"I didn't want to be put over anybody's head."
"Fortune has done it for you, and your own attractions. But I was going to say that little as has been my power and low as is my condition, I have loved the family and striven to maintain its respectability. There is not, I think, a face on the estate I do not know. I shall have to go now and see them no more."
"Why should you go?"
"It will probably be proper. No married man likes to have his unmarried sisters in his house."
"I shall like you. You shall never go."
"Of course I shall go with mamma and the others. But I would have you sometimes think of me and those I have cared for, and I would have you bear in mind that the Marchioness of Brotherton should have more to do than to amuse herself."
Whatever assurances Mary might have made or have declined to make in answer to this were stopped by the entrance of a servant, who came to inform Lady George that her father was below. The Dean too had received his telegram, and had at once ridden over to greet the new Marchioness of Brotherton.
Of all those who first heard the news, the Dean's feelings were by far the strongest. It cannot be said of any of the Germains that there was sincere and abiding grief at the death of the late Marquis. The poor mother was in such a state, was mentally so weak, that she was in truth no longer capable of strong grief or strong joy. And the man had been, not only so bad but so injurious also, to all connected with him,—had contrived of late to make his whole family so uncomfortable,—that he had worn out even that enduring love which comes of custom. He had been a blister to them,—assuring them constantly that he would ever be a blister; and they could not weep in their hearts because the blister was removed. But neither did they rejoice. Mary, when, in her simple language, she had said that she did not want it, had spoken the plain truth. Munster Court, with her husband's love and the power to go to Mrs. Jones' parties, sufficed for her ambition. That her husband should be gentle with her, should caress her as well as love her, was all the world to her. She feared rather than coveted the title of Marchioness, and dreaded that gloomy house in the Square with all her heart. But to the Dean the triumph was a triumph indeed and the joy was a joy! He had set his heart upon it from the first moment in which Lord George had been spoken of as a suitor for his daughter's hand,—looking forward to it with the assured hope of a very sanguine man. The late Marquis had been much younger than he, but he calculated that his own life had been wholesome while that of the Marquis was the reverse. Then had come the tidings of the Marquis' marriage. That had been bad;—but he had again told himself how probable it was that the Marquis should have no son. And then the Lord had brought home a son. All suddenly there had come to him the tidings that a brat called Popenjoy,—a brat who in life would crush all his hopes,—was already in the house at Manor Cross! He would not for a moment believe in the brat. He would prove that the boy was not Popenjoy, though he should have to spend his last shilling in doing so. He had set his heart upon the prize, and he would allow nothing to stand in his way.
And now the prize had come before his daughter had been two years married, before the grandchild was born on whose head was to be accumulated all these honours! There was no longer any doubt. The Marquis was gone, and that false Popenjoy was gone; and his daughter was the wife of the reigning Lord, and the child,—his grandchild,—was about to be born. He was sure that the child would be a boy! But even were a girl the eldest, there would be time enough for boys after that. There surely would be a real Popenjoy before long.
And what was he to gain,—he himself? He often asked himself the question, but could always answer it satisfactorily. He had risen above his father's station by his own intellect and industry so high as to be able to exalt his daughter among the highest in the land. He could hardly have become a Marquis himself. That career could not have been open to him; but a sufficiency of the sweets of the peerage would be his own if he could see his daughter a Marchioness. And now that was her rank. Fate could not take it away from her. Though Lord George were to die to-morrow, she would still be a Marchioness, and the coming boy, his grandson, would be the Marquis. He himself was young for his age. He might yet live to hear his grandson make a speech in the House of Commons as Lord Popenjoy.
He had been out about the city and received the telegram at three o'clock. He felt at the moment intensely grateful to Lord George for having sent it;—as he would have been full of wrath had none been sent to him. There was no reference to "Poor Brotherton!" on his tongue; no reference to "Poor Brotherton!" in his heart. The man had grossly maligned his daughter to his own ears, had insulted him with bitter malignity, and was his enemy. He did not pretend to himself that he felt either sorrow or pity. The man had been a wretch and his enemy and was now dead; and he was thoroughly glad that the wretch was out of his way. "Marchioness of Brotherton!" he said to himself, as he rested for a few minutes alone in his study. He stood with his hands in his pockets, looking up at the ceiling, and realizing it all. Yes; all that was quite true which had been said to himself more than once. He had begun his life as a stable-boy. He could remember the time when his father touched his hat to everybody that came into the yard. Nevertheless he was Dean of Brotherton,—and so much a Dean as to have got the better of all enemies in the Close. And his daughter was Marchioness of Brotherton. She would be Mary to him, and would administer to his little comforts when men descended from the comrades of William the Conqueror would treat her with semi-regal respect. He told himself that he was sure of his daughter.
Then he ordered his horse, and started off to ride to Manor Cross. He did not doubt but that she knew it already, but still it was necessary that she should hear it from his lips and he from hers. As he rode proudly beneath the Manor Cross oaks he told himself again and again that they would all belong to his grandson.
When the Dean was announced Mary almost feared to see him,—or rather feared that expression of triumph which would certainly be made both by his words and manner. All that Lady Sarah had said had entered into her mind. There were duties incumbent on her which would be very heavy, for which she felt that she could hardly be fit,—and the first of these duties was to abstain from pride as to her own station in life. But her father she knew would be very proud, and would almost demand pride from her. She hurried down to him nevertheless. Were she ten times a Marchioness, next to her husband her care would be due to him. What daughter had ever been beloved more tenderly than she? Administer to him! Oh yes, she would do that as she had always done. She rushed into his arms in the little parlour and then burst into tears.
"My girl," he said, "I congratulate you."
"Yes, yes, yes. Is it not better in all ways that it should be so? I do congratulate you. Hold up your head, dear, and bear it well."
"Oh, papa, I shall never bear it well."
"No woman that was ever born has, I believe, borne it better than you will. No woman was ever more fit to grace a high position. My own girl!"
"Yes, papa, your own girl. But I wish,—I wish——"
"All that I have wished has come about." She shuddered as she heard these words, remembering that two deaths had been necessary for this fruition of his desires. But he repeated his words. "All that I have wished has come about. And, Mary, let me tell you this;—you should in no wise be afraid of it, nor should you allow yourself to think of it as though there were anything to be regretted. Which do you believe would make the better peer; your husband or that man who has died?"
"Of course George is ten times the best."
"Otherwise he would be very bad. But no degree of comparison would express the difference. Your husband will add an honour to his rank." She took his hand and kissed it as he said this,—which certainly would not have been said had not that telegram come direct to the deanery. "And, looking to the future, which would probably make the better peer in coming years;—the child born of that man and woman, and bred by them as they would have bred it, or your child,—yours and your husband's? And here, in the country,—from which lord would the tenants receive the stricter justice, and the people the more enduring kindness? Don't you know that he disgraced his order, and that the woman was unfit to bear the name which rightly or wrongly she had assumed? You will be fit."
"Excuse me, dear. I am praising myself rather than you when I say,—yes. But though I praise myself it is a matter as to which I have no shadow of doubt. There can be nothing to regret,—no cause for sorrow. With the inmates of this house custom demands the decency of outward mourning;—but there can be no grief of heart. The man was a wild beast, destroying everybody and everything that came near him. Only think how he treated your husband."
"He is dead, papa!"
"I thank God that he has gone. I cannot bring myself to lie about it. I hate such lying. To me it is unmanly. Grief or joy, regrets or satisfaction, when expressed, should always be true. It is a grand thing to rise in the world. The ambition to do so is the very salt of the earth. It is the parent of all enterprise, and the cause of all improvement. They who know no such ambition are savages and remain savage. As far as I can see, among us Englishmen such ambition is healthily and happily almost universal, and on that account we stand high among the citizens of the world. But, owing to false teaching, men are afraid to own aloud a truth which is known to their own hearts. I am not afraid to do so and I would not have you afraid. I am proud that by one step after another I have been able so to place you and so to form you that you should have been found worthy of rank much higher than my own. And I would have you proud also and equally ambitious for your child. Let him be the Duke of Brotherton. Let him be brought up to be one of England's statesmen, if God shall give him intellect for the work. Let him be seen with the George and Garter, and be known throughout Europe as one of England's worthiest worthies. Though not born as yet his career should already be a care to you. And that he may be great you should rejoice that you yourself are great already."
After that he went away, leaving messages for Lord George and the family. He bade her tell Lady Sarah that he would not intrude on the present occasion, but that he hoped to be allowed to see the ladies of the family very shortly after the funeral.
Poor Mary could not but be bewildered by the difference of the two lessons she had received on this the first day of her assured honours. And she was the more perplexed because both her instructors had appeared to her to be right in their teaching. The pagan exaltation of her father at the death of his enemy she could put on one side, excusing it by the remembrance of the terrible insult which she knew that he had received. But the upshot of his philosophy she did receive as true, and she declared to herself that she would harbour in her heart of hearts the lessons which he had given her as to her own child, lessons which must be noble as they tended to the well-being of the world at large. To make her child able to do good to others, to assist in making him able and anxious to do so,—to train him from the first in that way,—what wish could be more worthy of a mother than this? But yet the humility and homely carefulness inculcated by Lady Sarah,—was not that lesson also true? Assuredly yes! And yet how should she combine the two?
She was unaware that within herself there was a power, a certain intellectual alembic of which she was quite unconscious, by which she could distil the good of each, and quietly leave the residuum behind her as being of no moment.
Lord George came back to England as quick as the trains would carry him, and with him came the sad and mournful burden which had to be deposited in the vaults of the parish church at Manor Cross. There must be a decent tombstone now that the life was gone, with decent words upon it and a decent effigy,—even though there had been nothing decent in the man's life. The long line of past Marquises must be perpetuated, and Frederic Augustus, the tenth peer of the name, must be made to lie with the others. Lord George, therefore,—for he was still Lord George till after the funeral,—travelled with his sad burden, some deputy undertaker having special charge of it, and rested for a few hours in London. Mr. Knox met him in Mr. Stokes' chambers, and there he learned that his brother, who had made many wills in his time, had made one last will just before he left London, after his return from Rudham Park. Mr. Stokes took him aside and told him that he would find the will to be unfavourable. "I thought the property was entailed," said Lord George very calmly. Mr. Stokes assented, with many assurances as to the impregnability of the family acres and the family houses; but added that there was money, and that the furniture had belonged to the late Marquis to dispose of as he pleased. "It is a matter of no consequence," said Lord George,—whom the loss of the money and furniture did not in truth at all vex.
Early on the following morning he went down to Brotherton, leaving the undertakers to follow him as quickly as they might. He could enter the house now, and to him as he was driven home under the oaks no doubt there came some idea of his own possession of them. But the idea was much less vivid than the Dean's, and was chiefly confined to the recollection that no one could now turn him out of the home in which he had been born and in which his mother and sisters and wife were living. Had his elder brother been a man of whom he could have been proud, I almost think he would have been more contented as a younger brother. "It is over at last" were the first words he said to his wife, not finding it to be more important that his greatness was beginning than that his humiliation should be brought to an end.
The funeral took place with all the state that undertakers could give to it in a little village, but with no other honours. Lord George was the chief mourner and almost the only one. One or two neighbours came,—Mr. De Baron, from Rudham Park, and such of the farmers as had been long on the land, among them being Mr. Price. But there was one person among the number whom no one had expected. This was Jack De Baron. "He has been mentioned in the will," said Mr. Stokes very gravely to Lord George, "and perhaps you would not object to my asking him to be present." Lord George did not object, though certainly Captain De Baron was the last person whom he would have thought of asking to Manor Cross on any occasion. He was made welcome, however, with a grave courtesy.
"What on earth has brought you here?" said old Mr. De Baron to his cousin.
"Don't in the least know! Got a letter from a lawyer, saying I had better come. Thought everybody was to be here who had ever seen him."
"He hasn't left you money, Jack," said Mr. De Baron.
"What will you give for my chance?" said Jack. But Mr. De Baron, though he was much given to gambling speculations, did not on this occasion make an offer.
After the funeral, which was sadder even than funerals are in general though no tear was shed, the will was read in the library at Manor Cross, Lord George being present, together with Mr. Knox, Mr. Stokes and the two De Barons. The Dean might have wished to be there; but he had written early on that morning an affectionate letter to his son-in-law, excusing himself from being present at the funeral. "I think you know," he had said, "that I would do anything either to promote your welfare or to gratify your feelings, but there had unfortunately been that between me and the late Marquis which would make my attendance seem to be a mockery." He did not go near Manor Cross on that day; but no one knew better than he,—not even Mr. Knox himself,—that the dead lord had possessed no power of alienating a stick or a brick upon the property. The will was very short, and the upshot of it was that every shilling of which the Marquis died possessed, together with his house at Como and the furniture contained in the three houses, was left to our old friend Jack De Baron. "I took the liberty," said Mr. Stokes, "to inform his lordship that should he die before his wife, his widow would be entitled to a third of his personal property. He replied that whatever his widow could claim by law, she could get without any act of his. I mention this, as Captain De Baron may perhaps be willing that the widow of the late Marquis may be at once regarded as possessed of a third of the property."
"Quite so," said Jack, who had suddenly become as solemn and funereal as Mr. Stokes himself. He was now engaged to Guss Mildmay with a vengeance!
When the solemnity of the meeting was over, Lord George,—or the Marquis, as he must now be called,—congratulated the young heir with exquisite grace. "I was so severed from my brother of late," he said, "that I had not known of the friendship."
"Never saw him in my life till I met him down at Rudham," said Jack. "I was civil to him there because he seemed to be ill. He sent me once to fetch a ten-pound note. I thought it odd, but I went. After that he seemed to take to me a good deal."
"He took to you to some purpose, Captain De Baron. As to me, I did not want it, and certainly should not have got it. You need not for a moment think that you are robbing us."
"That is so good of you!" said Jack, whose thoughts, however, were too full of Guss Mildmay to allow of any thorough enjoyment of his unexpected prosperity.
"Stokes says that after the widow is paid and the legacy duty there will be eight—and twenty—thousand pounds!" whispered Mr. De Baron to his relative. "By heavens! you are a lucky fellow."
"I am rather lucky."
"It will be fourteen hundred a year, if you only look out for a good investment. A man with ready money at his own disposal can always get five per cent, at least. I never heard of such a fluke in my life."
"It was a fluke, certainly."
"You'll marry now and settle down, I suppose?"
"I suppose I shall," said Jack. "One has to come to that kind of thing at last. I knew when I was going to Rudham that some d—— thing would come of it. Oh,—of course I'm awfully glad. It's sure to come sooner or later, and I suppose I've had my run. I've just seen Stokes, and he says I'm to go to him in about a month's time. I thought I should have got some of it to-morrow?"
"My dear fellow, I can let you have a couple of hundreds, if you want them," said Mr. De Baron, who had never hitherto been induced to advance a shilling when his young cousin had been needy.
Mr. Stokes, Mr. Knox, Mr. De Baron and the heir went away, leaving the family to adjust their own affairs in their new position. Then Mary received a third lecture as she sat leaning upon her husband's shoulder.
"At any rate, you won't have to go away any more," she had said to him. "You have been always away, for ever so long."
"It was you who would go to the deanery when you left London."
"I know that. Of course I wanted to see papa then. I don't want to talk about that any more. Only, you won't go away again?"
"When I do you shall go with me."
"That won't be going away. Going away is taking yourself off,—by yourself."
"Could I help it?"
"I don't know. I could have gone with you. But it's over now, isn't it?"
"I hope so."
"It shall be over. And when this other trouble is done,—you'll go to London then?"
"It will depend on your health, dear."
"I am very well. Why shouldn't I be well? When a month is over,—then you'll go."
"In two months, perhaps."
"That'll be the middle of June. I'm sure I shall be well in three weeks. And where shall we go? We'll go to Munster Court,—shan't we?"
"As soon as the house is ready in St. James' Square, we must go there."
"Oh! George,—I do so hate that house in St. James' Square. I shall never be happy there. It's like a prison."
Then he gave her his lecture. "My love, you should not talk of hating things that are necessary."
"But why is St. James' Square necessary?"
"Because it is the town residence belonging to the family. Munster Court was very well for us as we were before. Indeed, it was much too good, as I felt every hour that I was there. It was more than we could afford without drawing upon your father for assistance."
"But he likes being drawn upon," said Mary. "I don't think there is anything papa likes so much as to be drawn upon."
"That could make no difference to me, my dear. I don't think that as yet you understand money matters."
"I hope I never shall, then."
"I hope you will. It will be your duty to do so. But, as I was saying, the house at Munster Court will be unsuitable to you as Lady Brotherton." On hearing this Mary pouted and made a grimace. "There is a dignity to be borne which, though it may be onerous, must be supported."
"I hate dignity."
"You would not say that if you knew how it vexed me. Could I have chosen for myself personally, perhaps, neither would I have taken this position. I do not think that I am by nature ambitious. But a man is bound to do his duty in that position in which he finds himself placed,—and so is a woman."
"And it will be my duty to live in an ugly house?"
"Perhaps the house may be made less ugly; but to live in it will certainly be a part of your duty. And if you love me, Mary——"
"Do you want me to tell you whether I love you?"
"But, loving me as I know you do, I am sure you will not neglect your duty. Do not say again that you hate your dignity. You must never forget now that you are Marchioness of Brotherton."
"I never shall, George."
"That is right, my dear," he said, omitting to understand the little satire conveyed in her words. "It will come easy to you before long. But I would have all the world feel that you are the mistress of the rank to which you have been raised. Of course, it has been different hitherto," he said, endeavouring in his own mind to excuse the indiscretion of that Kappa-kappa. This lecture also she turned to wholesome food and digested, obtaining from it some strength and throwing off the bombast by which a weaker mind might have been inflated. She understood, at any rate, that St. James' Square must be her doom; but while acknowledging this to herself, she made a little resolution that a good deal would have to be done to the house before it was ready for her reception, and that the doing would require a considerable time.
When she heard the purport of the late lord's will she was much surprised,—more surprised, probably, than Jack himself. Why should a man who was so universally bad,—such a horror,—leave his money to one who was so—so—so good as Jack De Baron. The epithet came to her at last in preference to any other. And what would he do now? George had told her that the sum would be very large, and of course he could marry if he pleased. At any rate he would not go to Perim. The idea that he should go to Perim had made her uncomfortable. Perhaps he had better marry Guss Mildmay. She was not quite all that his wife should be; but he had said that he would do so in certain circumstances. Those circumstances had come round and it was right that he should keep his word. And yet it made her somewhat melancholy to think that he should marry Guss Mildmay.
Very shortly after this, and when she was becoming aware that the event which ought to have taken place on the 1st of April would not be much longer delayed, there came home to her various things containing lectures almost as severe, and perhaps more eloquent than those she had received from her sister, her father, and her husband. There was an infinity of clothes which someone had ordered for her, and on all the things which would bear a mark, there was a coronet. The coronets on the pockethandkerchiefs seemed to be without end. And there was funereal note-paper, on which the black edges were not more visible than the black coronets. And there came invoices to her from the tradesmen, addressed to the Marchioness of Brotherton. And then there came the first letter from her father with her rank and title on the envelope. At first she was almost afraid to open it.
POPENJOY IS BORN—AND CHRISTENED.
At last, not much above a week after the calculations, in all the glory of the purple of Manor Cross, the new Popenjoy was born. For it was a Popenjoy. The Fates, who had for some time past been unpropitious to the house of Brotherton, now smiled; and Fortune, who had been good to the Dean throughout, remained true to him also in this. The family had a new heir, a real Popenjoy; and the old Marchioness when the baby was shown to her for awhile forgot her sorrows and triumphed with the rest.
The Dean's anxiety had been so great that he had insisted on remaining at the house. It had been found impossible to refuse such a request made at such a time. And now, at last, the ladies at Manor Cross gradually forgave the Dean his offences. To the old dowager they did not mention his name, and she probably forgot his existence; but the Marquis appeared to live with him on terms of perfect friendship, and the sisters succumbed to the circumstances and allowed themselves to talk to him as though he were in truth the father of the reigning Marchioness.
It will be understood that for forty-eight hours before the birth of the child and for forty-eight hours afterwards all Manor Cross was moved in the matter, as though this were the first male child born into the world since the installation of some new golden age. It was a great thing that, after all the recent troubles, a Popenjoy,—a proper Popenjoy,—should be born at Manor Cross of English parents,—a healthy boy,—a bouncing little lord, as Mrs. Toff called him; and the event almost justified the prophetic spirit in which his grandmother spoke of this new advent. "Little angel!" she said. "I know he'll grow up to bring new honours to the family, and do as much for it as his great-grandfather." The great-grandfather spoken of had been an earl, great in borough-mongery, and had been made a marquis by Pitt on the score of his votes. "George," she went on to say, "I do hope there will be bells and bonfires, and that the tenants will be allowed to see him." There were bells and bonfires. But in these days tenants are perhaps busier men than formerly, and have less in them certainly of the spirit of heir-worship than their fathers. But Mr. Price, with his bride, did come down and see the baby; on which occasion the gallant husband bade his wife remember that although they had been married more than twelve months after Lord George, their baby would only be three months younger. Whereupon Mrs. Price boxed her husband's ears,—to the great delight of Mrs. Toff, who was dispensing sherry and cherry brandy in her own sitting-room.
The Dean's joy, though less ecstatic in its expression, was quite as deep and quite as triumphant as that of the Marchioness. When he was admitted for a moment to his daughter's bedside, the tears rolled down his face as he prayed for a blessing for her and her baby. Lady Sarah was in the room, and began to doubt whether she had read the man's character aright. There was an ineffable tenderness about him, a sweetness of manners, a low melody of voice, a gracious solemnity in which piety seemed to be mingled with his love and happiness! That he was an affectionate father had been always known; but now it had to be confessed that he bore himself as though he had sprung from some noble family or been the son and grandson of archbishops. How it would have been with him on such an occasion had his daughter married some vicar of Pugsty, as she had herself once suggested, Lady Sarah did not now stop to enquire. It was reasonable to Lady Sarah that the coming of a Popenjoy should be hailed with greater joy and receive a warmer welcome than the birth of any ordinary baby. "You have had a good deal to bear, Brotherton," he said, holding his noble son-in-law by the hand; "but I think that this will compensate for it all." The tears were still in his eyes, and they were true tears,—tears of most unaffected joy. He had seen the happy day; and as he told himself in words which would have been profane had they been absolutely uttered, he was now ready to die in peace. Not that he meant to die, or thought that he should die. That vision of young Popenjoy, bright as a star, beautiful as a young Apollo, with all the golden glories of the aristocracy upon his head, standing up in the House of Commons and speaking to the world at large with modest but assured eloquence, while he himself occupied some corner in the gallery, was still before his eyes.
After all, who shall say that the man was selfish? He was contented to shine with a reflected honour. Though he was wealthy, he never desired grand doings at the deanery. In his own habits he was simple. The happiness of his life had been to see his daughter happy. His very soul had smiled within him when she had smiled in his presence. But he had been subject to one weakness, which had marred a manliness which would otherwise have been great. He, who should have been proud of the lowliness of his birth, and have known that the brightest feather in his cap was the fact that having been humbly born he had made himself what he was,—he had never ceased to be ashamed of the stable-yard. And as he felt himself to be degraded by that from which he had sprung, so did he think that the only whitewash against such dirt was to be found in the aggrandisement of his daughter and the nobility of her children. He had, perhaps, been happier than he deserved. He might have sold her to some lord who would have scorned her after a while and despised himself. As it was, the Marquis, who was his son-in-law, was a man whom upon the whole he could well trust. Lord George had indeed made one little error in regard to Mrs. Houghton; but that had passed away and would not probably be repeated.
Of all those closely concerned in the coming of Popenjoy the father seemed to bear the greatness of the occasion with the most modesty. When the Dean congratulated him he simply smiled and expressed a hope that Mary would do well in her troubles. Poor Mary's welfare had hitherto been almost lost in the solicitude for her son. "She can't but do well now," said the Dean, who of all men was the most sanguine. "She is thoroughly healthy, and nothing has been amiss."
"We must be very careful—that's all," said the Marquis. Hitherto he had not brought his tongue to speak of his son as Popenjoy, and did not do so for many a day to come. That an heir had been born was very well; but of late the name of Popenjoy had not been sweet to his ears.
Nothing had gone amiss, and nothing did go amiss. When it was decided that the young Marchioness was to nurse her own baby,—a matter which Mary took into her own hands with a very high tone,—the old Marchioness became again a little troublesome. She had her memories about it all in her own time; how she had not been able to do as Mary was doing. She remembered all that, and how unhappy it had made her; but she remembered also that, had she done so for Popenjoy, Sir Henry would have insisted on three pints of porter. Then Mary rebelled altogether, and talked of drinking nothing but tea,—and would not be brought to consent even to bitter beer without a great deal of trouble. But, through it all, the mother throve and the baby throve; and when the bonfires had been all burned and the bells had been all rung, and the child had been shown to such tenants and adherents and workmen as desired to see him, the family settled down to a feeling of permanent satisfaction.
And then came the christening. Now in spite of the permanent satisfaction there were troubles,—troubles of which the Marquis became conscious very soon, and which he was bound to communicate to his sister,—troubles of which the Dean was unfortunately cognisant, and of which he would speak and with which he would concern him,—much to the annoyance of the Marquis. The will which the late man had made was a serious temporary embarrassment. There was no money with which to do anything. The very bed on which the mother lay with her baby belonged to Jack De Baron. They were absolutely drinking Jack De Baron's port wine, and found, when the matter came to be considered, that they were making butter from Jack De Baron's cows. This could not be long endured. Jack, who was now bound to have a lawyer of his own, had very speedily signified his desire that the family should be put to no inconvenience, and had declared that any suggestion from the Marquis as to the house in town or that in the country would be a law to him. But it was necessary that everything should be valued at once, and either purchased or given up to be sold to those who would purchase it. There was, however, no money, and the Marquis who hated the idea of borrowing was told that he must go among the money-lenders. Then the Dean proposed that he and Miss Tallowax between them might be able to advance what was needed. The Marquis shook his head and said nothing. The proposition had been very distasteful to him.
Then there came another proposition. But it will be right in the first place to explain that the great question of godfather and godmother had received much attention. His Royal Highness the Duke of Windsor had signified through young Lord Brabazon that he would stand as one of the sponsors. The honour had been very great, and had of course been accepted at the moment. The Dean had hankered much after the office, but had abstained from asking with a feeling that should the request be refused a coolness would be engendered which he himself would be unable to repress. It would have filled him with delight to stand in his own cathedral as godfather to the little Popenjoy; but he abstained, and soon heard that the Duke of Dunstable, who was a distant cousin, was to be the colleague of His Royal Highness. He smiled and said nothing of himself,—but thought that his liberality might have been more liberally remembered.
Just at this time Miss Tallowax arrived at the deanery, and on the next morning the Dean came over to Manor Cross with a proposition from that lady. She would bestow twenty thousand pounds immediately upon Popenjoy, and place it for instant use in the father's hands, on condition that she might be allowed to stand as godmother!
"We could not consent to accept the money," said the Marquis very gravely.
"Why not? Mary is her nearest living relative in that generation. As a matter of course, she will leave her money to Mary or her children,—unless she be offended. Nothing is so common as for old people with liberal hearts to give away the money which they must soon leave behind them. A more generous creature than my old aunt doesn't live."
"Very generous; but I am afraid we cannot accept it."
"After all, it is only an empty honour. I would not ask it for myself because I knew how you might be situated. But I really think you might gratify the old lady. Twenty thousand pounds is an important sum, and would be so useful just at present!"
This was true, but the father at the moment declined. The Dean, however, who knew his man, determined that the money should not be lost, and communicated with Mr. Knox. Mr. Knox came down to Manor Cross and held a long consultation at which both the Dean and Lady Sarah were present. "Let it be granted," said the Dean, "that it is a foolish request; but are you justified in refusing twenty thousand pounds offered to Popenjoy?"
"Certainly," said Lady Sarah, "if the twenty thousand pounds is a bribe."
"But it is no bribe, Lady Sarah," said Mr. Knox. "It is not unreasonable that Miss Tallowax should give her money to her great-nephew, nor is it unreasonable that she should ask for this honour, seeing that she is the child's great-aunt." There was a strong opposition to Miss Tallowax's liberal offer,—but in the end it was accepted. The twenty thousand pounds was important, and, after all, the godmother could do no lasting injury to the child. Then it was discovered that the offer was clogged with a further stipulation. The boy must be christened Tallowax! To this father and mother and aunts all objected, swearing that they would not subject their young Popenjoy to so great an injury,—till it was ascertained that the old lady did not insist on Tallowax as a first name, or even as a second. It would suffice that Tallowax should be inserted among others. It was at last decided that the boy should be christened Frederic Augustus Tallowax. Thus he became Frederic Augustus Tallowax Germain,—commonly to be called, by the Queen's courtesy, Lord Popenjoy. The christening itself was not very august, as neither the Royal Duke nor his fellow attended in person. The Dean stood proxy for the one, and Canon Holdenough for the other.
Mary by this time was able to leave her room, and was urgent with her husband to take her up to London. Had she not been very good, and done all that she was told,—except in regard to the porter? And was it not manifest to everybody that she would be able to travel to St. Petersburg and back if such a journey were required? Her husband assured her that she would be knocked up before she got half-way. "But London isn't a tenth part of the distance," said Mary, with a woman's logic. Then it was settled that on May 20th she should be taken with her baby to Munster Court. The following are a few of the letters of congratulation which she received during the period of her convalescence.
"MY DEAR MARCHIONESS,—Of course I have heard all about you from time to time, and of course I have been delighted. In the first place, we none of us could grieve very much for that unfortunate brother of yours. Really it was so very much better for everybody that Lord George should have the title and property,—not to talk of all the advantage which the world expects from a young and fascinating Lady Brotherton. I am told that the scaffolding is already up in St. James' Square. I drove through the place the other day, and bethought myself how long it might be before I should receive the honour of a card telling me that on such and such a day the Marchioness of Brotherton would be at home. I should not suggest such a thing but for a dearly kind expression in your last letter.
"But the baby of course is the first object. Pray tell me what sort of a baby it is. Two arms and two legs, I know, for even a young Lord Popenjoy is not allowed to have more; but of his special graces you might send me a catalogue, if you have as yet been allowed pen and paper. I can believe that a good deal of mild tyranny would go on with those estimable sisters, and that Lord George would be anxious. I beg his pardon,—the Marquis. Don't you find this second change in your name very perplexing,—particularly in regard to your linen? All your nice wedding things will have become wrong so soon!
"And now I can impart a secret. There are promises of a little Giblet. Of course it is premature to speak with certainty; but why shouldn't there be a little Giblet as well as a little Popenjoy? Only it won't be a Giblet as long as dear old Lord Gossling can keep the gout out of his stomach. They say that in anger at his son's marriage he has forsworn champagne and confines himself to two bottles of claret a-day. But Giblet, who is the happiest young man of my acquaintance, says that his wife is worth it all.
"And so our friend the Captain is a millionaire! What will he do? Wasn't it an odd will? I couldn't be altogether sorry, for I have a little corner in my heart for the Captain, and would have left him something myself if I had anything to leave. I really think he had better marry his old love. I like justice, and that would be just. He would do it to-morrow if you told him. It might take me a month of hard work. How much is it he gets? I hear such various sums,—from a hundred thousand down to as many hundreds. Nevertheless, the will proves the man to have been mad,—as I always said he was.
"I suppose you'll come to Munster Court till the house in the square be finished. Or will you take some furnished place for a month or two? Munster Court is small; but it was very pretty, and I hope I may see it again.
"Kiss the little Popenjoy for me, and believe me to be,
"Dear Lady Brotherton,
"Your affectionate old friend,
"G. MONTACUTE JONES."
The next was from their friend the Captain himself.
"DEAR LADY BROTHERTON,—I hope it won't be wrong in me to congratulate you on the birth of your baby. I do so with all my heart. I hope that some day, when I am an old fogy, I may be allowed to know him and remind him that in old days I used to know his mother. I was down at Manor Cross the other day; but of course on such an occasion I could not see you. I was sent for because of that strange will; but it was more strange to me that I should so soon find myself in your house. It was not very bright on that occasion.
"I wonder who was surprised most by the will,—you or I?" Mary, when she read this, declared to herself that she ought not to have been surprised at all. How could anyone be surprised by what such a man as that might do?
"He had never seen me, as far as I know, till he met me at Rudham. I did not want his money,—though I was poor enough. I don't know what I shall do now; but I shan't go to Perim.
"Mrs. Jones says you will soon be in town. I hope I may be allowed to call.
"Believe me always,
"Most sincerely yours,
"JOHN DE BARON."
Both those letters gave her pleasure, and both she answered. To all Mrs. Jones' enquiries she gave very full replies, and enjoyed her jokes with her old friend. She hinted that she did not at all intend to hurry the men at St. James' Square, and that certainly she would be found in Munster Court till the men had completed their work. As to what their young friend would do with his money she could say nothing. She could not undertake the commission,—though perhaps that might be best,—and so on. Her note to Jack was very short. She thanked him heartily for his good wishes, and told him the day on which she would be in Munster Court. Then in a postscript she said that she was "very, very glad" that he had inherited the late lord's money.
The other letter offended her as much as those two had pleased her. It offended her so much that when she saw the handwriting she would not have read it but that curiosity forbade her to put it on one side. It was from Adelaide Houghton, and as she opened it there was a sparkle of anger in her eyes which perhaps none of her friends had ever seen there. This letter was as follows;—
"DEAR LADY BROTHERTON,—Will you not at length allow bygones to be bygones? What can a poor woman do more than beg pardon and promise never to be naughty again. Is it worth while that we who have known each other so long should quarrel about what really amounted to nothing? It was but a little foolish romance, the echo of a past feeling,—a folly if you will, but innocent. I own my fault and put on the sackcloth and ashes of confession, and, after that, surely you will give me absolution.
"And now, having made my apology, which I trust will be accepted, pray let me congratulate you on all your happiness. The death of your poor brother-in-law of course we have all expected. Mr. Houghton had heard a month before that it was impossible that he should live. Of course, we all feel that the property has fallen into much better hands. And I am so glad that you have a boy. Dear little Popenjoy! Do, do forgive me, so that I may have an opportunity of kissing him. I am, at any rate,
"Your affectionate old friend,
Affectionate old friend! Serpent! Toad! Nasty degraded painted Jezebel! Forgive her! No,—never; not though she were on her knees! She was contemptible before, but doubly contemptible in that she could humble herself to make an apology so false, so feeble, and so fawning. It was thus that she regarded her correspondent's letter. Could any woman who knew that love-letters had been written to her husband by another woman forgive that other? We are all conscious of trespassers against ourselves whom we especially bar when we say our prayers. Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them who trespass against us,—excepting Jones who has committed the one sin that we will not forgive, that we ought not to forgive. Is there not that sin against the Holy Ghost to justify us? This was the sin that Mary could not forgive. The disgusting woman,—for to Mary the woman was now absolutely disgusting,—had attempted to take from her the heart of her husband! There was a good deal of evidence also against her husband, but that she had quite forgotten. She did not in the least believe that Adelaide was preferred to herself. Her husband had eyes, and could see,—a heart, and could feel,—an understanding, and could perceive. She was not in the least afraid as to her husband. But nothing on earth should induce her to forgive Mrs. Houghton. She thought for a moment whether it was worth her while to show the letter to the Marquis, and then tore it into fragments and threw the pieces away.
It is now only necessary that we should collect together the few loose threads of our story which require to be tied lest the pieces should become unravelled in the wear. Of our hero, Lord Popenjoy, it need only be said that when we last heard of him he was a very healthy and rather mischievous boy of five years old, who tyrannised over his two little sisters,—the Lady Mary and the Lady Sarah. Those, however, who look most closely to his character think that they can see the germs of that future success which his grandfather so earnestly desires for him. His mother is quite sure that he will live to be Prime Minister, and has already begun to train him for that office. The house in Munster Court has of course been left, and the Marchioness was on one occasion roused into avowing that the family mansion is preferable. But then the family mansion has been so changed that no Germain of a former generation would know it. The old Dowager who still lives at Manor Cross has never seen the change, but Lady Sarah, who always spends a month or two in town, pretends to disbelieve that it is the same house. One of the events in Mary's life which astonishes her most is the perfect friendship which exists between her and her eldest sister-in-law. She corresponds regularly with Lady Sarah, and is quite content to have her letters filled with the many ailments and scanty comforts of the poor people on the estate. Lady Sarah is more than content to be able to love the mother of the heir, and she does love her, and the boy too, with all her heart. Now that there is a Popenjoy,—a coming Brotherton, of whom she can be proud, she finds nothing in her own life with which she ought to quarrel. The Ladies Susanna and Amelia also come up to town every year, very greatly to their satisfaction, and are most devoted to the young Marchioness. But the one guest who is honoured above all others in St. James' Square, for whose comfort everything is made to give way, whom not to treat with loving respect is to secure a banishment from the house, whom all the servants are made to regard as a second master, is the Dean. His lines have certainly fallen to him in pleasant places. No woman in London is more courted and more popular than the Marchioness of Brotherton, and consequently the Dean spends his two months in London very comfortably. But perhaps the happiest period of his life is the return visit which his daughter always makes to him for a fortnight during the winter. At this period the Marquis will generally pass a couple of days at the deanery, but for the greater part of the time the father and daughter are alone together. Then he almost worships her. Up in London he allows himself to be worshipped with an exquisite grace. To Mrs. Houghton the Marchioness has never spoken, and on that subject she is inexorable. Friends have interceded, but such intercession has only made matters worse. Of what nature must the woman be who could speak to any friend of such an offence as she had committed? The Marchioness, in refusing to be reconciled, has never alluded to the cause of her anger, but has shown her anger plainly and has persistently refused to abandon it.
The Marquis has become a model member of the House of Lords. He is present at all their sittings, and is indefatigably patient on Committees,—but very rarely speaks. In this way he is gradually gaining weight in the country, and when his hair is quite grey and his step less firm than at present, he will be an authority in Parliament. He is also a pattern landlord, listening to all complaints, and endeavouring in everything to do justice between himself and those who are dependent on him. He is also a pattern father, expecting great things from Popenjoy, and resolving that the child shall be subjected to proper discipline as soon as he is transferred from feminine to virile teaching. In the meantime the Marchioness reigns supreme in the nursery,—as it is proper that she should do.
The husband now never feels himself called upon to remind his wife to support her dignity. Since the dancing of the Kappa-kappa she has never danced, except when on grand occasions she has walked through a quadrille with some selected partner of special rank; and this she does simply as a duty. Nevertheless, in society she is very gay and very joyous. But dancing has been a peril to her, and she avoids it altogether, pleading to such friends as Mrs. Jones that a woman with a lot of babies is out of place capering about a room. Mrs. Jones remembers the Kappa-kappa and says little or nothing on the subject, but she heartily dissents from her friend, and still hopes that there may be a good time coming. The Marquis remembers it all, too, and is thoroughly thankful to his wife, showing his gratitude every now and then by suggesting that Captain and Mrs. De Baron may be asked to dinner. He knows that there is much for which he has to be grateful. Though the name of Mrs. Houghton is never on his tongue, he has not forgotten the way in which he went astray in Berkeley Square,—nor the sweet reticence of his wife, who has never thrown his fault in his teeth since that day on which, at his bidding, she took the letter from his pocket and read it. No man in London is better satisfied with his wife than the Marquis, and perhaps no man in London has better cause to be satisfied.
Yes! Captain De Baron—and his wife—do occasionally dine together in St. James' Square. Whether it was that Mrs. Montacute Jones was successful in her efforts, or that Guss was enabled to found arguments on Jack's wealth which Jack was unable to oppose, or that a sense of what was due to the lady prevailed with him at last, he did marry her about a twelvemonth after the reading of the will. When the Marchioness came to town,—before Popenjoy was born,—he called, and was allowed to see her. Nothing could be more respectful than was his demeanour then, nor than it had been ever since; and when he announced to his friend, as he did in person, that he was about to be married to Miss Mildmay, she congratulated him with warmth, not saying a word as to past occurrences. But she determined that she would ever be his friend, and for his sake she has become friendly also to his wife. She never really liked poor Guss,—nor perhaps does the Captain. But there have been no quarrels, at any rate, no public quarrels, and Jack has done his duty in a manner that rather surprised his old acquaintances. But he is a much altered man, and is growing fat, and has taken to playing whist at his club before dinner for shilling points. I have always thought that in his heart of hearts he regrets the legacy.
Whether to spite his son, or at the urgent entreaty of his wife and doctors, Lord Gossling has of late been so careful, that the gout has not had a chance of getting into his stomach. Lord Giblet professes himself to be perfectly satisfied with things as they are. He has already four children. He lives in a small house in Green Street, and is a member of the Entomological Society. He is so strict in his attendance that it is thought that he will some day be president. But the old lord does not like this turn in his son's life, and says that the family of De Geese must be going to the dogs when the heir has nothing better to do than to attend to insects.
Mrs. Montacute Jones gives as many parties as ever in Grosvenor Place, and is never so well pleased as when she can get the Marchioness of Brotherton to her house. She is still engaged in matrimonial pursuits, and is at the present moment full of an idea that the minister from Saxony, who is a fine old gentleman of sixty, but a bachelor, may be got to marry Lady Amelia Germain. Mary assures her that there isn't the least chance,—that Amelia would certainly not accept him,—and that an old German of sixty, used to diplomacy all his life, is the last man in the world to be led into difficulties. But Mrs. Jones never gives way in such matters, and has already made the plans for a campaign at Killancodlem next August.
I regret to state that Messrs. Snape and Cashett have persecuted the poor Baroness most cruelly. They have contrived to show that the lady has not only got into their debt, but has also swindled them,—swindled them according to law,—and consequently they have been able to set all the police of the continent on her track. She had no sooner shown her face back in Germany, than they were upon her. For a while she escaped, rushing from one country to another, but at last she was arrested on a platform in Oregon, and is soon about to stand her trial in an English Court. As a good deal of sympathy has been expressed in her favour, and as Mr. Philogunac Coelebs has taken upon himself the expense of her defence, it is confidently hoped in many quarters that no jury will convict her. In the meantime, Dr. Fleabody has, I am told, married a store-keeper in New York, and has settled down into a good mother of a family.
At Manor Cross during the greater portion of the year things go on very much as they used. The Marchioness is still living, and interests herself chiefly in the children of her daughter-in-law,—born, and to be born. But the great days of her life are those in which Popenjoy is brought to her. The young scapegrace will never stay above five minutes with his grandmother, but the old lady is sure that she is regarded by him with a love passing the love of children. At Christmas time, and for a week or two before, and a month or two afterwards, the house is full of company and bright with unaccustomed lights. Lady Sarah puts on her newest silk, and the Marchioness allows herself to be brought into the drawing-room after dinner. But at the end of February the young family flits to town, and then the Manor Cross is as Manor Cross so long has been.
Mr. Price still hunts, and is as popular in the country as ever. He often boasts that although he was married much after the Marquis, the youngest of his three children is older than Lady Mary. But when he does this at home, his ears are always boxed for him.
Of Mr. Groschut it is only necessary to say that he is still at Pugsty, vexing the souls of his parishioners by Sabbatical denunciations.
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Inconsistent hyphenation "a-head" / "ahead", "farm-house" / "farmhouse", "fire-place" / "fireplace", "grand-daughter" / "granddaughter", "high-spirited" / "highspirited", "ill-natured" / "illnatured", "note-paper" / "notepaper", "play-fellow" / "playfellow", "half-a-dozen" / "half a dozen", and "cock-and-bull" / "cock and bull" has been retained. Inconsistent capitalization of "Marchioness" has also been retained as has the use of "grey" and "gray".
The following minor typographical corrections were made:
- Changed single quote to double after "MINISTER" on cover page. - Capitalized "he" in "He is thirty" on page 8. - Changed period to comma after "said" on page 16. - "Sarahs" changed to "Sarah" on page 25. - End quote added after "Italy" on page 28. - Original reads "ill-dawn" instead of "ill-drawn" on page 29. - Quotation mark added before "when Brotherton came of age" on page 29. - Original reads "andj" instead of "and" on page 33. - Comma changed to period here after "closely" on page 48. - Period added after "family" on page 46. - Second "made" removed on page 60. - End quote added after "quarrel" on page 64. - End quote added after "cousin" on page 74. - End quote added after "once" on page 82. - End quote added after "boy" on page 83. - Quotation mark added before "She would draw" on page 107. - Removed second "was" on page 116. - Double quote added before "We have been" on page 131. - Original reads "de" instead of "he" on page 134. - End quote added after "Sarah Germain" on page 135. - Single quote changed to double after "duties." on page 137. - Second "a" deleted on page 141. - Original reads "intercouse" instead of "intercourse" on page 142. - Original reads "musn't" instead of "mustn't" on page 149. - Comma removed after "Lord George" on page 154. - Single quote changed to double before "Ah" on page 187. - Quotation added before "I feel like" on page 192. - Comma changed to period after "undone" on page 193. - End quote added after "George," on page 193. - Period changed to a comma after "it" on page 199. - End quote added after "matter?" on page 218. - End quote added after "ball." On page 223. - On page 237, I have used blockquoted text similar to that used elsewhere in the text for correspondence. - New paragraph added before "B" on page 237. - Period added after "herself" on page 253. - Original reads "Dont" instead of "Don't" on page 258. - Quotation mark removed from before "What" on page 293. - End quote added after "happy." On page 295. - Double quotes changed to single around "B." on page 301. - Quotation mark added before "and unsay" on page 311. - Comma changed to period after "Lord" on page 334. - Original reads "dul" instead of "dull" on page 343. - Period added after "out" on page 348. - Original shows "s" instead of "is" on page 359. - End quote added after "parish," on page 375. - Quotation mark removed from before "It had been" on page 376. - New paragraph added before "He had never" on page 416.