The Senator is badly treated
When these great efforts were being made by Arabella Trefoil at Mistletoe, John Morton was vacillating in an unhappy mood between London and Bragton. It may be remembered that an offer was made to him as to the purchase of Chowton Farm. At that time the Mistletoe party was broken up, and Miss Trefoil was staying with her mother at the Connop Greens. By the morning post on the next day he received a note from the Senator in which Mr. Gotobed stated that business required his presence at Dillsborough and suggested that he should again become a guest at Bragton for a few days. Morton was so sick of his own company and so tired of thinking of his own affairs that he was almost glad to welcome the Senator. At any rate he had no means of escaping, and the Senator came. The two men were alone at the house and the Senator was full of his own wrongs as well as those of Englishmen in general. Mr. Bearside had written to him very cautiously, but pressing for an immediate remittance of 25 pounds, and explaining that the great case could not be carried on without that sum of money. This might have been very well as being open to the idea that the Senator had the option of either paying the money or of allowing the great case to be abandoned, but that the attorney in the last paragraph of his letter intimated that the Senator would be of course aware that he was liable for the whole cost of the action be it what it might. He had asked a legal friend in London his opinion, and the legal friend had seemed to think that perhaps he was liable. What orders he had given to Bearside he had given without any witness, and at any rate had already paid a certain sum. The legal friend, when he heard all that Mr. Gotobed was able to tell him about Goarly, had advised the Senator to settle with Bearside, taking a due receipt and having some person with him when he did so. The legal friend had thought that a small sum of money would suffice. "He went so far as to suggest," said the Senator with indignant energy, "that if I contested my liability to the man's charges, the matter would go against me because I had interfered in such a case on the unpopular side. I should think that in this great country I should find justice administered on other terms than that." Morton attempted to explain to him that his legal friend had not been administering justice but only giving advice. He had, so Morton told him, undoubtedly taken up the case of one blackguard, and in urging it had paid his money to another. He had done so as a foreigner,—loudly proclaiming as his reason for such action that the man he supported would be unfairly treated unless he gave his assistance. Of course he could not expect sympathy. "I want no sympathy," said the Senator;—"I only want justice." Then the two gentlemen had become a little angry with each other. Morton was the last man in the world to have been aggressive on such a matter; but with the Senator it was necessary either to be prostrate or to fight.
But with Mr. Gotobed such fighting never produced ill blood. It was the condition of his life, and it must be supposed that he liked it. On the next morning he did not scruple to ask his host's advice as to what he had better do, and they agreed to walk across to Goarly's house and to ascertain from the man himself what he thought or might have to say about his own case. On their way they passed up the road leading to Chowton Farm, and at the gate leading into the garden they found Larry Twentyman standing. Morton shook hands with the young farmer and introduced the Senator. Larry was still woe-begone though he endeavoured to shake off his sorrows and to appear to be gay. "I never see much of the man," he said when they told him that they were going across to call upon his neighbour, "and I don't know that I want to."
"He doesn't seem to have much friendship among you all," said the Senator.
"Quite as much as he deserves, Mr. Gotobed," replied Larry. The Senator's name had lately become familiar as a household word in Dillsborough, and was, to tell the truth, odious to such men as Larry Twentyman. "He's a thundering rascal, and the only place fit for him in the county is Rufford gaol. He's like to be there soon, I think."
"That's what provokes me," said the Senator. "You think he's a rascal, Mister."
"And because you take upon yourself to think so you'd send him to Rufford gaol! There was one gentleman somewhere about here told me he ought to be hung, and because I would not agree with him he got up and walked away from me at table, carrying his provisions with him. Another man in the next field to this insulted me because I said I was going to see Goarly. The clergyman in Dillsborough and the hotelkeepers were just as hard upon me. But you see, Mister, that what we want to find out is whether Goarly or the Lord has the right of it in this particular case."
"I know which has the right without any more finding out," said Larry. "The shortest way to his house is by the ride through the wood, Mr. Morton. It takes you out on his land on the other side. But I don't think you'll find him there. One of my men told me that he had made himself scarce." Then he added as the two were going on, "I should like to have just a word with you, Mr. Morton. I've been thinking of what you said, and I know it was kind. I'll take a month over it. I won't talk of selling Chowton till the end of February;—but if I feel about it then as I do now I can't stay."
"That's right, Mr. Twentyman;—and work hard, like a man, through the month. Go out hunting, and don't allow yourself a moment for moping."
"I will," said Larry, as he retreated to the house, and then he gave directions that his horse might be ready for the morrow.
They went in through the wood, and the Senator pointed out the spot at which Bean the gamekeeper had been so insolent to him. He could not understand, he said, why he should be treated so roughly, as these men must be aware that he had nothing to gain himself. "If I were to go into Mickewa," said Morton, "and interfere there with the peculiarities of the people as you have done here, it's my belief that they'd have had the eyes out of my head long before this."
"That only shows that you don't know Mickewa," said the Senator. "Its people are the most law-abiding population on the face of the earth."
They passed through the wood, and a couple of fields brought them to Goarly's house. As they approached it by the back the only live thing they saw was the old goose which had been so cruelly deprived of her companions and progeny. The goose was waddling round the dirty pool, and there were to be seen sundry ugly signs of a poor man's habitation, but it was not till they had knocked at the window as well as the door that Mrs. Goarly showed herself. She remembered the Senator at once and curtseyed to him; and when Morton introduced himself she curtseyed again to the Squire of Bragton. When Goarly was asked for she shook her head and declared that she knew nothing about him. He had been gone, she said, for the last week, and had left no word as to whither he was going;— nor had he told her why. "Has he given up his action against Lord Rufford?" asked the Senator.
"Indeed then, sir, I can't tell you a word about it."
"I've been told that he has taken Lord Rufford's money."
"He ain't 'a taken no money as I've seed, sir. I wish he had, for money's sore wanted here, and if the gen'leman has a mind to be kind-hearted—" Then she intimated her own readiness to take any contribution to the good cause which the Senator might be willing to make at that moment. But the Senator buttoned up his breeches pockets with stern resolution. Though he still believed Lord Rufford to be altogether wrong, he was beginning to think that the Goarlys were not worthy his benevolence. As she came to the door with them and accompanied them a few yards across the field she again told the tragic tale of her goose;—but the Senator had not another word to say to her.
On that same day Morton drove Mr. Gotobed into Dillsborough and consented to go with him to Mr. Bearside's office. They found the attorney at home, and before anything was said as to payment they heard his account of the action. If Goarly had consented to take any money from Lord Rufford he knew nothing about it. As far as he was aware the action was going on. Ever so many witnesses must be brought from a distance who had seen the crop standing and who would have no bias against the owner,—as would be the case with neighbours, such as Lawrence Twentyman. Of course it was not easy to oppose such a man as Lord Rufford and a little money must be spent. Indeed such, he said, was his interest in the case that he had already gone further than he ought to have done out of his own pocket. Of course they would be successful,—that is if the matter were carried on with spirit, and then the money would all come back again. But just at present a little money must be spent. "I don't mean to spend it," said the Senator.
"I hope you won't stick to that, Mr. Gotobed."
"But I shall, sir. I understand from your letter that you look to me for funds."
"Certainly I do, Mr. Gotobed; because you told me to do so."
"I told you nothing of the kind, Mr. Bearside."
"You paid me 15 pounds on account, Mr. Gotobed."
"I paid you 15 pounds certainly."
"And told me that more should be coming as it was wanted. Do you think I should have gone on for such a man as Goarly,—a fellow without a shilling,—unless he had some one like you to back him? It isn't likely. Now, Mr. Morton, I appeal to you."
"I don't suppose that my friend has made himself liable for your bill because he paid you 15 pounds with the view of assisting Goarly," said Morton.
"But he said that he meant to go on, Mr. Morton, He said that plain, and I can swear it. Now, Mr, Gotobed, you just say out like an honest man whether you didn't give me to understand that you meant to go on."
"I never employed you or made myself responsible for your bill."
"You authorized me, distinctly,—most distinctly, and I shall stick to it. When a gentleman comes to a lawyer's office and pays his money and tells that lawyer as how he means to see the case out,— explaining his reasons as you did when you said all that against the landlords and squires and nobility of this here country,—why then that lawyer has a right to think that that gentleman is his mark."
"I thought you were employed by Mr. Scrobby," said Morton, who had heard much of the story by this time.
"Then, Mr. Morton, I must make bold to say that you have heard wrong. I know nothing of Mr. Scrobby and don't want. There ain't nothing about the poisoning of that fox in this case of ours. Scrobby and Goarly may have done that, or Scrobby and Goarly may be as innocent as two babes unborn for aught I know or care. Excuse me, Mr. Morton, but I have to be on my p's and q's I see. This is a case for trespass and damage against Lord Rufford in which we ask for 40s. an acre. Of course there is expenses. There's my own time. I ain't to be kept here talking to you two gentlemen for nothing, I suppose. Well; this gentleman comes to me and pays me 15 pounds to go on. I couldn't have gone on without something. The gentleman saw that plain enough. And he told me he'd see me through the rest of it"
"I said nothing of the kind, sir."
"Very well. Then we must put it to a jury. May I make bold to ask whether you are going out of the country all at once?"
"I shall be here for the next two months, at least"
"Happy to hear it, Sir, and have no doubt it will all be settled before that time—amiable or otherwise. But as I am money out of pocket I did hope you would have paid me something on account to-day."
Then Mr. Gotobed made his offer, informing Mr. Bearside that he had brought his friend, Mr. Morton, with him in order that there might be a witness. "I could see that, sir, with half an eye," said the attorney unabashed. He was willing to pay Mr. Bearside a further sum of ten pounds immediately to be quit of the affair, not because he thought that any such sum was due, but because he wished to free himself from further trouble in the matter. Mr. Bearside hinted in a very cavalier way that 20 pounds might be thought of. A further payment of 20 pounds would cover the money he was out of pocket. But this proposition Mr. Gotobed indignantly refused, and then left the office with his friend. "Wherever there are lawyers there will be rogues," said the Senator, as soon as he found himself in the street. "It is a noble profession, that of the law; the finest perhaps that the work of the world affords; but it gives scope and temptation for roguery. I do not think, however, that you would find anything in America so bad as that"
"Why did you go to him without asking any questions?"
"Of whom was I to ask questions? When I took up Goarly's case he had already put it into this man's hands."
"I am sorry you should be troubled, Mr. Gotobed; but, upon my word, I cannot say but what it serves you right."
"That is because you are offended with me. I endeavoured to protect a poor man against a rich man, and that in this country is cause of offence."
After leaving the attorney's office they called on Mr. Mainwaring the rector, and found that he knew, or professed to know, a great deal more about Goarly, than they had learned from Bearside. According to his story Nickem, who was clerk to Mr. Masters, had Goarly in safe keeping somewhere. The rector indeed was acquainted with all the details. Scrobby had purchased the red herrings and strychnine, and had employed Goarly to walk over by night to Rufford and fetch them. The poison at that time had been duly packed in the herrings. Goarly had done this and had, at Scrobby's instigation, laid the bait down in Dillsborough Wood. Nickem was now at work trying to learn where Scrobby had purchased the poison, as it was feared that Goarly's evidence alone would not suffice to convict the man. But if the strychnine could be traced and the herrings, then there would be almost a certainty of punishing Scrobby.
"And what about Goarly?" asked the Senator.
"He would escape of course," said the rector. "He would get a little money and after such an experience would probably become a good friend to fox-hunting."
"And quite a respectable man!" The rector did not guarantee this but seemed to think that there would at any rate be promise of improved conduct. "The place ought to be too hot to hold him!" exclaimed the Senator indignantly. The rector seemed to think it possible that he might find it uncomfortable at first, in which case he would sell the land at a good price to Lord Rufford and every one concerned would have been benefited by the transaction,— except Scrobby for whom no one would feel any pity.
The two gentlemen then promised to come and dine with the rector on the following day. He feared he said that he could not make up a party as there was, he declared,—nobody in Dillsborough. "I never knew such a place," said the rector. "Except old Nupper, who is there? Masters is a very decent fellow himself, but he has got out of that kind of thing;—and you can't ask a man without asking his wife. As for clergymen, I'm sick of dining with my own cloth and discussing the troubles of sermons. There never was such a place as Dillsborough." Then he whispered a word to the Squire. Was the Squire unwilling to meet his cousin Reginald Morton? Things were said and people never knew what was true and what was false. Then John Morton declared that he would be very happy to meet his cousin.
Mr. Mainwaring's little Dinner
The company at the rector's house consisted of the Senator, the two Mortons, Mr. Surtees the curate, and old Doctor Nupper. Mrs. Mainwaring was not well enough to appear, and the rector therefore was able to indulge himself in what he called a bachelor party. As a rule he disliked clergymen, but at the last had been driven to invite his curate because he thought six a better number than five for joviality. He began by asking questions as to the Trefoils which were not very fortunate. Of course he had heard that Morton was to marry Arabella Trefoil, and though he made no direct allusion to the fact, as Reginald had done, he spoke in that bland eulogistic tone which clearly showed his purpose. "They went with you to Lord Rufford's, I was told."
"And now they have left the neighbourhood. A very clever young lady, Miss Trefoil;—and so is her mother, a very clever woman." The Senator, to whom a sort of appeal was made, nodded his assent. "Lord Augustus, I believe, is a brother of the Duke of Mayfair?"
"Yes, he is," said Morton. "I am afraid we are going to have frost again." Then Reginald Morton was sure that the marriage would never take place.
"The Trefoils are a very distinguished family," continued the rector. "I remember the present Duke's father when he was in the cabinet, and knew this man almost intimately when we were at Christchurch together. I don't think this Duke ever took a prominent part in politics."
"I don't know that he ever did," said Morton.
"Dear, dear, how tipsy he was once driving back to Oxford with me in a gig. But he has the reputation of being one of the best landlords in the country now."
"I wonder what it is that gives a man the reputation of being a good landlord. Is it foxes?" asked the Senator. The rector acknowledged with a smile that foxes helped. "Or does it mean that he lets his land below the value? If so, he certainly does more harm than good, though he may like the popularity which he is rich enough to buy."
"It means that he does not exact more than his due," said the rector indiscreetly.
"When I hear a man so highly praised for common honesty I am of course led to suppose that dishonesty in his particular trade is the common rule. The body of English landlords must be exorbitant tyrants when one among them is so highly eulogised for taking no more than his own." Luckily at that moment dinner was announced, and the exceptional character of the Duke of Mayfair was allowed to drop.
Mr. Mainwaring's dinner was very good and his wines were excellent,—a fact of which Mr. Mainwaring himself was much better aware than any of his guests. There is a difficulty in the giving of dinners of which Mr. Mainwaring and some other hosts have become painfully aware. What service do you do to any one in pouring your best claret down his throat, when he knows no difference between that and a much more humble vintage, your best claret which you feel so sure you cannot replace? Why import canvas-back ducks for appetites which would be quite as well satisfied with those out of the next farm-yard? Your soup, which has been a care since yesterday, your fish, got down with so great trouble from Bond Street on that very day, your saddle of mutton, in selecting which you have affronted every butcher in the neighbourhood, are all plainly thrown away! And yet the hospitable hero who would fain treat his friends as he would be treated himself can hardly arrange his dinners according to the palates of his different guests; nor will he like, when strangers sit at his board, to put nothing better on his table than that cheaper wine with which needful economy induces him to solace himself when alone. I,—I who write this,—have myself seen an honoured guest deluge with the pump my, ah! so hardly earned, most scarce and most peculiar vintage! There is a pang in such usage which some will not understand, but which cut Mr. Mainwaring to the very soul. There was not one among them there who appreciated the fact that the claret on his dinner table was almost the best that its year had produced. It was impossible not to say a word on such a subject at such a moment;—though our rector was not a man who usually lauded his own viands. "I think you will find that claret what you like, Mr. Gotobed," he said. "It's a '57 Mouton, and judges say that it is good."
"Very good indeed," said the Senator. "In the States we haven't got into the way yet of using dinner clarets." It was as good as a play to see the rector wince under the ignominious word. "Your great statesman added much to your national comfort when he took the duty off the lighter kinds of French wines."
The rector could not stand it. He hated light wines. He hated cheap things in general. And he hated Gladstone in particular. "Nothing," said he, "that the statesman you speak of ever did could make such wine as that any cheaper. I am sorry, Sir, that you don't perceive the difference."
"In the matter of wine," said the Senator, "I don't think that I have happened to come across anything so good in this country as our old Madeiras. But then, sir, we have been fortunate in our climate. The English atmosphere is not one in which wine seems to reach its full perfection." The rector heaved a deep sigh as he looked up to the ceiling with his hands in his trowsers-pockets. He knew, or thought that he knew, that no one could ever get a glass of good wine in the United States. He knew, or thought that he knew, that the best wine in the world was brought to England. He knew, or thought he knew, that in no other country was wine so well understood, so diligently sought for, and so truly enjoyed as in England. And he imagined that it was less understood and less sought for and less enjoyed in the States than in any other country. He did not as yet know the Senator well enough to fight with him at his own table, and could only groan and moan and look up at the ceiling. Doctor Nupper endeavoured to take away the sting by smacking his lips, and Reginald Morton, who did not in truth care a straw what he drank, was moved to pity and declared the claret to be very fine. "I have nothing to say against it," said the Senator, who was not in the least abashed.
But when the cloth was drawn, for the rector clung so lovingly to old habits that he delighted to see his mahogany beneath the wine glasses,—a more serious subject of dispute arose suddenly, though perhaps hardly more disagreeable. "The thing in England," said the Senator, "which I find most difficult to understand, is the matter of what you call Church patronage."
"If you'll pass half an hour with Mr. Surtees to-morrow morning, he'll explain it all to you," said the rector, who did not like that any subject connected with his profession should be mooted after dinner.
"I should be delighted," said Mr. Surtees.
"Nothing would give me more pleasure," said the Senator; "but what I mean is this;—the question is, of course, one of paramount importance."
"No doubt it is," said the deluded rector.
"It is very necessary to get good doctors."
"Well, yes, rather;—considering that all men wish to live." That observation, of course, came from Doctor Nupper.
"And care is taken in employing a lawyer,—though, after my experience of yesterday, not always, I should say, so much care as is needful. The man who wants such aid looks about him and gets the best doctor he can for his money, or the best lawyer. But here in England he must take the clergyman provided for him."
"It would be very much better for him if he did," said the rector.
"A clergyman at any rate is supposed to be appointed; and that clergyman he must pay."
"Not at all," said the rector. "The clergy are paid by the wise provision of former ages."
"We will let that pass for the present," said the Senator. "There he is, however he may be paid. How does he get there?" Now it was the fact that Mr. Mainwaring's living had been bought for him with his wife's money,—a fact of which Mr. Gotobed was not aware, but which he would hardly have regarded had he known it. "How does he get there?"
"In the majority of cases the bishop puts him there," said Mr. Surtees.
"And how is the bishop governed in his choice? As far as I can learn the stipends are absurdly various, one man getting 100 pounds a year for working like a horse in a big town, and another 1000 pounds for living an idle life in a luxurious country house. But the bishop of course gives the bigger plums to the best men. How is it then that the big plums find their way so often to the sons and sons-in-law and nephews of the bishops?"
"Because the bishop has looked after their education and principles," said the rector.
"And taught them how to choose their wives," said the Senator with imperturbable gravity.
"I am not the son of a bishop, sir," exclaimed the rector.
"I wish you had been, sir, if it would have done you any good. A general can't make his son a colonel at the age of twenty-five, or an admiral his son a first lieutenant, or a judge his a Queen's Counsellor,—nor can the head of an office promote his to be a chief secretary. It is only a bishop can do this;—I suppose because a cure of souls is so much less important than the charge of a ship or the discipline of twenty or thirty clerks."
"The bishops don't do it," said the rector fiercely.
"Then the statistics which have been put into my hands belie them. But how is it with those the bishops don't appoint? There seems to me to be such a complication of absurdities as to defy explanation."
"I think I could explain them all," said Mr. Surtees mildly.
"If you can do so satisfactorily, I shall be very glad to hear it," continued the Senator, who seemed in truth to be glad to hear no one but himself. "A lad of one-and-twenty learns his lessons so well that he has to be rewarded at his college, and a part of his reward consists in his having a parish entrusted to him when he is forty years old, to which he can maintain his right whether he be in any way trained for such work or no. Is that true?"
"His collegiate education is the best training he can have," said the rector.
"I came across a young fellow the other day," continued the Senator, "in a very nice house, with 700 pounds a year, and learned that he had inherited the living because he was his father's second son. Some poor clergyman had been keeping it ready for him for the last fifteen years and had to turn out as soon as this young spark could be made a clergyman."
"It was his father's property," said the rector, "and the poor man had had great kindness shown him for those fifteen years"
"Exactly;—his father's property! And this is what you call a cure of souls! And another man had absolutely had his living bought for him by his uncle, just as he might have bought him a farm. He couldn't have bought him the command of a regiment or a small judgeship. In those matters you require capacity. It is only when you deal with the Church that you throw to the winds all ideas of fitness. 'Sir,' or 'Madam,' or perhaps, 'my little dear, you are bound to come to your places in Church and hear me expound the Word of God because I have paid a heavy sum of money for the privilege of teaching you, at the moderate salary of 600 pounds a year!'"
Mr. Surtees sat aghast, with his mouth open, and knew not how to say a word. Doctor Nupper rubbed his red nose. Reginald Morton attempted some suggestion about the wine which fell wretchedly flat. John Morton ventured to tell his friend that he did not understand the subject. "I shall be most happy to be instructed," said the Senator.
"Understand it!" said the rector, almost rising in his chair to rebuke the insolence of his guest—"He understands nothing about it, and yet he ventures to fall foul with unmeasured terms on an establishment which has been brought to its present condition by the fostering care of perhaps the most pious set of divines that ever lived, and which has produced results with which those of no other Church can compare!"
"Have I represented anything untruly?" asked the Senator.
"A great deal, sir."
"Only put me right, and no man will recall his words more readily. Is it not the case that livings in the Church of England can be bought and sold?"
"The matter is one, Sir," said the rector, "which cannot be discussed in this manner. There are two clergymen present to whom such language is distasteful; as it is also I hope to the others who are all members of the Church of England. Perhaps you will allow me to request that the subject may be changed." After that conversation flagged and the evening was by no means joyous. The rector certainly regretted that his '57 claret should have been expended on such a man. "I don't think," said he when John Morton had taken the Senator away, "that in my whole life before I ever met such a brute as that American Senator."
There was great consternation in the attorney's house after the writing of the letter to Lawrence Twentyman. For twenty-four hours Mrs. Masters did not speak to Mary, not at all intending to let her sin pass with such moderate punishment as that, but thinking during that period that as she might perhaps induce Larry to ignore the letter and look upon it as though it were not written, it would be best to say nothing till the time should come in which the lover might again urge his suit. But when she found on the evening of the second day that Larry did not come near the place she could control herself no longer, and accused her step-daughter of ruining herself, her father, and the whole family. "That is very unfair, mamma," Mary said. "I have done nothing. I have only not done that which nobody had a right to ask me to do."
"Right indeed! And who are you with your rights? A decent well-behaved young man with five or six hundred a year has no right to ask you to be his wife! All this comes of you staying with an old woman with a handle to her name."
It was in vain that Mary endeavoured to explain that she had not alluded to Larry when she declared that no one had a right to ask her to do it. She had, she said, always thanked him for his good opinion of her, and had spoken well of him whenever his name was mentioned. But it was a matter on which a young woman was entitled to judge for herself, and no one had a right to scold her because she could not love him. Mrs. Masters hated such arguments, despised this rodomontade about love, and would have crushed the girl into obedience could it have been possible. "You are an idiot," she said, "an ungrateful idiot; and unless you think better of it you'll repent your folly to your dying day. Who do you think is to come running after a moping slut like you?" Then Mary gathered herself up and left the room, feeling that she could not live in the house if she were to be called a slut.
Soon after this Larry came to the attorney and got him to come out into the street and to walk with him round the churchyard. It was the spot in Dillsborough in which they would most certainly be left undisturbed. This took place on the day before his proposition for the sale of Chowton Farm. When he got the attorney into the churchyard he took out Mary's letter and in speechless agony handed it to the attorney. "I saw it before it went," said Masters putting it back with his hand:
"I suppose she means it?" asked Larry.
"I can't say to you but what she does, Twentyman. As far as I know her she isn't a girl that would ever say anything that she didn't mean."
"I was sure of that. When I got it and read it, it was just as though some one had come behind me and hit me over the head with a wheel-spoke. I couldn't have ate a morsel of breakfast if I knew I wasn't to see another bit of food for four-and-twenty hours."
"I knew you would feel it, Larry."
"Feel it! Till it came to this I didn't think of myself but what I had more strength. It has knocked me about till I feel all over like drinking."
"Don't do that, Larry."
"I won't answer for myself what I'll do. A man sets his heart on a thing,—just on one thing,—and has grit enough in him to be sure of himself that if he can get that nothing shall knock him over. When that thoroughbred mare of mine slipped her foal who can say I ever whimpered. When I got pleuro among the cattle I killed a'most the lot of 'em out of hand, and never laid awake a night about it. But I've got it so heavy this time I can't stand it. You don't think I have any chance, Mr. Masters?"
"You can try of course. You're welcome to the house."
"But what do you think? You must know her."
"Girls do change their minds."
"But she isn't like other girls. Is she now? I come to you because I sometimes think Mrs. Masters is a little hard on her. Mrs. Masters is about the best friend I have. There isn't anybody more on my side than she is. But I feel sure of this;—Mary will never be drove."
"I don't think she will, Larry."
"She's got a will of her own as well as another."
"No man alive ever had a better daughter."
"I'm sure of that, Mr. Masters; and no man alive 'll ever have a better wife. But she won't be drove. I might ask her again, you think?"
"You certainly have my leave."
"But would it be any good? I'd rather cut my throat and have done with it than go about teasing her because her parents let me come to her." Then there was a pause during which they walked on, the attorney feeling that he had nothing more to say. "What I want to know," said Larry, "is this. Is there anybody else?"
That was just the point on which the attorney himself was perplexed. He had asked Mary that question, and her silence had assured him that it was so. Then he had suggested to her the name of the only probable suitor that occurred to him; and she had repelled the idea in a manner that had convinced him at once. There was some one, but Mr. Surtees was not the man. There was some one, he was sure, but he had not been able to cross-examine her on the subject. He had, since that, cudgelled his brain to think who that some one might be, but had not succeeded in suggesting a name even to himself. That of Reginald Morton, who hardly ever came to the house and whom he regarded as a silent, severe, unapproachable man, did not come into his mind. Among the young ladies of Dillsborough Reginald Morton was never regarded as even a possible lover. And yet there was assuredly some one. "If there is any one else I think you ought to tell me," continued Larry.
"It is quite possible."
"Young Surtees, I suppose."
"I do not say there is anybody; but if there be anybody I do not think it is Surtees."
"Who else then?"
"I cannot say, Larry. I know nothing about it."
"But there is some one?"
"I do not say so. You ask me and I tell you all I know."
Again they walked round the churchyard in silence and the attorney began to be anxious that the interview might be over. He hardly liked to be interrogated about the state of his daughter's heart, and yet he had felt himself bound to tell what he knew to the man who had in all respects behaved well to him. When they had returned for the third or fourth time to the gate by which they had entered Larry spoke again. "I suppose I may as well give it up."
"What can I say?"
"You have been fair enough, Mr. Masters. And so has she. And so has everybody. I shall just get away as quick as I can, and go and hang myself. I feel above bothering her any more. When she sat down to write a letter like that she must have been in earnest"
"She certainly was in earnest, Larry."
"What's the use of going on after that? Only it is so hard for a fellow to feel that everything is gone. It is just as though the house was burnt down, or I was to wake in the morning and find that the land didn't belong to me."
"Not so bad as that, Larry."
"Not so bad, Mr. Masters! Then you don't know what it is I'm feeling. I'd let his lordship or Squire Morton have it all, and go in upon it as a tenant at 30s. an acre, so that I could take her along with me. I would, and sell the horses and set to and work in my shirt-sleeves. A man could stand that. Nobody wouldn't laugh at me then. But there's an emptiness now here that makes me sick all through, as though I hadn't got stomach left for anything." Then poor Larry put his hand upon his heart and hid his face upon the churchyard wall. The attorney made some attempt to say a kind word to him, and then, leaving him there, slowly made his way back to his office.
We already know what first step Larry took with the intention of running away from his cares. In the house at Dillsborough things were almost as bad as they were with him. Over and over again Mrs. Masters told her husband that it was all his fault, and that if he had torn the letter when it was showed to him, everything would have been right by the end of the two months. This he bore with what equanimity he could, shutting himself up very much in his office, occasionally escaping for a quarter of an hour of ease to his friends at the Bush, and eating his meals in silence. But when he became aware that his girl was being treated with cruelty,—that she was never spoken to by her stepmother without harsh words, and that her sisters were encouraged to be disdainful to her, then his heart rose within him and he rebelled. He declared aloud that Mary should not be persecuted, and if this kind of thing were continued he would defend his girl let the consequences be what they might.
"What are you going to defend her against?" asked his wife.
"I won't have her ill-used because she refuses to marry at your bidding."
"Bah! You know as much how to manage a girl as though you were an old maid yourself. Cocker her up and make her think that nothing is good enough for her! Break her spirit, and make her come round, and teach her to know what it is to have an honest man's house offered to her. If she don't take Larry Twentyman's she's like to have none of her own before long." But Mr. Masters would not assent to this plan of breaking his girl's spirit, and so there was continual war in the place and every one there was miserable.
Mary herself was so unhappy that she convinced herself that it was necessary that some change should be made. Then she remembered Lady Ushant's offer of a home, and not only the offer, but the old lady's assurance that to herself such an arrangement, if possible, would be very comfortable. She did not suggest to herself that she would leave her father's home for ever and always; but it might be that an absence of some months might relieve the absolute misery of their present mode of living. The effect on her father was so sad that she was almost driven to regret that he should have taken her own part. Her stepmother was not a bad woman; nor did Mary even now think her to be had. She was a hardworking, painstaking wife, with a good general idea of justice. In the division of puddings and pies and other material comforts of the household she would deal evenly between her own children and her step-daughter. She had not desired to send Mary away to an inadequate home, or with a worthless husband. But when the proper home and the proper man were there she was prepared to use any amount of hardship to secure these good things to the family generally. This hardship Mary could not endure, nor could Mary's father on her behalf, and therefore Mary prepared a letter to Lady Ushant in which, at great length, she told her old friend the whole story. She spoke as tenderly as was possible of all concerned, but declared that her stepmother's feelings on the subject were so strong that every one in the house was made wretched. Under these circumstances,—for her father's sake if only for that,—she thought herself bound to leave the house. "It is quite impossible," she said, "that I should do as they wish me. That is a matter on which a young woman must judge for herself. If you could have me for a few months it would perhaps all pass by. I should not dare to ask this but for what you said yourself; and, dear Lady Ushant, pray remember that I do not want to be idle. There are a great many things I can do; and though I know that nothing can pay for kindness, I might perhaps be able not to be a burden." Then she added in a postscript—"Papa is everything that is kind;—but then all this makes him so miserable!"
When she had kept the letter by her for a day she showed it to her father, and by his consent it was sent. After much consultation it was agreed between them that nothing should be said about it to Mrs. Masters till the answer should come; and that, should the answer be favourable, the plan should be carved out in spite of any domestic opposition. In this letter Mary told as accurately as she could the whole story of Larry's courtship, and was very clear in declaring that under no possible circumstances could she encourage any hope. But of course she said not a word as to any other man or as to any love on her side. "Have you told her everything?" said her father as he closed the letter.
"Yes, papa;—everything that there is to be told." Then there arose within his own bosom an immense desire to know that secret, so that if possible he might do something to relieve her pain;—but he could not bring himself to ask further questions.
Lady Ushant on receiving the letter much doubted what she ought to do. She acknowledged at once Mary's right to appeal to her; and assured herself that the girl's presence would be a comfort and a happiness to herself. If Mary were quite alone in the world Lady Ushant would have been at once prepared to give her a home. But she doubted as to the propriety of taking the girl from her own family. She doubted even whether it would not be better that Mary should be left within the influence of Larry Twentyman's charms. A settlement, an income, and assured comforts for life are very serious things to all people who have reached Lady Ushant's age. And then she had a doubt within her own mind whether Mary might not be debarred from accepting this young man by some unfortunate preference for Reginald Morton. She had seen them together and had suspected something of the truth before it had glimmered before the eyes of any one in Dillsborough. Had Reginald been so inclined Lady Morton would have been very glad to see him marry Mary Masters. For both their sakes she would have preferred such a match to one with the owner of Chowton Farm. But she did not think that Reginald himself was that way minded, and she fancied that poor Mary might be throwing away her prosperity in life were she to wait for Reginald's love. Larry Twentyman was at any rate sure;—and perhaps it might be unwise to separate the girl from her lover.
In her doubt she determined to refer the case to Reginald himself, and instead of writing to Mary she wrote to him. She did not send him Mary's letter,—which would, she felt, have been a breach of faith; nor did she mention the name of Larry Twentyman. But she told him that Mary had proposed to come to Cheltenham for a long visit because there were disturbances at home,—which disturbances had arisen from her rejection of a certain suitor. Lady Ushant said a great deal as to the inexpediency of fostering family quarrels, and suggested that Mary might perhaps have been a little impetuous. The presence of this lover could hardly do her much injury. These were not days in which young women were forced to marry men. What did he, Reginald Morton, think about it? He was to remember that as far as she herself was concerned, she dearly loved Mary Masters and would be delighted to have her at Cheltenham; and, so remembering, he was to see the attorney, and Mary herself, and if necessary Mrs. Masters;—and then to report his opinion to Cheltenham.
Then, fearing that her nephew might be away for a day or two, or that he might not be able to perform his commission instantly, and thinking that Mary might be unhappy if she received no immediate reply to such a request as hers had been, Lady Ushant by the same post wrote to her young friend as follows;—
Reginald will go over and see your father about your proposition. As far as I myself am concerned nothing would give me so much pleasure. This is quite sincere. But the matter is in other respects very important. Of course I have kept your letter all to myself, and in writing to Reginald I have mentioned no names.
Your affectionate friend, Margaret Ushant.
"Particularly proud of you"
Arabella Trefoil left her uncle's mansion on the day after her lover's departure, certainly not in triumph, but with somewhat recovered spirits. When she first heard that Lord Rufford was gone,—that he had fled away as it were in the middle of the night without saying a word to her, without a syllable to make good the slight assurances of his love that had been given to her in the post carriage, she felt that she was deserted and betrayed. And when she found herself altogether neglected on the following day, and that the slightly valuable impression which she had made on her aunt was apparently gone, she did for half an hour think in earnest of the Paragon and Patagonia. But after a while she called to mind all that she knew of great efforts successfully made in opposition to almost overwhelming difficulties. She had heard of forlorn hopes, and perhaps in her young days had read something of Caesar still clinging to his Commentaries as he struggled in the waves. This was her forlorn hope, and she would be as brave as any soldier of them all. Lord Rufford's embraces were her Commentaries, and let the winds blow and the waves roll as they might she would still cling to them. After lunch she spoke to her aunt with great courage,—as the Duchess thought with great effrontery. "My uncle wouldn't speak to Lord Rufford before he went?"
"How could he speak to a man who ran away from his house in that way?"
"The running away, as you call it, aunt, did not take place till two days after I had told you all about it. I thought he would have done as much as that for his brother's daughter."
"I don't believe in it at all," said the Duchess sternly.
"Don't believe in what, aunt? You don't mean to say that you don't believe that Lord Rufford has asked me to be his wife!" Then she paused, but the Duchess absolutely lacked the courage to express her conviction again. "I don't suppose it signifies much," continued Arabella, "but of course it would have been something to me that Lord Rufford should have known that the Duke was anxious for my welfare. He was quite prepared to have assured my uncle of his intentions."
"Then why didn't he speak himself?"
"Because the Duke is not my father. Really, aunt, when I hear you talk of his running away I do feel it to be unkind. As if we didn't all know that a man like that goes and comes as he pleases. It was just before dinner that he got the message, and was he to run round and wish everybody good-bye like a schoolgirl going to bed?"
The Duchess was almost certain that no message had come, and from various little things which she had observed and from tidings which had reached her, very much doubted whether Arabella had known anything of his intended going. She too had a maid of her own who on occasions could bring information. But she had nothing further to say on the subject. If Arabella should ever become Lady Rufford she would of course among other visitors be occasionally received at Mistletoe. She could never be a favourite, but things would to a certain degree have rectified themselves. But if, as the Duchess expected, no such marriage took place, then this ill-conducted niece should never be admitted within the house again.
Later on in the afternoon, some hours after it became dusk, Arabella contrived to meet her aunt in the hall with a letter in her hand, and asked where the letter-box was. She knew where to deposit her letters as well as did the Duchess herself; but she desired an opportunity of proclaiming what she had done. "I am writing to Lord Rufford. Perhaps as I am in your house I ought to tell you what I have done."
"The letter-box is in the billiard-room, close to the door," said the Duchess passing on. Then she added as she went, "The post for to-day has gone already."
"His Lordship will have to wait a day for his letter. I dare say it won't break his heart," said Arabella, as she turned away to the billiard-room.
All this had been planned; and, moreover, she had so written her letter that if her magnificent aunt should condescend to tamper with it all that was in it should seem to corroborate her own story. The Duchess would have considered herself disgraced if ever she had done such a thing;—but the niece of the Duchess did not quite understand that this would be so. The letter was as follows:
Mistletoe, 19th Jany. 1875.
Your going off like that was, after all, very horrid. My aunt thinks that you were running away from me. I think that you were running away from her. Which was true? In real earnest I don't for a moment think that either I or the Duchess had anything to do with it, and that you did go because some horrid man wrote and asked you. I know you don't like being bound by any of the conventionalities. I hope there is such a word, and that if not, you'll understand it just the same.
Oh, Peltry,—and oh, Jack,—and oh, that road back to Stamford! I am so stiff that I can't sit upright, and everybody is cross to me, and everything is uncomfortable. What horrible things women are! There isn't one here, not even old Lady Rumpus, who hasn't an unmarried daughter left in the world, who isn't jealous of me, because—because—. I must leave you to guess why they all hate me so! And I'm sure if you had given Jack to any other woman I should hate her, though you may give every horse you have to any man that you please. I wonder whether I shall have another day's hunting before it is all over. I suppose not. It was almost by a miracle that we managed yesterday—only fancy—yesterday! It seems to be an age ago!
Pray, pray, pray write to me at once,—to the Connop Greens, so that I may get a nice, soft, pleasant word directly I get among those nasty, hard, unpleasant people. They have lots of money, and plenty of furniture, and I dare say the best things to eat and drink in the world,—but nothing else. There will be no Jack; and if there were, alas, alas, no one to show me the way to ride him.
I start to-morrow, and as far as I understand, shall have to make my way into Hampshire all by myself, with only such security as my maid can give me. I shall make her go in the same carriage and shall have the gratification of looking at her all the way. I suppose I ought not to say that I will shut my eyes and try to think that somebody else is there.
Good-bye dear, dear, dear R. I shall be dying for a letter from you. Yours ever with all my heart. A.
P.S. I shall write you such a serious epistle when I get to the Greens.
This was not such a letter as she thought that her aunt would approve; but it was, she fancied, such as the Duchess would believe that she would write to her lover. And if it were allowed to go on its way it would make Lord Rufford feel that she was neither alarmed nor displeased by the suddenness of his departure. But it was not expected to do much good. It might produce some short, joking, half-affectionate reply, but would not draw from him that serious word which was so necessary for the success of her scheme. Therefore she had told him that she intended to prepare a serious missile. Should this pleasant little message of love miscarry, the serious missile would still be sent, and the miscarriage would occasion no harm.
But then further plans were necessary. It might be that Lord Rufford would take no notice of the serious missile,—which she thought very probable. Or it might be that he would send back a serious reply, in which he would calmly explain to her that she had unfortunately mistaken his sentiments;—which she believed would be a stretch of manhood beyond his reach. But in either case she would be prepared with the course which she would follow. In the first she would begin by forcing her father to write to him a letter which she herself would dictate. In the second she would set the whole family at him as far as the family were within her reach. With her cousin Lord Mistletoe, who was only two years older than herself, she had always held pleasant relations. They had been children together, and as they had grown up the young Lord had liked his pretty cousin. Latterly they had seen each other but rarely, and therefore the feeling still remained. She would tell Lord Mistletoe her whole story,—that is the story as she would please to tell it,—and implore his aid. Her father should be driven to demand from Lord Rufford an execution of his alleged promises. She herself would write such a letter to the Duke as an uncle should be unable not to notice. She would move heaven and earth as to her wrongs. She thought that if her friends would stick to her, Lord Rufford would be weak as water in their hands. But it must be all done immediately,—so that if everything failed she might be ready to start to Patagonia some time in April. When she looked back and remembered that it was hardly more than two months since she had been taken to Rufford Hall by Mr. Morton she could not accuse herself of having lost any time.
In London she met her mother,—as to which meeting there had been some doubt,—and underwent the tortures of a close examination. She had thought it prudent on this occasion to tell her mother something, but not to tell anything quite truly. "He has proposed to me," she said.
"He has!" said Lady Augustus, holding up her hands almost in awe.
"Is there anything so wonderful in that?"
"Then it is all arranged. Does the Duke know it?"
"It is not all arranged by any means, and the Duke does know it. Now, mamma, after that I must decline to answer any more questions. I have done this all myself, and I mean to continue it in the same way."
"Did he speak to the Duke? You will tell me that."
"I will tell you nothing."
"You will drive me mad, Arabella."
"That will be better than your driving me mad just at present. You ought to feel that I have a great deal to think of."
"And have not I?"
"You can't help me;—not at present."
"But he did propose,—in absolute words?"
"Mamma, what a goose you are! Do you suppose that men do it all now just as it is done in books? 'Miss Arabella Trefoil, will you do me the honour to become my wife?' Do you think that Lord Rufford would ask the question in that way?"
"It is a very good way."
"Any way is a good way that answers the purpose. He has proposed, and I mean to make him stick to it"
"You doubt then?"
"Mamma, you are so silly! Do you not know what such a man is well enough to be sure that he'll change his mind half-a-dozen times if he can? I don't mean to let him; and now, after that, I won't say another word."
"I have got a letter here from Mr. Short saying that something must be fixed about Mr. Morton." Mr. Short was the lawyer who had been instructed to prepare the settlements.
"Mr. Short may do whatever he likes," said Arabella. There were very hot words between them that night in London, but the mother could obtain no further information from her daughter.
That serious epistle had been commenced even before Arabella had left Mistletoe; but the composition was one which required great care, and it was not completed and copied and recopied till she had been two days in Hampshire. Not even when it was finished did she say a word to her mother about it. She had doubted much as to the phrases which in such an emergency she ought to use, but she thought it safer to trust to herself than to her mother. In writing such a letter as that posted at Mistletoe she believed herself to be happy. She could write it quickly, and understood that she could convey to her correspondent some sense of her assumed mood. But her serious letter would, she feared, be stiff and repulsive. Whether her fears were right the reader shall judge,—for the letter when written was as follows:
Marygold Place, Basingstoke, Saturday.
My Dear Lord Rufford,
You will I suppose have got the letter that I wrote before I left Mistletoe, and which I directed to Mr. Surbiton's. There was not much in it,—except a word or two as to your going and as to my desolation, and just a reminiscence of the hunting. There was no reproach that you should have left me without any farewell, or that you should have gone so suddenly, after saying so much, without saying more. I wanted you to feel that you had made me very happy, and not to feel that your departure in such a way had robbed me of part of the happiness.
It was a little bad of you, because it did of course leave me to the hardness of my aunt; and because all the other women there would of course follow her. She had inquired about our journey home, that dear journey home, and I had of course told her,—well I had better say it out at once; I told her that we were engaged. You, I am sure, will think that the truth was best. She wanted to know why you did not go to the Duke. I told her that the Duke was not my father; but that as far as I was concerned the Duke might speak to you or not as he pleased. I had nothing to conceal. I am very glad he did not, because he is pompous, and you would have been bored. If there is one thing I desire more than another it is that nothing belonging to me shall ever be a bore to you. I hope I may never stand in the way of anything that will gratify you,—as I said when you lit that cigar. You will have forgotten, I dare say. But, dear Rufford,—dearest; I may say that, mayn't I?—say something, or do something to make me satisfied. You know what I mean;—don't you? It isn't that I am a bit afraid myself. I don't think so little of myself, or so badly of you. But I don't like other women to look at me as though I ought not to be proud of anything. I am proud of everything; particularly proud of you,—and of Jack.
Now there is my serious epistle, and I am sure that you will answer it like a dear, good, kind-hearted, loving-lover. I won't be afraid of writing the word, nor of saying that I love you with all my heart, and that I am always your own Arabella.
She kept the letter till the Sunday, thinking that she might have an answer to that written from Mistletoe, and that his reply might alter its tone, or induce her to put it aside altogether; but when on Sunday morning none came, her own was sent. The word in it which frightened herself was the word "engaged." She tried various other phrases, but declared to herself at last that it was useless to "beat about the bush." He must know the light in which she was pleased to regard those passages of love which she had permitted so that there might be no mistake. Whether the letter would be to his liking or not, it must be of such a nature that it would certainly draw from him an answer on which she could act. She herself did not like the letter; but, considering her difficulties, we may own that it was not much amiss.
Lord Rufford makes up his Mind
As it happened, Lord Rufford got the two letters together, the cause of which was as follows.
When he ran away from Mistletoe, as he certainly did, he had thought much about that journey home in the carriage, and was quite aware that he had made an ass of himself. As he sat at dinner on that day at Mistletoe his neighbour had said some word to him in joke as to his attachment to Miss Trefoil, and after the ladies had left the room another neighbour of the other sex had hoped that he had had a pleasant time on the road. Again, in the drawing-room it had seemed to him that he was observed. He could not refrain from saying a few words to Arabella as she lay on the sofa. Not to do so after what had occurred would have been in itself peculiar. But when he did so, some other man who was near her made way for him, as though she were acknowledged to be altogether his property. And then the Duchess had striven to catch him, and lead him into special conversation. When this attempt was made he decided that he must at once retreat,—or else make up his mind to marry the young lady. And therefore he retreated.
He breakfasted that morning at the inn at Stamford, and as he smoked his cigar afterwards, he positively resolved that he would under no circumstances marry Arabella Trefoil. He was being hunted and run down, and, with the instinct of all animals that are hunted, he prepared himself for escape. It might be said, no doubt would be said, that he behaved badly. That would be said because it would not be open to him to tell the truth. The lady in such a case can always tell her story, with what exaggeration she may please to give, and can complain. The man never can do so. When inquired into, he cannot say that he has been pursued. He cannot tell her friends that she began it, and in point of fact did it all. "She would fall into my arms; she would embrace me; she persisted in asking me whether I loved her!" Though a man have to be shot for it, or kicked for it, or even though he have to endure perpetual scorn for it, he cannot say that, let it be ever so true. And yet is a man to be forced into a marriage which he despises? He would not be forced into the marriage,—and the sooner he retreated the less would be the metaphorical shooting and kicking and the real scorn. He must get out of it as best he could;—but that he would get out of it he was quite determined.
That afternoon he reached Mr. Surbiton's house, as did also Captain Battersby, and his horses, grooms, and other belongings. When there he received a lot of letters, and among others one from Mr. Runciman, of the Bush, inquiring as to a certain hiring of rooms and preparation for a dinner or dinners which had been spoken of in reference to a final shooting decreed to take place in the neighbourhood of Dillsborough in the last week of January. Such things were often planned by Lord Rufford, and afterwards forgotten or neglected. When he declared his purpose to Runciman, he had not intended to go to Mistletoe, nor to stay so long with his friend Surbiton. But now he almost thought that it would be better for him to be back at Rufford Hall, where at present his sister was staying with her husband, Sir George Penwether.
In the evening of the second or third day his old friend Tom Surbiton said a few words to him which had the effect of sending him back to Rufford. They had sat out the rest of the men who formed the party and were alone in the smoking-room. "So you're going to marry Miss Trefoil," said Tom Surbiton, who perhaps of all his friends was the most intimate.
"Who says so?"
"I am saying so at present"
"You are not saying it on your own authority. You have never seen me and Miss Trefoil in a room together."
"Everybody says so. of course such a thing cannot be arranged without being talked about"
"It has not been arranged."
"If you don't mean to have it arranged, you had better look to it. I am speaking in earnest, Rufford. I am not going to give up authorities. Indeed if I did I might give up everybody. The very servants suppose that they know it, and there isn't a groom or horseboy about who isn't in his heart congratulating the young lady on her promotion."
"I'll tell you what it is, Tom."
"Well;—what is it?"
"If this had come from any other man than yourself I should quarrel with him. I am not engaged to the young lady, nor have I done anything to warrant anybody in saying so."
"Then I may contradict it."
"I don't want you either to contradict it or affirm it. It would be an impertinence to the young lady if I were to instruct any one to contradict such a report. But as a fact I am not engaged to marry Miss Trefoil, nor is there the slightest chance that I ever shall be so engaged." So saying he took up his candlestick and walked off.
Early on the next morning he saw his friend and made some sort of laughing apology for his heat on the previous evening. "It is so d— hard when these kind of things are said because a man has lent a young lady a horse. However, Tom, between you and me the thing is a lie."
"I am very glad to hear it," said Tom.
"And now I want you to come over to Rufford on the twenty-eighth." Then he explained the details of his proposed party, and got his friend to promise that he would come. He also made it understood that he was going home at once. There were a hundred things, he said, which made it necessary. So the horses and grooms and servant and portmanteaus were again made to move, and Lord Rufford left his friend on that day and went up to London on his road to Rufford.
He was certainly disturbed in his mind, foreseeing that there might be much difficulty in his way. He remembered with fair accuracy all that had occurred during the journey from Stamford to Mistletoe. He felt assured that up to that time he had said nothing which could be taken to mean a real declaration of love. All that at Rufford had been nothing. He had never said a word which could justify the girl in a hope. In the carriage she had asked him whether he loved her, and he had said that he did. He had also declared that he would do anything in his power to make her happy. Was a man to be bound to marry a girl because of such a scene as that? There was, however, nothing for him to do except to keep out of the girl's way. If she took any steps, then he must act. But as he thought of it, he swore to himself that nothing should induce him to marry her.
He remained a couple of days in town and reached Rufford Hall on the Monday, just a week from the day of that fatal meet at Peltry. There he found Sir George and his sister and Miss Penge, and spent his first evening in quiet. On the Tuesday he hunted with the U.R.U., and made his arrangements with Runciman. He invited Hampton to shoot with him. Surbiton and Battersby were coming, and his brother-in-law. Not wishing to have less than six guns he asked Hampton how he could make up his party. "Morton doesn't shoot," he said, "and is as stiff as a post." Then he was told that John Morton was supposed to be very ill at Bragton. "I'm sick of both the Botseys," continued the lord, thinking more of his party than of Mr. Morton's health. "Purefoy is still sulky with me because he killed poor old Caneback." Then Hampton suggested that if he would ask Lawrence Twentyman it might be the means of saving that unfortunate young man's life. The story of his unrequited love was known to every one at Dillsborough and it was now told to Lord Rufford. "He is not half a bad fellow," said Hampton, "and quite as much like a gentleman as either of the Botseys."
"I shall be delighted to save the life of so good a man on such easy terms," said the lord. Then and there, with a pencil, on the back of an old letter, he wrote a line to Larry asking him to shoot on next Saturday and to dine with him afterwards at the Bush.
That evening on his return home he found both the letters from Arabella. As it happened he read them in the order in which they had been written, first the laughing letter, and then the one that was declared to be serious. The earlier of the two did not annoy him much. It contained hardly more than those former letters which had induced him to go to Mistletoe. But the second letter opened up her entire strategy. She had told the Duchess that she was engaged to him, and the Duchess of course would have told the Duke. And now she wrote to him asking him to acknowledge the engagement in black and white. The first letter he might have ignored. He might have left it unanswered without gross misconduct. But the second letter, which she herself had declared to be a serious epistle, was one which he could not neglect. Now had come his difficulty. What must he do? How should he answer it? Was it imperative on him to write the words with his own hand? Would it be possible that he should get his sister to undertake the commission? He said nothing about it to any one for four and twenty hours; but he passed those hours in much discomfort. It did seem so hard to him that because he had been forced to carry a lady home from hunting in a post chaise, that he should be driven to such straits as this? The girl was evidently prepared to make a fight of it. There would be the Duke and the Duchess and that prig Mistletoe, and that idle ass Lord Augustus, and that venomous old woman her mother, all at him. He almost doubted whether a shooting excursion in Central Africa or a visit to the Pampas would not be the best thing for him. But still, though he should resolve to pass five years among the Andes, he must answer the lady's letter before he went.
Then he made up his mind that he would tell everything to his brother-in-law, as far as everything can be told in such a matter. Sir George was near fifty, full fifteen years older than his wife, who was again older than her brother. He was a man of moderate wealth, very much respected, and supposed to be possessed of almost infinite wisdom. He was one of those few human beings who seem never to make a mistake. Whatever he put his hand to came out well;—and yet everybody liked him. His brother-in-law was a little afraid of him, but yet was always glad to see him. He kept an excellent house in London, but having no country house of his own passed much of his time at Rufford Hall when the owner was not there. In spite of the young peer's numerous faults Sir George was much attached to him, and always ready to help him in his difficulties. "Penwether," said the Lord, "I have got myself into an awful scrape."
"I am sorry to hear it. A woman, I suppose,"
"Oh, yes. I never gamble, and therefore no other scrape can be awful. A young lady wants to marry me"
"That is not unnatural."
"But I am quite determined, let the result be what it may, that I won't marry the young lady."
"That will be unfortunate for her, and the more so if she has a right to expect it. Is the young lady Miss Trefoil?"
"I did not mean to mention any name, till I was sure it might be necessary. But it is Miss Trefoil."
"Eleanor had told me something of it"
"Eleanor knows nothing about this, and I do not ask you to tell her. The young lady was here with her mother,—and for the matter of that with a gentleman to whom she was certainly engaged; but nothing particular occurred here. That unfortunate ball was going on when poor Caneback was dying. But I met her since that at Mistletoe."
"I can hardly advise, you know, unless you tell me everything."
Then Lord Rufford began. "These kind of things are sometimes deuced hard upon a man. Of course if a man were a saint or a philosopher or a Joseph he wouldn't get into such scrapes,—and perhaps every man ought to be something of that sort. But I don't know how a man is to do it, unless it's born with him."
"A little prudence I should say."
"You might as well tell a fellow that it is his duty to be six feet high"
"But what have you said to the young lady,—or what has she said to you?"
"There has been a great deal more of the latter than the former. I say so to you, but of course it is not to be said that I have said so. I cannot go forth to the world complaining of a young lady's conduct to me. It is a matter in which a man must not tell the truth."
"But what is the truth?"
"She writes me word to say that she has told all her friends that I am engaged to her, and kindly presses me to make good her assurances by becoming so."
"And what has passed between you?"
"A fainting fit in a carriage and half-a-dozen kisses."
"Nothing more that is material. Of course one cannot tell it all down to each mawkish word of humbugging sentiment. There are her letters, and what I want you to remember is that I never asked her to be my wife, and that no consideration on earth shall induce me to become her husband. Though all the duchesses in England were to persecute me to the death I mean to stick to that."
Then Sir George read the letters and handed them back. "She seems to me," said he, "to have more wit about her than any of the family that I have had the honour of meeting."
"She has wit enough,—and pluck too."
"You have never said a word to her to encourage these hopes"
"My dear Penwether, don't you know that if a man with a large income says to a girl like that that the sun shines he encourages hope. I understand that well enough. I am a rich man with a title, and a big house, and a great command of luxuries. There are so many young ladies who would also like to be rich, and to have a title, and a big house, and a command of luxuries! One sometimes feels oneself like a carcase in the midst of vultures."
"Marry after a proper fashion, and you'll get rid of all that."
"I'll think about it, but in the meantime what can I say to this young woman? When I acknowledge that I kissed ham, of course I encouraged hopes."
"But St. Anthony would have had to kiss this young woman if she had made her attack upon him as she did on me; and after all a kiss doesn't go for everything. These are things, Penwether, that must not be inquired into too curiously. But I won't marry her though it were a score of kisses. And now what must I do?" Sir George said that he would take till the next morning to think about it,— meaning to make a draft of the reply which he thought his brother-in-law might best send to the lady.
It cannot be Arranged
When Reginald Morton received his aunt's letter he understood from it more than she had intended. Of course the man to whom allusion was made was Mr. Twentyman; and of course the discomfort at. home had come from Mrs. Masters' approval of that suitor's claim. Reginald, though he had seen but little of the inside of the attorney's household, thought it very probable that the stepmother would make the girl's home very uncomfortable for her. Though he knew well all the young farmer's qualifications as a husband,— namely that he was well to do in the world and bore a good character for honesty and general conduct,—still he thoroughly, nay heartily approved of Mary's rejection of the man's hand. It seemed to him to be sacrilege that such a one should have given to him such a woman. There was, to his thinking, something about Mary Masters that made it altogether unfit that she should pass her life as the mistress of Chowton Farm, and he honoured her for the persistence of her refusal. He took his pipe and went out into the garden in order that he might think of it all as he strolled round his little domain.
But why should he think so much about it? Why should he take so deep an interest in the matter? What was it to him whether Mary Masters married after her kind, or descended into what he felt to be an inferior manner of life? Then he tried to tell himself what were the gifts in the girl's possession which made her what she was, and he pictured her to himself, running over all her attributes. It was not that she specially excelled in beauty. He had seen Miss Trefoil as she was being driven about the neighbourhood, and having heard much of the young lady as the future wife of his own cousin, had acknowledged to himself that she was very handsome. But he had thought at the same time that under no possible circumstances could he have fallen in love with Miss Trefoil. He believed that he did not care much for female beauty, and yet he felt that he could sit and look at Mary Masters by the hour together. There was a quiet even composure about her, always lightened by the brightness of her modest eyes, which seemed to tell him of some mysterious world within, which was like the unseen loveliness that one fancies to be hidden within the bosom of distant mountains. There was a poem to be read there of surpassing beauty, rhythmical and eloquent as the music of the spheres, if it might only be given to a man to read it. There was an absence, too, of all attempt at feminine self-glorification which he did not analyse but thoroughly appreciated. There was no fussy amplification of hair, no made-up smiles, no affectation either in her good humour or her anger, no attempt at effect in her gait, in her speech, or her looks. She seemed to him to be one who had something within her on which she could feed independently of the grosser details of the world to which it was her duty to lend her hand. And then her colour charmed his eyes. Miss Trefoil was white and red; white as pearl powder and red as paint. Mary Masters, to tell the truth, was brown. No doubt that was the prevailing colour, if one colour must be named. But there was so rich a tint of young life beneath the surface, so soft but yet so visible an assurance of blood and health and spirit, that no one could describe her complexion by so ugly a word without falsifying her gifts. In all her movements she was tranquil, as a noble woman should be. Even when she had turned from him with some anger at the bridge, she had walked like a princess. There was a certainty of modesty about her which was like a granite wall or a strong fortress. As he thought of it all he did not understand how such a one as Lawrence Twentyman should have dared to ask her to be his wife,—or should even have wished it.
We know what were her feelings in regard to himself, how she had come to look almost with worship on the walls within which he lived; but he had guessed nothing of this. Even now, when he knew that she had applied to his aunt in order that she might escape from her lover, it did not occur to him that she could care for himself. He was older than she, nearly twenty years older, and even in his younger years, in the hard struggles of his early life, had never regarded himself as a man likely to find favour with women. There was in his character much of that modesty for which he gave her such infinite credit. Though he thought but little of most of those around him, he thought also but little of himself. It would break his heart to ask and be refused; but he could, he fancied, live very well without Mary Masters. Such, at any rate, had been his own idea of himself hitherto; and now, though he was driven to think much of her, though on the present occasion he was forced to act on her behalf, he would not tell himself that he wanted to take her for his wife. He constantly assured himself that he wanted no wife, that for him a solitary life would be the best. But yet it made him wretched when he reflected that some man would assuredly marry Mary Masters. He had heard of that excellent but empty-head young man Mr. Surtees. When the idea occurred to him he found himself reviling Mr. Surtees as being of all men the most puny, the most unmanly, and the least worthy of marrying Mary Masters. Now that Mr. Twentyman was certainly disposed of, he almost became jealous of Mr. Surtees.
It was not till three or four o'clock in the afternoon that he went out on his commission to the attorney's house, having made up his mind that he would do everything in his power to facilitate Mary's proposed return to Cheltenham. He asked first for Mr. Masters and then for Miss Masters, and learned that they were both out together. But he had been desired also to see Mrs. Masters, and on inquiring for her was again shown into the grand drawing-room. Here he remained a quarter of an hour while the lady of the house was changing her cap and apron, which he spent in convincing himself that this house was altogether an unfit residence for Mary. In the chamber in which he was standing it was clear enough that no human being ever lived. Mary's drawing-room ought to be a bower in which she at least might pass her time with books and music and pretty things around her. The squalor of the real living room might be conjectured from the untouched cleanliness of this useless sanctum. At last the lady came to him and welcomed him with very grim courtesy. As a client of her husband he was very well;—but as a nephew of Lady Ushant he was injurious. It was he who had carried Mary away to Cheltenham where she had been instigated to throw her bread-and-butter into the fire,—as Mrs. Masters expressed it,—by that pernicious old woman Lady Ushant. "Mr. Masters is out walking," she said. Reginald clearly understood by the contempt which she threw almost unconsciously into her words that she did not approve of her husband going out walking at such an hour.
"I had a message for him—and also for you. My aunt, Lady Ushant, is very anxious that your daughter Mary should return to her at Cheltenham for a while." The proposition to Mrs. Masters' thinking was so monstrous, and was at the same time so unexpected, that it almost took away her breath. At any rate she stood for a moment speechless. "My aunt is very fond of your daughter," he continued, "and if she can be spared would be delighted to have her. Perhaps she has written to Miss Masters, but she has asked me to come over and see if it can be arranged."
"It cannot be arranged," said Mrs. Masters. "Nothing of the kind can be arranged."
"I am sorry for that"
"It is only disturbing the girl, and upsetting her, and filling her head full of nonsense. What is she to do at Cheltenham? This is her home and here she had better be." Though things had hitherto gone very badly, though Larry Twentyman had not shown himself since the receipt of the letter, still Mrs. Masters had not abandoned all hope. She was fixed in opinion that if her husband were joined with her they could still, between them, so break the girl's spirit as to force her into a marriage. "As for letters," she continued, "I don't know anything about them. There may have been letters but if so they have been kept from me. "She was so angry that she could not even attempt to conceal her wrath.
"Lady Ushant thinks—" began the messenger.
"Oh yes, Lady Ushant is very well of course. Lady Ushant is your aunt, Mr. Morton, and I haven't anything to say against her. But Lady Ushant can't do any good to that girl. She has got her bread to earn, and if she won't do it one way then she must do it another. She's obstinate and pigheaded, that's the truth of it. And her father's just as bad. He has taken her out now merely because she likes to be idle, and to go about thinking herself a fine lady. Lady Ushant doesn't do her any good at all by cockering her up."
"My aunt, you know, saw very much of her when she was young."
"I know she did, Mr. Morton; and all that has to be undone,—and I have got the undoing of it. Lady Ushant is one thing and her papa's business is quite another. At any rate if I have my say she'll not go to Cheltenham any more. I don't mean to be uncivil to you, Mr. Morton, or to say anything as oughtn't to be said of your aunt. But when you can't make people anything but what they are, it's my opinion that it's best to leave them alone. Good day to you, sir, and I hope you understand what it is that I mean."
Then Morton retreated and went down the stairs, leaving the lady in possession of her own grandeur. He had not quite understood what she had meant, and was still wondering at the energy of her opposition. when he met Mary herself at the front door. Her father was not with her, but his retreating form was to be seen entering the portal of the Bush. "Oh, Mr. Morton!" exclaimed Mary surprised to have the house-door opened for her by him.
"I have come with a message from my aunt"
"She told me that you would do so."
"Lady Ushant would of course be delighted to have you if it could be arranged."
"Then Lady Ushant will be disappointed," said Mrs. Masters who had descended the stairs. "There has been something going on behind my back."
"I wrote to Lady Ushant," said Mary.
"I call that sly and deceitful;—very sly and very deceitful. If I know it you won't stir out of this house to go to Cheltenham. I wonder Lady Ushant would go to put you up in that way against those you're bound to obey."
"I thought Mrs. Masters had been told," said Reginald.
"Papa did know that I wrote," said Mary.
"Yes;—and in this way a conspiracy is to be made up in the House! If she goes to Cheltenham I won't stay here. You may tell Lady Ushant that I say that. I'm not going to be one thing one day and another, and to be made a tool of all round." By this time Dolly and Kate had cone down from the upper regions and were standing behind their mother. "What do you two do there, standing gaping like fools," said the angry mother. "I suppose your father has gone over to the public-house again. That, miss, is what comes from your pig headiness. Didn't I tell you that you were ruining everybody belonging to you?" Before all this was over Reginald Morton had escaped, feeling that he could do no good to either side by remaining a witness to such a scene. He must take some other opportunity of finding the attorney and of learning from him whether he intended that his daughter should be allowed to accept Lady Ushant's invitation.
Poor Mary as she shrunk into the house was nearly heartbroken. That such things should be at all was very dreadful, but that the scene should have taken place in the presence of Reginald Morton was an aggravation of the misery which nearly overwhelmed her. How could she make him understand whence had arisen her stepmother's anger and that she herself had been neither sly nor deceitful nor pigheaded?
"But there is some one"
When Mr. Masters had gone across to the Bush his purpose had certainly been ignoble, but it had had no reference to brandy and water. And the allusion made by Mrs. Masters to the probable ruin which was to come from his tendencies in that direction had been calumnious, for she knew that the man was not given to excess in liquor. But as he approached his own house he bethought himself that it would not lead to domestic comfort if he were seen returning from his walk with Mary, and he had therefore made some excuse as to the expediency of saying a word to Runciman whom he espied at his own door. He said his word to Runciman, and so loitered away perhaps a quarter of an hour, and then went back to his office. But his wife had kept her anger at burning heat and pounced upon him before he had taken his seat. Sundown was there copying, sitting with his eyes intent on the board before him as though he were quite unaware of the sudden entrance of his master's wife. She in her fury did not regard Sundown in the least, but at once commenced her attack. "What is all this, Mr. Masters," she said, "about Lady Ushant and going to Cheltenham? I won't have any going to Cheltenham and that's flat" Now the attorney had altogether made up his mind that his daughter should go to Cheltenham if her friend would receive her. Whatever might be the consequences, they must be borne. But he thought it best to say nothing at the first moment of the attack, and simply turned his sorrowful round face in silence up to the partner of all his cares and the source of so many of them. "There have been letters," continued the lady;—"letters which nobody has told me nothing about. That proud peacock from Hoppet Hall has been here, as though he had nothing to do but carry Mary away about the country just as he pleased. Mary won't go to Cheltenham with him nor yet without him;—not if I am to remain here."
"Where else should you remain, my dear?" asked the attorney.
"I'd sooner go into the workhouse than have all this turmoil. That's where we are all likely to go if you pass your time between walking about with that minx and the public-house opposite." Then the attorney was aware that he had been watched, and his spirit began to rise within him. He looked at Sundown, but the man went on copying quicker than ever.
"My dear," said Mr. Masters, "you shouldn't talk in that way before the clerk. I wanted to speak to Mr. Runciman, and, as to the workhouse, I don't know that there is any more danger now than there has been for the last twenty years."
"It's alway's off and on as far as I can see. Do you mean to send that girl to Cheltenham?"
"I rather think she had better go—for a time."
"Then I shall leave this house and go with my girls to Norrington." Now this threat, which had been made before, was quite without meaning. Mrs. Masters' parents were both dead, and her brother, who had a large family, certainly would not receive her. "I won't remain here, Mr. Masters, if I ain't to be mistress of my own house. What is she to go to Cheltenham for, I should like to know?"
Then Sundown was desired by his wretched employer to go into the back settlement and the poor man prepared himself for the battle as well as he could. "She is not happy here," he said.
"Whose fault is that? Why shouldn't she be happy? Of course you know what it means. She has got round you because she wants to be a fine lady. What means have you to make her a fine lady? If you was to die to-morrow what would there be for any of 'em? My little bit of money is all gone. Let her stay here and be made to marry Lawrence Twentyman. That's what I say."
"She will never marry Mr. Twentyman."
"Not if you go on like this she won't. If you'd done your duty by her like a real father instead of being afraid of her when she puts on her tantrums; she'd have been at Chowton Farm by this time."
It was clear to him that now was the time not to be afraid of his wife when she put on her tantrums,—or at any rate, to appear not to be afraid. "She has been very unhappy of late."
"Oh, unhappy! She's been made more of than anybody else in this house."
"And a change will do her good. She has my permission to go;—and go she shall!" Then the word had been spoken.
"It is very much for the best. While she is here the house is made wretched for us all."
"It'll be wretcheder yet; unless it would make you happy to see me dead on the threshold,—which I believe it would. As for her, she's an ungrateful, sly, wicked slut"
"She has done nothing wicked that I know of."
"Not writing to that old woman behind my back?"
"She told me what she was doing and showed me the letter."
"Yes; of course. The two of you were in it. Does that make it any better? I say it was sly and wicked; and you were sly and wicked as well as she. She has got the better of you, and now you are going to send her away from the only chance she'll ever get of having a decent home of her own over her head."
"There's nothing more to be said about it, my dear. She'll go to Lady Ushant" Having thus pronounced his dictum with all the marital authority he was able to assume he took his hat and sallied forth. Mrs. Masters, when she was left alone, stamped her foot and hit the desk with a ruler that was lying there. Then she went up-stairs and threw herself on her bed in a paroxysm of weeping and wailing.
Mr. Masters, when he closed his door, looked up the street and down the street and then again went across to the Bush. Mr. Runciman was still there, and was standing with a letter in his hand, while one of the grooms from Rufford Hall was holding a horse beside him. "Any answer, Mr. Runciman?" said the groom.
"Only to tell his lordship that everything will be ready for him. You'd better go through and give the horse a feed of corn, and get a bit of something to eat and a glass of beer yourself." The man wasn't slow to do as he was bid;—and in this way the Bush had become very popular with the servants of the gentry around the place. "His lordship is to be here from Friday to Sunday with a party, Mr. Masters."
"For the end of the shooting. And who do you think he has asked to be one of the party?"
"Not Mr. Reginald?"
"I don't think they ever spoke in their lives. Who but Larry Twentyman!"
"It'll be the making of Larry. I only hope he won't cock his beaver too high."
"Is he coming?"
"I suppose so. He'll be sure to come. His Lordship only tells me that there are to be six of 'em on Saturday and five on Friday night. But the lad there knew who they all were. There's Mr. Surbiton and Captain Battersby and Sir George are to come over with his lordship from Rufford. And young Mr. Hampton is to join them here, and Larry Twentyman is to shoot with them on Saturday and dine afterwards. Won't those two Botseys be jealous; that's all?"
"It only shows what they think of Larry," said the attorney.
"Larry Twentyman is a very good fellow," said the landlord. "I don't know a better fellow round Dillsborough, or one who is more always on the square. But he's weak. You know him as well as I, Mr. Masters."
"He's not so weak but what he can keep what he's got."
"This'll be the way to try him. He'd melt away like water into sand if he were to live for a few weeks with such men as his Lordship's friends. I suppose there's no chance of his taking a wife home to Chowton with him?" The attorney shook his head. "That'd be the making of him, Mr. Masters; a good girl like that who'd keep him at home. If he takes it to heart he'll burst out somewhere and spend a lot of money."
The attorney declined Mr. Runciman's offer of a glass of beer and slowly made his way round the corner of the inn by Hobb's gate to the front door of Hoppet Hall. Then he passed on to the churchyard, still thinking of the misery of his position. When he reached the church he turned back, still going very slowly, and knocked at the door of Hoppet Hall. He was shown at once by Reginald's old housekeeper up to the library, and there in a few minutes he was joined by the master of the house. "I was over looking for you an hour or two ago," said Reginald.
"I heard you were there, Mr. Morton, and so I thought I would come to you. You didn't see Mary?"
"I just saw her,—but could hardly say much. She had written to my aunt about going to Cheltenham."
"I saw the letter before she sent it, Mr. Morton."
"So she told me. My aunt would be delighted to have her, but it seems that Mrs. Masters does not wish her to go."
"There is some trouble about it, Mr. Morton;—but I may as well tell you at once that I wish her to go. She would be better for awhile at Cheltenham with such a lady as your aunt than she can be at home. Her stepmother and she cannot agree on a certain point. I dare say you know what it is, Mr. Morton?"
"In regard, I suppose, to Mr. Twentyman?"
"Just that. Mrs. Masters thinks that Mr. Twentyman would make an excellent husband. And so do I. There's nothing in the world against him, and as compared with me he's a rich man. I couldn't give the poor girl any fortune, and he wouldn't want any. But money isn't everything."
"He's an industrious steady young man too, and he has had my word with him all through. But I can't compel my girl to marry him if she don't like him. I can't even try to compel her. She's as good a girl as ever stirred about a house."
"I can well believe that"
"And nothing would take such a load off me as to know that she was going to be well married. But as she don't like the young man well enough, I won't have her hardly used."
"Mrs. Masters perhaps is hard to her."
"God forbid I should say anything against my wife. I never did, and I won't now. But Mary will be better away; and if Lady Ushant will be good enough to take her, she shall go."
"When will she be ready, Mr. Masters?"
"I must ask her about that;—in a week perhaps, or ten days."
"She is quite decided against the young man?"
"Quite. At the bidding of all of us she said she'd take two months to think of it. But before the time was up she wrote to him to say it could never be. It quite upset my wife; because it would have been such an excellent arrangement"
Reginald wished to learn more but hardly knew how to ask the father questions. Yet, as he had been trusted so far, he thought that he might be trusted altogether. "I must own," he said, "that I think that Mr. Twentyman would hardly be a fit husband for your daughter."
"He is a very good young man."
"Very likely;—but she is something more than a very good young woman. A young lady with her gifts will be sure to settle well in life some day." The attorney shook his head. He had lived long enough to see many young ladies with good gifts find it difficult to settle in life; and perhaps that mysterious poem which Reginald found in Mary's eyes was neither visible nor audible to Mary's father. "I did hear," said Reginald, "that Mr. Surtees—"
"There's nothing in that."
"Oh, indeed. I thought that perhaps as she is so determined not to do as her friends would wish, that there might be something else." He said this almost as a question, looking close into the attorney's eyes as he spoke.
"It is always possible," said Mr. Masters.
"But you don't think there is anybody?"
"It is very hard to say, Mr. Morton."
"You don't expect anything of that sort?"
Then the attorney broke forth into sudden confidence. "To tell the truth then, Mr. Morton, I think there is somebody, though who it is I know as little as the baby unborn. She sees nobody here at Dillsborough to be intimate with. She isn't one of those who would write letters or do anything on the sly."
"But there is some one?"
"She told me as much herself. That is, when I asked her she would not deny it. Then I thought that perhaps it might be somebody at Cheltenham."
"I think not. She was there so short a time, Mr. Morton; and Lady Ushant would be the last person in the world to let such a thing as that go on without telling her parents. I don't think there was any one at Cheltenham. She was only there a month."
"I did fancy that perhaps that was one reason why she should want to go back."
"I don't believe it. I don't in the least believe it," said Reginald enthusiastically. "My aunt would have been sure to have seen it. It would have been impossible without her knowledge. But there is somebody?"
"I think so, Mr. Masters;—and if she does go to Cheltenham perhaps Lady Ushant had better know." To this Reginald agreed, or half agreed. It did not seem to him to be of much consequence what might be done at Cheltenham. He felt certain that the lover was not there. And yet who was there at Dillsborough? He had seen those young Botseys about. Could it possibly be one of them? And during the Christmas vacation the rector's scamp of a son had been home from Oxford; to whom Mary Masters had barely spoken. Was it young Mainwaring? Or could it be possible that she had turned an eye of favour on Dr. Nupper's elegantly-dressed assistant. There was nothing too monstrous for him to suggest to himself as soon as the attorney had left him.