HotFreeBooks.com
The Last Chronicle of Barset
by Anthony Trollope
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18 ... 20     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

When I say that as regarded these two lovers there was nothing of love between them, and that the game was therefore so far innocent, I would not be understood as asserting that these people had no hearts within their bosoms. Mrs Dobbs Broughton probably loved her husband in a sensible, humdrum way, feeling him to be a bore, knowing him to be vulgar, aware that he often took a good deal more wine than was good for him, and that he was almost as uneducated as a hog. Yet she loved him, and showed her love by taking care that he should have things for dinner which he liked to eat. But in this alone there were to be found none of the charms of a fevered existence, and therefore Mrs Dobbs Broughton, requiring those charms for her comfort, played her little game with Conway Dalrymple. And as regarded the artist himself, let no reader presume him to have been heartless because he flirted with Mrs Dobbs Broughton. Doubtless he will marry some day, will have a large family for which he will work hard, and will make a good husband to some stout lady who will be careful in looking after his linen. But on the present occasion he fell into some slight trouble in spite of the innocence of his game. As he quitted his friend's room he heard the hall-door slammed heavily; then there was a quick step on the stairs, and on the landing-place above the first flight he met the master of the house, somewhat flurried, as it seemed, and not looking comfortable, either as regarded his person or his temper. "By George, he's been drinking!" Conway said to himself, after the first glance. Now it certainly was the case that Dobbs Broughton would sometimes drink at improper hours.

"What the devil are you doing here?" said Dobbs Broughton to his friend the artist. "You're always here. You're here a doosed sight more than I like." Husbands when they have been drinking are very apt to make mistakes as to the purport of the game.

"Why Dobbs," said the painter, "there's something wrong with you."

"No, there ain't. There's nothing wrong; and if there was, what's that to you? I shan't ask you to pay anything for me, I suppose."

"Well;—I hope not."

"I won't have you here, and let that be an end of it. It's all very well when I choose to have a few friends to dinner, but my wife can do very well without your fal-lalling here all day. Will you remember that, if you please?"

Conway Dalrymple, knowing that he had better not argue any question with a drunken man, took himself out of the house, shrugging his shoulders as he thought of the misery of which his poor dear playfellow would now be called upon to endure.



CHAPTER XXVII

A Hero at Home

On the morning after his visit to Miss Demolines, John Eames found himself at the Paddington Station asking for a ticket for Guestwick, and as he picked up his change another gentleman also demanded a ticket for the same place. Had Guestwick been as Liverpool or Manchester, Eames would have thought nothing about it. It is a matter of course that men should always be going from London to Liverpool and Manchester; but it seemed odd to him that two men should want first-class tickets for so small a place as Guestwick at the same moment. And when, afterwards, he was placed by the guard in the same carriage with this other traveller, he could not but feel some little curiosity. The man was four or five years Johnny's senior, a good-looking fellow, with a pleasant face, and the outward appurtenances of a gentleman. The intelligent reader will no doubt be aware that the stranger was Major Grantly; but the intelligent reader has in this respect had much advantage over John Eames, who up to this time had never even heard of his cousin Grace Crawley's lover. "I think you were asking for a ticket to Guestwick," said Johnny;—whereupon the major owned that such was the case. "I lived at Guestwick the greater part of my life," said Johnny, "and it's the dullest, dearest little town in all England." "I never was there before," said the major, "and indeed I can hardly say I am going there now. I shall only pass through it." Then he got out his newspaper, and Johnny also got out his, and for a time there was no conversation between them. John remembered how holy was the errand upon which he was intent, and gathered his thoughts together, resolving that having so great a matter on his mind he would think about nothing else and speak about nothing at all. He was going down to Allington to ask Lily Dale for the last time whether she would be his wife; to ascertain whether he was to be successful or unsuccessful in the one great wish of his life; and, as such was the case with him,—as he had in hand a thing so vital, it could be nothing to him whether the chance companion of his voyage was an agreeable or a disagreeable person. He himself, in any of the ordinary circumstances of life, was prone enough to talk with any one he might meet. He could have travelled for twelve hours together with an old lady, and could listen to her or make her listen to him without half an hour's interruption. But this journey was made on no ordinary occasion, and it behoved him to think of Lily. Therefore, after the first little almost necessary effort at civility, he fell back into gloomy silence. He was going to do his best to win Lily Dale, and this doing of his best would require all his thoughts and all his energy.

And probably Major Grantly's mind was bent in the same direction. He, too, had this work before him, and could not look upon his work as a thing that was altogether pleasant. He might probably get that which he was intent upon obtaining. He knew,—he almost knew,—that he had won the heart of the girl whom he was seeking. There had been that between him and her which justified him in supposing that he was dear to her, although no expression of affection had ever passed from her lips to his ears. Men may know all that they require to know on that subject without any plainly spoken words. Grace Crawley had spoken no word, and yet he had known,—at any rate had not doubted, that he could have the place in her heart of which he desired to be the master. She would never surrender herself altogether till she had taught herself to be sure of him to whom she gave herself. But she had listened to him with silence that had not rebuked him, and he had told himself that he might venture, without fear of that rebuke as to which the minds of some men are sensitive to a degree which other men cannot even understand. But for all this Major Grantly could not be altogether happy as to his mission; he would ask Grace Crawley to be his wife; but he would be ruined by his own success. And the remembrance that he would be severed from all his own family by the thing that he was doing, was very bitter to him. In generosity he might be silent about this to Grace, but who can endure to be silent on such a subject to the woman who is to be his wife? And then it would not be possible for him to abstain from explanation. He was now following her down to Allington, a step which he certainly would not have taken but for the misfortune which had befallen her father, and he must explain to her in some sort why he did so. He must say to her,—if not in so many words, still almost as plainly as words could speak,—I am here now to ask you to be my wife, because you specially require the protection and countenance of the man who loves you, in the present circumstances of your father's affairs. He knew that he was doing right;—perhaps had some idea that he was doing nobly; but this very appreciation of his own good qualities made the task before him the more difficult.

Major Grantly had The Times, and John Eames had The Daily News, and they exchanged papers. One had the last Saturday, and the other the last Spectator, and they exchanged those also. Both had The Pall Mall Gazette, of which enterprising periodical they gradually came to discuss the merits and demerits, thus falling into conversation at last, in spite of the weight of the mission on which each of them was intent. Then, at last, when they were within half-an-hour of the end of their journey, Major Grantly asked his companion what was the best inn at Guestwick. He had at first been minded to go on to Allington at once,—to go on to Allington and get his work done, and then return home or remain there, or find the nearest inn with a decent bed, as circumstances might direct him. But on reconsideration, as he drew nearer to the scene of his future operations, he thought that it might be well for him to remain that night at Guestwick. He did not quite know how far Allington was from Guestwick, but he did know that it was still mid-winter, and that the days were short. "The Magpie" was the best inn, Johnny said. Having lived at Guestwick all his life, and having a mother living there now, he had never himself put up at "The Magpie," but he believed it to be a good country inn. They kept post-horses there, he knew. He did not tell the stranger that his late old friend, Lord De Guest, and his present old friend, Lady Julia, always hired post-horses from "The Magpie," but he grounded his ready assertion on the remembrance of that fact. "I think I shall stay there to-night," said the major. "You'll find it pretty comfortable, I don't doubt," said Johnny. "Though, indeed, it always seems to me that a man alone at an inn has a very bad time of it. Reading is all very well, but one gets tired of it at last. And then I hate horse-hair chairs." "It isn't very delightful," said the major, "but beggars mustn't be choosers." Then there was a pause, after which the major spoke again. "You don't happen to know which way Allington lies?"

"Allington!" said Johnny.

"Yes, Allington. Is there not a village called Allington?"

"There is a village called Allington, certainly. It lies over there." And Johnny pointed with his finger through the window. "As you do not know the country you can see nothing, but I can see the Allington trees at this moment."

"I suppose there is no inn at Allington?"

"There's a public-house, with a very nice clean bedroom. It is called the 'Red Lion.' Mrs Forrard keeps it. I would quite as soon stay there as at 'The Magpie.' Only if they don't expect you, they wouldn't have much for dinner."

"Then you know the village of Allington?"

"Yes, I know the village of Allington very well. I have friends living there. Indeed, I may say I know everybody in Allington."

"Do you know Mrs Dale?"

"Mrs Dale?" said Johnny. "Yes, I know Mrs Dale. I have known Mrs Dale pretty nearly all my life." Who could this man be who was gong down to see Mrs Dale,—Mrs Dale, and consequently, Lily Dale? He thought that he knew Mrs Dale so well, that she could have no visitor of whom he would not be entitled to have some knowledge. But Major Grantly had nothing more to say at the moment about Mrs Dale. He had never seen Mrs Dale in his life, and was now going to her house, not to see her, but a friend of hers. He found that he could not very well explain this to a stranger, and therefore at the moment he said nothing further. But Johnny would not allow the subject to be dropped. "Have you known Mrs Dale long?" he asked.

"I have not the pleasure of knowing her at all," said the major.

"I thought, perhaps, by your asking after her—"

"I intend to call upon her, that is all. I suppose they will have an omnibus here from 'The Magpie'?" Eames said that there no doubt would be an omnibus from "The Magpie," and then they were at their journey's end.

For the present we will follow John Eames, who went at once to his mother's house. It was his intention to remain there for two or three days, and then go over to the house, or rather to the cottage, of his great ally Lady Julia, which lay just beyond Guestwick Manor, and somewhat nearer to Allington than to the town of Guestwick. He had made up his mind that he would not himself go over to Allington till he could do so from Guestwick Cottage, as it was called, feeling that, under certain untoward circumstances,—should untoward circumstances arise,—Lady Julia's sympathy might be more endurable than that of his mother. But he would take care that it should be known at Allington that he was in the neighbourhood. He understood the necessary strategy of his campaign too well to suppose that he could startle Lily into acquiescence.

With his own mother and sister, John Eames was in these days quite a hero. He was a hero with them now, because in his early boyish days there had been so little about him that was heroic. Then there had been a doubt whether he would ever earn his daily bread, and he had been a very heavy burden on the slight family resources in the matter of jackets and trousers. The pride taken in our Johnny had not been great, though the love felt for him had been warm. But gradually things had changed, and John Eames had become heroic in his mother's eyes. A chance circumstance had endeared him to Earl De Guest, and from that moment things had gone well with him. The earl had given him a watch and had left him a fortune, and Sir Raffle Buffle had made him a private secretary. In the old days, when Johnny's love for Lily Dale was first discussed by his mother and sister, they had thought it impossible that Lily should ever bring herself to regard with affection so humble a suitor;—for the Dales have ever held their heads up in the world. But now there is no misgiving on that score with Mrs Eames and her daughter. Their wonder is that Lily Dale should be such a fool as to decline the love of such a man. So Johnny was received with respect due to a hero, as well as with the affection belonging to a son;—by which I mean it to be inferred that Mrs Eames had got a little bit of fish for dinner as well as a leg of mutton.

"A man came down in the train with me who says he is going over to Allington," said Johnny. "I wonder who he can be. He is staying at 'The Magpie'."

"A friend of Captain Dale's, probably," said Mary. Captain Dale was the squire's nephew and his heir.

"But this man was not going to the squire's. He was going to the Small House."

"Is he going to stay there?"

"I suppose not, as he asked about the inn." Then, Johnny reflected that the man might possibly be a friend of Crosbie's, and became melancholy in consequence. Crosbie might have thought it expedient to send an ambassador down to prepare the ground for him before he should venture again upon the scene himself. If it were so, would it not be well that he, John Eames, should get over to Lily as soon as possible, and not wait till he should be staying with Lady Julia?

It was at any rate incumbent upon him to call upon Lady Julia the next morning, because of his commission. The Berlin wool might remain in his portmanteau till his portmanteau should go with him to the cottage; but he would take the spectacles at once, and he must explain to Lady Julia what the lawyers had told him about the income. So he hired a saddle-horse from "The Magpie" and started after breakfast on the morning after his arrival. In his unheroic days he would have walked,—as he had done, scores of times, over the whole distance from Guestwick to Allington. But now, in these grander days, he thought about his boots and the mud, and the formal appearance of the thing. "Ah dear," he said to himself, as the nag walked slowly out of the town, "it used to be better with me in the old days. I hardly hoped that she would ever accept me, but at least she had never refused me. And then that brute had not as yet made his way down to Allington!"

He did not go very fast. After leaving the town he trotted on for a mile or so. But when he got to the palings of Guestwick Manor he let the animal walk again, and his mind ran back over the incidents of his life which were connected with the place. He remembered a certain long ramble which he had taken in those woods after Lily had refused him. That had been subsequent to the Crosbie episode in his life, and Johnny had been led to hope by certain of his friends,—especially by Lord De Guest and his sister,—that he might then be successful. But he had been unsuccessful, and had passed the bitterest hour of his life wandering about in those woods. Since that he had been unsuccessful again and again; but the bitterness of failure had not been so strong with him as on that first occasion. He would try again now, and if he failed, he would fail for the last time. As he was thinking of all this, a gig overtook him on the road, and on looking round he saw that the occupant of the gig was the man who had travelled with him on the previous day in the train. Major Grantly was alone in the gig, and as he recognised John Eames he stopped his horse. "Are you also going to Allington?" he asked. John Eames, with something of scorn in his voice, replied that he had no intention of going to Allington on that day. He still thought that this man might be an emissary from Crosbie, and therefore resolved that but scant courtesy was due to him. "I am on my way there now," said Grantly, "and am going to the house of your friend. May I tell her that I travelled with you yesterday?"

"Yes, sir," said Johnny. "You may tell her that you came down with John Eames."

"And are you John Eames?" asked the major.

"If you have no objection," said Johnny. "But I can hardly suppose you have ever heard my name before?"

"It is familiar to me, because I have the pleasure of knowing a cousin of yours, Miss Grace Crawley."

"My cousin is at present staying at Allington with Mrs Dale," said Johnny.

"Just so," said the major, who now began to reflect that he had been indiscreet in mentioning Grace Crawley's name. No doubt every one connected with the family, all the Crawleys, all the Dales, and all the Eameses, would soon know the business which had brought him down to Allington; but he need not have taken the trouble of beginning the story against himself. John Eames, in truth, had never even heard Major Grantly's name, and was quite unaware of the fortune which awaited his cousin. Even after what he had now been told, he still suspected the stranger of being an emissary from his enemy; but the major, not giving him credit for his ignorance, was annoyed with himself for having told so much of his own history. "I will tell the ladies that I had the pleasure of meeting you," he said; "that is, if I am lucky enough to see them." And then he drove on.

"I know I should hate that fellow if I were to meet him anywhere again," said Johnny to himself as he rode on. "When I take an aversion to a fellow at first sight, I always stick to it. It's instinct, I suppose." And he was still giving himself credit for the strength of his instincts when he reached Lady Julia's cottage. He rode at once into the stable-yard, with the privilege of an accustomed friend of the house, and having given up his horse, entered the cottage by the back door. "Is my lady at home, Jemima?" he said to the maid.

"Yes, Mr John; she is in the drawing-room, and friends of yours are with her." Then he was announced, and found himself in the presence of Lady Julia, Lily Dale, and Grace Crawley.

He was very warmly received. Lady Julia really loved him dearly, and would have done anything in her power to bring about a match between him and Lily. Grace was his cousin, and though she had not seen him often, she was prepared to love him dearly as Lily's lover. And Lily,—Lily loved him dearly too,—if only she could have brought herself to love him as he wished to be loved! To all of them Johnny Eames was something of a hero. At any rate in the eyes of all of them he possessed those virtues which seemed to them to justify them in petting him and making much of him.

"I am so glad you've come,—that is, if you've brought my spectacles," said Lady Julia.

"My pockets are crammed with spectacles," said Johnny.

"And when are you coming to me?"

"I was thinking of Tuesday."

"No; don't come till Wednesday. But I mean Monday. No; Monday won't do. Come on Tuesday,—early, and drive me out. And now tell us the news."

Johnny swore that there was no news. He made a brave attempt to be gay and easy before Lily; but he failed, and he knew that he failed,—and he knew that she knew that he failed. "Mamma will be so glad to see you," said Lily. "I suppose you haven't seen Bell yet?"

"I only got to Guestwick yesterday afternoon," said he.

"And it will be so nice our having Grace at the Small House;—won't it? Uncle Christopher has quite taken a passion for Grace,—so that I am hardly anybody now in the Allington world."

"By-the-by," said Johnny, "I came down here with a friend of yours, Grace."

"A friend of mine?" said Grace.

"So he says, and he is at Allington at this moment. He passed me in a gig going there."

"And what was his name?" Lily asked.

"I have not the remotest idea," said Johnny. "He is a man about my own age, very good-looking, and apparently very well able to take care of himself. He is short-sighted, and holds a glass in one eye when he looks out of a carriage window. That's all I know about him."

Grace Crawley's face had become suffused with blushes at the first mention of the friend and the gig; but then Grace blushed very easily. Lily knew all about it at once;—at once divined who must be the friend in the gig, and was almost beside herself with joy. Lady Julia, who had heard no more of the major than had Johnny, was still clever enough to perceive that the friend must be a particular friend,—for she had noticed Miss Crawley's blushes. And Grace herself had no doubt as to the man. The picture of her lover, with the glass in his eye as he looked out of the window, had been too perfect to admit of a doubt. In her distress she put out her hand and took hold of Lily's dress.

"And you say he is at Allington now?" said Lily.

"I have no doubt he is at the Small House at this moment," said Johnny.



CHAPTER XXVIII

Showing How Major Grantly Took a Walk

Major Grantly drove his gig into the yard of the "Red Lion" at Allington, and from thence walked away at once to Mrs Dale's house. When he reached the village he had hardly made up his mind as to the way in which he would begin his attack; but now, as he went down the street, he resolved that he would first ask for Mrs Dale. Most probably he would find himself in the presence of Mrs Dale and her daughter, and of Grace also, at his first entrance; and if so, his position would be awkward enough. He almost regretted now that he had not written to Mrs Dale, and asked for an interview. His task would be very difficult if he should find all the ladies together. But he was strong in the feeling that when his purpose was told it would meet the approval at any rate of Mrs Dale; and he walked boldly on, and bravely knocked at the door of the Small House, as he had already learned that Mrs Dale's residence was called by all the neighbourhood. Nobody was at home, the servant said; and then, when the visitor began to make further inquiry, the girl explained that the two young ladies had walked as far as Guestwick Cottage, and that Mrs Dale was at this moment at the Great House with the squire. She had gone across soon after the young ladies had started. The maid, however, was interrupted before she had finished telling all this to the major, by finding her mistress behind her in the passage. Mrs Dale had returned, and had entered the house from the lawn.

"I am here now, Jane," said Mrs Dale, "if the gentleman wishes to see me."

Then the major announced himself. "My name is Major Grantly," said he; and he was blundering on with some words about his own intrusion, when Mrs Dale begged him to follow her into the drawing-room. He had muttered something to the effect that Mrs Dale would not know who he was; but Mrs Dale knew all about him, and had heard the whole of Grace's story from Lily. She and Lily had often discussed the question whether, under existing circumstances, Major Grantly should feel himself bound to offer his hand to Grace, and the mother and daughter had differed somewhat on the matter. Mrs Dale had held that he was not so bound, urging that the unfortunate position in which Mr Crawley was placed was so calamitous to all connected with him, as to justify any man, not absolutely engaged, in abandoning the thoughts of such a marriage. Mrs Dale had spoken of Major Grantly's father and mother and brother and sister, and had declared her opinion that they were entitled to consideration. But Lily had opposed this idea very stoutly, asserting that in an affair of love a man should think neither of father or brother or mother or sister. "If he is worth anything," Lily had said, "he will come to her now,—in her trouble; and will tell her that she at least has got a friend who will be true to her. If he does that, then I shall think that there is something of the poetry and nobleness of love left." In answer to this Mrs Dale had replied that women had no right to expect from men such self-denying nobility as that. "I don't expect it, mamma," said Lily. "And I am sure that Grace does not. Indeed I am quite sure that Grace does not expect even to see him ever again. She never says so, but I know that she has made up her mind about it. Still I think he ought to come." "It can hardly be that a man is bound to do a thing, the doing of which, as you confess, would be almost more than noble," said Mrs Dale. And so the matter had been discussed between them. But now, as it seemed to Mrs Dale, the man had come to do the noble thing. At any rate he was there in her drawing-room, and before either of them had sat down he had contrived to mention Grace. "You may not probably have heard my name," he said, "but I am acquainted with your friend, Miss Crawley."

"I know your name very well, Major Grantly. My brother-in-law who lives over yonder, Mr Dale, knows your father very well,—or he did some years ago. And I have heard him say that he remembers you."

"I recollect. He used to be staying at Ullathorne. But that is a long time ago. Is he at home now?"

"Mr Dale is almost always at home. He very rarely goes away, and I am sure would be glad to see you."

Then there was a little pause in the conversation. They had managed to seat themselves, and Mrs Dale had said enough to put her visitor fairly at his ease. If he had anything special to say to her, he must say it,—any request or proposition to make as to Grace Crawley, he must make it. And he did make it at once. "My object in coming to Allington," he said, "was to see Miss Crawley."

"She and my daughter have taken a long walk to call on a friend, and I am afraid they will stay for lunch; but they will certainly be home between three and four, if that is not too long for you to remain at Allington."

"Oh, dear, no," said he. "It will not hurt me to wait."

"It certainly will not hurt me, Major Grantly. Perhaps you will lunch with me?"

"I'll tell you what, Mrs Dale; if you'll permit me, I'll explain to you why I have come here. Indeed, I have intended to do so all through, and I can only ask you to keep my secret, if after all it should require to be kept."

"I will certainly keep any secret that you may ask me to keep," said Mrs Dale, taking off her bonnet.

"I hope there may be no need of one," said Major Grantly. "The truth is, Mrs Dale, that I have known Miss Crawley for some time,—nearly for two years now, and—I may as well speak it out at once,—I have made up my mind to ask her to be my wife. That is why I am here." Considering the nature of the statement, which must have been embarrassing, I think that it was made with fluency and simplicity.

"Of course, Major Grantly, you know that I have no authority with our young friend," said Mrs Dale. "I mean that she is not connected with us by family ties. She has a father and mother, living, as I believe, in the same county with yourself."

"I know that, Mrs Dale."

"And you may, perhaps, understand that, as Miss Crawley is now staying with me, I owe it in a measure to her friends to ask you whether they are aware of your intention."

"They are not aware of it."

"I know that at the present moment they are in great trouble."

Mrs Dale was going on, but she was interrupted by Major Grantly. "That is just it," he said. "There are circumstances at present which make it almost impossible that I should go to Mr Crawley and ask his permission to address his daughter. I do not know whether you have heard the whole story?"

"As much, I believe, as Grace could tell me."

"He is, I believe, in such a state of mental distress as to be hardly capable of giving me a considerate answer. And I should not know how to speak to him, or how not to speak to him, about this unfortunate affair. But, Mrs Dale, you will, I think, perceive that the same circumstances make it imperative upon me to be explicit to Miss Crawley. I think I am the last man to boast of a woman's regard, but I had learned to think that I was not indifferent to Grace. If that be so, what must she think of me if I stay away from her now?"

"She understands too well the weight of the misfortune which has fallen upon her father, to suppose that any one not connected with her can be bound to share it."

"That is just it. She will think that I am silent for that reason. I have determined that that shall not keep me silent, and, therefore, I have come here. I may, perhaps, be able to bring comfort to her in her trouble. As regards my worldly position,—though, indeed, it will not be very good,—as hers is not good either, you will not think yourself bound to forbid me to see her on that head."

"Certainly not. I need hardly say that I fully understand that, as regards money, you are offering everything where you can get nothing."

"And you understand my feeling?"

"Indeed I do,—and appreciate the great nobility of your love for Grace. You shall see her here, if you wish it,—and to-day, if you choose to wait." Major Grantly said that he would wait and would see Grace on that afternoon. Mrs Dale again suggested that he should lunch with her, but this he declined. She then proposed that he should go across and call upon the squire, and thus consume his time. But to this he also objected. He was not exactly in the humour, he said, to renew so old and so slight an acquaintance at that time. Mr Dale would probably have forgotten him, and would be sure to ask what had brought him to Allington. He would go and take a walk, he said, and come again at exactly half-past three. Mrs Dale again expressed her certainty that the young ladies would be back by that time, and Major Grantly left the house.

Mrs Dale when she was left alone could not but compare the good fortune which was awaiting Grace, with the evil fortune which had fallen on her own child. Here was a man who was at all points a gentleman. Such, at least, was the character which Mrs Dale at once conceded to him. And Grace had chanced to come across this man, and to please his eye, and satisfy his taste, and be loved by him. And the result of that chance would be that Grace would have everything given to her that the world has to give worth acceptance. She would have a companion for her life whom she could trust, admire, love, and of whom she could be infinitely proud. Mrs Dale was not at all aware whether Major Grantly might have five hundred a year to spend, or five thousand,—or what sum intermediate between the two,—nor did she give much of her thoughts at the moment to that side of the subject. She knew without thinking of it,—or fancied that she knew, that there were means sufficient for comfortable living. It was solely the nature and character of the man that was in her mind, and the sufficiency that was to be found in them for a wife's happiness. But her daughter, her Lily, had come across a man who was a scoundrel, and, as the consequence of that meeting, all her life was marred! Could any credit be given to Grace for her success, or any blame attached to Lily for her failure? Surely not the latter! How was her girl to have guarded herself from a love so unfortunate, or have avoided the rock on which her vessel had been shipwrecked? Then many bitter thoughts passed through Mrs Dale's mind, and she almost envied Grace Crawley her lover. Lily was contented to remain as she was, but Lily's mother could not bring herself to be satisfied that her child should fill a lower place in the world than other girls. It had ever been her idea,—an ideal probably never absolutely uttered even to herself, but not the less practically conceived,—that it is the business of a woman to be married. That her Lily should have been won and not worn, had been, and would be, a trouble to her for ever.

Major Grantly went back to the inn and saw his horse fed, and smoked a cigar, and then, finding that it was still only just one o'clock, he started for a walk. He was careful not to go out of Allington by the road he had entered it, as he had no wish to encounter Grace and her friend on their return into the village; so he crossed a little brook which runs at the bottom of the hill on which the chief street of Allington is built, and turned into a field-path to the left as soon as he had got beyond the houses. Not knowing the geography of the place he did not understand that by taking that path he was making his way back to the squire's house; but it was so; and after sauntering on for about a mile and crossing back again over the stream, of which he took no notice, he found himself leaning across a gate, and looking into a paddock on the other side of which was the high wall of a gentleman's garden. To avoid this he went on a little further and found himself on a farm road, and before he could retrace his steps so as not to be seen, he met a gentleman whom he presumed to be the owner of the house. It was the squire surveying his home farm, as was his daily custom; but Major Grantly had not perceived that the house must of necessity be Allington House, having been aware that he had passed the entrance to the place, as he entered the village on the other side. "I'm afraid I'm intruding," he said, lifting his hat. "I came up the path yonder, not knowing that it would lead me so close to a gentleman's house."

"There is a right of way through the fields on to the Guestwick road," said the squire, "and therefore you are not trespassing in any sense; but we are not particular about such things down here, and you would be very welcome if there were no right of way. If you are a stranger, perhaps you would like to see the outside of the old house. People think it picturesque."

Then Major Grantly became aware that this must be the squire, and he was annoyed with himself for his own awkwardness in having thus come upon the house. He would have wished to keep himself altogether unseen if it had been possible,—and especially unseen by this old gentleman, to whom, now that he had met him, he was almost bound to introduce himself. But he was not absolutely bound to do so, and he determined that he would still keep his peace. Even if the squire should afterwards hear of his having been there, what would it matter? But to proclaim himself at the present moment would be disagreeable to him. He permitted the squire, however, to lead him to the front of the house, and in a few moments was standing on the terrace hearing an account of the architecture of the mansion.

"You can see the date still in the brickwork of one of the chimneys,—that is, if your eyes are very good you can see it,—1617. It was completed in that year, and very little has been done to it since. We think the chimneys are pretty."

"They are very pretty," said the major. "Indeed, the house altogether is as graceful as it can be."

"Those trees are old, too," said the squire, pointing to two cedars which stood at the side of the house. "They say they are older than the house but I don't feel sure of it. There was a mansion here before, very nearly, though not quite, on the same spot."

"Your own ancestors were living here before that, I suppose?" said Grantly, meaning to be civil.

"Well, yes; two or three hundred years before it, I suppose. If you don't mind coming down to the churchyard, you'll get an excellent view of the house;—by far the best that there is. By-the-by, would you like to step in and take a glass of wine?"

"I'm very much obliged," said the major, "but indeed I'd rather not." Then he followed the squire down to the churchyard, and was shown the church as well as the view of the house, and the vicarage, and a view over to Allington woods from the vicarage gate, of which the squire was very fond, and in this way he was taken back on to the Guestwick side of the village, and even down on the road by which he had entered it, without in the least knowing where he was. He looked at his watch, and saw that it was past two. "I'm very much obliged to you, sir," he said again taking off his hat to the squire, "and if I shall not be intruding I'll make my way back to the village."

"What village?"

"To Allington," said Grantly.

"This is Allington," said the squire; and as he spoke, Lily Dale and Grace Crawley turned a corner from the Guestwick road and came close upon them. "Well, girls, I did not expect to see you," said the squire; "your mamma told me you wouldn't be back till it was nearly dark, Lily."

"We have come back earlier than we intended," said Lily. She of course had seen the stranger with her uncle, and knowing the ways of the squire in such matters had expected to be introduced to him. But the reader will be aware that no introduction was possible. It never occurred to Lily that this man could be the Major Grantly of whom she and Grace had been talking during the whole length of the walk home. But Grace and her lover had of course known each other at once, and Grantly, though he was abashed and almost dismayed by the meeting, of course came forward and gave his hand to his friend. Grace in taking it did not utter a word.

"Perhaps I ought to have introduced myself to you as Major Grantly?" said he, turning to the squire.

"Major Grantly! Dear me! I had no idea that you were expected in these parts."

"I have come without being expected."

"You are very welcome, I'm sure. I hope your father is well? I used to know him some years ago, and I daresay he has not forgotten me." Then, while the girls stood by in silence, and while Grantly was endeavouring to escape, the squire invited him very warmly to send his portmanteau up to the house. "We'll have the ladies up from the house below, and make it as little dull for you as possible." But this would not have suited Grantly,—at any rate would not suit him till he should know what answer he was to have. He excused himself therefore, pleading a positive necessity to be at Guestwick that evening, and then, explaining that he had already seen Mrs Dale, he expressed his intention of going back to the Small House in company with the ladies, if they would allow him. The squire, who did not as yet quite understand it all, bade him a formal adieu, and Lily led the way home down behind the churchyard wall and through the bottom of the gardens belonging to the Great House. She of course knew now who the stranger was, and did all in her power to relieve Grace of her embarrassment. Grace had hitherto not spoken a single word since she had seen her lover, nor did she say a word to him in their walk to the house. And, in truth, he was not much more communicative than Grace. Lily did all the talking, and with wonderful female skill contrived to have some words ready for use till they all found themselves together in Mrs Dale's drawing-room. "I have caught a major, mamma, and landed him," said Lily laughing, "but I'm afraid, from what I hear, that you had caught him first."



CHAPTER XXIX

Miss Lily Dale's Logic

Lady Julia De Guest always lunched at one exactly, and it was not much past twelve when John Eames made his appearance at the cottage. He was of course told to stay, and of course said that he would stay. It had been his purpose to lunch with Lady Julia; but then he had not expected to find Lily Dale at the cottage. Lily herself would have been quite at her ease, protected by Lady Julia, and somewhat protected also by her own powers of fence, had it not been that Grace was there also. But Grace Crawley, from the moment that she had heard the description of the gentleman who looked out of the window with his glass in his eye, had by no means been at her ease. Lily saw at once that she could not be brought to join in any conversation, and both John and Lady Julia, in their ignorance of the matter in hand, made matters worse.

"So that was Major Grantly?" said John. "I have heard of him before, I think. He is a son of the old archdeacon, is he not?"

"I don't know about old archdeacon," said Lady Julia. "The archdeacon is the son of the old bishop, whom I remember very well. And it is not so very long since the bishop died, either."

"I wonder what he's doing at Allington," said Johnny.

"I think he knows my uncle," said Lily.

"But he's going to call on your mother, he said." Then Johnny remembered that the major had said something as to knowing Miss Crawley, and for the moment he was silent.

"I remember when they talked of making the son a bishop also," said Lady Julia.

"What;—this same man who is now a major?" said Johnny.

"No, you goose. He is not the son; he is the grandson. They were going to make the archdeacon a bishop, and I remember hearing that he was terribly disappointed. He is getting to be an old man now, I suppose; and yet, dear me, how well I remember his father."

"He didn't look like a bishop's son," said Johnny.

"How does a bishop's son look," Lily asked.

"I suppose he ought to have some sort of clerical tinge about him; but this fellow had nothing of that kind."

"But then this fellow, as you call him," said Lily, "is only the son of an archdeacon."

"That accounts for it, I suppose," said Johnny.

But during all this time Grace did not say a word, and Lily perceived it. Then she bethought herself as to what she had better do. Grace, she knew, could not be comfortable where she was. Nor, indeed, was it probable that Grace would be very comfortable in returning home. There could not be much ease for Grace till the coming meeting between her and Major Grantly should be over. But it would be better that Grace should go back to Allington at once; and better also, perhaps, for Major Grantly that it should be so. "Lady Julia," she said, "I don't think we'll mind stopping for lunch to-day."

"Nonsense, my dear; you promised."

"I think we must break our promise; I do indeed. You mustn't be angry with us." And Lily looked at Lady Julia, as though there were something which Lady Julia ought to understand, which she, Lily, could not quite explain. I fear that Lily was false, and intended her old friend to believe that she was running away because John Eames had come there.

"But you will be famished," said Lady Julia.

"We shall live through it," said Lily.

"It is out of the question that I should let you walk all the way here from Allington and all the way back without taking something."

"We shall just be home in time for lunch if we go now," said Lily. "Will not that be best, Grace?"

Grace hardly knew what would be best. She only knew that Major Grantly was at Allington, and that he had come thither to see her. The idea of hurrying back after him was unpleasant to her, and yet she was so flurried that she felt thankful to Lily for taking her away from the cottage. The matter was compromised at last. They remained for half an hour, and ate some biscuits and pretended to drink a glass of wine, and then they started. John Eames, who in truth believed that Lily Dale was running away from him, was by no means well pleased, and when the girls were gone, did not make himself so agreeable to his old friend as he should have done. "What a fool I am to come here at all," he said, throwing himself into an arm-chair as soon as the front door was closed.

"That's very civil to me, John!"

"You know what I mean, Lady Julia. I am a fool to come near her, until I can do so without thinking more of her than I do of any other girl in the county."

"I don't think you have anything to complain of as yet," said Lady Julia, who had in some sort perceived that Lily's retreat had been on Grace's account, and not on her own. "It seems to me that Lily was very glad to see you, and when I told her that you were coming to stay here, and would be near them for some days, she seemed to be quite pleased;—she did indeed."

"Then why did she run away the moment I came in?" said Johnny.

"I think it was something you said about that man who has gone to Allington."

"What difference can the man make to her? The truth is, I despise myself;—I do indeed, Lady Julia. Only think of my meeting Crosbie at dinner the other day, and his having the impertinence to come up and shake hands with me."

"I suppose he didn't say anything about what happened at the Paddington Station?"

"No; he didn't speak about that. I wish I knew whether she cares for him still. If I thought she did, I would never speak another word to her,—I mean about myself. Of course I am not going to quarrel with them. I am not such a fool as that." Then Lady Julia tried to comfort him, and succeeded so far that he was induced to eat the mince veal that had been intended for the comfort and support of the two young ladies who had run away.

"Do you think it is he?" were the first words which Grace said when they were fairly on their way back together.

"I should think it must be. What other man can there be, of that sort, who would be likely to come to Allington to see you?"

"His coming is not likely. I cannot understand that he should come. He let me leave Silverbridge without seeing me,—and I thought that he was quite right."

"And I think he is quite right to come here. I am very glad he has come. It shows that he has really something like a heart inside him. Had he not come, or sent, or written, or taken some step before the trial comes on, to make you know that he was thinking of you, I should have said that he was as hard,—as hard as any other man that I ever heard of. Men are so hard! But I don't think he is, now. I am beginning to regard him as the one chevalier sans peur et sans reproche, and to fancy that you ought to go down on your knees before him, and kiss his highness's shoebuckle. In judging of men one's mind vacillates so quickly between the scorn which is due to a false man and the worship which is due to a true man." Then she was silent for a moment, but Grace said nothing, and Lily continued, "I tell you fairly, Grace, that I shall expect very much from you now."

"Much in what way, Lily?"

"In the way of worship. I shall not be content that you should merely love him. If he has come here, as he must have done, to say that the moment of the world's reproach is the moment he has chosen to ask you to be his wife, I think that you will owe him more than love."

"I shall owe him more than love, and I will pay him more than love," said Grace. There was something in the tone of her voice as she spoke which made Lily stop her and look up into her face. There was a smile there which Lily had never seen before, and which gave a beauty to her which was wonderful to Lily's eyes. Surely this lover of Grace's must have seen her smile like that, and therefore had loved her and was giving such wonderful proof of his love. "Yes," continued Grace, standing and looking at her friend, "you may stare at me, Lily, but you may be sure that I will do for Major Grantly all the good that I can do for him."

"What do you mean, Grace?"

"Never mind what I mean. You are very imperious in managing your own affairs, and you must let me be so equally in mine."

"But I tell you everything."

"Do you suppose that if—if—if in real truth it can possibly be the case that Major Grantly shall have come here to offer me his hand when we are all ground down in the dust, as we are, do you think that I will let him sacrifice himself? Would you?"

"Certainly. Why not? There will be no sacrifice. He will be asking for that which he wishes to get; and you will be bound to give it to him."

"If he wants it, where is his nobility? If it be as you say, he will have shown himself noble, and his nobility will have consisted in this, that he has been willing to take that which he does not want, in order that he may succour the one whom he loves. I also will succour one whom I love, as best I know how." Then she walked on quickly before her friend, and Lily stood for a moment thinking before she followed her. They were now on a field-path, by which they were enabled to escape the road back to Allington for the greater part of the distance, and Grace had reached a stile, and had clambered over it before Lily had caught her.

"You must not go away by yourself," said Lily.

"I don't wish to go away by myself."

"I want you to stop a moment and listen to me. I am sure you are wrong in this,—wrong for both your sakes. You believe that he loves you?"

"I thought he did once; and if he has come here to see me, I suppose he does still."

"If that be the case, and if you also love him—"

"I do. I make no mystery about that to you. I do love him with all my heart. I love him to-day, now that I believe him to be here, and that I suppose I shall see him, perhaps this very afternoon. And I loved him yesterday, when I thought that I should never see him again. I do love him. I do. I love him so well that I will never do him an injury."

"That being so, if he makes you an offer you are bound to accept it. I do not think that you have an alternative."

"I have an alternative, and I shall use it. Why don't you take my cousin John?"

"Because I like somebody else better. If you have got as good a reason, I won't say another word to you."

"And why don't you take that other person?"

"Because I cannot trust his love; that is why. It is not very kind of you, opening my sores afresh, when I am trying to heal yours."

"Oh, Lily, am I unkind,—unkind to you, who have been so generous to me?"

"I'll forgive you all that and a deal more if you will only listen to me and try to take my advice. Because this major of yours does a generous thing, which is for the good of you both,—the infinite good of both of you,—you are to emulate his generosity by doing a thing which will be for the good of neither of you. That is about it. Yes, it is, Grace. You cannot doubt that he has been meaning this for some time past; and of course, if he looks upon you as his own,—and I dare say, if the whole truth is to be told, he does—"

"But I am not his own."

"Yes you are, in one sense; you have just said so with a great deal of energy. And if it is so,—let me see, where was I?"

"Oh, Lily, you need not mind where you were."

"But I do mind, and I hate to be interrupted in my arguments. Yes, just that. If he saw his cow sick, he'd try to doctor the cow in her sickness. He sees that you are sick, and of course he comes to your relief."

"I am not Major Grantly's cow."

"Yes, you are."

"Nor his dog, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is his, except—except, Lily, the dearest friend that he has on the face of the earth. He cannot have a friend that will go further for him than I will. He will never know how far I will go to serve him. You don't know his people. Nor do I know them. But I know what they are. His sister is married to a marquis."

"What has that to do with it?" said Lily, sharply. "If she were married to an archduke, what difference would that make?"

"And they are proud people—all of them—and rich; and they live with high persons in the world."

"I didn't care though they lived with the royal family, and had the Prince of Wales for their bosom friend. It only shows how much better he is than they are."

"But think what my family is,—how we are situated. When my father was simply poor I did not care about it, because he has been born and bred a gentleman. But now he is disgraced. Yes, Lily, he is. I am bound to say so, at any rate to myself, when I am thinking of Major Grantly; and I will not carry that disgrace into a family which would feel it so keenly as they would do." Lily, however, went on with her arguments, and was still arguing when they turned the corner of the lane, and came upon Lily's uncle and the major himself.



CHAPTER XXX

Showing What Major Grantly Did After His Walk

In going down from the church to the Small House Lily Dale had all the conversation to herself. During some portion of the way the path was only broad enough for two persons, and here Major Grantly walked by Lily's side, while Grace followed them. Then they found their way into the house, and Lily made her little speech to her mother about catching the major. "Yes, my dear, I have seen Major Grantly before," said Mrs Dale. "I suppose he has met you on the road. But I did not expect that any of you would have returned so soon." Some little explanation followed as to the squire, and as to Major Grantly's walk, and after that the great thing was to leave the two lovers alone. "You will dine here, of course, Major Grantly," Mrs Dale said. But this he declined. He had learned, he said, that there was a night-train up to London, and he thought that he would return to town by that. He had intended, when he left London, to get back as soon as possible. Then Mrs Dale, having hesitated for two or three seconds, got up and left the room, and Lily followed. "It seems very odd and abrupt," said Mrs Dale to her daughter, "but I suppose it is best." "Of course, it is best, mamma. Do as one would be done by,—that's the only rule. It will be much better for her that she should have it over."

Grace was seated on a sofa, and Major Grantly got up from his chair, and came and stood opposite to her. "Grace," he said, "I hope you are not angry with me for coming down to see you here."

"No, I am not angry," she said.

"I have thought a great deal about it, and your friend, Miss Prettyman, knew that I was coming. She quite approves of my coming."

"She has written to me, but did not tell me of it," said Grace, not knowing what other answer to make.

"No,—she could not have done that. She had no authority. I only mention her name because it will have weight with you, and because I have not done that which, under other circumstances, perhaps, I should have been bound to do. I have not seen your father."

"Poor papa," said Grace.

"I have felt that at the present moment I could not do so with any success. It has not come of any want of respect either for him or for you. Of course, Grace, you know why I am here?" He paused, and then remembering that he had no right to expect an answer to such a question, he continued, "I have come here, dearest Grace, to ask you to be my wife, and to be a mother to Edith. I know that you love Edith."

"I do indeed."

"And I have hoped sometimes,—though I suppose I ought not to say so,—but I have hoped and almost thought sometimes, that you have been willing to—to love me, too. It is better to tell the truth simply, is it not?"

"I suppose so," said Grace.

"And therefore, and because I love you dearly myself, I have come to ask you to be my wife." Saying which he opened out his hand, and held it to her. But she did not take it. "There is my hand, Grace. If your heart is as I would have it you can give me yours, and I shall want nothing else to make me happy." But still she made no motion towards granting him his request. "If I have been too sudden," he said, "you must forgive me for that. I have been sudden and abrupt, but as things are, no other way has been open to me. Can you not bring yourself to give me some answer, Grace?" His hand had now fallen again to his side, but he was still standing before her.

She had said no word to him as yet, except that one in which she had acknowledged her love for his child, and had expressed no surprise, even in her countenance, at his proposal. And yet the idea that he should do such a thing, since the idea that he certainly would do it had become clear to her, had filled her with a world of surprise. No girl ever lived with any beauty belonging to her who had a smaller knowledge of her own possession than Grace Crawley. Nor had she the slightest pride in her own acquirements. That she had been taught in many things more than had been taught to other girls, had come of her poverty and of the desolation of her home. She had learned to read Greek and Italian because there had been nothing else for her to do in that sad house. And, subsequently, accuracy of knowledge had been necessary for the earning of her bread. I think that Grace had at times been weak enough to envy the idleness and almost to envy the ignorance of other girls. Her figure was light, perfect in symmetry, full of grace at all points; but she had thought nothing of her figure, remembering only the poverty of her dress, but remembering also with a brave resolution that she would never be ashamed of it. And as her acquaintance with Major Grantly had begun and had grown, and as she had learned to feel unconsciously that his company was pleasanter to her than that of any other person she knew, she had still told herself that anything like love must be out of the question. But then words had been spoken, and there had been glances in his eye, and a tone in his voice, and a touch upon his fingers, of which she could not altogether refuse to accept the meaning. And others had spoken to her of it, the two Miss Prettymans and her friend Lily. Yet she would not admit to herself that it could be so, and she would not allow herself to confess to herself that she loved him. Then had come the last killing misery to which her father had been subjected. He had been accused of stealing money, and had been committed to be tried for the theft. From that moment, at any rate, any hope, if there had been a hope, must be crushed. But she swore to herself bravely that there had been no such hope. And she assured herself also that nothing had passed which had entitled her to expect anything beyond ordinary friendship from the man of whom she certainly had thought much. Even if those touches and those tones and those glances had meant anything, all such meaning must be annihilated by this disgrace which had come upon her. She might know that her father was innocent; she might be sure, at any rate, that he had been innocent in intention; but the world thought differently, and she, her brother and sister, and her mother and her poor father, must bend to the world's opinion. If those dangerous joys had meant anything, they must be taken as meaning nothing more.

Thus she had argued with herself, and, fortified by such self-teachings, she had come down to Allington. Since she had been with her friends there had come upon her from day to day a clear conviction that her arguments had been undoubtedly true,—a clear conviction which had been very cold to her heart in spite of all her courage. She had expected nothing, hoped for nothing, and yet when nothing came she was sad. She thought of one special half-hour in which he had said almost all that he might have said,—more than he ought to have said;—of a moment during which her hand had remained in his; of a certain pressure with which he had put her shawl upon her shoulders. If he had only written to her one word to tell her that he believed her father was innocent! But no; she had no right to expect anything from him. And then Lily had ceased to talk of him, and she did expect nothing. Now he was there before her, asking her to come to him and be his wife. Yes; she would kiss his shoebuckles, only that the kissing of his shoebuckles would bring upon him that injury which he should never suffer from her hands! He had been generous, and her self-pride was satisfied. But her other pride was touched, and she also would be generous. "Can you not bring yourself to give me some answer?" he had said to her. Of course she must give him an answer, but how should she give it?

"You are very kind," she said.

"I would be more than kind."

"So you are. Kind is a cold word when used to such a friend at such a time."

"I would be everything on earth to you that a man can be to a woman."

"I know I ought to thank you if I knew how. My heart is full of thanks; it is indeed."

"And is there no room for love there?"

"There is no room for love in our house, Major Grantly. You have not seen papa."

"No; but if you wish it, I will do so at once."

"It would do no good;—none. I only asked you because you can hardly know how sad is our state at home."

"But I cannot see that that need deter you, if you can love me."

"Can you not? If you saw him, and the house, and my mother, you would not say so. In the Bible it is said of some season that it is not a time for marrying, or for giving in marriage. And so it is with us."

"I am not pressing you as to a day. I only ask you to say that you will be engaged to me,—so that I may tell my own people, and let it be known."

"I understand all that. I know how good you are. But, Major Grantly, you must understand me also when I assure you that it cannot be so."

"Do you mean that you refuse me altogether?"

"Yes; altogether."

"And why?"

"Must I answer that question? Ought I to be made to answer it? But I will tell you fairly, without touching on anything else, that I feel that we are all disgraced, and that I will not take disgrace into another family."

"Grace, do you love me?"

"I love no one now,—that is, as you mean. I can love no one. I have no room for any feeling except for my father and mother, and for us all. I should not be here now but that I save my mother the bread that I should eat at home."

"Is it as bad as that?"

"Yes, it is as bad as that. It is much worse than that, if you knew it all. You cannot conceive how low we have fallen. And now they tell me that my father will be found guilty, and will be sent to prison. Putting ourselves out of the question, what would you think of a girl who could engage herself to any man under such circumstances? What would you think of a girl who would allow herself to be in love in such a position? Had I been ten times engaged to you I would have broken it off." Then she got up to leave him.

But he stopped her, holding her by the arm. "What you have said will make me say what I certainly should never have said without it. I declare that we are engaged."

"No, we are not," said Grace.

"You have told me that you loved me."

"I never told you so."

"There are other ways of speaking than the voice; and I will boast to you, though to no one else, that you have told me so. I believe you love me. I shall hold myself as engaged to you, and I shall think you false if I hear that you listen to another man. Now, good-by, Grace;—my own Grace."

"No, I am not your own," she said, through her tears.

"You are my own, my very own. God bless you, dear, dear, dearest Grace. You shall hear from me in a day or two, and shall see me as soon as this horrid trial is over." Then he took her in his arms before she could escape from him, and kissed her forehead and her lips, whilst she struggled in his arms. After that he left the room and the house as quickly as he could, and was seen no more of the Dales upon that occasion.



CHAPTER XXXI

Showing How Major Grantly Returned to Guestwick

Grace, when she was left alone, threw herself upon the sofa, and hid her face in her hands. She was weeping almost hysterically, and had been utterly dismayed and frightened by her lover's impetuosity. Things had gone after a fashion which her imagination had not painted to her as possible. Surely she had the power to refuse the man if she pleased. And yet she felt as she lay there weeping that she did in truth belong to him as part of his goods, and that her generosity had been foiled. She had especially resolved that she would not confess to any love for him. She had made no such confession. She had guarded herself against doing so with all the care which she knew how to use. But he had assumed the fact, and she had been unable to deny it. Could she have lied to him, and sworn that she did not love him? Could she have so perjured herself, even in support of her generosity? Yes, she would have done so,—so she told herself,—if a moment had been given to her for thought. She ought to have done so, and she blamed herself for being so little prepared for the occasion. The lie would be useless now. Indeed, she would have no opportunity for telling it; for of course she would not answer,—would not even read his letter. Though he might know that she loved him, yet she would not be his wife. He had forced her secret from her, but he could not force her to marry him. She did love him, but he should never be disgraced by her love.

After a while she was able to think of his conduct, and she believed that she ought to be very angry with him. He had taken her roughly in his arms, and had insulted her. He had forced a kiss from her. She had felt his arms warm and close and strong about her, and had not known whether she was in paradise or in purgatory. She was very angry with him. She would send back his letter to him without reading it,—without opening it, if that might be possible. He had done that to her which nothing could justify. But yet,—yet,—yet how dearly she loved him! Was he not a prince of men? He had behaved badly, of course; but had any man ever behaved so badly before in so divine a way? Was it not a thousand pities that she should be driven to deny anything to a lover who so richly deserved everything that could be given to him? He had kissed her hand as he let her go, and now, not knowing what she did, she kissed the spot on which she had felt his lips. His arm had been round her waist, and the old frock which she wore should be kept by her for ever, because it had been so graced.

What was she now to say to Lily and to Lily's mother? Of one thing there was no doubt. She would never tell them of her lover's wicked audacity. That was a secret never to be imparted to any ears. She would keep her resentment to herself, and not ask the protection of any vicarious wrath. He could never so sin again, that was certain; and she would keep all knowledge and memory of the sin for her own purposes. But how could it be that such a man as that, one so good though so sinful, so glorious though so great a trespasser, should have come to such a girl as her and have asked for her love? Then she thought of her father's poverty and the misery of her own condition, and declared to herself that it was very wonderful.

Lily was the first to enter the room, and she, before she did so, learned from the servant that Major Grantly had left the house. "I heard the door, miss, and then I saw the top of his hat out of the pantry window." Armed with this certain information, Lily entered the drawing-room, and found Grace in the act of rising from the sofa.

"Am I disturbing you," said Lily.

"No; not at all. I am glad you have come. Kiss me, and be good to me." And she twined her arms about Lily and embraced her.

"Am I not always good to you, you simpleton? Has he been good?"

"I don't know what you mean?"

"And have you been good to him?"

"As good as I knew how, Lily."

"And where is he?"

"He has gone away. I shall never see him any more, Lily."

Then she hid her face upon her friend's shoulder and broke forth again into hysterical tears.

"But tell me, Grace, what he said;—that is, if you mean to tell me!"

"I will tell you everything;—that is, everything I can." And Grace blushed as she thought of the one secret which she certainly would not tell.

"Has he,—has he done what I said he would do? Come, speak out boldly. Has he asked you to be his wife?"

"Yes," said Grace, barely whispering the word.

"And you have accepted him?"

"No, Lily, I have not. Indeed, I have not. I did not know how to speak, because I was surprised;—and he, of course, could say what he liked. But I told him as well as I could, that I would not marry him."

"And why;—did you tell him why?"

"Yes; because of papa!"

"Then, if he is the man I take him to be, that answer will go for nothing. Of course he knew all that before he came here. He did not think you were an heiress with forty thousand pounds. If he is in earnest, that will go for nothing. And I think he is in earnest."

"And so was I in earnest."

"Well, Grace;—we shall see."

"I suppose I may have a will of my own, Lily."

"Do not be sure of that. Women are not allowed to have wills of their own on all occasions. Some man comes in a girl's way, and she gets to be fond of him, just because he does come in her way. Well; when that has taken place, she has no alternative but to be taken if he chooses to take her; or to be left, if he chooses to leave her."

"Lily, don't say that."

"But I do say it. A man may assure himself that he will find for himself a wife who shall be learned, or beautiful, or six feet high, if he wishes it, or who has red hair, or red eyes, or red cheeks,—just what he pleases; and he may go about till he finds it, as you can go about and match your worsteds. You are a fool if you buy a colour you don't want. But we can never match our worsteds for that other piece of work, but are obliged to take any colour that comes,—and therefore it is that we make such a jumble of it! Here's mamma. We must not be philosophical before her. Mamma, Major Grantly has—skedaddled."

"Oh, Lily, what a word!"

"But, oh, mamma, what a thing! Fancy his going away and not saying a word to anybody!"

"If he had anything to say to Grace, I suppose he said it."

"He asked her to marry him, of course. We none of us had any doubt about that. He swore to her that she and none but she should be his wife,—and all that kind of thing. But he seems to have done it in the most prosaic way;—and now he has gone away without saying a word to any of us. I shall never speak to him again,—unless Grace asks me."

"Grace, my dear, may I congratulate you?" said Mrs Dale.

Grace did not answer, as Lily was too quick for her. "Oh, she has refused him, of course. But, Major Grantly is a man of too much sense to expect that he should succeed the first time. Let me see; this is the fourteenth. These clocks run fourteen days, and, therefore, you may expect him again about the twenty-eighth. For myself, I think you are giving him an immense deal of unnecessary trouble, and that if he left you in the lurch it would only serve you right; but you have the world with you, I'm told. A girl is supposed to tell a man two fibs before she may tell him one truth."

"I told him no fib, Lily. I told him that I would not marry him, and I will not."

"But why not, dear Grace?" said Mrs Dale.

"Because the people say that papa is a thief!" Having said this, Grace walked slowly out of the room, and neither Mrs Dale nor Lily attempted to follow her.

"She's as good as gold," said Lily, when the door was closed.

"And he;—what of him?"

"I think he is good too; but she has told me nothing yet of what he has said to her. He must be good, or he would not have come down here after her. But I don't wonder at his coming, because she is so beautiful! Once or twice as we were walking back to-day, I thought her face was the most lovely that I had ever seen. And did you see her just now, as she spoke of her father?"

"Oh, yes;—I saw her."

"Think what she will be in two or three years' time, when she becomes a woman. She talks French, and Italian, and Hebrew for anything that I know; and she is perfectly beautiful. I never saw a more lovely figure;—and she has spirit enough for a goddess. I don't think that Major Grantly is such a fool after all."

"I never took him for a fool."

"I have no doubt all his own people do;—or they will, when they hear of it. But, mamma, she will grow to be big enough to walk atop of all the Lady Hartletops in England. It will all come right at last."

"You think it will?"

"Oh, yes. Why should it not? If he is worth having, it will;—and I think he is worth having. He must wait till this horrid trial is over. It is clear to me that Grace thinks that her father will be convicted."

"But he cannot have taken the money."

"I think he took it, and I think it wasn't his. But I don't think he stole it. I don't know whether you can understand the difference."

"I am afraid a jury won't understand it."

"A jury of men will not. I wish they could put you and me on it, mamma. I would take my best boots and eat them down to the heels, for Grace's sake, and for Major Grantly's. What a good-looking man he is!"

"Yes, he is."

"And so like a gentleman! I'll tell you what, mamma; we won't say anything to her about him for the present. Her heart will be so full she will be driven to talk, and we can comfort her better in that way." The mother and daughter agreed to act upon these tactics, and nothing more was said to Grace about her lover on that evening.

Major Grantly walked from Mrs Dale's house to the inn and ordered his gig, and drove himself out of Allington, almost without remembering where he was or whither he was going. He was thinking solely of what had just occurred, and of what, on his part, should follow as the result of that meeting. Half at least of the noble deeds done in this world are due to emulation, rather than to the native nobility of the actors. A young man leads a forlorn hope because another young man has offered to do so. Jones in the hunting-field rides at an impracticable fence because he is told that Smith took it three years ago. And Walker puts his name down for ten guineas at a charitable dinner, when he hears Thompson's read out for five. And in this case the generosity and self-denial shown by Grace warmed and cherished similar virtues within her lover's breast. Some few weeks ago Major Grantly had been in doubt as to what his duty required of him in reference to Grace Crawley; but he had no doubt whatsoever now. In the fervour of his admiration he would have gone straight to the archdeacon, had it been possible, and have told him what he had done and what he intended to do. Nothing now should stop him;—no consideration, that is, either as regarded money or position. He had pledged himself solemnly, and he was very glad that he had pledged himself. He would write to Grace and explain to her that he trusted altogether in her father's honour and innocence, but that no consideration as to that ought to influence either him or her in any way. If, independently of her father, she could bring herself to come to him and be his wife, she was bound to do so now, let the position of her father be what it might. And thus, as he drove his gig back towards Guestwick, he composed a very pretty letter to the lady of his love.

And as he went, at the corner of the lane which led from the main road up to Guestwick cottage, he again came upon John Eames, who was also returning to Guestwick. There had been a few words spoken between Lady Julia and Johnny respecting Major Grantly after the girls had left the cottage, and Johnny had been persuaded that the strange visitor to Allington could have no connexion with his arch-enemy. "And why has he gone to Allington," John demanded, somewhat sternly, of his hostess.

"Well; if you ask me, I think he has gone there to see your cousin, Grace Crawley."

"He told me that he knew Grace," said John, looking as though he were conscious of his own ingenuity in putting two and two together very cleverly.

"Your cousin Grace is a very pretty girl," said Lady Julia.

"It's a long time since I've seen her," said Johnny.

"Why, you saw her just this minute," said Lady Julia.

"I didn't look at her," said Johnny. Therefore, when he again met Major Grantly, having continued to put two and two together with great ingenuity, he felt quite sure that the man had nothing to do with the arch-enemy, and he determined to be gracious. "Did you find them at home at Allington," he said, raising his hat.

"How do you do again?" said the major. "Yes, I found your friend Mrs Dale at home."

"But not her daughter, or my cousin? They were up there;—where I've come from. But, perhaps, they had got back before you left."

"I saw them both. They found me on the road with Mr Dale."

"What,—the squire? Then you have seen everybody?"

"Everybody I wished to see at Allington."

"But you wouldn't stay at the 'Red Lion'?"

"Well, no. I remembered that I wanted to get back to London; and as I had seen my friends, I thought I might as well hurry away."

"You knew Mrs Dale before, then?"

"No, I didn't. I never saw her in my life before. But I knew the old squire when I was a boy. However, I should have said friend. I went to see one friend, and I saw her."

John Eames perceived that his companion put a strong emphasis on the word "her", as though he were determined to declare boldly that he had gone to Allington solely to see Grace Crawley. He had not the slightest objection to recognising in Major Grantly a suitor for his cousin's hand. He could only reflect what an unusually fortunate girl Grace must be if such a thing could be true. Of those poor Crawleys he had only heard from time to time that their misfortunes were as numerous as the sands on the sea-shore, and as unsusceptible of any fixed and permanent arrangement. But, as regarded Grace, here would be a very permanent arrangement. Tidings had reached him that Grace was a great scholar, but he had never heard much of her beauty. It must probably be the case that Major Grantly was fond of Greek. There was, he reminded himself, no accounting for tastes; but as nothing could be more respectable than such an alliance, he thought that it would become him to be civil to the major.

"I hope you found her quite well. I had barely time to speak to her myself."

"Yes, she was very well. This is a sad thing about her father."

"Very sad," said Johnny. Perhaps the major had heard about the accusation for the first time to-day, and was going to find an escape on that plea. If such was the case, it would not be so well to be particularly civil.

"I believe Mr Crawley is a cousin of yours?" said the major.

"His wife is my mother's first-cousin. Their mothers were sisters."

"She is an excellent woman."

"I believe so. I don't know much about them myself,—that is, personally. Of course I have heard of this charge that has been made against him. It seems to me to be a great shame."

"Well, I can't exactly say that it is a shame. I do not know that there has been anything done with a feeling of persecution or of cruelty. It is a great mystery, and we must have it cleared up if we can."

"I don't suppose he can have been guilty," said John.

"Certainly not in the ordinary sense of the word. I heard all the evidence against him."

"Oh, you did?"

"Yes," said the major. "I live near them in Barsetshire, and I am one of his bailsmen."

"Then you are an old friend, I suppose?"

"Not exactly that; but circumstances made me very much interested about them. I fancy that the cheque was left in his house by accident, and that it got into his hands he didn't know how, and that when he used it he thought it was his."

"That's queer," said Johnny.

"He is very odd, you know."

"But it's a kind of oddity that they don't like at the assizes."

"The great cruelty is," said the major, "that whatever may be the result, the punishment will fall so heavily upon his wife and daughters. I think the whole county ought to come forward and take them by the hand. Well, good-by. I'll drive on, as I'm a little in a hurry."

"Good-by," said Johnny. "I'm very glad to have had the pleasure of meeting you." "He's a good sort of fellow after all," he said to himself when the gig had passed on. "He wouldn't have talked in that way if he meant to hang back."



CHAPTER XXXII

Mr Toogood

Mr Crawley had declared to Mr Robarts, that he would summon no legal aid to his assistance at the coming trial. The reader may, perhaps, remember the impetuosity with which he rejected the advice on this subject which was conveyed to him by Mr Robarts with all the authority of Archdeacon Grantly's name. "Tell the archdeacon," he had said, "that I will have none of his advice." And then Mr Robarts had left him, fully convinced that any further interference on his part could be of no avail. Nevertheless, the words which had then been spoken were not without effect. This coming trial was ever present to Mr Crawley's mind, and though, when driven to discuss the subject, he would speak of it with high spirit, as he had done both to the bishop and to Mr Robarts, yet in his long hours of privacy, or when alone with his wife, his spirit was anything but high. "It will kill me," he would say to her. "I shall get salvation thus. Death will relieve me, and I shall never be called upon to stand before those cruel eager eyes." Then would she try to say words of comfort, sometimes soothing him as though he were a child, and at others bidding him be a man, and remember that as a man he should have sufficient endurance to bear the eyes of any crowd that might be there to look at him.

"I think I will go up to London," he said to her one evening, very soon after the day of Mr Robarts's visit.

"Go up to London, Josiah!" Mr Crawley had not been up to London once since they had been settled at Hogglestock, and this sudden resolution on his part frightened his wife. "Go up to London, dearest! And why?"

"I will tell you why. They all say that I should speak to some man of the law whom I may trust about this coming trial. I trust no one in these parts. Not, mark you, that I say that they are untrustworthy. God forbid that I should so speak or even so think of men whom I know not. But the matter has become so common in men's mouths at Barchester and at Silverbridge, that I cannot endure to go among them and to talk of it. I will go up to London, and I will see your cousin, Mr John Toogood, of Gray's Inn." Now in this scheme there was an amount of everyday prudence which startled Mrs Crawley almost as much as did the prospect of the difficulties to be overcome if the journey were to be made. Her husband, in the first place, had never once seen Mr John Toogood; and in days very long back, when he and she were making their first gallant struggle,—for in those days it had been gallant,—down in their Cornish curacy, he had reprobated certain Toogood civilities,—professional civilities,—which had been proffered, perhaps, with too plain an intimation that on the score of relationship the professional work should be done without payment. The Mr Toogood of those days, who had been Mrs Crawley's uncle, and the father of Mrs Eames and grandfather of our friend Johnny Eames, had been much angered by some correspondence which had grown up between him and Mr Crawley, and from that day there had been a cessation of all intercourse between the families. Since those days that Toogood had been gathered to the ancient Toogoods of old, and the son reigned on the family throne in Raymond's Buildings. The present Toogood was therefore first-cousin to Mrs Crawley. But there had been no intimacy between them. Mrs Crawley had not seen her cousin since her marriage,—as indeed she had seen none of her relations, having been estranged from them by the singular bearing of her husband. She knew that her cousin stood high in his profession, the firm of Toogood and Crump,—Crump and Toogood it should have been properly called in these days,—having always held its head up high above all dirty work; and she felt that her husband could look for advice from no better source. But how would such a one as he manage to tell his story to a stranger? Nay, how would he find his way alone into the lawyer's room, to tell his story at all,—so strange was he to the world? And then the expense! "If you do not wish me to apply to your cousin, say so, and there shall be an end of it," said Mr Crawley in an angry tone.

"Of course I would wish it. I believe him to be an excellent man, and a good lawyer."

"Then why should I not go to his chambers? In forma pauperis I must go to him, and must tell him so. I cannot pay him for the labour of his counsel, nor for such minutes of his time as I shall use."

"Oh, Josiah, you need not speak of that."

"But I must speak of it. Can I go to a professional man, who keeps as it were his shop open for those who may think fit to come, and purchase of him, and take of his goods, and afterwards, when the goods have been used, tell him that I have not the price in my hand? I will not do that, Mary. You think that I am mad, that I know not what I do. Yes,—I see it in your eyes; and you are sometimes partly right. But I am not so mad but that I know what is honest. I will tell your cousin that I am sore straitened, and brought down into the very dust by misfortune. And I will beseech him, for what of ancient feeling of family he may bear to you, to listen to me for a while. And I will be very short, and, if need be, will bide his time patiently, and perhaps he may say a word to me that may be of use."

There was certainly very much in this to provoke Mrs Crawley. It was not only that she knew well that her cousin would give ample and immediate attention, and lend himself thoroughly to the matter without any idea of payment,—but that she could not quite believe that her husband's humility was true humility. She strove to believe it, but knew that she failed. After all it was only a feeling on her part. There was no argument within herself about it. An unpleasant taste came across the palate of her mind, as such a savour will sometimes, from some unexpected source, come across the palate of the mouth. Well; she could only gulp at it, and swallow it and excuse it. Among the salad that comes from your garden a bitter leaf will now and then make its way into your salad-bowl. Alas, there were so many bitter leaves ever making their way into her bowl! "What I mean is, Josiah, that no long explanation will be needed. I think, from what I remember of him, that he would do for us anything that he could do."

"Then I will go to the man, and will humble myself before him. Even that, hard as it is to me, may be a duty that I owe." Mr Crawley as he said this was remembering the fact that he was a clergyman of the Church of England, and that he had a rank of his own in the country, which, did he ever do such a thing as go out for dinner in company, would establish for him a certain right of precedence; whereas this attorney, of whom he was speaking, was, so to say, nobody in the eyes of the world.

"There need be no humbling, Josiah, other than that which is due from man to man in all circumstances. But never mind; we will not talk about that. If it seems good to you, go to Mr Toogood. I think that it is good. May I write to him and say that you will go?"

"I will write myself; it will be more seemly."

Then the wife paused before she asked the next question,—paused for some minute or two, and than asked it with anxious doubt,—"And may I go with you, Josiah?"

"Why should two go when one can do the work?" he answered sharply. "Have we money so much at command?"

"Indeed, no."

"You should go and do it all, for you are wiser in these things than I am, were it not that I may not dare to show—that I submit myself to my wife."

"Nay, my dear!"

"But it is ay, my dear. It is so. This is a thing such as men do; not such as women do, unless they be forlorn and unaided of men. I know that I am weak where you are strong; that I am crazed where you are clear-witted."

"I meant not that, Josiah. It was of your health that I thought."

"Nevertheless it is as I say; but, for all that, it may not be that you should do my work. There are those watching me who would say, 'Lo! He confesses himself incapable.' And then some one would whisper something of a madhouse. Mary, I fear that worse than a prison."

"May God in His mercy forbid such cruelty!"

"But I must look to it, my dear. Do you think that that woman, who sits there at Barchester in high places, disgracing herself and that puny ecclesiastical lord who is her husband,—do you think that she would not immure me if she could? She is a she-wolf,—only less reasonable than the dumb brute as she sharpens her teeth in malice coming from anger, and not in malice coming from hunger as do the outer wolves of the forest. I tell you, Mary, that if she had a colourable ground for her action, she would swear to-morrow that I am mad."

"You shall go alone to London."

"Yes, I will go alone. They shall not say that I cannot yet do my own work as a man should do it. I stood up before him, the puny man who is called a bishop, and before her who makes herself great by his littleness, and I scorned them both to their faces. Though the shoes which I had on were all broken, as I myself could not but see when I stood, yet I was greater than they were with all their purple and fine linen."

"But, Josiah, my cousin will not be harsh to you."

"Well,—and if he be not?"

"Ill-usage you can bear; and violent ill-usage, such as that which Mrs Proudie allowed herself to exhibit, you can repay with interest; but kindness seems to be too heavy a burden for you."

"I will struggle. I will endeavour. I will speak but little, and, if possible, I will listen much. Now, my dear, I will write to this man, and you shall give me the address that is proper for him." Then he wrote the letter, not accepting a word in the way of dictation from his wife, but "craving the great kindness of a short interview, for which he ventured to become a solicitor, urged thereto by his wife's assurance that one with whom he was connected by family ties would do as much as this for the possible preservation of the honour of the family." In answer to this Mr Toogood wrote back as follows:—"Dear Mr Crawley, I will be at my office all Thursday morning next from ten to two, and will take care that you shan't be kept waiting for me above ten minutes. You parsons never like waiting. But hadn't you better come and breakfast with me and Maria at nine? Then we'd have a talk as we walk to the office. Yours always, THOMAS TOOGOOD." And the letter was dated from the attorney's private house in Tavistock Square.

"I am sure he means to be kind," said Mrs Crawley.

"Doubtless he means to be kind. But kindness is rough;—I will not say unmannerly, as the word would be harsh. I have never even seen the lady whom he calls Maria."

"She is his wife!"

"So I would venture to suppose; but she is unknown to me. I will write again, and thank him, and say that I will be with him at ten to the moment."

There were still many things to be settled before the journey could be made. Mr Crawley, in his first plan, proposed that he should go up by night mail train, travelling in the third class, having walked over to Silverbridge to meet it; that he should then walk about London from 5 A.M. to 10 A.M., and afterwards come down by an afternoon train to which a third class was also attached. But at last his wife persuaded him that such a task as that, performed in the middle of the winter, would be enough to kill any man, and that, if attempted, it would certainly kill him; and he consented at last to sleep the night in town,—being specially moved thereto by discovering that he could, in conformity with this scheme, get in and out of the train at a station considerably nearer to him than Silverbridge, and that he could get a return-ticket at a third-class fare. The whole journey, he found, could be done for a pound, allowing him seven shillings for his night's expenses in London; and out of the resources of the family there were produced two sovereigns, so that in the event of accident he would not utterly be a castaway from want of funds.

So he started on his journey after an early dinner, almost hopeful through the new excitement of a journey to London, and his wife walked with him nearly as far as the station. "Do not reject my cousin's kindness," were the last words she spoke.

"For his professional kindness, if he will extend it to me, I will be most thankful," he replied. She did not dare to say more; nor had she dared to write privately to her cousin, asking for any special help, lest by doing so she should seem to impugn the sufficiency and stability of her husband's judgment. He got up to town late at night, and having made inquiry of one of the porters, he hired a bed for himself in the neighbourhood of the railway station. Here he had a cup of tea and a morsel of bread-and-butter, and in the morning he breakfasted again on the same fare. "No, I have no luggage," he had said to the girl at the public-house, who had asked him as to his travelling gear. "If luggage be needed as a certificate of respectability, I will pass on elsewhere," said he. The girl stared, and assured him that she did not doubt his respectability. "I am a clergyman of the Church of England," he had said, "but my circumstances prevent me from seeking a more expensive lodging." They did their best to make him comfortable, and, I think, almost disappointed him in not heaping further misfortunes on his head.

He was in Raymond's Buildings at half-past nine, and for half an hour walked up and down the umbrageous pavement,—it used to be umbrageous, but perhaps the trees have gone now,—before the doors of the various chambers. He could hear the clock strike from Gray's Inn; and the moment that it had struck he was turning in, but was encountered in the passage by Mr Toogood, who was equally punctual with himself. Strange stories about Mr Crawley had reached Mr Toogood's household, and that Maria, the mention of whose Christian name had been so offensive to the clergyman, had begged her husband not to be a moment late. Poor Mr Toogood, who on ordinary days did perhaps take a few minutes' grace, was thus hurried away almost with his breakfast in his throat, and, as we have seen, just saved himself. "Perhaps, sir, you are Mr Crawley?" he said, in a good-humoured, cheery voice. He was a good-humoured, cheery-looking man, about fifty years of age, with grizzled hair and sunburnt face, and large whiskers. Nobody would have taken him to be a partner in any of those great houses of which we have read in history,—the Quirk, Gammon and Snaps of the profession, or the Dodson and Foggs, who are immortal.

"That is my name, sir," said Mr Crawley, taking off his hat and bowing low, "and I am here by appointment to meet Mr Toogood, the solicitor, whose name I see affixed upon the door-post."

"I am Mr Toogood, the solicitor, and I hope I see you quite well, Mr Crawley." Then the attorney shook hands with the clergyman and preceded him upstairs to the front room on the first floor. "Here we are, Mr Crawley, and pray take a chair. I wish you could have made it convenient to come and see us at home. We are rather long, as my wife says,—long in family, she means, and therefore are not very well off for spare beds—"

"Oh, sir."

"I've twelve of 'em living, Mr Crawley,—from eighteen years, the eldest,—a girl, down to eighteen months the youngest,—a boy, and they go in and out, boy and girl, boy and girl, like the cogs of a wheel. They ain't such far away distant cousins from your own young ones—only first, once, as we call it."

"I am aware that there is a family tie, or I should not have ventured to trouble you."

"Blood is thicker than water, isn't it? I often say that. I heard of one of your girls only yesterday. She is staying somewhere down in the country, not far from where my sister lives—Mrs Eames, the widow of poor John Eames, who never did any good in this world. I daresay you've heard of her?"

"The name is familiar to me, Mr Toogood."

"Of course it is. I've a nephew down there just now, and he saw your girl the other day;—very highly he spoke of her too. Let me see;—how many is it you have?"

"Three living, Mr Toogood."

"I've just four times three;—that's the difference. But I comfort myself with the text about the quiver you know; and I tell them that when they've eat up all the butter, they'll have to take their bread dry."

"I trust the young people take your teaching in the proper spirit."

"I don't know much about spirit. There's spirit enough. My second girl, Lucy, told me that if I came home to-day without tickets for the pantomime I shouldn't have any dinner allowed me. That's the way they treat me. But we understand each other at home. We're all pretty good friends there, thank God. And there isn't a sick chick among the boiling."

"You have many mercies for which you should indeed be thankful," said Mr Crawley, gravely.

"Yes, yes, yes; that's true. I think of that sometimes, though perhaps not so much as I ought to do. But the best way to be thankful is to use the goods the gods provide you. 'The lovely Thais sits beside you. Take the goods the gods provide you.' I often say that to my wife, till the children have got to calling her Thais. The children have it pretty much their own way with us, Mr Crawley."

By this time Mr Crawley was almost beside himself, and was altogether at a loss how to bring in the matter on which he wished to speak. He had expected to find a man who in the hurry of London business might perhaps just manage to spare him five minutes,—who would grapple instantly with the subject that was to be discussed between them, would speak to him half-a-dozen hard words of wisdom, and would then dismiss him and turn on the instant to other matters of important business;—but here was an easy familiar fellow, who seemed to have nothing on earth to do, and who at this first meeting had taken advantage of a distant family connexion to tell him everything about the affairs of his own household. And then how peculiar were the domestic traits which he told! What was Mr Crawley to say to a man who had taught his own children to call their mother Thais? Of Thais Mr Crawley did know something, and he forgot to remember that perhaps Mr Toogood knew less. He felt it, however, to be very difficult to submit the details of his case to a gentleman who talked in such a strain about his own wife and children.

But something must be done. Mr Crawley, in his present frame of mind, could not sit and talk about Thais all day. "Sir," he said, "the picture of your home is very pleasant, and I presume that plenty abounds there."

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18 ... 20     Next Part
Home - Random Browse