"The servant shall take them over for you."
"Oh, bother the servant; I am my own servant—if you will lend me a pin or two."
Lucy drew six pins out from different parts of her dress. Eve noticed this, but said nothing. She pinned up her apron so as to make an enormous pocket, and went gayly off with the "spoils of time."
"Is that what you call being calm, David? Let me alone—don't slobber me. I am sure I wish she had said, 'No.' If I had thought she would come I would never have asked her. "
"You would, Eve; you would, for love of me."
"Who knows? Perhaps I might. I am more indulgent than kind."
"Eve, do tell me all. Is she well? does she come of her own good will? Dear Eve!"
"Well, I'll tell you: first we had a bit of a talk for a blind like; and her uncle is away; so then I asked her plump to come to tea. Well, David, first she looked 'No'—only for a single moment, though; she soon altered her mind, and so then, the moment it was to be 'Yes,' she cleared up, and you would have thought she had been asked to the king's banquet. Ah! David, my lad, you have fallen into good hands—you have launched your heart on a deeper ocean than ever your ship sailed on."
David took no notice. He was in a state of exaltation for one thing, and, besides, Eve's simile was sent to the wrong address; we terrestrials fear water in proportion to its depth, but these mariners dread their native element only when it is shallow.
David now kept asking in an excited way what they could do for her. "What could they get to do her honor? Wouldn't she miss the luxuries of her fine place?"
"Now you be quiet, David; we need not put ourselves about, for she will be the easiest girl to please you have ever seen here; or, if she isn't, she'll act it so that you'll be none the wiser. However, you can go and buy some flowers for me."
"That I will; we have none good enough for her here."
"And, David, tea under the catalpa, as we always do on fine nights."
"You don't mean that."
"Ah! but I do. These fine ladies are all for novelties. Now I'm much mistaken if this one has ever had her tea out of doors in all her born days. What! do you think our little stuffy room would be any treat to her, after the drawing-room at Font Abbey? Come, you be off till half-past five; you'll fidget yourself and fidget me else."
David recognized her superiority, obeyed and vanished.
Eve, having got rid of him, showed none of the insouciance she had recommended. She darted into the kitchen, bared her arms, and made wheaten cakes with unequaled rapidity, the servant looking on with demure admiration all the while. These put into the oven, she got her keys and put out the silver teapot, cream jug and sugar basin, things not used every day, I can tell you; item, the best old china tea service; item, some rare tea, of which David had brought home a small quantity from China. At six o'clock Miss Fountain came; a footman marched twenty yards behind her. She dismissed him at the door, and Eve invited her at once into the garden. There David joined them, his heart beating violently. She put out her hand kindly and calmly, and shook hands with him in the most unembarrassed way imaginable. At the touch of her soft hand every fiber in him thrilled and the color rushed into his face. At this a faint blush tinged her own, but no more than the warm welcome she was receiving might account for.
They seated her in a comfortable chair under the catalpa. Presently out came a nice, clean maid, her white neck half hidden, half revealed, by plain, unfigured muslin worn where the frock ended. She put the tea things on the table, and courtesied to Lucy, who returned her salute by a benignant smile. Out came another stouter one with the kettle, hung it from a hoop between two stout sticks, and lighted a fire she had laid underneath, retiring with a parting look at the kettle as soon as it hissed. Then returned maid one with bread, and wheaten cakes, and fruit, butter nice and hard from the cellar, and yellow cream, and went off smiling.
A gentle zeal seemed to animate these domestics, as if they, also, in relative proportions, gave the fete, or at least contributed good will. Lucy's quick eye caught this. It was new to her.
The tea was soon made, and its Oriental fragrance mingled with the other odors that filled the balmy air. Gay golden broken lights flickered in patches on the table, the china cups, the ladies' dresses, and the grass, all but in one place, where the cool deep shadow lay undisturbed around the foot of the tree-stem. Looking up to see whence the flickering gold came that sprinkled her white hand, Lucy saw one of the loveliest and commonest things in nature. The sky was blue—the sun fiery—the air potable gold outside the tree, so that, as she looked up, the mellow green leaves of the catalpa, coming between her and the bright sky and glowing air, shone like transparent gold—staircase upon staircase of great exotic translucent leaves, with specks of lovely blue sky that seemed to come down and perch among the top branches. Charming as these sights were, contrast doubled their beauties; for all these dimples of bright blue and flakes of translucent gold were eyed from the cool and from the deep shade.
The light, it is true, came down and danced on the turf here and there, but it left its heat behind through running the gauntlet of the myriad leaves. Over Lucy's head hung by a silk line from one of the branches a huge globe of humble but fragrant flowers; they were, in point of fact, fastened with marvelous skill all round a damp sponge, but she did not know that. Thus these simple hosts honored their lovely guest. And while these sights and smells stole into her deep eyes and her delicate nostrils, "Fiddle, David," said Eve, loftily, and straightway a simple mellow tune rang sweetly on the cheerful chords—a rustic, dulcet, and immortal ditty, in tune with summer and afternoon, with gold-checkered grass, and leaves that slumbered, yet vibrated, in the glowing air.
A bright, dreamy hour; the soul and senses floated gently in color, fragrance, melody, and great calm. "Each sound seemed but an echo of tranquillity."
Lucy looked up and absorbed the scene, then closed her eyes and listened; and presently her lips parted gradually in so ravishing a smile, her eyes remaining closed, that even Eve, who saw her in her true light, a terrible girl come there to burn and destroy David, remaining cool as a cucumber, could hardly forbear seizing and mumbling her.
In certain companies you shall see a boisterous cordiality, which at bottom is as hollow as diplomacy; but there is a modest geniality which is to society what the bloom is to the plum.
And this charm Lucy found in her hosts of the catalpa. For this very reason that they were her hosts, their manner to her changed a little, and becomingly; they made no secret that it was a downright pleasure to them to have her there. They petted her, and showed her so much simple kindness, that what with the scene, the music, and her companions' goodness, the coy bud opened—timidly at first—but in a way it never had expanded at Font Abbey.
She even developed a feeble sense of fun, followed suit demurely when Eve came out sprightly, laughed like a brook gurgling to Eve's peal of bells, and lo and behold, when the two girls got together, and faced the man, strong in numbers, a favorite trick, backed her ally as cowards back the brave, and set her on to sauce David. They cast doubts upon his skill in navigation. They perplexed him with treacherous questions in geography, put with an innocent affectation of a humble desire for information. In short, they played upon him lightly as they touch the piano. And Eve carolled a song, and David accompanied her on the fiddle; and at the third verse Lucy chimed in spontaneously with a second, and the next verse David struck in with a base, and the tepid air rang with harmony, and poor David thrilled with happiness. His heart felt his voice mingle and blend with hers, and even this contact was delicious to his imagination. And they were happy. But all must end; the shades of evening came down, and the pleasant little party broke up, and, as John had not come, David asked leave to escort her home. Oh no, she could not think of giving him that trouble; so saying, she went home with him. When they were alone, his deep love made him timid and confused. He walked by her side, and did not speak to her. She waited with some surprise at this silence, and then, as he was shy, she talked to him, uttered many airy nothings, and then put questions to him. "Did he always drink tea out of doors?"
"On fine nights in summer. Eve settled all such matters."
"Have you not a voice?"
"I have a voice, but no vote. She is skipper ashore."
"Oh, is she? Who taught her how delicious it is to drink tea out of doors?"
David did not know—fancied it was her own idea. "Did you really like it, Miss Fountain?"
"Like it, Mr. Dodd! It was Elysium. I never passed a sweeter evening in my life."
David colored all over. "I wish I could believe that."
"Was it the tulip-tree, or the violin, or was it your conversation, Mr. Dodd, I wonder?" asked she demurely, looking mock-innocent in his face.
"It was your goodness to be so easily pleased," said Dodd, with a gush that made her color. She smiled, however. "Well, that is one way of looking at things," said she. "Entre nous, I think Miss Dodd was the enchantress."
"Eve is capital company, for that matter."
"Indeed she is; you must be very happy together. Your mutual affection is very charming, Mr. Dodd, but sometimes it almost makes me sad. Forgive me! I have no brother."
"You will never want one to love you a thousand times better than a brother can love."
"Oh, shan't I?" said the lady, and opened her eyes.
"No; and there is more than one that worships the ground you tread on at this moment; but you know that."
"Oh, do I?" She opened her eyes still wider.
David longed to tell how he loved her, but dared not. He looked wistfully at her face. It was quite calm and had suddenly became a little reserved. He felt he was on new and dangerous ground; he sighed and was silent. He turned away his face. When this involuntary sigh broke from him she turned her head a little and looked at him. He felt her eye dwell on him, and his cheeks burned under it.
The next moment they were at Font Hill, and Lucy seemed to David to hesitate whether to give him her hand at parting or not.
She did give him her hand, though not so freely, David thought, as she had done on his own little lawn three hours before, and this dashed his spirits. It seemed to him a step lost, and he had hoped to gain a step somehow by walking home with her. He felt like one who has undertaken to catch some skittish timorous thing, that, if you stand still, will come within a certain small but safe distance, but you must not move a step toward it, or, whir, away it is. He went slowly home, his heart warm and cold by turns; warm when he remembered the sweet hours he had just spent, and her sweet looks and heavenly tones, every one of which he saw and heard again; cold when he thought of the social distance that separated them, and the hundred chances to one against his love. Then he said to himself: "Time was I thought I could never bring a yard down from the foretop to the deck, but I mastered that. Time was I thought I could never work out a logarithm without a formula, but I mastered that. Time was the fiddle beat me so I was ready to cry over it, but at last I learned to make it sing, and now I can make her smile with it (God bless her!) instead of stopping her ears. I can hardly mind the thing that didn't beat me dead for a long while, but I persevered and got the upper hand. Ay, but this is higher and harder than them all—a hundred times harder and higher.
"I'll hold my course, let the wind blow high or low, and if I can't overhaul the wish of my heart, well, I'll carry her flag to the last. I'll die a bachelor for her sake, as sure as you are the moon, my lass, and you the polar star, and from this hour I'll never look at you, but I'll make believe it is her I am looking up at; for she is as high above me, and as bright as you are. God bless her! and to think I never even said good-night to her! I stood there like a mummy." And David reproached himself for his unkindness.
Lucy, on entering the drawing-room, was surprised to find it blazing with candles, but she was more surprised at what she saw seated calmly in an armchair—Mrs. Bazalgette. Lucy stood transfixed; the audacious intruder laughed at her astonishment; the next moment they intertwined, and fell to kissing one another with tender violence.
"Well, love, the fact is, I was passing here on my way home from Devonshire, and I wanted particularly to speak to you, so I thought I would venture just to pop in for a passing call, and lo! I find the old ogre is absent, and not expected back for ever so long, so I have installed myself at his Font Abbey, partly out of love for you, dear, partly, I confess it, out of hate to him. You will write and tell me his face when he comes home and hears I have been living and enjoying myself in his den. I ordered my imperial into his bedroom. I took it for granted that would be the only comfortable one in his house."
"Aunt Bazalgette!" cried Lucy, turning pale; "oh, aunt, what will become of us?"
"Don't be frightened; the gray-haired monster that dyes his whiskers, and gets him up to look only sixty, interposed and forbade the consecration."
"I am glad of it. You shall sleep in mine, dear, and I will go into the east room. It is a sweet little room."
"Is it? then why not put me there?" Lucy colored a little. "I think mine would suit you better, dear, because it is larger and airier, and—"
"I see. As you please; you know I never make difficulties."
"And how long have you been here, aunt?"
"About three hours."
"Three hours, and not send for me! I was only in the village. Did no one tell you?"
"Yes; but you know it is not my way to make a fuss and put people out. How could I tell? You might be agreeably employed, and I was sure of you before bedtime."
Mighty-fine! but the truth is, she came to Font Abbey to pry. She had heard a vague report about Lucy and a gentleman.
She was very glad to find Lucy was out; it gave her an opportunity. She sent for Lucy's maid to help her unpack a dress or two—thirteen. This girl was paid out of Lucy's estate, but did not know that. Mrs. Bazalgette handed her her wages, and that gives an influence. The wily matron did not trust to that alone. In unpacking she gave the girl a dress and several smaller presents, and, this done, slowly and cautiously pumped her. Jane, to fulfill her share of a bargain, which, though never once alluded to, was perfectly understood between both the parties, told her all she knew and all she conjectured; told her, in particular, how constantly Mr. Talboys was in the house, and how, one night, the old gentleman had walked part of the way home with him, "which Mr. Thomas says he didn't think his master would do it for the king, mum!" and had come in all of a flurry, and sent up for miss, and swore* awful when she couldn't come because she was abed. "So you may depend, mum, it is so; leastways, the gentlemen they are willing. We talk it over mostly every day in the servants' hall, mum, and we are all of a mind so fur; but whether it will come to a wedding, that we haven't a settled yet. It's miss beats us; she is like no other young lady ever I came anigh. A man or woman—it is all the same to her—a kind word for everybody, and pass on. But I do really think she likes her own side of the house a trifle the best."
*The ladies of the bedchamber will embellish. After all, it is their business.
"And there you don't agree with her, Jane?"
"Well, mum—being as we are alone—now is it natural? But Mr. Thomas he says, 'The cold ones take the first offer that comes when there is money ahind it. It isn't us they wants,' says he. I told him I should think not the likes of him—'but our house and land,' says he, 'and hopera box and cetera.' 'But I don't think that of our one,' says I; 'bless you, she is too high-minded.' But what I think, mum, is, she wouldn't say 'no' to her uncle; her mouth don't seem made for saying no, especially to him; and he is bent on Talboys, mum, you take my word."
To return to the drawing-room: Mrs. Bazalgette, after the above delicate discussion, sat there in ambush, knowing more of Lucy's affairs than Lucy knew. Her next point was to learn Lucy's sentiments, and to find whether she was deliberately playing false and breaking her promise, vide.
"Well, Lucy, any lovers yet?"
"Take care, Lucy, a little bird whispers in my ear."
"Then it is a humming-bird," and Lucy pouted. "Now, aunt, did you really come to Font Abbey to tease me about such nonsense as—as—gentlemen?" and Lucy looked hurt.
"Here's an actress for you," thought Mrs. Bazalgette; but she calmly dropped the subject, and never recurred to it openly all the evening, but lay secretly in watch, and put many subtle but seeming innocent questions to her niece about her habits, her uncle's guest, whether her uncle kept a horse for her, whether he bought it for her, etc., etc.
The next morning Mrs. Bazalgette breakfasted in bed, during which process she rang her bell seven times. Lucy received at the breakfast-table a letter from her uncle.
"MY DEAR NIECE—The funeral was yesterday, and, I flatter myself, well performed: there were five-and-twenty carriages. After that a luncheon, in the right style, and then to the reading of the will. And here I shall surprise you, but not more than I was myself: I am left 5,000 pounds consols. My worthy friend, whose loss we are called on so suddenly to deplore, accompanied this bequest in his will with many friendly expressions of esteem, which I have always studied and shall study to deserve. He bequeathed to me also, during minority, the care of his boy, the heir to this fine property, which far exceeds the value I had imagined. There is a letter attached to the will; in compliance with it Arthur is to go to Cambridge, but not until he has been well prepared. He will therefore accompany me to Font Abbey to-morrow, and I must contrive somehow or other to find him a mathematical tutor in the neighborhood. There is a handsome allowance made out of the estate for his board, etc., etc.
"He is an interesting boy, and has none of the rudeness and mischievousness they generally have—blue eyes, soft, silky, flaxen hair, and as modest as a girl. His orphaned state merits kindness, and his prospects entitle him to consideration. I mention this because I fancy, when we last discussed this matter, I saw a little disposition on your part to be satirical at the poor boy's expense. I am sure, however, that you will restrain this feeling at my request, and treat him like a younger brother. I only wish he was three or four years older—you understand me, miss.
"To-morrow afternoon, then, we shall be at Font Abbey. Let him have the east room, and tell Brown to light a blazing fire in my bedroom. and warm and air every mortal thing, on pain of death.
"Your affectionate uncle,
On reading this letter Lucy formed an innocent scheme. It had long been matter of regret to her that Aunt Bazalgette could not see the good qualities of Uncle Fountain, and Uncle Fountain of Aunt Bazalgette. "It must be mere prejudice," said she, "or why do I love them both?" She had often wished she could bring them together, and make them know one another better; they would find out one another's good qualities then, and be friends. But how? As Shakespeare says, "Oxen and wain-ropes would not haul them, together."
At last chance aided her—Mrs. Bazalgette was at Font Abbey actually. Lucy knew that if she announced Mr. Fountain's expected return the B would fly off that minute, so she suppressed the information, and, giving up to young Arthur as she had to Mrs. B., moved into a still smaller room than the east room.
And now her heart quaked a little. "But, after all, Uncle Fountain is a gentleman," thought she, "and not capable of showing hostility to her under his own roof. Here she is safe, though nowhere else; only I must see him, and explain to him before he sees her." With this view Lucy declined demurely her aunt's proposal for a walk. No, she must be excused; she had work to do in the drawing-room that could not be postponed.
"Work! that alters the case. Let me see it." She took for granted it was some useful work—something that could be worn when done. "What! is this it—these dirty parchments? Oh! I see; it is for that selfish old man; who but he would set a lady to parchments!"
"A bad guess," cried Lucy, joyously. "I found them myself, and set myself to work on them."
"Don't tell me! He is at the bottom of it. If it was for yourself you would give it up directly. How amusing for me to see you work at that!" Lucy rose and brought her the new novel. Mrs. Bazalgette took it and sat down to it, but she could not fix her attention long on it. Ladies whose hearts are in dress have no taste for books, however frivolous; can't sit them for above a second or two. Mrs. Bazalgette fidgeted and fidgeted, and at last rose and left the room, book in hand. "How unkind I am!" said Lucy to herself.
She was sitting sentinel till the carriage should arrive; then she could run down and prepare her uncle for his innocent and accidental visitor. It would not be prudent to let him receive the information from a servant, or without the accompanying explanation. This it was that made her so unnaturally firm when the little idle B pressed her to waste in play the shining hours.
Mrs. Bazalgette went book in hand to her bedroom, and had not been there long before she found employment. Many of Lucy's things were still in the wardrobes. Mrs. B. rummaged them, inspected them at the window, and ended by ringing for her maid and trying divers of her niece's dresses on. "They make her dresses better than they do mine; they take more pains." At last she found one that was new to her, though Lucy had worn it several times at Font Abbey.
"Where did she get this, Jane?"
"Present from the old gentleman, mum; he had it down from London for her all at one time with this shawl and twelve puragloves."
Lucy looked two inches taller than Mrs. B., but somehow, I can't tell how, this dress of hers fitted the latter like a glove. It embraced her; it held her tenderly, but tight, as gowns and lovers should. The poor dear could not get out of it. "I must wear it an hour or two," said she. "Besides, it will save my own, knocking about in these country lanes." Thus attired she went into the drawing-room to surprise Lucy. Now Lucy was determined not to move; so, not to be enticed, she did not even look up from her work; on this the other took a mild huff and whisked out.
So keen are the feminine senses, that Lucy, on reflection, recognized something brusk, perhaps angry, in the rustle of that retiring dress, and soon after rang the bell and inquired where Mrs. Bazalgette was. John would make henquiries.
"Your haunt is in the back garden, miss."
"Walking, or what?"
John would make henquiries.
"She is reading, miss; and she is sitting on the seat master 'ad made for you, miss.
"Very well: thank you."
"Any more commands, miss?"
"Not at present." John retired with a regretful air, as one capable of executing important commissions, but lost for lack of opportunity. All the servants in this house liked to come into contact with Lucy. She treated them with a dignified kindness and reserved politeness that wins these good creatures more than either arrogance or familiarity. "Jeames is not such a fool as he looks."
Lucy was glad. Her aunt had got her book. It is an interesting story; she will not miss me now, and the carriage will soon be here, and then I will make up for my unkindness. Curiously enough, at this very juncture, the fair student found something in her parchment which gave her some little hopes of a favorable result.
She was following this clue eagerly, when all of a sudden she started. Her ear had caught the rattle of a carriage over the stones of the stable yard. She rang the bell, and inquired if that was not the carriage.
"My uncle has sent it back, then? He is not coming to-day?"
John would inquire of the coachman.
"Oh yes, miss, master is come, but he got out at the foot of the hill, and walked up through the shrubbery with the young gentleman to show him the grounds." On this news Lucy rose hastily, snatched up a garden hat, and, without any other preparation, went out to intercept her uncle. As she stepped into the garden she heard a loud scream, followed by angry voices; she threw her hands up to heaven in dismay and ran toward the sounds. They came from the back garden. She went like lightning round the corner of the house, and came plump upon an agitated group, of whom she made one directly, spellbound. Here stood Aunt Bazalgette, her head turned haughtily, her cheeks scarlet. There stood Mr. Fountain on the other side of the rustic seat, red as fire, too, but wearing a hang-dog look, and behind him young Arthur, pale, with two eyes like saucers, gazing awestruck at the first row he had ever seen between a full-grown lady and gentleman.
Our narrative must take a step to the rear, as an excellent writer, Private ——* phrases it, otherwise you might be misled to suppose that Uncle Fountain was quarreling with Mrs. B. for having set her foot in sacred Font Abbey.
*"I had an escape myself. As I opened the door of a house, a black fellow was behind waiting for me, and made a chop. I took a step to the rear, fired through the door, and cooked his goose."—Times.
No, the pudding was richer than that. Mr. Fountain had young Arthur in charge, and, not being an ill-natured old gentleman, he pitied the boy, and did all he could to make him feel he was coming among friends. He sent the carriage on, and showed Arthur the grounds, and covertly praised the place and all about it, Lucy included, for was not she an appendage of his abbey. "You will see my niece—a charming young lady, who will be kind to you, and you must make friends with her. She is very accomplished—paints. She plays like an angel, too. Ah! there she is. She has got the gown on I gave her—a compliment to me—a very pretty attention, Arthur, the day of my return. What is she doing?"
Arthur, with his young eyes, settled this question. "The lady is asleep. See, she has dropped her book." And; in fact, the whole attitude was lax and not ungraceful. Her right hand hung down, and the domestic story, its duty done, reposed beneath.
"Now, Arthur," said the senior, making himself young to please the boy, and to show him that, if he looked old, he was not worn out, "would you like a bit of fun? We will startle her—we'll give her a kiss." Arthur hung back irresolute, and his cheeks were dyed with blushes.
"Not you, you young rogue; you are not her uncle." The old gentleman then stole up at the back of the seat, followed with respectful curiosity by Arthur. She happened to move as the senior got near; so, for fear she was going to wake of herself and baffle the surprise, he made a rush and rubbed his beard a little roughly against Mrs. Bazalgette's cheek. Up starts that lady, who was not fast asleep, but only under the influence of the domestic tale, utters a scream, and, when she sees her ravisher, goes into a passion.
"How dare you? What is the meaning of this insult?"
"How came you here?" was the reply, in an equally angry tone.
"Can't a lady come into your little misery of a garden without being outraged?"
"It isn't the garden—it is only the back garden," cried the proprietor of Font Hill; "(blesse) I'll swear that is my niece's gown; so you've invaded that, too."
"Aunt Bazalgette—Uncle Fountain, it was my fault," sighed a piteous voice. This was Lucy, who had just come on the scene. "Dear uncle, forgive me; it was I who invited her."
Lucy's pathetic tones, which were fast degenerating into sobs, were agreeably interrupted.
At one and the same moment the man and woman of the world took a new view of the situation, looked at one another, and burst out laughing. Both these carried a safety-valve against choler—a trait that takes us into many follies, but keeps us out of others—a sense of humor. The next thing to relieve the situation was the senior's comprehensive vanity. He must recover young Arthur's reverence, which was doubtless dissolving all this time. "Now, Arthur," he whispered, "take a lesson from a gentleman of the old school. I hate this she-devil; but this is at my house, so—observe." He then strutted jauntily and feebly up to Mrs. Bazalgette: "Madam, my niece says you are her guest; but permit me to dispute her title to that honor." Mrs. Bazalgette smiled agreeably. She wanted to stay a day or two at Font Abbey. The senior flourished out his arm. "Let me show you what we call the garden here." She took his arm graciously. "I shall be delighted, sir [pompous old fool!]."
Mrs. Bazalgette steeled her mind to admire the garden, and would have done so with ease if it had been hideous. But, unfortunately, it was pretty—prettier than her own; had grassy slopes, a fountain, a grotto, variegated beds, and beds a blaze of one color (a fashion not common at that time); item, a brook with waterlilies on its bosom. "This brook is not mine, strictly speaking," said her host; "I borrowed it of my neighbor." The lady opened her eyes; so he grinned and revealed a characteristic transaction. A quarter of a century ago he had found the brook flowing through a meadow close to his garden hedge. He applied for a lease of the meadow, and was refused by the proprietor in the following terms: "What is to become of my cows?"
He applied constantly for ten years, and met the same answer. Proprietor died, the cows turned to ox-beef, and were eaten in London along with flour and a little turmeric, and washed down with Spanish licorice-water, salt, gentian and a little burned malt. Widow inherited, made hay, and refused F. the meadow because her husband had always refused him. But in the tenth year of her siege she assented, for the following reasons: primo, she had said "no" so often the word gave her a sense of fatigue; secundo, she liked variety, and thought a change for the worse must be better than no change at all.
Her tenant instantly cut a channel from the upper part of the stream into his garden, and brought the brook into the lawn, made it write an S upon his turf, then handed it but again upon the meadow "none the worse," his own comment. These things could be done in the country—jadis.
It cost Mrs. Bazalgette a struggle to admire the garden and borrowed stream—they were so pretty. She made the struggle and praised all. Lucy, walking behind the pair, watched them with innocent satisfaction. "How fast they are making friends," thought she, mistaking an armistice for an alliance.
"Since the place is so fortunate as to please you, you will stay a week with me, madam, at least."
"A week! No, Mr. Fountain; I really admire your courtesy too much to abuse it."
"Not at all; you will oblige me."
"I cannot bring myself to think so."
"You may believe me. I have a selfish motive."
"Oh, if you are in earnest."
"I will explain. If you are my guest for a week, that will give me a claim to be yours in turn." And he bent a keen look upon the lady, as much as to say, "Now I shall see whether you dare let me spy on you as you are doing on me."
"I propose an amendment," said Mrs. Bazalgette, with a merry air of defiance: "for every day I enjoy here you must spend two beneath my roof. On this condition, I will stay a week at Font Abbey."
"I consent," said Mr. Fountain, a little sharply. He liked the bargain. "I must leave you to Lucy for a minute; I have some orders to give. I like my guests to be comfortable." With this he retired to his study and pondered. "What is she here for? it is not affection for Lucy; that is all my eye, a selfish toad like her. (How agreeable she can make herself, though.) She heard I was out, and came here to spy directly. That was sharp practice. Better not give her a chance of seeing my game. I disarmed her suspicion by asking her to stay a week, aha! Well, during that week Talboys must not come, that is all; aha! my lady, I won't give those cunning eyes of yours a chance of looking over my hand." He then wrote a note to Talboys, telling him there was a guest at Font Abbey, a disagreeable woman, "who makes mischief whenever she can. She would be sure to divine our intentions, and use all her influence with Lucy to spite me. You had better stay away till she is gone." He sent this off by a servant, then pondered again.
"She suspects something; then that is a sign she has her own designs on Lucy. Hum! no. If she had, she would not have invited me to her house. She invited me directly and cheerfully—!"
Mrs. Bazalgette walked and sat with an arm round Lucy's waist, and told her seven times before dinner how happy she was at the prospect of a quiet week with her. In the evening she yawned eleven times. Next day she asked Lucy who was coming to dinner.
"Nobody at all?"
"I thought you would perhaps not care to have our tete-a-tete interrupted yet."
"Oh, but I should like to explore the natives too."
"I will give uncle a hint, dear." The hint was given very delicately, but the malicious senior had a perverse construction ready immediately.
"So this is her mighty affection for you. Can't get through two days without strangers."
"Uncle," said Lucy, imploringly, "she is so used to society, and she has me all day; we ought to give her some little amusement at night."
"Well, I can't make up parties now; my friends are all in London. She only wants something to flirt with. Send for David Dodd."
"What, for her to flirt with?"
"Yes; he is a handsome fellow; he will serve her turn."
"For shame, uncle; what would Mr. Bazalgette say? Poor aunt, she is a coquette now."
"And has been this twenty years."
"Now I was thinking—Mr. Talboys?"
"Talboys is not at home; she must be content with lower game. She shall bring down David."
Lucy hesitated. "I don't think she will like Mr. Dodd, and I am sure he will not like her."
"How can you know that?"
"He is so honest. He will not understand a woman of the world and her little in—sin— No, I don't mean that."
"Well, if he does not understand her he may like her."
"Aunt, he has made me ask the Dodds to tea, and I am afraid you will not like them."
"Well, if I don't we must try some more natives to-morrow. Who are they?" Lucy told her. "Pretty people to ask to meet me," said she, loftily. This scorn dissolved in course of the evening. Lucy, anxious her guests should be pleased with one another, drew the Dodds out, especially David—made him spin a yarn. With this and his good looks he so pleased Mrs. Bazalgette that it was the last yarn he ever span during her stay. She took a fancy to him, and set herself to captivate him with sprightly ardor.
David received her advances politely, but a little coldly. The lady was very agreeable, but she kept him from Lucy; he hardly got three words with her all the evening. As they went home together, Eve sneered: "Well, you managed nicely; it was your business to make friends with that lady."
"With all my heart."
"Then why didn't you do what she bid you?"
"She gave me no orders that I heard," said the literal first mate.
"She gave you a plain hint, though."
"To do what?"
"To do what? stupid! Why, to make love to her, to be sure."
"Why, she is a married woman?"
"If she chooses to forget that, is it your business to remember it?"
"And if she was single, and the loveliest in the world, how could I court her when my heart is full of an angel?"
"If your heart is full, your head is empty. Why, you see nothing."
"I can't see why I should belie my heart."
"Can't you? Then I can. David, in less than a month Miss Fountain goes to this lady and stays a quarter of a year: she told me so herself. Oh, my ears are always open in your service ever since I did agree to be as great a fool as you are. Now don't you see that if you can't get Mrs. Bazalgette to invite you to her house, you must take leave of the other here forever?"
"I see what you mean, Eve; how wise you are! It is wonderful. But what is to be done? I am bad at feigning. I can't make love to her."
"But you can let her make love to you: is that an effort you feel equal to? and I must do the rest. Oh, we have a nice undertaking before us. But, if boys will cry for fruit that is out of their reach, and their silly sisters will indulge them—don't slobber me."
"You are such a dear girl to fight for me so a little against your judgment."
"A little, eh? Dead against it, you mean. Don't look so blank, David; you are all right as far as me. When my heart is on your side you can snap your fingers at my judgment."
David was cheered by this gracious revelation.
Eve was a tormenting little imp. She could not help reminding him every now and then that all her maneuvers and all his love were to end in disappointment. These discouraging comments had dashed poor David's spirits more than once; but he was beginning to discover that they were invariably accompanied or followed by an access of cheerful zeal in the desperate cause—a pleasing phenomenon, though somewhat unintelligible to this honest fellow, who had never microscoped the enigmatical sex.
Mrs. Bazalgette reproached Lucy: "You never told me how handsome Mr. Dodd was."
"No. He is the handsomest man I ever saw."
"I have not observed that, but I think he is one of the worthiest."
"I should not wonder," said the other lady, carelessly. "It is clear you don't appreciate him here. You half apologized to me for inviting him."
"That was because you are such a fashionable lady, and the Dodds have no such pretensions."
"All the better; my taste is not for sophisticated people. I only put up with them because I am obliged. Why, Lucy, you ought to know how my heart yearns for nature and truth; I am sure I have told you so often enough. An hour spent with a simple, natural creature like Captain Dodd refreshes me as a cooling breeze after the heat and odors of a crowded room."
"Miss Dodd is very natural too—is she not?"
"Very. Pertness and vulgarity are natural enough—to some people."
"My uncle likes her the best of the two."
"Then your uncle is mad. But the fact is, men are no judges in such cases; they are always unjust to their own sex, and as blind to the faults of ours as beetles."
"But surely, aunt, she is very arch and lively."
"Pert and fussy, you mean."
"Pretty, at all events? Rather?"
"What, with that snub nose!!?"
Lucy offered to invite other neighbors; Mrs. Bazalgette replied she didn't want to be bothered with rurality. "You can ask Captain Dodd, if you like; there is no need to invite the sister."
"Oh yes, I must; my uncle likes her the best."
"But I don't; and I am only here for a day or two."
"Miss Dodd would be hurt. It would be unkind—discourteous."
"No, no. She watches him all the time like a little dragon."
"Apres? We have no sinister designs on Mr. Dodd, have we?" and something unusually keen flashed upon Aunt Bazalgette out of the tail of the quiet Lucy's eye.
Mrs. Bazalgette looked cross. "Nonsense, Lucy; so tiresome! Can't we have an agreeable person without tacking on a disagreeable one?"
"Aunt," said Lucy, pathetically, "ask me anything else in the world, but don't ask me to be rude, for I can't."
"Well, then, you are bound to entertain her, since she is your choice, and leave me mine."
Lucy acquiesced softly.
David, tutored by his sister, now tried to seem interested in her who came between him and Lucy, and a miserable hand he made of this his first piece of acting. Luckily for him, Mrs. Bazalgette liked the sound of her own voice; and his good looks, too, went a long way with the mature woman. Lucy and Eve sat together at the tea-table; Mr. Fountain slumbered below; Arthur was in the study, nailed to a novel; Eve, under a careless exterior, watched intently to find out if Lucy, under a calm surface, cared for David at all or not, and also watched for a chance to serve him. She observed a certain languor about the young lady, but no attempt to take David from the coquette. At last, however, Lucy did say demurely, "Mr. Dodd seems to appreciate my aunt."
"Don't you think it is rather the other way?"
"That is an insidious question, Miss Dodd. I shall make no admissions; but I warn you she is a very fascinating woman."
"My brother is greatly admired by the ladies, too."
"Oh, since I praised my champion, you have a right to praise yours. But he will get the worst in that little encounter."
"Because my sprightly aunt forgets the very names of her conquests when once she has thoroughly made them."
"She will never make this one; my brother carries an armor against coquettes."
"Ay, indeed; and pray what may that be?" inquired Lucy, a little quizzingly.
"A true and deep attachment."
"And if you will look at him a little closer you will see that he would be glad to get away from that old flirt; but David is very polite to ladies."
Lucy stole a look from under her silken lashes, and it so happened that at that very moment she encountered a sorrowful glance from David that said plainly enough, I am obliged to be here, but I long to be there. She received his glance full in her eyes, absorbed it blandly, then lowered her lashes a moment, then turned her head with a sweet smile toward Eve. "I think you said your brother was engaged."
"I misunderstood you, then."
"Yes." Eve uttered this monosyllable so dryly that Lucy drew back, and immediately turned the conversation into chit-chat.
It had not trickled above ten minutes when an exclamation from David interrupted it. The young ladies turned instinctively, and there was David flushing all over, and speaking to Mrs. Bazalgette with a tremulous warmth, that, addressed as it was to a pretty woman, sounded marvelously like love-making.
Lucy turned her crest round a little haughtily, and shot such a glance on Eve. Eve read in it a compound of triumph and pique.
David came to Eve one morning with parchments in his hand and a merry smile. "Eureka!"
"You're another," said Eve, as quick as lightning, and upon speculation.
"I have made Mr. Fountain's pedigree out," explained David.
"You don't say so! won't he be pleased?"
"Yes. Do you think she will be pleased?"
"Why not? She will look pleased, anyway. I say, don't you go and tell them the whole county was owned by the Dodds before Fountain, or Funteyn, or Font, was ever heard of."
"Hardly. I have my own weaknesses, my lass; I've no need to adopt another man's."
"Bless my soul, how wise you are got! So sudden, too! You shouldn't surprise a body like that. Lucky I'm not hysterical. Now let me think, David—Solomon, I mean—no, you shall keep this discovery back awhile; it may be wanted." She then reminded him that the Fountains were capricious; that they had dropped him for a week, and eight again; if so, this might be useful to unlock their street door to him at need.
"Good heavens, Eve, what cunning!"
"David, when I have a bad cause in hand, I do one of two things: I drop it, or I go into it heart and soul. If my zeal offends you, I can retire from the contest with great pleasure."
"No! no! no! no! no! If you leave the helm I shall go ashore directly"—dismay of David; grim satisfaction of his imp.
This matter settled, David asked Eve if she did not think Master Nelson (Mr. Fountain's new ward) was a very nice boy.
"Yes; and I see he has taken a wonderful fancy to you."
"And so have I to him; we have had one or two walks together. He is to come here at twelve o'clock to-day."
"Now why couldn't you have asked me first, David? The painters are coming into the house to-day; and the paperers, and all, and we can't be bothered with mathematics. You must do them at Font Abbey." Eve was a little cross. David only laughed at her; but he hesitated about making a school-house of Font Abbey—it would look like intruding.
"Pooh! nonsense," said Eve; "they will only be too glad to take advantage of your good-nature."
"He is an orphan," said David, doggedly.
However, the lesson was given at Font Abbey, and after it Master Nelson came bounding into the drawing-room to the ladies.
"Oh, Lucy, Mr. Dodd is such a beautiful geometrician! He has been giving me a lesson; he is going to give me one every day. He knows a great deal more than my last tutor." On this Master Nelson was questioned, and revealed that a friendship existed between him and Mr. Dodd such as girls are incapable of (this was leveled at Lucy); being cross-examined as to the date of this friendship, he was obliged to confess that it had only existed four days, but was to last to death.
"But, Arthur," said Lucy, "will not this take up too much of Mr. Dodd's time? I think you had better consult Uncle Fountain before you make a positive arrangement of the kind."
"Oh, I have spoken to my guardian about it, and he was so pleased. He said that would save him a mathematical tutor."
"Oh, then," said Mrs. Bazalgette, "Mr. Dodd is to teach mathematics gratis."
"My friend is a gentleman," was the timid reply. (Juveniles have a pomposity all their own, and exquisitely delicious.*) "We read together because we like one another, and that is why we walk together and play together; if we were to offer him money he would throw it at our heads." Mr. Arthur then relaxed his severity, and, condescending once more to the familiar, added: "And he has made me a kite on mathematical principles—such a whacker—those in the shops are no use; and he has sent his mother's Bath chair on to the downs, and he is going to show me the kite draw him ten knots an hour in it—a knot means a mile, Lucy—so I can't stay wasting my time here; only, if you want to see some fun for once in your lives, come on the downs in about an hour—will you? Oh yes! do come!"
* Read the Oxford Essays.
"Certainly not," said Mrs. Bazalgette, sharply.
"Excuse us, dear," said Lucy in the same breath.
"Well, Lucy," said Mrs. Bazalgette, "am I wrong about your uncle's selfishness! I have tried in vain ever since I came here to make you see it where you were the only sufferer."
"Not quite in vain, aunt," said Lucy sadly; "you have shown me defects in my poor uncle that I should never have discovered."
Mrs. Bazalgette smiled grimly.
"Only, as you hate him, and I love him, and always mean to love him, permit me to call his defects 'thought-lessness.' You can apply the harsh term 'selfish-ness' to the most good-natured, kind, indulgent—oh!"
"Ha! ha! Don't cry, you silly girl. Thoughtless? a calculating old goose, who is eternally aiming to be a fox—never says or does anything without meaning something a mile off. Luckily, his veil is so thin that everybody sees through it but you. What do you think of his thought-less-ness in getting a tutor gratis? Poor Mr. Dodd!"
"I will answer for it, it is a pleasure to Mr. Dodd to be of service to his little friend," said Lucy, warmly.
"How do you know a bore is a pleasure to Mr. Dodd?"
"Mr. Dodd is a new acquaintance of yours, aunt, but I have had opportunities of observing his character, and I assure you all this pity is wasted."
"Why, Lucy, what did you say to Arthur just now. You are contradicting yourself."
"What a love of opposition I must have. Are you not tired of in-doors? Shall we go into the village?"
"No; I exhausted the village yesterday."
"Well, then, suppose we sketch the church together. There is a good light."
"No. Let us go on the downs, Lucy."
"Why, aunt, it—it is a long walk."
"All the better."
"But we said 'No.'"
"What has that to do with it?"
Arthur was right; the kites that are sold by shops of prey are not proportioned nor balanced; this is probably in some way connected with the circumstance that they are made to sell, not fly. The monster kite, constructed by the light of Euclid, rose steadily into the air like a balloon, and eventually, being attached to the chair, drew Mr. Arthur at a reasonable pace about half a mile over a narrow but level piece of turf that was on the top of the downs. Q.E.D. This done, these two patient creatures had to wind the struggling monster in, and go back again to the starting point. Before they had quite achieved this, two petticoats mounted the hill and moved toward them across the plateau. At sight of them David thrilled from head to foot, and Arthur cried, "Oh, bother!" an unjust ejaculation, since it was by his invitation they came. His alarms were verified. The ladies made themselves No. 1 directly, and the poor kite became a shield for flirtation. Arthur was so cross.
At last the B's desire to occupy attention brought her to the verge of trouble. Seeing David saying a word to Lucy, she got into the chair, and went gayly off, drawn by the kite, which Arthur, with a mighty struggle, succeeded in hooking to the car for her. Now, the plateau was narrow, and the chair wanted guiding. It was easy to guide it, but Mrs. Bazalgette did not know how; so it sidled in a pertinacious and horrid way toward a long and steepish slope on the left side. She began to scream, Arthur to laugh—the young are cruel, and, I am afraid, though he stood perfectly neutral to all appearance, his heart within nourished black designs. But David came flying up at her screams—just in time. He caught the lady's shoulders as she glided over the brow of the slope, and lifted her by his great strength up out of the chair, which went the next moment bounding and jumping athwart the hill, and soon rolled over and groveled in rather an ugly way.
Mrs. Bazalgette sobbed and cried so prettily on David's shoulder, and had to be petted and soothed by all hands. Inward composure soon returned, though not outward, and in due course histrionics commenced. First the sprain business. None of you do it better, ladies, whatever you may think. David had to carry her a bit. But she was too wise to be a bore. Next, the heroic business: would be put down, would walk, possible or not; would not be a trouble to her kind friends. Then the martyr smiling through pain. David was very attentive to her; for while he was carrying her in his arms she had won his affection, all he could spare from Lucy. Which of you can tell all the consequences if you go and carry a pretty woman, with her little insinuating mouth close to your ears?
Lucy and Arthur walked behind. Arthur sighed. Lucy was reveuse. Arthur broke silence first. "Lucy!"
"When is she going?"
"Arthur, for shame! I won't tell you. To-morrow."
"Lucy," said Arthur, with a depth of feeling, "she spoils everything!!!"
Next morning —— come back? What for? I will have the goodness to tell you what she said in his ear? Why, nothing.
You are a female reader? Oh! that alters the case. To attempt to deceive you would be cowardly, immoral; it would fail. She sighed, "My preserver!" at which David had much ado not to laugh in her face. Then she murmured still more softly, "You must come and see me at my home before you sail—will you not? I insist" (in the tone of a supplicant), "come, promise me."
"That I will—with pleasure," said David, flushing.
"Mind, it is a promise. Put me down. Lucy, come here and make him put me down. I will not be a burden to my friends."
THAT same evening, Mrs. Bazalgette, being alone with Lucy in the drawing-room, put her arm round that young lady's waist, and lovingly, not seriously, as a man might have been apt to do, reminded her of her honorable promise—not to be caught in the net of matrimony at Font Abbey. Lucy answered, without embarrassment, that she claimed no merit for keeping her word. No one had had the ill taste to invite her to break it.
"You are either very sly or very blind," replied Mrs. Bazalgette, quietly.
"Aunt!" said Lucy, piteously.
Mrs. Bazalgette, who, by many a subtle question and observation during the last week, had satisfied herself of Lucy's innocence, now set to work and laid Uncle Fountain bare.
"I do not speak in a hurry, Lucy; a hint came round to me a fortnight ago that you had an admirer here, and it turns out to be this Mr. Talboys."
"Yes. Does that surprise you? Do you think a young gentleman would come to Font Abbey three nights in a week without a motive?"
"It is all over the place that you two are engaged."
Lucy colored, and her eyes flashed with something very like anger, but she held her peace.
"Ask Jane else."
"What! take my servant into my confidence?"
"Oh, there is a way of setting that sort of people chattering without seeming to take any notice. To tell the truth, I have done it for you. It is all over the village, and all over the house."
"The proper person to ask must have been Uncle Fountain himself."
"As if he would have told me the truth."
"He is a gentleman, aunt, and would not have uttered a falsehood."
"Doctrine of chivalry! He would have uttered half a dozen in one minute. Besides, why should I question a person I can read without. Your uncle, with his babyish cunning that everybody sees through, has given me the only proof I wanted. He has not had Mr. Talboys here once since I came."
"Cunning little aunt! Mr. Talboys happens not to be at home; uncle told me so himself."
"Simple little niece, uncle told you a fib; Mr. Talboys is at home. And observe! until I came to Font Abbey, he was here three times a week. You admit that. I come; your uncle knows I am not so unobservant as you, and Mr. Talboys is kept out of sight."
"The proof that my uncle has deceived me," said Lucy, coldly, and with lofty incredulity.
"Read that note from Miss Dodd!"
"What! you in correspondence with Miss Dodd?"
"That is to say, she has thrust herself into correspondence with me—just like her assurance."
The letter ran thus:
"DEAR MADAM—My brother requests me to say that, in compliance with your request, he called at the lodge of Talboys Park, and the people informed him Mr. Talboys had not left Talboys Park at all since Easter. I remain yours, etc."
Lucy was dumfounded.
"I suspected something, Lucy, so I asked Mr. Dodd to inquire."
"It was a singular commission to send him on."
"Oh, he takes long walks—cruises, he calls them—and he is so good-natured. Well, what do you think of your uncle's veracity now?"
Lucy was troubled and distressed, but she mastered her countenance: "I think he has sacrificed it for once to his affection for me. I fear you are right; my eyes are opened to many circumstances. But do—oh, pray do!—see his goodness in all this."
"The goodness of a story-teller."
"He admires Mr. Talboys—he reveres him. No doubt he wished to secure his poor niece what he thinks a great match, and now you assign ill motives to him. Yes, I confess he has deviated from truth. Cruel! cruel! what can you give me in exchange if you rob me of my esteem for those I love!"
This innocent distress, with its cause, were too deep for a lady whose bright little intelligence leaned toward cunning rather than wisdom. In spite of her niece's trouble, and the brimming eyes that implored forbearance, she drove the sting, merrily in again and again, till at last Lucy, who was not defending herself, but an absent friend, turned a little suddenly on her and said:
"And do you think he says nothing against you?"
"Oh, he is a backbiter, too, is he? I didn't know he had that vice. Ah! and, pray, what can he find to say against me?"
"Oh, people that hate one another can always find something ill-natured to say," retorted Lucy, with a world of meaning.
Mrs. Bazalgette turned red, and her little nose went up into the air at an angle of forty-five. She said, with majestic disdain: "I don't hate the man—I don't condescend to hate him."
"Then don't condescend to backbite him, dear."
This home-thrust, coming from such a quarter, took away my Lady Disdain's very breath. She sat transfixed; then, upon reflection, got up a tear, and had to be petted.
This sweet lady departed, flinging down her firebrand on those hospitable boards.
Lucy, though she had defended her uncle, was not a little vexed that he had managed matters so as to get her talked of with Mr. Talboys. Her natural modesty and reserve prevented her from remonstrating; nor was there any positive necessity. She was one of those young ladies who seem born mistresses of the art of self-defense. Deriving the art not from experience, but from instinct, they are as adroit at seventeen as they are at twenty-seven; so a last year's bird constructs her first nest as cunningly as can a veteran feathered architect.
Therefore, without a grain of discourtesy or tangible ill-temper, she quietly froze, and a small family with her, they could not tell how or why, for they had never even suspected this girl's power. You would have seemed to them as one that mocketh had you told them they owed their gayety, their good-humor, their happiness, and their conversational powers to her.
Of these Talboys suffered the most. She brought him to a stand-still by a very simple process. She no longer patted or spurred him. To vary the metaphor, a man that has no current must be stirred or stagnate; Lucy's light hand stirred Talboys no more; Talboys stagnated. Mr. Fountain suffered next in proportion. He began to find that something was the matter, but what he had no idea. He did not observe that, though Lucy answered him as kindly as ever, she did not draw him out as heretofore, far less that she was vexed with him, and on her guard against him and everybody, like a maitresse d'armes. No. "The days were drawing in. The air was heavy; no carbon in it. Wind in the east again!!!" etc. So subtle is the influence of these silly little creatures upon creation's lords.
Mr. Talboys did not take delicate hints. He continued his visits three times a week, and the coast was kept clear for him. On this Miss Fountain proceeded to overt acts of war. She brought a champion on the scene—a terrible champion—a champion so irresistible that I set any woman down as a coward who lets him loose upon a sex already so unequal to the contest as ours. What that champion's real name is I have in vain endeavored to discover, but he is called "Headache." When this terrible ally mingled in the game—on the Talboys nights—dismay fell upon the wretched males that abode in and visited the once cheerful, cozy Font Abbey. Messrs. Fountain and Talboys put their heads together in grave, anxious consultations, and Arthur vented a yell of remonstrance. He found the lady one afternoon preparing indisposition. She was leaning languidly back, and the fire was dying out of her eye, and the color out of her cheek, and the blinds were drawn down. The poor boy burst in upon this prologue. "Oh, Lucy," he cried, in piteous, foreboding tones, "don't go and have a headache to-night. It was so jolly till you took to these stupid headaches."
"I am so sorry, Arthur," said Lucy, apologetically, but at bottom she was inexorable. The disease reached its climax just before dinner. All remedies failed, and there was nothing for it but to return to her own room, and read the last new tale of domestic interest—and principle—until sleep came to her relief.
After dinner Arthur shot out with the retiring servants, and interred himself in the study, where he sought out with care such wild romances as give entirely false views of life, and found them, "and so shut up in measureless content." —Macbeth.
The seniors consulted at their ease. They both appreciated the painful phenomenon, but they differed toto coelo as to the cause. Mr. Fountain ascribed it to the somber influence of Mrs. Bazalgette, and miscalled her, till Jane's hair stood on end: she happened to be the one at the keyhole that night. Mr. Talboys laid all the blame on David Dodd. The discussion was vigorous, and occupied more than two hours, and each party brought forward good and plausible reasons; and, if neither made any progress toward converting the other, they gained this, at least, that each corroborated himself. Now Mrs. Bazalgette was gone no direct reprisals on her were possible. Registering a vow that one day or other he would be even with her, the senior consented, though not very willingly, to co-operate with his friend against an imaginary danger. In answer to his remark that the Dodds were never invited to tea now, Mr. Talboys had replied: "But I find from Mr. Arthur he visits the house every day on the pretense of teaching him mathematics—a barefaced pretense—a sailor teach mathematics!" Mr. Fountain had much ado to keep his temper at this pertinacity in a jealous dream. He gulped his ire down, however, and said, somewhat sullenly: "I really cannot consent to send my poor friend's son to the University a dunce, and there is no other mathematician near."
"If I find you one," said Talboys, hastily, "will you relieve Mr. Dodd of his labors, and me of his presence?"
"Certainly," said the other. Poor David!
"Then there is my friend Bramby. He is a second wrangler. He shall take Arthur, and keep him till Miss Fountain leaves us. Bramby will refuse me nothing. I have a living in my gift, and the incumbent is eighty-eight."
The senior consented with a pitying smile.
"Bramby will take him next week," said Talboys, severely.
Mr. Fountain nodded his head. It was all the assent he could effect: and at that moment there passed through him the sacrilegious thought that the Conqueror must have imported an ass or two among his other forces, and that one of these, intermarrying with Saxon blood, had produced a mule, and that mule was his friend.
The same uneasy jealousy, which next week was to expel David from Font Abbey, impelled Mr. Talboys to call the very next day at one o'clock to see what was being done under cover of trigonometry. He found Mr. and Miss Fountain just sitting down to luncheon. David and Arthur were actually together somewhere, perhaps going through the farce of geometry. He was half vexed at finding no food for his suspicions. Presently, so spiteful is chance, the door opened, and in marched Arthur and David.
"I have made him stay to luncheon for once," said Arthur; "he couldn't refuse me; we are to part so soon." Arthur got next to Lucy, and had David on his left. Mr. Talboys gave Mr. Fountain a look, and very soon began to play his battery upon David.
"How do you naval officers find time to learn geometry?"
"What? don't you know it is a part of our education, sir?"
"I never heard that before."
"That is odd; but perhaps you have spent all your life ashore" (this in commiserating accents). David then politely explained to Mr. Talboys that a man who looked one day to command a ship must not only practice seamanship, but learn navigation, and that navigation was a noble art founded on the exact sciences as well as on practical experiences; that there did still linger upon the ocean a few of the old captains, who, born at a period when a ship, in making a voyage, used to run down her longitude first, and then begin to make her latitude, could handle a ship well, and keep her off a lee shore if they saw it in time, but were, in truth, hardly to be trusted to take her from port to port. "We get a word with these old salts now and then when we are becalmed alongside, and the questions they put make us quite feel for them. Then they trust entirely to their instruments. They can take an observation, but they can't verify one. They can tack her and wear her (I have seen them do one when they should have done the other), and they can read the sky and the water better than we young ones; and while she floats they stick to her, and the greater the danger the louder the oaths—but that is all." He then assured them with modest fervor that much more than that was expected of the modern commander, particularly in the two capital articles of exact science and gentlemanly behavior. He concluded with considerable grace by apologizing for his enthusiastic view of a profession that had been too often confounded with the faults of its professors—faults that were curable, and that they would all, he hoped, live long enough to see cured. Then, turning to Miss Fountain, he said: "And if I began by despising my business, and taking a small view of it, how should I ever hold sticks with my able competitors, who study it with zeal and admiration?"
Lucy. "I don't quite understand all you have said, Mr. Dodd, but that last I think is unanswerable."
Fountain. "I am sure of it. As the Duke of Wellington said the other day in the House of Lords, 'That is a position I defy any noble lord to assault with success'—haw! ho!"
Mr. Talboys averted his attack. "Pray, sir," said he, with a sneer, "may I ask, have nautical commanders a particular taste for education as well as science?"
"Not that I know of. If you mean me, I am hungry to learn, and I find few but what can teach me something, and what little I know I am willing to impart, sir; give and take."
"It is the direction of your teaching that seems to me so singular. Mathematics are horrible enough, and greatly to be avoided."
"That is news to me."
"On terra firma, I mean."
At this opening of the case Talboys versus Newton, Arthur shrugged his shoulders to Lucy and David, and went swiftly out as from the presence of an idiot. It was abominably rude. But, besides being ill-natured and a little shallow, Mr. Talboys was drawling out his words, and Arthur was sixteen—candid epoch, at which affectation in man or woman is intolerable to us; we get a little hardened to it long before sixty. Mr. Talboys bit his lip at this boyish impertinence, but he was too proud a man to notice it otherwise than by quietly incorporating the offender into his satire. "But the enigma is why you read them with a stripling, of whose breeding we have just had a specimen—mathematics with a hob-ba-de-hoy? Grand Dieu! Do pray tell us, Mr. Dodd, why you come to Font Abbey every day; is it really to teach Master Orson mathematics and manners?"
David did not sink into the earth as he was intended to.
"I come to teach him algebra and geometry, what little I know."
"But your motive, Mr. Dodd?"
David looked puzzled, Lucy uneasy at seeing her guest badgered.
"Ask Miss Fountain why she thinks I do my best for Arthur," said David, lowering his eyes.
Talboys colored and looked at Fountain.
"I think it must be out of pure goodness," said Lucy, sweetly.
Mr. Talboys ignored her calmly. "Pray enlighten us, Mr. Dodd. Now what is the real reason you walk a mile every day to do mathematics with that interesting and well-behaved juvenile?"
"You are very curious, sir," said David, grimly, his ire rising unseen.
"I am—on this point."
"Well, since you must be told what most men could see without help, it is—because he is an orphan; and because an orphan finds a brother in every man that is worth the shoe-leather he stands in. Can ye read the riddle now, ye lubber?" and David started up haughtily, and, with contempt and wrath on his face, marched through the open window and joined his little friend on the lawn, leaving Fountain red with anger and Talboys white.
The next thing was, Lucy rose and went quietly out of the room by the door.
"It is the last time he shall set his foot within my door. Provoking cub!"
"You are convinced at last that he is a dangerous rival?"
"A rival? Nonsense and stuff!!"
"Then why was she so agitated? She went out with tears in her eyes: I saw them."
"The poor girl was frightened, no doubt. We don't have fracases at Font Abbey. On this one spot of earth comfort reigns, and balmy peace, and shall reign unruffled while I live. The passions are not admitted here, sir. Gracious Heaven forbid! I'd as soon see a bonfire in the middle of my dining-room as Jealousy & Co."
"In that case you had better exclude the cause."
"The cause is your imagination, my good friend; but I will give it no handle. I will exclude David Dodd until she has accepted you in form."
With this understanding the friends parted.
After dinner that same day Arthur sat in the drawing-room with Lucy. He was reading, she working placidly. She looked off her work demurely at him several times. He was absorbed in a flighty romance. "I have dropped my worsted, Arthur. It is by you."
Arthur picked the ball up and brought it to her; then back to his romance, heart and soul. Another sidelong glance at him; then, after a long silence, "Your book seems very interesting."
"I'll fling it against the wall if it does not mind," was the infuriated reply. "Here are two fools quarreling, page after page, and can't see, or won't see, what everybody else can see, that it is an absurd misunderstanding. One word of common sense would put it all right."
"Then why not put the book down and talk to me?"
"I can't. It won't let me. I must see how long the two fools will go on not seeing what everybody else sees."
"Will not the number of volumes tell you that?"
"Signorina, don't you try to be satirical!" said the sprightly youth; "you'll only make a mess of it. What is the use dropping one drop of vinegar into such a great big honey pot?"
"You are a saucy boy," retorted Lucy, in tones of gentle approbation.
A long silence.
"Arthur, will you hold this skein for me?"
"Never mind, dear. I will try and manage with a chair."
"No you won't, now; there."
The victim was caught by the hands. But with fatal instinctive perverseness he sat in silent amazement watching Lucy's supple white hand disentangling impossibilities instead of chattering as he was intended to. Lucy gave a little sigh. Here was a dreadful business—obliged to elicit the information she had resolved should be forced upon her.
"By the by, Arthur," said she, carelessly, "did Mr. Dodd say anything to you on the lawn?"
"About what was said after you went out so ru—so suddenly."
"No; why? what was said? Something about me? Tell me."
"Oh, no, dear; as Mr. Dodd did not mention it, it is not worth while. You must not move your hands, please."
"Now, Lucy, that is too bad. It is not fair to excite one's curiosity and then stop directly."
"But it is nothing. Mr. Talboys teased Mr. Dodd a little, that is all, and Mr. Dodd was not so patient as I have seen him on like occasions. There, you are disentangled at last."
"Now, signorina, let us talk sense. Tell me, which do you like best of all the gentlemen that come here?"
"You, dear; only keep your hands still."
"None of your chaff, Lucy."
"Chaff! what is that?"
"Flattery, then. I hope it isn't that affected fool Talboys, for I hate hun."
"I cannot undertake to share your prejudices, Mr. Arthur."
"Then you actually like him."
"I don't dislike him."
"Then I pity your taste, that is all."
"Mr. Talboys has many good qualities; and if he was what you describe him, Uncle Fountain would not prize him as he does."
"There is something in that, Lucy; but I think my guardian and you are mad upon just that one point. Talboys is a fool and a snob."
"Arthur," said Lucy, severely, "if you speak so of my uncle's friends, you and I shall quarrel."
"You won't quarrel just now, if you can help it."
"Won't I, though? Why not, pray?"
"Because your skein is not wound yet."
"Oh, you little black-hearted thing!"
"I know human nature, miss," said the urchin, pompously; "I have read Miss Edgeworth!!!"
He then made an appeal to her candor and good sense. "Now don't you see my friend Mr. Dodd is worth them all put together?"
"I can't quite see that."
"He is so noble, so kind, so clever."
"You must own he is a trifle brusk."
"Never. And, if he is, that is not like hurting people's feelings on purpose, and saying nasty, ill-natured things wrapped up in politeness that you daren't say out like a man, or you'd get kicked. He is a gentleman inside; that Talboys is only one outside; but you girls can't look below the surface."
"We have not read Miss Edgeworth. His hands are not so white as Mr. Talboys'."
"Nor his liver, either—oh, you goose! Which has the finest eyes? Why, you don't see such eyes as Mr. Dodd's every day. They are as large as yours, only his are dark."
"Don't be angry, dear. You must admit his voice is very loud."
"He can make it loud, but it is always low and gentle whenever he speaks to you. I have noticed that; so that is monstrous ungrateful of you."
"There, the skein is wound. Arthur!"
"I have a great mind to tell you something your friend Mr. Dodd said while you were out of the room—but no, you shall finish your story first."
"No, no; hang the story!"
"Ah! you only say that out of politeness. I have taken you from it so long already."
The impetuous boy jumped up, seized the volumes, dashed out, and presently came running back, crying: "There, I have thrown them behind the bookcase for ever and ever. Now will you tell me what he said?"
Lucy smiled triumphantly. She could relish a bloodless victory over an inanimate rival. Then she said softly, "Arthur, what I am going to tell you is in confidence."
"I will be torn in pieces before I betray it," said the young chevalier.
Lucy smiled at his extravagance, then began again very gravely: "Mr. Talboys, who, with many good qualities, has—what shall I say?—narrow and artificial views compared with your friend—"
"Ah! now you are talking sense."
"Then why interrupt me, dear?—began teasing him, and wanting to know the real reason he comes here."
"The real reason? What did the fool mean?"
"How can I tell, Arthur, any more than you? Mr. Dodd evidently thought that some slur was meant on the purity of his friendship for you."
"Shame! shame! oh!"
"I saw his anger rising; for Mr. Dodd, though not irritable, is passionate—at least I think so. I tried to smooth matters. But no; Mr. Talboys persisted in putting this ungenerous question, when all of a sudden Mr. Dodd burst out, 'You wish to know why I love Arthur? Because he is an orphan; and because an orphan finds a brother in every man who is worth the shoe-leather he stands in. That is all the riddle, you lubber!!' It was terribly rude; but oh! Arthur, I must tell you your friend looked noble; he seemed to swell and rise to a giant as he spoke, and we all felt such little shrimps around him; and his lip trembled, and fire flashed from his eyes. How you would have admired him then; and he swept out of the room, and left us for his little friend, who is worthy of it all, since he stands up for him against us all. Arthur! why, he is crying! poor child! and do you think those words did not go to my heart as well? I am an orphan, too. Arthur, don't cry, love! oh! oh! oh!"
Oh, magic of a word from a great heart! Such a word, uncouth and simple, but hot from a manly bosom, pierced silk and broadcloth as if they had been calico and fustian, and made a fashionable young lady and a bold school-boy take hands and cry together. But such sweet tears dry quickly; they dry almost as they flow.
"Hallo!" cried the mercurial prince; "a sudden thought strikes me. You kept running him down a minute ago."
"Me?" said Lucy, with a look of amazement.
"Why, you know you did. Now tell me what was that for."
"To give you the pleasure of defending him."
"Oh. Hum? Lucy, you are not quite so simple as the others think; sometimes I can't make you out myself."
"Is it possible? Well, you know what to do, dear."
"No, I don't."
"Why, read Miss Edgeworth over again."
ARTHUR was bundled off to a private tutor, and the Dodds invited to Font Abbey no more, and Talboys dined there three days a week. So far, David Dodd was in a poor and miserable position compared with Talboys, who visited Lucy at pleasure, and could close the very street door against a rival, real or imaginary. But the street door is not the door of the heart, and David had one little advantage over his powerful antagonist; it was a slender one, and he owed it to a subtle source—female tact. His sister had long been aware of Talboys. The gossip of the village had enlightened her as to his visits and supposed pretensions. She had deliberately withheld this information from her brother, for she said to herself: "Men always make such fools of themselves when they are jealous. No. David shan't even know he has got a rival; if he did he would be wretched and live on thorns, and then he would get into passions, and either make a fool of himself in her eyes, or do something rash and be shown to the door."
Thus far Eve, defending her brother. And with this piece of shrewdness she did a little more for him than she intended or was conscious of; for Talboys, either by feeble calculation or instinct of petty rivalry, constantly sneered at David before Lucy; David never mentioned Talboys' name to her. Now superior ignores, inferior detracts. Thus Talboys lowered himself and rather elevated David; moreover, he counteracted his own strongest weapon, the street door. After putting David out of sight, this judicious rival could not let him fade out of mind too; he found means to stimulate the lady's memory, and, as far as in him lay, made the absent present. May all my foes unweave their webs as cleverly! David knew nothing of this. He saw himself shut out from Paradise, and he was sad. He felt the loss of Arthur too. The orphan had been medicine to him. When a man is absorbed in a hopeless passion, to be employed every day in a good action has a magical soothing influence on the racked heart. Try this instead of suicide, despairing lover. It is a quack remedy; no M. D. prescribes it. Never you mind; in desperate ills a little cure is worth a deal of etiquette. Poor David had lost this innocent comfort—lost, too, the pleasure of going every day to the house she lived in. To be sure, when he used to go he seldom caught a glimpse of her, but he did now and then, and always enjoyed the hope.
"I see how it is," said he to Eve one day; "I am not welcome to the master of the house. Well, he is the master; I shall not force my way where I am not welcome"; but after these spirited words he hung his head.
"Oh, nonsense," said Eve. "It isn't him. There are mischief-makers behind."
"Ay? just you tell me who they are. I'll teach them to come across my hawse"; and David's eyes flashed.
"Don't you be silly," said Eve, and turned it off; "and don't be so downhearted. Why, you are not half a man."
"No more I am, Eve. What has come to me?"
"What, indeed? just when everything goes swimmingly."
"Eve, how can you say so?"
"Why, David, she leaves this in a few days for Mrs. Bazalgette's house. You tell me you have got a warm invitation there. Then make the play there, and, if you can't win her, say you don't deserve her, twiddle your thumb, and see a bolder lover carry her off. You foolish boy, she is only a woman; she is to be won. If you don't mind, some man will show you it was as easy as you think it is hard. Timid wooers make a mountain of a mole-hill."
"Why, it is you who have kept me backing and filling all this time, Eve."
"Of course. Prudence at first starting, but that isn't to say courage is never to come in. First creep within the fortification wall; but, once inside, if you don't storm the city that minute, woe be unto you. Come, cheer up! it is only for a few days, and then she goes where you will have her all to yourself; besides, you shall have one sweet delicious evening with her all alone before she goes. What! have you forgotten the pedigree? Wasn't I right to keep that back? and now march and take a good long walk."
Her tongue was a spur. It made David's drooping manhood rear and prance—a trumpet, and pealed victory to come. David kissed her warmly and strode away radiant. She looked sadly after him.
She had never spoken so hopefully, so encouragingly. The reason will startle such of my readers as have not taken the trouble to comprehend her. It was that she had never so thoroughly desponded. Such was Eve. When matters went smoothly, she itched to torment and take the gloss off David; but now the affair looked really desperate, so it would have been unkind not to sustain him with all her soul. The cause of her despondency and consequent cheerfulness shall now be briefly related. Scarce an hour ago she had met Miss Fountain in the village and accompanied her home. For David's sake she had diverted the conversation by easy degrees to the subject of marriage, in order to sound Miss Fountain. "You would never give your hand without your heart, I am sure."
"Heaven forbid," was the reply.
"Not even to a coronet?"
"Not even to a crown."
So far so good; but Miss Fountain went on to say that the heart was not the only thing to be consulted in a matter so important as marriage.
"It is the only thing I would ever consult," said Eve. As Lucy did not reply, Eve asked her next what she would do if she loved a poor man. Lucy replied coldly that it was not her present intention to love anybody but her relations; that she should never love any gentleman until she had been married to him, or, correcting herself, at all events, been some time engaged to him, and she should certainly never engage herself to anyone who would not rather improve her position in society than deteriorate it. Eve met these pretty phrases with a look of contempt, as much as to say, "While you speak I am putting all that into plain vulgar English." The other did not seem to notice it. "To leave this interesting topic for a while," said she, languidly, "let me consult you, Miss Dodd. I have not, as you may have noticed, great abilities, but I have received an excellent education. To say nothing of those soi-disant accomplishments with which we adorn and sometimes weary society, my dear mother had me well grounded in languages and history. Without being eloquent, I have a certain fluency, in which, they tell me, even members of Parliament are deficient, smoothly as their speeches read made into English by the newspapers. Like yourself, Miss Dodd, and all our sex, I am not destitute of tact, and tact, you know, is 'the talent of talents.' I feel," here she bit her lip, "myself fit for public life. I am ambitious."
"Oh, you are, are you?"
"Very; and perhaps you will kindly tell me how I had best direct that ambition. The army? No; marching against daisies, and dancing and flirting in garrison towns, is frivolous and monotonous too. It isn't as if war was raging, trumpets ringing, and squadrons charging. Your brother's profession? Not for the world; I am a coward" [consistent]. "Shall I lower my pretensions to the learned professions?"
"I don't doubt your cleverness, but the learned professions?"
"A woman has a tongue, you know, and that is their grand requisite. I interrupted you, Miss Dodd; pray forgive me."
"Well, then, let us go through them. To be a clergyman, what is required? To preach, and visit the sick, and feel for them, and understand what passes in the sorrowful hearts of the afflicted. Is that beyond our sex?"
"That last is far more beyond a man at most times; and oh, the discourses one has to sit out in church!"
"Portia made a very passable barrister, Miss Dodd."
"Oh, did she?"
"Why, you know she did; and as for medicine, the great successes there are achieved by honeyed words, with a long word thrown in here and there. I've heard my own mamma say so. Now which shall I be?"
"I suppose you are making fun of me," said Eve; "but there is many a true word spoken in jest. You could be a better, parson, lawyer or doctor than nine out of ten, but they won't let us. They know we could beat them into fits at anything but brute strength and wickedness, so they have shut all those doors in us poor girls' faces."
"There; you see," said Lucy archly, "but two lines are open to our honorable ambition, marriage and—water-colors. I think marriage the more honorable of the two; above all, it is the more fashionable. Can you blame me, then, if my ambition chooses the altar and not the easel?"
"So that is what you have been bringing me to."
"You came of your own accord," was the sly retort. "Let me offer you some luncheon."
"No, thank you; I could not eat a morsel just now."
Eve went away, her bright little face visibly cast down. It was not Miss Fountain's words only, and that new trait of hard satire, which she had so suddenly produced from her secret recesses. Her very tones were cynical and worldly to Eve's delicate sense of hearing.
"Poor, poor David!" she thought, and when she got to the door of the room she sighed; and as she went home she said more than once to herself, "No more heart than a marble statue. Oh, how true our first thought is! I come back to mine—"
Lucy (sola). "Then what right had she to come here and try to turn me inside out?"
As the hour of Lucy's departure drew near, Mr. Fountain became anxious to see her betrothed to his friend, for fear of accidents. "You had better propose to her in form, or authorize me to do so, before she goes to that Mrs. Bazalgette." This time it was Talboys that hung back. He objected that the time was not opportune. "I make no advance," said he; "on the contrary, I seem of late to have lost ground with your niece."
"Oh, I've seen the sort of distance she has put on; all superficial, my dear sir. I read it in your favor. I know the sex; they can't elude me. Pique, sir—nothing on earth but female pique. She is bitter against us for shilly-shallying. These girls hate shilly-shally in a man. They are monopolists—severe monopolists; shilly-shally is one of their monopolies. Throw yourself at her feet, and press her with ardor; she will clear up directly." The proposed attitude did not tempt the stiff Talboys. His pride took the alarm.
"Thank you. It is a position in which I should not care to place myself unless I was quite sure of not being refused. No, I will not risk my proposal while she is under the influence of this Dodd; he is, somehow or other, the cause of her coldness to me."
"Good heavens! why, she has been hermetically sealed against him ever so long," cried Fountain, almost angrily.
"I saw his sister come out of your gate only the other day. Sisters are emissaries—dangerous ones, too. Who knows? her very coldness may be vexation that this man is excluded. Perhaps she suspects me as the cause."
"These are chimeras—wild chimeras. My niece cares nothing for such people as the Dodds."
"I beg your pardon; these low attachments are the strongest. It is a notorious fact."
"There is no attachment; there is nothing but civility, and the affability of a well-bred superior to an inferior. Attachment! why, there is not a girl in Europe less capable of marrying beneath her; and she is too cold to flirt—-but with a view to matrimonial position. The worst of it is, that, while you fear an imaginary danger, you are running into a real one. If we are defeated it will not be by Dodd, but by that Mrs. Bazalgette. Why, now I think of it, whence does Lucy's coldness date? From that viper's visit to my house. Rely on it, if we are suffering from any rival influence, it is that woman's. She is a dangerous woman—she is a character I detest—she is a schemer."
"Am I to understand that Mrs. Bazalgette has views of her own for Miss Fountain?" inquired Talboys, his jealousy half inclined to follow the new lead.
"In all probability."
"Oh, then it is mere surmise."
"No, it is not mere surmise; it is the reasonable conjecture of a man who knows her sex, and human nature, and life. Since I have my views, what more likely than that she has hers, if only to spite me? Add to this her strange visit to Font Abbey, and the somber influence she has left behind. And to this woman Lucy is going unprotected by any positive pledge to you. Here is the true cause for anxiety. And if you do not share it with me, it must be that you do not care about our alliance."
Mr. Talboys was hurt. "Not care for the alliance? It was dear to him—all the dearer for the difficulties. He was attached to Miss Fountain—warmly attached; would do anything for her except run the risk of an affront—a refusal." Then followed a long discussion, the result of which was that he would not propose in form now, but would give proofs of his attachment such as no lady could mistake; inter alia, he would be sure to spend the last evening with her, and would ride the first stage with her next day, squeeze her hand at parting, and look unutterable. And as for the formal proposal, that was only postponed a week or two. Mr. Fountain was to pay his visit to Mrs. Bazalgette, and secretly prepare Miss Fountain; then Talboys would suddenly pounce—and pop. The grandeur and boldness of this strategy staggered, rather than displeased, Mr. Fountain.
"What! under her own roof?" and he could not help rubbing his hands with glee and spite—"under her own eye, and malgre her personal influence? Why, you are Nap. I."
"She will be quite out of the way of the Dodds there," said Talboys, slyly.
The senior groaned. (" 'Mule I.' I should have said.")
And so they cut and dried it all.
The last evening came, and with it, just before dinner, a line by special messenger from Mr. Talboys. "He could not come that evening. His brother had just arrived from India; they had not met for seven years. He could not set him to dine alone."
After dinner, in the middle of her uncle's nap, in came Lucy, and, unheard-of occurrence—deed of dreadful note—woke him. She was radiant, and held a note from Eve. "Good news, uncle; those good, kind Dodds! they are coming to tea."
"What?" and he wore a look of consternation. Recollecting, however, that Talboys was not to be there, he was indifferent again. But when he read the note he longed for his self-invited visitors. It ran thus:
"DEAR MISS FOUNTAIN—David has found out the genealogy. He says there is no doubt you came from the Fountains of Melton, and he can prove it. He has proved it to me, and I am none the wiser. So, as David is obliged to go away to-morrow, I think the best way is for me to bring him over with the papers to-night. We will come at eight, unless you have company."
"He is a worthy young man," shouted Mr. Fountain. "What o'clock is it?"
"Very nearly eight. Oh, uncle, I am so glad. How pleased you will be!"
The Dodds arrived soon after, and while tea was going on David spread his parchments on the table and submitted his proofs. He had eked out the other evidence by means of a series of leases. The three fields that went with Font Abbey had been let a great many times, and the landlord's name, Fountain in the latter leases, was Fontaine in those of remoter date. David even showed his host the exact date at which the change of orthography took place. "You are a shrewd young gentleman," cried Mr. Fountain, gleefully.
David then asked him what were the names of his three meadows. The names of them? He didn't know they had any.
"No names? Why, there isn't a field in England that hasn't its own name, sir. I noticed that before I went to sea." He then told Mr. Fountain the names of his three meadows, and curious names they were. Two of them were a good deal older than William the Conqueror. David wrote them on a slip of paper. He then produced a chart. "What is that, Mr. David?"
"A map of the Melton estate, sir."
"Why, how on earth did you get that?"
"An old shipmate of mine lives in that quarter—got him to make it for me. Overhaul it, sir; you will find the Melton estate has got all your three names within a furlong of the mansion house."
"From this you infer—"
"That one of that house came here, and brought the E along with him that has got dropped somehow since, and, being so far from his birthplace, he thought he would have one or two of the old names about him. What will you bet me he hasn't shot more than one brace of partridges on those fields about Melton when he was a boy? So he christened your three fields afresh, and the new names took; likely he made a point of it with the people in the village. For all that, I have found one old fellow who stands out against them to this day. His name is Newel. He will persist in calling the field next to your house Snap Witcheloe. 'That is what my grandfather allus named it,' says he, 'and that is the name it went by afore there was ever a Fountain in this ere parish.' I have looked in the Parish Register, and I see Newel's grandfather was born in 1690. Now, sir, all this is not mathematical proof; but, when you come to add it to your own direct proofs, that carry you within a cable's length of Port Fontaine, it is very convincing; and, not to pay out too much yarn, I'll bet—my head—to a China orange—"
"David, don't be vulgar."
"Never mind, Mr. Dodd—be yourself."
"Well, then, to serve Eve out, I'll bet her head (and that is a better one than mine) to a China orange that Fontaine and Fountain are one, and that the first Fontaine came over here from Melton more than one hundred and thirty years ago, and less than one hundred and forty, when Newel's grandfather was a young man."
"Probatum est," shouted old Fountain, his eyes sparkling, his voice trembling with emotion. "Miss Fontaine," said he, turning to Lucy, throwing a sort of pompous respect into his voice and manner, "you shall never marry any man that cannot give you as good a home as Melton, and quarter as good a coat of arms with you as your own, the Founteyns'." David's heart took a chill as if an ice-arrow had gone through it. "So join me to thank our young friend here."
Mr. Fountain held out his hand. David gave his mechanically in return, scarcely knowing what he did. "You are a worthy and most intelligent young man, and you have made an old man as happy as a lord," said the old gentleman, shaking him warmly.
"And there is my hand, too," said Lucy, putting out hers with a blush, "to show you I bear you no malice for being more unselfish and more sagacious than us all." Instantly David's cold chill fled unreasonably. His cheeks burned with blushes, his eyes glowed, his heart thumped, and the delicate white, supple, warm, velvet hand that nestled in his shot electric tremors through his whole frame, when glided, with well-bred noiselessness, through the open door, Mr. Talboys, and stood looking yellow at that ardent group, and the massive yet graceful bare arm stretched across the table, and the white hand melting into the brown one.
While he stood staring, David looked up, and caught that strange, that yellow look. Instantly a light broke in on him. "So I should look," felt David, "if I saw her hand in his." He held Lucy's hand tight (she was just beginning to withdraw it), and glared from his seat on the newcomer like a lion ready to spring. Eve read and turned pale; she knew what was in the man's blood.
Lucy now quietly withdrew her hand, and turned with smiling composure toward the newcomer, and Mr. Fountain thrust a minor anxiety between the passions of the rivals. He rose hastily, and went to Talboys, and, under cover of a warm welcome, took care to let him know Miss Dodd had been kind enough to invite herself and David. He then explained with uneasy animation what David had done for him.
Talboys received all this with marked coldness; but it gave him time to recover his self-possession. He shook hands with Lucy, all but ignored David and Eve, and quietly assumed the part of principal personage. He then spoke to Lucy in a voice tuned for the occasion, to give the impression that confidential communication was not unusual between him and her. He apologized, scarce above a whisper, for not having come to dinner on her last day.
"But after dinner," said he, "my brother seemed fatigued. I treacherously recommended bed. You forgive me? The nabob instantly acted on my selfish hint. I mounted my horse, and me voila." In short, in two minutes he had retaliated tenfold on David. As for Lucy, she was a good deal amused at this sudden public assumption of a tenderness the gentleman had never exhibited in private, but a little mortified at his parade of mysterious familiarity; still, for a certain female reason, she allowed neither to appear, but wore an air of calm cordiality, and gave Talboys his full swing.
David, seated sore against his will at another table, whither Mr. Fountain removed him and parchments on pretense of inspecting the leases, listened with hearing preternaturally keen—listened and writhed.
His back was toward them. At last he heard Talboys propose in murmuring accents to accompany her the first stage of her journey. She did not answer directly, and that second was an age of anguish to poor David.
When she did answer, as if to compensate for her hesitation, she said, with alacrity: "I shall be delighted; it will vary the journey most agreeably; I will ride the pony you were so kind as to give me."