While she stood thus, with something drawing her on and something drawing her back, and palpitating in every fiber, Mrs. Wilson's voice was heard in low but anxious tones calling her. A feather turned the balanced scale. She must go. Fate had decided for her. She was called. Then the sprites of mischief tempted her to let David know she had been near him. She longed to put his commission into his pocket; but that was impossible. It was at the very bottom of her box. She took out her tablets, wrote the word "Adieu," tore out half the leaf, and, bending over David, attached the little bit of paper by a pin to the tail of his coat. If he had been ever so much awake he could not have felt her doing it; for her hand touching him, and the white paper settling on his coat, was all done as lights a spot of down on still water from the bending neck of a swan.
"No, dear Mrs. Wilson, we must not go yet. I will hold the horse, and you must go back for me for something."
"I'm agreeable. What is it? Why, what is up? How you do pant!"
"I have made a discovery. There is a gentleman lying asleep there on the wet grass."
"Lackadaisy! why, you don't say so."
"It is a friend; and he will catch his death."
"Why, of course he will. He will have had a drop too much, Miss Lucy. I'll wake him, and we will take him along home with us."
"Oh, not for the world, nurse. I would not have him see what I am doing, oh, not for all the world!"
"Where is he?"
"In there, under the great tree."
"Well, you get into the cart, miss, and hold the reins"; and Mrs. Wilson went into the grounds and soon found David.
She put her hand on his shoulder, and he awoke directly, and looked surprised at Mrs. Wilson.
"Are you better, sir?" said the good woman. "Why, if it isn't the handsome gentleman that was so kind to me! Now do ee go in, sir—do ee go in. You will catch your death o' cold." She made sure he was staying at the house.
David looked up at Lucy's windows. "Yes, I will go home, Mrs. Wilson; there is nothing to stay for now"; and he accompanied her to the cart. But Mrs. Wilson remembered Lucy's desire not to be seen; so she said very loud, "I'm sure it's very lucky me and my niece happened to be coming home so late, and see you lying there. Well, one good turn deserves another. Come and see me at my farm; you go through the village of Harrowden, and anybody there will tell you where Dame Wilson do live. I would ask you to-night, but—" she hesitated, and Lucy let down her veil.
"No, thank you, not now; my sister will be fretting as it is. Good-morning"; and his steps were heard retreating as Mrs. Wilson mounted the cart.
"Well, I should have liked to have taken him home and warmed him a bit," said the good woman to Lucy; "it is enough to give him the rheumatics for life. However, he is not the first honest man as has had a drop too much, and taken 's rest without a feather-bed. Alack, miss, why, you are all of a tremble! What ails you? I'm a fool to ask. Ah! well, you'll soon be at home, and naught to vex you. That is right; have a good cry, do. Ay, ay, 'tis hard to be forced to leave our nest. But all places are bright where love abides; and there's honest hearts both here and there, and the same sky above us wherever we wander, and the God of the fatherless above that; and better a peaceful cottage than a palace full of strife." And with many such homely sayings the rustic consoled her nursling on their little journey, not quite in vain.
NEXT morning the house was in an uproar. Servants ran to and fro, and the fish-pond was dragged at Mr. Fountain's request. But on these occasions everybody claims a right to speak, and Jane came into the breakfast-room and said: "If you please, mum, Miss Lucy isn't in the pond, for she have taken a good part of her clothes, and all her jewels."
This piece of common sense convinced everybody on the spot except Mrs. Bazalgette. That lady, if she had decided on "making a hole in the water," would have sat on the bank first, and clapped on all her jewels, and all her richest dresses, one on the top of another. Finally, Mr. Bazalgette, who wore a somber air, and had not said a word, requested everybody to mind their own business. "I have a communication from Lucy," said he, "and I do not at present disapprove the step she has taken."
All eyes turned with astonishment toward him, and the next moment all voices opened on him like a pack of hounds. But he declined to give them any further information. Between ourselves he had none to give. The little note Lucy left on his table merely begged him to be under no anxiety, and prayed him to suspend his judgment of her conduct till he should know the whole case. It was his strong good sense which led him to pretend he was in the whole secret. By this means he substituted mystery for scandal, and contrived that the girl's folly might not be irreparable.
At the same time he was deeply indignant with her, and, above all, with her hypocrisy in clinging round him and kissing him the very night she meditated flight from his house.
"I must find the girl out and get her back;" said he, and directly after breakfast he collected his myrmidons and set them to discover her retreat.
The outward frame-work of the holy alliance remained standing, but within it was dissolving fast. Each of the allies was even now thinking how to find Lucy and make a separate peace. During the flutter which now subsided, one person had done nothing but eat pigeon-pie. It was Kenealy, captain of horse.
Now eating pigeon-pie is not in itself a suspicious act, but ladies are so sharp. Mrs. Bazalgette said to herself, "This creature alone is not a bit surprised (for Bazalgette is fibbing); why is this creature not surprised? humph! Captain Kenealy," said she, in honeyed tones, "what would you advise us to do?"
"Advertaize," drawled the captain, as cool as a cucumber.
"Advertise? What! publish her name?"
"No, no names. I'll tell you;" and he proceeded to drawl out very slowly, from memory, the following advertisement. N. B.—The captain was a great reader of advertisements, and of little else.
"If L. F. will retarn—to her afflicted—relatives—she shall be received with open aams. And shall be forgotten and forgiven—and reunaited affection shall solace every wound."
"That is the style. It always brings 'em back—dayvilish good paie—have some moa."
Mr. Fountain and Mrs. Bazalgette raised an outcry against the captain's advice, and, when the table was calm again, Mrs. Bazalgette surprised them all by fixing her eyes on Kenealy, and saying quietly, "You know where she is." She added more excitedly: "Now don't deny it. On your honor, sir, have you no idea where my niece is?"
"Upon my honah, I have an idea."
"Then tell me."
"I'd rayther not."
"Perhaps you would prefer to tell me in private?"
"No; prefer not to tell at all."
Then the whole table opened on him, and appealed to his manly feeling, his sense of hospitality, his humanity—to gratify their curiosity.
Kenealy stretched himself out from the waist downward, and delivered himself thus, with a double infusion of his drawl:—
"See yah all dem—d first."
At noon on the same day, by the interference of Mrs. Bazalgette, the British army was swelled with Kenealy, captain of horse.
The whole day passed, and Lucy's retreat was not yet discovered. But more than one hunter was hemming her in.
The next day, being the second after her elopement with her nurse, at eleven in the forenoon, Lucy and Mrs. Wilson sat in the little parlor working. Mrs. Wilson had seen the poultry fed, the butter churned, and the pudding safe in the pot, and her mind was at ease for a good hour to come, so she sat quiet and peaceful. Lucy, too, was at peace. Her eye was clear; and her color coming back; she was not bursting with happiness, for there was a sweet pensiveness mixed with her sweet tranquillity; but she looked every now and then smiling from her work up at Mrs. Wilson, and the dame kept looking at her with a motherly joy caused by her bare presence on that hearth. Lucy basked in these maternal glances. At last she said: "Nurse."
"If you had never done anything for me, still I should know you loved me."
"Should ye, now?"
"Oh yes; there is the look in your eye that I used to long to see in my poor aunt's, but it never came."
"Well, Miss Lucy, I can't help it. To think it is really you setting there by my fire! I do feel like a cat with one kitten. You should check me glaring you out o' countenance like that."
"Check you? I could not bear to lose one glance of that honest tender eye. I would not exchange one for all the flatteries of the world. I am so happy here, so tranquil, under my nurse's wing."
With this declaration came a little sigh.
Mrs. Wilson caught it. "Is there nothing wanting, dear?"
"Well, I do keep wishing for one thing."
"What is that?"
"Oh, I can't help my thoughts."
"But you can help keeping them from me, nurse."
"Well, my dear, I am like a mother; I watch every word of yours and every look; and it is my belief you deceive yourself a bit: many a young maid has done that. I do judge there is a young man that is more to you than you think for."
"Who on earth is that, nurse? " asked Lucy, coloring.
"The handsome young gentleman."
"Oh, they are all handsome—all my pests."
"The one I found under your window, Miss Lucy; he wasn't in liquor; so what was he there for? and you know you were not at your ease till you had made me go and wake him, and send him home; and you were all of a tremble. I'm a widdy now, and can speak my mind to men-folk all one as women-folk; but I've been a maid, and I can mind how I was in those days. Liking did use to whisper me to do so and so; Shyness up and said, 'La! not for all the world; what'll he think?'"
"Oh, nurse, do you believe me capable of loving one who does not love me?"
"No. Who said he doesn't love you? What was he there for? I stick to that."
"Now, nurse, dear, be reasonable; if Mr. Dodd loved me, would he go to sleep in my presence?"
"Eh! Miss Lucy, the poor soul was maybe asleep before you left your room."
"It is all the same. He slept while I stood close to him ever so long. Slept while I— If I loved anybody as these gentlemen pretend they love us, should I sleep while the being I adored was close to me?"
"You are too hard upon him. 'The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.' Why, miss, we do read of Eutychus, how he snoozed off setting under Paul himself—up in a windy—and down a-tumbled. But parson says it wasn't that he didn't love religion, or why should Paul make it his business to bring him to life again, 'stead of letting un lie for a warning to the sleepy-headed ones. ''Twas a wearied body, not a heart cold to God,' says our parson."
"Now, nurse, I take you at your word. If Eutychus had been Eutycha, and in love with St. Paul, Eutycha would never have gone to sleep, though St. Paul preached all day and all night; and if Dorcas had preached instead of St. Paul, and Eutychus been in love with her, he would never have gone to sleep, and you know it."
At this home-thrust Mrs. Wilson was staggered, but the next moment her sense of discomfiture gave way to a broad expression of triumph at her nursling's wit.
"Eh! Miss Lucy," cried she, showing a broadside of great white teeth in a rustic chuckle, "but ye've got a tongue in your head. Ye've sewed up my stocking, and 'tisn't many of them can do that." Lucy followed up her advantage.
"And, nurse, even when he was wide awake and stood by the cart, no inward sentiment warned him of my presence; a sure sign he did not love me. Though I have never experienced love, I have read of it, and know all about it." [Jus-tice des Femmes!]
"Well, Miss Lucy, have it your own way; after all, if he loves you he will find you out."
"Of course he would, and you will see he will do nothing of the kind."
"Then I wish I knew where he was; I would pull him in at my door by the scruf of the neck."
"And then I should jump out at the window. Come, try on your new cap, nurse, that I have made for you, and let us talk about anything you like except gentlemen. Gentlemen are a sore subject with me. Gentlemen have been my ruin."
"La, Miss Lucy!"
"I assure you they have; why, have they not set my uncle's heart against me, and my aunt's, and robbed me of the affection I once had for both? I believe gentlemen to be the pests of society; and oh! the delight of being here in this calm retreat, where love dwells, and no gentleman can find me. Ah! ah! Oh! What is that?"
For a heavy blow descended on the door. "That is Jenny's knock," said Mrs. Wilson; dryly. "Come in, Jenny." The servant, thus invited, burst the door open as savagely as she had struck it, and announced with a knowing grin, "A GENTLEMAN—for Miss Fountain!!"
DAVID and Eve sat together at their little breakfast, and pressed each other to eat; but neither could eat. David's night excursion had filled Eve with new misgivings. It was the act of a madman; and we know the fears that beset her on that head, and their ground. He had come home shivering, and she had forced him to keep his bed all that day. He was not well now, and bodily weakness, added to his other afflictions, bore his spirit down, though nothing could cow it.
"When are you to sail?" inquired Eve, sick-like.
"In three days. Cargo won't be on board before."
"A coasting vessel?"
"A man can do his duty in a coaster as well as a merchantman or a frigate." But he sighed.
"Would to God you had never seen her!"
"Don't blame her—blame me. I had good advice from my little sister, but I was willful. Never mind, Eve, I needn't to blush for loving her; she is worthy of it all."
"Well, think so, David, if you can." And Eve, thoroughly depressed, relapsed into silence. The postman's rap was heard, and soon after a long inclosure was placed in Eve's hand.
Poor little Eve did not receive many letters; and, sad as she was, she opened this with some interest; but how shall I paint its effect? She kept uttering shrieks of joy, one after another, at each sentence. And when she had shrieked with joy many times, she ran with the large paper round to David. "You are captain of the Rajah! ah! the new ship! ah! eleven hundred tons! Oh, David! Oh, my heart! Oh! oh! oh!" and the poor little thing clasped her arms round her brother's neck, and kissed him again and again, and cried and sobbed for joy.
All men, and most women, go through life without once knowing what it is to cry for joy, and it is a comfort to think that Eve's pure and deep affection brought her such a moment as this in return for much trouble and sorrow. David, stout-hearted as he was, was shaken as the sea and the wind had never yet shaken him. He turned red and white alternately, and trembled. "Captain of the Rajah! It is too good—it is too good! I have done nothing for it"; and he was incredulous.
Eve was devouring the inclosure. "It is her doing," she cried; "it is all her doing."
"Who do you think? I am in the air! I am in heaven! Bless her—oh, God, bless her for this. Never speak against cold-blooded folk before me; they have twice the principle of us hot ones: I always said so. She is a good creature; she is a true friend; and you accused her of ingratitude!"
"That I never did."
"You did—Rajah—he! he! oh!—and I defended her. Here, take and read that: is that a commission or not? Now you be quiet, and let us see what she says. No, I can't; I cannot keep the tears out of my eyes. Do take and read it, David; I'm blind."
David took the letter, kissed it, and read it out to Eve, and she kept crowing and shedding tears all the time.
"DEAR MISS DODD—I admire too much your true affection for your brother to be indifferent to your good opinion. Think of me as leniently as you can. Perhaps it gives me as much pleasure to be able to forward you the inclosed as the receipt of it, I hope, may give you.
"It would, I think, be more wise, and certainly more generous, not to let Mr. Dodd think he owes in any degree to me that which, if the world were just, would surely have been his long ago. Only, some few months hence, when it can do him no harm, I could wish him not to think his friend Lucy was ungrateful, or even cold in his service, who saved her life, and once honored her with so warm an esteem. But all this I confide to your discretion and your justice. Dear Miss Dodd, those who give pain to others do not escape it themselves, nor is it just they should. My insensibility to the merit of persons of the other sex has provoked my relatives; they have punished me for declining Mr. Dodd's inferiors with a bitterness Mr. Dodd, with far more cause, never showed me; so you see at each turn I am reminded of his superiority.
"The result is, I am separated from my friends, and am living all alone with my dear old nurse, at her farmhouse.
"Since, then, I am unhappy, and you are generous, you will, I think, forgive me all the pain I have caused you, and will let me, in bidding you adieu, subscribe myself,
"It is the letter of a sweet girl, David, with a noble heart; and she has taken a noble revenge of me for what I said to her the other day, and made her cry, like a little brute as I am. Why, how glum you look!"
"Eve," said David, "do you think I will accept this from her without herself?"
"Of course you will. Don't be too greedy, David. Leave the girl in peace; she has shown you what she will do and what she won't. One such friend as this is worth a hundred lovers. Give me her dear little note."
While Eve was persuing it, David went out, but soon returned, with his best coat on, and his hat in his hand. Eve asked in some surprise where he was going in such a hurry.
"Well, David, now I come to read her letter quietly, it is a woman's letter all over; you may read it which way you like. What need had she to tell me she has just refused offers? And then she tells me she is all alone. That sounds like a hint. The company of a friend might he agreeable. Brush your coat first, at any rate; there's something white on it; it is a paper; it is pinned on. Come here. Why, what is this? It is written on. 'Adieu.'" And Eve opened her eyes and mouth as well.
She asked him when he wore the coat last.
"The day before yesterday."
"Were you in company of any girls?"
"But this is written by a girl, and it is pinned on by a girl; see how it is quilted in!! that's proof positive. Oh! oh! oh! look here. Look at these two 'Adieus'—the one in the letter and this; they are the same—precisely the same. What, in Heaven's name, is the meaning of this? Were you in her company that night?"
"Will you swear that?"
"No, I can't swear it, because I was asleep a part of the time; but waking in her company I was not."
"It is her writing, and she pinned it on you."
"How can that be, Eve?"
"I don't know; I am sure she did, though. Look at this 'Adieu' and that; you'll never get it out of my head but what one hand wrote them both. You are so green, a girl would come behind you and pin it on you, and you never feel her."
While saying these words, Eve slyly repinned it on him without his feeling or knowing anything about it.
David was impatient to be gone, but she held him a minute to advise him.
"Tell her she must and shall. Don't take a denial. If you are cowardly, she will be bold; but if you are bold and resolute, she will knuckle down. Mind that; and don't go about it with such a face as that, as long as my arm. If she says 'No,' you have got the ship to comfort you. Oh! I am so happy!"
"No, Eve," said David, "if she won't give me herself, I'll never take her ship. I'd die a foretopman sooner;" and, with these parting words, he renewed all his sister's anxiety. She sat down sorrowfully, and the horrible idea gained on her that there was mania in David's love for Lucy.
DAVID had one advantage over others that were now hunting Lucy. Mrs. Wilson had unwittingly given him pretty plain directions how to find her farmhouse; and as Eve, in the exercise of her discretion, or indiscretion, had shown David Lucy's letter, he had only to ride to Harrowden and inquire. But, on the other hand, his competitors were a few miles nearer the game, and had a day's start.
David got a horse and galloped to Harrowden, fed him at the inn, and asked where Mrs. Wilson's farm was. The waiter, a female, did not know, but would inquire. Meantime David asked for two sheets of paper, and wrote a few lines on each; then folded them both (in those days envelopes were not), but did not seal them. Mrs. Wilson's farm turned out to be only two miles from Harrowden, and the road easy to find. He was soon there; gave his horse to one of the farm-boys, and went into the kitchen and asked if Miss Fountain lived there. This question threw him into the hands of Jenny, who invited him to follow her, and, unlike your powdered and noiseless lackey, pounded the door with her fist, kicked it open with her foot, and announced him with that thunderbolt of language which fell so inopportunely on Lucy's self-congratulations.
The look Mrs. Wilson cast on Lucy was droll enough; but when David's square shoulders and handsome face filled up the doorway, a second look followed that spoke folios.
Lucy rose, and with heightened color, but admirable self-possession, welcomed David like a valued friend.
Mrs. Wilson's greeting was broad and hearty; and, very soon after she had made him sit down, she bounced up, crying: "You will stay dinner now you be come, and I must see as they don't starve you." So saying, out she went; but, looking back at the door, was transfixed by an arrow of reproach from her nursling's eye.
Lucy's reception of David, kind as it was, was not encouraging to one coming on David's errand, for there was the wrong shade of amity in it.
In times past it would have cooled David with misgivings, but now he did not give himself time to be discouraged; he came to make a last desperate effort, and he made it at once.
"Miss Lucy, I have got the Rajah, thanks to you."
"Thanks to me, Mr. Dodd? Thanks to your own high character and merit."
"No, Miss Lucy, you know better, and I know better, and there is your own sweet handwriting to prove it."
"Miss Dodd has showed you my letter?"
"How could she help it?"
"What a pity! how injudicious!"
"The truth is like the light; why keep it out? Yes; what I have worked for, and battled the weather so many years, and been sober and prudent, and a hard student at every idle hour—that has come to me in one moment from your dear hand."
"It is a shame."
"Bless you, Miss Lucy," cried David, not noting the remark.
Lucy blushed, and the water stood in her eyes. She murmured softly: "You should not say Miss Lucy; it is not customary. You should say Lucy, or Miss Fountain."
This apropos remark by way of a female diversion.
"Then let me say Lucy to-day, for perhaps I shall never say that, or anything that is sweet to say again. Lucy, you know what I came for?"
"Oh, yes, to receive my congratulations."
"More than that, a great deal—to ask you to go halves in the Rajah."
Lucy's eyebrows demanded an explanation.
"She is worth two thousand a year to her commander; and that is too much for a bachelor."
Lucy colored and smiled. "Why, it is only just enough for bachelors to live upon."
"It is too much for me alone under the circumstances," said David, gravely; and there was a little silence.
"Lucy, I love you. With you the Rajah would be a godsend. She will help me keep you in the company you have been used to, and were made to brighten and adorn; but. without you I cannot take her from your hand, and, to speak plain, I won't."
"Oh, Mr. Dodd!"
"No, Lucy; before I knew you, to command a ship was the height of my ambition—her quarter-deck my Heaven on earth; and this is a clipper, I own it; I saw her in the docks. But you have taught me to look higher. Share my ship and my heart with me, and certainly the ship will be my child, and all the dearer to me that she came to us from her I love. But don't say to me, 'Me you shan't have; you are not good enough for that; but there is a ship for you in my place.' I wouldn't accept a star out of the firmament on those terms."
"How unreasonable! On the contrary you should say, 'I am doubly fortunate: I escape a foolish, weak companion for life, and I have a beautiful ship.' But friendship such as mine for you was never appreciated; I do you injustice; you only talk like that to tease me and make me unhappy."
"Oh, Lucy, Lucy, did you ever know me—"
"There, now, forgive me; and own you are not in earnest."
"This will show you," said David, sadly; and he took out two letters from his bosom. "Here are two letters to the secretary. In one I accept the ship with thanks, and offer to superintend her when her rigging is being set up; and in this one I decline her altogether, with my humble and sincere thanks."
"Oh yes, you are very humble, sir," said Lucy. "Now—dear friend—listen to reason. You have others—"
"Excuse my interrupting you, but it is a rule with me never to reason about right and wrong; I notice that whoever does that ends by choosing wrong. I don't go to my head to find out my duty, I go to my heart; and what little manhood there is in me all cries out against me compounding with the woman I love, and taking a ship instead of her."
"How unkind you are! It is not as if I was under no obligations to you. Is not my life worth a ship? an angel like me?"
"I can't see it so. It was a greater pleasure to me to save your life, as you call it, than it could be to you. I can't let that into the account. A woman is a woman, but a man is a man; and I will be under no obligation to you but one."
"Don't you be angry; I'll love you and bless you all the same. But I am a man, and a man I'll die, whether I die captain of a ship or of a foretop. Poor Eve!"
"See how power tries people, and brings out their true character. Since you commanded the Rajah you are all changed. You used to be submissive; now you must have your own way entirely. You will fling my poor ship in my face unless I give you—but this is really using force—yes, Mr. Dodd, this is using force. Somebody has told you that my sex yield when downright compulsion is used. It is true; and the more ungenerous to apply it;" and she melted into a few placid tears.
David did not know this sign of yielding in a woman, and he groaned at the sight and hung his head.
"Advise me what I had better do."
To this singular proposal, David, listening to the ill advice of the fiend Generosity, groaned out, "Why should you be tormented and made cry?"
"Nothing can change me; I advise you to cut it short."
"Oh, do you? very well. Why did you say 'poor Eve'?"
"Ah, poor thing! she cried for joy when she read your letter, but when I go back she will cry for grief;" and his voice faltered.
"I will cut this short, Mr. Dodd; give me that paper."
"The wicked one, where you refuse my Rajah."
"You are no gentleman, sir, if you refuse a lady. Give it me this instant," cried Lucy, so haughtily and imperiously that David did not know her, and gave her the letter with a half-cowed air.
She took it, and with both her supple white hands tore it with insulting precision exactly in half. "There, sir and there, sir" (exactly in four); "and there" (in eight, with malicious. exactness); "and there"; and, though it seemed impossible to effect another separation, yet the taper fingers and a resolute will reduced it to tiny bits. She then made a gesture to throw them in the fire, but thought better of it and held them.
David looked on, almost amused at this zealous demolition of a thing he could so easily replace. He said, part sadly, part doggedly, part apologetically, "I can write another."
"But you will not. Oh, Mr. Dodd, don't you see?!"
He looked up at her eagerly. To his surprise, her haughty eagle look had gone, and she seemed a pitying goddess, all tenderness and benignity; only her mantling, burning cheek showed her to be woman.
She faltered, in answer to his wild, eager look. "Was I ever so rude before? What right have I to tear your letter unless I—"
The characteristic full stop, and, above all, the heaving bosom, the melting eye, and the red cheek, were enough even for poor simple David. Heaven seemed to open on him. His burning kisses fell on the sweet hands that had torn his death-warrant. No resistance. She blushed higher, but smiled. His powerful arm curled round her. She looked a little scared, but not much. He kissed her sweet cheek: the blush spread to her very forehead at that, but no resistance. As the winged and rapid bird, if her feathers be but touched with a speck of bird-lime, loses all power of flight, so it seemed as if that one kiss, the first a stranger had ever pressed on Lucy's virgin cheek, paralyzed her eel-like and evasive powers; under it her whole supple frame seemed to yield as David drew her closer and closer to him, till she hid her forehead and wet eyelashes on his shoulder, and murmured:
"How could I let you be unhappy?!"
Neither spoke for a while. Each felt the other's heart beat; and David drank that ecstasy of silent, delirious bliss which comes to great hearts once in a life.
Had he not earned it?
By some mighty instinct Mrs. Wilson knew when to come in. She came to the door just one minute after Lucy had capitulated, and, turning the handle, but without opening the door, bawled some fresh directions to Jenny: this was to enable Lucy to smooth her ruffled feathers, if necessary, and look Agnes. But Lucy's actual contact with that honest heart seemed to have made a change in her; instead of doing Agnes, she confronted (after a fashion of her own) the situation she had so long evaded.
"Oh, nurse!" she cried, and wreathed her arms round her.
"Don't cry, my lamb! I can guess."
"Cry? Oh no; I would not pay him so poor a compliment. It was to say, 'Dear nurse, you must love Mr. Dodd as well as me now.'"
The dame received this indirect intelligence with hearty delight.
"That won't cost me much trouble," said she. "He is the one I'd have picked out of all England for my nursling. When a young man is kind to an old woman, it is a good sign; but la! his face is enough for me: who ever saw guile in such a face as that. Aren't ye hungry by this time? Dinner will be ready in about a minute."
"Nurse, can I speak to you a word?"
It was to inquire whether she would invite Miss Dodd.
"She loves her brother very dearly, and it is cruel to separate them. Mr. Dodd will be nearly always here now, will he not?"
"You may take your davy of that."
In a very few minutes a note was written, and Mrs. Wilson's eldest son, a handsome young farmer, started in the covered cart with his mother's orders "to bring the young lady willy-nilly."
The holy allies both openly scouted Kenealy's advice, and both slyly stepped down into the town and acted on it. Mr. Fountain then returned to Font Abbey. Their two advertisements appeared side by side, and exasperated them.
After dinner Mrs. Wilson sent Lucy and David out to take a walk. At the gate they met with a little interruption; a carriage drove up; the coachman touched his hat, and Mrs. Bazalgette put her head out of the window.
"I came to take you back, love."
"Thank you, aunt; but it is not worth while now."
"Ah!" said Mrs. Bazalgette, casting a venomous look on David; "I am too late, am I? Poor girl!"
Lucy soothed her aunt with the information that she was much happier now than she had been for a long time past. For this was a fencing-match.
"May I have a word in private with my niece?" inquired Mrs. Bazalgette, bitterly, of David.
"Why not?" said David stoutly; but his heart turned sick as he retired. Lucy saw the look of anxiety.
"Lucy," said Mrs. Bazalgette, "you left me because you are averse to matrimony, and I urged you to it; of course, with those sentiments, you have no idea of marrying that man there. I don't suspect you of such hypocrisy, and therefore I say come home with me, and you shall marry nobody; your inclination shall be free as air."
"Aunt," said Lucy, demurely, "why didn't you come yesterday? I always said those who love me best would find me first, and you let Mr. Dodd come first. I am so sorry!"
"Then your pretended aversion to marriage was all hypocrisy, was it?"
Lucy informed her that marriage was a contract, and the contracting parties two, and no more—the bride and bridegroom; and that to sign a contract without reading it is silly, and meaning not to keep it is wicked. "So," said she, "I read the contract over in the prayer-book this morning, for fear of accidents."
My reader may, perhaps, be amused at this admission; but Mrs. Bazalgette was disgusted, and inquired, "What stuff is the girl talking now?"
"It is called common sense. Well, I find the contract is one I can carry out with Mr. Dodd, and with nobody else. I can love him a little, can honor him a great deal, and obey him entirely. I begin now. There he is; and if you feel you cannot show him the courtesy of making him one in our conversation, permit me to retire and relieve his solitude."
"Mighty fine; and if you don't instantly leave him and come home, you shall never enter my house again."
"Unless sickness or trouble should visit your house, and then you will send for me, and I shall come."
Mrs. Bazalgette (to the coachman).— "Home!"
Lucy made her a polite obeisance, to keep up appearances before the servants and the farm-people, who were gaping. She, whose breeding was inferior, flounced into a corner without returning it. The carriage drove off.
David inquired with great anxiety whether something had not been said to vex her.
"Not in the least," replied Lucy, calmly. "Little things and little people can no longer vex me. I have great duties to think of and a great heart to share them with me. Let us walk toward Harrowden; we may perhaps meet a friend."
Sure enough, just on this side Harrowden they met the covered cart, and Eve in it, radiant with unexpected delight. The engaged ones—for such they had become in those two miles—mounted the cart, and the two men sat in front, and Eve and Lucy intertwined at the back, and opened their hearts to each other.
Eve. And you have taken the paper off again?
Lucy. What paper? It was no longer applicable.
I HAVE already noticed that Lucy, after capitulation, laid down her arms gracefully and sensibly. When she was asked to name a very early day for the wedding, she opposed no childish delay to David's happiness, for the Rajah was to sail in six weeks and separate them. So the license was got, and the wedding-day came; and all Lucy's previous study of the contract did not prevent her from being deeply affected by the solemn words that joined her to David in holy matrimony.
She bore up, though, stoutly; for her sense of propriety and courtesy forbade her to cloud a festivity. But, when the post-chaise came to convey bride and bridegroom on their little tour, and she had to leave Mrs. Wilson and Eve for a whole week, the tears would not be denied; and, to show how perilous a road matrimony is, these two risked a misunderstanding on their wedding-day, thus: Lucy, all alone in the post-chaise with David, dissolved—a perfect Niobe—gushing at short intervals. Sometimes a faint explanation gurgled out with the tears: "Poor Eve! her dear little face was working so not to cry. Oh! oh! I should not have minded so much if she had cried right out." Then, again, it was "Poor Mrs. Wilson! I was only a week with her, for all her love. I have made a c—at's p—paw of her—oh!"
Then, again, "Uncle Bazalgette has never noticed us; he thinks me a h—h—ypocrite." But quite as often they flowed without any accompanying reason.
Now if David had been a poetaster, he would have said: "Why these tears? she has got me. Am I not more than an equivalent to these puny considerations?" and all this salt water would have burned into his vanity like liquid caustic. If he had been a poet, he would have said: "Alas! I make her unhappy whom I hoped to make happy"; and with this he would have been sad, and so prolonged her sadness, and perhaps ended by sulking. But David had two good things—a kind heart and a skin not too thin: and such are the men that make women happy, in spite of their weak nerves and craven spirits.
He gave her time; soothed her kindly; but did not check her weakness dead short.
At last my Lady Chesterfield said to him, penitently, "This is a poor compliment to you, Mr. Dodd"; and then Niobized again, partly, I believe, with regret that she was behaving so discourteously.
"It is very natural," said David, kindly, "but we shall soon see them all again, you know."
Presently she looked in his radiant face, with wet eyes, but a half-smile. "You amaze me; you don't seem the least terrified at what we have done."
"Not a bit," cried David, like a cheerful horn: "I have been in worse peril than this, and so have you. Our troubles are all over; I see nothing but happiness ahead." He then drew a sunny picture of their future life, to all which she listened demurely; and, in short, he treated her little feminine distress as the summer sun treats a mist that tries to vie with it. He soon dried her up, and when they reached their journey's end she was as bright as himself.
THEY had been married a week. A slight change, but quite distinct to an observer of her sex, bloomed in Lucy's face and manner. A new beauty was in her face—the blossom of wifehood. Her eyes, though not less modest, were less timid than before; and now they often met David's full, and seemed to sip affection at them. When he came near her, her lovely frame showed itself conscious of his approach. His queen, though he did not know it, was his vassal. They sat at table at a little inn, twenty miles from Harrowden, for they were on their return to Mrs. Wilson. Lucy went to the window while David settled the bill. At the window it is probable she had her own thoughts, for she glided up behind David, and, fanning his hair with her cool, honeyed breath, she said, in the tone of a humble inquirer seeking historical or antiquarian information, "I want to ask you a question, David: are you happy too?"
David answered promptly, but inarticulately; so his reply is lost to posterity. Conjecture alone survives.
One disappointment awaited Lucy at Mrs. Wilson's. There were several letters for both David and her, but none from Mr. Bazalgette. She knew by that she had lost his respect. She could not blame him, for she saw how like disingenuousness and hypocrisy her conduct must look to him. "I must trust to time and opportunity," she said, with a sigh. She proposed to David to read all her letters, and she would read all his. He thought this a droll idea; but nothing that identified him with his royal vassal came amiss. The first letter of Lucy's that David opened was from Mr. Talboys.
"DEAR MADAM—I have heard of your marriage with Mr. Dodd, and desire to offer both you and him my cordial congratulations.
"I feel under considerable obligation to Mr. Dodd; and, should my house ever have a mistress, I hope she will be able to tempt you both to renew our acquaintance under my roof, and so give me once more that opportunity I have too little improved of showing you both the sincere respect and gratitude with which I am,
"Your very faithful servant,
Lucy was delighted with this note. "Who says it was nothing to have been born a gentleman?"
The second letter was from Reginald No. 2; and, if I only give the reader a fragment of it, I still expect his gratitude, all one as if I had disinterred a fragment of Orpheus or Tiresias.
Dear lucy. It is very ungust of you to go and Mary other peeple wen you Promised me. but it is mr. dod. So i dont so much mind i like Mr. dod. he is a duc. and they all Say i am too litle and jane says Sailors always end by been Drouned so it is only put off. But you reely must keep your Promise to me. wen i am biger And mr. Dod is drouned. my Ginny pigs—
Here a white hand drew the pleasing composition out of David's hand, and dropped it on the floor; two piteous, tearful eyes were bent on him, and a white arm went tenderly round his neck to save him from the threatened fate.
At this sight Eve pounced on the horrid scroll, and hurled it, with general acclamation, into the flames.
Thus that sweet infant revenged himself, and, like Sampson, hit hardest of all at parting—in tears and flame vanished from written fiction, and, I conclude, went back to Gavarni.
There was a letter from Mr. Fountain—all fire and fury. She was never to write or speak to him any more. He was now looking out for a youth of good family to adopt and to make a Fontaine of by act of Parliament, etc., etc. A fusillade of written thunderbolts.
There was another from Mrs. Bazalgette, written with cream—of tartar and oil—of vitriol. She forgave her niece and wished her every happiness it was possible for a young person to enjoy who had deceived her relations and married beneath her. She felt pity rather than anger; and there was no reason why Mr. and Mrs. Dodd should not visit her house, as far as she was concerned; but Mr. Bazalgette was a man of very stern rectitude, and, as she could not make sure that he would treat them with common courtesy after what had passed, she thought a temporary separation might be the better course for all parties.
I may as well take this opportunity of saying that these two egotists carried out the promise of their respective letters. Mr. Fountain blustered for a year or two, and then showed manifest signs of relenting.
Mrs. Bazalgette kept cool, and wrote, in oils, twice a year to Mrs. Dodd:
"ET GARDAIT TOUT DOUCEMENT UNE HAINE IRRECONCILIABLE."
Lucy had to answer these letters. In signing one of them, she took a look at her new signature and smiled. "What a dear, quaint little name mine is!" said she. "Lucy Dodd;" and she kissed the signature.
A Month after Marriage.
The Dodds took a house in London and Eve came up to them. David was nearly all day superintending the ship, but spent the whole evening with his wife at home. Zeal always produces irritation. The servant that is anxious for his employer's interest is sure to get into a passion or two with the deadness, indifference and heartless injustice of the genuine hireling. So David was often irritated and worried, and in hot water, while superintending the Rajah, but the moment he saw his own door, away he threw it all, and came into the house like a jocund sunbeam. Nothing wins a woman more than this, provided she is already inclined in the man's favor. As the hour that brought David approached, Lucy's spirits and Eve's used both to rise by anticipation, and that anticipation his hearty, genial temper never disappointed.
One day Lucy came to David for information. "David, there is a singular change in me. It is since we came to London. I used to be a placid girl; now I am a fidget."
"I don't see it, love."
"No; how should you, dear? It always goes away when you come. Now listen. When five o'clock comes near, I turn hot and restless, and can hardly keep from the window; and if you are five minutes after your time, I really cannot keep from the window; and my nerves se crispent, and I cannot sit still. It is very foolish. What does it mean? Can you tell me?"
"Of course I can. I am just the same when people are unpunctual. It is inexcusable, and nothing is so vexing. I ought to be—"
"Oh David, what nonsense! it is not that. Could I ever be vexed with my David?"
"Well, then, there is Eve; we'll ask her."
"If you dare, sir!" and Mrs. Dodd was carnation.
Four years after the above events
Two ladies were gossiping.
1st Lady. "What I like about Mrs. Dodd is that she is so truthful."
2d Lady. "Oh, is she?"
1st Lady. "Yes, she is indeed. Certainly she is not a woman that blurts out unpleasant things without any necessity; she is kind and considerate in word and deed, but she is always true. She has got an eye that meets you like a little lion's eye, and a tongue without guile. I do love Mrs. Dodd dearly."
Two Qui his were talking in Leadenhall Street.
1st Qui hi. "Well, so you are going out again."
2d Qui hi. "Yes; they have offered me a commissionership. I must make another lac for the children."
1st Qui hi. "When do you sail?"
2d Qui hi. "By the first good ship. I should like a good ship."
1st Qui hi. "Well, then, you had better go out with Gentleman Dodd."
2d Qui hi. "Gentleman Dodd? I should prefer Sailor Dodd. I don't want to founder off the Cape."
1st Qui hi. "Oh, but this is a first-rate sailor, and a first-rate fellow altogether."
2d Qui hi. "Then why do you call him 'Gentleman Dodd'?"
1st Qui hi. "Oh, because he is so polite. He won't stand an oath within hearing of his quarter-deck, and is particularly kind and courteous to the passengers, especially to the ladies. His ship is always full."
2d Qui hi. "Is it? Then I'll go out with 'Gentleman Dodd.'"
TO MY MALE READERS.
I SEE with some surprise that there still linger in the field of letters writers who think that, in fiction, when a personage speaks with an air of conviction, the sentiments must be the author's own. (When two of his personages give each other the lie, which represents the author? both?)
I must ask you to shun this error; for instance, do not go and take Eve Dodd's opinion of my heroine, or Mrs. Bazalgette's, for mine.
Miss Dodd, in particular, however epigrammatic she may appear, is shallow: her criticism peche par la base. She talks too much as if young girls were in the habit of looking into their own minds, like little metaphysicians, and knowing all that goes on there; but, on the contrary, this is just what women in general don't do, and young women can't do.
No male will quite understand Lucy Fountain who does not take "instinct" and "self-deception" into the account. But with those two dews and your own intelligence, you cannot fail to unravel her, and will, I hope, thank me in your hearts for leaving you something to study, and not clogging my sluggish narrative with a mass of comment and explanation.