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Colonel Quaritch, V.C. by H. Rider Haggard

Part 2 out of 7

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"Let me see the letter," said Edward.

Mr. Quest handed him the document conveying the commands of Cossey and
Son, and he read it through twice.

"The old man means business," he said, as he returned it; "that letter
was written by him, and when he has once made up his mind it is
useless to try and stir him. Did you say that you were going to see
the Squire to-day?"

"No, I did not say so, but as a matter of fact I am. His man, George--
a shrewd fellow, by the way, for one of these bumpkins--came with a
letter asking me to go up to the Castle, so I shall get round there to
lunch. It is about this fresh loan that the old gentleman wishes to
negotiate. Of course I shall be obliged to tell him that instead of
giving a fresh loan we have orders to serve a notice on him."

"Don't do that just yet," said Edward with decision. "Write to the
house and say that their instructions shall be attended to. There is
no hurry about the notice, though I don't see how I am to help in the
matter. Indeed there is no call upon me."

"Very well, Mr. Cossey. And now, by the way, are you going to the
Castle this afternoon?"

"Yes, I believe so. Why?"

"Well, I want to get up there to luncheon, and I am in a fix. Mrs.
Quest will want the trap to go there this afternoon. Can you lend me
your dogcart to drive up in? and then perhaps you would not mind if
she gave you a lift this afternoon."

"Very well," answered Edward, "that is if it suits Mrs. Quest. Perhaps
she may object to carting me about the country."

"I have not observed any such reluctance on her part," said the lawyer
dryly, "but we can easily settle the question. I must go home and get
some plans before I attend the vestry meeting about that pinnacle.
Will you step across with me and we can ask her?"

"Oh yes," he answered. "I have nothing particular to do."

And accordingly, so soon as Mr. Quest had made some small arrangements
and given particular directions to his clerks as to his whereabouts
for the day, they set off together for the lawyer's private house.

CHAPTER VIII

MR. QUEST'S WIFE

Mr. Quest lived in one of those ugly but comfortably-built old red
brick houses which abound in almost every country town, and which give
us the clearest possible idea of the want of taste and love of
material comfort that characterised the age in which they were built.
This house looked out on to the market place, and had a charming old
walled garden at the back, famous for its nectarines, which, together
with the lawn tennis court, was, as Mrs. Quest would say, almost
enough to console her for living in a town. The front door, however,
was only separated by a little flight of steps from the pavement upon
which the house abutted.

Entering a large, cool-looking hall, Mr. Quest paused and asked a
servant who was passing there where her mistress was.

"In the drawing-room, sir," said the girl; and, followed by Edward
Cossey, he walked down a long panelled passage till he reached a door
on the left. This he opened quickly and passed through into a
charming, modern-looking room, handsomely and even luxuriously
furnished, and lighted by French windows opening on to the walled
garden.

A little lady dressed in some black material was standing at one of
these windows, her arms crossed behind her back, and absently gazing
out of it. At the sound of the opening door she turned swiftly, her
whole delicate and lovely face lighting up like a flower in a ray of
sunshine, the lips slightly parted, and a deep and happy light shining
in her violet eyes. Then, all in an instant, it was instructive to
observe /how/ instantaneously, her glance fell upon her husband (for
the lady was Mrs. Quest) and her entire expression changed to one of
cold aversion, the light fading out of her face as it does from a
November sky, and leaving it cold and hard.

Mr. Quest, who was a man who saw everything, saw this also, and smiled
bitterly.

"Don't be alarmed, Belle," he said in a low voice; "I have brought Mr.
Cossey with me."

She flushed up to the eyes, a great wave of colour, and her breast
heaved; but before she could answer, Edward Cossey, who had stopped
behind to wipe some mud off his shoes, entered the room, and politely
offered his hand to Mrs. Quest, who took it coldly enough.

"You are an early visitor, Mr. Cossey," she said.

"Yes," said her husband, "but the fault is mine. I have brought Mr.
Cossey over to ask if you can give him a lift up to the Castle this
afternoon. I have to go there to lunch, and have borrowed his
dogcart."

"Oh yes, with pleasure. But why can't the dogcart come back for Mr.
Cossey?"

"Well, you see," put in Edward, "there is a little difficulty; my
groom is ill. But there is really no reason why you should be
bothered. I have no doubt that a man can be found to bring it back."

"Oh no," she said, with a shrug, "it will be all right; only you had
better lunch here, that's all, because I want to start early, and go
to an old woman's at the other end of Honham about some fuchsia
cuttings."

"I shall be very happy," said he.

"Very well then, that is settled," said Mr. Quest, "and now I must get
my plans and be off to the vestry meeting. I'm late as it is. With
your permission, Mr. Cossey, I will order the dogcart as I pass your
rooms."

"Certainly," said Edward, and in another moment the lawyer was gone.

Mrs. Quest watched the door close and then sat down in a low armchair,
and resting her head upon the back, looked up with a steady, enquiring
gaze, full into Edward Cossey's face.

And he too looked at her and thought what a beautiful woman she was,
in her own way. She was very small, rounded in her figure almost to
stoutness, and possessed the tiniest and most beautiful hands and
feet. But her greatest charm lay in the face, which was almost
infantile in its shape, and delicate as a moss rose. She was
exquisitely fair in colouring--indeed, the darkest things about her
were her violet eyes, which in some lights looked almost black by
contrast with her white forehead and waving auburn hair.

Presently she spoke.

"Has my husband gone?" she said.

"I suppose so. Why do you ask?"

"Because from what I know of his habits I should think it very likely
that he is listening behind the door," and she laughed faintly.

"You seem to have a good opinion of him."

"I have exactly the opinion of him which he deserves," she said
bitterly; "and my opinion of him is that he is one of the wickedest
men in England."

"If he is behind the door he will enjoy that," said Edward Cossey.
"Well, if he is all this, why did you marry him?"

"Why did I marry him?" she answered with passion, "because I was
forced into it, bullied into it, starved into it. What would you do if
you were a defenceless, motherless girl of eighteen, with a drunken
father who beat you--yes, beat you with a stick--apologised in the
most gentlemanlike way next morning and then went and got drunk again?
And what would you do if that father were in the hands of a man like
my husband, body and soul in his hands, and if between them pressure
was brought to bear, and brought to bear, until at last--there, what
is the good of going on it with--you can guess the rest."

"Well, and what did he marry you for--your pretty face?"

"I don't know; he said so; it may have had something to do with it. I
think it was my ten thousand pounds, for once I had a whole ten
thousand pounds of my own, my poor mother left it me, and it was tied
up so that my father could not touch it. Well, of course, when I
married, my husband would not have any settlements, and so he took it,
every farthing."

"And what did he do with it?"

"Spent it upon some other woman in London--most of it. I found him
out; he gave her thousands of pounds at once."

"Well, I should not have thought that he was so generous," he said
with a laugh.

She paused a moment and covered her face with her hand, and then went
on: "If you only knew, Edward, if you had the faintest idea what my
life was till a year and a half ago, when I first saw you, you would
pity me and understand why I am bad, and passionate, and jealous, and
everything that I ought not to be. I never had any happiness as a girl
--how could I in such a home as ours?--and then almost before I was a
woman I was handed over to that man. Oh, how I hated him, and what I
endured!"

"Yes, it can't have been very pleasant."

"Pleasant--but there, we have done with each other now--we don't even
speak much except in public, that's my price for holding my tongue
about the lady in London and one or two other little things--so what
is the use of talking of it? It was a horrible nightmare, but it has
gone. And then," she went on, fixing her beautiful eyes upon his face,
"then I saw you, Edward, and for the first time in my life I learnt
what love was, and I think that no woman ever loved like that before.
Other women have had something to care for in their lives, I never had
anything till I saw you. It may be wicked, but it's true."

He turned slightly away and said nothing.

"And yet, dear," she went on in a low voice, "I think it has been one
of the hardest things of all--my love for you. For, Edward," and she
rose and took his hand and looked into his face with her soft full
eyes full of tears, "I should have liked to be a blessing to you, and
not a curse, and--and--a cause of sin. Oh, Edward, I should have made
you such a good wife, no man could have had a better, and I would have
helped you too, for I am not such a fool as I seem, and now I shall do
nothing but bring trouble upon you; I know I shall. And it was my
fault too, at least most of it; don't ever think that I deceive
myself, for I don't; I led you on, I know I did, I meant to--there!
Think me as shameless as you like, I meant to from the first. And no
good can come of it, I know that, although I would not have it undone.
No good can ever come of what is wrong. I may be very wicked, but I
know that----" and she began to cry outright.

This was too much for Edward Cossey, who, as any man must, had been
much touched by this unexpected outburst. "Look here, Belle," he
blurted out on the impulse of the moment, "I am sick and tired of all
this sort of thing. For more than a year my life has been nothing but
a living lie, and I can't stand it, and that's a fact. I tell you what
it is: I think we had better just take the train to Paris and go off
at once, or else give it all up. It is impossible to go on living in
this atmosphere of continual falsehood."

She stopped crying. "Do you really care for me enough for that,
Edward?" she said.

"Yes, yes," he said, somewhat impatiently, "you can see I do or I
should not make the offer. Say the word and I'll do it."

She thought for a moment, and then looked up again. "No," she said,
"no, Edward."

"Why?" he asked. "Are you afraid?"

"Afraid!" she answered with a gesture of contempt, "what have I to be
afraid of? Do you suppose such women as I am have any care for
consequences? We have got beyond that--that is, for ourselves. But we
can still feel a little for others. It would ruin you to do such a
thing, socially and in every other way. You know you have often said
that your father would cut you out of his will if you compromised
yourself and him like that."

"Oh, yes, he would. I am sure of it. He would never forgive the
scandal; he has a hatred of that sort of thing. But I could get a few
thousands ready money, and we could change our names and go off to a
colony or something."

"It is very good of you to say so," she said humbly. "I don't deserve
it, and I will not take advantage of you. You will be sorry that you
made the offer by to-morrow. Ah, yes, I know it is only because I
cried. No, we must go on as we are until the end comes, and then you
can discard me; for all the blame will follow me, and I shall deserve
it, too. I am older than you, you know, and a woman; and my husband
will make some money out of you, and then it will all be forgotten,
and I shall have had my day and go my own way to oblivion, like
thousands of other unfortunate women before me, and it will be all the
same a hundred years hence, don't you see? But, Edward, remember one
thing. Don't play me any tricks, for I am not of the sort to bear it.
Have patience and wait for the end; these things cannot last very
long, and I shall never be a burden on you. Don't desert me or make me
jealous, for I cannot bear it, I cannot, indeed, and I do not know
what I might do--make a scandal or kill myself or you, I'm sure I
can't say what. You nearly sent me wild the other day when you were
carrying on with Miss de la Molle--ah, yes, I saw it all--I have
suspected you for a long time, and sometimes I think that you are
really in love with her. And now, sir, I tell you what it is, we have
had enough of this melancholy talk to last me for a month. Why did you
come here at all this morning, just when I wanted to get you out of my
head for an hour or two and think about my garden? I suppose it was a
trick of Mr. Quest's bringing you here. He has got some fresh scheme
on, I am sure of it from his face. Well, it can't be helped, and,
since you are here, Mr. Edward Cossey, tell me how you like my new
dress," and she posed herself and courtesied before him. "Black, you
see, to match my sins and show off my complexion. Doesn't it fit
well?"

"Charmingly," he said, laughing in spite of himself, for he felt in no
laughing mood, "and now I tell you what it is, Belle, I am not going
to stop here all the morning, and lunch, and that sort of thing. It
does not look well, to say the least of it. The probability is that
half the old women in Boisingham have got their eyes fixed on the hall
door to see how long I stay. I shall go down to the office and come
back at half-past two."

"A very nice excuse to get rid of me," she said, "but I daresay you
are right, and I want to see about the garden. There, good-bye, and
mind you are not late, for I want to have a nice drive round to the
Castle. Not that there is much need to warn you to be in time when you
are going to see Miss de la Molle, is there? Good-bye, good-bye."

CHAPTER IX

THE SHADOW OF RUIN

Mr. Quest walked to his vestry meeting with a smile upon his thin,
gentlemanly-looking face, and rage and bitterness in his heart.

"I caught her that time," he said to himself; "she can do a good deal
in the way of deceit, but she can't keep the blood out of her cheeks
when she hears that fellow's name. But she is a clever woman, Belle is
--how well she managed that little business of the luncheon, and how
well she fought her case when once she got me in a cleft stick about
Edith and that money of hers, and made good terms too. Ah! that's the
worst of it, she has the whip hand of me there; if I could ruin her
she could ruin me, and it's no use cutting off one's nose to spite
your face. Well! my fine lady," he went on with an ominous flash of
his grey eyes, "I shall be even with you yet. Give you enough rope and
you will hang yourself. You love this fellow, I know that, and it will
go hard if I can't make him break your heart for you. Bah! you don't
know the sort of stuff men are made of. If only I did not happen to be
in love with you myself I should not care. If----Ah! here I am at the
church."

The human animal is a very complicated machine, and can conduct the
working of an extraordinary number of different interests and sets of
ideas, almost, if not entirely, simultaneously. For instance, Mr.
Quest--seated at the right hand of the rector in the vestry room of
the beautiful old Boisingham Church, and engaged in an animated and
even warm discussion with the senior curate on the details of
fourteenth century Church work, in which he clearly took a lively
interest and understood far better than did the curate--would have
been exceedingly difficult to identify with the scheming, vindictive
creature whom we have just followed up the church path. But after all,
that is the way of human nature, although it may not be the way of
those who try to draw it and who love to paint the villain black as
the Evil One and the virtuous heroine so radiant that we begin to
fancy we can hear the whispering of her wings. Few people are
altogether good or altogether bad; indeed it is probable that the vast
majority are neither good nor bad--they have not the strength to be
the one or the other. Here and there, however, we do meet a spirit
with sufficient will and originality to press the scale down this way
or that, though even then the opposing force, be it good or evil, is
constantly striving to bring the balance equal. Even the most wicked
men have their redeeming points and righteous instincts, nor are their
thoughts continually fixed upon iniquity. Mr. Quest, for instance, one
of the evil geniuses of this history, was, where his plots and
passions were not immediately concerned, a man of eminently generous
and refined tendencies. Many were the good turns, contradictory as it
may seem, that he had done to his poorer neighbours; he had even been
known to forego his bills of costs, which is about the highest and
rarest exhibition of earthly virtue that can be expected from a
lawyer. He was moreover eminently a cultured man, a reader of the
classics, in translations if not in the originals, a man with a fine
taste in fiction and poetry, and a really sound and ripe
archaeological knowledge, especially where sacred buildings were
concerned. All his instincts, also, were towards respectability. His
most burning ambition was to secure a high position in the county in
which he lived, and to be classed among the resident gentry. He hated
his lawyer's work, and longed to accumulate sufficient means to be
able to give it the good-bye and to indulge himself in an existence of
luxurious and learned leisure. Such as he was he had made himself, for
he was the son of a poor and inferior country dentist, and had begun
life with a good education, it is true, which he chiefly owed to his
own exertions, but with nothing else. Had his nature been a temperate
nature with a balance of good to its credit to draw upon instead of a
balance of evil, he was a man who might have gone very far indeed, for
in addition to his natural ability he had a great power of work. But
unfortunately this was not the case; his instincts on the whole were
evil instincts, and his passions--whether of hate, or love, or greed,
when they seized him did so with extraordinary violence, rendering him
for the time being utterly callous to the rights or feelings of
others, provided that he attained his end. In short, had he been born
to a good position and a large fortune, it is quite possible,
providing always that his strong passions had not at some period of
his life led him irremediably astray, that he would have lived
virtuous and respected, and died in good odour, leaving behind him a
happy memory. But fate had placed him in antagonism with the world,
and yet had endowed him with a gnawing desire to be of the world, as
it appeared most desirable to him; and then, to complete his ruin
circumstances had thrown him into temptations from which inexperience
and the headlong strength of his passions gave him no opportunity to
escape.

It may at first appear strange that a man so calculating and whose
desires seemed to be fixed upon such a material end as the acquirement
by artifice or even fraud of the wealth which he coveted, should also
nourish in his heart so bitter a hatred and so keen a thirst for
revenge upon a woman as Mr. Quest undoubtedly did towards his
beautiful wife. It would have seemed more probable that he would have
left heroics alone and attempted to turn his wife's folly into a means
of wealth and self-advancement: and this would not doubt have been so
had Mrs. Quest's estimate of his motives in marrying her been an
entirely correct one. She had told Edward Cossey, it will be
remembered, that her husband had married her for her money--the ten
thousand pounds of which he stood so badly in need. Now this was the
truth to a certain extent, and a certain extent only. He had wanted
the ten thousand pounds, in fact at the moment money was necessary to
him. But, and this his wife had never known or realised, he had been,
and still was, also in love with her. Possibly the ten thousand pounds
would have proved a sufficient inducement to him without the love, but
the love was none the less there. Their relations, however, had never
been happy ones. She had detested him from the fist, and had not
spared to say so. No man with any refinement--and whatever he lacked
Mr. Quest had refinement--could bear to be thus continually repulsed
by a woman, and so it came to pass that their intercourse had always
been of the most strained nature. Then when she at last had obtained
the clue to the secret of his life, under threat of exposure she drove
her bargain, of which the terms were complete separation in all but
outward form, and virtual freedom of action for herself. This,
considering the position, she was perhaps justified in doing, but her
husband never forgave her for it. More than that, he determined, if by
any means it were possible, to turn the passion which, although she
did not know it, he was perfectly aware she bore towards his business
superior, Edward Cossey, to a refined instrument of vengeance against
her, with what success it will be one of the purposes of this history
to show.

Such, put as briefly as possible, were the outlines of the character
and aims of this remarkable and contradictory man.

Within an hour and a half of leaving his own house, "The Oaks," as it
was called, although the trees from which it had been so named had
long since vanished from the garden, Mr. Quest was bowling swiftly
along behind Edward Cossey's powerful bay horse towards the towering
gateway of Honham Castle. When he was within three hundred yards an
idea struck him; he pulled the horse up sharply, for he was alone in
the dogcart, and paused to admire the view.

"What a beautiful place!" he reflected to himself with enthusiasm,
"and how grandly those old towers stand out against the sky. The
Squire has restored them very well, too, there is no doubt about it; I
could not have done it better myself. I wonder if that place will ever
be mine. Things look black now, but they may come round, and I think I
am beginning to see my way."

And then he started the horse on again, reflecting on the unpleasant
nature of the business before him. Personally he both liked and
respected the old Squire, and he certainly pitied him, though he would
no more have dreamed of allowing his liking and pity to interfere with
the prosecution of his schemes, than an ardent sportsman would dream
of not shooting pheasants because he had happened to take a friendly
interest in their nurture. He had also a certain gentlemanlike
distaste to being the bearer of crushing bad news, for Mr. Quest
disliked scenes, possibly because he had such an intimate personal
acquaintance with them. Whilst he was still wondering how he might
best deal with the matter, he passed over the moat and through the
ancient gateway which he admired so fervently, and found himself in
front of the hall door. Here he pulled up, looking about for somebody
to take his horse, when suddenly the Squire himself emerged upon him
with a rush.

"Hullo, Quest, is that you?" he shouted, as though his visitor had
been fifty yards off instead of five. "I have been looking out for
you. Here, William! William!" (crescendo), "William!" (fortissimo),
"where on earth is the boy? I expect that idle fellow, George, has
been sending him on some of his errands instead of attending to them
himself. Whenever he is wanted to take a horse he is nowhere to be
found, and then it is 'Please, sir, Mr. George,' that's what he calls
him, 'Please, sir, Mr. George sent me up to the Moat Farm or somewhere
to see how many eggs the hens laid last week,' or something of the
sort. That's a very nice horse you have got there, by the way, very
nice indeed."

"It is not my horse, Mr. de la Molle," said the lawyer, with a faint
smile, "it is Mr. Edward Cossey's."

"Oh! it's Mr. Edward Cossey's, is it?" answered the old gentleman with
a sudden change of voice. "Ah, Mr. Edward Cossey's? Well, it's a very
good horse anyhow, and I suppose that Mr. Cossey can afford to buy
good horses."

Just then a faint cry of "Coming, sir, coming," was heard, and a long
hobble-de-hoy kind of youth, whose business it was to look after the
not extensive Castle stables, emerged in a great heat from round the
corner of the house.

"Now, where on earth have you been?" began the Squire, in a stentorian
tone.

"If you please, sir, Mr. George----"

"There, what did I tell you?" broke in the Squire. "Have I not told
you time after time that you are to mind your own business, and leave
'Mr. George' to mind his? Now take that horse round to the stables,
and see that it is properly fed.

"Come, Quest, come in. We have a quarter of an hour before luncheon,
and can get our business over," and he led the way through the passage
into the tapestried and panelled vestibule, where he took his stand
before the empty fireplace.

Mr. Quest followed him, stopping, ostensibly to admire a particularly
fine suit of armour which hung upon the wall, but really to gain
another moment for reflection.

"A beautiful suit of the early Stuart period, Mr. de la Molle," he
said; "I never saw a better."

"Yes, yes, that belonged to old Sir James, the one whom the Roundheads
shot."

"What! the Sir James who hid the treasure?"

"Yes. I was telling that story to our new neighbour, Colonel Quaritch,
last night--a very nice fellow, by the way; you should go and call
upon him."

"I wonder what he did with it," said Mr. Quest.

"Ah, so do I, and so will many another, I dare say. I wish that I
could find it, I'm sure. It's wanted badly enough now-a-days. But that
reminds me, Quest. You will have gathered my difficulty from my note
and what George told you. You see this man Janter--thanks to that
confounded fellow, Major Boston, and his action about those College
Lands--has thrown up the Moat Farm, and George tells me that there is
not another tenant to be had for love or money. In fact, you know what
it is, one can't get tenants now-a-days, they simply are not to be
had. Well, under these circumstances, there is, of course, only one
thing to be done that I know of, and that is to take the farm in hand
and farm it myself. It is quite impossible to let the place fall out
of cultivation--and that is what would happen otherwise, for if I were
to lay it down in grass it would cost a considerable sum, and be seven
or eight years before I got any return."

The Squire paused and Mr. Quest said nothing.

"Well," he went on, "that being so, the next thing to do is to obtain
the necessary cash to pay Janter his valuation and stock the place--
about four thousand would do it, or perhaps," he added, with an access
of generous confidence, "we had better say five. There are about fifty
acres of those low-lying meadows which want to be thoroughly bush
drained--bushes are quite as good as pipes for that stiff land, if
they put in the right sort of stuff, and it don't cost half so much--
but still it can't be done for nothing, and then there is a new wagon
shed wanted, and some odds and ends; yes, we had better say five
thousand."

Still Mr. Quest made no answer, so once more the Squire went on.

"Well, you see, under these circumstances--not being able to lay hands
upon the necessary capital from my private resources, of course I have
made up my mind to apply to Cossey and Son for the loan. Indeed,
considering how long and intimate has been the connection between
their house and the de la Molle family, I think it right and proper to
do so; indeed, I should consider it very wrong of me if I neglected to
give them the opportunity of the investment"--here a faint smile
flickered for an instant on Mr. Quest's face and then went out--"of
course they will, as a matter of business, require security, and very
properly so, but as this estate is unentailed, there will fortunately
be very little difficulty about that. You can draw up the necessary
deeds, and I think that under the circumstances the right thing to do
would be to charge the Moat Farm specifically with the amount. Things
are bad enough, no doubt, but I can hardly suppose it possible under
any conceivable circumstances that the farm would not be good for five
thousand pounds. However, they might perhaps prefer to have a general
clause as well, and if it is so, although I consider it quite
unnecessary, I shall raise no objection to that course."

Then at last Mr. Quest broke his somewhat ominous silence.

"I am very sorry to say, Mr. de la Molle," he said gently, "that I can
hold out no prospect of Cossey and Son being induced, under any
circumstances, to advance another pound upon the security of the
Honham Castle estates. Their opinion of the value of landed property
as security has received so severe a shock, that they are not at all
comfortable as to the safety of the amount already invested."

Mr. de la Molle started when he heard this most unexpected bit of
news, for which he was totally unprepared. He had always found it
possible to borrow money, and it had never occurred to him that a time
might perhaps come in this country, when the land, which he held in
almost superstitious veneration, would be so valueless a form of
property that lenders would refuse it as security.

"Why," he said, recovering himself, "the total encumbrances on the
property do not amount to more than twenty-five thousand pounds, and
when I succeeded to my father, forty years ago, it was valued at
fifty, and the Castle and premises have been thoroughly repaired since
then at a cost of five thousand, and most of the farm buildings too."

"Very possibly, de la Molle, but to be honest, I very much doubt if
Honham Castle and the lands round it would now fetch twenty-five
thousand pounds on a forced sale. Competition and Radical agitation
have brought estates down more than people realise, and land in
Australia and New Zealand is now worth almost as much per acre as
cultivated lands in England. Perhaps as a residential property and on
account of its historical interest it might fetch more, but I doubt
it. In short, Mr. de la Molle, so anxious are Cossey and Son in the
matter, that I regret to have to tell you that so far from being
willing to make a further advance, the firm have formally instructed
me to serve the usual six months' notice on you, calling in the money
already advanced on mortgage, together with the interest, which I must
remind you is nearly a year overdue, and this step I propose to take
to-morrow."

The old gentleman staggered for a moment, and caught at the
mantelpiece, for the blow was a heavy one, and as unexpected as it was
heavy. But he recovered himself in an instant, for it was one of the
peculiarities of his character that his spirits always seemed to rise
to the occasion in the face of urgent adversity--in short, he
possessed an extraordinary share of moral courage.

"Indeed," he said indignantly, "indeed, it is a pity that you did not
tell me that at once, Mr. Quest; it would have saved me from putting
myself in a false position by proposing a business arrangement which
is not acceptable. As regards the interest, I admit that it is as you
say, and I very much regret it. That stupid fellow George is always so
dreadfully behindhand with his accounts that I can never get anything
settled." (He did not state, and indeed did not know, that the reason
that the unfortunate George was behindhand was that there were no
accounts to make up, or rather that they were all on the wrong side of
the ledger). "I will have that matter seen to at once. Of course,
business people are quite right to consider their due, and I do not
blame Messrs. Cossey in the matter, not in the least. Still, I must
say that, considering the long and intimate relationship that has for
nearly two centuries existed between their house and my family, they
might--well--have shown a little more consideration."

"Yes," said Mr. Quest, "I daresay that the step strikes you as a harsh
one. To be perfectly frank with you, Mr. de la Molle, it struck me as
a very harsh one; but, of course, I am only a servant, and bound to
carry out my instructions. I sympathise with you very much--very much
indeed."

"Oh, don't do that," said the old gentleman. "Of course, other
arrangements must be made; and, much as it will pain me to terminate
my connection with Messrs. Cossey, they shall be made."

"But I think," went on the lawyer, without any notice of his
interruption, "that you misunderstand the matter a little. Cossey and
Son are only a trading corporation, whose object is to make money by
lending it, or otherwise--at all hazards to make money. The kind of
feeling that you allude to, and that might induce them, in
consideration of long intimacy and close connection in the past, to
forego the opportunity of so doing and even to run a risk of loss, is
a thing which belongs to former generations. But the present is a
strictly commercial age, and we are the most commercial of the trading
nations. Cossey and Son move with the times, that is all, and they
would rather sell up a dozen families who had dealt with them for two
centuries than lose five hundred pounds, provided, of course, that
they could do so without scandal and loss of public respect, which,
where a banking house is concerned, also means a loss of custom. I am
a great lover of the past myself, and believe that our ancestors' ways
of doing business were, on the whole, better and more charitable than
ours, but I have to make my living and take the world as I find it,
Mr. de la Molle."

"Quite so, Quest; quite so," answered the Squire quietly. "I had no
idea that you looked at these matters in such a light. Certainly the
world has changed a good deal since I was a young man, and I do not
think it has changed much for the better. But you will want your
luncheon; it is hungry work talking about foreclosures." Mr. Quest had
not used this unpleasant word, but the Squire had seen his drift.
"Come into the next room," and he led the way to the drawing-room,
where Ida was sitting reading the /Times/.

"Ida," he said, with an affectation of heartiness which did not,
however, deceive his daughter, who knew how to read every change of
her dear father's face, "here is Mr. Quest. Take him in to luncheon,
my love. I will come presently. I want to finish a note."

Then he returned to the vestibule and sat down in his favourite old
oak chair.

"Ruined," he said to himself. "I can never get the money as things
are, and there will be a foreclosure. Well, I am an old man and I hope
that I shall not live to see it. But there is Ida. Poor Ida! I cannot
bear to think of it, and the old place too, after all these
generations--after all these generations!"

CHAPTER X

THE TENNIS PARTY

Ida shook hands coldly enough with the lawyer, for whom she cherished
a dislike not unmixed with fear. Many women are by nature gifted with
an extraordinary power of intuition which fully makes up for their
deficiency in reasoning force. They do not conclude from the premisses
of their observation, they /know/ that this man is to be feared and
that trusted. In fact, they share with the rest of breathing creation
that self-protective instinct of instantaneous and almost automatic
judgment, given to guard it from the dangers with which it is
continually threatened at the hands of man's over-mastering strength
and ordered intelligence. Ida was one of these. She knew nothing to
Mr. Quest's disadvantage, indeed she always heard him spoken of with
great respect, and curiously enough she liked his wife. But she could
not bear the man, feeling in her heart that he was not only to be
avoided on account of his own hidden qualities, but that he was
moreover an active personal enemy.

They went into the dining-room, where the luncheon was set, and while
Ida allowed Mr. Quest to cut her some cold boiled beef, an operation
in which he did not seem to be very much at home, she came to a rapid
conclusion in her own mind. She had seen clearly enough from her
father's face that his interview with the lawyer had been of a most
serious character, but she knew that the chances were that she would
never be able to get its upshot out of him, for the old gentleman had
a curious habit of keeping such unpleasant matters to himself until he
was absolutely forced by circumstances to reveal them. She also knew
that her father's affairs were in a most critical condition, for this
she had extracted from him on the previous night, and that if any
remedy was to be attempted it must be attempted at once, and on some
heroic scale. Therefore, she made up her mind to ask her /bete noire/,
Mr. Quest, what the truth might be.

"Mr. Quest," she said, with some trepidation, as he at last
triumphantly handed her the beef, "I hope you will forgive me for
asking you a plain question, and that, if you can, you will favour me
with a plain answer. I know my father's affairs are very much
involved, and that he is now anxious to borrow some more money; but I
do not know quite how matters stand, and I want to learn the exact
truth."

"I am very glad to hear you speak so, Miss de la Molle," answered the
lawyer, "because I was trying to make up my mind to broach the
subject, which is a painful one to me. Frankly, then--forgive me for
saying it, your father is absolutely ruined. The interest on the
mortgages is a year in arrear, his largest farm has just been thrown
upon his hands, and, to complete the tale, the mortgagees are going to
call in their money or foreclose."

At this statement, which was almost brutal in its brief
comprehensiveness, Ida turned pale as death, as well she might, and
dropped her fork with a clatter upon the plate.

"I did not realise that things were quite so bad," she murmured. "Then
I suppose that the place will be taken from us, and we shall--shall
have to go away."

"Yes, certainly, unless money can be found to take up the mortgages,
of which I see no chance. The place will be sold for what it will
fetch, and that now-a-days will be no great sum."

"When will that be?" she asked.

"In about six or nine months' time."

Ida's lips trembled, and the sight of the food upon her plate became
nauseous to her. A vision arose before her mind's eye of herself and
her old father departing hand in hand from the Castle gates, behind
and about which gleamed the hard wild lights of a March sunset, to
seek a place to hide themselves. The vivid horror of the phantasy
almost overcame her.

"Is there no way of escape?" she asked hoarsely. "To lose this place
would kill my father. He loves it better than anything in the world;
his whole life is wrapped up in it."

"I can quite understand that, Miss de la Molle; it is a most charming
old place, especially to anybody interested in the past. But
unfortunately mortgagees are no respecters of feelings. To them land
is so much property and nothing more."

"I know all that," she said impatiently, "you do not answer my
question;" and she leaned towards him, resting her hand upon the
table. "Is there no way out of it?"

Mr. Quest drank a little claret before he answered. "Yes," he said, "I
think that there is, if only you will take it."

"What way?" she asked eagerly.

"Well, though as I said just now, the mortgagees of an estate as a
body are merely a business corporation, and look at things from a
business point of view only, you must remember that they are composed
of individuals, and that individuals can be influenced if they can be
got at. For instance, Cossey and Son are an abstraction and harshly
disposed in their abstract capacity, but Mr. Edward Cossey is an
individual, and I should say, so far as this particular matter is
concerned, a benevolently disposed individual. Now Mr. Edward Cossey
is not himself at the present moment actually one of the firm of
Cossey and Son, but he is the hair of the head of the house, and of
course has authority, and, what is better still, the command of
money."

"I understand," said Ida. "You mean that my father should try to win
over Mr. Edward Cossey. Unfortunately, to be frank, he dislikes him,
and my father is not a man to keep his dislikes to himself."

"People generally do dislike those to whom they are crushingly
indebted; your father dislikes Mr. Cossey because his name is Cossey,
and for no other reason. But that is not quite what I meant--I do not
think that the Squire is the right person to undertake a negotiation
of the sort. He is a little too outspoken and incautious. No, Miss de
la Molle, if it is to be done at all /you/ must do it. You must put
the whole case before him at once--this very afternoon, there is no
time for delay; you need not enter into details, he knows all about
them--only ask him to avert this catastrophe. He can do so if he
likes, how he does it is his own affair."

"But, Mr. Quest," said Ida, "how can I ask such a favour of any man? I
shall be putting myself in a dreadfully false position."

"I do not pretend, Miss de la Molle, that it is a pleasant task for
any young lady to undertake. I quite understand your shrinking from
it. But sometimes one has to do unpleasant things and make compromises
with one's self-respect. It is a question whether or no your family
shall be utterly ruined and destroyed. There is, as I honestly
believe, no prospect whatever of your father being able to get the
money to pay off Cossey and Son, and if he did, it would not help him,
because he could not pay the interest on it. Under these circumstances
you have to choose between putting yourself in an equivocal position
and letting events take their course. It would be useless for anybody
else to undertake the task, and of course I cannot guarantee that even
you will succeed, but I will not mince matters--as you doubtless know,
any man would find it hard to refuse a favour asked by such a
suppliant. And now you must make up your own mind. I have shown you a
path that may lead your family from a position of the most imminent
peril. If you are the woman I take you for, you will not shrink from
following it."

Ida made no reply, and in another moment the Squire came in to take a
couple of glasses of sherry and a biscuit. But Mr. Quest, furtively
watching her face, said to himself that she had taken the bait and
that she would do it. Shortly after this a diversion occurred, for the
clergyman, Mr. Jeffries, a pleasant little man, with a round and
shining face and a most unclerical eyeglass, came up to consult the
Squire upon some matter of parish business, and was shown into the
dining-room. Ida took advantage of his appearance to effect a retreat
to her own room, and there for the present we may leave her to her
meditations.

No more business was discussed by the Squire that afternoon. Indeed it
interested Mr. Quest, who was above all things a student of character,
to observe how wonderfully the old gentleman threw off his trouble. To
listen to him energetically arguing with the Rev. Mr. Jeffries as to
whether or no it would be proper, as had hitherto been the custom, to
devote the proceeds of the harvest festival collection (1 pound 18s.
3d. and a brass button) to the county hospital, or whether it should
be applied to the repair of the woodwork in the vestry, was under the
circumstances most instructive. The Rev. Mr. Jeffries, who suffered
severely from the condition of the vestry, at last gained his point by
triumphantly showing that no patient from Honham had been admitted to
the hospital for fifteen months, and that therefore the hospital had
no claim on this particular year, whereas the draught in the vestry
was enough to cut any clergyman in two.

"Well, well," said the old gentleman, "I will consent for this year,
and this year only. I have been churchwarden of this parish for
between forty and fifty years, and we have always given the harvest
festival collection to the hospital, and although under these
exceptional circumstances it may possibly be desirable to diverge from
that custom, I cannot and will not consent to such a thing in a
permanent way. So I shall write to the secretary and explain the
matter, and tell him that next year and in the future generally the
collection will be devoted to its original purpose."

"Great heavens!" ejaculated Mr. Quest to himself. "And the man must
know that in all human probability the place will be sold over his
head before he is a year older. I wonder if he puts it on or if he
deceives himself. I suppose he has lived here so long that he cannot
realise a condition of things under which he will cease to live here
and the place will belong to somebody else. Or perhaps he is only
brazening it out." And then he strolled away to the back of the house
and had a look at the condition of the outhouses, reflecting that some
of them would be sadly expensive to repair for whoever came into
possession here. After that he crossed the moat and walked through the
somewhat extensive plantations at the back of the house, wondering if
it would not be possible to get enough timber out of them, if one went
to work judiciously, to pay for putting the place in order. Presently
he came to a hedgerow where a row of very fine timber oaks had stood,
of which the Squire had been notoriously fond, and of which he had
himself taken particular and admiring notice in the course of the
previous winter. The trees were gone. In the hedge where they had
grown were a series of gaps like those in an old woman's jaw, and the
ground was still littered with remains of bark and branches and of
faggots that had been made up from the brushwood.

"Cut down this spring fell," was Mr. Quest's ejaculation. "Poor old
gentleman, he must have been pinched before he consented to part with
those oaks."

Then he turned and went back to the house, just in time to see Ida's
guests arriving for the lawn tennis party. Ida herself was standing on
the lawn behind the house, which, bordered as it was by the moat and
at the further end by a row of ruined arches, was one of the most
picturesque in the country and a very effective setting to any young
lady. As the people came they were shown through the house on to the
lawn, and here she was receiving them. She was dressed in a plain,
tight-fitting gown of blue flannel, which showed off her perfect
figure to great advantage, and a broad-brimmed hat, that shaded her
fine and dignified face. Mr. Quest sat down on a bench beneath the
shade of an arbutus, watching her closely, and indeed, if the study of
a perfect English lady of the noblest sort has any charms, he was not
without his reward. There are some women--most of us know one or two--
who are born to hold a great position and to sail across the world
like a swan through meaner fowl. It would be very hard to say to what
their peculiar charm and dignity is owing. It is not to beauty only,
for though they have presence, many of these women are not beautiful,
while some are even plain. Nor does it spring from native grace and
tact alone; though these things must be present. Rather perhaps it is
the reflection of a cultivated intellect acting upon a naturally pure
and elevated temperament, which makes these ladies conspicuous and
fashions them in such kind that all men, putting aside the mere charm
of beauty and the natural softening of judgment in the atmosphere of
sex, must recognise in them an equal mind, and a presence more noble
than their own.

Such a woman was Ida de la Molle, and if any one doubted it, it was
sufficient to compare her in her simplicity to the various human items
by whom she was surrounded. They were a typical county society
gathering, such as needs no description, and would not greatly
interest if described; neither very good nor very bad, very handsome
nor very plain, but moving religiously within the lines of custom and
on the ground of commonplace.

It is no wonder, then, that a woman like Ida de la Molle was /facile
princeps/ among such company, or that Harold Quaritch, who was
somewhat poetically inclined for a man of his age, at any rate where
the lady in question was concerned, should in his heart have compared
her to a queen. Even Belle Quest, lovely as she undoubtedly was in her
own way, paled and looked shopgirlish in face of that gentle dignity,
a fact of which she was evidently aware, for although the two women
were friendly, nothing would induce the latter to stand long near Ida
in public. She would tell Edward Cossey that it made her look like a
wax doll beside a live child.

While Mr. Quest was still watching Ida with complete satisfaction, for
she appealed to the artistic side of his nature, Colonel Quaritch
arrived upon the scene, looking, Mr. Quest thought, particularly plain
with his solid form, his long thin nose, light whiskers, and square
massive chin. Also he looked particularly imposing in contrast to the
youths and maidens and domesticated clergymen. There was a gravity,
almost a solemnity, about his bronzed countenance and deliberate
ordered conversation, which did not, however, favourably impress the
aforesaid youths and maidens, if a judgment might be formed from such
samples of conversational criticism as Mr. Quest heard going on on the
further side of his arbutus.

CHAPTER XI

IDA'S BARGAIN

When Ida saw the Colonel coming, she put on her sweetest smile and
took his outstretched hand.

"How do you do, Colonel Quaritch?" she said. "It is very good of you
to come, especially as you don't play tennis much--by the way, I hope
you have been studying that cypher, for I am sure it is a cypher."

"I studied it for half-an-hour before I went to bed last night, Miss
de la Molle, and for the life of me I could not make anything out of
it, and what's more, I don't think that there is anything to make
out."

"Ah," she answered with a sigh, "I wish there was."

"Well, I'll have another try at it. What will you give me if I find it
out?" he said with a smile which lighted up his rugged face most
pleasantly.

"Anything you like to ask and that I can give," she answered in a tone
of earnestness which struck him as peculiar, for of course he did not
know the news that she had just heard from Mr. Quest.

Then for the first time for many years, Harold Quaritch delivered
himself of a speech that might have been capable of a tender and
hidden meaning.

"I am afraid," he said, bowing, "that if I came to claim the reward, I
should ask for more even that you would be inclined to give."

Ida blushed a little. "We can consider that when you do come, Colonel
Quaritch--excuse me, but here are Mrs. Quest and Mr. Cossey, and I
must go and say how do you do."

Harold Quaritch looked round, feeling unreasonably irritated at this
interruption to his little advances, and for the first time saw Edward
Cossey. He was coming along in the wake of Mrs. Quest, looking very
handsome and rather languid, when their eyes met, and to speak the
truth, the Colonel's first impression was not a complimentary one.
Edward Cossey was in some ways not a bad fellow, but like a great many
young men who are born with silver spoons in their mouths, he had many
airs and graces, one of which was the affectation of treating older
and better men with an assumption of off-handedness and even of
superiority that was rather obnoxious. Thus while Ida was greeting Mr.
Quest, he was engaged in taking in the Colonel in a way which
irritated that gentleman considerably.

Presently Ida turned and introduced Colonel Quaritch, first to Mrs.
Quest and then to Mr. Cossey. Harold bowed to each, and then strolled
off to meet the Squire, whom he noted advancing with his usual array
of protective towels hanging out of his hat, and for a while saw
neither of them any more.

Meanwhile Mr. Quest had emerged from the shelter of his arbutus, and
going from one person to another, said some pleasant and appropriate
word to each, till at last he reached the spot where his wife and
Edward Cossey were standing. Nodding affectionately at the former, he
asked her if she was not going to play tennis, and then drew Cossey
aside.

"Well, Quest," said the latter, "have you told the old man?"

"Yes, I told him."

"How did he take it?"

"Oh, talked it off and said that of course other arrangements must be
made. I spoke to Miss de la Molle too."

"Indeed," said Edward, in a changed tone, "and how did she take it?"

"Well," answered the lawyer, putting on an air of deep concern (and as
a matter of fact he really did feel sorry for her), "I think it was
the most painful professional experience that I ever had. The poor
woman was utterly crushed. She said that it would kill her father."

"Poor girl!" said Mr. Cossey, in a voice that showed his sympathy to
be of a very active order, "and how pluckily she is carrying it off
too--look at her," and he pointed to where Ida was standing, a lawn
tennis bat in her hand and laughingly arranging a "set" of married
/versus/ single.

"Yes, she is a spirited girl," answered Mr. Quest, "and what a
splendid woman she looks, doesn't she? I never saw anybody who was so
perfect a lady--there is nobody to touch her round here, unless," he
added meditatively, "perhaps it is Belle."

"There are different types of beauty," answered Edward Cossey,
flinching.

"Yes, but equally striking in their separate ways. Well, it can't be
helped, but I feel sorry for that poor woman, and the old gentleman
too--ah, there he is."

As he was speaking the Squire, who was walking past with Colonel
Quaritch, with the object of showing him the view from the end of the
moat, suddenly came face to face with Edward Cossey. He at once
stepped forward to greet him, but to his surprise was met by a cold
and most stately bow from Mr. de la Molle, who passed on without
vouchsafing a single word.

"Old idiot!" ejaculated Mr. Quest to himself, "he will put Cossey's
back up and spoil the game."

"Well," said Edward aloud and colouring almost to his eyes. "That old
gentleman knows how to be insolent."

"You must not mind him, Mr. Cossey," answered Quest hastily. "The poor
old boy has a very good idea of himself--he is dreadfully injured
because Cossey and Son are calling in the mortgages after the family
has dealt with them for so many generations; and he thinks that you
have something to do with it."

"Well if he does he might as well be civil. It does not particularly
incline a fellow to go aside to pull him out of the ditch, just to be
cut in that fashion--I have half a mind to order my trap and go."

"No, no, don't do that--you must make allowances, you must indeed--
look, here is Miss de la Molle coming to ask you to play tennis."

At this moment Ida arrived and took off Edward Cossey with her, not a
little to the relief of Mr. Quest, who began to fear that the whole
scheme was spoiled by the Squire's unfortunate magnificence of manner.

Edward played his game, having Ida herself as his partner. It cannot
be said that the set was a pleasant one for the latter, who, poor
woman, was doing her utmost to bring up her courage to the point
necessary to the carrying out of the appeal /ad misericordiam/, which
she had decided to make as soon as the game was over. However, chance
put an opportunity in her way, for Edward Cossey, who had a curious
weakness for flowers, asked her if she would show him her
chrysanthemums, of which she was very proud. She consented readily
enough. They crossed the lawn, and passing through some shrubbery
reached the greenhouse, which was placed at the end of the Castle
itself. Here for some minutes they looked at the flowers, just now
bursting into bloom. Ida, who felt exceedingly nervous, was all the
while wondering how on earth she could broach so delicate a subject,
when fortunately Mr. Cossey himself gave her the necessary opening.

"I can't imagine, Miss de la Molle," he said, "what I have done to
offend your father--he almost cut me just now."

"Are you sure that he saw you, Mr. Cossey; he is very absent-minded
sometimes?"

"Oh yes, he saw me, but when I offered to shake hands with him he only
bowed in rather a crushing way and passed on."

Ida broke off a Scarlet Turk from its stem, and nervously began to
pick the bloom to pieces.

"The fact is, Mr. Cossey--the fact is, my father, and indeed I also,
are in great trouble just now, about money matters you know, and my
father is very apt to be prejudiced,--in short, I rather believe that
he thinks you may have something to do with his difficulties--but
perhaps you know all about it."

"I know something, Miss de la Molle," said he gravely, "and I hope and
trust you do not believe that I have anything to do with the action
which Cossey and Son have thought fit to take."

"No, no," she said hastily. "I never thought anything of the sort--but
I know that you have influence--and, well, to be plain, Mr. Cossey, I
implore of you to use it. Perhaps you will understand that this is
very humiliating for me to be obliged to ask this, though you can
never guess /how/ humiliating. Believe me, Mr. Cossey, I would never
ask it for myself, but it is for my father--he loves this place better
than his life; it would be much better he should die than that he
should be obliged to leave it; and if this money is called in, that is
what must happen, because the place will be sold over us. I believe he
would go mad, I do indeed," and she stopped speaking and stood before
him, the fragment of the flower in her hand, her breast heaving with
emotion.

"What do you suggest should be done, Miss de la Molle?" said Edward
Cossey gently.

"I suggest that--that--if you will be so kind, you should persuade
Cossey and Son to forego their intention of calling in the money."

"It is quite impossible," he answered. "My father ordered the step
himself, and he is a hard man. It is impossible to turn him if he
thinks he will lose money by turning. You see he is a banker, and has
been handling money all his life, till it has become a sort of god to
him. Really I do believe that he would rather beggar every friend he
has than lose five thousand pounds."

"Then there is no more to be said. The place must go, that's all,"
replied Ida, turning away her head and affecting to busy herself in
removing some dried leaves from a chrysanthemum plant. Edward,
watching her however, saw her shoulders shake and a big tear fall like
a raindrop on the pavement, and the sight, strongly attracted as he
was and had for some time been towards the young lady, was altogether
too much for him. In an instant, moved by an overwhelming impulse, and
something not unlike a gust of passion, he came to one of those
determinations which so often change the whole course and tenour of
men's lives.

"Miss de la Molle," he said rapidly, "there may be a way found out of
it."

She looked up enquiringly, and there were the tear stains on her face.

"Somebody might take up the mortgages and pay off Cossey and Son."

"Can you find anyone who will?" she asked eagerly.

"No, not as an investment. I understand that thirty thousand pounds
are required, and I tell you frankly that as times are I do not for
one moment believe the place to be worth that amount. It is all very
well for your father to talk about land recovering itself, but at
present, at any rate, nobody can see the faintest chance of anything
of the sort. The probabilities are, on the contrary, that as the
American competition increases, land will gradually sink to something
like a prairie value."

"Then how can money be got if nobody will advance it?"

"I did not say that nobody will advance it; I said that nobody would
advance it as an investment--a friend might advance it."

"And where is such a friend to be found? He must be a very
disinterested friend who would advance thirty thousand pounds."

"Nobody in this world is quite disinterested, Miss de la Molle; or at
any rate very few are. What would you give to such a friend?"

"I would give anything and everything over which I have control in
this world, to save my father from seeing Honham sold over his head,"
she answered simply.

Edward Cossey laughed a little. "That is a large order," he said.
"Miss de la Molle, /I/ am disposed to try and find the money to take
up these mortgages. I have not got it, and I shall have to borrow it,
and what is more, I shall have to keep the fact that I have borrowed
it a secret from my father."

"It is very good of you," said Ida faintly, "I don't know what to
say."

For a moment he made no reply, and looking at him, Ida saw that his
hand was trembling.

"Miss de la Molle," he said, "there is another matter of which I wish
to speak to you. Men are sometimes put into strange positions, partly
through their own fault, partly by force of circumstances, and when in
those positions, are forced down paths that they would not follow.
Supposing, Miss de la Molle, that mine were some such position, and
supposing that owing to that position I could not say to you words
which I should wish to say----"

Ida began to understand now and once more turned aside.

"Supposing, however, that at some future time the difficulties of that
position of which I have spoken were to fade away, and I were then to
speak those words, can you, supposing all this--tell me how they would
be received?"

Ida paused, and thought. She was a strong-natured and clear-headed
woman, and she fully understood the position. On her answer would
depend whether or no the thirty thousand pounds were forthcoming, and
therefore, whether or no Honham Castle would pass from her father and
her race.

"I said just now, Mr. Cossey," she answered coldly, "that I would give
anything and everything over which I have control in the world, to
save my father from seeing Honham sold over his head. I do not wish to
retract those words, and I think that in them you will find an answer
to your question."

He coloured. "You put the matter in a very business-like way," he
said.

"It is best put so, Mr. Cossey," she answered with a faint shade of
bitterness in her tone; "it preserves me from feeling under an
obligation--will you see my father about these mortgages?"

"Yes, to-morrow. And now I will say good-bye to you," and he took her
hand, and with some little hesitation kissed it. She made no
resistance and showed no emotion.

"Yes," she answered, "we have been here some time; Mrs. Quest will
wonder what has become of you."

It was a random arrow, but it went straight home, and for the third
time that day Edward Cossey reddened to the roots of his hair. Without
answering a word he bowed and went.

When Ida saw this, she was sorry she had made the remark, for she had
no wish to appear to Mr. Cossey (the conquest of whom gave her neither
pride nor pleasure) in the light of a spiteful, or worst still, of a
jealous woman. She had indeed heard some talk about him and Mrs.
Quest, but not being of a scandal-loving disposition it had not
interested her, and she had almost forgotten it. Now however she
learned that there was something in it.

"So that is the difficult position of which he talks," she said to
herself; "he wants to marry me as soon as he can get Mrs. Quest off
his hands. And I have consented to that, always provided that Mrs.
Quest can be disposed of, in consideration of the receipt of a sum of
thirty thousand pounds. And I do not like the man. It was not nice of
him to make that bargain, though I brought it on myself. I wonder if
my father will ever know what I have done for him, and if he will
appreciate it when he does. Well, it is not a bad price--thirty
thousand pounds--a good figure for any woman in the present state of
the market." And with a hard and bitter laugh, and a prescience of
sorrow to come lying at the heart, she threw down the remains of the
Scarlet Turk and turned away.

CHAPTER XII

GEORGE PROPHESIES

Ida, for obvious reasons, said nothing to her father of her interview
with Edward Cossey, and thus it came to pass that on the morning
following the lawn tennis party, there was a very serious consultation
between the faithful George and his master. It appeared to Ida, who
was lying awake in her room, to commence somewhere about daybreak, and
it certainly continued with short intervals for refreshment till
eleven o'clock in the forenoon. First the Squire explained the whole
question to George at great length, and with a most extraordinary
multiplicity of detail, for he began at his first loan from the house
of Cossey and Son, which he had contracted a great many years before.
All this while George sat with a very long face, and tried to look as
though he were following the thread of the argument, which was not
possible, for his master had long ago lost it himself, and was mixing
up the loan of 1863 with the loan of 1874, and the money raised in the
severance of the entail with both, in a way which would have driven
anybody except George, who was used to this sort of thing, perfectly
mad. However he sat it through, and when at last the account was
finished, remarked that things "sartainly did look queer."

Thereupon the Squire called him a stupid owl, and having by means of
some test questions discovered that he knew very little of the details
which had just been explained to him at such portentous length, in
spite of the protest of the wretched George, who urged that they
"didn't seem to be gitting no forrader somehow," he began and went
through every word of it again.

This brought them to breakfast time, and after breakfast, George's
accounts were thoroughly gone into, with the result that confusion was
soon worse confounded, for either George could not keep accounts or
the Squire could not follow them. Ida, sitting in the drawing-room,
could occasionally hear her father's ejaculatory outbursts after this
kind:

"Why, you stupid donkey, you've added it up all wrong, it's nine
hundred and fifty, not three hundred and fifty;" followed by a "No,
no, Squire, you be a-looking on the wrong side--them there is the
dibits," and so on till both parties were fairly played out, and the
only thing that remained clear was that the balance was considerably
on the wrong side.

"Well," said the Squire at last, "there you are, you see. It appears
to me that I am absolutely ruined, and upon my word I believe that it
is a great deal owing to your stupidity. You have muddled and muddled
and muddled till at last you have muddled us out of house and home."

"No, no, Squire, don't say that--don't you say that. It ain't none of
my doing, for I've been a good sarvant to you if I haven't had much
book larning. It's that there dratted borrowing, that's what it is,
and the interest and all the rest on it, and though I says it as
didn't ought, poor Mr. James, God rest him and his free-handed ways.
Don't you say it's me, Squire."

"Well, well," answered his master, "it doesn't much matter whose fault
it is, the result is the same, George; I'm ruined, and I suppose that
the place will be sold if anybody can be found to buy it. The de la
Molles have been here between four and five centuries, and they got it
by marriage with the Boisseys, who got it from the Norman kings, and
now it will go to the hammer and be bought by a picture dealer, or a
manufacturer of brandy, or someone of that sort. Well, everything has
its end and God's will be done."

"No, no, Squire, don't you talk like that," answered George with
emotion. "I can't bear to hear you talk like that. And what's more it
ain't so."

"What do you mean by that?" asked the old gentleman sharply. "It /is/
so, there's no getting over it unless you can find thirty thousand
pounds or thereabouts, to take up these mortgages with. Nothing short
of a miracle can save it. That's always your way. 'Oh, something will
turn up, something will turn up.'"

"Thin there'll be a miricle," said George, bringing down a fist like a
leg of mutton with a thud upon the table, "it ain't no use of your
talking to me, Squire. I knaw it, I tell you I knaw it. There'll never
be no other than a de la Molle up at the Castle while we're alive, no,
nor while our childer is alive either. If the money's to be found, why
drat it, it will be found. Don't you think that God Almighty is going
to put none of them there counter jumpers into Honham Castle, where
gentlefolk hev lived all these ginerations, because He ain't. There,
and that's the truth, because I knaw it and so help me God--and if I'm
wrong it's a master one."

The Squire, who was striding up and down the room in his irritation,
stopped suddenly in his walk, and looked at his retainer with a sharp
and searching gaze upon his noble features. Notwithstanding his
prejudices, his simplicity, and his occasional absurdities, he was in
his own way an able man, and an excellent judge of human nature. Even
his prejudices were as a rule founded upon some solid ground, only it
was as a general rule impossible to get at it. Also he had a share of
that marvellous instinct which, when it exists, registers the mental
altitude of the minds of others with the accuracy of an aneroid. He
could tell when a man's words rang true and when they rang false, and
what is more when the conviction of the true, and the falsity of the
false, rested upon a substantial basis of fact or error. Of course the
instinct was a vague, and from its nature an undefinable one, but it
existed, and in the present instance arose in strength. He looked at
the ugly melancholy countenance of the faithful George with that keen
glance of his, and observed that for the moment it was almost
beautiful--beautiful in the light of conviction which shone upon it.
He looked, and it was borne in upon him that what George said was
true, and that George knew it was true, although he did not know where
the light of truth came from, and as he looked half the load fell from
his heart.

"Hullo, George, are you turning prophet in addition to your other
occupations?" he said cheerfully, and as he did so Edward Cossey's
splendid bay horse pulled up at the door and the bell rang.

"Well," he added as soon as he saw who his visitor was, "unless I am
much mistaken, we shall soon know how much truth there is in your
prophecies, for here comes Mr. Cossey himself."

Before George could sufficiently recover from his recent agitation to
make any reply, Edward Cossey, looking particularly handsome and
rather overpowering, was shown into the room.

The Squire shook hands with him this time, though coldly enough, and
George touched his forelock and said, "Sarvant, sir," in the approved
fashion. Thereon his master told him that he might retire, though he
was to be sure not to go out of hearing, as he should want him again
presently.

"Very well, sir," answered George, "I'll just step up to the Poplars.
I told a man to be round there to-day, as I want to see if I can come
to an understanding with him about this year's fell in the big wood."

"There," said the Squire with an expression of infinite disgust,
"there, that's just like your way, your horrid cadging way; the idea
of telling a man to be 'round about the Poplars' sometime or other
to-day, because you wanted to speak to him about a fell. Why didn't
you write him a letter like an ordinary Christian and make an offer,
instead of dodging him round a farm for half a day like a wild Indian?
Besides, the Poplars is half a mile off, if it's a yard."

"Lord, sir," said George as he retired, "that ain't the way that folks
in these parts like to do business, that ain't. Letter writing is all
very well for Londoners and other furriners, but it don't do here.
Besides, sir, I shall hear you well enough up there. Sarvant, sir!"
this to Edward Cossey, and he was gone.

Edward burst out laughing, and the Squire looked after his retainer
with a comical air.

"No wonder that the place has got into a mess with such a fellow as
that to manage it," he said aloud. "The idea of hunting a man round
the Poplars Farm like--like an Indian squaw! He's a regular cadger,
that's what he is, and that's all he's fit for. However, it's his way
of doing business and I shan't alter him. Well, Mr. Cossey," he went
on, "this is a very sad state of affairs, at any rate so far as I am
concerned. I presume of course that you know of the steps which have
been taken by Cossey and Son to force a foreclosure, for that is what
it amounts to, though I have not as yet received the formal notice;
indeed, I suppose that those steps have been taken under your advice."

"Yes, Mr. de la Molle, I know all about it, and here is the notice
calling in the loans," and he placed a folded paper on the table.

"Ah," said the Squire, "I see. As I remarked to your manager, Mr.
Quest, yesterday, I think that considering the nature of the
relationship which has existed for so many generations between our
family and the business firm of which you are a member, considering
too the peculiar circumstances in which the owners of land find
themselves at this moment, and the ruinous loss--to put questions of
sentiment aside--that must be inflicted by such sale upon the owner of
property, more consideration might have been shown. However, it is
useless to try to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, or to get
blood from a stone, so I suppose that I must make the best of a bad
job--and," with a most polite bow--"I really do not know that I have
anything more to say to you, Mr. Cossey. I will forward the notice to
my lawyers; indeed I think that it might have been sent to them in the
first instance."

Edward Cossey had all this while been sitting on an old oak chair, his
eyes fixed upon the ground, and slowly swinging his hat between his
legs. Suddenly he looked up and to the Squire's surprise said quietly:

"I quite agree with you. I don't think that you can say anything too
bad about the behaviour of my people. A Shoreditch Jew could not have
done worse. And look here, Mr. de la Molle, to come to the point and
prevent misunderstanding, I may as well say at once that with your
permission, I am anxious to take up these mortgages myself, for two
reasons; I regard them as a desirable investment even in the present
condition of land, and also I wish to save Cossey and Son from the
discredit of the step which they meditate."

For the second time that morning the Squire looked up with the sharp
and searching gaze he occasionally assumed, and for the second time
his instinct, for he was too heady a man to reason overmuch, came into
play and warned him that in making this offer Edward Cossey had other
motives than those which he had brought forward. He paused to consider
what they might be. Was he anxious to get the estate for himself? Was
he put forward by somebody else? Quest, perhaps; or was it something
to do with Ida? The first alternative seemed the most probable to him.
But whatever the lender's object, the result to him was the same, it
gave him a respite. For Mr. de la Molle well knew that he had no more
chance of raising the money from an ordinary source, than he had of
altering the condition of agriculture.

"Hum," he said, "this is an important matter, a most important matter.
I presume, Mr. Cossey, that before making this definite offer you have
consulted a legal adviser."

"Oh yes, I have done all that and am quite satisfied with the security
--an advance of thirty thousand charged on all the Honham Castle
estates at four per cent. The question now is if you are prepared to
consent to the transfer. In that case all the old charges on the
property will be paid off, and Mr. Quest, who will act for me in the
matter, will prepare a single deed charging the estate for the round
total."

"Ah yes, the plan seems a satisfactory one, but of course in so
important a matter I should prefer to consult my legal adviser before
giving a final answer, indeed I think that it would be better if the
whole affair were carried out in a proper and formal way?"

"Surely, surely, Mr. de la Molle," said the younger man with some
irritation, for the old gentleman's somewhat magnificent manner rather
annoyed him, which under the circumstances was not unnatural. "Surely
you do not want to consult a legal adviser to make up your mind as to
whether or no you will allow a foreclosure. I offer you the money at
four per cent. Cannot you let me have an answer now, yes or no?"

"I don't like being hurried. I can't bear to be hurried," said the
Squire pettishly. "These important matters require consideration, a
great deal of consideration. Still," he added, observing signs of
increasing irritation upon Edward Cossey's face, and not having the
slightest intention of throwing away the opportunity, though he would
dearly have liked to prolong the negotiations for a week or two, if it
was only to enjoy the illusory satisfaction of dabbling with such a
large sum of money. "Still, as you are so pressing about it, I really,
speaking off hand, can see no objection to your taking up the
mortgages on the terms you mention."

"Very well, Mr. de la Molle. Now I have on my part one condition and
one only to attach to this offer of mine, which is that my name is not
mentioned in connection with it. I do not wish Cossey and Son to know
that I have taken up this investment on my own account. In fact, so
necessary to me is it that my name should not be mentioned, that if it
does transpire before the affair is completed I shall withdraw my
offer, and if it transpires afterwards I shall call the money in. The
loan will be advanced by a client of Mr. Quest's. Is that understood
between us?"

"Hum," said the Squire, "I don't quite like this secrecy about these
matters of business, but still if you make a point of it, why of
course I cannot object."

"Very good. Then I presume that you will write officially to Cossey
and Son stating that the money will be forthcoming to meet their
various charges and the overdue interest. And now I think that we have
had about enough of this business for once, so with your permission I
will pay my respects to Miss de la Molle before I go."

"Dear me," said the Squire, pressing his hand to his head, "you do
hurry me so dreadfully--I really don't know where I am. Miss de la
Molle is out; I saw her go out sketching myself. Sit down and we will
talk this business over a little more."

"No, thank you, Mr. de la Molle, I have to talk about money every day
of my life and I soon have enough of the subject. Quest will arrange
all the details. Good-bye, don't bother to ring, I will find my
horse." And with a shake of the hand he was gone.

"Ah!" said the old gentleman to himself when his visitor had departed,
"he asked for Ida, so I suppose that is what he is after. But it is a
queer sort of way to begin courting, and if she finds it out I should
think that it would go against him. Ida is not the sort of woman to be
won by a money consideration. Well, she can very well look after
herself, that's certain. Anyway it has been a good morning's work, but
somehow I don't like that young man any the better for it. I have it--
there's something wanting. He is not quite a gentleman. Well, I must
find that fellow George," and he rushed to the front door and roared
for "George," till the whole place echoed and the pheasants crowed in
the woods.

After a while there came faint answering yells of "Coming, Squire,
coming," and in due course George's long form became visible, striding
swiftly up the garden.

"Well!" said his master, who was in high good humour, "did you find
your man?"

"Well no, Squire--that is, I had a rare hunt after him, and I had just
happened of him up a tree when you began to halloa so loud, that he
went nigh to falling out of it, so I had to tell him to come back next
week, or the week after."

"You happened of him up a tree. Why what the deuce was the man doing
up a tree--measuring it?"

"No, Squire, I don't rightly know what he wor after, but he is a
curious kind of a chap, and he said he had a fancy to wait there."

"Good heavens! no wonder the place is going to ruin, when you deal
with men who have a fancy to transact their business up a tree. Well,
never mind that, I have settled the matter about the mortgages. Of
course somebody, a client of Mr. Quest's, has been found without the
least difficulty to take them up at four per cent. and advance the
other five thousand too, so that there be no more anxiety about that."

"Well that's a good job at any rate," answered George with a sigh of
relief.

"A good job? Of course it's a good job, but it is no more than I
expected. It wasn't likely that such an eligible investment, as they
say in the advertisements, would be allowed to go begging for long.
But that's just the way with you; the moment there's a hitch you come
with your long face and your uneducated sort of way, and swear that we
are all ruined and that the country is breaking up, and that there's
nothing before us but the workhouse, and nobody knows what."

George reflected that the Squire had forgotten that not an hour before
he himself had been vowing that they were ruined, while he, George,
had stoutly sworn that something would turn up to help them. But his
back was accustomed to those vicarious burdens, nor to tell the truth
did they go nigh to the breaking of it.

"Well, it's a good job anyway, and I thank God Almighty for it," said
he, "and more especial since there'll be the money to take over the
Moat Farm and give that varmint Janter the boot."

"Give him /what?/"

"Why, kick him out, sir, for good and all, begging your pardon, sir."

"Oh, I see. I do wish that you would respect the Queen's English a
little more, George, and the name of the Creator too. By the way the
parson was speaking to me again yesterday about your continued absence
from church. It really is disgraceful; you are a most confirmed
Sabbath-breaker. And now you mustn't waste my time here any longer. Go
and look after your affairs. Stop a minute, would you like a glass of
port?"

"Well, thank you, sir," said George reflectively, "we hev had a lot of
talk and I don't mind if I do, and as for that there parson, begging
his pardon, I wish he would mind his own affairs and leave me to mind
mine."

CHAPTER XIII

ABOUT ART

Edward Cossey drove from the Castle in a far from happy frame of mind.
To begin with, the Squire and his condescending way of doing business
irritated him very much, so much that once or twice in the course of
the conversation he was within an ace of breaking the whole thing off,
and only restrained himself with difficulty from doing so. As it was,
notwithstanding all the sacrifices and money risks which he was
undergoing to take up these mortgages, and they were very considerable
even to a man of his great prospects, he felt that he had been placed
in the position of a person who receives a favour rather than of a
person who grants one. Moreover there was an assumption of superiority
about the old man, a visible recognition of the gulf which used to be
fixed between the gentleman of family and the man of business who has
grown rich by trading in money and money's worth, which was the more
galling because it was founded on actual fact, and Edward Cossey knew
it. All his foibles and oddities notwithstanding, it would have been
impossible for any person of discernment to entertain a comparison
between the half-ruined Squire and the young banker, who would shortly
be worth between half a million and a million sterling. The former was
a representative, though a somewhat erratic one, of all that is best
in the old type of Englishmen of gentle blood, which is now so rapidly
vanishing, and of the class to which to a large extent this country
owes her greatness. His very eccentricities were wandering lights that
showed unsuspected heights and depths in his character--love of
country and his country's honour, respect for the religion of his
fathers, loyalty of mind and valour for the right. Had he lived in
other times, like some of the old Boisseys and de la Molles, who were
at Honham before him, he would probably have died in the Crusades or
at Cressy, or perhaps more uselessly, for his King at Marston Moor, or
like that last but one of the true de la Molles, kneeling in the
courtyard of his Castle and defying his enemies to wring his secret
from him. Now few such opportunities are left to men of his stamp, and
they are, perhaps as a consequence, dying out of an age which is
unsuited to them, and indeed to most strong growths of individual
character. It would be much easier to deal with a gentleman like the
Squire of this history if we could only reach down one of those suits
of armour from the walls of his vestibule, and put it on his back, and
take that long two-handled sword which last flashed on Flodden Field
from its resting-place beneath the clock, and at the end see him die
as a loyal knight should do in the forefront of his retainers, with
the old war cry of "/a Delamol--a Delamol/" upon his lips. As it is,
he is an aristocratic anachronism, an entity unfitted to deal with the
elements of our advanced and in some ways emasculated age. His body
should have been where his heart was--in the past. What chance have
such as he against the Quests of this polite era of political economy
and penny papers?

No wonder that Edward Cossey felt his inferiority to this symbol and
type of the things that no more are, yes even in the shadow of his
thirty thousand pounds. For here we have a different breed. Goldsmiths
two centuries ago, then bankers from generation to generation, money
bees seeking for wealth and counting it and hiving it from decade to
decade, till at last gold became to them what honour is to the nobler
stock--the pervading principle, and the clink of the guinea and the
rustling of the bank note stirred their blood as the clank of armed
men and the sound of the flapping banner with its three golden hawks
flaming in the sun, was wont to set the hearts of the race of Boissey,
of Dofferleigh and of de la Molle, beating to that tune to which
England marched on to win the world.

It is a foolish and vain thing to scoff at business and those who do
it in the market places, and to shout out the old war cries of our
fathers, in the face of a generation which sings the song of capital,
or groans in heavy labour beneath the banners of their copyrighted
trade marks; and besides, who would buy our books (also copyrighted
except in America) if we did? Let us rather rise up and clothe
ourselves, and put a tall hat upon our heads and do homage to the new
Democracy.

And yet in the depths of our hearts and the quiet of our chambers let
us sometimes cry to the old days, and the old men, and the old ways of
thought, let us cry "/Ave atque vale/,--Hail and farewell." Our
fathers' armour hangs above the door, their portraits decorate the
wall, and their fierce and half-tamed hearts moulder beneath the
stones of yonder church. Hail and farewell to you, our fathers!
Perchance a man might have had worse company than he met with at your
boards, and even have found it not more hard to die beneath your
sword-cuts than to be gently cozened to the grave by duly qualified
practitioners at two guineas a visit.

And the upshot of all this is that the Squire was not altogether wrong
when he declared in the silence of /his/ chamber that Edward Cossey
was not quite a gentleman. He showed it when he allowed himself to be
guided by the arts of Mr. Quest into the adoption of the idea of
obtaining a lien upon Ida, to be enforced if convenient. He showed it
again, and what is more he committed a huge mistake, when tempted
thereto by the opportunity of the moment, he made a conditional
bargain with the said Ida, whereby she was placed in pledge for a sum
of thirty thousand pounds, well knowing that her honour would be equal
to the test, and that if convenient to him she would be ready to pay
the debt. He made a huge mistake, for had he been quite a gentleman,
he would have known that he could not have adopted a worse road to the
affections of a lady. Had he been content to advance the money and
then by-and-bye, though even that would not have been gentlemanlike,
have gently let transpire what he had done at great personal expense
and inconvenience, her imagination might have been touched and her
gratitude would certainly have been excited. But the idea of
bargaining, the idea of purchase, which after what had passed could
never be put aside, would of necessity be fatal to any hope of tender
feeling. Shylock might get his bond, but of his own act he had
debarred himself from the possibility of ever getting more.

Now Edward Cossey was not lacking in that afterglow of refinement
which is left by a course of public school and university education.
No education can make a gentleman of a man who is not a gentleman at
heart, for whether his station in life be that of a ploughboy or an
Earl, the gentleman, like the poet, is born and not made. But it can
and does if he be of an observant nature, give him a certain insight
into the habits of thought and probable course of action of the
members of that class to which he outwardly, and by repute, belongs.
Such an insight Edward Cossey possessed, and at the present moment its
possession was troubling him very much. His trading instincts, the
desire bred in him to get something for his money, had led him to make
the bargain, but now that it was done his better judgment rose up
against it. For the truth may as well be told at once, although he
would as yet scarcely acknowledge it to himself, Edward Cossey was
already violently enamoured of Ida. He was by nature a passionate man,
and as it chanced she had proved the magnet with power to draw his
passion. But as the reader is aware, there existed another
complication in his life for which he was not perhaps entirely
responsible. When still quite a youth in mind, he had suddenly found
himself the object of the love of a beautiful and enthralling woman,
and had after a more or less severe struggle yielded to the
temptation, as, out of a book, many young men would have done. Now to
be the object of the violent affection of such a woman as Belle Quest
is no doubt very flattering and even charming for a while. But if that
affection is not returned in kind, if in short the gentleman does not
love the lady quite as warmly as she loves him, then in course of time
the charm is apt to vanish and even the flattery to cease to give
pleasure. Also, when as in the present case the connection is wrong in
itself and universally condemned by society, the affection which can
still triumph and endure on both sides must be of a very strong and
lasting order. Even an unprincipled man dislikes the acting of one
long lie such as an intimacy of the sort necessarily involves, and if
the man happens to be rather weak than unprincipled, the dislike is
apt to turn to loathing, some portion of which will certainly be
reflected on to the partner of his ill-doing.

These are general principles, but the case of Edward Cossey offered no
exception to them, indeed it illustrated them well. He had never been
in love with Mrs. Quest; to begin with she had shown herself too much
in love with him to necessitate any display of emotion on his part.
Her violent and unreasoning passion wearied and alarmed him, he never
knew what she would do next and was kept in a continual condition of
anxiety and irritation as to what the morrow might bring forth. Too
sure of her unaltering attachment to have any pretext for jealousy, he
found it exceedingly irksome to be obliged to avoid giving cause for
it on his side, which, however, he dreaded doing lest he should
thereby bring about some overwhelming catastrophe. Mrs. Quest was, as
he well knew, not a woman who would pause to consider consequences if
once her passionate jealousy were really aroused. It was even doubtful
if the certainty of her own ruin would check her. Her love was
everything to her, it was her life, the thing she lived for, and
rather than tamely lose it, it seemed extremely probable to Edward
Cossey that she would not hesitate to face shame, or even death.
Indeed it was through this great passion of hers, and through it only,
that he could hope to influence her. If he could persuade her to
release him, by pointing out that a continuance of the intrigue must
involve him in ruin of some sort, all might yet go well with him. If
not his future was a dark one.

This was the state of affairs before he became attached to Ida de la
Molle, after which the horizon grew blacker than ever. At first he
tried to get out of the difficulty by avoiding Ida, but it did not
answer. She exercised an irresistible attraction over him. Her calm
and stately presence was to him what the sight of mountain snows is to
one scorched by continual heat. He was weary of passionate outbursts,
tears, agonies, alarms, presentiments, and all the paraphernalia of
secret love. It appeared to him, looking up at the beautiful snow,
that if once he could reach it life would be all sweetness and light,
that there would be no more thirst, no more fear, and no more forced
marches through those ill-odoured quagmires of deceit. The more he
allowed his imagination to dwell upon the picture, the fiercer grew
his longing to possess it. Also, he knew well enough that to marry a
woman like Ida de la Molle would be the greatest blessing that could
happen to him, for she would of necessity lift him up above himself.
She had little money it was true, but that was a very minor matter to
him, and she had birth and breeding and beauty, and a presence which
commands homage. And so it came to pass that he fell deeply and yet
more deeply in love with Ida, and that as he did so his connection
with Mrs. Quest (although we have seen him but yesterday offering in a
passing fit of tenderness and remorse to run away with her) became
more and more irksome to him. And now, as he drove leisurely back to
Boisingham, he felt that he had imperilled all his hopes by a rash
indulgence in his trading instincts.

Presently the road took a turn and a sight was revealed that did not
tend to improve his already irritable mood. Just here the roadway was
bordered by a deep bank covered with trees which sloped down to the
valley of the Ell, at this time of the year looking its loveliest in
the soft autumn lights. And here, seated on a bank of turf beneath the
shadow of a yellowing chestnut tree, in such position as to get a view
of the green valley and flashing river where cattle red and white
stood chewing the still luxuriant aftermath, was none other than Ida
herself, and what was more, Ida accompanied by Colonel Quaritch. They
were seated on campstools, and in front of each of them was an easel.
Clearly they were painting together, for as Edward gazed, the Colonel
rose, came up close behind his companion's stool made a ring of his
thumb and first finger, gazed critically through it at the lady's
performance, then sadly shook his head and made some remark. Thereupon
Ida turned round and began an animated discussion.

"Hang me," said Edward to himself, "if she has not taken up with that
confounded old military frump. Painting together! Ah, I know what that
means. Well, I should have thought that if there was one man more than
another whom she would have disliked, it would have been that
battered-looking Colonel."

He pulled up his horse and reflected for a moment, then handing the
reins to his servant, jumped out, and climbing through a gap in the
fence walked up to the tree. So engrossed were they in their argument,
that they neither saw nor heard him.

"It's nonsense, Colonel Quaritch, perfect nonsense, if you will
forgive me for telling you so," Ida was saying with warmth. "It is all
very well for you to complain that my trees are a blur, and the castle
nothing but a splotch, but I am looking at the water, and if I am
looking at the water, it is quite impossible that I should see the
trees and the cows otherwise than I have rendered them on the canvas.
True art is to paint what the painter sees and as he sees it."

Colonel Quaritch shook his head and sighed.

"The cant of the impressionist school," he said sadly; "on the
contrary, the business of the artist is to paint what he knows to be
there," and he gazed complacently at his own canvas, which had the
appearance of a spirited drawing of a fortified place, or of the
contents of a child's Noah's ark, so stiff, so solid, so formidable
were its outlines, trees and animals.

Ida shrugged her shoulders, laughed merrily, and turned round to find
herself face to face with Edward Cossey. She started back, and her
expression hardened--then she stretched out her hand and said, "How do
you do?" in her very coldest tones.

"How do you do, Miss de la Molle?" he said, assuming as unconcerned an
air as he could, and bowing stiffly to Harold Quaritch, who returned
the bow and went back to his canvas, which was placed a few paces off.

"I saw you painting," went on Edward Cossey in a low tone, "so I
thought I would come and tell you that I have settled the matter with
Mr. de la Molle."

"Oh, indeed," answered Ida, hitting viciously at a wasp with her paint
brush. "Well, I hope that you will find the investment a satisfactory
one. And now, if you please, do not let us talk any more about money,
because I am quite tired of the subject." Then raising her voice she
went on, "Come here, Colonel Quaritch, and Mr. Cossey shall judge
between us," and she pointed to her picture.

Edward glanced at the Colonel with no amiable air. "I know nothing
about art," he said, "and I am afraid that I must be getting on. Good-
morning," and taking off his hat to Ida, he turned and went.

"Umph," said the Colonel, looking after him with a quizzical
expression, "that gentleman seems rather short in his temper. Wants
knocking about the world a bit, I should say. But I beg your pardon, I
suppose that he is a friend of yours, Miss de la Molle?"

"He is an acquaintance of mine," answered Ida with emphasis.

CHAPTER XIV

THE TIGER SHOWS HER CLAWS

After this very chilling reception at the hands of the object of his
affection, Edward Cossey continued his drive in an even worse temper
than before. He reached his rooms, had some luncheon, and then in
pursuance of a previous engagement went over to the Oaks to see Mrs.
Quest.

He found her waiting for him in the drawing-room. She was standing at
the window with her hands behind her, a favourite attitude of hers. As
soon as the door was shut, she turned, came up to him, and grasped his
hand affectionately between her own.

"It is an age since I have seen you, Edward," she said, "one whole
day. Really, when I do not see you, I do not live, I only exist."

He freed himself from her clasp with a quick movement. "Really,
Belle," he said impatiently, "you might be a little more careful than
to go through that performance in front of an open window--especially
as the gardener must have seen the whole thing."

"I don't much care if he did," she said defiantly. "What does it
matter? My husband is certainly not in a position to make a fuss about
other people."

"What does it matter?" he said, stamping his foot. "What does it /not/
matter? If you have no care for your good name, do you suppose that I
am indifferent to mine?"

Mrs. Quest opened her large violet eyes to the fullest extent, and a
curious light was reflected from them.

"You have grown wonderfully cautious all of a sudden, Edward," she
said meaningly.

"What is the use of my being cautious when you are so reckless? I tell
you what it is, Belle. We are talked of all over this gossiping town,
and I don't like it, and what is more, once and for all, I won't have
it. If you will not be more careful, I will break with you altogether,
and that is the long and short of it."

"Where have you been this morning?" she asked in the same ominously
calm voice.

"I have been to Honham Castle on a matter of business."

"Oh, and yesterday you were there on a matter of pleasure. Now did you
happen to see Ida in the course of your business?"

"Yes," he answered, looking her full in the face, "I did see her, what
about it?"

"By appointment, I suppose."

"No, not by appointment. Have you done your catechism?"

"Yes--and now I am going to preach a homily on it. I see through you
perfectly, Edward. You are getting tired of me, and you want to be rid
of me. I tell you plainly that you are not going the right way to work
about it. No woman, especially if she be in my--unfortunate position,
can tamely bear to see herself discarded for another. Certainly I
cannot--and I caution you--I caution you to be careful, because when I
think of such a thing I am not quite myself," and suddenly, without
the slightest warning (for her face had been hard and cold as stone),
she burst into a flood of tears.

Now Edward Cossey was naturally somewhat moved at this sight. Of
course he did his best to console her, though with no great results,
for she was still sobbing bitterly when suddenly there came a knock at
the door. Mrs. Quest turned her face towards the wall and pretended to
be reading a letter, and he tried to look as unconcerned as possible.

"A telegram for you, sir," said the girl with a sharp glance at her
mistress. "The telegraph boy brought it on here, when he heard that
you were not at home, because he said he would be sure to find you
here--and please, sir, he hopes that you will give him sixpence for
bringing it round, as he thought it might be important."

Edward felt in his pocket and gave the girl a shilling, telling her to
say that there was no answer. As soon as she had gone, he opened the
telegram. It was from his sister in London, and ran as follows:

"Come up to town at once. Father has had a stroke of paralysis.
Shall expect you by the seven o'clock train."

"What is it?" said Mrs. Quest, noting the alarm on his face.

"Why, my father is very ill. He has had a stroke of paralysis, and I
must go to town by the next train."

"Shall you be long away?"

"I do not know. How can I tell? Good-bye, Belle. I am sorry that we
should have had this scene just as I am going, but I can't help it."

"Oh, Edward," she said, catching him by the arm and turning her tear-
stained face up towards his own, "you are not angry with me, are you?
Do not let us part in anger. How can I help being jealous when I love
you so? Tell me that you do not hate me--or I shall be wretched all
the time that you are away."

"No, no, of course not--but I must say, I wish that you would not make
such shocking scenes--good-bye."

"Good-bye," she answered as she gave him her shaking hand. "Good-bye,
my dear. If only you knew what I feel here," she pointed to her
breast, "you would make excuses for me." Almost before she had
finished her sentence he was gone. She stood near the door, listening
to his retreating footsteps till they had quite died away, and then
flung herself in the chair and rested her head upon her hands. "I
shall lose him," she said to herself in the bitterness of her heart.
"I know I shall. What chance have I against her? He already cares for
Ida a great deal more than he does for me, in the end he will break
from me and marry her. Oh, I had rather see him dead--and myself too."

Half-an-hour later, Mr. Quest came in.

"Where is Cossey?" he asked.

"Mr. Cossey's father has had a stroke of paralysis and he has gone up
to London to look after him."

"Oh," said Mr. Quest. "Well, if the old gentleman dies, your friend
will be one of the wealthiest men in England."

"Well, so much the better for him. I am sure money is a great
blessing. It protects one from so much."

"Yes," said Mr. Quest with emphasis, "so much the better for him, and
all connected with him. Why have you been crying? Because Cossey has
gone away--or have you quarrelled with him?"

"How do you know that I have been crying? If I have, it's my affair.
At any rate my tears are my own."

"Certainly, they are--I do not wish to interfere with your crying--cry
when you like. It will be lucky for Cossey if that old father of his
dies just now, because he wants money."

"What does he want money for?"

"Because he has undertaken to pay off the mortgages on the Castle

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