On one of the first days of the new year Jane brought in the letters as usual, and handed them to Mrs Dale. Lily was at the time occupied with the teapot, but still she saw the letters, and had not her hands so full as to be debarred from the expression of her usual anxiety. "Mamma, I'm sure I see two there for me," she said. "Only one for you, Lily," said Mrs Dale. Lily instantly knew from the tone of the voice that some letter had come, which by the very aspect of the handwriting had disturbed her mother. "There is one for you, my dear," said Mrs Dale, throwing a letter across the table to Grace. "And one for you, Lily, from Bell. The others are for me." "And whom are you yours from, mamma?" asked Lily. "One is from Mrs Jones; the other, I think, is a letter on business." Then Lily said nothing further, but she observed that her mother only opened one of her letters at the breakfast-table. Lily was very patient;—not by nature, I think, but by exercise and practice. She had, once in her life, been too much in a hurry; and having then burned herself grievously, she now feared the fire. She did not therefore follow her mother after breakfast, but sat with Grace over the fire, hemming diligently at certain articles of clothing which were intended for use in the Hogglestock parsonage. The two girls were making a set of new shirts for Mr Crawley. "But I know he will ask where they come from," said Grace; "and then mamma will be scolded." "But I hope he'll wear them," said Lily. "Sooner of later he will," said Grace; "because mamma manages generally to have her way at last." Then they went on for an hour or so, talking about the home affairs at Hogglestock. But during the whole time Lily's mind was intent upon her mother's letter.
Nothing was said about it at lunch, and nothing when they walked out after lunch, for Lily was very patient. But during the walk Mrs Dale became aware that her daughter was uneasy. These two watched each other unconsciously with a closeness which hardly allowed a glance of the eye, certainly not a tone of the voice, to pass unobserved. To Mrs Dale it was everything in the world that her daughter should be, if not happy at heart, at least tranquil; and to Lily, who knew that her mother was always thinking of her, and of her alone, her mother was the only human divinity now worthy of adoration. But nothing was said about the letter during the walk.
When they came home it was nearly dusk, and it was their habit to sit up for a while without candles, talking, till the evening had in truth set in and the unmistakable and enforced idleness of remaining without candles was apparent. During this time, Lily, demanding patience of herself all the while, was thinking what she would do, or rather what she would say, about the letter. That nothing would be done or said in the presence of Grace Crawley was a matter of course, nor would she do or say anything to get rid of Grace. She would be very patient; but she would, at last, ask her mother about the letter.
And then, as luck would have it, Grace Crawley got up and left the room. Lily still waited for a few minutes, and, in order that her patience might be thoroughly exercised, she said a word or two about her sister Bell; how the eldest child's whooping-cough was nearly well, and how the baby was doing wonderful things with its first tooth. But as Mrs Dale had already seen Bell's letter, all this was not intensely interesting. At last Lily came to the point and asked her question. "Mamma, from whom was that other letter which you got this morning?"
Our story will perhaps be best told by communicating the letter to the reader before it was discussed with Lily. The letter was as follows:—
GENERAL COMMITTEE OFFICE, — January, 186—
I should have said that Mrs Dale had not opened the letter till she had found herself in the solitude of her own bedroom; and that then, before doing so, she had examined the handwriting with anxious eyes. When she first received it she thought she knew the writer, but was not sure. Then she had glanced at the impression over the fastening, and had known at once from whom the letter had come. It was from Mr Crosbie, the man who had brought so much trouble into her house, who had jilted her daughter; the only man in the world whom she had a right to regard as a positive enemy to herself. She had no doubt about it, as she tore the envelope open; and yet, when the address given made her quite sure, a new feeling of shivering came upon her, and she asked herself whether it might not be better that she should send his letter back to him without reading it. But she read it.
MADAM [the letter began],—
You will be very much surprised to hear from me, and I am quite aware that I am not entitled to the ordinary courtesy of an acknowledgement from you, should you be pleased to throw my letter on one side as unworthy of your notice. But I cannot refrain from addressing you, and must leave it to you to reply or not, as you may think fit.
I will only refer to that episode of my life with which you are acquainted, for the sake of acknowledging my great fault and of assuring you that I did not go unpunished. It would be useless for me now to attempt to explain to you the circumstances which led me into that difficulty which ended in so great a blunder; but I will ask you to believe that my folly was greater than my sin.
But I will come to my point at once. You are, no doubt, aware that I married a daughter of Lord De Courcy, and that I was separated from my wife a few weeks after our unfortunate marriage. It is now something over twelve months since she died at Baden-Baden in her mother's house. I never saw her since the day we first parted. I have not a word to say against her. The fault was mine in marrying a woman whom I did not love and had never loved. When I married Lady Alexandrina I loved, not her, but your daughter.
I believe I may venture to say to you that your daughter once loved me. From the day on which I last wrote to you that terrible letter which told you of my fate, I have never mentioned the name of Lily Dale to human ears. It has been too sacred for my mouth,—too sacred for the intercourse of any friendship with which I have been blessed. I now use it for the first time to you, in order that I may ask whether it be possible that her old love should ever live again. Mine has lived always,—has never faded for an hour, making me miserable during the years that have passed since I saw her, but capable of making me very happy, if I may be allowed to see her again.
You will understand my purpose now as well as though I were to write pages. I have no scheme formed in my head for seeing your daughter again. How can I dare to form a scheme, when I am aware that the chance of success must be so strong against me? But if you will tell me that there can be a gleam of hope, I will obey any commands that you can put upon me in any way that you may point out. I am free again,—and she is free. I love her with all my heart, and seem to long for nothing in the world but that she should become my wife. Whether any of her old love may still abide with her, you will know. If it do, it may even yet prompt her to forgive one who, in spite of falseness of conduct, has yet been true to her in heart.
I have the honour to be, Madam, Your most obedient servant,
This was the letter which Mrs Dale had received, and as to which she had not as yet said a word to Lily, or even made up her mind whether she would say a word or not. Dearly as the mother and daughter loved each other, thorough as was the confidence between them, yet the name of Adolphus Crosbie had not been mentioned between them oftener, perhaps, than half-a-dozen times since the blow had been struck. Mrs Dale knew that their feelings about the man were altogether different. She, herself, not only condemned him for what he had done, believing it to be impossible that any shadow of excuse could be urged for his offence, thinking that the fault had shown the man to be mean beyond redemption,—but she had allowed herself actually to hate him. He had in one sense murdered her daughter, and she believed that she could never forgive him. But, Lily, as her mother well knew, had forgiven this man altogether, had made excuses for him which cleansed his sin of all its blackness in her own eyes, and was to this day anxious as ever for his welfare and his happiness. Mrs Dale feared that Lily did in truth love him still. If it was so, was she not bound to show her this letter? Lily was old enough to judge for herself,—old enough, and wise enough too. Mrs Dale told herself half-a-score of times that morning that she could not be justified in keeping the letter from her daughter.
But yet much she much wished that the letter had never been written, and would have given very much to be able to put it out of the way without injustice to Lily. To her thinking it would be impossible that Lily should be happy marrying such a man. Such a marriage now would be, as Mrs Dale thought, a degradation to her daughter. A terrible injury had been done to her; but such reparation as this would, in Mrs Dale's eyes, only make the injury deeper. And yet Lily loved the man; and, loving him, how could she resist the temptation of his offer? "Mamma, from whom was that letter which you got this morning?" Lily asked. For a few moments Mrs Dale remained silent. "Mamma," continued Lily, "I think I know whom it was from. If you tell me to ask nothing further, of course I will not."
"No, Lily; I cannot tell you that."
"Then, mamma, out with it at once. What is the use of shivering on the brink?"
"It was from Mr Crosbie."
"I knew it. I cannot tell you why, but I knew it. And now, mamma;—am I to read it?"
"You shall do as you please, Lily."
"Then I please to read it."
"Listen to me a moment first. For myself, I wish that the letter had never been written. It tells badly for the man, as I think of it. I cannot understand how any man could have brought himself to address either you or me, after having acted as he acted."
"But, mamma, we differ about all that, you know."
"Now he has written, and there is the letter,—if you choose to read it."
Lily had it in her hand, but she still sat motionless, holding it. "You think, mamma, I ought not to read it?"
"You must judge for yourself, dearest."
"And if I do not read it, what shall you do, mamma?"
"I shall do nothing;—or, perhaps, I should in such a case acknowledge it, and tell him that we have nothing more to say to him."
"That would be very stern."
"He has done that which makes some sternness necessary."
Then Lily was again silent, and still she sat motionless, with the letter in her hand. "Mamma," she said at last, "if you tell me not to read it, I will give it back unread. If you bid me exercise my own judgment, I shall take it upstairs and read it."
"You must exercise your own judgment," said Mrs Dale. Then Lily got up from her chair and walked slowly out of the room, and went to her mother's chamber. The thoughts which passed through Mrs Dale's mind while her daughter was reading the letter were very sad. She could find no comfort anywhere. Lily, she had told herself, would surely give way to this man's renewed expressions of affection, and she, Mrs Dale herself, would be called upon to give her child to a man whom she could neither love nor respect;—who, for aught she knew, she could never cease to hate. And she could not bring herself to believe that Lily would be happy with such a man. As for her own life, desolate as it would be,—she cared little for that. Mothers know that their daughters will leave them. Even widowed mothers, mothers with but one child left,—such a one as was this mother,—are aware that they will be left alone, and they can bring themselves to welcome the sacrifice of themselves with something of satisfaction. Mrs Dale and Lily had, indeed, of late become bound together especially, so that the mother had been justified in regarding the link which joined them as being firmer than that by which most daughters are bound to their mothers;—but in all that she would have found no regret. Even now, in these very days, she was hoping that Lily might yet be brought to give herself to John Eames. But she could not, after all that was come and gone, be happy in thinking that Lily should be given to Adolphus Crosbie.
When Mrs Dale went upstairs to her own room before dinner Lily was not there; nor were they alone together again that evening except for a moment, when Lily, as usual, went into her mother's room when she was undressing. But neither of them then said a word about the letter. Lily during dinner and throughout the evening had borne herself well, giving no sign of special emotion, keeping to herself entirely her own thoughts about the proposition made to her. And afterwards she had progressed diligently with the fabrication of Mr Crawley's shirts, as though she had no such letter in her pocket. And yet there was not a moment in which she was not thinking of it. To Grace, just before she went to bed, she did say one word. "I wonder whether it can ever come to a person to be so placed that there can be no doing right, let what will be done;—that, do or not do, as you may, it must be wrong?"
"I hope you are not in such a condition," said Grace.
"I am something near it," said Lily, "but perhaps if I look long enough I shall see the light."
"I hope it will be a happy light at last," said Grace, who thought that Lily was referring only to John Eames.
At noon on the next day Lily had still said nothing to her mother about the letter; and then what she said was very little. "When must you answer Mr Crosbie, mamma?"
"When, my dear?"
"I mean how long may you take? It need not be to-day."
"No;—certainly not to-day."
"Then I will talk it over with you to-morrow. It wants some thinking;—does it not, mamma?"
"It would not want much with me, Lily."
"But then, mamma, you are not I. Believing as I believe, feeling as I feel, it wants some thinking. That's what I mean."
"I wish I could help you, my dear."
"You shall help me,—to-morrow." The morrow came and Lily was still very patient; but she had prepared herself, and had prepared the time also, so that in the hour of the gloaming she was alone with her mother, and sure that she might remain alone with her for an hour or so. "Mamma, sit there," she said; "I will sit down here, and then I can lean against you and be comfortable. You can bear as much of me as that,—can't you, mamma?" Then Mrs Dale put her arm over Lily's shoulder, and embraced her daughter. "And now, mamma, we will talk about this wonderful letter."
"I do not know, dear, that I have anything to say about it."
"But you must have something to say about it, mamma. You must bring yourself to have something to say,—to have a great deal to say."
"You know what I think as well as though I talked for a week."
"That won't do, mamma. Come, you must not be hard with me."
"I don't mean that you will hurt me, or not give me any food,—or that you will not go on caring about me more than anything else in the whole world ten times over;—" And Lily as she spoke tightened the embrace of her mother's arm round her neck. "I'm not afraid you'll be hard in that way. But you must soften your heart so as to be able to mention his name and talk about him, and tell me what I ought to do. You must see with my eyes, and hear with my ears, and feel with my heart;—and then, when I know that you have done that, I must judge with your judgment."
"I wish you to use your own."
"Yes;—because you won't see with my eyes and hear with my ears. That's what I call being hard. Though you should feed me with blood from your breast, I should call you a hard pelican, unless you could give me also the sympathy which I demand from you. You see, mamma, we have never allowed ourselves to speak of this man."
"What need has there been, dearest?"
"Only because we have been thinking of him. Out of the full heart the mouth speaketh;—that is, the mouth does so when the full heart is allowed to have its own way comfortably."
"There are things which should be forgotten."
"The memory of which should not be fostered by much talking."
"I have never blamed you, mamma; never, even in my heart. I have known how good and gracious and sweet you have been. But I have often accused myself of cowardice because I have not allowed his name to cross my lips either to you or to Bell. To talk of forgetting such an accident as that is a farce. And as for fostering the memory of it—! Do you think that I have ever spent a night from that time to this without thinking of him? Do you imagine that I have ever crossed our own lawn, or gone down through the garden-path there, without thinking of the times when he and I walked there together? There needs no fostering for such memories as those. They are weeds which will grow rank and strong though nothing be done to foster them. There is the earth and the rain, and that is enough for them. You cannot kill them if you would, and they certainly will not die because you are careful not to hoe and rake the ground."
"Lily, you forget how short the time has been as yet."
"I have thought it very long; but the truth is, mamma, that this non-fostering of memories, as you call it, has not been the real cause of our silence. We have not spoken of Mr Crosbie because we have not thought alike about him. Had you spoken you would have spoken with anger, and I could not endure to hear him abused. That has been it."
"Partly so, Lily."
"Now we must talk of him, and you must not abuse him. We must talk of him, because something must be done about his letter. Even it be left unanswered, it cannot be so left without discussion. And yet you must say no evil of him."
"Am I to think that he behaved well?"
"No, mamma; you are not to think that; but you are to look upon his fault as a fault that has been forgiven."
"It cannot be forgiven, dear."
"But, mamma, when you go to heaven—"
"But you will go to heaven, mamma, and why should I not speak of it? You will go to heaven, and yet I suppose you have been very wicked, because we are all very wicked. But you won't be told of your wickedness there. You won't be hated there, because you were this or that when you were here."
"I hope not, Lily; but isn't your argument almost profane?"
"No; I don't think so. We ask to be forgiven just as we forgive. That is the way in which we hope to be forgiven, and therefore it is the way in which we ought to forgive. When you say that prayer at night, mamma, do you ever ask yourself whether you have forgiven him?"
"I forgive him as far as humanity can forgive. I would do him no injury."
"But if you and I are forgiven only after that fashion we shall never get to heaven." Lily paused for some further answer from her mother, but as Mrs Dale was silent she allowed that portion of the subject to pass as completed. "And now, mamma, what answer do you think we ought to send to his letter?"
"My dear, how am I to say? You know I have said already that if I could act on my own judgment, I would send none."
"But that was said in the bitterness of gall."
"Come, Lily, say what you think yourself. We shall get on better when you have brought yourself to speak. Do you think that you wish to see him again?"
"I don't know, mamma. Upon the whole, I think not."
"Then in heaven's name let me write and tell him so."
"Stop a moment, mamma. There are two persons here to be considered,—or rather, three."
"I would not have you think of me in such a question."
"I know you would not; but never mind, and let me go on. The three of us are concerned, at any rate; you, and he, and I. I am thinking of him now. We have all suffered, but I do believe that hitherto he has had the worst of it."
"And who had deserved the worst?"
"Mamma, how can you go back in that way? We have agreed that that should be regarded as done and gone. He has been very unhappy, and now we see what remedy he proposes to himself for his misery. Do I flatter myself if I allow myself to look at it in that way?"
"Perhaps he thinks he is offering a remedy for your misery."
As this was said Lily turned round slowly and looked up into her mother's face. "Mamma," she said, "that is very cruel. I did not think you could be so cruel. How can you, who believe him to be so selfish, think that?"
"It is very hard to judge of men's motives. I have never supposed him to be so black that he would not wish to make atonement for the evil he has done."
"If I thought that, there certainly could be but one answer."
"Who can look into a man's heart and judge all the sources of his actions? There are mixed feelings there, no doubt. Remorse for what he has done; regret for what he has lost;—something, perhaps, of the purity of love."
"Yes, something,—I hope something,—for his sake."
"But when a horse kicks and bites, you know his nature and do not go near him. When a man has cheated you once, you think he will cheat you again, and you do not deal with him. You do not look to gather grapes from thistles, after you have found that they are thistles."
"I still go for the roses though I have often torn my hand with thorns in looking for them."
"But you do not pluck those that have become cankered in the blowing."
"Because he was once at fault, will he be cankered always?"
"I would not trust him."
"Now, mamma, see how different we are; or, rather, how different it is when one judges for oneself or for another. If it were simply myself, and my own future fate in life, I would trust him with it all to-morrow, without a word. I should go to him as a gambler goes to the gaming-table, knowing that if I lost everything, I could hardly be poorer than I was before. But I should have a better hope than the gambler is justified in having. That, however, is not my difficulty. And when I think of him I can see a prospect for success for the gambler. I think so well of myself that, loving him, as I do;—yes, mamma, do not be uneasy;—loving him as I do, I believe I could be a comfort to him. I think that he might be better with me than without me. That is, he would be so, if he could teach himself to look back upon the past as I can do, and to judge of me as I can judge of him."
"He has nothing, at least, for which to condemn you."
"But he would have, were I to marry him now. He would condemn me because I had forgiven him. He would condemn me because I had borne what he had done to me, and had still loved him,—loved him through it all. He would feel and know the weakness;—and there is weakness. I have been weak in not being able to rid myself of him altogether. He would recognise this after awhile, and would despise me for it. But he would not see what there is of devotion to him in my being able to bear the taunts of the world in going back to him, and your taunts, and my own taunts. I should have to bear his also,—not spoken aloud, but to be seen in his face and heard in his voice,—and that I could not endure. If he despised me, and he would, that would make us both unhappy. Therefore, mamma, tell him not to come; tell him that he can never come; but, if it be possible, tell him this tenderly." Then she got up and walked away, as though she were going out of the room; but her mother had caught her before the door was opened.
"Lily," she said, "if you think you can be happy with him, he shall come."
"No, mamma, no. I have been looking for the light ever since I read his letter, and I think I see it. And now, mamma, I will make a clean breast of it. From the moment in which I heard that that that poor woman was dead, I have been in a state of flutter. It has been weak of me, and silly, and contemptible. But I could not help it. I kept on asking myself whether he would ever think of me now. Well; he has answered the question; and has so done it that he has forced upon me the necessity of a resolution. I have resolved, and I believe that I shall be the better for it."
The letter which Mrs Dale wrote to Mr Crosbie was as follows:—
"Mrs Dale presents her compliments to Mr Crosbie, and begs to assure him that it will not now be possible that he should renew the relations which were broken off three years ago, between him and Mrs Dale's family." It was very short, certainly, and it did not by any means satisfy Mrs Dale. But she did not know how to say more without saying too much. The object of her letter was to save him the trouble of a futile perseverance, and them from the annoyance of persecution; and this she wished to do without mentioning her daughter's name. And she was determined that no word should escape her in which there was any touch of severity, any hint of an accusation. So much she owed to Lily in return for all that Lily was prepared to abandon. "There is my note," she said at last, offering it to her daughter. "I did not mean to see it," said Lily, "and, mamma, I will not read it now. Let it go. I know you have been good and have not scolded him." "I have not scolded him, certainly," said Mrs Dale. And then the letter was sent.
Mrs Dobbs Broughton's Dinner-party
Mr John Eames of the Income-tax Office, had in these days risen so high in the world that people in the west-end of town, and very respectable people too,—people living in South Kensington, in neighbourhoods not far from Belgravia, and in very handsome houses round Bayswater,—were glad to ask him out to dinner. Money had been left to him by an earl, and rumour had of course magnified that money. He was a private secretary, which is in itself a great advance on being a mere clerk. And he had become the particularly intimate friend of an artist who had pushed himself into high fashion during the last year or two,—one Conway Dalrymple, whom the rich English world was beginning to pet and pelt with gilt sugar-plums, and who seemed to take very kindly to petting and gilt sugar-plums. I don't know whether the friendship of Conway Dalrymple had not done as much to secure John Eames his position at the Bayswater dinner-tables, as had either the private secretaryship, or the earl's money; and yet, when they had first known each other, now only two or three years ago, Conway Dalrymple had been the poorer man of the two. Some chance had brought them together, and they had lived in the same rooms for nearly two years. This arrangement had been broken up, and the Conway Dalrymple of these days had a studio of his own, somewhere near Kensington Palace, where he painted portraits of young countesses, and in which he had even painted a young duchess. It was the peculiar merit of his pictures,—so at least said the art-loving world,—that though the likeness was always good, the stiffness of the modern portrait was never there. There was also ever some story told in Dalrymple's pictures over and above the story of the portraiture. This countess was drawn as a fairy with wings, that countess as a goddess with a helmet. The thing took for a time, and Conway Dalrymple was picking up his gilt sugar-plums with considerable rapidity.
On a certain day he and John Eames were to dine out together at a certain house in that Bayswater district. It was a large mansion, if not made of stone yet looking very stony, with thirty windows at least, all of them with cut-stone frames, requiring, let me say, at least four thousand a year for its maintenance. And its owner, Dobbs Broughton, a man very well known both in the City and over the grass in Northamptonshire, was supposed to have a good deal more than four thousand a year. Mrs Dobbs Broughton, a very beautiful woman, who certainly was not yet thirty-five, let her worst enemies say what they might, had been painted by Conway Dalrymple as a Grace. There were, of course, three Graces in the picture, but each Grace was Mrs Dobbs Broughton repeated. We all know how Graces stand sometimes; two Graces looking one way, and one the other. In this picture, Mrs Dobbs Broughton as centre Grace looked you full in the face. The same lady looked away from you, displaying her left shoulder as one side Grace, and displaying her right shoulder as the other Grace. For this pretty toy Mr Conway Dalrymple had picked up a gilt sugar-plum to the tune of six hundred pounds, and had, moreover, won the heart both of Mr and Mrs Dobbs Broughton. "Upon my word, Johnny," Dalrymple had said to his friend, "he's a deuced good fellow, has really a good glass of claret,—which is getting rarer and rarer every day,—and will mount you for a day, whenever you please, down at Market Harboro'. Come and dine with them." Johnny Eames condescended, and did go and dine with Mr Dobbs Broughton. I wonder whether he remembered, when Conway Dalrymple was talking of the rarity of good claret, how much beer the young painter used to drink when they were out together in the country, as they used to be occasionally, three years ago; and how the painter had then been used to complain that bitter cost threepence a glass, instead of twopence, which had hitherto been the recognised price of the article. In those days the sugar-plums had not been gilt, and had been much rarer.
Johnny Eames and his friend went together to the house of Mr Dobbs Broughton. As Dalrymple lived close to the Broughtons, Eames picked him up in a cab. "Filthy things, these cabs are," said Dalrymple, as he got into the hansom.
"I don't know about that," said Johnny. "They're pretty good, I think."
"Foul things," said Conway. "Don't you feel what a draught comes in here because the glass is cracked. I'd have one of my own, only I should never know what to do with it."
"The greatest nuisance on earth, I should think," said Johnny.
"If you could always have it standing ready round the corner," said the artist, "it would be delightful. But one would want half-a-dozen horses, and two or three men for that."
"I think the stands are the best," said Johnny.
They were a little late,—a little later than they should have been had they considered that Eames was to be introduced to his new acquaintances. But he had already lived long enough before the world to be quite at his ease in such circumstances, and he entered Mrs Broughton's drawing-room with his pleasantest smile upon his face. But as he entered he saw a sight which made him look serious in spite of his efforts to the contrary. Mr Adolphus Crosbie, secretary to the Board at the General Committee Office, was standing on the rug before the fire.
"Who will be there?" Eames had asked of his friend, when the suggestion to go and dine with Dobbs Broughton had been made to him.
"Impossible to say," Conway had replied. "A certain horrible fellow of the name of Musselboro, will almost certainly be there. He always is when they have anything of a swell dinner-party. He is a sort of partner of Broughton's in the City. He wears a lot of chains, and has elaborate whiskers, and an elaborate waistcoat, which is worse; and he doesn't wash his hands as often as he ought to do."
"An objectionable party, rather, I should say," said Eames.
"Well, yes; Musselboro is objectionable. He's very good-humoured you know, and good-looking in a sort of way, and goes everywhere; that is among people of this sort. Of course he's not hand-and-glove with Lord Derby; and I wish he could be made to wash his hands. They haven't any other standing dish, and you may meet anybody. They always have a Member of Parliament; they generally manage to catch a Baronet; and I have met a Peer there. On that august occasion Musselboro was absent."
So instructed, Eames, on entering that room, looked round at once for Mr Musselboro. "If I don't see the whiskers and chain," he had said, "I shall know there's a Peer." Mr Musselboro was in the room, but Eames had descried Mr Crosbie long before he had seen Mr Musselboro.
There was no reason for confusion on his part in meeting Crosbie. They had both loved Lily Dale. Crosbie might have been successful, but for his own fault. Eames had on one occasion been thrown into contact with him, and on that occasion had quarrelled with him and had beaten him, giving him a black eye, and in this way obtaining some mastery over him. There was no reason why he should be ashamed of meeting Crosbie; and yet, when he saw him, the blood mounted all over his face, and he forgot to make any further search for Mr Musselboro.
"I am so much obliged to Mr Dalrymple for bringing you," said Mrs Dobbs Broughton very sweetly, "only he ought to have come sooner. Naughty man! I know it was his fault. Will you take Miss Demolines down? Miss Demolines,—Mr Eames."
Mr Dobbs Broughton was somewhat sulky and had not welcomed our hero very cordially. He was beginning to think that Conway Dalrymple gave himself airs and did not sufficiently understand that a man who had horses at Market Harboro' and '41 Lafitte was at any rate as good as a painter who was pelted with gilt sugar-plums for painting countesses. But he was a man whose ill-humour never lasted long, and he was soon pressing his wine on Johnny Eames as though he loved him dearly.
But there was yet a few minutes before they went down to dinner, and Johnny Eames, as he endeavoured to find something to say to Miss Demolines,—which was difficult, as he did not in the least know Miss Demolines' line of conversation,—was aware that his efforts were impeded by thoughts of Mr Crosbie. The man looked older than when he had last seen him,—so much older that Eames was astonished. He was bald, or becoming bald; and his whiskers were grey, or were becoming grey, and he was much fatter. Johnny Eames, who was always thinking of Lily Dale, could not now keep himself from thinking of Adolphus Crosbie. He saw at a glance that the man was in mourning, though there was nothing but his shirt-studs by which to tell it; and he knew that he was in mourning for his wife. "I wish she might have lived for ever," Johnny said to himself.
He had not yet been definitely called upon by the entrance of the servant to offer his arm to Miss Demolines, when Crosbie walked across to him from the rug and addressed him.
"Mr Eames," said he, "it is some time since we met." And he offered his hand to Johnny.
"Yes, it is" said Johnny, accepting the proffered salutation. "I don't know exactly how long, but ever so long."
"I am very glad to have the opportunity of shaking hands with you," said Crosbie; and then he retired, as it had become his duty to wait with his arm ready for Mrs Dobbs Broughton. Having married an earl's daughter he was selected for that honour. There was a barrister in the room, and Mrs Dobbs Broughton ought to have known better. As she professed to be guided in such matters by the rules laid down by the recognised authorities, she ought to have been aware that a man takes no rank from his wife. But she was entitled I think to merciful consideration for her error. A woman situated as was Mrs Dobbs Broughton cannot altogether ignore these terrible rules. She cannot let her guests draw lots for precedence. She must select some one for the honour of her own arm. And amidst the intricacies of rank how is it possible for woman to learn and to remember everything? If Providence would only send Mrs Dobbs Broughton a Peer for every dinner-party, the thing would go more easily; but what woman will tell me, off-hand, which should go out of a room first: a C.B., an Admiral of the Blue, the Dean of Barchester, or the Dean of Arches? Who is to know who was everybody's father? How am I to remember that young Thompson's progenitor was made a baronet and not a knight when he was Lord Mayor? Perhaps Mrs Dobbs Broughton ought to have known that Mr Crosbie could have gained nothing by his wife's rank, and the barrister may be considered to have been not immoderately severe when he simply spoke of her afterwards as the silliest and most ignorant old woman he had ever met in his life. Eames with the lovely Miss Demolines on his arm was the last to move before the hostess. Mr Dobbs Broughton had led the way energetically with old Lady Demolines. There was no doubt about Lady Demolines,—as his wife had told him, because her title marked her. Her husband had been a physician in Paris, and had been knighted in consequence of some benefit supposed to have been done to some French scion of royalty,—when such scions in France were royal and not imperial. Lady Demolines' rank was not much certainly; but it served to mark her, and was beneficial.
As he went downstairs Eames was still thinking of his meeting with Crosbie, and had as yet hardly said a word to his neighbour, and his neighbour had not said a word to him. Now Johnny understood dinners quite well enough to know that in a party of twelve, among whom six are ladies, everything depends of your next neighbour, and generally on the next neighbour who specially belongs to you; and as he took his seat he was a little alarmed as to his prospect for the next two hours. On his other hand sat Mrs Ponsonby, the barrister's wife, and he did not much like the look of Mrs Ponsonby. She was fat, heavy, and good-looking; with a broad space between her eyes, and light smooth hair;—a youthful British matron every inch of her, of whom any barrister with a young family of children might be proud. Now Miss Demolines, though she was hardly to be called beautiful, was at any rate remarkable. She had large, dark, well-shaped eyes, and very dark hair, which she wore tangled about in an extraordinary manner, and she had an expressive face,—a face made expressive by the owner's will. Such power of expression is often attained by dint of labour,—though it never reaches to the expression of anything in particular. She was almost sufficiently good-looking to be justified in considering herself a beauty.
But Miss Demolines, though she had said nothing as yet, knew her game very well. A lady cannot begin conversation to any good purpose in the drawing-room, when she is seated and the man is standing;—nor can she know then how the table may subsequently arrange itself. Powder may be wasted, and often is wasted, and the spirit rebels against the necessity of commencing a second enterprise. But Miss Demolines, when she found herself seated, and perceived that on the other side of her was Mr Ponsonby, a married man, commenced her enterprise at once, and our friend John Eames was immediately aware that he would have no difficulty as to conversation.
"Don't you like winter dinner-parties?" began Miss Demolines. This was said just as Johnny was taking his seat, and he had time to declare that he liked dinner-parties at all periods of the year if the dinner was good and the people pleasant before the host had muttered something which was intended to be understood to be a grace. "But I mean especially the winter," continued Miss Demolines. "I don't think daylight should ever be admitted at a dinner-table; and though you may shut out the daylight, you can't shut out the heat. And then there are always so many other things to go to in May and June and July. Dinners should be stopped by Act of Parliament for those three months. I don't care what people do afterwards, because we always fly away on the first of August."
"That is good-natured on your part."
"I'm sure what I say would be for the good of society;—but at this time of the year a dinner is warm and comfortable."
"Very comfortable, I think."
"And people get to know each other;"—in saying which Miss Demolines looked very pleasantly up into Johnny's face.
"There is a great deal in that," said he. "I wonder whether you and I will get to know each other."
"Of course we shall;—that is, if I'm worth knowing."
"There can be no doubt about that, I should say."
"Time alone can tell. But, Mr Eames, I see that Mr Crosbie is a friend of yours."
"Hardly a friend."
"I know very well that men are friends when they step up and shake hands with each other. It is the same when women kiss."
"When I see women kiss, I always think that there is deep hatred at the bottom of it."
"And there may be deep hatred between you and Mr Crosbie for anything I know to the contrary," said Miss Demolines.
"The very deepest," said Johnny, pretending to look grave.
"Ah; then I know he is your bosom friend, and that you will tell him anything I say. What a strange history that was of his marriage!"
"So I have heard;—but he is not quite bosom friend enough with me to have told me all the particulars. I know that his wife is dead."
"Dead; oh, yes; she has been dead these two years I should say."
"Not so long as that, I should think."
"Well,—perhaps not. But it's ever so long ago;—quite long enough for him to be married again. Did you know her?"
"I never saw her in my life."
"I knew her,—not well indeed; but I am intimate with her sister, Lady Amelia Gazebee, and I have met her there. None of that family have married what you may call well. And now, Mr Eames, pray look at the menu and tell me what I am to eat. Arrange for me a little dinner of my own, out of the great bill of fare provided. I always expect some gentleman to do that for me. Mr Crosbie, you know, only lived with his wife for one month."
"So I've been told."
"And a terrible month they had of it. I used to hear of it. He doesn't look that sort of man, does he?"
"Well;—no. I don't think he does. But what sort of man do you mean?"
"Why, such a regular Bluebeard! Of course you know how he treated another girl before he married Lady Alexandrina. She died of it,—with a broken heart; absolutely died; and there he is, indifferent as possible;—and would treat me in the same way to-morrow if I would let him."
Johnny Eames, finding it impossible to talk to Miss Demolines about Lily Dale, took up the card of the dinner and went to work in earnest, recommending his neighbour what to eat and what to pass by. "But you've skipped the pate?" she said, with energy.
"Allow me to ask you to choose mine for me instead. You are much more fit to do it." And she did choose his dinner for him.
They were sitting at a round table, and in order that the ladies and gentlemen should alternate themselves properly, Mr Musselboro was opposite to the host. Next to him on his right was old Mrs Van Siever, the widow of a Dutch merchant, who was very rich. She was a ghastly thing to look at, as well from the quantity as from the nature of the wiggeries which she wore. She had not only a false front, but long false curls, as to which it cannot be conceived that she would suppose that any one would be ignorant as to their falseness. She was very thin, too, and very small, and putting aside her wiggeries, you would think her to be all eyes. She was a ghastly old woman to the sight, and not altogether pleasant in her mode of talking. She seemed to know Mr Musselboro very well, for she called him by his name without any prefix. He had, indeed, begun life as a clerk in her husband's office.
"Why doesn't What's-his-name have real silver forks?" she said to him. Now Mrs What's-his-name,—Mrs Dobbs Broughton we will call her,—was sitting on the other side of Mr Musselboro, between him and Mr Crosbie; and, so placed, Mr Musselboro found it rather hard to answer the question, more especially as he was probably aware that other questions would follow.
"What's the use?" said Mr Musselboro. "Everybody has these plated things now. What's the use of a lot of capital lying dead?"
"Everybody doesn't. I don't. You know as well as I do, Musselboro, that the appearance of the thing goes for a great deal. Capital isn't lying dead as long as people know that you've got it."
Before answering this Mr Musselboro was driven to reflect that Mrs Dobbs Broughton would probably hear his reply. "You won't find that there is any doubt on that head in the City as to Broughton," he said.
"I shan't ask in the City, and if I did, I should not believe what people told me. I think there are sillier folks in the City than anywhere else. What did he give for that picture upstairs which the young man painted?"
"What, Mrs Dobbs Broughton's portrait?"
"You don't call that a portrait, do you? I mean the one with the three naked women?" Mr Musselboro glanced round with one eye, and felt sure that Mrs Dobbs Broughton had heard the question. But the old woman was determined to have an answer. "How much did he give for it, Musselboro?"
"Six hundred pounds, I believe," said Mr Musselboro, looking straight before him as he answered, and pretending to treat the subject with perfect indifference.
"Did he indeed, now? Six hundred pounds! And yet he hasn't got silver spoons. How things are changed! Tell me, Musselboro, who was that young man who came in with the painter?"
Mr Musselboro turned round and asked Mrs Broughton. "A Mr John Eames, Mrs Van Siever," said Mrs Broughton, whispering across the front of Mr Musselboro. "He is private secretary to Lord—Lord—Lord—I forget who. Some one of the Ministers, I know. And he had a great fortune left him the other day by Lord—Lord—Lord somebody else."
"All among the lords, I see," said Mrs Van Siever. Then Mrs Dobbs Broughton drew herself back, remembering some little attack which had been made on her by Mrs Van Siever when she herself had had the real lord to dine with her.
There was a Miss Van Siever there also, sitting between Crosbie and Conway Dalrymple. Conway Dalrymple had been specially brought there to sit next to Miss Van Siever. "There's no knowing how much she'll have," said Mrs Dobbs Broughton, in the warmth of her friendship. "But it's all real. It is, indeed. The mother is awfully rich."
"But she's awful in another way, too," said Dalrymple.
"Indeed she is, Conway." Mrs Dobbs Broughton had got into a way of calling her young friend by his Christian name. "All the world calls him Conway," she had said to her husband once when her husband caught her doing so. "She is awful. Her husband made the business in the City, when things were very different from what they are now, and I can't help having her. She has transactions of business with Dobbs. But there's no mistake about the money."
"She needn't leave it to her daughter, I suppose?"
"But why shouldn't she? She has nobody else. You might offer to paint her, you know. She'd make an excellent picture. So much character. You come and see her."
Conway Dalrymple had expressed his willingness to meet Miss Van Siever, saying something, however, as to his present position being one which did not admit of any matrimonial speculation. Then Mrs Dobbs Broughton had told him, with much seriousness, that he was altogether wrong, and that were he to forget himself, or commit himself, or misbehave himself, there must be an end to their pleasant intimacy. In answer to which, Mr Dalrymple had said that his Grace was surely of all Graces the least gracious. And now he had come to meet Miss Van Siever, and was now seated next to her at table.
Miss Van Siever, who at this time had perhaps reached her twenty-fifth year, was certainly a handsome young woman. She was fair and large, bearing no likeness whatever to her mother. Her features were regular, and her full, clear eyes had a brilliance of their own, looking at you always steadfastly and boldly, though very seldom pleasantly. Her mouth would have been beautiful had it not been too strong for feminine beauty. Her teeth were perfect,—too perfect,—looking like miniature walls of carved ivory. She knew the fault of this perfection, and shewed her teeth as little as she could. Her nose and chin were finely chiselled, and her head stood well upon her shoulders. But there was something hard about it all which repelled you. Dalrymple, when he saw her, recoiled from her, not outwardly, but inwardly. Yes, she was handsome, as may be a horse or a tiger; but there was about her nothing of feminine softness. He could not bring himself to think of taking Clara Van Siever as the model that was to sit before him for the rest of his life. He certainly could make a picture of her, as had been suggested by his friend, Mrs Broughton, but it must be as Judith with the dissevered head, or as Jael using her hammer over the temple of Sisera. Yes,—he thought she would do as Jael; and if Mrs Van Siever would throw him a sugar-plum,—for he would want the sugar-plum, seeing that any other result was out of the question,—the thing might be done. Such was the idea of Mr Conway Dalrymple respecting Miss Van Siever,—before he led her down to dinner.
At first he found it hard to talk to her. She answered him, and not with monosyllables. But she answered him without sympathy, or apparent pleasure in talking. Now the young artist was in the habit of being flattered by ladies, and expected to have his small talk made very easy for him. He liked to give himself little airs, and was not generally disposed to labour very hard at the task of making himself agreeable.
"Were you ever painted yet?" he asked her after they had both been sitting silent for two or three minutes.
"Was I ever—painted? In what way?"
"I don't mean rouged, or enamelled, or got up by Madame Rachel; but have you ever had your portrait taken?"
"I have been photographed,—of course."
"That's why I asked you if you had been painted,—so as to make some little distinction between the two. I am a painter by profession, and do portraits."
"So Mrs Broughton told me."
"I am not asking for a job, you know."
"I am quite sure of that."
"But I should have thought you would have been sure to have sat to somebody."
"I never did. I never thought of doing so. One does those things at the instigation of one's intimate friends,—fathers, mothers, uncles, and aunts, and the like."
"Or husbands, perhaps,—or lovers?"
"Well, yes; my intimate friend is my mother, and she would never dream of such a thing. She hates pictures."
"And especially portraits. And I'm afraid, Mr Dalrymple, she hates artists."
"Good heavens; how cruel! I suppose there is some story attached to it. There has been some fatal likeness,—some terrible picture,—something in her early days?"
"Nothing of the kind, Mr Dalrymple. It is merely the fact that her sympathies are with ugly things, rather than with pretty things. I think she loves the mahogany dinner-table better than anything else in the house; and she likes to have everything dark, and plain, and solid."
"Good of its kind, certainly."
"If everybody was like your mother, how would the artists live?"
"There would be none."
"And the world, you think, would be none the poorer?"
"I did not speak for myself. I think the world would be very much the poorer. I am very fond of the ancient masters, though I do not suppose that I understand them."
"They are easier understood than the modern, I can tell you. Perhaps you don't care for modern pictures?"
"Not in comparison, certainly. If that is uncivil, you have brought it on yourself. But I do not in truth mean anything derogatory to the painters of the day. When their pictures are old, they,—that is the good ones among them,—will be nice also."
"Pictures are like wine, and want age, you think?"
"Yes, and statues too, and buildings above all things. The colours of new paintings are so glaring, and the faces are so bright and self-conscious, that they look to me when I go to the exhibition like coloured prints in a child's new picture-book. It is the same thing with buildings. One sees all the points, and nothing is left to the imagination."
"I find I have come across a real critic."
"I hope so; at any rate, I am not a sham one;" and Miss Van Siever as she said this looked very savage.
"I shouldn't take you to be a sham in anything."
"Ah, that would be saying a great deal for myself. Who can undertake to say that he is not a sham in anything?"
As she said this the ladies were getting up. So Miss Van Siever also got up, and left Mr Conway Dalrymple to consider whether he could say or could think of himself that he was not a sham in anything. As regarded Miss Clara Van Siever, he began to think that he could not object to paint her portrait, even though there might be no sugar-plum. He would certainly do it as Jael; and he would, if he dared, insert dimly in the background some idea of the face of the mother, half-appearing, half-vanishing, as the spirit of the sacrifice. He was composing the picture, while Mr Dobbs Broughton was arranging himself and his bottles.
"Musselboro," he said, "I'll come up between you and Crosbie. Mr Eames, though I run away from you, the claret shall remain; or, rather, it shall flow backwards and forwards as rapidly as you will."
"I'll keep it moving," said Johnny.
"Do; there's a good fellow. It's a nice glass of wine, isn't it? Old Ramsby, who keeps as good a stock of the stuff as any wine-merchant in London, gave me a hint, three or four years ago, that he'd a lot of tidy Bordeaux. It's '41, you know. He had ninety dozen, and I took it all."
"What was the figure, Broughton?" said Crosbie, asking the question which he knew was expected.
"Well, I only gave one hundred and four for it then; it's worth a hundred and twenty now. I wouldn't sell a bottle of it for any money. Come, Dalrymple, pass it round; but fill your glass first."
"Thank you, no; I don't like it. I'll drink sherry."
"Don't like it!" said Dobbs Broughton.
"It's strange, isn't it? But I don't."
"I thought you particularly told me to drink his claret?" said Johnny to his friend afterwards.
"So I did," said Conway; "and wonderfully good wine it is. But I make it a rule never to eat or drink anything in a man's house when he praises himself and tells me the price of it."
"And I make it a rule never to cut the nose off my own face," said Johnny.
Before they went, Johnny Eames had been specially invited to call on Lady Demolines, and had said that he would do so. "We live in Porchester Gardens," said Miss Demolines. "Upon my word, I believe that the farther London stretches in that direction, the farther mamma will go. She thinks the air so much better. I know it's a long way."
"Distance is nothing to me," said Johnny; "I can always set off over night."
Conway Dalrymple did not get invited to call on Mrs Van Siever, but before he left the house he did say a word or two more to his friend Mrs Broughton as to Clara Van Siever. "She is a fine young woman," he said; "she is indeed."
"You have found it out, have you?"
"Yes; I have found it out. I do not doubt that some day she'll murder her husband or her mother, or startle the world by some newly-invented crime; but that only makes her the more interesting."
"And when you add to that all the old woman's money," said Mrs Dobbs Broughton, "you think that she might do?"
"For a picture, certainly. I'm speaking of her simply as a model. Could we not manage it? Get her once here, without her mother knowing it, or Broughton, or any one. I've got the subject,—Jael and Sisera, you know. I should like to put Musselboro in as Sisera, with the nail half driven in." Mrs Dobbs Broughton declared that the scheme was a great deal too wicked for her participation, but at last she promised to think of it.
"You might as well come up and have a cigar," Dalrymple said, as he and his friend left Mrs Broughton's house. Johnny said that he would go up and have a cigar or two. "And now tell me what you think of Mrs Dobbs Broughton and her set," said Conway.
"Well; I'll tell you what I think of them. I think they stink of money, as the people say; but I'm not sure that they've got any all the same."
"I suppose he makes a large income."
"Very likely, and perhaps spends more than he makes. A good deal of it looked to me like make-believe. There's no doubt about the claret, but the champagne was execrable. A man is a criminal to have such stuff handed round to his guests. And there isn't the ring of real gold about the house."
"I hate the ring of gold, as you call it," said the artist.
"So do I,—I hate it like poison; but if it is there, I like it to be true. There is a sort of persons going now,—and one meets them out here and there every day of one's life,—who are downright Brummagem to the ear and to the touch and to the sight, and we recognize them as such at the very first moment. My honoured lord and master, Sir Raffle, is one such. There is no mistaking him. Clap him down upon the counter, and he rings dull and untrue at once. Pardon me, my dear Conway, if I say the same of your excellent friend Mr Dobbs Broughton."
"I think you go a little too far, but I don't deny it. What you mean is, that he's not a gentleman."
"I mean a great deal more than that. Bless you, when you come to talk of a gentleman, who is to define the word? How do I know whether or no I'm a gentleman myself? When I used to be in Burton Crescent, I was hardly a gentlemen then,—sitting at the same table with Mrs Roper and the Lupexes;—do you remember them, and the lovely Amelia?"
"I suppose you were a gentleman, then, as well as now?"
"You, if you had been painting duchesses then, with a studio in Kensington Gardens, would not have said so, if you had happened to come across me. I can't define a gentleman, even in my own mind;—but I can define the sort of man with whom I think I can live pleasantly."
"And poor Dobbs doesn't come within the line?"
"N—o, not quite; a very nice fellow, I'm quite sure, and I'm very much obliged to you for taking me there."
"I never will take you to any house again. And what did you think of his wife?"
"That's a horse of another colour altogether. A pretty woman with such a figure as hers has got a right to be anything she pleases. I see you are a great favourite."
"No, I'm not;—not especially. I do like her. She wants to make up a match between me and that Miss Van Siever. Miss Van is to have gold by the ingot, and jewels by the bushel, and a hatful of back shares, and a whole mine in Cornwall, for her fortune."
"And is very handsome into the bargain."
"Yes; she's handsome."
"So is her mother," said Johnny. "If you take the daughter, I'll take the mother, and see if I can't do you out of a mine or two. Good-night, old fellow. I'm only joking about old Dobbs. I'll go and dine there again to-morrow, if you like."
Miss Madalina Demolines
"I don't think you care two straws about her," Conway Dalrymple said to his friend John Eames, two days after the dinner-party at Mrs Dobbs Broughton's. The painter was at work in his studio, and the private secretary from the Income-tax Office, who was no doubt engaged on some special mission to the West End on the part of Sir Raffle Buffle, was sitting in a lounging-chair and smoking a cigar.
"Because I don't go about with my stockings cross-gartered, and do that kind of business?"
"Well, yes; because you don't do that kind of business, more or less."
"It isn't in my line, my dear fellow. I know what you mean, very well. I daresay, artistically speaking,—"
"Don't be an ass, Johnny."
"Well then, poetically, or romantically, if you like that better,—I daresay that poetically or romantically I am deficient. I eat my dinner very well, and I don't suppose I ought to do that; and, if you'll believe me, I find myself laughing sometimes."
"I never knew a man who laughed so much. You're always laughing."
"And that, you think, is a bad sign?"
"I don't believe you really care about her. I think you are aware that you have got a love-affair on hand, and that you hang on to it rather persistently, having in some way come to a resolution that you would be persistent. But there isn't much heart in it. I daresay there was once."
"And that is your opinion?"
"You are just like some of those men who for years past have been going to write a book on some new subject. The intention has been sincere at first, and it never altogether dies away. But the would-be author, though he still talks of his work, knows that it will never be executed, and is very patient under the disappointment. All enthusiasm about the thing is gone, but he is still known as the man who is going to do it some day. You are the man who means to marry Miss Dale in five, ten, or twenty years' time."
"Now, Conway, all that is thoroughly unfair. The would-be author talks of his would-be book to everybody. I have never talked of Miss Dale to any one but you, and one or two very old family friends. And from year to year, and from month to month, I have done all that has been in my power to win her. I don't think I shall ever succeed, and yet I am as determined about it as I was when I first began it,—or rather much more so. If I do not marry Lily, I shall never marry at all, and if anybody were to tell me to-morrow that she had made up her mind to have me, I should well nigh go mad for joy. But I am not going to give up all my life for love. Indeed the less I can bring myself to give up for it, the better I shall think of myself. Now I'll go away and call on old Lady Demolines."
"And flirt with her daughter."
"Yes;—flirt with her daughter, if I get the opportunity. Why shouldn't I flirt with her daughter?"
"Why not, if you like it?"
"I don't like it,—not particularly, that is; because the young lady is not very pretty, nor yet very graceful, not yet very wise."
"She is pretty after a fashion," said the artist, "and if not wise, she is at any rate clever."
"Nevertheless, I do not like her," said John Eames.
"Then why do you go there?"
"One has to be civil to people though they are neither pretty nor wise. I don't mean to insinuate that Miss Demolines is particularly bad, or indeed that she is worse than young ladies in general. I only abused her because there was an insinuation in what you said, that I was going to amuse myself with Miss Demolines in the absence of Miss Dale. The one thing has nothing to do with the other thing. Nothing that I shall say to Miss Demolines will at all militate against my loyalty to Lily."
"All right, old fellow;—I didn't mean to put you on your purgation. I want you to look at that sketch. Do you know for whom it is intended?" Johnny took up a scrap of paper, and having scrutinised it for a minute or two declared that he had not the slightest idea who was represented. "You know the subject,—the story that is intended to be told?" said Dalrymple.
"Upon my word I don't. There's some old fellow seems to be catching it over the head; but it's all so confused I can't make much of it. The woman seems to be uncommon angry."
"Do you ever read your Bible?"
"Ah dear! not as often as I ought to do. Al, I see; it's Sisera. I never could quite believe that story. Jael might have killed Captain Sisera in his sleep,—for which, by-the-by, she ought to have been hung, and she might possibly have done it with a hammer and a nail. But she could not have driven it through, and staked him to the ground."
"I've warrant enough for putting it into a picture, at any rate. My Jael there is intended for Miss Van Siever."
"Miss Van Siever! Well, it is like her. Has she sat for it?"
"Oh dear, no; not yet. I mean to get her to do so. There's a strength about her, which would make her sit the part admirably. And I fancy she would like to be driving a nail into a fellow's head. I think I shall take Musselboro for a Sisera."
"You're not in earnest?"
"He would just do for it. But of course I shan't ask him to sit, as my Jael would not like it. She would not consent to operate on so base a subject. So you really are going down to Guestwick?"
"Yes; I start to-morrow. Good-by, old fellow. I'll come and sit for Sisera if you'll let me;—only Miss Van Jael shall have a blunted nail, if you please."
Then Johnny left the artist's room and walked across from Kensington to Lady Demolines' house. As he went he partly accused himself and partly excused himself in that matter of his love for Lily Dale. There were moments of his life in which he felt that he would willingly die for her,—that life was not worth having without her,—in which he went about inwardly reproaching fortune for having treated him so cruelly. Why should she not be his? He half believed that she loved him. She had almost told him so. She could not surely still love that other man who had treated her with such vile falsehood? As he considered the question in all its bearings he assured himself over and over again that there would be now no fear of that rival;—and yet he had such fears, and hated Crosbie almost as much as ever. It was a thousand pities, certainly, that the man should have been made free by the death of his wife. But it could hardly be that he should seek Lily again, or that Lily, if so sought, should even listen to him. But yet there he was, free once more,—an odious being, whom Johnny was determined to sacrifice to his vengeance, if cause for such sacrifice should occur. And thus thinking of the real truth of his love, he endeavoured to excuse himself to himself from that charge of vagueness and laxness which his friend Conway Dalrymple had brought against him. And then again he accused himself of the same sin. If he had been positively in earnest, with downright manly earnestness, would he have allowed the thing to drag itself on with a weak uncertain life, as it had done for the last two or three years? Lily Dale had been a dream to him in his boyhood; and he had made a reality of his dream as soon as he had become a man. But before he had been able, as a man, to tell his love to the girl whom he had loved as a child, another man had intervened, and his prize had been taken from him. Then the wretched victor had thrown his treasure away, and he, John Eames, had been content to stoop to pick it up,—was content to do so now. But there was something which he felt to be unmanly in the constant stooping. Dalrymple had told him that he was like a man who is ever writing a book and yet never writes it. He would make another attempt to get his book written,—an attempt into which he would throw all his strength and all his heart. He would do his very best to make Lily his own. But if he failed now, he would have done with it. It seemed to him to be below his dignity as a man to be always coveting a thing which he could not obtain.
Johnny was informed by the boy in buttons, who opened the door for him at Lady Demolines', that the ladies were at home, and he was shown up into the drawing-room. Here he was allowed full ten minutes to explore the knick-knacks on the table, and open the photograph book, and examine the furniture, before Miss Demolines made her appearance. When she did come, her hair was tangled more marvellously even than when he saw at the dinner-party, and her eyes were darker, and her cheeks thinner. "I'm afraid mamma won't be able to come down," said Miss Demolines. "She will be so sorry; but she is not quite well to-day. The wind is in the east, she says, and when she says the wind is in the east she always refuses to be well."
"Then I should tell her it was in the west."
"But it is in the east."
"Ah, there I can't help you, Miss Demolines. I never know which is east, and which is west; and if I did, I shouldn't know from which point the wind blew."
"At any rate mamma can't come downstairs, and you must excuse her. What a very nice woman Mrs Dobbs Broughton is." Johnny acknowledged that Mrs Dobbs Broughton was charming. "And Mr Broughton is so good-natured!" Johnny again assented. "I like him of all things," said Miss Demolines. "So do I," said Johnny;—"I never liked anybody so much in my life. I suppose one is bound to say that kind of thing." "Oh, you ill-natured man," said Miss Demolines. "I suppose you think that poor Mr Broughton is a little—just a little,—you know what I mean."
"Not exactly," said Johnny.
"Yes, you do; you know very well what I mean. And of course he is. How can he help it?"
"Poor fellow—no. I don't suppose he can help it, or he would;—wouldn't he?"
"Of course Mr Broughton had not the advantage of birth or much early education. All his friends know that, and make allowance accordingly. When she married him, she was aware of his deficiency, and made up her mind to put up with it."
"It was very kind of her; don't you think so?"
"I knew Maria Clutterbuck for years before she was married. Of course she was very much my senior, but, nevertheless, we were friends. I think I was hardly more than twelve years old when I first began to correspond with Maria. She was then past twenty. So you see, Mr Eames, I make no secret of my age."
"Why should you?"
"But never mind that. Everybody knows that Maria Clutterbuck was very much admired. Of course I'm not going to tell you or any other gentleman all her history."
"I was in hopes you were."
"Then certainly your hopes will be frustrated, Mr Eames. But undoubtedly when she told us that she was going to take Dobbs Broughton, we were a little disappointed. Maria Clutterbuck had been used to a better kind of life. You understand what I mean, Mr Eames?"
"Oh, exactly;—and yet it's not a bad kind of life, either."
"No, no; that is true. It has its attractions. She keeps her carriage, sees a good deal of company, has an excellent house, and goes abroad for six weeks every year. But you know, Mr Eames, there is, perhaps, a little uncertainty about it."
"Life is always uncertain, Miss Demolines."
"You're quizzing now, I know. But don't you feel now, really, that City money is always very chancy? It comes and goes so quick."
"As regards the going, I think that's the same with all money," said Johnny.
"Not with land, or the funds. Mamma has every shilling laid out in a first-class mortgage on land at four per cent. That does make one feel so secure! The land can't run away."
"But you think poor Broughton's money may?"
"It's all speculation, you know. I don't believe she minds it; I don't indeed. She lives that kind of fevered life now that she likes excitement. Of course we all know that Mr Dobbs Broughton is not what we can call an educated gentleman. His manners are against him, and he is very ignorant. Even dear Maria would admit that."
"One would perhaps let that pass without asking her opinion at all."
"She has acknowledged it to me, twenty times. But he is very good-natured, and lets her do pretty nearly anything that she likes. I only hope she won't trespass on his good-nature. I do, indeed."
"You mean, spend too much money?"
"No; I didn't mean that exactly. Of course she ought to be moderate, and I hope she is. To that kind of fevered existence profuse expenditure is perhaps necessary. But I was thinking of something else. I fear she is a little giddy."
"Dear me! I should have thought she was too—too—too—"
"You mean too old for anything of that kind. Maria Broughton must be thirty-three if she's a day."
"That would make you just twenty-five," said Johnny, feeling perfectly sure as he said so that the lady whom he was addressing was at any rate past thirty!
"Never mind my age, Mr Eames; whether I am twenty-five, or a hundred-and-five, has nothing to do with poor Maria Clutterbuck. But now I'll tell you why I mention all this to you. You must have seen how foolish she is about your friend Mr Dalrymple?"
"Upon my word, I haven't."
"Nonsense, Mr Eames; you have. If she were your wife, would you like her to call a man Conway? Of course you would not. I don't mean to say that there's anything in it. I know Maria's principles too well to suspect that. It's merely because she's flighty and fevered."
"That fevered existence accounts for it all," said Johnny.
"No doubt it does," said Miss Demolines, with a nod of her head, which was intended to show that she was willing to give her friend the full benefit of any excuse which could be offered for her. "But don't you think you could do something, Mr Eames?"
"I do something?"
"Yes, you. You and Mr Dalrymple are such friends! If you were just to point out to him you know—"
"Point out what? Tell him that he oughtn't to be called Conway? Because, after all, I suppose that's the worst of it. If you mean to say that Dalrymple is in love with Mrs Broughton, you never made a greater mistake in your life."
"Oh, no; not in love. That would be terrible, you know." And Miss Demolines shook her head sadly. "But there may be so much mischief done without anything of that kind! Thoughtlessness, you know, Mr Eames,—pure thoughtlessness! Think of what I have said, and if you can speak a word to your friend, do. And now I want to ask you something else. I'm so glad you are come, because circumstances have seemed to make it necessary that you and I should know each other. We may be of so much use if we put our heads together." Johnny bowed when he heard this, but made no immediate reply. "Have you heard anything about a certain picture that is being planned?" Johnny did not wish to answer this question, but Miss Demolines paused so long, and looked so earnestly into his face, that he found himself forced to say something.
"A certain picture that is—, or, perhaps, that is not to be, painted by Mr Dalrymple?"
"I hear so much about Dalrymple's pictures! You don't mean the portrait of Lady Glencora Palliser? That is nearly finished, and will be in the Exhibition this year."
"I don't mean that at all. I mean a picture that has not yet been begun."
"A portrait, I suppose?"
"As to that I cannot quite say. It is at any rate to be a likeness. I am sure you have heard of it. Come, Mr Eames, it would be better that we should be candid with each other. You remember Miss Van Siever, of course?"
"I remember that she dined at the Broughtons."
"And you have heard of Jael, I suppose, and Sisera?"
"Yes; in a general way,—in the Bible."
"And now will you tell me whether you have not heard the names of Jael and Miss Van Siever coupled together? I see you know all about it."
"I have heard of it, certainly."
"Of course you have. So have I, as you perceive. Now, Mr Eames,"—and Miss Demolines' voice became tremulously eager as she addressed him,—"it is your duty, and it is my duty, to take care that that picture shall never be painted."
"But why should it not be painted?"
"You don't know Miss Van Siever, yet."
"Not in the least."
"Nor Mrs Van Siever."
"I never spoke a word to her."
"I do. I know them both,—well." There was something almost grandly tragic in Miss Demolines' voice as she thus spoke. "Yes, Mr Eames, I know them well. If that scheme be continued, it will work terrible mischief. You and I must prevent it."
"But I don't see what harm it will do."
"Think of Conway Dalrymple passing so many hours in Maria's sitting-room upstairs! The picture is to be painted there, you know."
"But Miss Van Siever will be present. Won't that make it all right? What is there wrong about Miss Van Siever?"
"I won't deny that Clara Van Siever has a certain beauty of her own. To me she is certainly the most unattractive woman that I ever came near. She is simply repulsive!" Hereupon Miss Demolines held up her hand as though she were banishing Miss Van Siever for ever from her sight, and shuddered slightly. "Men think her handsome, and she is handsome. But she is false, covetous, malicious, cruel, and dishonest."
"What a fiend in petticoats!"
"You may say that, Mr Eames. And then her mother! Her mother is not so bad. Her mother is different. But the mother is an odious woman, too. It was an evil day for Maria Clutterbuck when she first saw either the mother or the daughter. I tell you that in confidence."
"But what can I do?" said Johnny, who began to be startled and almost interested by the eagerness of the woman.
"I'll tell you what you can do. Don't let your friend go to Mr Broughton's house to paint the picture. If he does do it, there will be mischief come of it. Of course you can prevent him."
"I should not think of trying to prevent him unless I knew why."
"She's a nasty proud minx, and it would set her up ever so high,—to think that she was being painted by Mr Dalrymple! But that isn't the reason. Maria would get into terrible trouble about it, and there would be no end of mischief. I must not tell you more now, and if you do not believe me, I cannot help it. Surely, Mr Eames, my word may be taken as going for something? And when I ask you to help me in this, I do expect that you will not refuse me." By this time Miss Demolines was sitting close to him, and had more than once put her hand upon his arm in the energy of her eloquence. Then as he remembered that he had never seen Miss Demolines till the other day, or Miss Van Siever, or even Mrs Dobbs Broughton, he bethought himself that it was all very droll. Nevertheless he had no objection to Miss Demolines putting her hand upon his arm.
"I never like to interfere in anything that does not seem to be my own business," said Johnny.
"Is not your friend's business your own business? What does friendship mean if it not so? And when I tell you that it is my business, mine of right, does that go for nothing with you? I thought I might depend upon you, Mr Eames; I did indeed." Then again she put her hand upon his arm, and as he looked into her eyes he began to think that after all she was good-looking in a certain way. At any rate she had fine eyes, and there was something picturesque about the entanglement of her hair. "Think of it, and then come back and talk to me again," said Miss Demolines.
"But I am going out of town to-morrow."
"For how long?"
"For ten days."
"Nothing can be done during that time. Clara Van Siever is going away in a day, and will not be back for three weeks. I happen to know that; so we have plenty of time for working. It would be very desirable that she should never even hear of it; but that cannot be hoped, as Maria has such a tongue! Couldn't you see Mr Dalrymple to-night?"
"Well, no; I don't think I could."
"Mind, at least, that you come to me as soon as ever you return."
Before he got out of the house, which he did after a most affectionate farewell, Johnny felt himself compelled to promise that he would come to Miss Demolines again as soon as he got back to town; and as the door was closed behind him by the boy in buttons, he made up his mind that he certainly would call as soon as he returned to London. "It's as good as a play," he said to himself. Not that he cared in the least for Miss Demolines, or that he would take any steps with the intention of preventing the painting of the picture. Miss Demolines had some battle to fight, and he would leave her to fight it with her own weapons. If his friend chose to paint a picture of Jael, and take Miss Van Siever as a model, it was no business of his. Nevertheless he would certainly go and see Miss Demolines again, because, as he said, she was as good as a play.
On that same afternoon Conway Dalrymple rolled up his sketch of Jael and Sisera, put it into his pocket, dressed himself with some considerable care, putting on a velvet coat which he was in the habit of wearing out of doors when he did not intend to wander beyond Kensington Gardens and the neighbourhood and which was supposed to become him well, yellow gloves, and a certain Spanish hat of which he was fond, and slowly sauntered across to the house of his friend Mrs Dobbs Broughton. When the door was opened to him he did not ask if the lady were at home, but muttering some word to the servant, made his way through the hall, upstairs, to a certain small sitting-room looking to the north, which was much used by the mistress of the house. It was quite clear that Conway Dalrymple had arranged his visit beforehand, and that he was expected. He opened the door without knocking, and, though the servant had followed him, he entered without being announced. "I'm afraid I'm late," he said, as he gave his hand to Mrs Broughton; "but for the life I could not get away sooner."
"You are quite in time," said the lady, "for any good that you are likely to do."
"What does that mean?"
"It means this, my friend, that you had better give the idea up. I have been thinking of it all day, and I do not approve of it."
"Of course you will say so, Conway. I have observed of late that whatever I say to you is called nonsense. I suppose it is the new fashion that gentlemen should so express themselves, but I am not quite sure that I like it."
"You know what I mean. I am very anxious about this picture, and I shall be much disappointed if it cannot be done now. It was you put it into my head first."
"I regret it very much, I can assure you; but it will not be generous in you to urge that against me."
"But why shouldn't it succeed?"
"There are many reasons,—some personal to myself."
"I do not know what they can be. You hinted at something which I only took as having been said in joke."
"If you mean about Miss Van Siever and yourself, I was quite in earnest, Conway. I do not think you could do better, and I should be glad to see it of all things. Nothing would please me more than to bring Miss Van Siever and you together."
"And nothing would please me less."
"But why so?"
"Because,—because—. I can do nothing but tell you the truth, carina; because my heart is not free to present itself at Miss Van Siever's feet."
"It ought to be free, Conway, and you must make it free. It will be well that you should be married, and well for others besides yourself. I tell you so as your friend; you have no truer friend. Sit where you are, if you please. You can say anything you have to say without stalking about the room."
"I was not going to stalk,—as you call it."
"You will be safer and quieter while you are sitting. I heard a knock at the door, and I do not doubt that it is Clara. She said she would be here."
"And you have told her of the picture?"
"Yes; I have told her. She said that it would be impossible, and that her mother would not allow it. Here she is." Then Miss Van Siever was shown into the room, and Dalrymple perceived that she was a girl the peculiarity of whose complexion bore daylight better even than candlelight. There was something in her countenance which seemed to declare that she could bear any light to which it might be subjected without flinching from it. And her bonnet, which was very plain, and her simple brown morning gown, suited her well. She was one who required none of the circumstances of studied dress to carry off aught in her own appearance. She could look her best when other women look their worst, and could dare to be seen at all times. Dalrymple, with an artist's eye, saw this at once, and immediately confessed to himself that there was something great about her. He could not deny her beauty. But there was ever present to him that look of hardness which had struck him when he first saw her. He could not but fancy that though at times she might be playful, and allow the fur of her coat to be stroked with good-humour,—she would be a dangerous plaything, using her claws unpleasantly when the good-humour should have passed away. But not the less was she beautiful, and,—beyond that and better than that, for his purpose,—she was picturesque.
"Clara," said Mrs Broughton, "here is this mad painter, and he says that he will have you on his canvas, either with your will or without it."
"Even if he could do that, I am sure he would not," said Miss Van Siever.
"To prove to you that I can, I think I need only show you the sketch," said Dalrymple, taking the drawing out of his pocket. "As regards the face, I know it so well by heart already, that I feel certain I could produce a likeness without even a sitting. What do you think of it, Mrs Broughton?"
"It is clever," said she, looking at it with all that enthusiasm which women are able to throw into their eyes on such occasions; "very clever. The subject would just suit her. I have never doubted that."
"Eames says that it is confused," said the artist.
"I don't see that at all," said Mrs Broughton.
"Of course a sketch must be rough. This one has been rubbed about and altered,—but I think there is something in it."
"An immense deal," said Mrs Broughton. "Don't you think so, Clara?"
"I am not a judge."
"But you can see the woman's fixed purpose; and her stealthiness as well;—and the man sleeps like a log. What is that dim outline?"
"Nothing in particular," said Dalrymple. But the dim outline was intended to represent Mrs Van Siever.
"It is very good,—unquestionably good," said Mrs Dobbs Broughton. "I do not for a moment doubt that you would make a great picture of it. It is just the subject for you, Conway; so much imagination, and yet such a scope for portraiture. It would be full of action, and yet such perfect repose. And the lights and shadows would be exactly in your line. I can see at a glance how you would manage the light in the tent, and bring it down just on the nail. And then the pose of the woman would be so good, so much strength, and yet such grace! You should have the bowl he drank the milk out of, so as to tell the whole story. No painter living tells a story so well as you do, Conway." Conway Dalrymple knew that the woman was talking nonsense to him, and yet he liked it, and liked her for talking it.
"But Mr Dalrymple can paint his Sisera without making me a Jael," said Miss Van Siever.
"Of course he can," said Mrs Broughton.
"But I never will," said the artist. "I conceived the subject as connected with you, and I will never disjoin the two ideas."
"I think it no compliment, I can assure you," said Miss Van Siever.
"And none was intended. But you may observe that artists in all ages have sought for higher types of models in painting women who have been violent or criminal, than have sufficed for them in their portraitures of gentleness and virtue. Look at all the Judiths, and the Lucretias, and the Charlotte Cordays; how much finer the women are than the Madonnas and the Saint Cecilias."
"After that, Clara, you need not scruple to be a Jael," said Mrs Broughton.
"But I do scruple,—very much; so strongly that I know I never shall do it. In the first place I don't know why Mr Dalrymple wants it."
"Want it!" said Conway. "I want to paint a striking picture."
"But you can do that without putting me into it."
"No;—not this picture. And why should you object? It is the commonest thing in the world for ladies to sit to artists in that manner."
"People would know it."
"Nobody would know it, so that you need care about it. What would it matter if everybody knew it? We are not proposing anything improper;—are we, Mrs Broughton?"
"She shall not be pressed if she does not like it," said Mrs Broughton. "You know I told you before Clara came in, that I was afraid it could not be done."
"And I don't like it," said Miss Van Siever, with some little hesitation in her voice.
"I don't see anything improper in it, if you mean that," said Mrs Broughton.
"Well, yes; that is the difficulty, no doubt. The only question is, whether your mother is not so very singular, as to make it impossible that you should comply with her in everything."
"I am afraid that I do not comply with her in very much," said Miss Van Siever in her gentlest voice.
"You drive me to say so, as otherwise I should be a hypocrite. Of course I ought not to have said it before Mr Dalrymple."
"You and Mr Dalrymple will understand all about that, I daresay, before the picture is finished," said Mrs Broughton.
It did not take much persuasion on the part of Conway Dalrymple to get the consent of the younger lady to be painted, or of the elder to allow the sitting to go on in her room. When the question of easels and other apparatus came to be considered Mrs Broughton was rather flustered, and again declared with energy that the whole thing must fall to the ground; but a few more words from the painter restored her, and at last the arrangements were made. As Mrs Dobbs Broughton's dear friend, Madalina Demolines had said, Mrs Dobbs Broughton liked a fevered existence. "What will Dobbs say?" she exclaimed more than once. And it was decided at last that Dobbs should know nothing about it as long as it could be kept from him. "Of course he shall be told at last," said his wife. "I wouldn't keep anything from the dear fellow for all the world. But if he knew it at first it would be sure to get through Musselboro to your mother."
"I certainly shall beg that Mr Broughton may not be taken into confidence if Mr Musselboro is to follow," said Clara. "And it must be understood that I must cease to sit immediately, whatever may be the inconvenience, should mamma speak to me about it."
This stipulation was made and conceded, and then Miss Van Siever went away, leaving the artist with Mrs Dobbs Broughton. "And now, if you please, Conway, you had better go too," said the lady, as soon as there had been time for Miss Van Siever to get downstairs and out of the hall-door.
"Of course you are in a hurry to get rid of me."
"Yes, I am."
"A little while ago I improperly said that some suggestion of yours was nonsense and you rebuked me for my blunt incivility. Might not I rebuke you now with equal justice?"
"Do so, if you will;—but leave me. I tell you, Conway, that in these matters you must either be guided by me, or you and I must cease to see each other. It does not do that you should remain here with me longer than the time usually allowed for a morning call. Clara has come and gone, and you also must go. I am sorry to disturb you, for you seem to be so very comfortable in that chair."
"I am comfortable,—and I can look at you. Come;—there can be no harm in saying that, if I say nothing else. Well;—there, now I am gone." Whereupon he got up from his arm-chair.
"But you are not gone while you stand there."
"And you would really wish me to marry that girl?"
"I do,—if you can love her."
"And what about her love?"
"You must win it, of course. She is to be won, like any other woman. The fruit won't fall into your mouth merely because you open your lips. You must climb the tree."
"Still climbing trees in the Hesperides," said Conway. "Love does that, you know; but it is hard to climb the trees without the love. It seems to me that I have done my climbing,—have clomb as high as I knew how, and that the boughs are breaking with me, and that I am likely to get a fall. Do you understand me?"
"I would rather not understand you."
"That is no answer to my question. Do you understand that at this moment I am getting a fall which will break every bone in my skin and put any other climbing out of the question as far as I am concerned? Do you understand that?"
"No; I do not," said Mrs Broughton, in a tremulous voice.
"Then I'll go and make love at once to Clara Van Siever. There's enough of pluck left in me to ask her to marry me, and I suppose I could manage to go through the ceremony if she accepted me."
"But I want you to love her," said Mrs Dobbs Broughton.
"I daresay I should love her well enough after a bit;—that is, if she didn't break my head or comb my hair. I suppose there will be no objection to my saying that you sent me when I ask her?"
"Conway, you will of course not mention my name to her. I have suggested to you a marriage which I think would tend to make you happy, and would give you a stability in life which you want. It is perhaps better that I should be explicit at once. As an unmarried man I cannot continue to know you. You have said words of late which have driven me to this conclusion. I have thought about it much,—too much perhaps, and I know that I am right. Miss Van Siever has beauty and wealth and intellect, and I think that she would appreciate the love of such a man as you are. Now go." And Mrs Dobbs Broughton, standing upright, pointed to the door. Conway Dalrymple slowly took his Spanish hat from off the marble slab on which he had laid it, and left the room without saying a word. The interview had been quite long enough, and there was nothing else which he knew how to say with effect.
Croquet is a pretty game out of doors, and chess is delightful in a drawing-room. Battledore and shuttlecock and hunt-the-slipper have also their attractions. Proverbs are good, and cross questions with crooked answers may be very amusing. But none of these games are equal to the game of love-making,—providing that the players can be quite sure that there shall be no heart in the matter. Any touch of heart not only destroys the pleasure of the game, but makes the player awkward and incapable and robs him of his skill. And thus it is that there are many people who cannot play the game at all. A deficiency of some needed internal physical strength prevents the owners of the heart from keeping a proper control over its valves, and thus emotion sets in, and the pulses are accelerated, and feeling supervenes. For such a one to attempt a game of love-making, is as though your friend with the gout should insist on playing croquet. A sense of the ridiculous, if nothing else, should in either case deter the afflicted one from the attempt. There was no such absurdity with our friend Mrs Dobbs Broughton and Conway Dalrymple. Their valves and pulses were all right. They could play the game without the slightest danger of any inconvenient result;—of any inconvenient result, that is, as regarded their own feelings. Blind people cannot see and stupid people cannot understand—and it might be that Mr Dobbs Broughton, being both blind and stupid in such matters, might perceive something of the playing of the game and not know that it was only a game of skill.