Part 8 out of 12
himself, and staring indifferently through his monocle, had 'timed'
his rush through the village to a minute and a half, on a bet with
Lord Charlemont,--and 'gashed and jambled' was the only description
to apply to the innocent little animal as it lay dead in the dust.
Bob Keeley cried for days,--cried so much, in fact, over what he
considered 'a wicked murder' that his mother sent for 'Passon' to
console him. And Walden, with his usual patience, listened to the
lad's sobbing tale:
"Which the little beast wor my friend!" he gasped amid his tears--
"An' he wor Kitty's friend too! Kitty's cryin' 'erself sick, same as
me! I'd 'ad 'im from a pup--Kitty carried 'im in 'er apron when 'e
was a week old,--he loved me--yes 'e did!--an' 'e slept in my weskit
iviry night of 'is life!--an' he 'adn't a fault in 'im, all lovin'
an' true!--an' now 'e's gone--an'--an'-I HATE the quality up at the
Manor--yes I do!--I HATE 'em!--an' if Miss Vancourt 'adn't never
come 'ome, my doggie 'ad been livin' now, an' we'd all a' bin
Walden patted the boy's rough towzled head gently, and thought of
his faithful 'Nebbie.' It would have been mere hypocrisy to preach
resignation to Bob, when he, the Reverend John, knew perfectly well
that if his own canine comrade had been thus cruelly slain, he also
would have 'hated the quality.'
"Look here, Bob," he said at last,--"I know just how you feel! It's
just as bad as bad can be. But try and be a man, won't you? You
can't bring the poor little creature back to life again,--and it's
no use frightening your mother with all this grief for what cannot
be helped. Then there's poor Kitty--SHE 'hates the quality';--her
little heart is sore and full of bad feelings--all for the sake of
you and your dog, Bob! She's giving her mother no end of trouble up
at the Manor, crying and fretting--suppose you go and see her? Talk
it over together, like two good children, and try if you can't
comfort each other. What do you say?"
Bob rose from beside the chair where he had flung himself on his
knees when Walden had entered his mother's cottage,--and rubbed his
knuckles hard into his eyes with a long and dismal sniff.
"I'll try, sir!" he said chokingly, and then suddenly seizing
'Passon's' hand, he kissed it with boyish fervour, caught up his cap
and ran out. Walden stood for a moment inert,--there was an
uncomfortable tightness in his throat.
"Poor lad!" he said to himself,--"He is suffering as much in his way
as older people suffer in theirs,--perhaps even more,--because to
the young, injustice always seems strange--to the old it has become
customary and natural!"
He sighed,--and with a pleasant word or two to Mrs. Keeley, who
waited at her door for him to come out, and who thanked him
profusely for coming to 'hearten up the boy,' he went on his usual
round through the village, uncomfortably conscious that perhaps his
first impressions respecting Miss Vancourt's home-coming were
correct,--and that it might have been better for the peace and
happiness of all the simple inhabitants of St. Rest, if she had
Certainly there was no denying that a change had crept over the
little sequestered place,--a change scarcely perceptible, but
nevertheless existent. A vague restlessness pervaded the
atmosphere,--each inhabitant of each cottage was always on the look-
out for a passing glimpse of one of the Abbot's Manor guests, or one
of the Abbot's Manor servants,--it did not matter which, so long as
something or somebody from the Manor came along. Sir Morton Pippitt
had, of course, not failed to take full advantage of any slight
surface or social knowledge he possessed of Miss Vancourt's guests,-
-and had, with his usual bluff pomposity, invited them all over to
Badsworth Hall. Some of them accepted his invitation,--others
declined it. Lord Charlemont and Mr. Bludlip Courtenay discovered
him to be a 'game old boy'--while Lady Wicketts and Miss Fosby found
something congenial in the society of Miss Tabitha Pippitt, who,
cherishing as she did, an antique-virgin passion for the Reverend
John Walden, whom her father detested, had come to regard herself as
a sort of silent martyr to the rough usages of this world, and was
therefore not unwilling to listen to the long stories of life's
disillusions which Lady Wicketts unravelled for her benefit, and
which Miss Fosby, with occasional references to the photographs and
prints of the 'Madonna' or the 'Girl with Lilies' tearfully
confirmed. So the motor-cars continually flashed between Abbot's
Manor and Badsworth Hall, and Lady Beaulyon apparently found so much
to amuse her that she stayed on longer than she had at first
intended. So did Mrs. Bludlip Courtenay. They had their reasons for
prolonging their visit,--reasons more cogent than love of fresh air,
or admiration of pastoral scenery. Both of them kept up an active
correspondence with Maryllia's aunt, Mrs. Fred Vancourt, a lady who
was their 'very dear' friend, owing to her general usefulness in the
matter of money. And Mrs. Fred having a fixed plan in her mind
concerning the welfare and good establishment of her niece, they
were not unwilling to assist her in the furtherance of her views,
knowing that whatever trouble they took would be substantially
rewarded 'under the rose.'
So they remained, on one excuse or the other,--while other guests
came or went, and took long walks and motor-rides in the
neighbourhood and amused themselves pretty much in their own way,
Maryllia rightly considering that to be the truest form of
hospitality. She herself, however, was living a somewhat restrained
life among them,--and she began to realise more than ever the
difference between 'friends' and 'acquaintances,' and the hopeless
ennui engendered by the proximity of the latter, without the
sympathy of the former. She was learning the lesson that cannot be
too soon mastered by everyone who seeks for pure happiness in this
world--'The Kingdom of God is within you.' In herself she was not
content,--yet she knew no way in which to make herself contented. "I
want something"--she said to herself--"Yet I do not know what I
want." Her pleasantest time during the inroad of her society
friends, was when, after her daily housekeeping consultations with
Mrs. Spruce, she could go and have a chat with Cicely in that young
person's small study, which was set apart for her, next to her
bedroom nearly at the top of the house, and which commanded a wide
view of the Manor park-lands, and the village of St. Rest, with the
silvery river winding through it, and the spire of the church rising
from the surrounding foliage like a finger pointing to heaven. And
she also found relief from the strain of constant entertaining by
rising early in the mornings and riding on her favourite 'Cleopatra'
all over her property, calling on her new agent, Frank Stanways, and
his wife, and chatting with the various persons in her employ. She
did not however go much into the village, and on this point one
morning her agent ventured to observe--
"Old Mr. Letherbarrow has been saying that he has not seen you
lately, Miss Vancourt,--not since your friends came down. He seems
to miss you very much."
Maryllia, swaying lightly in her saddle, stooped over her mare's
neck and patted it, to hide sudden tears that sprang, she knew not
why, to her eyes.
"Poor Josey!" she said--"I'm sorry! Tell him I'll come as soon as
all my visitors are gone--they will not stay long. The dinner-party
next week concludes everything. Then I shall have time to go about
the village as usual."
"That will be delightful!" said Alicia Stanways, a bright little
woman, whose introduction and supervision of a 'model dairy' on the
Abbot's Manor estate was the pride of her life--"It really makes all
the people happy to see you! Little Ipsie Frost was actually crying
for you the other day."
"Was she? Poor little soul! The idea of a child crying for me! It's
quite a novel experience!" And Maryllia laughed--"But I don't think
I'm wanted at all in the village. Mr. Walden does everything."
"So he does!"--agreed Stanways--"He's a true 'minister' if there
ever was one. Still, he has not been quite so much about lately."
"No?" queried Maryllia--"I expect he's very busy!"
"I think he has only one wish in the world!" said Mrs. Stanways,
"What is that?" asked Maryllia, still stroking 'Cleopatra's' glossy
"To fill the big rose-window in the church with stained glass,--real
'old' stained glass! He's always having some bits sent to him, and I
believe he passes whole hours piecing it together. It's his great
hobby. He won't have a morsel that is not properly authenticated.
He's dreadfully particular,--but then all old bachelors are!"
Maryllia smiled, and bidding them good-morning cantered off. She was
curiously touched at the notion of old Josey Letherbarrow missing
her, and 'Baby Hippolyta' crying for her.
"Not one of my society friends would miss me!"--she said to herself-
-"And certainly I know nobody who would cry for me!" She checked her
thoughts--"Except Cicely. SHE would miss me,--SHE would cry for me!
But, in plain matter-of-fact terms, there is no one else who cares
for me. Only Cicely!"
She looked up as she rode, and saw that she was passing the 'Five
Sisters,' now in all the glorious panoply of opulent summer leafage.
Moved by a sudden impulse, she galloped up the knoll, and drew rein
exactly at the spot where she had given Oliver Leach his dismissal,
and where she had first met John Walden. The wind rustled softly
through the boughs, which bent and swayed before her, as though the
grand old trees said: 'Thanks to you, we live!' Birds flew from twig
to twig,--and the persistent murmur of many bees working amid the
wild thyme which spread itself in perfumed purple patches among the
moss and grass, sounded like the far-off hum of a human crowd.
"I did something useful when I saved you, you dear old beeches!" she
said--"But the worst of it is I've done nothing worth doing since!"
She sighed, and her pretty brows puckered into a perplexed line, as
she slowly guided 'Cleopatra' down the knoll again.
"It's all so lonely!" she murmured--"I felt just a little dull
before Eva Beaulyon and the others came,--but it's ever so much
duller with them than without them!"
That afternoon, in compliance with a particularly pressing request
from Mrs. Bludlip Courtenay, she accompanied a party of her guests
to Badsworth, driving thither in Lord Charlemont's motor. Sir Morton
Pippitt, red-faced and pompous as usual, met them at the door, in
all the resplendency of new grey summer tweeds and prominent white
waist-coat, his clean-shaven features shining with recent soap, and
his white hair glistening like silver. He was quite in his element,
as he handed out the beautiful Lady Beaulyon from the motor-car, and
expressed his admiration for her looks in no unmeasured terms,--he
felt himself to be almost an actual Badsworth, of Badsworth Hall, as
he patted Lord Charlemont familiarly on the shoulder, and called him
'My dear boy!' As he greeted Maryllia, he smiled at her knowingly.
"I think I have a friend of yours here to-day, my dear lady!" he
said with an expressive chuckle--"Someone who is most anxious to see
you!" And escorting her with obtrusive gallantry into the hall, he
brought her face to face with a tall, elegant, languid-looking man
who bowed profoundly; "I believe you know Lord Roxmouth?"
The blood sprang to her brows,--and for a moment she was so startled
and angry that she could scarcely breathe. A swift glance from under
her long lashes showed her the situation--how Mrs. Bludlip Courtenay
was watching her with ill-concealed amusement, and how all the rest
of the party were expectant of a 'sensation.' She saw it all in a
moment,--she recognised that a trap had been laid for her to fall
into unwarily, and realising the position she rose to it at once.
"How do you do!" she said carelessly, nodding ner head without
giving her hand--"I thought I should meet you this afternoon!"
"Did you really!" murmured Roxmouth--"Some magnetic current of
"Yes,--'by the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way
comes!'--THAT sort of sensation, you know!" and she laughed; then
perceiving a man standing in the background whose sleek form and
lineaments she instantly recognised, she added--"And how are you,
Mr. Longford? Did you bring Lord Roxmouth here, or did he bring
Marius Longford, 'of the Savage and Savile,' was taken by surprise,
and looked a little uncomfortable. He stroked one pussy whisker.
"We came together," he explained in his affected falsetto voice--
"Sir Morton Pippitt was good enough to invite me to bring any
"I see!" and Maryllia lifted her little head with an unconscious
gesture, implying pride, or disdain, or both, as she passed with the
other guests into the Badsworth Hall drawing-room; "The country is
so delightful at this time of year!"
She moved on. Lord Roxmouth stroked down his fair moustache to hide
a smile, and quietly followed her. He was a good-looking man, tall
and well-built, with a rather pale, clean-cut face, and sandy hair
brushed very smooth; form and respectability were expressed in the
very outline of his figure and the fastidious neatness and nicety of
his clothes. Entering the room where Miss Tabitha Pippitt was
solemnly presiding over the tea-tray with a touch-me-not air of
inflexible propriety, he soon made himself the useful and agreeable
centre of a group of ladies, to whom he carried cake, bread-and-
butter and other light refreshments, with punctilious care, looking
as though his life depended upon the exact performance of these
duties. Once or twice he glanced at Maryllia, and decided that she
appeared younger and prettier than when he had seen her in town. She
was chatting with some of the country people, and Lord Roxmouth
waited for several moments in vain for an opportunity to intervene.
Finally, securing a cup of iced coffee, he carried it to her.
"No, thanks!" she said, as he approached.
"Strawberries?" he suggested, appealingly.
"Nothing, thank you!"
Smiling a little, he looked at her.
"I wish you would give me a word, Miss Vancourt! Won't you?"
"A dozen, if you like!"--she replied, indifferently--"How is Aunt
"I am glad you ask after her!"--he said, impressively--"She is
well,--but she misses you very much." He paused, and added in a
lower tone--"So do I!"
She was silent.
"I know you are angry!" he went on softly--"You went away from
London to avoid me, and you are vexed to see me down here. But I
couldn't resist the temptation of coming. Marius Longford told me he
had called upon you with Sir Morton Pippitt at Abbot's Manor,--and I
got him to bring me down on a visit to Badsworth Hall,--only to be
near you! You are looking quite lovely, Maryllia!"
She raised her eyes and fixed them full on him. His own fell.
"I said you were angry, and you are!" he murmured--"But you have the
law in your own hands,--you need not ask me to your house unless you
The buzz of conversation in the room was now loud and incessant. Sir
Morton Pippitt's 'afternoon teas' were always more or less
bewildering and brain-jarring entertainments, where a great many
people of various 'sets,' in the town of Riversford and the county
generally, came together, without knowing each other, or wishing to
know each other,--where the wife of the leading doctor in
Riversford, for example, glowered scorn and contempt on Mrs.
Mordaunt Appleby, the wife of the brewer in the same town, and where
those of high and unimpeachable 'family,' like Mrs. Mandeville
Poreham, whose mother was a Beedle, stared frigidly and unseeingly
at every one hailing from the same place as creatures beneath her
For--"Thank God!"--said Mrs. Poreham, with feeling,--"I do not live
in Riversford. I would not live in Riversford if I were paid a
fortune to do so! My poor mother never permitted me to associate
with tradespeople. There are no ladies or gentlemen in Riversford,--
I should be expected to shake hands with my butcher if I resided
there,--but I am proud and glad to say that at present I know nobody
in the place. I never intend to know anybody there!"
Several curious glances were turned upon Miss Vancourt as she stood
near an open window looking out on the Badsworth Hall 'Italian
Garden,'--a relic of Badsworth times,--her fair head turned away
from the titled aristocrat who bent towards her, as it seemed, in an
attitude of humble appeal,--and one or two would-be wise persons
nodded their heads and whispered--"That's the man she's engaged to."
"Oh, really!---and his name---?" "Lord Roxmouth;--will be Duke of
Ormistoune---" "Good gracious! THAT woman a Duchess!" snorted Mrs.
Mordaunt Appleby, as she heard--"The men must be going mad!" Which
latter remark implied that had she not unfortunately married a
brewer, she might easily have secured the Ormistoune ducal coronet
Unaware of the gossip going on around her, Maryllia stayed where she
was at the window, coldly silent, her eyes fixed on the glowing
flower-beds patterned in front of her,--the gorgeous mass of
petunias, and flame-colored geraniums,--the rich saffron and brown
tints of thick clustered calceolarias,--the purple and crimson of
pendulous fuchsias, whose blossoms tumbled one upon the other in a
riot of splendid colour,--and all at once her thoughts strayed
capriciously to the cool green seclusion of John Walden's garden.
She remembered the spray of white lilac he had given her, and
fancied she could almost inhale again its delicious perfume. But the
lilac flowering-time was over now--and the roses had it all their
own way,--she had given a rose in exchange for the lilac, and--Here
she started almost nervously as Lord Roxmouth's voice again fell on
"You are not sparing me any of your attention," he said--"Your mind
is engrossed with something--or somebody--else! Possibly I have a
He smiled, but there was a quick hard gleam of suspicion in his cold
grey eyes. Maryllia gave him a look of supreme disdain.
"You are insolent," she said, speaking in very low but emphatic
tones--"You always were! You presume too much on Aunt Emily's
encouragement of your attentions to me, which you know are
unwelcome. You are perfectly aware that I left London to escape a
scheme concocted by you and her to so compromise me in the view of
society, that no choice should be left to me save marriage with you.
Now you have followed me here, and I know why! You have come to try
and find out what I do with myself--to spy upon my actions and
occupations, and take back your report to Aunt Emily. You are
perfectly welcome to enter upon this congenial task! You can visit
me at my own house,--you can play detective all over the place, if
you are happy in that particular role. Every opportunity shall be
He bowed. "Thank you!" And stroking his moustache, as was his
constant habit, he smiled again. "You are really very cruel to me,
Maryllia! Why can I never win your confidence--I will not say your
affection? May I not know?"
"You may!"--she answered coldly--"It is because there is nothing in
you to trust and nothing to value. I have told you this so often
that I wonder you want to be told it again! And though I give you
permission to call on me at my own home,--just to save you the
trouble of telling Aunt Emily that her 'eccentric' niece was too
'peculiar' to admit you there,--I reserve to myself the right at any
moment to shut the door against you."
She moved from him then, and seeing the Ittlethwaites of
Ittlethwaite Park, went to speak to them. He stood where she had
left him, surveying the garden in front of him with absolute
complacency. Mr. Marius Longford joined him.
"Well?" said the light of the Savage and Savile tentatively.
"Well! She is the same ungovernable termagant as ever--conceited
little puss! But she always amuses me--that's one consolation!" He
laughed, and taking out his cigar-case, opened it. "Will you have
one?" Longford accepted the favour. "Who is this old fellow,
Pippitt?" he asked--"Any relation of the dead and gone Badsworth?
How does he get Badsworth Hall? Doesn't he grind bones to make his
bread, or something of that kind?"
Longford explained with civil obsequiousness that Sir Morton Pippitt
had certainly once 'ground bones,' but that he had 'retired' from
such active service, while still retaining the largest share in the
bone business. That he had bought Badsworth Hall as it stood,--
pictures, books, furniture and all, for what was to him a mere
trifle; and that he was now assuming to himself by lawful purchase,
the glory of the whole deceased Badsworth family.
Lord Roxmouth shrugged his shoulders in contempt.
"Such will be the fate of Roxmouth Castle!" he said--"Some grinder
of bones or maker of beer will purchase it, and perhaps point out
the picture of the founder of the house as being that of a former
"The old order changeth,"--said Longford, with a chill smile--"And I
suppose we should learn to accustom ourselves to it. But you, with
your position and good looks, should be able to prevent any such
possibility as you suggest. Miss Vancourt is not the only woman in
"By no means,"--and Roxmouth strolled into the garden, Longford
walking beside him--"But she is the only woman I at present know,
who, if she obeys her aunt's wishes, will have a fortune of several
millions. And just because such a little devil SHOULD be mastered
and MUST be mastered, I have resolved to master her. That's all!"
"And, to your mind, sufficient,"--said Longford--"But if it is a
question of the millions chiefly, there is always the aunt herself."
Roxmouth stared--then laughed.
"The aunt!" he ejaculated--"The aunt?"
"Why not?" And Longford stole a furtive look round at the man who
was his chief literary patron--"The aunt is handsome, well-
preserved, not more than forty-five at most--and I should say she is
a woman who could be easily led--through vanity."
"The aunt!" again murmured Roxmouth--"My dear Longford! What an
appalling suggestion! Mrs. Fred as the Duchess of Ormistoune! Forbid
Then suddenly he laughed aloud.
"By Jove! It would be too utterly ridiculous! Whatever made you
think of such a thing?"
"Only the prospect you yourself suggested,"--replied Longford--"That
of seeing a brewer or a bone-melter in possession of Roxmouth
Castle. Surely even Mrs. Fred would be preferable to that!"
With an impatient exclamation Roxmouth suddenly changed the subject;
but Longford was satisfied that he had sown a seed, which might,--
time and circumstances permitting,--sprout and grow into a tangible
weed or flower.
Maryllia meantime had made good her escape from the scene of Sir
Morton Pippitt's 'afternoon-tea' festivity. Gently moving through
the throng with that consummate grace which was her natural
heritage, she consented to be introduced to the 'county' generally,
smiling sweetly upon all, and talking so kindly to the Mandeville
Poreham girls, that she threw them into fluttering ecstasies of
delight, and caused them to declare afterwards to their mother that
Miss Vancourt was the sweetest, dearest, darlingest creature they
had ever met! She stood with patience while Sir Morton Pippitt,
over-excited by the presence of the various 'titled' personages in
his house, guffawed and blustered in her face over the 'little
surprise' he had prepared for her in the unexpected appearance of
Lord Roxmouth; she listened to his "Ha!-ha!-ha! My dear lady! We
know a thing or two! Handsome fellow,--handsome fellow! Think of a
poor old plain Knight when you are a Duchess! Ha! ha! ha! God bless
my soul!"---and without a word in confirmation or denial of his
blatant observations, she managed to slip gradually out of the
drawing-room to the hall and from thence to the carriage drive,
where she found, as she thought she would, Lord Charlemont looking
tenderly into the mechanism of his motor-car, unscrewing this,
peering into that, and generally hanging round the vehicle with a
fatuous lover's enthusiasm.
"Would you mind taking me back to St. Rest now?" she enquired--"I
have an appointment in the village--you can do the journey in no
"Delighted!" And Charlemont got his machine into the proper state of
spluttering, gasping eagerness to depart. "Anyone coming with you?"
"No--nobody knows I am leaving." And Maryllia mounted lightly into
the car. "You can return and fetch the others afterwards. Put me
down at the church, please!"
In a moment more the car flashed down the drive and out of Badsworth
Hall precincts, and was soon panting and pounding along the country
road at most unlawful speed. As a rule Maryllia hated being in a
motor-car, but on this occasion she was glad of the swift rush
through the air; had the vehicle torn madly down a precipice she
would scarcely have cared, so eager was she to get away from the
hateful vicinity of Lord Roxmouth. She was angry too--angry with
Mrs. Bludlip Courtenay, whose hand she recognised in the matter as
having so earnestly begged her to go to Badsworth Hall that
afternoon,--she despised Sir Morton Pippitt for lending himself to
the scheme,--and with all her heart she loathed Mr. Marius Longford
whom she at once saw was Roxmouth's paid tool. The furious rate at
which Lord Charlemont drove his car was a positive joy to her--and
as he was much too busy with his steering gear to speak, she gave
herself up to the smouldering indignation that burned in her soul
while she was, so to speak, carried through space as on a panting
"Why can they not leave me alone!" she thought passionately--"How
dare they follow me to my own home!--my own lands!--and spy upon me
in everything I do! It is a positive persecution and more than
that,--it is a wicked design on Aunt Emily's part to compromise me
with Roxmouth. She wants to set people talking down here in the
country just as she set them talking in town, and to make everyone
think I am engaged to him, or OUGHT to be engaged to him. It is
cruel!--I suppose I shall be driven away from here just as I have
been driven from London,--is there NO way in which I can escape from
this man whom I hate!--NO place in the world where he cannot find me
and follow me!"
The brown hue of thatched roofs through the trees here caused Lord
Charlemont to turn round and address her.
"Just there!" he said, briefly--"Six minutes exactly!"
"Good!" said Maryllia, nodding approvingly--"But go slowly through
the village, won't you? There are so many dear little children
always playing about."
He slackened speed at once, and with a weird toot-tootling of his
horn guided the car on at quite a respectable ambling-donkey pace.
"You said the church?"
Another minute, and she had alighted.
"Thanks so much!" she said, smiling up into his goggle-guarded eyes.
"Will you rush back for the others, please? And--and--may I ask you
"A thousand!" he answered, thinking what a pretty little woman she
was, as he spoke.
"Well--don't--even if they want you to do so,--don't bring Lord
Roxmouth or Mr. Marius Longford back to the Manor. They are Sir
Morton Pippitt's friends and guests--they are not mine!"
A faint flicker of surprise passed over the aristocratic motor-
driver's features, but he made no observation. He merely said:
"All right! I'm game!"
Which brief sentence meant, for Lord Charlemont, that he was loyal
to the death. He was not romantic in the style of expressing
himself,--he would not have understood how to swear fealty on a
drawn sword--but when he said--'I'm game,'-it came to the same
thing. Reversing his car, he sped away, whizzing up the road like a
boomerang, back to Badsworth Hall. Maryllia watched him till he was
out of sight,--then with a sigh of relief, she turned and look
wistfully at the church. Its beautiful architecture had the
appearance of worn ivory in the mellow radiance of the late
afternoon, and the sculptured figures of the Twelve Apostles in
their delicately carved niches, six on either side of the portal,
seemed almost life-like, as the rays of the warm and brilliant
sunshine, tempered by a touch of approaching evening, struck them
aslant as with a luminance from heaven. She lifted the latch of the
churchyard gate,--and walking slowly with bent head between the rows
of little hillocks where, under every soft green quilt of grass lay
someone sleeping, she entered the sacred building. It was quite
empty. There was a scent of myrtle and lilies in the air,--it came
from two clusters of blossoms which were set at either side of the
gold cross on the altar. Stepping softly, and with reverence,
Maryllia went up to the Communion rails, and looked long and
earnestly at the white alabaster sarcophagus which, in its unknown
origin and antiquity, was the one unsolved mystery of St. Rest. A
vague sensation of awe stole upon her,--and she sank involuntarily
on her knees.
"If I could pray now,"--she thought--"What should I pray for?"
And then it seemed that something wild and appealing rose in her
heart and clamoured for an utterance which her tongue refused to
give,--her bosom heaved,--her lips trembled,--and suddenly a rush of
tears blinded her eyes.
"Oh, if I were only LOVED!" she murmured under her breath--"If only
someone could find me worth caring for! I would endure any
suffering, any loss, to win this one priceless gift,--love!"
A little smothered sob broke from her lips.
"Father! Mother!" she whispered, instinctively stretching out her
hands--"I am so lonely!--so very, very lonely!"
Only silence answered her, and the dumb perfume of the altar
flowers. She rose,--and stood a moment trying to control herself,--a
pretty little pitiful figure in her dainty, garden-party frock, a
soft white chiffon hat tied on under her rounded chin with a knot of
pale blue ribbon, and a tiny cobweb of a lace kerchief in her hand
with which she dried her wet eyes.
"Oh dear!" she sighed--"It's no use crying! It only shows what a
weak little idiot I am! I'm lonely, of course,--I can't expect
anything else; I shall always be lonely--Roxmouth and Aunt Emily
will take care of that. The lies they will tell about me will keep
off every man but the one mean and slanderous fortune-hunter, to
whom lies are second nature. And as I won't marry HIM, I shall be
left to myself--I shall be an old maid. Though that doesn't matter--
old maids are often the happiest women. Anyhow, I'd rather be an old
maid than Duchess of Ormistoune."
She dabbed her eyes with the little handkerchief again, and went
slowly out of the church. And as she stepped from the shadow of its
portal into the sunshiny open air, she came face to face with John
Walden. He started back at the sudden sight of her,--then
recollecting himself, raised his hat, looking at her with
"Good afternoon, Mr. Walden!" she said, affecting a sprightly air--
"Are you quite well?"
"Quite. And you? You look---"
"As if I had been crying, I suppose?"--she suggested. "So I have.
Women often cry."
"But why should they?--you would say, being a man,"--and Maryllia
forced a laugh.--"And that's a question difficult to answer! Are you
going into the church?"
"Not for a service, or on any urgent matter,"--replied John--"I left
a book in the vestry which I want to refer to,--that's all."
"Fetch it," said Maryllia--"I'll wait for you here."
He glanced at her--and saw that her lips trembled, and that she was
still on the verge of tears. He hurried off at once, realising that
she wanted a minute or two to recover herself. His heart beat
foolishly fast and uncomfortably,--he wondered what had grieved or
"Poor little soul!" he murmured, reflecting on a conversation with
which Julian Adderley had regaled him the previous day, concerning
some of the guests at Abbot's Manor--"Poor, weary, sweet little
While Maryllia, during his brief absence was thinking--"I won't cry,
or he'll take me for a worse fool than I am. He looks so terribly
intellectual--so wise and cool and calm!--and yet I think--I THINK
he was rather pleased to see me!"
She smoothed her face into a smile,--gave one or two more reproving
taps to her eyelids with her morsel of a kerchief, and was quite
self-possessed when he returned, with a worn copy of the Iliad under
"Is that the book you wanted?" she asked.
"Yes--" and he showed it to her--"I admit it had no business to be
left in the church."
She peeped between the covers.
"Oh, it's all Greek!"--she said--"Do you read Greek?"
"It is one of the happiest accomplishments I learned at college,"--
he replied. "I have eased many a heartache by reading Homer in the
She looked meditative.
"Now that's very strange!" she murmured--"I should never have
thought that to read Homer in the original Greek would ease a
heartache! How does it do it? Will you teach me?"
She raised her eyes--how beautiful and blue they were he thought!--
more beautiful for the mist of weeping that still lingered about
their soft radiance.
"I will teach you Greek, if you like, with pleasure!"--he said,
smiling a little, though his lips trembled--"But whether it would
cure any heartache of yours I could not promise!"
"Still, if it cures YOUR heartaches?" she persisted.
"Mine are of a different character, I think!"--and the smile in his
eyes deepened, as he looked down at her wistfully upturned face,--"I
am getting old,--you are still young. That makes all the difference.
My aches can be soothed by philosophy,--yours could only be charmed
He broke off abruptly. The hot blood rose to his temples, and
retreated again, leaving him very pale.
She looked at him earnestly.
"I imagine you know, Miss Vancourt! There is only one thing that can
ease the burden of life for a woman, and that is--love!"
She nodded her fair head sagaciously.
"Of course! But that is just what I shall never have,--so it's no
use wanting it. I had better learn to read Greek at once, without
delay! When shall I come for my first lesson?"
She laughed unforcedly now, as she looked up at him. They were
walking side by side out of the churchyard.
"You are much too busy to learn Greek," he said, laughing with her.
"Your London friends claim all your time,--much to the regret of our
"Ah!--but they won't be with me very long now,"--she rejoined--
"They'll all go after the dinner next week, except Louis Gigue.
Gigue is coming for a day or two and he will perhaps stay on a bit
to give lessons to Cicely. But he's not a society man. Oh, dear no!
Quite the contrary--he's a perfect savage!--and says the most awful
things! Poor old Gigue!"
She laughed again, and looked happier and brighter than she had done
"You have rather spoilt the villagers," went on Walden, as he opened
the churchyard gate for her to pass out, and closed it again behind
them both. "They've got accustomed to seeing you look in upon them
at all hours,--and, of course, they miss you. Little Ipsie Frost
especially frets after you."
"I'll go and see her very, very soon," said Maryllia, impulsively;
"Dear little thing! When you see her next, tell her I'm coming,
"I will," he rejoined,--then paused, looking at her earnestly. "Your
friends must find St. Rest a very old-fashioned, world-forgotten
sort of place,"--he continued--"And you must, equally, find it
difficult to amuse them?"
"Well, perhaps, just a little," she admitted--"The fact is--but tell
it not in Gath--I was happier without them! They bore me to death!
All the same they really mean to be very nice,--they don't care, of
course, for the things I care about,--trees and flowers and books
and music,--but then I am always such an impossible person!"
"Are you?" His eyes were full of gentleness as he put this question-
-"I should not have thought that!"
She coloured a little--then changed the subject.
"You have seen Lady Beaulyon, haven't you?" He bent his head in the
affirmative--"Isn't she lovely?"
"Not to me," he replied, quietly--"But then I'm no judge."
She looked at him in surprise.
"She is considered the most beautiful woman in England!"
"By whom?", he enquired;--"By the society paragraphists who are paid
for their compliments?"
"Oh, I don't know anything about that!" she said--"I never met a
paragraphist in my life that I know of. But Eva is beautiful--there
is no denying it. And Margaret Bludlip Courtenay is called the
youngest woman in the world!"
"She looks it!" answered Walden, with great heartiness. "I cannot
imagine Time making any sort of mark upon her. Because--if you don't
mind my saying so--she has really nothing for Time to write upon!"
His tone was eminently good-natured, and Maryllia glancing at his
smiling face laughed gaily.
"You are very wicked, Mr. Walden," she said mirthfully--"In fact,
you are a quiz, and you shouldn't be a quiz and a clergyman both
together. Oh, by the way! Why did you stop reading the service when
we all came in late to church that Sunday?"
He looked full at her.
"Precisely for that reason. Because you all came in late."
Maryllia peered timorously at him, with her pretty head on one side,
like an enquiring bird.
"Do you think it was polite?"
"I was not studying politeness just then,"--he answered--"I was
exercising my own authority."
"Oh!" She paused. "Lady Beaulyon and the others did not like it at
all. They thought you were trying to make us ashamed of ourselves."
"They were right,"--he said, cheerfully--"I was!"
"Well,--you succeeded,--in a way. But I was angry!"
"Were you, really? How dreadful! But you got over it?"
"Yes,"--she said, meditatively--"I got over it. I suppose you were
right,--and of course we were wrong. But aren't you a very arbitrary
His eyes sparkled mirthfully.
"I believe I am. But I never ask anyone to attend church,--everyone
in the parish is free to do as they like about that. Only if people
do come, I expect them to be punctual,--that's all."
"I see! And if they're not, you make them feel very small and cheap
about it. People don't like being made small and cheap,--_I_ don't,
for instance. Now good-bye! You are coming to dine next week,
"I remember!" he rejoined, as he raised his hat in farewell. "And do
you think you will learn Greek?"
"I am sure I will!--as soon as ever all these people are gone. The
week after next I shall be quite free again."
"Not quite, perhaps, but as happy as I ever can be! Good-bye!"
She held out her hand. He pressed it gently, and let her go,
watching her as she moved along the road holding up her dainty skirt
from the dust, and walking with the ease and graceful carriage which
was, to her, second nature. Then he went into his own garden with
the Iliad, and addressing his ever attentive and complaisant dog,
"Look here, Nebbie--we mustn't think about her! She's a bewildering
little person, with a good deal of the witch glamour in her eyes and
smile,--and it's quite absurd for such staid and humdrum creatures
as you and I, Nebbie, to imagine that we can ever be of the
slightest service to her, or to dream that she ever gives us a
single thought when she has once turned her back upon us. But it is
a pity she should cry about anything!--her eyes were not made for
tears--her life was not created for sorrow! It should be all
sunshine and roses for her--French damask roses, of course!" and he
smiled--"with their hearts full of perfume and their petals full of
colour! As for me, there should only be the grey of her plots of
lavender,--lavender that is dried and put away in a drawer, and more
often than not helps to give fragrance to the poor corpse ready for
He sighed, and opened his Homer. Greek, for once, failed to ease his
heartache, and the Iliad seemed singularly over-strained and deadly
That evening before joining her guests at the usual eight o'clock
repast, Maryllia told Cicely Bourne of the disagreeable 'surprise'
which had been treacherously contrived for her at Sir Morton
Pippitt's tea-party by the unexpected presence of the loathed wooer
whom she sought to avoid.
"Margaret Bludlip Courtenay must certainly have known he was to be
there,"--she said--"And I think, from her look, Eva Beaulyon knew
also. But neither of them gave me a hint. And now if I were to say
anything they would only laugh and declare that they 'thought it
would be fun.' There's no getting any help or sympathy out of such
people. I'm sorry!--but--as usual--I must stand alone."
"I daresay every one of them was in the plot--men and all, if the
truth were told!"--burst out Cicely, indignantly--"And Mrs. Fred is
at the bottom of the mischief. It's a shame! Your aunt is a brute,
Maryllia! I would say so to her face if she were here! She's a
calculating, selfish, title-grubbing brute! There! What are you
going to do?"
"Nothing!"--and Maryllia looked thoughtfully out of the window at
the flaming after-glow of the sunset, bathing all the landscape in a
flood of coppery crimson--"I shall just go on as usual. When I go
down to dinner presently, I shall not speak of to-day's incident at
all. Eva Beaulyon and Margaret Courtenay will expect me to speak of
it--and they will be disappointed. If they allude to it, I shall
change the subject. And I shall invite Roxmouth and his tame pussy,
Mr. Marius Longford, to dinner next week, as guests of Sir Morton
Cicely opened her big dark eyes.
"You will actually invite Roxmouth?"
"Of course I will--of course I MUST. I want everyone here to see and
understand how absolutely indifferent I am to him."
"They will never see--they will NEVER understand!" said Cicely,
shaking her mop of wild hair decisively--"My dear Maryllia, the
colder you are to 'ce cher Roxmouth' the more the world will talk!
They will say you are merely acting a part. "No woman in her senses,
they will swear, would discourage the attentions of a prospective
"They may say what they like,--they may report me OUT of my senses
if they choose!" declared Maryllia, hotly--"I am not a citizeness of
the great American Republic that I should sell myself for a title! I
have suffered quite enough at the hands of this society sneak,
Roxmouth--and I don't intend to suffer any more. His methods are
intolerable. There is not a city on the Continent where he has not
paid the press to put paragraphs announcing my engagement to him--
and he has done the same thing with every payable paper in London.
Aunt Emily has assisted him in this,--she has even written some of
the announcements herself, sending them to the papers with my
portrait and his, for publication! And because this constantly
rumoured and expected marriage does not come off, and because people
ask WHY it doesn't come off, the pair of conspirators are reduced to
telling lies about me! I almost wish I could get small-pox or some
other hideous ailment and become disfigured,--THEN Roxmouth might
leave me alone! Perhaps Providence will arrange it in that way."
Cicely uttered an exclamation of horror.
"Oh, don't say such a thing, Maryllia! It's too dreadful! You are
the prettiest, sweetest creature I ever saw, and I wouldn't have a
scar or a blemish on your dear face for a million Roxmouths! Have
patience! We'll get rid of him!"
Maryllia gave a hopeless gesture.
"Well, I don't quite know!" and Cicely knitted her black brows
perplexedly--"But don't worry, Maryllia! I believe it will all come
right. Something will happen to make short work of him,--I'm sure of
"You are an optimist,"--said Maryllia, kissing her--"and you're very
young! I have learned that in this best of all possible worlds,
human nature is often the worst part of all creation, and that when
you want to avoid a particularly objectionable human being, that
being is always round the corner. However, if I cannot get rid of
Roxmouth, I shall do something desperate! I shall disappear!"
"Where to?" asked Cicely, startled.
"I don't know. Nowhere that you cannot find me!"
She laughed,--she had recovered her natural buoyancy and light-
heartedness, and when she joined her party at dinner that evening,
she showed no traces of annoyance or fatigue. She made no allusion
to Lord Roxmouth's appearance at Sir Morton Pippitt's, and Mrs.
Bludlip Courtenay, glancing at her somewhat timorously, judged it
best to avoid the subject. For she knew she had played a mean trick
on the friend whose guest she was,--she knew she had in her pocket a
private letter from Mrs. Fred Vancourt, telling her of Lord
Roxmouth's arrival at Badsworth Hall, and urging her to persuade
Maryllia to go there, and to bring about meetings between the two as
frequently as possible,--and as she now and then met the straight
flash of her hostess's honest blue eyes, she felt the hot colour
rising to her face underneath all her rouge, and for once in her
placid daily life of body-massage and self-admiration, she felt
discomposed and embarrassed. The men talked the incident of the day
over among themselves when they were left to their coffee and
cigars, and discussed the probabilities and non-probabilities of
Miss Vancourt becoming the Duchess of Ormistoune, with considerable
"She'll never have him--she hates him like poison!"--declared Lord
"Not surprised at that,"--said another man--"if she knows anything
"He has gone the pace!" murmured Mr. Bludlip Courtenay thoughtfully,
dropping his monocle out of his eye and hastily putting it back, as
though he feared his eye itself might escape from its socket unless
thus fenced in--"But then, after all--wild oats! Once sown and
reaped, they seldom spring again after marriage."
"I think you're wrong there!" said Charlemont--"Wild oats are a
singularly perpetual crop. In many cases marriage seems to give them
a fresh start."
"Will there be a good harvest when YOU marry, Charly?" asked one of
the company, with a laugh.
"Oh, I shouldn't wonder!" he returned, good-naturedly--"I'm just as
big a fool as any other man. But I always do my best not to play
down on a woman."
"Woman"--said Mr. Bludlip Courtenay, sententiously--"is a riddle.
Sometimes she wants a vote in elections,--then, if it's offered to
her, she won't have it. Buy her a pearl, and she says she would
rather have had a ruby. Give her a park phaeton, and she declares
she has been dying for a closed brougham. Offer her a five-hundred-
guinea pair of cobs, and she will burst into tears and say she would
have liked a 'little pug-dog--a dear, darling, little Japanese pug-
dog'--she has no use for cobs. And to carry the simile further, give
her a husband, and she straightway wants a lover."
"That implies that a husband ceases to be a lover,"--said
"Well, I guess a husband can't be doing Romeo and 'oh moon'-ing till
he's senile," observed a cadaverous looking man, opposite, who
originally hailed from the States, but who, having purchased an
estate in England, now patriotically sought to forget that he was
ever an American.
"'Oh moon'-ing is a good expression,"--said Lord Charlemont--"very
"It's mine, sir--but you're welcome to it,"--rejoined the Anglicised
renegade of the Stars and Stripes,--"To 'oh moon' is a verb every
woman likes to have conjugated by a male fool once at least in her
"Yes--and if you don't 'oh m-moon' with her,"--lisped a young fellow
at the other end of the table--"She considers you a b-b-brute!"
Again the laugh went round.
"Well, I don't think Roxmouth will have a chance to go 'oh moon'-ing
with our hostess,"--said Charlemont--"The whole idea of her marriage
with him has been faked up by Mrs. Fred. The girl herself,--Miss
Vancourt,--doesn't want him, and won't have him."
"Will you take a bet on it?" asked Mr. Bludlip Courtenay.
"Yes, if you like!" and Charlemont laughed--"I don't bet much, but
I'll bet anything you choose to name on that. Maryllia Vancourt will
never, unless she is bound, gagged and drugged into it, become
Duchess of Ormistoune."
"Shall we say a tenner?" suggested Courtenay, writing the bet down
in his notebook.
"Good! I take the other side. I know something of Roxmouth,--he's
seldom baffled. Miss Vancourt will be the Duchess before next year!"
"Not a bit of it! Next year Miss Vancourt will still be Miss
Vancourt!" said Charlemont. emphatically--"She's a woman of
character, and if she doesn't intend to marry Roxmouth, nothing will
make her. She's got a mind of her own,--most women's minds are the
minds of their favourite men."
"He-he-te-he--te-he--he!" giggled the young man who had before
spoken,--"I know a girl---"
"Shut up, old chappie! You 'know a bank whereon the wild thyme
grows'--that's what YOU know!" said Charlemont. "Come and have a
look at the motor."
Whereupon they rose from the table and dispersed.
From that day, however, a certain additional interest was given to
the house-party entertainment at Abbot's Manor. Mrs. Bludlip
Courtenay and Lady Beaulyon fell so neatly into the web which
Maryllia carefully prepared for them, that she soon found out what a
watch they kept upon her, and knew, without further trouble, that
she must from henceforth regard them as spies in her aunt and Lord
Roxmouth's service. The men took no part in this detective business,
but nevertheless were keenly inquisitive in their own line, more
bets being given and taken freely on what was likely to be the
upshot of affairs. Meanwhile, Lord Roxmouth and Mr. Longford,
sometimes accompanied by Sir Morton Pippitt, and sometimes without
him, called often, but Maryllia was always out. She had two watch-
dogs besides her canine friend, Plato,--and these were Cicely and
Julian Adderley. Cicely had pressed the 'moon calf' into her
service, and had told him just as much as she thought proper
concerning Roxmouth and his persecution of her friend and patroness.
"Go as often as you can to Badsworth Hall,"--she commanded him--"and
find out all their movements there. Then tell ME,--and whenever
Roxmouth comes here to call, Maryllia will be out! Be vigilant and
And she had shaken her finger at him and rolled her dark eyes with
such tragic intensity, that he had entered zealously into the spirit
of the little social drama, and had become as it were special
reporter of the Roxmouth policy to the opposing party.
But this was behind the scenes. The visible action of the piece
appeared just now to be entirely with Maryllia and her lordly
wooer,--she as heroine, he as hero,--while the 'supers,' useful in
their way as spies, messengers and general attendants, took their
parts in the various scenes with considerable vivacity, wondering
how much they might possibly get out of it for themselves. If, while
they were guests at Abbot's Manor, an engagement between Lord
Roxmouth and Maryllia Vancourt could be finally settled, they felt
they could all claim a share in having urged the matter on, and
'worked' it. And it was likely that in such a case, Mrs. Fred
Vancourt, with millions at her disposal, would be helpful to them in
their turn, should they ever desire it. Altogether, it seemed a game
worth playing. None of them felt any regret that Maryllia should be
made the pivot round which to work their own schemes of self-
aggrandisement. Besides, no worldly wise society man or woman could
be expected to feel sorry for assisting a young woman to attain the
position of a Duchess. Such an idea would be too manifestly absurd.
"It will soon be over now,"--said Cicely, consolingly, one afternoon
in the last week of Maryllia's entertaining--"And oh, how glad we
shall be when everybody has gone!"
"There's one person who won't go, I'm afraid!" said Maryllia.
"Roxmouth? Well, even HE can't stay at Badsworth Hall for ever!"
"No,--but he can stay as long as he likes,--long enough to work
mischief. Sir Morton Pippitt won't send him away,--we may be sure of
"If HE doesn't go, I suppose WE must?" queried Cicely tentatively.
Maryllia's eyes grew sad and wistful.
"I'm afraid so--I don't know--we shall see!"--she replied slowly--
"Something will have to be settled one way or another--pleasantly or
Cicely's black brows almost met across her nose in a meditative
"What a shame it is that you can't be left in peace, Maryllia!"--she
exclaimed--"And all because of your aunt's horrible money! Why
doesn't Roxmouth marry Mrs. Fred?"
"I wish he would!" said Maryllia, heartily, and then she began to
laugh. "Then it would be a case of 'Oh my prophetic soul! mine
uncle!' And I should be able to say: 'My aunt is a Duchess.' Imagine
the pride and glory of it!"
Cicely joined in her laughter.
"It WOULD be funny!" she said--"But whatever happens, I do hope
Roxmouth isn't going to drive us away from the Manor this summer.
You won't let him, will you?"
Maryllia hesitated a moment.
"It will depend on circumstances," she said, at last--"If he
persists in staying at Badsworth, I must leave the neighbourhood.
There's no help for it. It would only be for a short time, of
course--and it seems hard, when I have only just come home, as it
were,--but there,--never mind, Cicely! We'll treat it as a game of
hare and hounds,--and we'll baffle the hounds somehow!"
Cicely gave a comic gesture of resignation to the inevitable.
"Anyhow, if we want a man to help us,"--she said,--"There's Gigue.
Fortunately he's here now."
Gigue WAS there--very certainly there, and all there. Louis Gigue,
renowned throughout the world for his culture of the human voice
divine, had arrived the previous day direct from Paris, and had
exploded into the Manor as though he were a human bombshell. He had
entered at the hour of afternoon tea, wild-eyed, wild-haired,
travel-soiled, untidy and eminently good-natured, and had taken
everybody by surprise. He had rushed up to Maryllia, and seizing her
hand had kissed it rapturously,--he had caught Cicely in his arms
and embraced her enthusiastically with a 'Mon enfant prodigue!' and,
tossing his grizzled locks from off his broad forehead, he had
seated himself, sans ceremonie, amidst the company, as though he had
known everyone present all his life.
"Mon Dieu, ze mal der mer!" he had exclaimed--"Ze bouleversement of
ze vagues! Ze choses terribles! Ze femmes sick!--zen men of ze
coleur blieu! Ah, quel ravissement to be in ze land!"
Gigue's English was his own particular dialect--he disdained to try
and read a single word of it, but from various sources he had picked
up words which he fitted into his speech as best it suited him, with
a result which was sometimes effective but more often startling.
Maryllia was well accustomed to it, and understood what she called
'Gigue's vernacular'--but the ladies and gentlemen of her house-
party were not so well instructed, and Mrs. Bludlip Courtenay, whose
knowledge of the French language was really quite extraordinary,
immediately essayed the famous singing-master in his own tongue.
"Esker vous avez un moovais passage, Mo'sieur?" she demanded, with
placid self-assurance--"Le mer etait bien mal?"
Gigue laughed, showing a row of very white strong teeth under his
grizzled moustache, as he accepted a cup of tea from Cicely's hand,
who gave him a meaning blink of her dark eyes as she demurely waited
"Ah, Madame! Je parle ze Inglis seulement in ze England! Oui, oui!
Je mer etait comme l'huile, mais avec un so-so!" And he swayed his
hands to and fro with a rocking movement--"Et le so-so faisaient les
And he placed his hand delicately to his head, with an inimitable
turning aside gesture that caused a ripple of laughter. Maryllia's
eyes sparkled with fun. She saw Mrs. Bludlip Courtenay surveying
Gigue through her lorgnon with an air of polite criticism amounting
to disdain,--she noted the men hanging back a little in the way that
well-born Britishers do hang back from a foreigner who is 'only' a
teacher of singing, especially if they cannot speak his language,--
and she began to enjoy herself. She knew that Gigue would say what
he thought or what he wanted to say, reckless of censure, and she
felt the refreshment and relief of having one, at least, in the
group of persons around her, who was not in her Aunt Emily's
service, and who uttered frankly his opinions regardless of results.
"Et maintenant,"--said Gigue, taking hold of Cicely's arm and
drawing her close up to his knee--"Comment chante le rossignol? Do,
re, mi, fa, sol, la, si, do! Chantez!"
All the members of the house-party stared,--they had taken scarcely
any notice of Cicely Bourne, looking upon her as more or less
beneath their notice--as a 'child picked up in Paris'--a 'waif and
stray'--a 'fad of Maryllia Vancourt's'--and now here was this wild
grey-haired man of renown bringing her into sudden prominent notice.
"Chantez!" reiterated Gigue, furrowing his brows into a commanding
frown--"Do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si, do!"
Cicely's dark eyes flashed--and her lips parted.
Round and full and clear rang the notes, pure as a crystal bell,--
and the listeners held their breath, as she made such music of the
common scale as only a divinely-gifted singer can.
"Bien!--tres-bien!" said Gigue, approvingly, with a smile round at
the company--"Mademoiselle Cicely commence a chanter! Ze petite sera
une grande cantatrice! N'est-ce-pas?"
A stiffly civil wonderment seemed frozen on the faces of Lady
Beaulyon and the others present. Wholly lacking in enthusiasm for
any art, they almost resented the manner in which Cicely was thus
brought forward as a kind of genius, a being superior to them all.
Gigue sniffed the air, as though he inhaled offence in it. Then he
shook his finger with a kind of defiance.
"Mais--pas en Angleterre!" he said--"Ze petite va commencer a Milan-
-St. Petersburg--Vienna! Zen, ze Inglis vill say--'Ha ha! Zis prima
donna chante pour les Francais, les Italiens, les Russes!--il faut
qu'elle chante pour nous!' Zen--zey vill pay ze guinea--ces commes
des moutons! Zey follow les autres pays--zey know nosing of ze art
Mrs. Bludlip Courtenay coughed delicately.
"Music is so very much overdone in England"--she said, languidly--
"One gets so tired of it! Concerts are quite endless during the
season, and singers are always pestering you to take tickets. It's
quite too much for anyone who is not a millionaire."
Gigue did not catch this flow of speech--but Cicely heard it,
"Well, I shall never ask anyone to 'take tickets' to hear me!" she
said, laughing. "A famous prima donna never does that kind of
"How do you know you will be famous?" asked Lady Beaulyon, amused.
"Instinct!" replied Cicely, gaily--"Just as the bird knows, it will
be able to make a nest, so do I know I shall be famous! Don't let us
talk any more about singing! Come and see the garden, Gigue!--I'll
take you round it--and I want a chat with you."
The two went off together, much to the relief of the rest of the
"What an extraordinary-looking creature!" said Mrs. Bludlip
Courtenay--"Is he quite a gentleman, Maryllia?"
"He is a gentleman according to my standard," she said. "He is
honest, true to his friends, and faithful to his work. I ask nothing
more of any man."
She changed the subject of conversation,--and Mrs. Bludlip
Courtenay, in the privacy of her own apartment, confided to her
husband that she really thought Maryllia Vancourt was a little 'off
her head'--just a little.
"Because, really,"--said Mrs. Courtenay--"when it comes to
harbouring geniuses in one's own house, it is quite beyond all
reason. I sympathise so much with poor Mrs. Fred! If Maryllia would
only marry Lord Roxmouth, all these flighty and fantastic notions of
hers about music and faithful friends and honour and principle would
disappear. I am sure they would!--and she would calm down and be
just like one of us."
Mr. Bludlip Courtenay stared hard through his monocle.
"Why don't you talk to her about it?" he said--"You might do more
for Roxmouth than you are doing, Peggy! I may tell you it would mean
good times for both of us if you pushed that affair on!"
Mrs. Courtenay looked meditative.
"I'll try!"--she said, at last--"Roxmouth is to dine here to-morrow
night--I'll say something before he comes."
And she did. She took an opportunity of finding Maryllia alone in
her morning-room, where she was busy answering some letters. Gliding
in, without apology, she sank into the nearest comfortable chair.
"We shall soon all be gone from this dear darling old house!" she
said, with a sigh--"When are you coming back to London, Maryllia?"
"Never, I hope,"--Maryllia answered--"I am tired of London,--and if
I go anywhere away from here for a change it will be abroad--ever so
"With Lord Roxmouth?" suggested Mrs. Courtenay, with a subtle blink
in her eyes.
Maryllia laid down the pen she held, and looked straight at her.
"I think you are perfectly aware that I shall never go anywhere with
Lord Roxmouth,"--she said--"Please save yourself the trouble of
discussing this subject! I know how anxious you are upon the point--
Aunt Emily has, of course, asked you to use your influence to
persuade me into this detestable marriage--now do understand me,
once and for all, that it's no use. I would rather kill myself than
be Lord Roxmouth's wife!"
"But why--" began Mrs. Courtenay, feebly.
"Why? Because I know what kind of a man he is, and how
hypocritically he conceals his unnameable vices under a cloak of
respectability. I can tolerate anything but humbug,--remember that!"
Mrs. Courtenay winced, but stuck to her guns.
"I'm sure he's no worse than other men!"--she said--"And he's
perfectly devoted to you! It would be much better to be Duchess of
Ormistoune, than a poor lonely old maid looking after geniuses.
Geniuses are perfectly horrible persons! I've had experience with
them. Why, I tried to bring out a violinist once--such a dirty young
man, and he smelt terribly of garlic--he came from the Pyrenees--but
he was quite a marvellous fiddler--and he turned out most
ungratefully, and married my manicurist. Simply shocking! And as for
singers!--my dear Maryllia, you never seem to realise what an utter
little fright that Cicely Bourne of yours is! She will never get on
with a yellow face like that! And SUCH a figure!"
"Well, she's only fourteen---"
"Nonsense!" declared Mrs. Courtenay--"She tells you that--but she's
twenty, if she's a day! She's 'doing' you, all round, and so is that
artful old creature Gigue! Taking your money all for nothing!--you
may be sure the two of them are in a perfect conspiracy to rob you!
I can't imagine why you should go out of your way to pick up such
people--really I can't--when you might marry into one of the best
positions in England!"
Maryllia was silent. After a pause, she said gently:
"Is there anything else you want to tell me? I'm rather pressed for
time,--I have one or two letters to write---"
"Oh, I see you want to get rid of me," and Mrs. Courtenay rose from
her chair with a bounce--"You have become so rude lately, Maryllia,-
-you really have! Your aunt is quite right! But I'm glad you have
asked Roxmouth to dine to-night--that is at least one step in the
right direction! I'm sure if you will let him say a few words to you
Maryllia lifted her eyes.
"I have already asked you to drop this subject," she said.
"Well!--if you persist in your obstinacy, you can only blame
yourself for losing a good chance,"--said Mrs. Courtenay, with real
irritation--"You won't see it, of course, but you're getting very
passee, Maryllia--and it's only an old friend of your aunt's like
myself that can tell you so. I have noticed several wrinkles round
your eyes--you should massage with some 'creme ivoire' and tap those
lines--you really should--tap on to them so---" and Mrs. Bludlip
Courtenay illustrated her instructions delicately on her own pink-
and-white dolly face with her finger-tips--"I spend quite an hour
every day tapping every line away round my eyes--but you've really
got more than I have---"
"I'm not so young as you are, perhaps!" said Maryllia, with a little
smile--"But I don't care a bit how I look! If I'm getting old, so is
everyone--it's no crime. If we live, we must also die. People who
sneer at age are likely to be sneered at themselves when their time
comes. And if I'm growing wrinkles, I'd rather have country ones
than town ones. See?"
"Dear me, what odd things you do say!" and Mrs. Bludlip Courtenay
shook out her skirts and glanced over her shoulder at her own
reflection in a convenient mirror--"You seem to be quite impossible
"Yes,--Aunt Emily always said so!"--interposed Maryllia, quietly.
"And yet think of the advantages you have had!--the education--the
long course of travel!--you should really know the world by this
time better than you do?"--went on the irrepressible lady--"You
should surely be able to see that there is nothing so good for a
woman as a good marriage. Everything in a girl's life points to that
end--she is trained for it, dressed for it, brought up to it--and
yet here you are with a most brilliant position waiting for you to
step into it, and you turn your back upon it with contempt! What do
you imagine you can do with yourself down here all alone? There are
no people of your own class residing nearer to you than three or
four miles distant--the village is composed of vulgar rustics--the
rural town is inhabited only by tradespeople, and though one of your
near neighbours is Sir Morton Pippitt, one would hardly call him a
real gentleman--so there's really nobody at all for YOU to associate
with. Now is there?"
Maryllia glanced up, her eyes sparkling.
"You forget the parson!" she said.
"Oh, the parson!" And Mrs. Courtenay tittered. "Well, you're the
last woman in the world to associate with a parson! You're not a bit
"No," said Maryllia--"I'm afraid I'm not!"
"And you couldn't do district visiting and soup kitchens and
mothers' meetings"--put in Mrs. Courtenay--"It would be too sordid
and dull for words. In fact, you wil simply die of ennui down here
when the summer is over. Now, if you married Roxmouth---"
"There would be a gall-moon, instead of a honey one," said Maryllia,
calmly,--"But there won't be either. I MUST finish my letters! Do
you mind leaving me to myself?"
Mrs. Courtenay tossed her head, bit her lip, and rustled out of the
room in a huff. She reported her ill-success with 'Maryllia Van' to
her husband, who, in his turn, reported it to Lord Roxmouth, who
straightway conveyed these and all other items of the progress or
retrogression of his wooing to Mrs. Fred Vancourt. That lady,
however, felt so perfectly confident that Roxmouth would,--with the
romantic surroundings of the Manor, and the exceptional
opportunities afforded by long afternoons and moonlit evenings,--
succeed where he had hitherto failed, that she almost selected
Maryllia's bridal gown, and went so far as to study the most
elaborate designs for wedding-cakes of a millionaire description.
"For,"--said she, with comfortable self-assurance--"St. Rest, as I
remember it, is just the dullest place I ever heard of, except
heaven! There are no men in it except dreadful hunting, drinking
provincial creatures who ride or play golf all day, and go to sleep
after dinner. That kind of thing will never suit Maryllia. She will
contrast Roxmouth with the rural boors, and as a mere matter of good
taste, she will acknowledge his superiority. And she will do as I
wish in the long run,--she will be Duchess of Ormistoune."
The long lazy afternoons of July, full of strong heat and the
intense perfume of field-flowers, had never seemed so long and lazy
to John Walden as during this particular summer. He felt as if he
had nothing in the world to do,--nothing to fill up his life and
make it worth living. All his occupations seemed to him very
humdrum,--his garden, now ablaze with splendid bloom and colour,
looked tawdry, he thought; it had been much prettier in spring-time
when the lilac was in blossom. There was not much pleasure in
punting,--the river was too glassy and glaring in the sun,--the
water dripped greasily from the pole like warm oil--besides, why go
punting when there was nobody but one's self to punt? Whether it was
his own idle fancy, or a fact, he imagined that the village of St.
Rest and its villagers had, in some mysterious way, become separated
from him. Everybody in the place, or nearly everybody, had something
to do for Miss Vancourt, or else for one or other of Miss Vancourt's
guests. Everything went 'up to the Manor '--or came 'down from the
Manor'--the village tradespeople were all catering for the Manor--
and Mr. Netlips, the grocer, driving himself solemnly ever to
Riversford one day, came back with a board--'a banner with a strange
device'--painted in blue letters on a white ground, which said:
PETROL STORED HERE.
This startling announcement became a marvel and a fascination to the
eyes of the villagers, every one of them coming out of their houses
to look at it, directly it was displayed.
"You'll be settin' the 'ouse on fire, Mr. Netlips, I'm afraid," said
Mrs. Frost, severely, putting her arms akimbo, and sniffing at the
board as though she could smell the spirit it proclaimed--"You don't
know nothink about petrol! An' we ain't goin' to have motor-cars
often 'ere, please the Lord's goodness!"
Mr. Netlips smiled a superior smile.
"My good woman,"--he said, with his most magisterial air--"if you
will kindly manage your own business, which is that of pruning the
olive and uprooting the vine, and leave me to manage my
establishment as the reversible movement of the age requires, it
will be better for the equanimity of the gastritis."
"Good Lord!" and Mrs. Frost threw up her hands--"You're a fine sort
of man for a grocer, with your reversibles and your gastritis! What
in the world are you talking about?"
Mr. Netlips, busy with the unpacking of a special Stilton cheese
which he was about to send 'up to the Manor,' waved her away with
"I am talking above your head altogther, Mrs. Frost,"--he said,
placidly--"I know it! I am aware that my consonances do not
tympanise on your brain. Good afternoon!"
"Petrol Stored Here!"--said Bainton, standing squat before the
announcement, as he returned from his day's work--"Hor-hor-hor! Hor-
hor! I say, Mr. Netlips, don't blow us all into the middle of next
week. Where does ye store it? Out in the coal-shed? It's awful
'spensive, ain't it?"
"It is costly,"--admitted Mr. Netlips, with a grandiose manner,
implying that even if it had cost millions he would have been equal
to 'stocking' it--"But the traveling aristocrat does not interrogate
the lucrative matter."
"Don't he?" and Bainton scratched his head ruminatively. "I s'pose
you knows what you means, Mr. Netlips, an' you gen'ally means a lot.
Howsomever, I thought you was dead set against aristocrats anyway--
your pol'tics was for what you call masses,--not classes, nor asses
neither. Them was your sentiments not long ago, worn't they?"
Mr. Netlips drew himself up with an air of offended dignity.
"You forestall me wrong, Thomas Bainton,"--he said--"And I prefer
not to amplify the conference. A sentiment is no part of a political
With that, he retired into the recesses of his 'general store,'
leaving Bainton chuckling to himself, with a broad grin on his
The 'Petol' board displayed on the front of Mr. Netlips' shop,
however, was just one of those slight indications which showed the
vague change that had crept over the erstwhile tranquil atmosphere
of St. Rest. Among other signs and tokens of internal disquiet was
the increasing pomposity of the village post-mistress, Mrs. Tapple.
Mrs. Tapple had grown so accustomed to various titles and prefixes
of rank among the different guests who came in turn to stay at the
Manor, that whereas she had at one time stood in respectful awe of
old Pippitt because he was a 'Sir,' she now regarded him almost with
contempt. What was a 'Sir' to a 'Lord'? Nothing!--less than nothing!
For during one week she had sold stamps to a real live Marquis and
post-cards to a 'Right Honourable,' besides despatching numerous
telegrams for the Countess of Beaulyon. By all the gods and little
fishes, Sir Morton Pippitt had sunk low indeed!--for when Mrs.
Tapple, bridling with scorn, said she 'wondered 'ow a man like 'im
wot only made his money in bone-boilin' would dare to be seen with
Miss Vancourt's real quality' it was felt that she was expressing an
almost national sentiment.
Taking everything into consideration, it was not to be denied that
the new element infused into the little village community had
brought with it a certain stir and excitement, but also a sense of
discontent. And John Walden, keenly alive to every touch of feeling,
was more conscious of the change than many another man would have
been who was not endowed with so quick and responsive a nature. He
noted the quaint self-importance of Mrs. Tapple with a kindly
amusement, not altogether unmixed with pain,--he watched regretfully
the attempts made by the young girls of his little parish to trick
themselves out with cheap finery imported from the town of
Riversford, in order to imitate in some fashion, no matter how far
distant, the attire of Lady Beaulyon, whose dresses were a wonder,
and whose creditors were legion,--and he was sincerely sorry to see
that even gentle and pretty Susie Prescott had taken to a new mode
of doing her hair, which, though elaborate, did not suit her at all,
and gave an almost bold look to an otherwise sweet and maidenly
"But I am old,--and old-fashioned too!"--he said to himself,
resignedly--"The world must move on--and as it moves it is bound to
leave old times behind it--and me with them. I must not complain--
nor should I, even in my own heart, find too many reproaches for the
ways of the young."
And involuntarily he recalled Tennyson's lines:--
"Only 'dust to dust' for me that sicken at your lawless din,--
Dust in wholesome old-world dust before the newer world begin!"
"'Wholesome old-world dust'!" he mused--"Yes! I think it WAS more
wholesome than our too heavily manured soil!"
And a wave of pained regret and yearning arose in him for the days
when life was taken more quietly, more earnestly, more soberly--with
the trust and love of God inspiring the soul to purity and peace--
when to find a woman who was at the same time an atheist was a thing
so abnormal and repulsive as to excite the utmost horror in society.
Society! why, now, many women in society were atheists, and made no
secret of their shame!
"I must not dwell on these thoughts,"--he said, resolutely. "The
sooner I see Brent, the better. I've accepted his invitation for the
last week of this month--I can be spared then for two or three days-
-indeed, I doubt whether I shall even be missed! The people only
want me on Sundays now--and--though I do try not to notice it,--a
good many of the congregation are absent from their usual places."
He sighed. He would not admit to himself that it was Maryllia
Vancourt--'Maryllia Van'--or rather her guests who had exercised a
maleficent influence on his little cure of souls, and that because
the 'quality' did not go to church on Sundays, then some of the
villagers,--like serfs under the sway of nobles,--stayed away also.
He realised that he had given offence to this same 'quality,' by
pausing in his reading, when they entered late on the one occasion
they did attend divine service,--but he did not care at all for
that. He knew, that the truth of the mischief wrought by the idle,
unthinking upper classes of society, is always precisely what the
upper classes do not want to hear;--and he was perfectly aware in
his own mind that his short, but explicit sermon, on the 'Soul,' had
not been welcome to any one of his aristocratic hearers, while it
had been a little over the heads of his own parishioners.
"Mere waste of words!" he mused, with a kind of self-reproach--"I
don't know why I chose the text or subject at all. Yes--yes!--I do
know! Why do I play the deceiver with myself! She was there--so
winsome--so pretty!--and her soul is sweet and pure;--it must be
sweet and pure, if it can look out of such clear windows as her
eyes. Let all the world go, but keep that soul, I thought!--and so I
spoke as I did. But I think she scarcely listened--it was all waste
of time, waste of words,--waste of breath! I shall be glad to see
dear old Brent again. He wants to talk to me, he says--and I most
certainly want to talk to him. After the dinner-party at the Manor,
I shall be free. How I dread that party! How I wish I were not
going! But I have promised her--and I must not break my word!"
He began to think about one or two matters that to him were not
altogether pleasing. Chief among these was the fact that Sir Morton
Pippitt had driven over twice now 'to inspect the church'--
accompanied by Lord Roxmouth, and the Reverend 'Putty' Leveson. Once
Lord Roxmouth had left his card at the rectory, and had written on
it: 'Wishing to have the pleasure of meeting Mr. Walden'--a pleasure
which had not, so far, been gratified. Walden understood that Lord
Roxmouth was, or intended to be, the future husband of Miss
Vancourt. He had learned something of it from Bishop Brent's letter-
-but now that his lordship was staying as a guest at Badsworth Hall,
rumour had spread the statement so very generally that it was an
almost accepted fact. Three days had been sufficient to set the
village and county talking;--Roxmouth and his tools never did their
mischievous work by halves. John Walden accepted the report as
others accepted it--only reserving to himself an occasion to ask
Miss Vancourt if it were indeed true. Meantime, he kept himself
apart from the visitors--he had no wish to meet Lord Roxmouth--
though he knew that a meeting was inevitable at the forthcoming
dinner-party at Abbot's Manor. Bainton had that dinner-party on his
mind as well as his master. He had heard enough of it on all sides.
Mrs. Spruce had gabbled of it, saying that 'what with jellies an'
ices an' all the things as has to be thought of an' got in ready,'
she was 'fair mazed an' moithered.' And she held forth on the
subject to one of her favourite cronies, Mrs. Keeley, whose son Bob
was still in a state of silent and resentful aggressiveness against
the 'quality' for the death of his pet dog.
"It's somethin' too terrible, I do assure you!" she said--"the way
these ladies and gentlemen from Lunnon eats fit to bust themselves!
When they fust came down, I sez to cook, I sez--'Lord bless 'em,
they must 'ave all starved in their own 'omes'--an' she laughed--she
'avin 'sperience, an' cooked for 'ouse-parties ever since she
learned makin' may'nases [mayonnaise] which she sez was when she was
twenty, an' she's a round sixty now, an' she sez, 'Lor, no! It do
frighten one at first wot they can put into their stummicks, Missis
Spruce, but don't you worry--you just get the things, and they'll
know how to swaller 'em.' Well now, Missis Keeley, if you'll b'lieve
me"--and here Mrs. Spruce drew a long breath and began to count on
her fingers--"This is 'ow we do every night for the visitors, makin'
ready for hextras, in case any gentleman comes along in a motor
which isn't expected--fust we 'as horduffs---"
"Save us!" exclaimed Mrs. Keeley--"What's they?"
"Well _I_ calls 'em kickshaws, but the right name is horduffs,
Primmins sez, bein' a butler he should know the French, an' 'tis a
French word, an' it's nothin' but little dishes 'anded round, olives
an' anchovies, an' sardines an' messes of every kind, enough to make
ye sick to look at 'em--they swallers 'em, an' then we sends in
soup--two kinds, white an' clear. They swallers THAT, an' the fish
goes in--two kinds--the old Squire never had but one--THAT goes
down, an' then comes the hentreys. Them's sometimes two--sometimes
four--it just depends on the number we 'as at table. They'se all got
French names--there's nothing plain English about them. But they'se
only bits o' meat an' fowl, done up in different ways with sauces
an' vegetables, an' the quality eats 'em up as though they was two
bites of an apple. Then we sends in the roast and b'iled--and they
takes good cuts off both--then there's game,--now that's nearly
allus all eat up, for I like to pick a bone now and then myself if
it comes down on a dish an' no one else wants it--but there's never
a morsel left for me, I do assure you! Then comes puddings an'
sweets--then cheese savouries--then ices--an' then coffee--an' all
the time the wine's a-goin', Primmins sez, every sort, claret, 'ock,
chably, champagne,--an' the Lord alone He knows wot their poor
insides feels like when 'tis all a-mixin' up together an' workin'
round arterwards. But, as I sez, 'tain't no business o' mine if the
fash'nables 'as trained their stummicks to be like the ostriches
which eats, as I'm told, 'ard iron nails with a relish, I onny know
I should 'a' bin dead an' done with long ago if I put a quarter of
the stuff into me which they puts into theirselves, while some of
the gentlemen drinks enough whiskey an' soda to drown 'em if 'twas
all put in a tub at once---"
"But Miss Vancourt," interrupted Mrs. Keeley, who had been listening
to her friend's flow of language in silent wonder,--"She don't eat
an' drink like that, do she?"
"Miss Maryllia, bless 'er 'art, sits at her table like a little
queen,"--said Mrs. Spruce, with emotion--"Primmins sez she don't eat
scarce nothin', and don't say much neither. She just smiles pretty,
an' puts in a word or two, an' then seems lookin' away as if she saw
somethink beautiful which nobody else can see. An' that Miss Cicely
Bourne, she's just a pickle!--'ow she do play the comic, to be
sure!--she ran into the still-room the other day an' danced round
like a mad thing, an' took off all the ladies with their airs an'
graces till I nearly died o' larfin'! She's a good little thing,
though, takin' 'er all round, though a bit odd in 'er way, but that
comes of bein' in France an' learnin' music, I expect. But I really
must be goin'--there's heaps an' heaps to do, but by an' by we'll
have peace an' quiet again--they're all a-goin' next week."
"Well, I shan't be sorry!"--and Mrs. Keeley gave a short sigh of
satisfaction--"I'm fair sick o' seein' them motor-cars whizzin'
through the village makin' such a dust an' smell as never was,--an'
I'm sure there's no love lost 'tweens Missis Frost an' me, but it do
make me worrited like when that there little Ipsie goes runnin' out,
not knowin' whether she mayn't be run over like my Bob's pet dog.
For the quality don't seem to care for no one 'cept theirselves--an'
it ain't peaceful like nor safe as 'twas 'fore they came. An' I
s'pose we'll be seein' Miss Maryllia married next?"
Mrs. Spruce pursed up her mouth tightly and looked unutterable
"'Tain't no good countin' chickens 'fore they're hatched, Missis
Keeley!" she said--"An' the Lord sometimes fixes up marriages in
quite a different way to what we expects. There ain't goin' to be no
weddin's nor buryin's yet in the Manor, please the A'mighty
goodness, for one's as mis'able as t'other, an' both means change,
which sometimes is good for the 'elth but most often contrariwise,
though whatever 'appens either way we must bend our 'eads under the
rod to both. But I mustn't stay chitterin' 'ere any longer--good day
And nodding darkly as one who could say much an' she would, the
worthy woman ambled away.
Scraps of information, such as this talk of Mrs. Spruce's, reached
Bainton's ears from time to time in a disjointed and desultory
manner and moved him to profound cogitation. He was not quite sure
now whether, after all, his liking for Miss Vancourt had not been
"When I seed her first,"--he said to himself, pathetically, while
hoeing the weeds out of the paths in the rectory garden, "When me
an' old Josey went up to get 'er to save the Five Sisters, she
seemed as sweet as 'oney,--an' she's done many a kind thing for the
village since. But I don't care for 'er friends. They've changed her
like--they've made her forget all about us! An' as for Passon, she
don't come nigh 'im no more, an' he don't go nigh 'er. Seems to me
'tis all a muddle an' a racket since the motor-cars went bouncin'
about an' smellin' like p'ison--'tain't wot it used to be.
Howsomever, let's 'ope to the Lord it'll soon be over. If wot they
all sez is true, there'll be a weddin' 'ere soon, Passon'll marry
Miss Vancourt to the future Dook, an' away they'll go, an' Abbot's
Manor'll be shut up again as it used to afore. An' the onny change
we'll 'ave will be Mr. Stanways for agent 'stead of Oliver Leach--
which is a blessin'--for Stanways is a decent, kindly man, an'
Oliver Leach--well now!" And he paused in his hoeing, fixing his
round eyes meditatively on a wall where figs were ripening in the
sun--"Blest if I can make out Oliver Leach! One day he's with old
Putty Leveson--another he's drunk as a lord in the gutter--an'
another he's butterfly huntin' with a net, lookin' like a fool--but
allus about the place--allus about--an' he's got a face that a kid
would scream at seein' it in the dark. I wish he'd find another
situation in a fur-off neighbourhood!"
Here, looking towards the lawn, he saw his master walking slowly up
and down on the grass in front of his study window, with head bent
and hands loosely clasped behind his back, apparently lost in
"Passon ain't hisself,--seems all gone to pieces like," he mused--
"He don't do nothin' in the garden,--he ain't a bit partikler or
fidgetty--an all he cares about is the bits o' glass which comes on
approval from all parts o' the world for the rose window. I sez to
him t'other day--'Ain't ye got enough old glass yet, Passon?'--and
he sez all absent-minded like, 'No, Bainton--not yet! There are many
difficulties to be conquered--one must have patience. It's almost
like piecing a life together,' sez he--'one portion is good--another
bad--one's got the true colour--the other's false--and so on--it's
hard work to get all the little bits of love an' charity an'
kindness to fit into their proper places. Don't you understand?'
'No, Passon,' sez I, 'I can't say as I do!' Then he laughed, but sad
like--an' went away with his 'ead down as he's got it now.
Something's wrong with him--an' it's all since Miss Vancourt came.
She's a real worry to 'im I 'spect,--an' it's true enough the place
ain't like what it was a month ago. Yet there's no denyin' she's a
sweet little lady for all one can say!"
Bainton's sentiments were a fair reflection of the general village
opinion, though in the town of Riversford the tide of feeling ran
high, and controversy raged furiously, over the ways and doings of
Miss Vancourt and her society friends. A certain vague awe stole
over the gossips, however, when they heard that, whether rapid or
non-rapid, 'Maryllia Van,' as Sir Morton Pippitt persisted in
calling her, was likely to be the future Duchess of Ormistoune. Lord
Roxmouth had been seen in Riversford just once, and many shop-girls
had declared him 'so distinguished looking!' Mordaunt Appleby, the
brewer, had thrown out sundry hints to Sir Morton Pippitt that he
'should be pleased to see his lordship at Appleby House'--Appleby
House being the name of his, the brewer's, residence--but somehow
his lordship had not yet availed himself of the invitation.
Sufficient, however, was altogether done and said by all concerned
to weave a web of worry round Maryllia,--and to cause her to
heartily regret that she had ever asked any of her London
acquaintances down to her house.
"I did it as a kind of instruction to myself,--a lesson and a test,"
she said--"But I had far better have run the risk of being called an
old maid and a recluse than have got these people round me,--all of
whom I thought were my friends,--but who have been more or less
tampered with by Aunt Emily and Roxmouth, and pressed in to help
carry on the old scheme against me of a detestable alliance with a
man I hate. Well!--I have learned the falsity of their protestations
of liking and admiration and affection for me,--and I'm sorry for
it! I should like to believe in the honesty of at least a few
persons in the world--if that were possible!--I don't want to have
myself always 'on guard' against intrigue and humbug!"
Everyone present, however, on the night of the last dinner-party she
gave to her London guests, was bound to admit that a sweeter, fairer
creature than its present mistress never trod the old oaken floors
of Abbot's Manor; and that even the radiant pictured beauty of 'Mary
Elia Adelgisa de Vaignecourt,' to whom no doubt many a time the
Merry Monarch had doffed his plumed hat in salutation, paled and
grew dim before the living rose of Maryllia's dainty loveliness and
the magnetic tenderness of Maryllia's eyes. Something of the
exquisite pensiveness of her mother's countenance, as portrayed in
the long hidden picture which was now one of the gems of the Manor
gallery, seemed to soften the outline of her features, and deepen
the character and play of the varying expression which made her so
fascinating to those who look for the soul in a woman's face, rather
than its mere physical form. Lady Beaulyon, beautiful though she
was, owed something to art; but Maryllia was nature's own untouched
product, and everything about her exhaled freshness, sweetness, and
radiant vitality. Roxmouth, entering 'most carefully upon his hour,'
namely at a quarter to eight o'clock, found her singularly
attractive,--more so, he thought, than he had ever before realised.
The stately old-world setting of Abbot's Manor suited her--the dark
oak panelling,--the Flemish tapestries, the worn shields and
scutcheons, the old banners and armorial bearings,--all the numerous
touches of the past which spoke of chivalry, ancestral pride and
loyalty to great traditions, lent grace and colouring to the picture
she herself made, as she received her guests with that sweet
kindness, ease and distinction, which are the heritage of race and
"Pretty little shrew!" he said, in an aside to Marius Longford--"She
is really charming,--and I begin to think I want her as much for
herself as for her aunt's millions!"
Longford smiled obsequiously.
"There is a certain air of originality, or shall we say
individuality, about the lady,"--he observed, with a critical, not
to say insolent stare in Maryllia's direction,--"The French term
'beaute du diable' expresses it best. But whether the charm will
last, is another question."
"No woman's beauty lasts more than a few years,"--said Roxmouth, as
he glanced at the various guests who had entered or were entering.
"Lady Beaulyon wears well--but she is forty years old, and begins to
show it. Margaret Bludlip Courtenay must be fifty, and she doesn't
show it--she manages her Paris cosmetics wonderfully. Some of these
county ladies would be better for a little touch of her art! But
Maryllia Vancourt needs no paint,--she can afford to be natural. Is
that the parson?"
Walden was just entering the room, and Longford put up his glasses.
"Yes,"--he replied--"That is the parson. He is not without
Roxmouth became suddenly interested. He saw Walden go up to his
hostess and bow--he also saw the sudden smile that brightened
Maryllia's face as she welcomed her clerical guest,--the one
Churchman of the party.
"Rather a distinguished looking fellow,"--he commented carelessly--
"Is he clever?"
Longford hesitated. He had been pulverised in one of the literary
weeklies by an article on the authenticity of Shakespeare's plays,
signed boldly 'John Walden'--and he had learned, by cautious
enquiries here and there in London, that though, for the most part,
extremely unassuming, the aforesaid John Walden was considered an
authority in matters of historical and antiquarian research. But he
was naturally anxious that the future Duke of Ormistoune, when he
had secured Mrs. Fred Vancourt's millions, should not expend his
powerful patronage to a country clergyman who might, from a 'Savage
and Savile' point of view, be considered an interloper. So he
replied with caution:
"I believe he dabbles a little in literary and archaeological
pursuits,--many parsons do. As an archaeologist, he certainly has
merit. You entertain a favourable opinion of the church, he has
"The church, as I have before told you, is perfect,"--replied
Roxmouth--"And the man who carried out such a design must needs be
an interesting personality. I think Miss Vancourt finds him so!"
His cold grey eyes lightened unpleasantly as he made this remark,
and Marius Longford, quick to discern every shade of tone in a
voice, recognised a touch of satire in the seemingly casual words.
He made no observation, however, but kept his lynx eyes and ears
open, watching and listening for anything that might perchance be of
use in furthering his patron's desires and aims.
Walden, meanwhile, had, quite unconsciously to himself, created a
little sensation by his appearance. HE was the parson who had dared
to stop in his reading of the service because the Manor house-party
had entered the church a quarter of an hour behind time,--HE was the
man who had told them that it was no use gaining the whole world if
they lost their own souls,--as if, in this advanced era of progress,
any one of them had souls to lose! Preposterous! Here he was, this
country cleric, who, as he was introduced by his hostess to the
various gentlemen standing immediately about her, smiled urbanely,
bowed ceremoniously, and comported himself with an air of
intellectual composure and dignity that had a magnetic effect upon
all. Yet in himself he was singularly ill at ease. Various emotions
in his mind contended together to make him so. To begin with, he
disliked social 'functions' of all kinds, and particularly those at
which any noted persons of the so-called 'Smart Set' were present.
He disliked women who made capital out of their beauty, by allowing
their photographs to be on sale in shop-windows and to appear
constantly in cheap pictorials, and of these Lady Beaulyon was a
notorious example, to say nothing of the graver sins against
morality and principle for which she was renowned. He had no
sympathy with sporting or betting men--and he knew by repute that
Lord Charlemont and Bludlip Courtenay were of this class. Then
again, deep down in his own soul, he resented the fact that Maryllia
Vancourt entertained this sort of people as her guests. She was much
too good for them, he thought,--she wronged herself by being in
their company, or allowing them to be in hers! He watched her as she
received part of the 'county' in the Ittlethwaites of Ittlethwaite
Park, with a charming smile of welcome for Bruce Ittlethwaite, a
lively bachelor of sixty, and for his eldest sister Arabella, some
ten years younger, a lady whose portly form was attired in a
wonderful apple-green satin, trimmed with priceless lace, the latter
entirely lost as an article of value, among the misshapen folds of
the green gown, which had been created, no doubt, by some local
dressmaker, whose ideas were evidently more voluminous than
artistic. And presently, as he stood, a quiet spectator of the
different types of persons who were mingling with each other in the
casual conversation on current topics and events, which always
occupies that interval of time known as the 'mauvais quart d'heure'
before the announcement of dinner, he happened to look at Maryllia's
own dress, and, noticing it more closely, smiled. It was not the
first time he had seen that dress!--and a faint colour warmed his
cheeks as he remembered the occasion when Mrs. Spruce had sent for
him as a 'man o' God' to serve as a witness to her system of
unpacking her lady's wardrobe. That was the dress the garrulous old
housekeeper had held up in her arms as though she were a clothes-
prop, with the observation, 'It's orful wot the world's a-comin' to-
-orful! Fancy diamants all sewed on to a gown!' The gown with the
'diamants' was the very one which now clothed Maryllia,--falling
over an underskirt of palest pink satin, it glittered softly about
her like dew spangles on rose-leaves--and involuntarily Walden
thought of the pink shoes he had also seen,--those absurd little
shoes!--did she wear them with that fairy-like frock, he wondered?
He dared not look towards the floor, lest he should catch a sudden
glimpse of the shining points of that ridiculous but fascinating
foot-gear that had once so curiously discomposed him. Those shoes
might peep out at any moment from under the 'diamants'--with a blink
of familiarity which would be, to say the least of it, embarrassing.
His reflections were at this juncture interrupted by a smooth voice
at his ear.
"How do you do, Mr. Walden?"
A glance showed the speaker to be Mr. Marius Longford, and he
responded with brief courtesy.
"Permit me"--continued Mr. Longford--"to introduce you to Lord