he talked a deal of nonsense about the good you'd do when you were Marchioness. I don't see, my dear, why you should do more good than other people. I hope you'll be gracious to your old friends, and keep a good house, and give nice parties. Try and make other people happy. That's the goodness I believe in. I asked him why you were to be particularly good, and then he talked a deal more nonsense, which I need not repeat.

"I hear very queer accounts about the Marquis. He behaved himself at Rudham almost like anybody else, and walked into dinner like a Christian. They say that he is all alone in Italy, and that he won't see her. I fancy he was more hurt in that little affair than some people will allow. Whatever it was, it served him right. Of course I should be glad to see Lord George come to the throne. I always tell the truth, my dear, about these things. What is the use of lying. I shall be very glad to see Lord George a marquis,—and then your Popenjoy will be Popenjoy.

"You remember the Baroness,—your Baroness. Oh, the Baroness! She absolutely asked me to let her come to Killancodlem. 'But I hate disabilities and rights,' said I. She gave me to understand that that made no difference. Then I was obliged to tell her that I hadn't a bed left. Any little room would do for her. 'We haven't any little rooms at Killancodlem,' said I;—and then I left her.

"Good-bye. Mind you are good and take care of yourself; and, whatever you do, let Popenjoy have a royal godfather."

Then her father came over to see her. At this time Lord George was up in town, and when her father was announced she felt that there was no one to help her. If none of the ladies of the family would see her father she never would be gracious to them again. This was the turning-point. She could forgive them for the old quarrel. She could understand that they might have found themselves bound to take their elder brother's part at first. Then they had quarrelled with her, too. Now they had received her back into their favour. But she would have none of their favours, unless they would take her father with her.

She was sitting at the time in that odious arm-chair in the old lady's room; and when Mrs. Toff brought in word that the Dean was in the little drawing-room, Lady Susanna was also present. Mary jumped up immediately, and knew that she was blushing. "Oh! I must go down to papa," she said. And away she went.

The Dean was in one of his best humours, and was full of Brotherton news. Mr. Groschut had been appointed to the vicarage of Pugsty, and would leave Brotherton within a month.

"I suppose it's a good living."

"About L300 a year, I believe. He's been acting not quite on the square with a young lady, and the Bishop made him take it. It was that or nothing." The Dean was quite delighted; and when Mary told him something of her troubles,—how impossible she found it to drink bottled porter,—he laughed, and bade her be of good cheer, and told her that there were good days coming. They had been there for nearly an hour together, and Mary was becoming unhappy. If her father were allowed to go without some recognition from the family, she would never again be friends with those women. She was beginning to think that she never would be friends again with any of them, when the door opened, and Lady Sarah entered the room.

The greeting was very civil on both sides. Lady Sarah could, if she pleased, be gracious, though she was always a little grand; and the Dean was quite willing to be pleased, if only any effort was made to please him. Lady Sarah hoped that he would stay and dine. He would perhaps excuse the Marchioness, as she rarely now left her room. The Dean could not dine at Manor Cross on that day, and then Lady Sarah asked him to come on the Thursday following.



CHAPTER LVII.

MR. KNOX HEARS AGAIN FROM THE MARQUIS.

"Do come, papa," said Mary, jumping up and putting her arm round her father's shoulders. She was more than willing to meet them all half-way. She would sit in the arm-chair all the morning and try to drink porter at lunch if they would receive her father graciously. Of course she was bound to her husband. She did not wish not to be bound to him. She was quite sure that she loved her husband with a perfect love. But her marriage happiness could not be complete unless her father was to make a part of the intimate home circle of her life. She was now so animated in her request to him, that her manner told all her little story,—not only to him, but to Lady Sarah also.

"I will say do come also," said Lady Sarah, smiling.

Mary looked up at her and saw the smile. "If he were your papa," she said, "you would be as anxious as I am." But she also smiled as she spoke.

"Even though he is not, I am anxious."

"Who could refuse when so entreated? Of course I shall be delighted to come," said the Dean. And so it was settled. Her father was to be again made welcome at Manor Cross, and Mary thought that she could now be happy.

"It was very good of you," she whispered to Lady Sarah, as soon as he had left them. "Of course I understand. I was very, very sorry that he and Lord Brotherton had quarrelled. I won't say anything now about anybody being wrong or anybody being right. But it would be dreadful to me if papa couldn't come to see me. I don't think you know what he is."

"I do know that you love him very dearly."

"Of course I do. There is nothing on earth he wouldn't do for me. He is always trying to make me happy. And he'd do just as much for George, if George would let him. You've been very good about it, and I love you for it." Lady Sarah was quite open to the charm of being loved. She did not talk much of such things, nor was it compatible with her nature to make many professions of affection. But it would be a happiness to her if this young sister-in-law, who would no doubt sooner or later be the female head of the house, could be taught to love her. So she kissed Mary, and then walked demurely away, conscious that any great display of feeling would be antagonistic to her principles.

During the hour that Mary had been closeted with her father there had been much difficulty among the ladies upstairs about the Dean. The suggestion that he should be asked to dine had of course come from Lady Sarah, and it fell like a little thunderbolt among them. In the first place, what would Brotherton say? Was it not an understood portion of the agreement under which they were allowed to live in the house, that the Dean should not be a guest there? Lady Susanna had even shuddered at his coming to call on his daughter, and they had all thought it to be improper when a short time since he had personally brought the news of Popenjoy's death to the house. And then there was their own resentment as to that affray at Scumberg's. They were probably inclined to agree with Lady Brabazon that Brotherton was not quite all that he should be; but still he was Brotherton, and the man who had nearly murdered him could not surely be a fit guest at Manor Cross. "I don't think we can do that, Sarah," Lady Susanna had said after a long silence. "Oh dear! that would be very dreadful!" the Marchioness had exclaimed. Lady Amelia had clasped her hands together and had trembled in every limb. But Lady Sarah, who never made any suggestion without deep thought, was always loth to abandon any that she had made. She clung to this with many arguments. Seeing how unreasonable Brotherton was, they could not feel themselves bound to obey him. As to the house, while their mother lived there it must be regarded as her house. It was out of the question that they should have their guests dictated to them by their brother. Perhaps the Dean was not all that a dean ought to be,—but then, who was perfect? George had married his daughter, and it could not be right to separate the daughter from the father. Then came the final, strong, clenching argument. Mary would certainly be disturbed in her mind if not allowed to see her father. Perfect tranquillity for Mary was regarded as the chief ingredient in the cup of prosperity which, after many troubles, was now to be re-brewed for the Germain family. If she were not allowed to see her father, the coming Popenjoy would suffer for it. "You'd better let him come, Susanna," said the Marchioness through her tears. Susanna had looked as stern as an old sibyl. "I really think it will be best," said Lady Amelia. "It ought to be done," said Lady Sarah. "I suppose you had better go to him," said the Marchioness. "I could not see him; indeed I couldn't. But he won't want to see me." Lady Susanna did not yield, but Lady Sarah, as we know, went down on her mission of peace.

Mary, as soon as she was alone, sat herself down to write a letter to her husband. It was then Monday, and her father was to dine there on Thursday. The triumph would hardly be complete unless George would come home to receive him. Her letter was full of arguments, full of entreaties, and full of love. Surely he might come for one night, if he couldn't stay longer. It would be so much nicer for her father to have a gentleman there. Such an attention would please him so much! "I am sure he would go twice the distance if you were coming to his house," pleaded Mary.

Lord George came, and in a quiet way the dinner was a success. The Dean made himself very agreeable. The Marchioness did not appear, but her absence was attributed to the condition of her health. Lady Sarah, as the great promoter of the festival, was bound to be on her good behaviour, and Lady Amelia endeavoured to copy her elder sister. It was not to be expected that Lady Susanna should be cordially hospitable; but it was known that Lady Susanna was habitually silent in company. Mary could forgive her second sister-in-law's sullenness, understanding, as she did quite well, that she was at this moment triumphing over Lady Susanna. Mr. Groschut was not a favourite with any of the party at Manor Cross, and the Dean made himself pleasant by describing the nature of the late chaplain's promotion. "He begged the Bishop to let him off," said the Dean, "but his Lordship was peremptory. It was Pugsty or leave the diocese."

"What had he done, papa?" asked Mary.

"He had promised to marry Hawkins' daughter." Hawkins was the Brotherton bookseller on the Low Church side. "And then he denied the promise. Unfortunately he had written letters, and Hawkins took them to the Bishop. I should have thought Groschut would have been too sharp to write letters."

"But what was all that to the Bishop?" asked Lord George.

"The Bishop was, I think, just a little tired of him. The Bishop is old and meek, and Mr. Groschut thought that he could domineer. He did not quite know his man. The Bishop is old and meek, and would have borne much. When Mr. Groschut scolded him, I fancy that he said nothing. But he bided his time; and when Mr. Hawkins came, then there was a decision pronounced. It was Pugsty, or nothing."

"Is Pugsty very nasty, papa?"

"It isn't very nice, I fancy. It just borders on the Potteries, and the population is heavy. As he must marry the bookseller's daughter also, the union, I fear, won't be very grateful."

"I don't see why a bishop should send a bad man to any parish," suggested Lady Sarah.

"What is he to do with a Groschut, when he has unfortunately got hold of one? He couldn't be turned out to starve. The Bishop would never have been rid of him. A small living—some such thing as Pugsty—was almost a necessity."

"But the people," said Lady Sarah. "What is to become of the poor people?"

"Let us hope they may like him. At any rate, he will be better at Pugsty than at Brotherton." In this way the evening passed off; and when at ten o'clock the Dean took his departure, it was felt by every one except Lady Susanna that the proper thing had been done.

Lord George, having thus come back to Manor Cross, remained there. He was not altogether happy in his mind; but his banishment seemed to be so absurd a thing that he did not return to London. At Manor Cross there was something for him to do. In London there was nothing. And, after all, there was a question whether, as a pure matter of right, the Marquis had the power to pronounce such a sentence. Manor Cross no doubt belonged to him, but then so also did Cross Hall belong for the time to his mother; and he was receiving the rent of Cross Hall while his mother was living at Manor Cross. Lady Sarah was quite clear that for the present they were justified in regarding Manor Cross as belonging to them. "And who'll tell him when he's all the way out there?" asked Mary. "I never did hear of such a thing in all my life. What harm can you do to the house, George?"

So they went on in peace and quietness for the next three months, during which not a single word was heard from the Marquis. They did not even know where he was, and under the present circumstances did not care to ask any questions of Mr. Knox. Lord George had worn out his scruples, and was able to go about his old duties in his old fashion. The Dean had dined there once or twice, and Lord George on one occasion had consented to stay with his wife for a night or two at the deanery. Things seemed to have fallen back quietly into the old way,—as they were before the Marquis with his wife and child had come to disturb them. Of course there was a great difference in Mary's position. It was not only that she was about to become a mother, but that she would do so in a very peculiar manner. Had not the Marquis taken a wife to himself, there would always have been the probability that he would some day do so. Had there not been an Italian Marchioness and a little Italian Popenjoy, the ladies at Manor Cross would still have given him credit for presenting them with a future marchioness and a future Popenjoy at some future day. Now his turn had, as it were, gone. Another Popenjoy from that side was not to be expected. In consequence of all this Mary was very much exalted. They none of them now wished for another Popenjoy from the elder branch. All their hopes were centred in Mary. To Mary herself this importance had its drawbacks. There was the great porter question still unsettled. The arm-chair with the footstool still was there. And she did not like being told that a mile and a half on the sunny side of the trees was the daily amount of exercise which Sir Henry, nearly half a century ago, had prescribed for ladies in her condition. But she had her husband with her, and could, with him, be gently rebellious and affectionately disobedient. It is a great thing, at any rate, to be somebody. In her early married days she had felt herself to be snubbed as being merely the Dean's daughter. Her present troubles brought a certain balm with them. No one snubbed her now. If she had a mind for arrowroot, Mrs. Toff would make it herself and suggest a thimbleful of brandy in it with her most coaxing words. Cloaks and petticoats she never saw, and she was quite at liberty to stay away from afternoon church if she pleased.

It had been decided, after many discussions on the subject, that she and her husband should go up to town for a couple of months after Christmas, Lady Amelia going with them to look after the porter and arrowroot, and that in March she should be brought back to Manor Cross with a view to her confinement. This had not been conceded to her easily, but it had at last been conceded. She had learned in secret from her father that he would come up to town for a part of the time, and after that she never let the question rest till she had carried her point. The Marchioness had been obliged to confess that, in anticipation of her Popenjoy, Sir Henry had recommended a change from the country to town. She did not probably remember that Sir Henry had done so because she had been very cross at the idea of being kept running down to the country all through May. Mary pleaded that it was no use having a house if she were not allowed to see it, that all her things were in London, and at last declared that it would be very convenient to have the baby born in London. Then the Marchioness saw that a compromise was necessary. It was not to be endured that the future Popenjoy, the future Brotherton, should be born in a little house in Munster Court. With many misgivings it was at last arranged that Mary should go to London on the 18th of January, and be brought back on the 10th of March. After many consultations, computations, and calculations, it was considered that the baby would be born somewhere about the 1st of April.

It may be said that things at Manor Cross were quite in a halcyon condition, when suddenly a thunderbolt fell among them. Mr. Knox appeared one day at the house and showed to Lord George a letter from the Marquis. It was written with his usual contempt of all ordinary courtesy of correspondence, but with more than his usual bitterness. It declared the writer's opinion that his brother was a mean fellow, and deserving of no trust in that he had continued to live at the house after having been desired to leave it by its owner; and it went on to give peremptory orders to Mr. Knox to take steps for letting the house at once. This took place at the end of the first week in December. Then there was a postscript to the letter in which the Marquis suggested that Mr. Knox had better take a house for the Marchioness, and apply Mr. Price's rent in the payment for such house. "Of course you will consult my mother," said the postscript; "but it should not be anywhere near Brotherton."

There was an impudence as well as a cruelty about this which almost shook the belief which Lord George still held in the position of an elder brother. Mr. Knox was to take a house;—as though his mother and sisters had no rights, no freedom of their own! "Of course I will go," said he, almost pale with anger.

Then Mr. Knox explained his views. It was his intention to write back to the Marquis and to decline to execute the task imposed upon him. The care of the Marquis's property was no doubt his chief mainstay; but there were things, he said, which he could not do. Of course the Marquis would employ someone else, and he must look for his bread elsewhere. But he could not, he said, bring himself to take steps for the letting of Manor Cross as long as the Marchioness was living there.

Of course there was a terrible disturbance in the house. There arose a great question whether the old lady should or should not be told of this new trouble, and it was decided at last that she should for the present be kept in the dark. Mr. Knox was of opinion that the house never would be let, and that it would not be in his Lordship's power to turn them out without procuring for them the use of Cross Hall;—in which Mr. Price's newly married bride had made herself comfortable on a lease of three years. And he was also of opinion that the attempt made by the Marquis to banish his brother was a piece of monstrous tyranny to which no attention should be paid. This he said before all the younger ladies;—but to Lord George himself he said even more. He expressed a doubt whether the Marquis could be in his right mind, and added a whisper that the accounts of the Marquis's health were very bad indeed. "Of course he could let the house?" asked Lord George.

"Yes;—if he can get anybody to let it for him, and anybody else to take it. But I don't think it ever will be let. He won't quite know what to do when he gets my letter. He can hardly change his agent without coming to London, and he won't like to do that in the winter. He'll write me a very savage letter, and then in a week or two I shall answer him. I don't think I'd disturb the Marchioness if I were you, my lord."

The Marchioness was not disturbed, but Lord George again went up to London, on this occasion occupying the house in Munster Court in solitude. His scruples were all renewed, and it was in vain that Lady Sarah repeated to him all Mr. Knox's arguments. He had been called a mean fellow, and the word rankled with him. He walked about alone thinking of the absolute obedience with which in early days he had complied with all the behests of his elder brother, and the perfect faith with which in latter days he had regarded that brother's interests. He went away swearing to himself that he would never again put his foot within the domain of Manor Cross as long as it was his brother's property. A day might come when he would return there; but Lord George was not a man to anticipate his own prosperity. Mary wished to accompany him; but this was not allowed. The Marchioness inquired a dozen times why he should go away; but there was no one who could tell her.



CHAPTER LVIII.

MRS. JONES' LETTER.

A few days before Christmas Mary received a long letter from her friend Mrs. Montacute Jones. At this time there was sad trouble again at Manor Cross. Lord George had been away for a fortnight, and no reason for his departure had as yet been given to the Marchioness. She had now become aware that he was not to be at home at Christmas, and she was full of doubt, full of surmises of her own. He must have quarrelled with his sisters! They all assured her that there hadn't been an unpleasant word between him and any one of them. Then he must have quarrelled with his wife! "Indeed, indeed he has not," said Mary. "He has never quarrelled with me and he never shall." Then why did he stay away? Business was nonsense. Why was he going to stay away during Christmas. Then it was necessary to tell the old lady a little fib. She was informed that Brotherton had specially desired him to leave the house. This certainly was a fib, as Brotherton's late order had been of a very different nature. "I hope he hasn't done anything to offend his brother again," said the Marchioness. "I wonder whether it's about Popenjoy!" In the midst of her troubles the poor old woman's wits were apt to wander.

Mary too had become rather cross, thinking that as her husband was up in town she should be allowed to be there too. But it had been conceded by her, and by her father on her behalf, that her town life was not to begin till after Christmas, and now she was unable to prevail. She and the family were in this uncomfortable condition when Mrs. Montacute Jones' letter came for her consolation. As it contained tidings, more or less accurate, concerning many persons named in this chronicle, it shall be given entire. Mrs. Montacute Jones was a great writer of letters, and she was wont to communicate many details among her friends and acquaintances respecting one another. It was one of the marvels of the day that Mrs. Jones should have so much information; and no one could say how or whence she got it.

"CURRY HALL, December 12, 187—."

Curry Hall was the name of Mr. Jones' seat in Gloucestershire, whereas, as all the world knew, Killancodlem was supposed to belong to Mrs. Jones herself.

"DEAREST LADY GEORGE,—We have been here for the last six weeks, quite quiet. A great deal too quiet for me, but for the three or four winter months, I am obliged to give way a little to Mr. Jones. We have had the Mildmays here, because they didn't seem to have any other place to go to. But I barred the Baroness. I am told that she is now bringing an action against Aunt Ju, who unfortunately wrote the letter which induced the woman to come over from—wherever she came from. Poor Aunt Ju is in a terrible state, and wants her brother to buy the woman off,—which he will probably have to do. That's what comes, my dear, of meddling with disabilities. I know my own disabilities, but I never think of interfering with Providence. Mr. Jones was made a man, and I was made a woman. So I put up with it, and I hope you will do the same.

"Mr. and Mrs. Green are here also, and remain till Christmas when the Giblets are coming. It was the prettiest wedding in the world, and they have been half over Europe since. I am told he's the happiest man in the world, and the very best husband. Old Gossling didn't like it at all, but every stick is entailed, and they say he's likely to have gout in his stomach, so that everything will go pleasantly. Lord Giblet himself is loud against his father, asking everybody whether it was to be expected that in such a matter as that he shouldn't follow his own inclination. I do hope he'll show a little gratitude to me. But it's an ungrateful world, and they'll probably both forget what I did for them.

"And now I want to ask you your opinion about another friend. Don't you think that Jack had better settle down with poor dear Guss? She's here, and upon my word I think she's nearly broken-hearted. Of course you and I know what Jack has been thinking of lately. But when a child cries for the top brick of the chimney, it is better to let him have some possible toy. You know what top brick he has been crying for. But I'm sure you like him, and so do I, and I think we might do something for him. Mr. Jones would let them a nice little house a few miles from here at a peppercorn rent; and I suppose old Mr. Mildmay could do something. They are engaged after a fashion. She told me all about it the other day. So I've asked him to come down for Christmas, and have offered to put up his horses if he wants to hunt.

"And now, my dear, I want to know what you have heard about Lord Brotherton at Manor Cross. Of course we all know the way he has behaved to Lord George. If I were Lord George I should not pay the slightest attention to him. But I'm told he is in a very low condition,—never sees anybody except his courier, and never stirs out of the house. Of course you know that he makes his wife an allowance, and refuses to see her. From what I hear privately I really do think that he'll not last long. What a blessing it would be! That's plain speaking;—but it would be a blessing! Some people manage to live so that everybody will be the better for their dying. I should break my heart if anybody wanted me to die.

"How grand it would be! The young and lovely Marchioness of Brotherton! I'll be bound you think about it less than anybody else, but it would be nice. I wonder whether you'd cut a poor old woman like me, without a handle to her name. And then it would be Popenjoy at once! Only how the bonfires wouldn't burn if it should turn out to be only a disability after all. But we should say, better luck next time, and send you caudle cups by the dozen. Who wouldn't send a caudle cup to a real young lovely live Marchioness? I'll be bound your father knows all about it, and has counted it all up a score of times. I suppose it's over L40,000 a year since they took to working the coal at Popenjoy, and whatever the present man has done he can't have clipped the property. He has never gambled, and never spent his income. Italian wives and that sort of thing don't cost so much money as they do in England.

"Pray write and tell me all about it. I shall be in town in February, and of course shall see you. I tell Mr. Jones that I can't stand Curry Hall for more than three months. He won't come to town till May, and perhaps when May comes he'll have forgotten all about it. He is very fond of sheep, but I don't think he cares for anything else, unless he has a slight taste for pigs.

"Your affectionate friend,

"G. MONTACUTE JONES."

There was much in this letter that astonished Mary, something that shocked her, but something also that pleased her. The young and lovely Marchioness of Brotherton! Where is the woman who would not like to be a young and lovely Marchioness, so that it had all been come by honestly, that the husband had been married as husbands ought to be married, and had not been caught like Lord Giblet; and she knew that her old friend,—her old friend whom she had not yet known for quite twelve months,—was only joking with her in that suggestion as to being cut. What a fate was this in store for her—if it really was in store—that so early in her life she should be called upon to fill so high a place. Then she made some resolutions in her mind that should it be so she would be humble and meek; and a further resolution that she would set her heart upon none of it till it was firmly her own.

But it shocked her that the Marquis should be so spoken of, especially that he should be so spoken of if he were really dying! Plain speaking! Yes, indeed. But such plain speaking was very terrible. This old woman could speak of another nobleman having gout in his stomach as though that were a thing really to be desired. And then that allusion to the Italian wife or wives! Poor Mary blushed as she thought of it.

But there was a paragraph in the letter which interested her as much as the tidings respecting Lord Brotherton. Could it be right that Jack De Baron should be made to marry Guss Mildmay? She thought not, for she knew that he did not love Guss Mildmay. That he should have wanted an impossible brick, whether the highest or lowest brick, was very sad. When children cry for impossible bricks they must of course be disappointed. But she hardly thought that this would be the proper cure for his disappointment. There had been a moment in which the same idea had suggested itself to her; but now since her friendship with Jack had been strengthened by his conduct in the deanery garden she thought that he might do better with himself than be made by Mrs. Jones to marry Guss Mildmay. Of course she could not interfere, but she hoped that something might prevent Jack De Baron from spending his Christmas at Curry Hall. She answered Mrs. Jones' letter very prettily. She trusted that Lord Giblet might be happy with his wife, even though his father should get well of the gout. She was very sorry to hear that Lord Brotherton was ill. Nothing was known about him at Manor Cross, except that he seemed to be very ill-natured to everybody. She was surprised that anybody should be so ill-natured as he was. If ever she should live to fill a high position she hoped she would be good-natured. She knew that the people she would like best would be those who had been kind to her, and nobody had been so kind as a certain lady named Mrs. Montacute Jones. Then she spoke of her coming trial. "Don't joke with me about it any more, there's a dear woman. They all flutter me here, talking of it always, though they mean to be kind. But it seems to me so serious. I wish that nobody would speak to me of it except George, and he seems to think nothing about it."

Then she came to the paragraph the necessity for writing which had made her answer Mrs. Jones' letter so speedily. "I don't think you ought to persuade anybody to marry anyone. It didn't much signify, perhaps, with Lord Giblet, as he isn't clever, and I daresay that Miss Green will suit him very well; but as a rule I think gentlemen should choose for themselves. In the case you speak of I don't think he cares for her, and then they would be unhappy." She would not for worlds have mentioned Captain De Baron's name; but she thought that Mrs. Jones would understand her.

Of course Mrs. Jones understood her,—had understood more than Mary had intended her to understand. Christmas was over and Mary was up in town when she received Mrs. Jones' rejoinder, but it may as well be given here. "The child who wanted the top brick is here, and I think will content himself with a very much less exalted morsel of the building. I am older than you, my dear, and know better. Our friend is a very good fellow in his way, but there is no reason why he should not bend his neck as well as another. To you no doubt he seems to have many graces. He has had the great grace of holding his tongue because he appreciated your character." Mary, as she read this, knew that even Mrs. Montacute Jones could be misinformed now and then. "But I do not know that he is in truth more gracious than others, and I think it quite as well that Miss Mildmay should have the reward of her constancy."

But this was after Christmas, and in the meantime other occurrences had taken place. On the 20th of December Lord George was informed by Mr. Knox that his brother, who was then at Naples, had been struck by paralysis, and at Mr. Knox's advice he started off for the southern capital of Italy. The journey was a great trouble to him, but this was a duty which he would under no circumstances neglect. The tidings were communicated to Manor Cross, and after due consultation, were conveyed by Lady Sarah to her mother. The poor old lady did not seem to be made very unhappy by them. "Of course I can't go to him," she said; "how could I do it?" When she was told that that was out of the question she subsided again into tranquillity, merely seeming to think it necessary to pay increased attention to Mary; for she was still quite alive to the fact that all this greatly increased the chances that the baby would be Popenjoy; but even in this the poor old lady's mind wandered much, for every now and then she would speak of Popenjoy as though there were a living Popenjoy at the present moment.

Lord George hurried off to Naples, and found that his brother was living at a villa about eight miles from the town. He learned in the city, before he had made his visit, that the Marquis was better, having recovered his speech and apparently the use of his limbs. Still being at Naples he found himself bound to go out to the villa. He did so, and when he was there his brother refused to see him. He endeavoured to get what information he could from the doctor; but the doctor was an Italian, and Lord George could not understand him. As far as he could learn the doctor thought badly of the case; but for the present his patient had so far recovered as to know what he was about. Then Lord George hurried back to London, having had a most uncomfortable journey in the snow. Come what might he didn't think that he would ever again take the trouble to pay a visit to his brother. The whole time taken on his journey and for his sojourn in Naples was less than three weeks, and when he returned the New Year had commenced.

He went down to Brotherton to bring his wife up to London, but met her at the deanery, refusing to go to the house. When the Marchioness heard of this,—and it became impossible to keep it from her,—she declared that it was with herself that her son George must have quarrelled. Then it was necessary to tell her the whole truth, or nearly the whole. Brotherton had behaved so badly to his brother that Lord George had refused to enter even the park. The poor old woman was very wretched, feeling in some dim way that she was being robbed of both her sons. "I don't know what I've done," she said, "that everything should be like this. I'm sure I did all I could for them; but George never would behave properly to his elder brother, and I don't wonder that Brotherton feels it. Brotherton always had so much feeling. I don't know why George should be jealous because Popenjoy was born. Why shouldn't his elder brother have a son of his own like anybody else?" And yet whenever she saw Mary, which she did for two or three hours every day, she was quite alive to the coming interest. It was suggested to her that she should be driven into Brotherton, so that she might see George at the deanery; but her objection to go to the Dean's house was as strong as was that of Lord George to come to his brother's.

Mary was of course delighted when the hour of her escape came. It had seemed to her that there was especial cruelty in keeping her at Manor Cross while her husband was up in town. Her complaints on this head had of course been checked by her husband's unexpected journey to Naples, as to which she had hardly heard the full particulars till she found herself in the train with him. "After going all that way he wouldn't see you!"

"He neither would see me or send me any message."

"Then he must be a bad man."

"He has lived a life of self-indulgence till he doesn't know how to control a thought or a passion. It was something of that kind which was meant when we were told about the rich man and the eye of the needle."

"But you will be a rich man soon, George."

"Don't think of it, Mary; don't anticipate it. God knows I have never longed for it. Your father longs for it."

"Not for his own sake, George."

"He is wrong all the same. It will not make you happier,—nor me."

"But, George, when you thought that that little boy was not Popenjoy you were as anxious as papa to find it all out."

"Right should be done," said Lord George, after a pause. "Whether it be for weal or woe, justice should have its way. I never wished that the child should be other than what he was called; but when there seemed to be reason for doubt I thought that it should be proved."

"It will certainly come to you now, George, I suppose."

"Who can say? I might die to-night, and then Dick Germain, who is a sailor somewhere, would be the next Lord Brotherton."

"Don't talk like that, George."

"He would be if your child happened to be a girl. And Brotherton might live ever so long. I have been so harassed by it all that I am almost sick of the title and sick of the property. I never grudged him anything, and see how he has treated me." Then Mary was very gracious to him and tried to comfort him, and told him that fortune had at any rate given him a loving wife.



CHAPTER LIX.

BACK IN LONDON.

Mary was fond of her house in Munster Court. It was her own; and her father and Miss Tallowax between them had enabled her to make it very pretty. The married woman who has not some pet lares of her own is but a poor woman. Mary worshipped her little household gods with a perfect religion, and was therefore happy in being among them again; but she was already beginning to feel that in a certain event she would be obliged to leave Munster Court. She knew that as Marchioness of Brotherton she would not be allowed to live there. There was a large brick house, with an unbroken row of six windows on the first-floor, in St. James' Square, which she already knew as the town house of the Marquis of Brotherton. It was, she thought, by far the most gloomy house in the whole square. It had been uninhabited for years, the present Marquis having neither resided there nor let it. Her husband had never spoken to her about the house, had never, as far as she could remember, been with her in St. James' Square. She had enquired about it of her father, and he had once taken her through the square, and had shown her the mansion. But that had been in the days of the former Popenjoy, when she, at any rate, had never thought that the dreary-looking mansion would make or mar her own comfort. Now there had arisen a question of a delicate nature on which she had said a word or two to her husband in her softest whisper. Might not certain changes be made in the house at Munster Court in reference to—well, to a nursery. A room to be baby's own she had called it. She had thus made herself understood, though she had not said the word which seemed to imply a plural number. "But you'll be down at Manor Cross," said Lord George.

"You don't mean to keep me there always."

"No, not always; but when you come back to London it may be to another house."

"You don't mean St. James' Square?" But that was just what he did mean. "I hope we shan't have to live in that prison."

"It's one of the best houses in London," said Lord George, with a certain amount of family pride. "It used to be, at least, before the rich tradesmen had built all those palaces at South Kensington."

"It's dreadfully dingy."

"Because it has not been painted lately. Brotherton has never done anything like anybody else."

"Couldn't we keep this and let that place?"

"Not very well. My father and grandfather, and great-grandfather lived there. I think we had better wait a bit and see." Then she felt sure that the glory was coming. Lord George would never have spoken of her living in St. James' Square had he not felt almost certain that it would soon come about.

Early in February her father came to town, and he was quite certain. "The poor wretch can't speak articulately," he said.

"Who says so, papa?"

"I have taken care to find out the truth. What a life! And what a death! He is there all alone. Nobody ever sees him but an Italian doctor. If it's a boy, my dear, he will be my lord as soon as he's born; or for the matter of that, if it's a girl she will be my lady."

"I wish it wasn't so."

"You must take it all as God sends it, Mary."

"They've talked about it till I'm sick of it," said Mary angrily. Then she checked herself and added—"I don't mean you, papa; but at Manor Cross they all flatter me now, because that poor man is dying. If you were me you wouldn't like that."

"You've got to bear it, my dear. It's the way of the world. People at the top of the tree are always flattered. You can't expect that Mary Lovelace and the Marchioness of Brotherton will be treated in the same way."

"Of course it made a difference when I was married."

"But suppose you had married a curate in the neighbourhood."

"I wish I had," said Mary wildly, "and that someone had given him the living of Pugsty." But it all tended in the same direction. She began to feel now that it must be, and must be soon. She would, she told herself, endeavour to do her duty; she would be loving to all who had been kind to her, and kind even to those who had been unkind. To all of them at Manor Cross she would be a real sister,—even to Lady Susanna whom certainly she had not latterly loved. She would forgive everybody,—except one. Adelaide Houghton she never could forgive, but Adelaide Houghton should be her only enemy. It did not occur to her that Jack De Baron had been very nearly as wicked as Adelaide Houghton. She certainly did not intend that Jack De Baron should be one of her enemies.

When she had been in London about a week or two Jack De Baron came to see her. She knew that he had spent his Christmas at Curry Hall, and she knew that Guss Mildmay had also been there. That Guss Mildmay should have accepted such an invitation was natural enough, but she thought that Jack had been very foolish. Why should he have gone to the house when he had known that the girl whom he had promised to marry, but whom he did not intend to marry, was there? And now what was to be the result? She did not think that she could ask him; but she was almost sure that he would tell her.

"I suppose you've been hunting?" she asked.

"Yes; they put up a couple of horses for me, or I couldn't have afforded it."

"She is so good-natured."

"Mrs. Jones! I should think she was; but I'm not quite sure that she intended to be very good-natured to me."

"Why not?" Mary, of course, understood it all; but she could not pretend to understand it, at any rate as yet.

"Oh, I don't know. It was all fair, and I won't complain. She had got Miss Green off her hands, and therefore she wanted something to do. I'm going to exchange, Lady George, into an Indian regiment."

"You're not in earnest."

"Quite in earnest. My wing will be at Aden, at the bottom of the Red Sea, for the next year or two. Aden, I'm told, is a charming place."

"I thought it was hot."

"I like hot places; and as I have got rather sick of society I shall do very well there, because there's none. A fellow can't spend any money, except in soda and brandy. I suppose I shall take to drink."

"Don't talk of yourself in that horrid way, Captain De Baron."

"It won't much matter to any one, for I don't suppose I shall ever come back again. There's a place called Perim, out in the middle of the sea, which will just suit me. They only send one officer there at a time, and there isn't another soul in the place."

"How dreadful!"

"I shall apply to be left there for five years. I shall get through all my troubles by that time."

"I am sure you won't go at all."

"Why not?"

"Because you have got so many friends here."

"Too many, Lady George. Of course you know what Mrs. Jones has been doing?"

"What has she been doing?"

"She tells you everything, I fancy. She has got it all cut and dry. I'm to be married next May, and am to spend the honeymoon at Curry Hall. Of course I'm to leave the army and put the value of my commission into the three per cents. Mr. Jones is to let me have a place called Clover Cottage, down in Gloucestershire, and, I believe, I'm to take a farm and be churchwarden of the parish. After paying my debts we shall have about two hundred a-year, which of course will be ample for Clover Cottage. I don't exactly see how I'm to spend my evenings, but I suppose that will come. It's either that or Perim. Which would you advise?"

"I don't know what I ought to say."

"Of course I might cut my throat."

"I wish you wouldn't talk in that way. If it's all a joke I'll take it as a joke."

"It's no joke at all; it's very serious. Mrs. Jones wants me to marry Guss Mildmay."

"And you are engaged to her?"

"Only on certain conditions,—which conditions are almost impossible."

"What did you say to—Miss Mildmay at Curry Hall?"

"I told her I should go to Perim."

"And what did she say?"

"Like a brick, she offered to go with me, just as the girl offered to eat the potato parings when the man said that there would not be potatoes enough for both. Girls always say that kind of thing, though, when they are taken at their words, they want bonnets and gloves and fur cloaks."

"And you are going to take her?"

"Not unless I decide upon Clover Cottage. No; if I do go to Perim I think that I shall manage to go alone."

"If you don't love her, Captain De Baron, don't marry her."

"There's Giblet doing very well, you know; and I calculate I could spend a good deal of my time at Curry Hall. Perhaps if we made ourselves useful, they would ask us to Killancodlem. I should manage to be a sort of factotum to old Jones. Don't you think it would suit me?"

"You can't be serious about it."

"Upon my soul, Lady George, I never was so serious in my life. Do you think that I mean nothing because I laugh at myself? You know I don't love her."

"Then say so, and have done with it."

"That is so easy to suggest, but so impossible to do. How is a man to tell a girl that he doesn't love her after such an acquaintance as I have had with Guss Mildmay? I have tried to do so, but I couldn't do it. There are men, I believe, hard enough even for that; and things are changed now, and the affectation of chivalry has gone bye. Women ask men to marry them, and the men laugh and refuse."

"Don't say that, Captain De Baron."

"I'm told that's the way the thing is done now; but I've no strength myself, and I'm not up to it. I'm not at all joking. I think I shall exchange and go away. I've brought my pigs to a bad market, but as far as I can see that is the best that is left for me." Mary could only say that his friends would be very—very sorry to lose him, but that in her opinion anything would be better than marrying a girl whom he did not love.

Courtesies at this time were showered upon Lady George from all sides. Old Lady Brabazon, to whom she had hardly spoken, wrote to her at great length. Mrs. Patmore Green came to her on purpose to talk about her daughter's marriage. "We are very much pleased of course," said Mrs. Green. "It was altogether a love affair, and the young people are so fond of each other! I do so hope you and she will be friends. Of course her position is not so brilliant as yours, but still it is very good. Poor dear Lord Gossling"—whom, by the bye, Mrs. Patmore Green had never seen—"is failing very much; he is a martyr to the gout, and then he is so imprudent."

Lady Mary smiled and was civil, but did not make any promise of peculiarly intimate friendship. Lady Selina Protest came to her with a long story of her wrongs, and a petition that she would take the Fleabody side in the coming contest. It was in vain that she declared that she had no opinion whatsoever as to the rights of women; a marchioness she was told would be bound to have opinions, or, at any rate, would be bound to subscribe.

But the courtesy which surprised and annoyed her most was a visit from Adelaide Houghton. She came up to London for a week about the end of February, and had the hardihood to present herself at the house in Munster Court. This was an insult which Mary had by no means expected; she had therefore failed to guard herself against it by any special instructions to her servant. And thus Mrs. Houghton, the woman who had written love-letters to her husband, was shown up into her drawing-room before she had the means of escaping. When the name was announced she felt that she was trembling. There came across her a feeling that she was utterly incapable of behaving properly in such an emergency. She knew that she blushed up to the roots of her hair. She got up from her seat as she heard the name announced, and then seated herself again before her visitor had entered the room. She did resolve that nothing on earth should induce her to shake hands with the woman. "My dear Lady George," said Mrs. Houghton, hurrying across the room, "I hope you will let me explain." She had half put out her hand, but had done so in a manner which allowed her to withdraw it without seeming to have had her overture refused.

"I do not know that there is anything to explain," said Mary.

"You will let me sit down?" Mary longed to refuse; but, not quite daring to do so, simply bowed,—upon which Mrs. Houghton did sit down. "You are very angry with me, it seems?"

"Well;—yes, I am."

"And yet what harm have I done you?"

"None in the least—none at all. I never thought that you could do me any harm."

"Is it wise, Lady George, to give importance to a little trifle?"

"I don't know what you call a trifle."

"I had known him before you did; and, though it had not suited me to become his wife, I had always liked him. Then the intimacy sprang up again; but what did it amount to? I believe you read some foolish letter?"

"I did read a letter, and I was perfectly sure that my husband had done nothing, I will not say to justify, but even to excuse the writing of it. I am quite aware, Mrs. Houghton, that it was all on one side."

"Did he say so?"

"You must excuse me if I decline altogether to tell you what he said."

"I am sure he did not say that. But what is the use of talking of it all. Is it necessary, Lady George, that you and I should quarrel about such a thing as that?"

"Quite necessary, Mrs. Houghton."

"Then you must be very fond of quarrelling."

"I never quarrelled with anybody else in my life."

"When you remember how near we are to each other in the country——. I will apologise if you wish it."

"I will remember nothing, and I want no apology. To tell you the truth, I really think that you ought not to have come here."

"It is childish, Lady George, to make so much of it."

"It may be nothing to you. It is a great deal to me. You must excuse me if I say that I really cannot talk to you any more." Then she got up and walked out of the room, leaving Mrs. Houghton among her treasures. In the dining-room she rang the bell and told the servant to open the door when the lady upstairs came down. After a very short pause, the lady upstairs did come down, and walked out to her carriage with an unabashed demeanour.

After much consideration Lady George determined that she must tell her husband what had occurred. She was aware that she had been very uncourteous, and was not sure whether in her anger she had not been carried further than became her. Nothing could, she thought, shake her in her determination to have no further friendly intercourse of any kind with the woman. Not even were her husband to ask her would that be possible. Such a request from him would be almost an insult to her. And no request from anyone else could have any strength, as no one else knew the circumstances of the case. It was not likely that he would have spoken of it,—and of her own silence she was quite sure. But how had it come to pass that the woman had had the face to come to her? Could it be that Lord George had instigated her to do so? She never made enquiries of her husband as to where he went and whom he saw. For aught that she knew, he might be in Berkeley Square every day. Then she called to mind Mrs. Houghton's face, with the paint visible on it in the broad day, and her blackened eyebrows, and her great crested helmet of false hair nearly eighteen inches deep, and her affected voice and false manner,—and then she told herself that it was impossible that her husband should like such a creature.

"George," she said to him abruptly, as soon as he came home, "who do you think has been here? Mrs. Houghton has been here." Then came that old frown across his brow; but she did not know at first whether it was occasioned by anger against herself or against Mrs. Houghton. "Don't you think it was very unfortunate?"

"What did she say?"

"She wanted to be friends with me."

"And what did you say?"

"I was very rude to her. I told her that I would never have anything to do with her; and then I left the room, so that she had to get out of the house as she could. Was I not right? You don't want me to know her, do you?"

"Certainly not."

"And I was right."

"Quite right. She must be a very hardened woman."

"Oh George, dear George! You have made me so happy!" Then she jumped up and threw her arms round him. "I never doubted you for a moment—never, never; but I was afraid you might have thought——. I don't know what I was afraid of, but I was a fool. She is a nasty hardened creature, and I do hate her. Don't you see how she covers herself with paint?"

"I haven't seen her for the last three months."

Then she kissed him again and again, foolishly betraying her past fears. "I am almost sorry I bothered you by telling you, only I didn't like to say nothing about it. It might have come out, and you would have thought it odd. How a woman can be so nasty I cannot imagine. But I will never trouble you by talking of her again. Only I have told James that she is not to be let into the house."



CHAPTER LX.

THE LAST OF THE BARONESS.

At this time Dr. Olivia Q. Fleabody had become quite an institution in London. She had obtained full though by no means undisputed possession of the great hall in the Marylebone Road, and was undoubtedly for the moment the Queen of the Disabilities. She lectured twice a week to crowded benches. A seat on the platform on these occasions was considered by all high-minded women to be an honour, and the body of the building was always filled by strongly-visaged spinsters and mutinous wives, who twice a week were worked up by Dr. Fleabody to a full belief that a glorious era was at hand in which woman would be chosen by constituencies, would wag their heads in courts of law, would buy and sell in Capel Court, and have balances at their banker's. It was certainly the case that Dr. Fleabody had made proselytes by the hundred, and disturbed the happiness of many fathers of families.

It may easily be conceived that all this was gall and wormwood to the Baroness Banmann. The Baroness, on her arrival in London, had anticipated the success which this low-bred American female had achieved. It was not simply the honour of the thing,—which was very great and would have been very dear to the Baroness,—but the American Doctor was making a rapid fortune out of the proceeds of the hall. She had on one occasion threatened to strike lecturing unless she were allowed a certain very large percentage on the sum taken at the doors, and the stewards and directors of the Institute had found themselves compelled to give way to her demands. She had consequently lodged herself magnificently at the Langham Hotel, had set up her brougham, in which she always had herself driven to the Institute, and was asked out to dinner three or four times a week; whereas the Baroness was in a very poor condition. She had indeed succeeded in getting herself invited to Mr. De Baron's house, and from time to time raised a little money from those who were unfortunate enough to come in her way. But she was sensible of her own degradation, and at the same time quite assured that as a preacher on women's rights at large she could teach lessons infinitely superior to anything that had come from that impudent but imbecile American.

She had undoubtedly received overtures from the directors of the Institute of whom poor Aunt Ju had for the moment been the spokeswoman, and in these overtures it had been intimated to her that the directors would be happy to remunerate her for her trouble should the money collected at the hall enable them to do so. The Baroness believed that enormous sums had been received, and was loud in assuring all her friends that this popularity had in the first place been produced by her own exertions. At any rate, she was resolved to seek redress at law, and at last had been advised to proceed conjointly against Aunt Ju, Lady Selina Protest, and the bald-headed old gentleman. The business had now been brought into proper form, and the trial was to take place in March.

All this was the cause of much trouble to poor Mary, and of very great vexation to Lord George. When the feud was first becoming furious, an enormous advertisement was issued by Dr. Fleabody's friends, in which her cause was advocated and her claims recapitulated. And to this was appended a list of the nobility, gentry, and people of England who supported the Disabilities generally and her cause in particular. Among these names, which were very numerous, appeared that of Lady George Germain. This might probably have escaped both her notice and her husband's, had not the paper been sent to her, with usual friendly zeal, by old Lady Brabazon. "Oh George," she said, "look here. What right have they to say so? I never patronised anything. I went there once when I came to London first, because Miss Mildmay asked me."

"You should not have gone," said he.

"We have had all that before, and you need not scold me again. There couldn't be any great harm in going to hear a lecture." This occurred just previous to her going down to Manor Cross,—that journey which was to be made for so important an object.

Then Lord George did—just what he ought not to have done. He wrote an angry letter to Miss Fleabody, as he called her, complaining bitterly of the insertion of his wife's name. Dr. Fleabody was quite clever enough to make fresh capital out of this. She withdrew the name, explaining that she had been ordered to do so by the lady's husband, and implying that thereby additional evidence was supplied that the Disabilities of Women were absolutely crushing to the sex in England. Mary, when she saw this,—and the paper did not reach her till she was at Manor Cross,—was violent in her anxiety to write herself, in her own name, and disclaim all disabilities; but her husband by this time had been advised to have nothing further to do with Dr. Fleabody, and Mary was forced to keep her indignation to herself.

But worse than this followed the annoyance of the advertisement. A man came all the way down from London for the purpose of serving Lady George with a subpoena to give evidence at the trial on the part of the Baroness. Lord George was up in London at the time, never having entered the house at Manor Cross, or even the park, since his visit to Italy. The consternation of the ladies may be imagined. Poor Mary was certainly not in a condition to go into a court of law, and would be less so on the day fixed for the trial. And yet this awful document seemed to her and to her sisters-in-law to be so imperative as to admit of no escape. It was in vain that Lady Sarah, with considerable circumlocution, endeavoured to explain to the messenger the true state of the case. The man could simply say that he was only a messenger, and had now done his work. Looked at in any light, the thing was very terrible. Lord George might probably even yet be able to run away with her to some obscure corner of the continent in which messengers from the Queen's judges would not be able to find her; and she might perhaps bear the journey without injury. But then what would become of a baby—perhaps of a Popenjoy—so born? There were many who still thought that the Marquis would go before the baby came; and, in that case, the baby would at once be a Popenjoy. What a condition was this for a Marchioness to be in at the moment of the birth of her eldest child! "But I don't know anything about the nasty women!" said Mary, through her tears.

"It is such a pity that you should ever have gone," said Lady Susanna, shaking her head.

"It wasn't wicked to go," said Mary, "and I won't be scolded about it any more. You went to a lecture yourself when you were in town, and they might just as well have sent for you."

Lady Sarah promised her that she should not be scolded, and was very keen in thinking what steps had better be taken. Mary wished to run off to the deanery at once, but was told that she had better not do so till an answer had come to the letter which was of course written by that day's post to Lord George. There were still ten days to the trial, and twenty days, by computation, to the great event. There were, of course, various letters written to Lord George. Lady Sarah wrote very sensibly, suggesting that he should go to Mr. Stokes, the family lawyer. Lady Susanna was full of the original sin of that unfortunate visit to the Disabilities. She was, however, of opinion that if Mary was concealed in a certain room at Manor Cross, which might she thought be sufficiently warmed and ventilated for health, the judges of the Queen's Bench would never be able to find her. The baby in that case would have been born at Manor Cross, and posterity would know nothing about the room. Mary's letter was almost hysterically miserable. She knew nothing about the horrid people. What did they want her to say? All she had done was to go to a lecture, and to give the wicked woman a guinea. Wouldn't George come and take her away. She wouldn't care where she went. Nothing on earth should make her go up and stand before the judges. It was, she said, very cruel, and she did hope that George would come to her at once. If he didn't come she thought that she would die.

Nothing, of course, was said to the Marchioness, but it was found impossible to keep the matter from Mrs. Toff. Mrs. Toff was of opinion that the bit of paper should be burned, and that no further notice should be taken of the matter at all. "If they don't go they has to pay L10," said Mrs. Toff with great authority,—Mrs. Toff remembering that a brother of hers, who had "forgotten himself in liquor" at the Brotherton assizes, had been fined L10 for not answering to his name as a juryman. "And then they don't really have to pay it," said Mrs. Toff, who remembered also that the good-natured judge had not at last exacted the penalty. But Lady Sarah could not look at the matter in that light. She was sure that if a witness were really wanted, that witness could not escape by paying a fine.

The next morning there came a heartrending letter from Aunt Ju. She was very sorry that Lady George should have been so troubled;—but then let them think of her trouble, of her misery! She was quite sure that it would kill her,—and it would certainly ruin her. That odious Baroness had summoned everybody that had ever befriended her. Captain De Baron had been summoned, and the Marquis, and Mrs. Montacute Jones. And the whole expense, according to Aunt Ju, would fall upon her; for it seemed to be the opinion of the lawyers that she had hired the Baroness. Then she said some very severe things against the Disabilities generally. There was that woman Fleabody making a fortune in their hall, and would take none of this expense upon herself. She thought that such things should be left to men, who after all were not so mean as women;—so, at least, said Aunt Ju.

And then there was new cause for wonderment. Lord Brotherton had been summoned, and would Lord Brotherton come? They all believed that he was dying, and, if so, surely he could not be made to come. "But is it not horrible," said Lady Susanna, "that people of rank should be made subject to such an annoyance! If anybody can summon anybody, nobody can ever be sure of herself!"

On the next morning Lord George himself came down to Brotherton, and Mary with a carriage full of precautions, was sent into the deanery to meet him. The Marchioness discovered that the journey was to be made, and was full of misgivings and full of enquiries. In her present condition, the mother expectant ought not to be allowed to make any journey at all. The Marchioness remembered how Sir Henry had told her, before Popenjoy was born, that all carriage exercise was bad. And why should she go to the deanery? Who could say whether the Dean would let her come away again? What a feather it would be in the Dean's cap if the next Popenjoy were born at the deanery. It was explained to her that in no other way could she see her husband. Then the poor old woman was once more loud in denouncing the misconduct of her youngest son to the head of the family.

Mary made the journey in perfect safety, and then was able to tell her father the whole story. "I never heard of anything so absurd in my life," said the Dean.

"I suppose I must go, papa?"

"Not a yard."

"But won't they come and fetch me?"

"Fetch you? No."

"Does it mean nothing."

"Very little. They won't attempt to examine half the people they have summoned. That Baroness probably thinks that she will get money out of you. If the worst comes to the worst, you must send a medical certificate."

"Will that do?"

"Of course it will. When George is here we will get Dr. Loftly, and he will make it straight for us. You need not trouble yourself about it at all. Those women at Manor Cross are old enough to have known better."

Lord George came and was very angry. He quite agreed as to Dr. Loftly, who was sent for, and who did give a certificate,—and who took upon himself to assure Lady George that all the judges in the land could not enforce her attendance as long as she had that certificate in her hands. But Lord George was vexed beyond measure that his wife's name should have been called in question, and could not refrain himself from a cross word or two. "It was so imprudent your going to such a place!"

"Oh George, are we to have that all again?"

"Why shouldn't she have gone?" asked the Dean.

"Are you in favour of rights of women?"

"Not particularly;—though if there be any rights which they haven't got, I thoroughly wish that they might get them. I certainly don't believe in the Baroness Banmann, nor yet in Dr. Fleabody; but I don't think they could have been wrong in going in good company to hear what a crazy old woman might have to say."

"It was very foolish," said Lord George. "See what has come of it!"

"How could I tell, George? I thought you had promised that you wouldn't scold any more. Nasty fat old woman! I'm sure I didn't want to hear her." Then Lord George went back to town with the medical certificate in his pocket, and Mary, being in her present condition, afraid of the authorities, was unable to stay and be happy even for one evening with her father.

During the month the Disabilities created a considerable interest throughout London, of which Dr. Fleabody reaped the full advantage. The Baroness was so loud in her clamours that she forced the question of the Disabilities on the public mind generally, and the result was that the world flocked to the Institute. The Baroness, as she heard of this, became louder and louder. It was not this that she wanted. Those who wished to sympathise with her should send her money,—not go to the hall to hear that loud imbecile American female! The Baroness, when she desired to be-little the doctor, always called her a female. And the Baroness, though in truth she was not personally attractive, did contrive to surround herself with supporters, and in these days moved into comfortable lodgings in Wigmore Street. Very few were heard to speak in her favour, but they who contributed to the relief of her necessities were many. It was found to be almost impossible to escape from her without leaving some amount of money in her hands. And then, in a happy hour, she came at last across an old gentleman who did appreciate her and her wrongs. How it was that she got an introduction to Mr. Philogunac Coelebs was not, I think, ever known. It is not improbable that having heard of his soft heart, his peculiar propensities, and his wealth, she contrived to introduce herself. It was, however, suddenly understood that Mr. Philogunac Coelebs, who was a bachelor and very rich, had taken her by the hand, and intended to bear all the expenses of the trial. It was after the general intimation which had been made to the world in this matter that the summons for Lady Mary had been sent down to Manor Cross.

And now in these halcyon days of March the Baroness also had her brougham and was to be seen everywhere. How she did work! The attornies who had the case in hands, found themselves unable to secure themselves against her. She insisted on seeing the barristers, and absolutely did work her way into the chambers of that discreet junior Mr. Stuffenruff. She was full of her case, full of her coming triumph. She would teach women like Miss Julia Mildmay and Lady Selina Protest what it was to bamboozle a Baroness of the Holy Roman Empire! And as for the American female——.

"You'll put her pipe out," suggested Mr. Philogunac Coelebs, who was not superior to a mild joke.

"Stop her from piping altogether in dis contry," said the Baroness, who in the midst of her wrath and zeal and labour was superior to all jokes.

Two days before that fixed for the trial there fell a great blow upon those who were interested in the matter;—a blow that was heavy on Mr. Coelebs but heavier still on the attornies. The Baroness had taken herself off, and when enquiries were made it was found that she was at Madrid. Mr. Snape, one of the lawyers, was the person who first informed Mr. Coelebs, and did so in a manner which clearly implied that he expected Mr. Coelebs to pay the bill. Then Mr. Snape encountered a terrible disappointment, and Mr. Coelebs was driven to confess his own disgrace. He had, he said, never undertaken to pay the cost of the trial, but he had, unfortunately, given the lady a thousand pounds to enable her to pay the expenses herself. Mr. Snape, expostulated, and, later on, urged with much persistency, that Mr. Coelebs had more than once attended in person at the office of Messrs. Snape and Cashett. But in this matter the lawyers did not prevail. They had taken their orders from the lady, and must look to the lady for payment. They who best knew Mr. Philogunac Coelebs thought that he had escaped cheaply, as there had been many fears that he should make the Baroness altogether his own.

"I am so glad she has gone," said Mary, when she heard the story. "I should never have felt safe while that woman was in the country. I'm quite sure of one thing. I'll never have anything more to do with disabilities. George need not be afraid about that."



CHAPTER LXI.

THE NEWS COMES HOME.

During those last days of the glory of the Baroness, when she was driving about London under the auspices of Philogunac Coelebs in her private brougham and talking to everyone of the certainty of her coming success, Lord George Germain was not in London either to hear or to see what was going on. He had gone again to Naples, having received a letter from the British Consul there telling him that his brother was certainly dying. The reader will understand that he must have been most unwilling to take this journey. He at first refused to do so, alleging that his brother's conduct to him had severed all ties between them; but at last he allowed himself to be persuaded by the joint efforts of Mr. Knox, Mr. Stokes, and Lady Sarah, who actually came up to London herself for the purpose of inducing him to take the journey. "He is not only your brother," said Lady Sarah, "but the head of your family as well. It is not for the honour of the family that he should pass away without having someone belonging to him at the last moment." When Lord George argued that he would in all probability be too late, Lady Sarah explained that the last moments of a Marquis of Brotherton could not have come as long as his body was above ground.

So urged the poor man started again, and found his brother still alive, but senseless. This was towards the end of March, and it is hoped that the reader will remember the event which was to take place on the 1st of April. The coincidence of the two things added of course very greatly to his annoyance. Telegrams might come to him twice a-day, but no telegram could bring him back in a flash when the moment of peril should arrive, or enable him to enjoy the rapture of standing at his wife's bedside when that peril should be over. He felt as he went away from his brother's villa to the nearest hotel,—for he would not sleep nor eat in the villa,—that he was a man marked out for misfortune. When he returned to the villa on the next morning the Marquis of Brotherton was no more. His Lordship had died in the 44th year of his age, on the 30th March, 187—.

The Marquis of Brotherton was dead, and Lord George Germain was Marquis of Brotherton, and would be so called by all the world as soon as his brother was decently hidden under the ground. It concerns our story now to say that Mary Lovelace was Marchioness of Brotherton, and that the Dean of Brotherton was the father-in-law of a Marquis, and would, in all probability, be the progenitor of a long line of Marquises. Lord George, as soon as the event was known, caused telegrams to be sent to Mr. Knox, to Lady Sarah,—and to the Dean. He had hesitated about the last, but his better nature at last prevailed. He was well aware that no one was so anxious as the Dean, and though he disliked and condemned the Dean's anxiety, he remembered that the Dean had at any rate been a loving father to his wife, and a very liberal father-in-law.

Mr. Knox, when he received the news, went at once to Mr. Stokes, and the two gentlemen were not long in agreeing that a very troublesome and useless person had been removed out of the world. "Oh, yes; there's a will," said Mr. Stokes in answer to an enquiry from Mr. Knox, "made while he was in London the other day, just before he started,—as bad a will as a man could make; but he couldn't do very much harm. Every acre was entailed."

"How about the house in town?" asked Mr. Knox.

"Entailed on the baby about to be born, if he happens to be a boy."

"He didn't spend his income?" suggested Mr. Knox.

"He muddled a lot of money away; but since the coal came up he couldn't spend it all, I should say."

"Who gets it?" asked Mr. Knox, laughing.

"We shall see that when the will is read," said the attorney with a smile.

The news was brought out to Lady Sarah as quick as the very wretched pony which served for the Brotherton telegraph express could bring it. The hour which was lost in getting the pony ready, perhaps, did not signify much. Lady Sarah, at the moment, was busy with her needle, and her sisters were with her. "What is it?" said Lady Susanna, jumping up. Lady Sarah, with cruel delay, kept the telegram for a moment in her hand. "Do open it," said Lady Amelia; "is it from George? Pray open it;—pray do!" Lady Sarah, feeling certain of the contents of the envelope, and knowing the importance of the news, slowly opened the cover. "It is all over," she said, "Poor Brotherton!" Lady Amelia burst into tears. "He was never so very unkind to me," said Lady Susanna, with her handkerchief up to her eyes. "I cannot say that he was good to me," said Lady Sarah, "but it may be that I was hard to him. May God Almighty forgive him all that he did amiss!"

Then there was a consultation held, and it was decided that Mary and the Marchioness must both be told at once. "Mamma will be dreadfully cut up," said Lady Susanna. Then Lady Amelia suggested that their mother's attention should be at once drawn off to Mary's condition, for the Marchioness at this time was much worried in her feelings about Mary,—as to whom it now seemed that some error must have been made. The calculations had not been altogether exact. So at least, judging from Mary's condition, they all now thought at Manor Cross. Mrs. Toff was quite sure, and the Marchioness was perplexed in her memory as to certain positive information which had been whispered into her ear by Sir Henry just before the birth of that unfortunate Popenjoy, who was now lying dead as Lord Brotherton at Naples.

The telegram had arrived in the afternoon at the hour in which Mary was accustomed to sit in the easy chair with the Marchioness. The penalty had now been reduced to an hour a day, and this, as it happened, was the hour. The Marchioness had been wandering a good deal in her mind. From time to time she expressed her opinion that Brotherton would get well and would come back; and she would then tell Mary how she ought to urge her husband to behave well to his elder brother, always asserting that George had been stiff-necked and perverse. But in the midst of all this she would refer every minute to Mary's coming baby as the coming Popenjoy—not a possible Popenjoy at some future time, but the immediate Popenjoy of the hour,—to be born a Popenjoy! Poor Mary, in answer to all this, would agree with everything. She never contradicted the old lady, but sat longing that the hour might come to an end.

Lady Sarah entered the room, followed by her two sisters. "Is there any news?" asked Mary.

"Has Brotherton come back?" demanded the Marchioness.

"Dear mamma!" said Lady Sarah;—and she went up and knelt down before her mother and took her hand.

"Where is he?" asked the Marchioness.

"Dear mamma! He has gone away,—beyond all trouble."

"Who has gone away?"

"Brotherton is—dead, mamma. This is a telegram from George." The old woman looked bewildered, as though she did not as yet quite comprehend what had been said to her. "You know," continued Lady Sarah, "that he was so ill that we all expected this."

"Expected what?"

"That my brother could not live."

"Where is George? What has George done? If George had gone to him——. Oh me! Dead! He is not dead! And what has become of the child?"

"You should think of Mary, mamma."

"My dear, of course I think of you. I am thinking of nothing else. I should say it would be Friday. Sarah,—you don't mean to say that Brotherton is—dead?" Lady Sarah merely pressed her mother's hand and looked into the old lady's face. "Why did not they let me go to him? And is Popenjoy dead also?"

"Dear mamma, don't you remember?" said Lady Susanna.

"Yes; I remember. George was determined it should be so. Ah me!—ah me! Why should I have lived to hear this!" After that it was in vain that they told her of Mary and of the baby that was about to be born. She wept herself into hysterics,—was taken away and put to bed; and then soon wept herself asleep.

Mary during all this had said not a word. She had felt that the moment of her exaltation,—the moment in which she had become the mistress of the house and of everything around it,—was not a time in which she could dare even to speak to the bereaved mother. But when the two younger sisters had gone away with the Marchioness, she asked after her husband. Then Lady Sarah showed her the telegram in which Lord George, after communicating the death of his brother, had simply said that he should himself return home as quickly as possible. "It has come very quick," said Lady Sarah.

"What has come!"

"Your position, Mary. I hope,—I hope you will bear it well."

"I hope so," said Mary, almost sullenly. But she was awestruck, and not sullen.

"It will all be yours now,—the rank, the wealth, the position, the power of spending money, and tribes of friends anxious to share your prosperity. Hitherto you have only seen the gloom of this place, which to you has of course been dull. Now it will be lighted up, and you can make it gay enough."

"This is not a time to think of gaiety," said Mary.

"Poor Brotherton was nothing to you. I do not think you ever saw him."

"Never."

"He was nothing to you. You cannot mourn."

"I do mourn. I wish he had lived. I wish the boy had lived. If you have thought that I wanted all this, you have done me wrong. I have wanted nothing but to have George to live with me. If anybody thinks that I married him because all this might come,—oh, they do not know me."

"I know you, Mary."

"Then you will not believe that."

"I do not believe it. I have never believed it. I know that you are good and disinterested and true of heart. I have loved you dearly and more dearly as I have seen you every day. But Mary, you are fond of what the world calls—pleasure."

"Yes," said Mary, after a pause, "I am fond of pleasure. Why not? I hope I am not fond of doing harm to anyone."

"If you will only remember how great are your duties. You may have children to whom you may do harm. You have a husband, who will now have many cares, and to whom much harm may be done. Among women you will be the head of a noble family, and may grace or disgrace them all by your conduct."

"I will never disgrace them," she said proudly.

"Not openly, not manifestly I am sure. Do you think that there are no temptations in your way?"

"Everybody has temptations."

"Who will have more than you? Have you thought that every tenant, every labourer on the estate will have a claim on you?"

"How can I have thought of anything yet?"

"Don't be angry with me, dear, if I bid you think of it. I think of it,—more I know than I ought to do. I have been so placed that I could do but little good and little harm to others than myself. The females of a family such as ours, unless they marry, are very insignificant in the world. You who but a few years ago were a little school girl in Brotherton have now been put over all our heads."

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse