"Pray,—pray don't let there be a quarrel."
"Of course not. But the other night he lost his head, and treated you badly. You and I are quite willing to forgive and forget all that. Any man may do a foolish thing, and men are to be judged by general results rather than single acts."
"He is very kind to me—generally."
"Just so; and I am not angry with him in the least. But after what occurred it would be wrong that you should go away at once. You felt it yourself at the moment."
"But anything would be better than quarrelling, papa."
"Almost anything would be better than a lasting quarrel with your husband; but the best way to avoid that is to show him that you know how to be firm in such an emergency as this." She was, of course, compelled by her father's presence and her father's strength to remain in town, but she did so longing every hour to pack up and be off to Cross Hall. She had very often doubted whether she could love her husband as a husband ought to be loved, but now, in her present trouble, she felt sure of her own heart. She had never been really on bad terms with him before since their marriage, and the very fact of their separation increased her tenderness to him in a wonderful degree. She answered his letter with Language full of love and promises and submission, loaded with little phrases of feminine worship, merely adding that papa thought she had better stay in town till the end of the month. There was not a word of reproach in it. She did not allude to his harsh conduct at the ball, nor did she write the name of Mrs. Houghton.
Her father was very urgent with her to see all her friends, to keep any engagements previously made, to be seen at the play, and to let all the world know by her conduct that she was not oppressed by what had taken place. There was some intention of having the Kappa-kappa danced again, as far as possible by the same people. Lord Giblet was to retire in favour of some more expert performer, but the others were supposed to be all worthy of an encore. But of course there arose a question as to Lady George. There could be no doubt that Lord George had disapproved very strongly of the Kappa-kappa. The matter got to the Dean's ears, and the Dean counselled his daughter to join the party yet again. "What would he say, papa?" The Dean was of opinion that in such case Lord George would say and do much less than he had said and done before. According to his views, Lord George must be taught that his wife had her privileges as well as he his. This fresh difficulty dissolved itself because the second performance was fixed for a day after that on which it had been long known that Lady George was to leave London; and even the Dean did not propose that she should remain in town after that date with a direct view to the Kappa-kappa.
She was astonished at the zeal with which he insisted that she should go out into the gay world. He almost ridiculed her when she spoke of economy in her dress, and seemed to think that it was her duty to be a woman of fashion. He still spoke to her from time to time of the Popenjoy question, always asserting his conviction that, whatever the Marquis might think, even if he were himself deceived through ignorance of the law, the child would be at last held to be illegitimate. "They tell me, too," he said, "that his life is not worth a year's purchase."
"Poor little boy!"
"Of course, if he had been born as the son of the Marquis of Brotherton ought to be born, nobody would wish him anything but good."
"I don't wish him anything but good," said Mary.
"But as it is," continued the Dean, apparently not observing his daughter's remark, "everybody must feel that it would be better for the family that he should be out of the way. Nobody can think that such a child can live to do honour to the British peerage."
"He might be well brought up."
"He wouldn't be well brought up. He has an Italian mother and Italian belongings, and everything around him as bad as it can be. But the question at last is one of right. He was clearly born when his mother was reputed to be the wife, not of his father, but of another man. That cock-and-bull story which we have heard may be true. It is possible. But I could not rest in my bed if I did not persevere in ascertaining the truth." The Dean did persevere, and was very constant in his visits to Mr. Battle's office. At this time Miss Tallowax came up to town, and she also stayed for a day or two in Munster Court. What passed between the Dean and his aunt on the subject Mary, of course, did not hear; but she soon found that Miss Tallowax was as eager as her father, and she learned that Miss Tallowax had declared that the inquiry should not languish from want of funds. Miss Tallowax was quite alive to the glory of the Brotherton connection.
As the month drew to an end Mary, of course, called on all her London friends. Her father was always eager to know whom she saw, and whether any allusion was made by any of them to the scene at the ball. But there was one person, who had been a friend, on whom she did not call, and this omission was observed by the Dean. "Don't you ever see Mrs. Houghton now?" he asked.
"No, papa," said Mary, with prompt decision.
"I don't like her."
"Why don't you like her? You used to be friends. Have you quarrelled?"
"Yes; I have quarrelled with her."
"What did she do?" Mary was silent. "Is it a secret?"
"Yes, papa; it is a secret. I would rather you would not ask. But she is a nasty vile creature, and I will never speak to her again."
"That is strong language, Mary."
"It is. And now that I have said that, pray don't talk about her any more."
The Dean was discreet, and did not talk about Mrs. Houghton any more; but he set his mind to work to guess, and guessed something near the truth. Of course he knew that his son-in-law had professed at one time to love this lady when she had been Miss De Baron, and he had been able to see that subsequently to that they had been intimate friends. "I don't think, my dear," he said, laughing, "that you can be jealous of her attractions."
"I am not in the least jealous of her, papa. I don't know anyone that I think so ugly. She is a nasty made-up thing. But pray don't talk about her anymore." Then the Dean almost knew that Mary had discovered something, and was too noble to tell a story against her husband.
The day but one before she was to leave town Mrs. Montacute Jones came to her. She had seen her kind old friend once or twice since the catastrophe at the ball, but always in the presence of other persons. Now they were alone together. "Well, my dear," said Mrs. Jones, "I hope you have enjoyed your short season. We have all been very fond of you."
"You have been very kind to me, Mrs. Jones."
"I do my best to make young people pleasant, my dear. You ought to have liked it all, for I don't know anybody who has been so much admired. His Royal Highness said the other night that you were the handsomest woman in London."
"His Royal Highness is an old fool," said Mary, laughing.
"He is generally thought to be a very good judge in that matter. You are going to keep the house, are you not?"
"Oh, yes; I think there is a lease."
"I am glad of that. It is a nice little house, and I should be sorry to think that you are not coming back."
"We are always to live here half the year, I believe," said Mary. "That was agreed when we married, and that's why I go away now."
"Lord George, I suppose, likes the country best?"
"I think he does. I don't, Mrs. Jones."
"They are both very well in their way, my dear. I am a wicked old woman, who like to have everything gay. I never go out of town till everything is over, and I never come up till everything begins. We have a nice place down in Scotland, and you must come and see me there some autumn. And then we go to Rome. It's a pleasant way of living, though we have to move about so much."
"It must cost a great deal of money?"
"Well, yes. One can't drive four-in-hand so cheap as a pair. Mr. Jones has a large income." This was the first direct intimation Mary had ever received that there was a Mr. Jones. "But we weren't always rich. When I was your age I hadn't nearly so nice a house as you. Indeed, I hadn't a house at all, for I wasn't married, and was thinking whether I would take or reject a young barrister of the name of Smith, who had nothing a year to support me on. You see I never got among the aristocratic names, as you have done."
"I don't care a bit about that."
"But I do. I like Germains, and Talbots, and Howards, and so does everybody else, only so many people tell lies about it. I like having lords in my drawing-room. They look handsomer and talk better than other men. That's my experience. And you are pretty nearly sure with them that you won't find you have got somebody quite wrong."
"I know a lord," said Mary, "who isn't very right. That is, I don't know him, for I never saw him."
"You mean your wicked brother-in-law. I should like to know him of all things. He'd be quite an attraction. I suppose he knows how to behave like a gentleman?"
"I'm not so sure of that. He was very rough to papa."
"Ah;—yes. I think we can understand that, my dear. Your father hasn't made himself exactly pleasant to the Marquis. Not that I say he's wrong. I think it was a pity, because everybody says that the little Lord Popenjoy will die. You were talking of me and my glories, but long before you are my age you will be much more glorious. You will make a charming Marchioness."
"I never think about it, Mrs. Jones; and I wish papa didn't. Why shouldn't the little boy live? I could be quite happy enough as I am if people would only be good to me and let me alone."
"Have I distressed you?" asked the old woman.
"Oh, dear no;—not you."
"You mean what happened at my house the other night?"
"I didn't mean anything particular, Mrs. Jones. But I do think that people sometimes are very ill-natured."
"I think, you know, that was Lord George's doing. He shouldn't have taken you off so suddenly. It wasn't your fault that the stupid man tripped. I suppose he doesn't like Captain De Baron?"
"Don't talk about it, Mrs. Jones."
"Only that I know the world so well that what I say might, perhaps, be of use. Of course I know that he has gone out of town."
"Yes, he has gone."
"I was so glad that you didn't go with him. People will talk, you know, and it did look as though he were a sort of Bluebeard. Bluebeards, my dear, must be put down. There may be most well-intentioned Bluebeards, who have no chambers of horrors, no secrets,"—Mary thought of the letter from Mrs. Houghton, of which nobody knew but herself,—"who never cut off anybody's heads, but still interfere dreadfully with the comfort of a household. Lord George is very nearly all that a man ought to be."
"He is the best man in the world," said Mary.
"I am sure you think so. But he shouldn't be jealous, and above all he shouldn't show that he's jealous. You were bound, I think, to stay behind and show the world that you had nothing to fear. I suppose the Dean counselled it?"
"Fathers of married daughters shouldn't often interfere, but there I think he was right. It is much better for Lord George himself that it should be so. There is nothing so damaging to a young woman as to have it supposed she has had to be withdrawn from the influence of a young man."
"It would be wicked of anybody to think so," said Mary, sobbing.
"But they must have thought so if you hadn't remained. You may be sure, my dear, that your father was quite right. I am sorry that you cannot make one in the dance again, because we shall have changed Lord Giblet for Lord Augustus Grandison, and I am sure it will be done very well. But of course I couldn't ask you to stay for it. As your departure was fixed beforehand you ought not to stay for it. But that is very different from being taken away in a jiffey, like some young man who is spending more than he ought to spend, and is hurried off suddenly nobody knows where."
Mary, when Mrs. Jones had left the house, found that upon the whole she was thankful to her friend for what had been said. It pained her to hear her husband described as a jealous Bluebeard; but the fact of his jealousy had been so apparent, that in any conversation on the matter intended to be useful so much had to be acknowledged. She, however, had taken the strong course of trusting to her father rather than to her husband, and she was glad to find that her conduct and her father's conduct were approved by so competent a judge as Mrs. Montacute Jones. And throughout the whole interview there had been an air of kindness which Mary had well understood. The old lady had intended to be useful, and her intentions were accepted.
On the next morning, soon after breakfast, the Dean received a note which puzzled him much, and for an hour or two left him in doubt as to what he would do respecting it,—whether he would comply with, or refuse to comply with, the request made in it. At first he said nothing of the letter to his daughter. He had, as she was aware, intended to go to Lincoln's Inn early in the day, but he sat thinking over something, instead of leaving the house, till at last he went to Mary and put the letter into her hands. "That," said he, "is one of the most unexpected communications I ever had in my life, and one which it is most difficult to answer. Just read it." The letter, which was very short, was as follows:—
"The Marquis of Brotherton presents his compliments to the Dean of Brotherton, and begs to say that he thinks that some good might now be done by a personal interview. Perhaps the Dean will not object to call on the Marquis here at some hour after two o'clock to-morrow.
"29th June, 187—."
"But we go to-morrow," said Mary.
"Ah;—he means to-day. The note was written last night. I have been thinking about it, and I think I shall go."
"Have you written to him?"
"There is no need. A man who sends to me a summons to come to him so immediately as that has no right to expect an answer. He does not mean anything honest."
"Then why do you go?"
"I don't choose to appear to be afraid to meet him. Everything that I do is done above board. I rather imagine that he doesn't expect me to come; but I will not let him have to say that he had asked me and that I had refused. I shall go."
"Oh, papa, what will he say to you?"
"I don't think he can eat me, my dear; nor will he dare even to murder me. I daresay he would if he could."
And so it was decided; and at the hour appointed the Dean sallied forth to keep the appointment.
The Dean as he walked across the park towards Albemarle Street had many misgivings. He did not at all believe that the Marquis entertained friendly relations in regard to him, or even such neutral relations as would admit of the ordinary courtesies of civilized life. He made up his mind that he would be insulted,—unless indeed he should be so cowed as to give way to the Marquis. But, that he himself thought to be impossible. The more he reflected about it, the more assured he became that the Marquis had not expected him to obey the summons. It was possible that something might be gained on the other side by his refusal to see the elder brother of his son-in-law. He might, by refusing, leave it open to his enemies to say that he had rejected an overture to peace, and he now regarded as his enemies almost the entire Germain family. His own son-in-law would in future, he thought, be as much opposed to him as the head of the family. The old Marchioness, he knew, sincerely believed in Popenjoy. And the daughters, though they had at first been very strong in their aversion to the foreign mother and the foreign boy, were now averse to him also, on other grounds. Of course Lord George would complain of his wife at Cross Hall. Of course the story of the Kappa-kappa would be told in a manner that would horrify those three ladies. The husband would of course be indignant at his wife's disobedience in not having left London when ordered by him to do so. He had promised not to foster a quarrel between Mary and Lord George, but he thought it by no means improbable that circumstances would for a time render it expedient that his daughter should live at the deanery, while Lord George remained at Cross Hall. As to nothing was he more fully resolved than this,—that he would not allow the slightest blame to be attributed to his daughter, without repudiating and resenting the imputation. Any word against her conduct, should such word reach his ears even through herself, he would resent, and it would go hard with him, but he would exceed such accusations by recriminations. He would let them know, that if they intended to fight, he also could fight. He had never uttered a word as to his own liberality in regard to money, but he had thought of it much. Theirs was the rank, and the rank was a great thing in his eyes; but his was at present the wealth; and wealth, he thought was as powerful as rank. He was determined that his daughter should be a Marchioness, and in pursuit of that object he was willing to spend his money;—but he intended to let those among whom he spent it know that he was not to be set on one side, as a mere parson out of the country, who happened to have a good income of his own.
It was in this spirit,—a spirit of absolute pugnacity,—that he asked for the Marquis at Scumberg's hotel. Yes;—the Marquis was at home, and the servant would see if his master could be seen. "I fancy that I have an appointment with him," said the Dean, as he gave his card. "I am rather hurried, and if he can't see me perhaps you'll let me know at once." The man soon returned, and with much condescension told the Dean that his lordship would see him. "That is kind, as his lordship told me to come," said the Dean to himself, but still loud enough for the servant to hear him. "His Lordship will be with you in a few minutes," said the man, as he shut the door of the sitting room.
"I shall be gone if he's not here in a very few minutes," said the Dean, unable to restrain himself.
And he very nearly did go before the Marquis came to him. He had already walked to the rug with the object of ringing the bell, and had then decided on giving the lord two minutes more, resolving also that he would speak his mind to the lord about this delay, should the lord make his appearance before the two minutes were over. The time had just expired when his lordship did make his appearance. He came shuffling into the room after a servant, who walked before him with the pretence of carrying books and a box of papers. It had all been arranged, the Marquis knowing that he would secure the first word by having his own servant in the room. "I am very much obliged to you for coming, Mr. Dean," he said. "Pray sit down. I should have been here to receive you if you had sent me a line."
"I only got your note this morning," said the Dean angrily.
"I thought that perhaps you might have sent a message. It doesn't signify in the least. I never go out till after this, but had you named a time I should have been here to receive you. That will do, John,—shut the door. Very cold,—don't you think it."
"I have walked, my lord, and am warm."
"I never walk,—never could walk. I don't know why it is, but my legs won't walk."
"Perhaps you never tried."
"Yes, I have. They wanted to make me walk in Switzerland twenty years ago, but I broke down after the first mile. George used to walk like the very d——. You see more of him now than I do. Does he go on walking?"
"He is an active man."
"Just that. He ought to have been a country letter-carrier. He would have been as punctual as the sun, and has quite all the necessary intellect."
"You sent for me, Lord Brotherton——"
"Yes; yes. I had something that I thought I might as well say to you, though, upon my word, I almost forget what it was."
"Then I may as well take my leave."
"Don't do that. You see, Mr. Dean, belonging to the church militant as you do, you are so heroically pugnacious! You must like fighting very much."
"When I have anything which I conceive it to be my duty to fight for, I think I do."
"Things are generally best got without fighting. You want to make your grandson Marquis of Brotherton."
"I want to ensure to my grandson anything that may be honestly and truly his own."
"You must first catch a grandson."
It was on his lips to say that certainly no heir should be caught on his side of the family after the fashion that had been practised by his lordship in catching the present pseudo-Popenjoy; but he was restrained by a feeling of delicacy in regard to his own daughter. "My lord," he said, "I am not here to discuss any such contingency."
"But you don't scruple to discuss my contingency, and that in the most public manner. It has suited me, or at any rate it has been my chance, to marry a foreigner. Because you don't understand Italian fashions you don't scruple to say that she is not my wife."
"I have never said so."
"And to declare that my son is not my son."
"I have never said that."
"And to set a dozen attorneys to work to prove that my heir is a bastard."
"We heard of your marriage, my lord, as having been fixed for a certain date,—a date long subsequent to that of the birth of your son. What were we to think?"
"As if that hadn't been explained to you, and to all the world, a dozen times over. Did you never hear of a second marriage being solemnized in England to satisfy certain scruples? You have sent out and made your inquiries, and what have they come to? I know all about it."
"As far as I am concerned you are quite welcome to know everything."
"I dare say;—even though I should be stung to death by the knowledge. Of course I understand. You think that I have no feeling at all."
"Not much as to duty to your family, certainly," said the Dean, stoutly.
"Exactly. Because I stand a little in the way of your new ambition, I am the Devil himself. And yet you and those who have abetted you think it odd that I haven't received you with open arms. My boy is as much to me as ever was your daughter to you."
"Perhaps so, my lord. The question is not whether he is beloved, but whether he is Lord Popenjoy."
"He is Lord Popenjoy. He is a poor weakling, and I doubt whether he may enjoy the triumph long, but he is Lord Popenjoy. You must know it yourself, Dean."
"I know nothing of the kind," said the Dean, furiously.
"Then you must be a very self-willed man. When this began George was joined with you in the unnatural inquiry. He at any rate has been convinced."
"It may be he has submitted himself to his brother's influence."
"Not in the least. George is not very clever, but he has at any rate had wit enough to submit to the influence of his own legal adviser,—or rather to the influence of your legal adviser. Your own man, Mr. Battle, is convinced. You are going on with this in opposition even to him. What the devil is it you want? I am not dead, and may outlive at any rate you. Your girl hasn't got a child, and doesn't seem likely to have one. You happen to have married her into a noble family, and now, upon my word, it seems to me that you are a little off your head with downright pride."
"Was it for this you sent for me?"
"Well;—yes it was. I thought it might be as well to argue it out. It isn't likely that there should be much love between us, but we needn't cut each other's throats. It is costing us both a d——d lot of money; but I should think that my purse must be longer than yours."
"We will try it, my lord."
"You intend to go on with this persecution then?"
"The Countess Luigi was presumably a married woman when she bore that name, and I look upon it as a sacred duty to ascertain whether she was so or not."
"Sacred!" said the Marquis, with a sneer.
"Yes;—sacred. There can be no more sacred duty than that which a father owes to his child."
"Ah!" Then the Marquis paused and looked at the Dean before he went on speaking. He looked so long that the Dean was preparing to take his hat in his hand ready for a start. He showed that he was going to move, and then the Marquis went on speaking. "Sacred! Ah!—and such a child!"
"She is one of whom I am proud as a father, and you should be proud as a sister-in-law."
"Oh, of course. So I am. The Germains were never so honoured before. As for her birth I care nothing about that. Had she behaved herself, I should have thought nothing of the stable."
"What do you dare to say?" said the Dean, jumping from his seat.
The Marquis sat leaning back in his arm-chair, perfectly motionless. There was a smile,—almost a pleasant smile on his face. But there was a very devil in his eye, and the Dean, who stood some six feet removed from him, saw the devil plainly. "I live a solitary life here, Mr. Dean," said the Marquis, "but even I have heard of her."
"What have you heard?"
"All London have heard of her,—this future Marchioness, whose ambition is to drive my son from his title and estates. A sacred duty, Mr. Dean, to put a coronet on the head of that young ——!" The word which we have not dared to print was distinctly spoken,—more distinctly, more loudly, more incisively, than any word which had yet fallen from the man's lips. It was evident that the lord had prepared the word, and had sent for the father that the father might hear the word applied to his own daughter,—unless indeed he should first acknowledge himself to have lost his case. So far the interview had been carried out very much in accordance with the preparations as arranged by the Marquis; but, as to what followed, the Marquis had hardly made his calculations correctly.
A clergyman's coat used to save him from fighting in fighting days; and even in these days, in which broils and personal encounters are held to be generally disreputable, it saves the wearer from certain remote dangers to which other men are liable. And the reverse of this is also true. It would probably be hard to extract a first blow from the whole bench of bishops. And deans as a rule are more sedentary, more quiescent, more given to sufferance even than bishops. The normal Dean is a goodly, sleek, bookish man, who would hardly strike a blow under any provocation. The Marquis, perhaps, had been aware of this. He had, perhaps, fancied that he was as good a man as the Dean who was at least ten years his senior. He had not at any rate anticipated such speedy violence as followed the utterance of the abominable word.
The Dean, as I have said, had been standing about six feet from the easy chair in which the Marquis was lolling when the word was spoken. He had already taken his hat in his hand and had thought of some means of showing his indignation as he left the room. Now his first impulse was to rid himself of his hat, which he did by pitching it along the floor. And then in an instant he was at the lord's throat. The lord had expected it so little that up to the last he made no preparation for defence. The Dean had got him by his cravat and shirt-collar before he had begun to expect such usage as this. Then he simply gurgled out some ejaculated oath, uttered half in surprise and half in prayer. Prayer certainly was now of no use. Had five hundred feet of rock been there the Marquis would have gone down it, though the Dean had gone with him. Fire flashed from the clergyman's eyes, and his teeth were set fast and his very nostrils were almost ablaze. His daughter! The holy spot of his life! The one being in whom he believed with all his heart and with all his strength!
The Dean was fifty years of age, but no one had ever taken him for an old man. They who at home at Brotherton would watch his motions, how he walked and how he rode on horseback, how he would vault his gates when in the fields, and scamper across the country like a schoolboy, were wont to say that he was unclerical. Perhaps Canons Pountner and Holdenough, with Mr. Groschut, the bishop's chaplain, envied him something of his juvenile elasticity. But I think that none of them had given him credit for such strength as he now displayed. The Marquis, in spite of what feeble efforts he made, was dragged up out of his chair and made to stand, or rather to totter, on his legs. He made a clutch at the bell-rope, which to aid his luxurious ease had been brought close to his hand as he sat, but failed, as the Dean shook him hither and thither. Then he was dragged on to the middle of the rug, feeling by this time that he was going to be throttled. He attempted to throw himself down, and would have done so but that the Dean with his left hand prevented him from falling. He made one vigorous struggle to free himself, striving as he did so to call for assistance. But the Dean having got his victim's back to the fireplace, and having the poor wretch now fully at his command, threw the man with all his strength into the empty grate. The Marquis fell like a heap within the fender, with his back against the top bar and his head driven further back against the bricks and iron. There for a second or two he lay like a dead mass.
Less than a minute had done it all, and for so long a time the Dean's ungoverned fury had held its fire. What were consequences to him with that word as applied to his child ringing in his ears? How should he moderate his wrath under such outrage as that? Was it not as though beast had met beast in the forest between whom nothing but internecine fight to the end was possible? But when that minute was over, and he saw what he had done,—when the man, tumbled, dishevelled, all alump and already bloody, was lying before him,—then he remembered who he was himself and what it was that he had done. He was Dean Lovelace, who had already made for himself more than enough of clerical enmity; and this other man was the Marquis of Brotherton, whom he had perhaps killed in his wrath, with no witness by to say a word as to the provocation he had received.
The Marquis groaned and impotently moved an arm as though to raise himself. At any rate, he was not dead as yet. With a desire to do what was right now, the Dean rang the bell violently, and then stooped down to extricate his foe. He had succeeded in raising the man and in seating him on the floor with his head against the arm-chair before the servant came. Had he wished to conceal anything, he could without much increased effort have dragged the Marquis up into his chair; but he was anxious now simply that all the truth should be known. It seemed to him still that no one knowing the real truth would think that he had done wrong. His child! His daughter! His sweetly innocent daughter! The man soon rushed into the room, for the ringing of the bell had been very violent. "Send for a doctor," said the Dean, "and send the landlord up."
"Has my lord had a fit?" said the man, advancing into the room. He was the servant, not of the hotel, but of the Marquis himself.
"Do as I bid you;—get a doctor and send up the landlord immediately. It is not a fit, but his lordship has been much hurt. I knocked him down." The Dean made the last statement slowly and firmly, under a feeling at the moment that it became him to leave nothing concealed, even with a servant.
"He has murdered me," groaned the Marquis. The injured one could speak at least, and there was comfort in that. The servant rushed back to the regions below, and the tidings were soon spread through the house. Resident landlord there was none. There never are resident landlords in London hotels. Scumberg was a young family of joint heirs and heiresses, named Tomkins, who lived at Hastings, and the house was managed by Mrs. Walker. Mrs. Walker was soon in the room, with a German deputy manager kept to maintain the foreign Scumberg connection, and with them sundry waiters and the head chambermaid. Mrs. Walker made a direct attack upon the Dean, which was considerably weakened by accusations from the lips of the Marquis himself. Had he remained speechless for a while the horrors of the Dean's conduct would have been greatly aggravated. "My good woman," said the Dean, "wait till some official is here. You cannot understand. And get a little warm water and wash his lordship's head."
"He has broken my back," said his lordship. "Oh, oh, oh."
"I am glad to hear you speak, Lord Brotherton," said the Dean. "I think you will repent having used such a word as that to my daughter." It would be necessary now that everybody should understand everything; but how terrible would it be for the father even to say that such a name had been applied to his child!
First there came two policemen, then a surgeon, and then a sergeant. "I will do anything that you suggest, Mr. Constable," said the Dean, "though I hope it may not be necessary that I should remain in custody. I am the Dean of Brotherton." The sergeant made a sign of putting his finger up to his cap. "This, man, as you know, is the Marquis of Brotherton." The sergeant bowed to the groaning nobleman. "My daughter is married to his brother. There have been family quarrels, and he just now applied a name to his own sister-in-law, to my child,—which I will not utter because there are women here. Fouler slander never came from a man's mouth. I took him from his chair and threw him beneath the grate. Now you know it all. Were it to do again, I would do it again."
"She is a ——," said the imprudent prostrate Marquis. The sergeant, the doctor who was now present, and Mrs. Walker suddenly became the Dean's friends. The Marquis was declared to be much shaken, to have a cut head, and to be very badly bruised about the muscles of the back. But a man who could so speak of his sister-in-law deserved to have his head cut and his muscles bruised. Nevertheless the matter was too serious to be passed over without notice. The doctor could not say that the unfortunate nobleman had received no permanent injury;—and the sergeant had not an opportunity of dealing with deans and marquises every day of his life. The doctor remained with his august patient and had him put to bed, while the Dean and the sergeant together went off in a cab to the police-office which lies in the little crowded streets between the crooked part of Regent Street and Piccadilly. Here depositions were taken and forms filled, and the Dean was allowed to depart with an understanding that he was to be forthcoming immediately when wanted. He suggested that it had been his intention to go down to Brotherton on the following day, but the Superintendent of Police recommended him to abandon that idea. The superintendent thought that the Dean had better make arrangements to stay in London till the end of the week.
The Dean had a great deal to think of as he walked home a little too late for his daughter's usual dinner hour. What should he tell her;—and what should he do as to communicating or not communicating tidings of the day's work to Lord George? Of course everybody must know what had been done sooner or later. He would have had no objection to that,—providing the truth could be told accurately,—except as to the mention of his daughter's name in the same sentence with that abominable word. But the word would surely be known, and the facts would not be told with accuracy unless he told them himself. His only, but his fully sufficient defence was in the word. But who would know the tone? Who would understand the look of the man's eye and the smile on his mouth? Who could be made to conceive, as the Dean himself had conceived, the aggravated injury of the premeditated slander? He would certainly write and tell Lord George everything. But to his daughter he thought that he would tell as little as possible. Might God in his mercy save her ears, her sacred feelings, her pure heart from the wound of that word! He felt that she was dearer to him than ever she had been,—that he would give up deanery and everything if he could save her by doing so. But he felt that if she were to be sacrificed in the contest, he would give up deanery and everything in avenging her.
But something must be told to her. He at any rate must remain in town, and it would be very desirable that she should stay with him. If she went alone she would at once be taken to Cross Hall; and he could understand that the recent occurrence would not add to the serenity of her life there. The name that had been applied to her, together with the late folly of which her husband had been guilty, would give those Manor Cross dragons,—as the Dean was apt in his own thoughts to call the Ladies Germain—a tremendous hold over her. And should she be once at Cross Hall he would hardly be able to get her back to the deanery.
He hurried up to dress as soon as he reached the house, with a word of apology as to being late, and then found her in the drawing room.
"Papa," she said, "I do like Mrs. Montacute Jones."
"So do I, my dear, because she is good-humoured."
"But she is so good-natured also! She has been here again to-day and wants me and George to go down to Scotland in August. I should so like it."
"What will George say?"
"Of course he won't go; and of course I shan't. But that doesn't make it the less good-natured. She wishes all her set to think that what happened the other night doesn't mean anything."
"I'm afraid he won't consent."
"I know he won't. He wouldn't know what to do with himself. He hates a house full of people. And now tell me what the Marquis said." But dinner was announced, and the Dean was not forced to answer this question immediately.
"Now, papa," she said again, as soon as the coffee was brought and the servant was gone, "do tell me what my most noble brother-in-law wanted to say to you?"
That he certainly would not tell. "Your brother-in-law, my dear, behaved about as badly as a man could behave."
"Oh, dear! I am so sorry!"
"We have to be sorry,—both of us. And your husband will be sorry." He was so serious that she hardly knew how to speak to him. "I cannot tell you everything; but he insulted me, and I was forced to—strike him."
"Strike him! Oh, papa!"
"Bear with me, Mary. In all things I think well of you, and do you try to think well of me."
"Dear papa! I will. I do. I always did."
"Anything he might have said of myself I could have borne. He could have applied no epithet to me which, I think, could even have ruffled me. But he spoke evil of you." While he was sitting there he made up his mind that he would tell her as much as that, though he had before almost resolved that he would not speak to her of herself. But she must hear something of the truth, and better that she should hear it from his than from other lips. She turned very pale, but did not immediately make any reply. "Then I was full of wrath," he continued. "I did not even attempt to control myself; but I took him by the throat and flung him violently to the ground. He fell upon the grate, and it may be that he has been hurt. Had the fall killed him he would have deserved it. He had courage to wound a father in his tenderest part, only because that father was a clergyman. His belief in a black coat will, I think, be a little weakened by what occurred to-day."
"What will be done?" she asked, whispering.
"Heaven only knows. But I can't go out of town to-morrow. I shall write to George to-night and tell him everything that has occurred, and shall beg that you may be allowed to stay with me for the few days that will be necessary."
"Of course I will not leave you."
"It is not that. But I do not want you to go to Cross Hall quite at present. If you went without me they would not let you come to the deanery. Of course there will be a great commotion at Cross Hall. Of course they will condemn me. Many will condemn me, as it will be impossible to make the world believe the exact truth."
"I will never condemn you," she said. Then she came over and threw herself on her knees at his feet, and embraced him. "But, papa, what did the man say of me?"
"Not what he believed;—but what he thought would give me the greatest anguish. Never mind. Do not ask any more questions. You also had better write to your husband, and you can tell him fully all that I have told you. If you will write to-night I will do so also, and I will take care that they shall have our letters to-morrow afternoon. We must send a message to say that we shall not be at the deanery to-morrow." The two letters to Lord George were both written that night, and were both very long. They told the same story, though in a different tone. The Dean was by no means apologetic, but was very full and very true. When he came to the odious word he could not write it, but he made it very clear without writing. Would not the husband feel as he the father had felt in regard to his young wife, the sweet pure girl of whose love and possession he ought to be so proud? How would any brother be forgiven who had assailed such a treasure as this;—much less such a brother as this Marquis? Perhaps Lord George might think it right to come up. The Dean would of course ask at the hotel on the following day, and would go to the police office. He believed, he said, that no permanent injury had been done. Then came, perhaps, the pith of his letter. He trusted that Lord George would agree with him in thinking that Mary had better remain with him in town during the two or three days of his necessarily prolonged sojourn. This was put in the form of a request; but was put in a manner intended to show that the request if not granted would be enforced. The Dean was fully determined that Mary should not at once go down to Cross Hall.
Her letter was supplicatory, spasmodic, full of sorrow, and full of love. She was quite sure that her dear papa would have done nothing that he ought not to have done; but yet she was very sorry for the Marquis, because of his mother and sisters, and because of her dear, dear George. Could he not run up to them and hear all about it from papa? If the Marquis had said ill-natured things of her it was very cruel, because nobody loved her husband better than she loved her dear, dear George,—and so on. The letters were then sent under cover to the housekeeper at the deanery, with orders to send them on by private messenger to Cross Hall.
On the following day the Dean went to Scumberg's, but could not learn much there. The Marquis had been very bad, and had had one and another doctor with him almost continually; but Mrs. Walker could not take upon herself to say that "it was dangerous." She thought it was "in'ard." Mrs. Walkers always do think that it is "in'ard" when there is nothing palpable outward. At any rate his lordship had not been out of bed and had taken nothing but tapioca and brandy. There was very little more than this to be learned at the police court. The case might be serious, but the superintendent hoped otherwise. The superintendent did not think that the Dean should go down quite to-morrow. The morrow was Friday; but he suggested Saturday as possible, Monday as almost certain. It may be as well to say here that the Dean did not call at the police court again, and heard nothing further from the officers of the law respecting the occurrence at Scumberg's. On the Friday he called again at Scumberg's, and the Marquis was still in bed. His "in'ards" had not ceased to be matter of anxiety to Mrs. Walker; but the surgeon, whom the Dean now saw, declared that the muscles of the nobleman's back were more deserving of sympathy. The surgeon, with a gravity that almost indicated offence, expressed his opinion that the Marquis's back had received an injury which—which might be—very injurious.
Lord George when he received the letters was thrown into a state of mind that almost distracted him. During the last week or two the animosity felt at Cross Hall against the Marquis had been greatly weakened. A feeling had come upon the family that after all Popenjoy was Popenjoy; and that, although the natal circumstances of such a Popenjoy were doubtless unfortunate for the family generally, still, as an injury had been done to the Marquis by the suspicion, those circumstances ought now to be in a measure forgiven. The Marquis was the head of the family, and a family will forgive much to its head when that head is a Marquis. As we know the Dowager had been in his favour from the first, Lord George had lately given way and had undergone a certain amount of reconciliation with his brother. Lady Amelia had seceded to her mother, as had also Mrs. Toff, the old housekeeper. Lady Susanna was wavering, having had her mind biased by the objectionable conduct of the Dean and his daughter. Lady Sarah was more stanch. Lady Sarah had never yet given way; she never did give way; and, in her very heart, she was the best friend that Mary had among the ladies of the family. But when her brother gave up the contest she felt that further immediate action was impossible. Things were in this state at Cross Hall when Lord George received the two letters. He did not wish to think well of the Dean just at present, and was horrified at the idea of a clergyman knocking a Marquis into the fire-place. But the word indicated was very plain, and that word had been applied to his own wife. Or, perhaps, no such word had really been used. Perhaps the Dean had craftily saved himself from an absolute lie, and in his attempt to defend the violence of his conduct had brought an accusation against the Marquis, which was in its essence, untrue. Lord George was quite alive to the duty of defending his wife; but in doing so he was no longer anxious to maintain affectionate terms with his wife's father. She had been very foolish. All the world had admitted as much. He had seen it with his own eyes at that wretched ball. She had suffered her name to be joined with that of a stranger in a manner derogatory to her husband's honour. It was hardly surprising that his brother should have spoken of her conduct in disparaging terms;—but he did not believe that his brother had used that special term. Personal violence;—blows and struggling, and that on the part of a Dean of the Church of England, and violence such as this seemed to have been,—violence that might have killed the man attacked, seemed to him to be in any case unpardonable. He certainly could not live on terms of friendship with the Dean immediately after such a deed. His wife must be taken away and secluded, and purified by a long course of Germain asceticism.
But what must he do now at once? He felt that it was his duty to hurry up to London, but he could not bring himself to live in the same house with the Dean. His wife must be taken away from her father. However bad may have been the language used by the Marquis, however indefensible, he could not allow himself even to seem to keep up affectionate relations with the man who had half slaughtered his brother. He too thought of what the world would say, he too felt that such an affair, after having become known to the police, would be soon known to every one else. But what must he do at once? He had not as yet made up his mind as to this when he took his place at the Brotherton Railway Station on the morning after he had received the letters.
But on reaching the station in London he had so far made up his mind as to have his portmanteau taken to the hotel close at hand, and then to go to Munster Court. He had hoped to find his wife alone; but on his arrival the Dean was there also. "Oh, George," she said, "I am so glad you have come; where are your things?" He explained that he had no things, that he had come up only for a short time, and had left his luggage at the station. "But you will stay here to-night?" asked Mary, in despair.
Lord George hesitated, and the Dean at once saw how it was. "You will not go back to Brotherton to-day," he said. Now, at this moment the Dean had to settle in his mind the great question whether it would be best for his girl that she should be separated from her husband or from her father. In giving him his due it must be acknowledged that he considered only what might in truth be best for her. If she were now taken away from him there would be no prospect of recovery. After all that had passed, after Lord George's submission to his brother, the Dean was sure that he would be held in abhorrence by the whole Germain family. Mary would be secluded and trodden on, and reduced to pale submission by all the dragons till her life would be miserable. Lord George himself would be prone enough to domineer in such circumstances. And then that ill word which had been spoken, and which could only be effectually burned out of the thoughts of people by a front to the world at the same time innocent and bold, would stick to her for ever if she were carried away into obscurity.
But the Dean knew as well as others know how great is the evil of a separation, and how specially detrimental such a step would be to a young wife. Than a permanent separation anything would be better; better even that she should be secluded and maligned, and even, for a while, trodden under foot. Were such separation to take place his girl would have been altogether sacrificed, and her life's happiness brought to shipwreck. But then a permanent separation was not probable. She had done nothing wrong. The husband and wife did in truth love each other dearly. The Marquis would be soon gone, and then Lord George would return to his old habits of thought and his old allegiance. Upon the whole the Dean thought it best that his present influence should be used in taking his daughter to the deanery.
"I should like to return quite early to-morrow," said Lord George, very gravely, "unless my brother's condition should make it impossible."
"I trust you won't find your brother much the worse for what has happened," said the Dean.
"But you will sleep here to-night," repeated Mary.
"I will come for you the first thing in the morning," said Lord George in the same funereal voice.
"I shall probably have to be a good deal with my brother during the afternoon. But I will be here again in the afternoon. You can be at home at five, and you can get your things ready for going to-morrow."
"Won't you dine here?"
"I think not."
Then there was silence for a minute. Mary was completely astounded. Lord George wished to say nothing further in the presence of his father-in-law. The Dean was thinking how he would begin to use his influence. "I trust you will not take Mary away to-morrow."
"I trust not. I must ask you to hear me say a few words about this."
"I must insist on her coming with me to-morrow, even though I should have to return to London myself afterwards."
"Mary," said her father, "leave us for a moment." Then Mary retired, with a very saddened air. "Do you understand, George, what it was that your brother said to me?"
"I suppose so," he answered, hoarsely.
"Then, no doubt, I may take it for granted that you approve of the violence of my resentment? To me as a clergyman, and as a man past middle life, the position was very trying. But had I been an Archbishop, tottering on the grave with years, I must have endeavoured to do the same." This he said with great energy. "Tell me, George, that you think that I was right."
But George had not heard the word, had not seen the man's face. And then, though he would have gone to a desert island with his wife, had such exile been necessary for her protection, he did believe that she had misconducted herself. Had he not seen her whirling round the room with that man after she had been warned against him. "It cannot be right to murder a man," he said at last.
"You do not thank me then for vindicating your honour and your wife's innocence?"
"I do not think that that was the way. The way is to take her home."
"Yes;—to her old home,—to the deanery for a while; so that the world, which will no doubt hear the malignant epithet applied to her by your wicked brother, may know that both her husband and her father support her. You had promised to come to the deanery."
"We cannot do that now."
"Do you mean that after what has passed you will take your brother's part?"
"I will take my wife to Cross Hall," he said, leaving the room and following Mary up to her chamber.
"What am I to do, papa?" she said when she came down about half-an-hour afterwards. Lord George had then started to Scumberg's, saying that he would come to Munster Court again before dinner, but telling her plainly that he would not sit down to dine with her father, "He has determined to quarrel with you."
"It will only be for a time, dearest."
"But what shall I do?"
Now came the peril of the answer. He was sure, almost sure, that she would in this emergency rely rather upon him than on her husband, if he were firm; but should he be firm as against the husband, how great would be his responsibility! "I think, my dear," he said, at last, "that you should go with me to Brotherton."
"But he will not let me."
"I think that you should insist on his promise."
"Don't make us quarrel, papa."
"Certainly not. Anything would be better than a permanent quarrel. But, after what has been said, after the foul lies that have been told, I think that you should assert your purpose of staying for awhile with your father. Were you now to go to Cross Hall there would be no limit to their tyranny." He left her without a word more, and calling at Scumberg's Hotel was told that the Marquis could not move.
At that moment Lord George was with his brother, and the Marquis could talk though he could not move. "A precious family you've married into, George," he said, almost as soon as his brother was in the room. Then he gave his own version of the affair, leaving his brother in doubt as to the exact language that had been used. "He ought to have been a coal-heaver instead of a clergyman," said the Marquis.
"Of course he would be angry," said Lord George.
"Nothing astonishes me so much," said the Marquis, "as the way in which you fellows here think you may say whatever comes into your head about my wife, because she is an Italian, and you seem to be quite surprised if I object; yet you rage like wild beasts if the compliment is returned. Why am I to think better of your wife than you of mine?"
"I have said nothing against your wife, Brotherton."
"By ——, I think you have said a great deal,—and with much less reason than I have. What did you do yourself when you found her struggling in that fellow's arms at the old woman's party?" Some good-natured friend had told the Marquis the whole story of the Kappa-kappa. "You can't be deaf to what all the world is saying of her." This was wormwood to the wretched husband, and yet he could not answer with angry, self-reliant indignation, while his brother was lying almost motionless before him.
Lord George found that he could do nothing at Scumberg's Hotel. He was assured that his brother was not in danger, and that the chief injury done was to the muscles of his back, which bruised and lacerated as they were, would gradually recover such elasticity as they had ever possessed. But other words were said and other hints expressed, all of which tended to increase his animosity against the Dean, and almost to engender anger against his wife. To himself, personally, except in regard to his wife, his brother had not been ungracious. The Marquis intended to return to Italy as soon as he could. He hated England and everything in it. Manor Cross would very soon be at Lord George's disposal, "though I do hope," said the Marquis, "that the lady who has condescended to make me her brother-in-law, will never reign paramount there." By degrees there crept on Lord George's mind a feeling that his brother looked to a permanent separation,—something like a repudiation. Over and over again he spoke of Mary as though she had disgraced herself utterly; and when Lord George defended his wife, the lord only smiled and sneered.
The effect upon Lord George was to make him very imperious as he walked back to Munster Court. He could not repudiate his wife, but he would take her away with a very high hand. Crossing the Green Park, at the back of Arlington Street, whom should he meet but Mrs. Houghton with her cousin Jack. He raised his hat, but could not stop a moment. Mrs. Houghton made an attempt to arrest him,—but he escaped without a word and went on very quickly. His wife had behaved generously about Mrs. Houghton. The sight of the woman brought that truth to his mind. He was aware of that. But no generosity on the part of the wife, no love, no temper, no virtue, no piety can be accepted by Caesar as weighing a grain in counterpoise against even suspicion.
He found his wife and asked her whether her things were being packed. "I cannot go to-morrow," she said.
"No, George;—not to Cross Hall. I will go to the deanery. You promised to go to the deanery."
"I will not go to the deanery. I will go to Cross Hall." There was an hour of it, but during the entire hour, the young wife persisted obstinately that she would not be taken to Cross Hall. "She had," she said, "been very badly treated by her husband's family." "Not by me," shouted the husband. She went on to say that nothing could now really put her right but the joint love of her father and her husband. Were she at Cross Hall her father could do nothing for her. She would not go to Cross Hall. Nothing short of policemen should take her to Cross Hall to-morrow.
"He is looking awfully cut up," Mrs. Houghton said to her cousin.
"He is one of the most infernal fools that ever I came across in my life," said Jack.
"I don't see that he is a fool at all,—any more than all men are fools. There isn't one among you is ever able to keep his little troubles to himself. You are not a bit wiser than the rest of them yourself."
"I haven't got any troubles,—of that sort."
"You haven't a wife,—but you'll be forced into having one before long. And when you like another man's wife you can't keep all the world from knowing it."
"All the world may know everything that has taken place between me and Lady George," said Jack. "Of course I like her."
"I should say, rather."
"And so do you."
"No, I don't, sir. I don't like her at all. She is a foolish, meaningless little creature, with nothing to recommend her but a pretty colour. And she has cut me because her husband will come and pour out his sorrow into my ears. For his sake I used to be good to her."
"I think she is the sweetest human being I ever came across in my life," said Jack, enthusiastically.
"Everybody in London knows that you think so,—and that you have told her your thoughts."
"Nobody in London knows anything of the kind. I never said a word to her that her husband mightn't have heard."
"I never did."
"I wonder you are not ashamed to confess such simplicity, even to me."
"I am not a bit ashamed of that, though I am ashamed of having in some sort contributed to do her an injury. Of course I love her."
"Rather,—as I said before."
"Of course you intended that I should."
"I intended that you should amuse yourself. As long as you are good to me, I shall be good to you."
"My dear Adelaide, nobody can be so grateful as I am. But in this matter the thing hasn't gone quite as you intended. You say that she is meaningless."
"Vapid, flabby, childish, and innocent as a baby."
"Innocent I am sure she is. Vapid and flabby she certainly is not. She is full of fun, and is quite as witty as a woman should be."
"You always liked fools, Jack."
"Then how did I come to be so very fond of you." In answer to this she merely made a grimace at him. "I hadn't known her three days," continued he, "before I began to feel how impossible it would be to say anything to her that ought not to be said."
"That is just like the world all over," said Mrs. Houghton. "When a man really falls in love with a woman he always makes her such a goddess that he doesn't dare to speak to her. The effect is that women are obliged to put up with men who ain't in love with them,—either that, or vouchsafe to tell their own little story,—when, lo, they are goddesses no longer."
"I dare say it's very ridiculous," said Jack, in a mooning despondent way. "I dare say I'm not the man I ought to be after the advantages I have had in such friends as you and others."
"If you try to be severe to me, I'll quarrel with you."
"Not severe at all. I'm quite in earnest. A man, and a woman too, have to choose which kind of role shall be played. There is innocence and purity, combined with going to church and seeing that the children's faces are washed. The game is rather slow, but it lasts a long time, and leads to great capacity for digesting your dinner in old age. You and I haven't gone in for that."
"Do you mean to say that I am not innocent?"
"Then there is the Devil with all his works,—which I own are, for the most part, pleasant works to me. I have always had a liking for the Devil."
"Of all the saints going he is certainly the most popular. It is pleasant to ignore the Commandments and enjoy the full liberty of a debauched conscience. But there are attendant evils. It costs money and wears out the constitution."
"I should have thought that you had never felt the latter evil."
"The money goes first, no doubt. This, however, must surely be clear. A man should make up his mind and not shilly-shally between the two."
"I should have thought you had made up your mind very absolutely."
"I thought so, too, Adelaide, till I knew Lady George Germain. I'll tell you what I feel about her now. If I could have any hope that he would die I would put myself into some reformatory to fit myself to be her second husband."
"That is one idea that I have. Another is to cut his throat, and take my chance with the widow. She is simply the only woman I ever saw that I have liked all round."
"You come and tell me this, knowing what I think of her."
"Why shouldn't I tell you? You don't want me to make love to you?"
"But a woman never cares to hear all these praises of another."
"It was you began it, and if I do speak of her I shall tell the truth. There is a freshness as of uncut flowers about her."
"Psha! Worms and grubs!"
"And when she laughs one dreams of a chaste Venus."
"My heavens, Jack! You should publish all that!"
"The dimples on her cheeks are so alluring that I would give my commission to touch them once with my finger. When I first knew her I thought that the time would come when I might touch them. Now I feel that I would not commit such an outrage to save myself from being cashiered."
"Shall I tell you what you ought to do?"
"Just say to her all that you have said to me. You would soon find that her dimples are not more holy than another's."
"You think so."
"Of course I think so. The only thing that puzzles me is that you, Jack De Baron, should be led away to such idolatry. Why should she be different from others? Her father is a money-loving, selfish old reprobate, who was born in a stable. She married the first man that was brought to her, and has never cared for him because he does not laugh, and dance, and enjoy himself after her fashion. I don't suppose she is capable of caring very much for anybody, but she likes you better than any one else. Have you seen her since the row at Mrs. Jones's?"
"You have not been, then?"
"Because I don't think she would wish to see me," said Jack. "All that affair must have troubled her."
"I don't know how that is. She has been in town ever since, and he certainly went down to Brotherton. He has come up, I suppose, in consequence of this row between the Dean and his brother. I wonder what really did happen?"
"They say that there was a scuffle and that the parson had very much the best of it. The police were sent for, and all that kind of thing. I suppose the Marquis said something very rough to him."
"Or he to the Marquis, which is rather more likely. Well,—good-day, Jack." They were now at the house-door in Berkeley Square. "Don't come in, because Houghton will be here." Then the door was opened. "But take my advice, and go and call in Munster Court at once. And, believe me, when you have found out what one woman is, you have found out what most women are. There are no such great differences."
It was then six o'clock, and he knew that in Munster Court they did not dine till near eight. There was still time with a friend so intimate as he was for what is styled a morning call. The words which his cousin had spoken had not turned him,—had not convinced him. Were he again tempted to speak his real mind about this woman,—as he had spoken in very truth his real mind,—he would still express the same opinion. She was to him like a running stream to a man who had long bathed in stagnant waters. But the hideous doctrines which his cousin had preached to him were not without their effect. If she were as other women,—meaning such women as Adelaide Houghton,—or if she were not, why should he not find out the truth? He was well aware that she liked him. She had not scrupled to show him that by many signs. Why should he scruple to say a word that might show him how the wind blew? Then he remembered a few words which he had spoken, but which had been taken so innocently, that they, though they had been meant to be mischievous, had become innocent themselves. Even things impure became pure by contact with her. He was sure, quite sure, that that well-known pupil of Satan, his cousin, was altogether wrong in her judgment. He knew that Adelaide Houghton could not recognise, and could not appreciate, a pure woman. But still,—still it is so poor a thing to miss your plum because you do not dare to shake the tree! It is especially so, if you are known as a professional stealer of plums!
When he got into Piccadilly, he put himself into a cab, and had himself driven to the corner of Munster Court. It was a little street, gloomy to look at, with dingy doors and small houses, but with windows looking into St. James's Park. There was no way through it, so that he who entered it must either make his way into some house, or come back. He walked up to the door, and then taking out his watch, saw that it was half-past six. It was almost too late for calling. And then this thing that he intended to do required more thought than he had given it. Would it not be well for him that there should be something holy, even to him, in spite of that Devil's advocate who had been so powerful with him. So he turned, and walking slowly back towards Parliament Street, got into another cab, and was taken to his club. "It has come out," said Major M'Mickmack to him, immediately on his entrance, "that when the Dean went to see Brotherton at the hotel, Brotherton called Lady George all the bad names he could put his tongue to."
"I dare say. He is blackguard enough for anything," said De Baron.
"Then the old Dean took his lordship in his arms, and pitched him bang into the fireplace. I had it all from the police myself."
"I always liked the Dean."
"They say he is as strong as Hercules," continued M'Mickmack. "But he is to lose his deanery."
"You just ask any of the fellows that know. Fancy a clergyman pitching a Marquis into the fire!"
"Fancy a father not doing so if the Marquis spoke ill of his daughter," said Jack De Baron.
WHAT THE BROTHERTON CLERGYMEN SAID ABOUT IT.
Had Jack knocked at the door and asked for Lady George he certainly would not have seen her. She was enduring at that moment, with almost silent obstinacy, the fierce anger of her indignant husband. "She was sure that it would be bad for her to go to Cross Hall at present, or anywhere among the Germains, while such things were said of her as the Marquis had said." Could Lord George have declared that the Marquis was at war with the family as he had been at war some weeks since, this argument would have fallen to the ground. But he could not do so, and it seemed to be admitted that by going to Cross Hall she was to take part against her father, and so far to take part with the Marquis, who had maligned her. This became her strong point, and as Lord George was not strong in argument, he allowed her to make the most of it. "Surely you wouldn't let me go anywhere," she said, "where such names as that are believed against me?" She had not heard the name, nor had he, and they were in the dark;—but she pleaded her cause well, and appealed again and again to her husband's promise to take her to the deanery. His stronghold was that of marital authority,—authority unbounded, legitimate, and not to be questioned. "But if you commanded me to quarrel with papa?" she asked.
"I have commanded nothing of the kind."
"But if you did?"
"Then you must quarrel with him."
"I couldn't,—and I wouldn't," said she, burying her face upon the arm of the sofa.
At any rate on the next morning she didn't go, nor, indeed, did he come to fetch her, so convinced had he been of the persistency of her obstinacy. But he told her as he left her that if she separated herself from him now, then the separation must be lasting. Her father, however, foreseeing this threat, had told her just the reverse. "He is an obstinate man," the Dean had said, "but he is good and conscientious, and he loves you."
"I hope he loves me."
"I am sure he does. He is not a fickle man. At present he has put himself into his brother's hands, and we must wait till the tide turns. He will learn by degrees to know how unjust he has been."
So it came to pass that Lord George went down to Cross Hall in the morning and that Mary accompanied her father to the deanery the same afternoon. The Dean had already learned that it would be well that he should face his clerical enemies as soon as possible. He had already received a letter worded in friendly terms from the Bishop, asking him whether he would not wish to make some statement as to the occurrence at Scumberg's Hotel which might be made known to the clergymen of the Cathedral. He had replied by saying that he wished to make no such statement, but that on his return to Brotherton he would be very willing to tell the Bishop the whole story if the Bishop wished to hear it. He had been conscious of Mr. Groschut's hand even among the civil phrases which had come from the Bishop himself. "In such a matter," he said in his reply, "I am amenable to the laws of the land, and am not, as I take it, amenable to any other authority." Then he went on to say that for his own satisfaction he should be very glad to tell the story to the Bishop.
The story as it reached Brotherton had, no doubt, given rise to a great deal of scandal and a great deal of amusement. Pountner and Holdenough were to some extent ashamed of their bellicose Dean. There is something ill-mannered, ungentlemanlike, what we now call rowdy, in personal encounters, even among laymen,—and this is of course aggravated when the assailant is a clergyman. And these canons, though they kept up pleasant, social relations with the Dean, were not ill-disposed to make use of so excellent a weapon against a man, who, though coming from a lower order than themselves, was never disposed in any way to yield to them. But the two canons were gentlemen, and as gentlemen were gracious. Though they liked to have the Dean on the hip, they did not want to hurt him sorely when they had gotten him there. They would be contented with certain sly allusions, and only half-expressed triumphs. But Mr. Groschut was confirmed in his opinion that the Dean was altogether unfit for his position,—which, for the interests of the Church, should be filled by some such man as Mr. Groschut himself, by some God-fearing clergyman, not known as a hard rider across country and as a bruiser with his fists. There had been an article in the "Brotherton Church Gazette," in which an anxious hope was expressed that some explanation would be given of the very incredible tidings which had unfortunately reached Brotherton. Then Mr. Groschut had spoken a word in season to the Bishop. Of course he said it could not be true; but would it not be well that the Dean should be invited to make his own statement? It was Mr. Groschut who had himself used the word "incredible" in the article. Mr. Groschut, in speaking to the Bishop, said that the tidings must be untrue. And yet he believed and rejoiced in believing every word of them. He was a pious man, and did not know that he was lying. He was an anxious Christian, and did not know that he was doing his best to injure an enemy behind his back. He hated the Dean;—but he thought that he loved him. He was sure that the Dean would go to some unpleasant place, and gloried in the certainty; but he thought that he was most anxious for the salvation of the Dean's soul. "I think your Lordship owes it to him to offer him the opportunity," said Mr. Groschut.
The Bishop, too, was what we call a severe man;—but his severity was used chiefly against himself. He was severe in his principles; but, knowing the world better than his chaplain, was aware how much latitude it was necessary that he should allow in dealing with men. And in his heart of hearts he had a liking for the Dean. Whenever there were any tiffs the Dean could take a blow and give a blow, and then think no more about it. This, which was a virtue in the eyes of the Bishop, was no virtue at all to Mr. Groschut, who hated to be hit himself and wished to think that his own blows were fatal. In urging the matter with the bishop, Mr. Groschut expressed an opinion that, if this story were unfortunately true, the Dean should cease to be Dean. He thought that the Dean must see this himself. "I am given to understand that he was absolutely in custody of the police," said Mr. Groschut. The Bishop was annoyed by his chaplain; but still he wrote the letter.
On the very morning of his arrival in Brotherton the Dean went to the palace. "Well, my lord," said the Dean, "you have heard this cock and bull story."
"I have heard a story," said the Bishop. He was an old man, very tall and very thin, looking as though he had crushed out of himself all taste for the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, but singularly urbane in his manner, with an old-fashioned politeness. He smiled as he invited the Dean to a seat, and then expressed a hope that nobody had been much hurt. "Very serious injuries have been spoken of here, but I know well how rumour magnifies these things."
"Had I killed him, my lord, I should have been neither more nor less to blame than I am now, for I certainly endeavoured to do my worst to him." The Bishop's face assumed a look of pain and wonder. "When I had the miscreant in my hands I did not pause to measure the weight of my indignation. He told me, me a father, that my child was ——." He had risen from his chair, and as he pronounced the word, stood looking into the Bishop's eyes. "If there be purity on earth, sweet feminine modesty, playfulness devoid of guile, absolute freedom from any stain of leprosy, they are to be found with my girl."
"Yes! yes; I am sure of that."
"She is my worldly treasure. I have none other. I desire none other. I had wounded this man by certain steps which I have taken in reference to his family;—and then, that he might wound me in return, he did not scruple, to use that word to his own sister-in-law, to my daughter. Was that a time to consider whether a clergyman may be justified in putting out his strength? No; my lord. Old as you are you would have attempted it yourself. I took him up and smote him, and it is not my fault if he is not a cripple for life." The Bishop gazed at him speechlessly, but felt quite sure that it was not in his power to rebuke his fellow clergyman. "Now, my lord," continued the Dean, "you have heard the story. I tell it to you, and I shall tell it to no one else. I tell it you, not because you are the bishop of this diocese, and I, the Dean of this Cathedral,—and as such I am in such a matter by no means subject to your lordship's authority;—but, because of all my neighbours you are the most respected, and I would wish that the truth should be known to some one." Then he ceased, neither enjoining secrecy, or expressing any wish that the story should be correctly told to others.
"He must be a cruel man," said the Bishop.
"No, my lord;—he is no man at all. He is a degraded animal unfortunately placed almost above penalties by his wealth and rank. I am glad to think that he has at last encountered some little punishment, though I could wish that the use of the scourge had fallen into other hands than mine." Then he took his leave, and as he went the Bishop was very gracious to him.
"I am almost inclined to think he was justified," said the Bishop to Mr. Groschut.
"Justified, my lord! The Dean;—in striking the Marquis of Brotherton, and then falling into the hands of the police!"
"I know nothing about the police."
"May I ask your lordship what was his account of the transaction."
"I cannot give it you. I simply say that I think that he was justified." Then Mr. Groschut expressed his opinion to Mrs. Groschut that the Bishop was getting old,—very old indeed. Mr. Groschut was almost afraid that no good could be done in the diocese till a firmer and a younger man sat in the seat.
The main facts of the story came to the knowledge of the canons, though I doubt whether the Bishop ever told all that was told to him. Some few hard words were said. Canon Pountner made a remark in the Dean's hearing about the Church militant, which drew forth from the Dean an allusion to the rites of Bacchus, which the canon only half understood. And Dr. Holdenough asked the Dean whether there had not been some little trouble between him and the Marquis. "I am afraid you have been a little hard upon my noble brother-in-law," said the Doctor. To which the Dean replied that the Doctor should teach his noble brother-in-law better manners. But, upon the whole, the Dean held his own well, and was as carefully waited upon to his seat by the vergers as though there had been no scene at Scumberg's Hotel.
For a time no doubt there was a hope on the part of Mr. Groschut and his adherents that there would be some further police interference;—that the Marquis would bring an action, or that the magistrates would demand some inquiry. But nothing was done. The Marquis endured his bruised back at any rate in silence. But there came tidings to Brotherton that his lordship would not again be seen at Manor Cross that year. The house had been kept up as though for him, and he had certainly declared his purpose of returning when he left the place. He had indeed spoken of living there almost to the end of autumn. But early in July it became known that when he left Scumberg's Hotel, he would go abroad;—and before the middle of July it was intimated to Lady Alice, and through her to all Brotherton, that the Dowager with her daughters and Lord George were going back to the old house.
In the meantime Lady George was still at the deanery, and Lord George at Cross Hall, and to the eyes of the world the husband had been separated from his wife. His anger was certainly very deep, especially against his wife's father. The fact that his commands had been twice,—nay as he said thrice,—disobeyed rankled in his mind. He had ordered her not to waltz, and she had waltzed with, as Lord George thought, the most objectionable man in all London. He had ordered her to leave town with him immediately after Mrs. Jones's ball, and she had remained in town. He had ordered her now to leave her father and to cleave to him; but she had cleft to her father and had deserted him. What husband can do other than repudiate his wife under such circumstances as these! He was moody, gloomy, silent, never speaking of her, never going into Brotherton lest by chance he should see her; but always thinking of her,—and always, always longing for her company.
She talked of him daily to her father, and was constant in her prayer that they should not be made to quarrel. Having so long doubted whether she could ever love him, she now could not understand the strength of her own feeling. "Papa, mightn't I write to him," she said. But her father thought that she should not herself take the first step at any rate till the Marquis was gone. It was she who had in fact been injured, and the overture should come from the other side. Then at last, in a low whisper, hiding her face, she told her father a great secret,—adding with a voice a little raised, "Now, papa, I must write to him."
"My darling, my dearest," said the Dean, leaning over and kissing her with more than his usual demonstration of love.
"I may write now."
"Yes, dear, you should certainly tell him that." Then the Dean went out and walked round the deanery garden, and the cathedral cloisters, and the close, assuring himself that after a very little while the real Lord Popenjoy would be his own grandson.
LADY GEORGE AT THE DEANERY.
It took Mary a long long morning,—not altogether an unhappy morning,—to write her letter to her husband. She was forced to make many attempts before she could tell the great news in a fitting way, and even when the telling was done she was very far from being satisfied with the manner of it. There should have been no necessity that such tidings should be told by letter. It was cruel, very cruel, that such a moment should not have been made happy to her by his joy. The whisper made to her father should have been made to him,—but that things had gone so untowardly with her. And then, in her present circumstances, she could not devote her letter to the one event. She must refer to the said subject of their separation. "Dear, dearest George, pray do not think of quarrelling with me," she said twice over in her letter. The letter did get itself finished at last, and the groom was sent over with it on horseback.
What answer would he make to her? Would he be very happy? would he be happy enough to forgive her at once and come and stay with her at the deanery? or would the importance of the moment make him more imperious than ever in commanding that she should go with him to Cross Hall. If he did command her now she thought that she must go. Then she sat meditating what would be the circumstances of her life there,—how absolutely she would be trodden upon; how powerless she would be to resist those Dorcas conclaves after her mutiny and subsequent submission! Though she could not quite guess, she could nearly guess what bad things had been said of her; and the ladies at Cross Hall were, as she understood, now in amity with him who had said them. They had believed evil of her, and of course, therefore, in going to Cross Hall, she would go to it as to a reformatory. But the deanery would be to her a paradise if only her husband would but come to her there. It was not only that she was mistress of everything, including her own time, but that her father's infinite tenderness made all things soft and sweet to her. She hated to be scolded, and the slightest roughness of word or tone seemed to her to convey a rebuke. But he was never rough. She loved to be caressed by those who were dear and near and close to her, and his manner was always caressing. She often loved, if the truth is to be spoken, to be idle, and to spend hours with an unread book in her hand under the shade of the deanery trees, and among the flowers of the deanery garden. The Dean never questioned her as to those idle hours. But at Cross Hall not a half-hour would be allowed to pass without enquiry as to its purpose. At Cross Hall there would be no novels,—except those of Miss Edgeworth, which were sickening to her. She might have all Mudie down to the deanery if she chose to ask for it. At Cross Hall she would be driven out with the Dowager, Lady Susanna, and Lady Amelia, for two hours daily, and would have to get out of the carriage at every cottage she came to. At the deanery there was a pair of ponies, and it was her great delight to drive her father about the roads outside the city. She sometimes thought that a long sojourn at Cross Hall would kill her. Would he not be kind to her now, and loving, and would he not come and stay with her for one or two happy weeks in her father's house? If so, how dearly she would love him; how good she would be to him; how she would strive to gratify him in all his whims! Then she thought of Adelaide Houghton and the letter; and she thought also of those subsequent visits to Berkeley Square. But still she did not in the least believe that he cared for Adelaide Houghton. It was impossible that he should like a painted, unreal, helmeted creature, who smelt of oils, and was never unaffected for a moment. At any rate she would never, never throw Adelaide Houghton in his teeth. If she had been imprudent, so had he; and she would teach him how small errors ought to be forgiven. But would he come to her, or would he only write? Surely he would come to her now when there was matter of such vital moment to be discussed between them! Surely there would be little directions to her given, which should be obeyed,—oh, with such care, if he would be good to her.