Part 5 out of 12
Then he was more miserable than ever, as he told himself that such would
undoubtedly be her conduct. As he walked across the fields, heavy with
the mud of a wet October day, there came down a storm of rain which wet
him through. Who does not know the sort of sensation which falls upon a
man when he feels that even the elements have turned against him,--how he
buttons up his coat and bids the clouds open themselves upon his devoted
"Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage, blow,
You cataracts and hurricanes!"
It is thus that a man is apt to address the soft rains of heaven when he
is becoming wet through in such a frame of mind; and on the present
occasion Harry likened himself to Leer. It was to him as though the
steeples were to be drenched and the cocks drowned when he found himself
wet through. In this condition he went back to the house, and so bitter
to him were the misfortunes of the world that he would hardly condescend
to speak while enduring them. But when he had entered the drawing-room
his mother greeted him with a letter. It had come by the day mail, and
his mother looked into his face piteously as she gave it to him. The
letter was from Brussels, and she could guess from whom it had come. It
might be a sweetly soft love-letter; but then it might be neither sweet
nor soft, in the condition of things in which Harry was now placed. He
took it and looked at it, but did not dare to open it on the spur of the
moment. Without a word he went up to his room, and then tore it asunder.
No doubt, he said to himself, it would allude to his miserable stipend
and penniless condition. The letter ran as follows:
"DEAREST HARRY,--I think it right to write to you, though mamma does not
approve of it. I have told her, however, that in the present
circumstances I am bound to do so, and that I should implore you not to
answer. Though I must write, there must be no correspondence between us.
Rumors have been received here very detrimental to your character."
Harry gnashed his teeth as he read this. "Stories are told about your
meeting with Captain Scarborough in London, which I know to be only in
part true. Mamma says that because of them I ought to give up my
engagement, and my uncle, Sir Magnus, has taken upon himself to advise
me to do so. I have told them both that that which is said of you is in
part untrue; but whether it be true or whether it be false, I will never
give up my engagement unless you ask me to do so. They tell me that as
regards your pecuniary prospects you are ruined. I say that you cannot
be ruined as long as you have my income. It will not be much, but it
will, I should think, be enough.
"And now you can do as you please. You may be quite sure that I shall be
true to you, through ill report and good report. Nothing that mamma can
say to me will change me, and certainly nothing from Sir Magnus.
"And now there need not be a word from you, if you mean to be true to
me. Indeed, I have promised that there shall be no word, and I expect
you to keep my promise for me. If you wish to be free of me, then you
must write and say so.
"But you won't wish it, and therefore I am yours, always, always, always
Harry read the letter standing up in the middle of the room, and in half
a minute he had torn off his wet coat and kicked one of his wet boots to
the farther corner of the room. Then there was a knock at the door, and
his mother entered, "Tell me, Harry, what she says."
He rushed up to his mother, all damp and half-shod as he was, and seized
her in his arms. "Oh, mother, mother!"
"What is it, dear?"
"Read that, and tell me whether there ever was a finer human being!"
Mrs. Annesley did read it, and thought that her own daughter Molly was
just as fine a creature. Florence was simply doing what any girl of
spirit would do. But she saw that her son was as jubilant now as he had
been downcast, and she was quite willing to partake of his comfort. "Not
write a word to her! Ha, ha! I think I see myself at it!"
"But she seems to be in earnest there."
"In earnest! And so am I in earnest. Would it be possible that a fellow
should hold his hand and not write? Yes, my girl; I think that I must
write a line. I wonder what she would say if I were not to write?"
"I think she means that you should be silent."
"She has taken a very odd way of assuming it. I am to keep her promise
for her,--my darling, my angel, my life! But I cannot do that one thing.
Oh, mother, mother, if you knew how happy I am! What the mischief does
it all signify,--Uncle Prosper, Miss Thoroughbung, and the rest of
it,--with a girl like that?"
HARRY AND HIS UNCLE.
Harry was kissed all round by the girls, and was congratulated warmly on
the heavenly excellence of his mistress. They could afford to be
generous if he would be good-natured. "Of course you must write to her,"
said Molly, when he came down-stairs with dry clothes.
"I should think so, mother."
"Only she does seem to be so much in earnest about it," said Mrs.
"I think she would rather get just a line to say that he is in earnest
too," said Fanny.
"Why should not she like a love-letter as much as any one else?" said
Kate, who had her own ideas. "Of course she has to tell him about her
mamma, but what need he care for that? Of course mamma thinks that
Joshua need not write to Molly, but Molly won't mind."
"I don't think anything of the kind, miss."
"And besides, Joshua lives in the next parish," said Fanny, "and has a
horse to ride over on if he has anything to say."
"At any rate, I shall write," said Harry, "even at the risk of making
her angry." And he did write as follows:
"BUSTON, _October_, 188--.
"MY OWN DEAR GIRL,--It is impossible that I should not send one line in
answer. Put yourself in my place, and consult your own feelings. Think
that you have a letter so full of love, so noble, so true, so certain to
fill you with joy, and then say whether you would let it pass without a
word of acknowledgment. It would be absolutely impossible. It is not
very probable that I should ask you to break your engagement, which in
the midst of my troubles is the only consolation I have. But when a man
has a rock to stand upon like that, he does not want anything else. As
long as a man has the one person necessary to his happiness to believe
in him, he can put up with the ill opinion of all the others. You are to
me so much that you outweigh all the world.
"I did not choose to have my secret pumped out of me by Augustus
Scarborough. I can tell you the whole truth now. Mountjoy Scarborough
had told me that he regarded you as affianced to him, and required me to
say that I would--drop you. You know now how probable that was. He was
drunk on the occasion,--had made himself purposely drunk, so as to get
over all scruples,--and attacked me with his stick. Then came a
scrimmage, in which he was upset. A sober man has always the best of
it." I am afraid that Harry put in that little word sober for a purpose.
The opportunity of declaring that he was sober was too good too be lost.
"I went away and left him, certainly not dead, nor apparently much hurt.
But if I told all this to Augustus Scarborough, your name must have come
out. Now I should not mind. Now I might tell the truth about you,--with
great pride, if occasion required it. But I couldn't do it then. What
would the world have said to two men fighting in the streets about a
girl, neither of whom had a right to fight about her? That was the
reason why I told an untruth,--because I did not choose to fall into the
trap which Augustus Scarborough had laid for me.
"If your mother will understand it all, I do not think she will object
to me on that score. If she does quarrel with me, she will only be
fighting the Scarborough game, in which I am bound to oppose her. I am
afraid the fact is that she prefers the Scarborough game,--not because
of my sins, but from auld lang syne.
"But Augustus has got hold of my Uncle Prosper, and has done me a
terrible injury. My uncle is a weak man, and has been predisposed
against me from other circumstances. He thinks that I have neglected
him, and is willing to believe anything against me. He has stopped my
income,--two hundred and fifty pounds a year,--and is going to revenge
himself on me by marrying a wife. It is too absurd, and the proposed
wife is aunt of the man whom my sister is going to marry. It makes such
a heap of confusion. Of course, if he becomes the father of a family I
shall be nowhere. Had I not better take to some profession? Only what
shall I take to? It is almost too late for the Bar. I must see you and
talk over it all.
"You have commanded me not to write, and now there is a long letter! It
is as well to be hung for a sheep as a lamb. But when a man's character
is at stake he feels that he must plead for it. You won't be angry with
me because I have not done all that you told me? It was absolutely
necessary that I should tell you that I did not mean to ask you to break
your engagement, and one word has led to all the others. There shall be
only one other, which means more than all the rest:--that I am yours,
dearest, with all my heart,
"There," he said to himself, as he put the letter into the envelope,
"she may think it too long, but I am sure she would not have been
pleased had I not written at all."
That afternoon Joshua was at the rectory, having just trotted over after
business hours at the brewery because of some special word which had to
be whispered to Molly, and Harry put himself in his way as he went out
to get on his horse in the stable-yard. "Joshua," he said, "I know that
I owe you an apology."
"You have been awfully good to me about the horses, and I have been very
"Not at all."
"But I have. The truth is, I have been made thoroughly miserable by
circumstances, and, when that occurs, a man cannot pick himself up all
at once. It isn't my uncle that has made me wretched. That is a kind of
thing that a man has to put up with, and I think that I can bear it as
well as another. But an attack has been made upon me which has wounded
"I know all about it."
"I don't mind telling you, as you and Molly are going to hit it off
together. There is a girl I love, and they have tried to interfere with
"They haven't succeeded?"
"No, by George! And now I'm as right as a trivet. When it came across me
that she might have--might have yielded, you know,--it was as though all
had been over. I ought not to have suspected her."
"But she's all right?"
"Indeed she is. I think you'll like her when you see her some day. If
you don't, you have the most extraordinary taste I ever knew a man to
possess. How about the horse?"
"I have four, you know."
"What a grand thing it is to be a brewer!"
"And there are two of them will carry you. The other two are not quite
up to your weight."
"You haven't been out yet?"
"Well, no;--not exactly out. The governor is the best fellow in the
world, but he draws the line at cub-hunting. He says the business should
be the business till November. Upon my word, I think he's right."
"And how many days a week after that?"
"Well, three regular. I do get an odd day with the Essex sometimes, and
the governor winks."
"The governor hunts himself as often as you."
"Oh dear no; three a week does for the governor, and he is beginning to
like frosty weather, and to hear with pleasure that one of the old
horses isn't as fit as he should be. He's what they call training off.
Good-bye, old fellow. Mind you come out on the 7th of November."
But Harry, though he had been made happy by the letter from Florence,
had still a great many troubles on his mind. His first trouble was the
having to do something in reference to his uncle. It did not appear to
him to be proper to accept his uncle's decision in regard to his income,
without, at any rate, attempting to see Mr. Prosper. It would be as
though he had taken what was done as a matter of course,--as though his
uncle could stop the income without leaving him any ground of complaint.
Of the intended marriage,--if it were intended,--he would say nothing. His
uncle had never promised him in so many words not to marry, and there
would be, he thought, something ignoble in his asking his uncle not to
do that which he intended to do himself without even consulting his
uncle about it. As he turned it all over in his mind he began to ask
himself why his uncle should be asked to do anything for him, whereas he
had never done anything for his uncle. He had been told that he was the
heir, not to the uncle, but to Buston, and had gradually been taught to
look upon Buston as his right,--as though he had a certain defeasible
property in the acres. He now began to perceive that there was no such
thing. A tacit contract had been made on his behalf, and he had declined
to accept his share of the contract. But he had been debarred from
following any profession by his uncle's promised allowance. He did not
think that he could complain to his uncle about the proposed marriage;
but he did think that he could ask a question or two as to the income.
Without saying a word to any of his own family he walked across the
park, and presented himself at the front-door of Buston Hall. In doing
so he would not go upon the grass. He had told his father that he would
not enter the park, and therefore kept himself to the road. And he had
dressed himself with some little care, as a man does when he feels that
he is going forth on some mission of importance. Had he intended to call
on old Mr. Thoroughbung there would have been no such care. And he rung
at the front-door, instead of entering the house by any of the numerous
side inlets with which he was well acquainted. The butler understood the
ring, and put on his company-coat when he answered the bell.
"Is my uncle at home, Matthew?" he said.
"Mr. Prosper, Mr. Harry? Well, no; I can't say that he just is;" and the
old man groaned, and wheezed, and looked unhappy.
"He is not often out at this time." Matthew groaned again, and wheezed
more deeply, and looked unhappier. "I suppose you mean to say that he
has given orders that I am not to be admitted?" To this the butler made
no answer, but only looked woefully into the young man's face. "What is
the meaning of it all, Matthew?"
"Oh, Mr. Harry, you shouldn't ask me, as is merely a servant."
Harry felt the truth of this rebuke, but was not going to put up with
"That's all my eye, Matthew; you know all about it as well as any one.
It is so. He does not want to see me."
"I don't think he does, Mr. Harry."
"And why not? You know the whole of my family story as well as my
father does, or my uncle. Why does he shut his doors against me, and
send me word that he does not want to see me?"
"Well Mr. Harry, I'm not just able to say why he does it,--and you the
heir. But if I was asked I should make answer that it has come along of
them sermons." Then Matthew looked very serious, and bathed his head.
"I suppose so."
"That was it, Mr. Harry. We, none of us, were very fond of the sermons."
"I dare say not."
"We in the kitchen. But we was bound to have them, or we should have
lost our places."
"And now I must lose my place." The butler said nothing, but his face
assented. "A little hard, isn't it, Matthew? But I wish to say a few
words to my uncle,--not to express any regret about the sermons, but to
ask what it is that he intends to do." Here Matthew shook his head very
slowly. "He has given positive orders that I shall not be admitted?"
"It must be over my dead body, Mr. Harry," and he stood in the way with
the door in his hand, as though intending to sacrifice himself should he
be called upon to do so by the nature of the circumstances. Harry,
however, did not put him to the test; but bidding him good-bye with some
little joke as to his fidelity, made his way back to the parsonage.
That night before he went to bed he wrote a letter to his uncle, as to
which he said not a word to either his father, or mother, or sisters. He
thought that the letter was a good letter, and would have been proud to
show it; but he feared that either his father or mother would advise him
not to send it, and he was ashamed to read it to Molly. He therefore
sent the letter across the park the next morning by the gardener.
The letter was as follows:
"MY DEAR UNCLE,--My father has shown me your letter to him, and, of
course, I feel it incumbent on me to take some notice of it. Not wishing
to trouble you with a letter I called this morning, but I was told by
Matthew that you would not see me. As you have expressed yourself to my
father very severely as to my conduct, I am sure you will agree with me
that I ought not to let the matter pass by without making my own
"You say that there was a row in the streets between Mountjoy
Scarborough and myself in which he was 'left for dead.' When I left him
I did not think he had been much hurt, nor have I had reason to think so
since. He had attacked me, and I had simply defended myself. He had come
upon me by surprise; and, when I had shaken him off, I went away. Then
in a day or two he had disappeared. Had he been killed, or much hurt,
the world would have heard of it: but the world simply heard that he had
disappeared, which could hardly have been the case had he been much
"Then you say that I denied, in conversation with Augustus Scarborough,
that I had seen his brother on the night in question. I did deny it.
Augustus Scarborough, who was evidently well acquainted with the whole
transaction, and who had, I believe, assisted his brother in
disappearing, wished to learn from me what I had done, and to hide what
he had done. He wished to saddle me with the disgrace of his brother's
departure, and I did not choose to fall into his trap. At the moment of
his asking me he knew that his brother was safe. I think that the word
'lie,' as used by you, is very severe for such an occurrence. A man is
not generally held to be bound to tell everything respecting himself to
the first person that shall ask him. If you will ask any man who knows
the world,--my father, for instance,--I think you will be told that such
conduct was not faulty.
"But it is at any rate necessary that I should ask you what you intend
to do in reference to my future life. I am told that you intend to stop
the income which I have hitherto received. Will this be considerate on
your part?" (In his first copy of the letter Harry had asked whether it
would be "fair," and had then changed the word for one that was milder.)
"When I took my degree you yourself said that it would not be necessary
that I should go into any profession, because you would allow me an
income, and would then provide for me, I took your advice in opposition
to my father's, because it seemed then that I was to depend on you
rather than on him. You cannot deny that I shall have been treated
hardly if I now be turned loose upon the world.
"I shall be happy to come and see you if you shall wish it, so as to
save you the trouble of writing to me.
"Your affectionate nephew,
Harry might have been sure that his uncle would not see him,--probably
was sure when he added the last paragraph. Mr. Prosper enjoyed greatly
two things,--the mysticism of being invisible and the opportunity of
writing a letter. Mr. Prosper had not a large correspondence, but it was
laborious, and, as he thought, effective. He believed that he did know
how to write a letter, and he went about it with a will. It was not
probable that he would make himself common by seeing his nephew on such
an occasion, or that he would omit the opportunity of spending an entire
morning with pen and ink. The result was very short, but, to his idea,
it was satisfactory.
"SIR," he began. He considered this matter very deeply; but as the
entire future of his own life was concerned in it he felt that it became
him to be both grave and severe.
"I have received your letter and have read it with attention. I observe
that you admit that you told Mr. Augustus Scarborough a deliberate
untruth. This is what the plain-speaking world, when it wishes to be
understood as using the unadorned English language, which is always the
language which I prefer myself, calls a lie--A LIE! I do not choose that
this humble property shall fall at my death into the hands of A LIAR.
Therefore I shall take steps to prevent it,--which may or may not be
"As such steps, whatever may be their result, are to be taken, the
income,--intended to prepare you for another alternative, which may
possibly not now be forth-coming,--will naturally now be no longer
allowed.--I am, sir, your obedient servant, PETER PROSPER."
The first effect of the letter was to produce laughter at the rectory.
Harry could not but show it to his father, and in an hour or two it
became known to his mother and sister, and, under an oath of secrecy, to
Joshua Thoroughbung. It could not be matter of laughter when the future
hopes of Miss Matilda Thoroughbung were taken into consideration. "I
declare I don't know what you are all laughing about," said Kate,
"except that Uncle Peter does use such comical phrases." But Mrs.
Annesley, though the most good-hearted woman in the world, was almost
angry. "I don't know what you all see to laugh at in it. Peter has in
his hands the power of making or marring Harry's future."
"But he hasn't," said Harry.
"Or he mayn't have," said the rector.
"It's all in the hands of the Almighty," said Mrs. Annesley, who felt
herself bound to retire from the room and to take her daughter with her.
But, when they were alone, both the father and his son were very angry.
"I have done with him forever," said Harry. "Let come what may, I will
never see him or speak to him again. A 'lie,' and 'liar!' He has written
those words in that way so as to salve his own conscience for the
injustice he is doing. He knows that I am not a liar. He cannot
understand what a liar means, or he would know that he is one himself."
"A man seldom has such knowledge as that."
"Is it not so when he stigmatizes me in this way merely as an excuse to
himself? He wants to be rid of me,--probably because I did not sit and
hear him read the sermons. Let that pass. I may have been wrong in that,
and he may be justified; but because of that he cannot believe really
that I have been a liar,--a liar in such a determined way as to make me
unfit to be his heir."
"He is a fool, Harry! That is the worst of him."
"I don't think it is the worst."
"You cannot have worse. It is dreadful to have to depend on a fool,--to
have to trust to a man who cannot tell wrong from right. Your uncle
intends to be a good man. If it were brought home to him that he were
doing a wrong he would not do it. He would not rob; he would not steal;
he must not commit murder, and the rest of it. But he is a fool, and he
does not know when he is doing these things."
"I will wash my hands of him."
"Yes; and he will wash his hands of you. You do not know him as I do. He
has taken it into his silly head that you are the chief of sinners
because you said what was not true to that man, who seems really to be
the sinner, and nothing will eradicate the idea. He will go and marry
that woman because he thinks that in that way he can best carry his
purpose, and then he will repent at leisure. I used to tell you that you
had better listen to the sermons."
"And now I must pay for it!"
"Well, my boy, it is no good crying for spilt milk. As I was saying just
now, there is nothing worse than a fool."
On the 7th of next month two things occurred, each of great importance.
Hunting commenced in the Puckeridge country, and Harry with that famous
mare Belladonna was there. And Squire Prosper was driven in his carriage
into Buntingford, and made his offer with all due formality to Miss
Thoroughbung. The whole household, including Matthew, and the cook, and
the coachman, and the boy, and the two house-maids, knew what he was
going to do. It would be difficult to say how they knew, because he was
a man who never told anything. He was the last man in England who, on
such a matter, would have made a confidant of his butler. He never spoke
to a servant about matters unconnected with their service. He considered
that to do so would be altogether against his dignity. Nevertheless when
he ordered his carriage, which he did not do very frequently at this
time of the year, when the horses were wanted on the farm,--and of which
he gave twenty-four hours' notice to all the persons concerned,--and when
early in the morning he ordered that his Sunday suit should be prepared
for wearing, and when his aspect grew more and more serious as the hour
drew nigh, it was well understood by them all that he was going to make
the offer that day.
He was both proud and fearful as to the thing to be done,--proud that he,
the Squire of Buston, should be called on to take so important a step;
proud by anticipation of his feelings as he would return home a jolly
thriving wooer,--and yet a little fearful lest he might not succeed. Were
he to fail the failure would be horrible to him. He knew that every man
and woman about the place would know all about it. Among the secrets of
the family there was a story, never now mentioned, of his having done
the same thing, once before. He was then a young man, about twenty-five,
and he had come forth to lay himself and Buston at the feet of a
baronet's daughter who lived some twenty-five miles off. She was very
beautiful, and was said to have a fitting dower, but he had come back,
and had shut himself up in the house for a week afterward. To no human
ears had he ever since spoken of his interview with Miss Courteney. The
doings of that day had been wrapped in impenetrable darkness. But all
Buston and the neighboring parishes had known that Miss Courteney had
refused him. Since that day he had never gone forth again on such a
There were those who said of him that his love had been so deep and
enduring that he had never got the better of it. Miss Courteney had been
married to a much grander lover, and had been taken off to splendid
circles. But he had never mentioned her name. That story of his abiding
love was throughly believed by his sister, who used to tell it of him to
his credit when at the rectory the rector would declare him to be a
fool. But the rector used to say that he was dumb from pride, or that he
could not bear to have it known that he had failed at anything. At any
rate, he had never again attempted love, and had formally declared to
his sister that, as he did not intend to marry, Harry should be regarded
as his son. Then at last had come the fellowship, and he had been proud
of his heir, thinking that in some way he had won the fellowship
himself, as he had paid the bills. But now all was altered, and he was
to go forth to his wooing again.
There had been a rumor about the country that he was already accepted;
but such was not the case. He had fluttered about Buntingford, thinking
of it: but he had never put the question. To his thinking it would not
have been becoming to do so without some ceremony. Buston was not to be
made away during the turnings of a quadrille or as a part of an ordinary
conversation. It was not probable,--nay, it was impossible,--that he
should mention the subject to any one; but still he must visibly prepare
for it, and I think that he was aware that the world around him knew
what he was about.
And the Thoroughbung's knew, and Miss Matilda Thoroughbung knew well.
All Buntingford knew. In those old days in which he had sought the hand
of the baronet's daughter, the baronet's daughter, and the baronet's
wife, and the baronet himself, had known what was coming, though Mr.
Prosper thought that the secret dwelt alone in his own bosom. Nor did he
dream now that Harry and Harry's father, and Harry's mother and sisters,
had all laughed at the conspicuous gravity of his threat. It was the
general feeling on the subject which made the rumor current that the
deed had been done. But when he came down-stairs with one new gray
kid-glove on, and the other dangling in his hand, nothing had been done.
"Drive to Buntingford," said the squire.
"Yes, sir," said Matthew, the door of the carriage in his hand.
"To Marmaduke Lodge."
"Yes, sir." Then Matthew told the coachman, who had heard the
instructions very plainly, and knew them before he had heard them. The
squire threw himself back in the carriage, and applied himself to
wondering how he should do the deed. He had, in truth, barely studied
the words,--but not, finally, the manner of delivering them. With his
bare hand up to his eyes so that he might hold the glove unsoiled in the
other, he devoted his intellect to the task; nor did he withdraw his
hand till the carriage turned in at the gate. The drive up to the door
of Marmaduke Lodge was very short, and he had barely time to arrange his
waistcoat and his whiskers before the carriage stood still. He was soon
told that Miss Thoroughbung was at home, and within a moment he found
himself absolutely standing on the carpet in her presence.
Report had dealt unkindly with Miss Thoroughbung in the matter of her
age. Report always does deal unkindly with unmarried young women who
have ceased to be girls. There is an idea that they will wish to make
themselves out to be younger than they are, and therefore report always
makes them older. She had been called forty-five, and even fifty. Her
exact age at this moment was forty-two, and as Mr. Prosper was only
fifty there was no discrepancy in the marriage. He would have been
young-looking for his age, but for an air of ancient dandyism which had
grown upon him. He was somewhat dry, too, and skinny, with high
cheekbones and large dull eyes. But he was clean, and grave, and
orderly,--a man promising well to a lady on the lookout for a husband.
Miss Thoroughbung was fat, fair, and forty to the letter, and she had a
just measure of her own good looks, of which she was not unconscious.
But she was specially conscious of twenty-five thousand pounds, the
possession of which had hitherto stood in the way of her search after a
husband. It was said commonly about Buntingford that she looked too
high, seeing that she was only a Thoroughbung and had no more than
twenty-five thousand pounds.
But Miss Tickle was in the room, and might have been said to be in the
way, were it not that a little temporary relief was felt by Mr. Prosper
to be a comfort. Miss Tickle was at any rate twenty years older than
Miss Thoroughbung, and was of all slaves at the same time the humblest
and the most irritating. She never asked for anything, but was always
painting the picture of her own deserts. "I hope I have the pleasure of
seeing Miss Tickle quite well," said the squire, as soon as he had paid
his first compliments to the lady of his love.
"Thank you, Mr. Prosper, pretty well. My anxiety is all for Matilda."
Matilda had been Matilda to her since she had been a little girl, and
Miss Tickle was not going now to drop the advantage which the old
intimacy gave her.
"I trust there is no cause for it."
"Well, I'm not so sure. She coughed a little last night, and would not
eat her supper. We always do have a little supper. A despatched crab it
was; and when she would not eat it I knew there was something wrong."
"Nonsense! what a fuss you make. Well, Mr. Prosper, have you seen your
"No, Miss Thoroughbung; nor do I intend to see him. The young man has
"Dear, dear; how sad!"
"Young men do disgrace themselves, I fear, very often," said Miss
"We won't talk about it, if you please, because it is a family affair."
"Oh no," said Miss Thoroughbung.
"At least, not as yet. It may be;--but never mind, I would not wish to be
premature in anything."
"I am always telling Matilda so. She is so impulsive. But as you may
have matters of business, Mr. Prosper, on which to speak to Miss
Thoroughbung, I will retire."
"It is very thoughtful on your part, Miss Tickle."
Then Miss Tickle retired; from which it may be surmised that the
probable circumstances of the interview had been already discussed
between the ladies. Mr. Prosper drew a long breath, and sighed audibly,
as soon as he was alone with the object of his affections. He wondered
whether men were ever bright and jolly in such circumstances. He sighed
again, and then he began: "Miss Thoroughbung!"
All the prepared words had flown from his memory. He could not even
bethink himself how he ought to begin. And, unfortunately, so much must
depend upon manner! But the property was unembarrassed, and Miss
Thoroughbung thought it probable that she might be allowed to do what
she would with her own money. She had turned it all over to the right
and to the left, and she was quite minded to accept him. With this view
she had told Miss Tickle to leave the room, and she now felt that she
was bound to give the gentleman what help might be in her power. "Oh,
Miss Thoroughbung!" he said.
"Mr. Prosper, you and I are such good friends, that--that--that--"
"Yes, indeed. You can have no more true friend than I am,--not even Miss
"Oh, bother Miss Tickle! Miss Tickle is very well."
"Exactly so. Miss Tickle is very well; a most estimable person."
"We'll leave her alone just at present."
"Yes, certainly. We had better leave her alone in our present
conversation. Not but what I have a strong regard for her." Mr. Prosper
had surely not thought of the opening he might be giving as to a future
career for Miss Tickle by such an assertion.
"So have I, for the matter of that, but we'll drop her just now." Then
she paused, but he paused also. "You have come over to Buntingford
to-day probably in order that you might congratulate them at the brewery
on the marriage with one of your family." Then Mr. Prosper frowned, but
she did not care for his frowning. "It will not be a bad match for the
young lady, as Joshua is fairly steady, and the brewery is worth money."
"I could have wished him a better brother-in-law," said the lover, who
was taken away from the consideration of his love by the allusion to the
Annesleys. He had thought of all that, and in the dearth of fitting
objects of affection had resolved to endure the drawback of the
connection. But it had for a while weighed very seriously with him, so
that had the twenty-five thousand pounds been twenty thousand pounds, he
might have taken himself to Miss Puffle, who lived near Saffron Walden
and who would own Snickham Manor when her father died. The property was
said to be involved, and Miss Puffle was certainly forty-eight. As an
heir was the great desideratum, he had resolved that Matilda Thoroughbung
should be the lady, in spite of the evils attending the new connection.
He did feel that in throwing over Harry he would have to abandon all the
Annesleys, and to draw a line between himself with Miss Thoroughbung and
the whole family of the Thoroughbungs generally.
"You mustn't be too bitter against poor Molly," said Miss Thoroughbung.
Mr. Prosper did not like to be called bitter, and, in spite of the
importance of the occasion, could not but show that he did not like it.
"I don't think that we need talk about it."
"Oh dear no. Kate and Miss Tickle need neither of them be talked
about." Mr. Prosper disliked all familiarity, and especially that of
being laughed at, but Miss Thoroughbung did laugh. So he drew himself
up, and dangled his glove more slowly than before. "Then you were not
going on to congratulate them at the brewery?"
"I did not know."
"My purpose carries me no farther than Marmaduke Lodge. I have no desire
to see any one to-day besides Miss Thoroughbung."
"That is a compliment."
Then his memory suddenly brought back to him one of his composed
sentences. "In beholding Miss Thoroughbung I behold her on whom I hope I
may depend for all the future happiness of my life." He did feel that it
had come in the right place. It had been intended to be said immediately
after her acceptance of him. But it did very well where it was. It
expressed, as he assured himself, the feelings of his heart, and must
draw from her some declaration of hers.
"Goodness gracious me, Mr. Prosper!"
This sort of coyness was to have been expected, and he therefore
continued with another portion of his prepared words, which now came
glibly enough to him. But it was a previous portion. It was all the same
to Miss Thoroughbung, as it declared plainly the gentleman's intention.
"If I can induce you to listen to me favorably, I shall say of myself
that I am the happiest gentleman in Hertfordshire."
"Oh, Mr. Prosper!"
"My purpose is to lay at your feet my hand, my heart, and the lands of
Buston." Here he was again going backward, but it did not much matter
now in what sequence the words were said. The offer had been thoroughly
completed and was thoroughly understood.
"A lady, Mr. Prosper, has to think of these things," said Miss
"Of course I would not wish to hurry you prematurely to any declaration
of your affections."
"But there are other considerations, Mr. Prosper. You know about my
"Nothing particularly. It has not been a matter of consideration with
me." This he said with some slight air of offence. He was a gentleman,
whereas Miss Thoroughbung was hardly a lady. Matter of consideration her
money of course had been. How should he not consider it? But he was
aware that he ought not to rush on that subject, but should leave it to
the arrangement of lawyers, expressing his own views through her own
lawyer. To her it was the thing of most importance, and she had no
feelings which induced her to be silent on a matter so near to her. She
"But it has to be considered, Mr. Prosper. It is all my own, and comes
to very nearly one thousand a year. I think it is nine hundred and
seventy-two pounds six shillings and eightpence. Of course, when there
is so much money it would have to be tied up somehow." Mr. Prosper was
undoubtedly disgusted, and if he could have receded at this moment would
have transferred his affections to Miss Puffle. "Of course you
She had not accepted him as yet, nor said a word of her regard for him.
All that went, it seemed, as a matter of no importance whatever. He had
been standing for the last few minutes, and now he remained standing and
looking at her. They were both silent, so that he was obliged to speak.
"I understand that between a lady and gentleman so circumstanced there
should be a settlement."
"I also have some property," said Mr. Prosper, with a touch of pride in
"Of course you have. Goodness gracious me! Why else would you come? You
have got Buston, which I suppose is two thousand a year. At any rate it
has that name. But it isn't your own."
"Not my own?"
"Well, no. You couldn't leave it to your widow, so that she might give
it to any one she pleased when you were gone." Here the gentleman
frowned very darkly, and thought that after all Miss Puffle would be the
woman for him. "All that has to be considered, and it makes Buston not
exactly your own. If I were to have a daughter she wouldn't have it."
"No, not a daughter," said Mr. Prosper, still wondering at the thorough
knowledge of the business in hand displayed by the lady.
"Oh, if it were to be a son, that would be all right, and then my money
would go to the younger children, divided equally between the boys and
girls." Mr. Prosper shook his head as he found himself suddenly provided
with so plentiful and thriving a family. "That, I suppose, would be the
way of the settlement, together with a certain income out of Buston set
apart for my use. It ought to be considered that I should have to
provide a house to live in. This belongs to my brother, and I pay him
forty pounds a year for it. It should be something better than this."
"My dear Miss Thoroughbung, the lawyer would do all that." There did
come upon him an idea that she, with her aptitude for business, would
not be altogether a bad helpmate.
"The lawyers are very well; but in a transaction of this kind there is
nothing like the principals understanding each other. Young women are
always robbed when their money is left altogether to the gentlemen."
"Don't suppose I mean you, Mr. Prosper; and the robbery I mean is not
considered disgraceful at all. The gentlemen I mean are the fathers and
the brothers, and the uncles and the lawyers. And they intend to do
right after the custom of their fathers and uncles. But woman's rights
are coming up."
"I hate woman's rights."
"Nevertheless they are coming up. A young woman doesn't get taken in as
she used to do. I don't mean any offence, you know." This was said in
reply to Mr. Prosper's repeated frown. "Since woman's rights have come
up a young woman is better able to fight her own battle."
Mr. Prosper was willing to admit that Miss Thoroughbung was fair, but
she was fat also, and at least forty. There was hardly need that she
should refer so often to her own unprotected youth. "I should like to
have the spending of my own income, Mr. Prosper;--that's a fact."
"Yes, I should. I shouldn't care to have to go to my husband if I wanted
to buy a pair of stockings."
"An allowance, I should say."
"And that should be my own income."
"Nothing to go to the house?"
"Oh yes. There might be certain things which I might agree to pay for. A
pair of ponies I should like."
"I always keep a carriage and a pair of horses."
"But the ponies would be my lookout. I shouldn't mind paying for my own
maid, and the champagne, and my clothes, of course, and the
fish-monger's bill. There would be Miss Tickle, too. You said you would
like Miss Tickle. I should have to pay for her. That would be about
enough, I think."
Mr. Prosper was thoroughly disgusted; but when he left Marmaduke Lodge
he had not said a word as to withdrawing from his offer. She declared
that she would put her terms into writing and give them to her lawyer,
who would communicate with Mr. Grey.
Mr. Prosper was surprised to find that she knew the name of his lawyer,
who was in truth our old friend. And then, while he was still
hesitating, she astounded,--nay, shocked him by her mode of ending the
conference. She got up and, throwing her arms round his neck, kissed him
most affectionately. After that there was no retreating for Mr.
Prosper,--no immediate mode of retreat, at all events. He could only back
out of the room, and get into his carriage, and be carried home as
quickly as possible.
It had never happened to him before. The first thought that came upon
Mr. Prosper, when he got into his carriage, was that it had never
occurred to him before. He did not reflect that he had not put himself
in the way of it: but now the strangeness of the sensation overwhelmed
him. He inquired of himself whether it was pleasant, but he found
himself compelled to answer the question with a negative. It should have
come from him, but not yet; not yet, probably, for some weeks. But it
had been done, and by the doing of it she had sealed him utterly as her
own. There was no getting out of it now. He did feel that he ought not
to attempt to get out of it after what had taken place. He was not sure
but that the lady had planned it all with that purpose; but he was sure
that a strong foundation had been laid for a breach of promise case if
he were to attempt to escape. What might not a jury do against him,
giving damages out of the acres of Buston Hall? And then Miss
Thoroughbung would go over to the other Thoroughbungs and to the
Annesleys, and his condition would become intolerable. In some moments,
as he was driven home, he was not sure but that it had all been got up
as a plot against him by the Annesleys.
When he got out of his carriage Matthew knew that things had gone badly
with his master; but he could not conjecture in what way. The matter had
been fully debated in the kitchen, and it had been there decided that
Miss Thoroughbung was certainly to be brought home as the future
mistress of Buston. The step to be taken by their master was not
popular in the Buston kitchen. It had been there considered that Master
Harry was to be the future master, and, by some perversity of intellect,
they had all thought that this would occur soon. Matthew was much older
than the squire, who was hardly to be called a sickly man, and yet
Matthew had made up his mind that Mr. Harry was to reign over him as
Squire of Buston. When, therefore, the tidings came that Miss
Thoroughbung was to brought to Buston as the mistress, there had been
some slight symptoms of rebellion. "They didn't want any 'Tilda
Thoroughbung there." They had their own idea of a lady and a gentleman,
which, as in all such cases, was perfectly correct. They knew the squire
to be a fool, but they believed him to be a gentleman. They heard that
Miss Thoroughbung was a clever woman, but they did not believe her to be
a lady. Matthew had said a few words to the cook as to a public-house at
Stevenage. She had told him not to be an old fool, and that he would
lose his money, but she had thought of the public-house. There had been
a mutinous feeling. Matthew helped his master out of the carriage, and
then came a revulsion. That "froth of a beer-barrel," as Matthew had
dared to call her, had absolutely refused his master.
Mr. Prosper went into the house very meditative, and sad at heart. It
was a matter almost of regret to him that it had not been as Matthew
supposed. But he was caught and bound, and must make the best of it. He
thought of all the particulars of her proposed mode of living, and
recapitulated them to himself. A pair of ponies, her own maid,
champagne, the fish-monger's bill, and Miss Tickle. Miss Puffle would
certainly not have required such expensive luxuries. Champagne and the
fish would require company for their final consumption.
The ponies assumed a tone of being quite opposed to that which he had
contemplated. He questioned with himself whether he would like Miss
Tickle as a perpetual inmate. He had, in sheer civility, expressed a
liking for Miss Tickle, but what need could there be to a married woman
of a Miss Tickle? And then he thought of the education of the five or
six children which she had almost promised him! He had suggested to
himself simply an heir,--just one heir,--so that the nefarious Harry might
be cut out. He already saw that he would not be enriched to the extent
of a shilling by the lady's income. Then there would be all the trouble
and the disgrace of a separate purse. He felt that there would be
disgrace in having the fish and champagne, which were consumed in his
own house,--paid for by his wife without reference to him. What if the
lady had a partiality for champagne? He knew nothing about it, and would
know nothing about it, except when he saw it in her heightened color.
Despatched crabs for supper! He always went to bed at ten, and had a
tumbler of barley-water brought to him,--a glass of barley-water with
just a squeeze of lemon-juice.
He saw ruin before him. No doubt she was a good manager, but she would
be a good manager for herself. Would it not be better for him to stand
the action for breach of promise, and betake himself to Miss Puffle? But
Miss Puffle was fifty, and there could be no doubt that the lady ought
to be younger than the gentleman. He was much distressed in mind. If he
broke off with Miss Thoroughbung, ought he to do so at once, before she
had had time to put the matter into the hands of the lawyer? And on what
plea should he do it? Before he went to bed that night he did draw out a
portion of a letter, which, however, was never sent:
"MY DEAR MISS THOROUGHBUNG,--In the views which we both promulgated this
morning I fear that there was some essential misunderstanding as to the
mode of life which had occurred to both of us. You, as was so natural at
your age, and with your charms, have not been slow to anticipate a
coming period of uncheckered delights. Your allusion to a pony-carriage,
and other incidental allusions,"--he did not think it well to mention
more particularly the fish and the champagne,--"have made clear the sort
of future life which you have pictured to yourself. Heaven forbid that I
should take upon myself to find fault with anything so pleasant and so
innocent! But my prospects of life are different, and in seeking the
honor of an alliance with you I was looking for a quiet companion in my
declining years, and it might be also to a mother to a possible future
son. When you honored me with an unmistakable sign of your affection, on
my going, I was just about to explain all this. You must excuse me if my
mouth was then stopped by the mutual ardor of our feeling. I was about
to say--" But he had found it difficult to explain what he had been
about to say, and on the next morning, when the time for writing had
come, he heard news which detained him for the day, and then the
opportunity was gone.
On the following morning, when Matthew appeared at his bedside with his
cup of tea at nine o'clock, tidings were brought him. He took in the
Buntingford _Gazette_, which came twice a week, and as Matthew laid it,
opened and unread, in its accustomed place, he gave the information,
which he had no doubt gotten from the paper. "You haven't heard it, sir,
I suppose, as yet?"
"About Miss Puffle."
"What about Miss Puffle? I haven't heard a word. What about Miss
Puffle?" He had been thinking that moment of Miss Puffle,--of how she
would be superior to Miss Thoroughbung in many ways,--so that he sat up
in his bed, holding the untasted tea in his hand.
"She's gone off with young Farmer Tazlehurst."
"Miss Puffle gone off, and with her father's tenant's son!"
"Yes indeed, sir. She and her father have been quarrelling for the last
ten years, and now she's off. She was always riding and roistering about
the country with them dogs and them men; and now she's gone."
"Oh heavens!" exclaimed the squire, thinking of his own escape.
"Yes, indeed, sir. There's no knowing what any one of them is up to.
Unless they gets married afore they're thirty, or thirty-five at most,
they're most sure to get such ideas into their head as no one can mostly
approve." This had been intended by Matthew as a word of caution to his
master, but had really the opposite effect. He resolved at the moment
that the latter should not be said of Miss Thoroughbung.
And he turned Matthew out of the room with a flea in his ear. "How dare
you speak in that way of your betters? Mr. Puffle, the lady's father,
has for many years been my friend. I am not saying anything of the lady,
nor saying that she has done right. Of course, down-stairs, in the
servants' hall, you can say what you please; but up here, in my
presence, you should not speak in such language of a lady behind whose
chair you may be called upon to wait."
"Very well, sir; I won't no more," said Matthew, retiring with mock
humility. But he had shot his bolt, and he supposed successfully. He did
not know what had taken place between his master and Miss Thoroughbung;
but he did think that his speech might assist in preventing a repetition
of the offer.
Miss Puffle gone off with the tenant's son! The news made matrimony
doubly dangerous to him, and yet robbed him of the chief reason by
which he was to have been driven to send her a letter. He could not, at
any rate, now fall back upon Miss Puffle. And he thought that nothing
would have induced Miss Thoroughbung to go off with one of the carters
from the brewery. Whatever faults she might have, they did not lie in
that direction. Champagne and ponies were, as faults, less deleterious.
Miss Puffle gone off with young Tazlehurst,--a lady of fifty, with a
young man of twenty-five! and she the reputed heiress of Snickham Manor!
It was a comfort to him as he remembered that Snickham Manor had been
bought no longer ago than by the father of the present owner. The
Prospers been at Buston ever since the time of George the First. You
cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. He had been ever assuring
himself of that fact, which was now more of a fact than ever. And fifty
years old! It was quite shocking. With a steady middle-aged man like
himself, and with the approval of her family, marriage might have been
thought of. But this harum-scarum young tenant's son, who was in no
respect a gentleman, whose only thought was of galloping over hedges and
ditches, such an idea showed a state of mind which--well, absolutely
disgusted him. Mr. Prosper, because he had grown old himself, could not
endure to think that others, at his age, should retain a smack of their
youth. There are ladies besides Miss Puffle who like to ride across the
country with a young man before them, or perhaps following, and never
think much of their fifty years.
But the news certainly brought to him a great change of feelings, so
that the letter to which he had devoted the preceding afternoon was put
back into the letter-case, and was never finished. And his mind
immediately recurred to Miss Thoroughbung, and he bethought himself that
the objection which he felt was, perhaps, in part frivolous. At any
rate, she was a better woman than Miss Puffle. She certainly would run
after no farmer's son. Though she she might be fond of champagne, it
was, he thought, chiefly for other people. Though she was ambitious of
ponies, the ambition might be checked. At any rate, she could pay for
her own ponies, whereas Mr. Puffle was a very hale old man of seventy.
Puffle, he told himself, had married young, and might live for the next
ten years, or twenty. To Mr. Prosper, whose imagination did not fly far
afield, the world afforded at present but two ladies. These were Miss
Puffle and Miss Thoroughbung, and as Miss Puffle had fallen out of the
running, there seemed to be a walk-over for Miss Thoroughbung.
He did think, during the two or three days which passed without any
farther step on his part,--he did think how it might be were he to remain
unmarried. As regarded his own comfort, he was greatly tempted. Life
would remain so easy to him! But then duty demanded of him that he
should marry, and he was a man who, in honest, sober talk, thought much
of his duty. He was absurdly credulous, and as obstinate as a mule. But
he did wish to do what was right. He had been convinced that Harry
Annesley was a false knave, and had been made to swear an oath that
Harry should not be his heir. Harry had been draped in the blackest
colors, and to each daub of black something darker had been added by his
uncle's memory of those neglected sermons. It was now his first duty in
life to beget an heir, and for that purpose a wife must be had.
Putting aside the ponies and the champagne,--and the despatched crab, the
sound of which, as coming to him from Miss Tickle's mouth, was uglier
than the other sounds,--he still thought that Miss Thoroughbung would
answer his purpose. From her side there would not be making of a silk
purse; but then "the boy" would be his boy as well as hers, and would
probably take more after the father. He passed much of these days with
the "Peerage" in his hand, and satisfied himself that the best blood had
been maintained frequently by second-rate marriages. Health was a great
thing. Health in the mother was everything. Who could be more healthy
than Miss Thoroughbung? Then he thought of that warm embrace. Perhaps,
after all, it was right that she should embrace him after what he had
said to her.
Three days only had passed by, and he was still thinking what ought to
be his next step, when there came to him a letter from Messrs. Soames &
Simpson, attorneys in Buntingford. He had heard of Messrs. Soames &
Simpson, had been familiar with their names for the last twenty years,
but had never dreamed that his own private affairs should become a
matter of consultation in their office. Messrs. Grey & Barry, of
Lincoln's Inn, were his lawyers, who were quite gentlemen. He knew
nothing against Messrs. Soames & Simpson, but he thought that their work
consisted generally in the recovery of local debts. Messrs. Soames &
Simpson now wrote to him with full details as to his future life. Their
client Miss Thoroughbung, had communicated to them his offer of
marriage. They were acquainted with all the lady's circumstances, and
she had asked them for their advice. They had proposed to her that the
use of her own income should be by deed left to herself. Some proportion
of it should go into the house, and might be made matter of agreement.
They suggested that an annuity of a thousand pounds a year, in shape of
dower, should be secured to their client in the event of her outliving
Mr. Prosper. The estate should, of course, be settled on the eldest
child. The mother's property should be equally divided among the other
children. Buston Hall should be the residence of the widow till the
eldest son should be twenty-four, after which Mr. Prosper would no doubt
feel that their client would have to provide a home for herself. Messrs.
Soames & Simpson did not think that there was anything in this to which
Mr. Prosper would object, and if this were so, they would immediately
prepare the settlement. "That woman didn't say against it, after all,"
said Matthew to himself as he gave the letter from the lawyers to his
The letter made Mr. Prosper very angry. It did, in truth, contain
nothing more than a repetition of the very terms which the lady had
herself suggested; but coming to him through these local lawyers it was
doubly distasteful. What was he to do? He felt it to be out of the
question to accede at once. Indeed, he had a strong repugnance to
putting himself into communication with the Buntingford lawyers. Had the
matter been other than it was, he would have gone to the rector for
advice. The rector generally advised him.
But that was out of the question now. He had seen his sister once since
his visit to Buntingford, but had said nothing to her about it. Indeed,
he had been anything but communicative, so that Mrs. Annesley had been
forced to leave him with a feeling almost of offense. There was no help
to be had in that quarter, and he could only write to Mr. Grey, and ask
that gentleman to assist him in his difficulties.
He did write to Mr. Grey, begging for his immediate attention. "There is
that fool Prosper going to marry a brewer's daughter down at
Buntingford," said Mr. Grey to his daughter.
"He's sixty years old."
"No, my love. He looks it, but he's only fifty. A man at fifty is
supposed to be young enough to marry. There's a nephew who has been
brought up as his heir; that's the hard part of it. And the nephew is
mixed up in some way with the Scarboroughs."
"Is it he who is to marry that young lady?"
"I think it is. And now there's some devil's play going on. I've got
nothing to do with it."
"But you will have."
"Not a turn. Mr. Prosper can marry if he likes it. They have sent him
most abominable proposals as to the lady's money; and as to her
jointure, I must stop that if I can, though I suppose he is not such a
fool as to give way."
"Is he soft?"
"Well, not exactly. He likes his own money. But he's a gentleman, and
wants nothing but what is or ought to be his own."
"There are but few like that now."
"It's true of him. But then he does not know what is his own, or what
ought to be. He's almost the biggest fool I have ever known, and will do
an injustice to that boy simply from ignorance." Then he drafted his
letter to Mr. Prosper, and gave it to Dolly to read. "That's what I
shall propose. The clerk can put it into proper language. He must offer
less than he means to give."
"Is that honest, father?"
"It's honest on my part, knowing the people with whom I have to deal. If
I were to lay down the strict minimum which he should grant, he would
add other things which would cause him to act not in accordance with my
advice. I have to make allowance for his folly,--a sort of windage, which
is not dishonest. Had he referred her lawyers to me I could have been as
hard and honest as you please." All which did not quite satisfy Dolly's
strict ideas of integrity.
But the terms proposed were that the lady's means should be divided so
that one-half should go to herself for her own personal expenses, and
the other half to her husband for the use of the house; that the lady
should put up with a jointure of two hundred and fifty pounds, which
ought to suffice when joined to her own property, and that the
settlement among the children should be as recommended by Messrs. Soames
"And if there are not any children, papa?"
"Then each will receive his or her own property."
"Because it may be so."
"Certainly, my dear; very probably."
When the first Monday in November came Harry was still living at the
rectory. Indeed, what other home had he in which to live? Other friends
had become shy of him besides his uncle. He had been accustomed to
receive many invitations. Young men who are the heirs to properties, and
are supposed to be rich because they are idle, do get themselves asked
about here and there, and think a great deal of themselves in
consequence. "There's young Jones. He is fairly good-looking, but hasn't
a word to say for himself. He will do to pair off with Miss Smith,
who'll talk for a dozen. He can't hit a hay-stack, but he's none the
worse for that. We haven't got too many pheasants. He'll be sure to come
when you ask him,--and he'll be sure to go."
So Jones is asked, and considers himself to be the most popular man in
London. I will not say that Harry's invitations had been of exactly that
description; but he too had considered himself to be popular, and now
greatly felt the withdrawal of such marks of friendship. He had received
one "put off"--from the Ingoldsbys of Kent. Early in June he had
promised to be there in November. The youngest Miss Ingoldsby was very
pretty, and he, no doubt, had been gracious. She knew that he had meant
nothing,--could have meant nothing. But he might come to mean something,
and had been most pressingly asked. In September there came a letter to
him to say that the room intended for him at Ingoldsby had been burnt
down. Mrs. Ingoldsby was so extremely sorry, and so were the "girls!"
Harry could trace it all up. The Ingoldsbys knew the Greens, and Mrs.
Green was Sister to Septimus Jones, who was absolutely the slave,--the
slave, as Harry said, repeating the word to himself with emphasis,--of
Augustus Scarborough. He was very unhappy, not that he cared in the
least for any Miss Ingoldsby, but that he began to be conscious that he
was to be dropped.
He was to be taken up, on the other hand, by Joshua Thoroughbung. Alas!
alas! though he smiled and resolved to accept his brother-in-law with a
good heart, this did not in the least salve the wound. His own county
was to him less than other counties, and his own neighborhood less than
other neighborhoods. Buntingford was full of Thoroughbungs, the best
people in the world, but not quite up to what he believed to be his
mark. Mr. Prosper himself was the stupidest ass! At Welwyn people
smelled of the City. At Stevenage the parsons' set began. Baldock was a
_caput mortuum_ of dulness. Royston was alive only on market-days. Of
his own father's house, and even of his mother and sisters, he
entertained ideas that savored a little of depreciation. But, to redeem
him from this fault,--a fault which would have led to the absolute ruin
of his character had it not been redeemed and at last cured,--there was a
consciousness of his own vanity and weakness. "My father is worth a
dozen of them, and my mother and sisters two dozen," he would say of the
Ingoldsbys when he went to bed in the room that was to be burnt down in
preparation for his exile. And he believed it. They were honest; they
were unselfish; they were unpretending. His sister Molly was not above
owning that her young brewer was all the world to her; a fine, honest,
bouncing girl, who said her prayers with a meaning, thanked the Lord for
giving her Joshua, and laughed so loud that you could hear her out of
the rectory garden half across the park. Harry knew that they were
good,--did in his heart know that where the parsons begin the good things
were likely to begin also.
He was in this state of mind, the hand of good pulling one way and the
devil's pride the other, when young Thoroughbung called for him one
morning to carry him on to Cumberlow Green. Cumberlow Green was a
popular meet in that county, where meets have not much to make them
popular except the good-humor of those who form the hunt. It is not a
county either pleasant or easy to ride over, and a Puckeridge fox is
surely the most ill-mannered of foxes. But the Puckeridge men are
gracious to strangers, and fairly so among themselves. It is more than
can be said of Leicestershire, where sportsmen ride in brilliant boots
and breeches, but with their noses turned supernaturally into the air.
"Come along; we've four miles to do, and twenty minutes to do it in.
Halloo, Molly, how d'ye do? Come up on to the step and give us a kiss."
"Go away!" said Molly, rushing back into the house. "Did you ever hear
anything like his impudence?"
"Why shouldn't you?" said Kate. "All the world knows it." Then the gig,
with the two sportsmen, was driven on. "Don't you think he looks
handsome in his pink coat?" whispered Molly, afterward, to her elder
sister. "Only think; I have never seen him in a red coat since he was my
own. Last April, when the hunting was over, he hadn't spoken out; and
this is the first day he has worn pink this year."
Harry, when he reached the meet, looked about him to watch how he was
received. There are not many more painful things in life than when an
honest, gallant young fellow has to look about him in such a frame of
mind. It might have been worse had he deserved to be dropped, some one
will say. Not at all. A different condition of mind exists then, and a
struggle is made to overcome the judgment of men which is not in itself
painful. It is part of the natural battle of life, which does not hurt
one at all,--unless, indeed, the man hate himself for that which has
brought upon him the hatred of others. Repentance is always an
agony,--and should be so. Without the agony there can be no repentance.
But even then it is hardly so sharp as that feeling of injustice which
accompanies the unmeaning look, and dumb faces, and pretended
indifference of those who have condemned.
When Harry descended from the gig he found himself close to old Mr.
Harkaway, the master of the hounds. Mr. Harkaway was a gentleman who had
been master of these hounds for more than forty years, and had given as
much satisfaction as the county could produce. His hounds, which were
his hobby, were perfect. His horses were good enough for the
Hertfordshire lanes and Hertfordshire hedges. His object was not so much
to run a fox as to kill him in obedience to certain rules of the game.
Ever so many hinderances have been created to bar the killing a fox,--as
for instance that you shouldn't knock him on the head with a
brick-bat,--all of which had to Mr. Harkaway the force of a religion. The
laws of hunting are so many that most men who hunt cannot know them all.
But no law had ever been written, or had become a law by the strength of
tradition, which he did not know.
To break them was to him treason. When a young man broke them he pitied
the young man's ignorance, and endeavored to instruct him after some
rough fashion. When an old man broke them, he regarded him as a fool who
should stay at home, or as a traitor who should be dealt with as such.
And with such men he could deal very hardly. Forty years of reigning had
taught him to believe himself to be omnipotent, and he was so in his own
hunt. He was a man who had never much affected social habits. The
company of one or two brother sportsmen to drink a glass of port-wine
with him and then to go early to bed, was the most of it. He had a small
library, but not a book ever came off the shelf unless it referred to
farriers or the _res venatica_. He was unmarried. The time which other
men gave to their wives and families he bestowed upon his hounds. To his
stables he never went, looking on a horse as a necessary adjunct to
hunting,--expensive, disagreeable, and prone to get you into danger. When
anyone flattered him about his horse he would only grunt, and turn his
head on one side. No one in these latter years had seen him jump any
fence. But yet he was always with his hounds, and when any one said a
kind word as to their doings, that he would take as a compliment. It was
they who were there to do the work of the day, which horses and men
could only look at. He was a sincere, honest, taciturn, and withal,
affectionate man, who could on an occasion be very angry with those who
offended him. He knew well what he could do, and never attempted that
which was beyond his power. "How are you, Mr. Harkaway?" said Harry.
"How are you, Mr. Annesley? how are you?" said the master, with all the
grace of which he was capable. But Harry caught a tone in his voice
which he thought implied displeasure. And Mr. Harkaway had in truth
heard the story,--how Harry had been discarded at Buston because he had
knocked the man down in the streets at night-time and had then gone
away. After that Mr. Harkaway toddled off, and Harry sat and frowned
with embittered heart.
"Well, Malt-and-hops, and how are you?" This came from a fast young
banker who lived in the neighborhood, and who thus intended to show his
familiarity with the brewer; but when he saw Annesley, he turned round
and rode away. "Scaly trick that fellow played the other day. He knocked
a fellow down, and, when he thought that he was dead, he lied about it
like old boots." All of which made itself intelligible to Harry. He told
himself that he had always hated that banker.
"Why do you let such a fellow as that call you Malt-and-hops?" he said
"What,--young Florin? He's a very good fellow, and doesn't mean
"A vulgar cad, I should say."
Then he rode on in silence till he was addressed by an old gentleman of
the county who had known his father for the last thirty years. The old
gentleman had had nothing about him to recommend him either to Harry's
hatred or love till he spoke; and after that Harry hated him. "How d'you
do, Mr. Annesley?" said the old gentleman, and then rode on. Harry knew
that the old man had condemned him as the others had done, or he would
never have called him Mr. Annesley. He felt that he was "blown upon" in
his own county, as well as by the Ingoldsbys down in Kent.
They had but a moderate day's sport, going a considerable distance in
search of it, till an incident arose which gave quite an interest to the
field generally, and nearly brought Joshua Thoroughbung into a scrape.
They were drawing a covert which was undoubtedly the property of their
own hunt,--or rather just going to draw it,--when all of a sudden they
became aware that every hound in the pack was hunting. Mr. Harkaway at
once sprung from his usual cold, apathetic manner into full action. But
they who knew him well could see that it was not the excitement of joy.
He was in an instant full of life, but it was not the life of successful
enterprise. He was perturbed and unhappy, and his huntsman, Dillon,--a
silent, cunning, not very popular man, who would obey his master in
everything,--began to move about rapidly, and to be at his wit's end. The
younger men prepared themselves for a run,--one of those sudden, short,
decisive spurts which come at the spur of the moment, and on which a
man, if he is not quite awake to the demands of the moment, is very apt
to be left behind. But the old stagers had their eyes on Mr. Harkaway,
and knew that there was something amiss.
Then there appeared another field of hunters, first one man leading
them, then others following, and after them the first ruck and then the
crowd. It was apparent to all who knew anything that two packs had
joined. These were the Hitchiners, as the rival sportsmen would call
them, and this was the Hitchin Hunt, with Mr. Fairlawn, their master.
Mr. Fairlawn was also an old man, popular, no doubt, in his own country,
but by no means beloved by Mr. Harkaway. Mr. Harkaway used to declare
how Fairlawn had behaved very badly about certain common coverts about
thirty years ago, when the matter had to be referred to a committee of
masters. No one in these modern days knew aught of the quarrel, or
cared. The men of the two hunts were very good friends, unless they met
under the joint eyes of the two masters, and then they were supposed to
be bound to hate each other. Now the two packs were mixed together, and
there was only one fox between them.
The fox did not trouble them long. He could hardly have saved himself
from one pack, but very soon escaped from the fangs of the two. Each
hound knew that his neighbor hound was a stranger, and, in scrutinizing
the singularity of the occurrence, lost all the power of hunting. In ten
minutes there were nearly forty couples of hounds running hither and
thither, with two huntsmen and four whips swearing at them with strange
voices, and two old gentlemen giving orders each in opposition to the
other. Then each pack was got together, almost on the same ground, and
it was necessary that something should be done. Mr. Harkaway waited to
see whether Mr. Fairlawn would ride away quickly to his own country. He
would not have spoken to Mr. Fairlawn if he could have helped it. Mr.
Fairlawn was some miles away from his country. He must have given up the
day for lost had he simply gone away. But there was another covert a
mile off, and he thought that one of his hounds had "shown a line,"--or
said that he thought so.
Now, it is well known that you may follow a hunted fox through whatever
country he may take you to, if only your hounds are hunting him
continuously. And one hound for that purpose is as good as thirty, and
if a hound can only "show a line" he is held to be hunting. Mr. Fairlawn
was quite sure that one of his hounds had been showing a line, and had
been whipped off it by one of Mr. Harkaway's men. The man swore that he
had only been collecting his own hounds. On this plea Mr. Fairlawn
demanded to take his whole pack into Greasegate Wood,--the very covert
that Mr. Harkaway had been about to draw. "I'm d----d if you do!" said Mr.
Harkaway, standing, whip in hand, in the middle of the road, so as to
prevent the enemy's huntsman passing by with his hounds. It was
afterward declared that Mr. Harkaway had not been heard to curse and
swear for the last fifteen years. "I'm d----d if I don't!" said Mr.
Fairlawn, riding up to him. Mr. Harkaway was ten years the older man,
and looked as though he had much less of fighting power. But no one saw
him quail or give an inch. Those who watched his face declared that his
lips were white with rage and quivered with passion.
To tell the words which passed between them after that would require
Homer's pathos and Homer's imagination. The two old men scowled and
scolded at each other, and, had Mr. Fairlawn attempted to pass, Mr.
Harkaway would certainly have struck him with his whip. And behind their
master a crowd of the Puckeridge men collected themselves,--foremost
among whom was Joshua Thoroughbung. "Take 'em round to the covert by
Winnipeg Lane," said Mr. Fairlawn to his huntsman. The man prepared to
take his pack round by Winnipeg Lane, which would have added a mile to
the distance. But the huntsman, when he had got a little to the left,
was soon seen scurrying across the country in the direction of the
covert, with a dozen others at his heels, and the hounds following him.
But old Mr. Harkaway had seen it too, and having possession of the road,
galloped along it at such a pace that no one could pass him.
All the field declared that they had regarded it as impossible that
their master should move so fast. And Dillon, and the whips, and
Thoroughbung, and Harry Annesley, with half a dozen others, kept pace
with him. They would not sit there and see their master outmanoeuvred by
any lack of readiness on their part. They got to the covert first, and
there, with their whips drawn, were ready to receive the second pack.
Then one hound went in without an order; but for their own hounds they
did not care. They might find a fox and go after him, and nobody would
follow them. The business here at the covert-side was more important and
Then it was that Mr. Thoroughbung nearly fell into danger. As to the
other hounds,--Mr. Fairlawn's hounds,--doing any harm in the covert, or
doing any good for themselves or their owners, that was out of the
question. The rival pack was already there, with their noses up in the
air, and thinking of anything but a fox; and this other pack,--the
Hitchiners,--were just as wild. But it was the object of Mr. Fairlawn's
body-guard to say that they had drawn the covert in the teeth of Mr.
Harkaway, and to achieve this one of the whips thought that he could
ride through the Puckeridge men, taking a couple of hounds with him.
That would suffice for triumph.
But to prevent such triumph on the part of the enemy Joshua Thoroughbung
was prepared to sacrifice himself. He rode right at the whip, with his
own whip raised, and would undoubtedly have ridden over him had not the
whip tried to turn his horse sharp round, stumbled and fallen in the
struggle, and had not Thoroughbung, with his horse, fallen over him.
It will be the case that a slight danger or injury in one direction will
often stop a course of action calculated to create greater dangers and
worse injuries. So it was in this case. When Dick, the Hitchin whip,
went down, and Thoroughbung, with his horse, was over him,--two men and
two horses struggling together on the ground,--all desire to carry on the
fight was over.
The huntsman came up, and at last Mr. Fairlawn also, and considered it
to be their duty to pick up Dick, whose breath was knocked out of him by
the weight of Joshua Thoroughbung, and the Puckeridge side felt it to be
necessary to give their aid to the valiant brewer. There was then no
more attempt to draw the covert. Each general in gloomy silence took off
his forces, and each afterward deemed that the victory was his. Dick
swore, when brought to himself, that one of his hounds had gone in,
whereas Squire 'Arkaway "had swore most 'orrid oaths that no 'Itchiner
'ound should ever live to put his nose in. One of 'is 'ounds 'ad, and
Squire 'Arkaway would have to be--" Well, Dick declared that he would
not say what would happen to Mr. Harkaway.
The two old gentlemen rode away, each in his own direction, in gloomy
silence. Not a word was said by either of them, even to one of his own
followers. It was nearly twenty miles to Mr. Harkaway's house, and along
the entire twenty miles he rode silent. "He's in an awful passion," said
Thoroughbung; "he can't speak from anger." But, to tell the truth, Mr.
Harkaway was ashamed of himself. He was an old gentleman, between
seventy and eighty, who was supposed to go out for his amusement, and
had allowed himself to be betrayed into most unseemly language. What
though the hound had not "shown a line?" Was it necessary that he, at
his time of life, should fight on the road for the maintenance of a
trifling right of sport. But yet there came upon him from time to time a
sense of the deep injury done to him. That man Fairlawn, that
blackguard, that creature of all others the farthest removed from a
gentleman, had declared that in his, Mr. Harkaway's teeth, he would draw
his, Mr. Harkaway's covert! Then he would urge on his old horse, and
gnash his teeth; and then, again, he would be ashamed. "Tantaene animis
But Thoroughbung rode home high in spirits, very proud, and conscious of
having done good work. He was always anxious to stand well with the hunt
generally, and was aware that he had now distinguished himself. Harry
Annesley was on one side of him, and on the other rode Mr. Florin, the
banker. "He's an abominable liar!" said Thoroughbung, "a wicked,
wretched liar!" He was alluding to the Hitchiner's whip, whom in his
wrath he had nearly sent to another world. "He says that one of his
hounds got into the covert, but I was there and saw it all. Not a nose
was over the little bank which runs between the field and the covert."
"You must have seen a hound if he had been there," said the banker.
"I was as cool as a cucumber, and could count the hounds he had with
him. There were three of them. A big black-spotted bitch was leading,
the one that I nearly fell upon. When the man went down the hound
stopped, not knowing what was expected of him. How should he? The man
would have been in the covert, but, by George! I managed to stop him."
"What did you mean to do to him when you rode at him so furiously?"
"Not let him get in there. That was my resolute purpose. I suppose I
should have knocked him off his horse with my whip."
"But suppose he had knocked you off your horse?" suggested the banker.
"There is no knowing how that might have been. I never calculated those
chances. When a man wants to do a thing like that he generally does it."
"And you did it?" said Harry.
"Yes; I think I did. I dare say his bones are sore. I know mine are. But
I don't care for that in the least. When this day comes to be talked
about, as I dare say it will be for many a long year, no one will be
able to say that the Hitchiners got into that covert." Thoroughbung,
with the genuine modesty of an Englishman, would not say that he had
achieved by his own prowess all this glory for the Puckeridge Hunt, but
he felt it down to the very end of his nails.
Had he not been there that whip would have got into the wood, and a very
different tale would then have been told in those coming years to which
his mind was running away with happy thoughts. He had ridden the
aggressors down; he had stopped the first intrusive hound. But though he
continued to talk of the subject, he did not boast in so many words that
he had done it. His "veni, vidi, vici," was confined to his own bosom.
As they rode home together there came to be a little crowd of men round
Thoroughbung, giving him the praises that were his due. But one by one
they fell off from Annesley's side of the road. He soon felt that no one
addressed a word to him. He was, probably, too prone to encourage them
in this. It was he that fell away, and courted loneliness, and then in
his heart accused them. There was do doubt something of truth in his
accusations; but another man, less sensitive, might have lived it down.
He did more than meet their coldness half-way, and then complained to
himself of the bitterness of the world. "They are like the beasts of the
field," he said, "who when another beast has been wounded, turn upon him
and rend him to death." His future brother-in-law, the best natured
fellow that ever was born, rode on thoughtless, and left Harry alone for
three or four miles, while he received the pleasant plaudits of his
companions. In Joshua's heart was that tale of the whip's discomfiture.
He did not see that Molly's brother was alone as soon as he would have
done but for his own glory. "He is the same as the others," said Harry
to himself. "Because that man has told a falsehood of me, and has had
the wit to surround it with circumstances, he thinks it becomes him to
ride away and cut me." Then he asked himself some foolish questions as
to himself and as to Joshua Thoroughbung, which he did not answer as he
should have done, had he remembered that he was then riding
Thoroughbung's horse, and that his sister was to become Thoroughbung's
After half an hour of triumphant ovation, Joshua remembered his
brother-in-law, and did fall back so as to pick him up. "What's the
matter, Harry? Why don't you come on and join us?"
"I'm sick of hearing of that infernal squabble."
"Well; as to a squabble, Mr. Harkaway behaved quite right. If a hunt is
to be kept up, the right of entering coverts must be preserved for the
hunt they belong to. There was no line shown. You must remember that
there isn't a doubt about that. The hounds were all astray when we
joined them. It's a great question whether they brought their fox into
that first covert. There are they who think that Bodkin was just riding
across the Puckeridge country in search of a fox." Bodkin was Mr.
Fairlawn's huntsman. "If you admit that kind of thing, where will you
be? As a hunting country, just nowhere. Then as a sportsman, where are
you? It is necessary to put down such gross fraud. My own impression is
that Mr. Fairlawn should be turned out from being master. I own I feel
very strongly about it. But then I always have been fond of hunting."
"Just so," said Harry, sulkily, who was not in the least interested as
to the matter on which Joshua was so eloquent.
Then Mr. Proctor rode by, the gentleman who in the early part of the day
disgusted Harry by calling him "mister." "Now, Mr. Proctor," continued
Joshua, "I appeal to you whether Mr. Harkaway was not quite right? If
you won't stick up for your rights in a hunting county--" But Mr.
Proctor rode on, wishing them good-night, very discourteously declining
to hear the remainder of the brewer's arguments. "He's in a hurry, I
suppose," said Joshua.
"You'd better follow him. You'll find that he'll listen to you then."
"I don't want him to listen to me particularly."
"I thought you did." Then for half an hour the two men rode on in
"What's the matter with you Harry?" said Joshua. "I can see there's
something up that riles you. I know you're a fellow of your college, and
have other things to think of besides the vagaries of a fox."
"The fellow of a college!" said Harry, who, had he been in a good-humor,
would have thought much more of being along with a lot of fox-hunters
than of any college honors.
"Well, yes; I suppose it is a great thing to be a fellow of a college. I
never could have been one if I had mugged forever."
"My being a fellow of a college won't do me much good. Did you see that
old man Proctor go by just now?"
"Oh yes; he never likes to be out after a certain hour."
"And did you see Florin, and Mr. Harkaway, and a lot of others? You
yourself have been going on ahead for the last hour without speaking to
"How do you mean without speaking to you?" said Joshua, turning sharp
Then Harry Annesley reflected that he was doing an injustice to his
"Perhaps I have done you wrong," he said.
"I beg your pardon. I believe you are as honest and true a fellow as
there is in Hertfordshire, but for those others--"
"You think it's about Mountjoy Scarborough, then?" asked Joshua.
"I do. That infernal fool, Peter Prosper, has chosen to publish to the
world that he has dropped me because of something that he has heard of
that occurrence. A wretched lie has been told with a purpose by
Mountjoy Scarborough's brother, and my uncle has taken it into his wise
head to believe it. The truth is, I have not been as respectful to him
as he thinks I ought, and now he resents my neglect in this fashion. He
is going to marry your aunt in order that he may have a lot of children,
and cut me out. In order to justify himself, he has told these lies
about me, and you see the consequence;--not a man in the county is
willing to speak to me."
"I really think a great deal of it's fancy."
"You go and ask Mr. Harkaway. He's honest, and he'll tell you. Ask this
new cousin of yours, Mr. Prosper."
"I don't know that they are going to make a match of it, after all."
"Ask my own father. Only think of it,--that a puling, puking idiot like
that, from a mere freak, should be able to do a man such a mischief! He
can rob me of my income, which he himself has brought me up to expect.
That he can do by a stroke of his pen. He can threaten to have sons like
Priam. All that is within his own bosom. But to justify himself to the
world at large, he picks up a scandalous story from a man like Augustus
Scarborough, and immediately not a man in the county will speak to me. I
say that that is enough to break a man's heart,--not the injury done
which a man should bear, but the injustice of the doing. Who wants his
beggarly allowance! He can do as he likes about his own money. I shall
never ask him for his money. But that he should tell such a lie as this
about the county is more than a man can endure."
"What was it that did happen?" asked Joshua.
"The man met me in the street when he was drunk, and he struck at me and
was insolent. Of course I knocked him down. Who wouldn't have done the
same? Then his brother found him somewhere, or got hold of him, and sent
him out of the country, and says that I had held my tongue when I left
him in the street. Of course I held my tongue. What was Mountjoy to me?
Then Augustus has asked me sly questions, and accuses me of lying
because I did not choose to tell him everything. It all comes out of
Here they had reached the rectory, and Harry, after seeing that the
horses were properly supplied with gruel, took himself and his ill-humor
up-stairs to his own chamber. But Joshua had a word or two to say to one
of the inmates of the rectory.
He felt that it would be improper to ride his horse home without giving
time to the animal to drink his gruel, and therefore made his way into
the little breakfast-parlor, where Molly had a cup of tea and buttered
toast ready for him. He of course told her first of the grand occurrence
of the day,--how the two packs of hounds had mixed themselves together,
how violently the two masters had fallen out and had nearly flogged each
other, how Mr. Harkaway had sworn horribly,--who had never been heard to
swear before,--how a final attempt had been made to seize a second
covert, and how, at last, it had come to pass that he had distinguished
himself. "Do you mean to say that you absolutely rode over the
unfortunate man?" asked Molly.
"I did. Not that the man had the worst of it,--or very much the worse.
There we were both down, and the two horses, all in a heap together."
"Oh, Joshua, suppose you had been kicked!"
"In that case I should have been--kicked."
"But a kick from an infuriated horse!"
"There wasn't much infuriation about him. The man had ridden all that
out of the beast."
"You are sure to laugh at me, Joshua, because I think what terrible
things might have happened to you. Why do you go putting yourself so
forward in every danger, now that you have got somebody else to depend
upon you and to care for you? It's very, very wrong."
"Somebody had to do it, Molly. It was most important, in the interests
of hunting generally, that those hounds should not have been allowed to
get into that covert. I don't think that outsiders ever understand how
essential it is to maintain your rights. It isn't as though it were an
individual. The whole county may depend upon it."
"Why shouldn't it be some man who hasn't got a young woman to look
after?" said Molly, half laughing and half crying.
"It's the man who first gets there who ought to do it," said Joshua. "A
man can't stop to remember whether he has got a young woman or not."
"I don't think you ever want to remember." Then that little quarrel was
brought to the usual end with the usual blandishments, and Joshua went
on to discuss with her that other source of trouble, her brother's fall.
"Harry is awfully cut up," said the brewer.
"You mean these affairs about his uncle?"
"Yes. It isn't only the money he feels, or the property, but people
look askew at him. You ought all of you to be very kind to him."
"I am sure we are."
"There is something in it to vex him. That stupid old fool, your
uncle--I beg your pardon, you know, for speaking of him in that way--"
"He is a stupid old fool."
"Is behaving very badly. I don't know whether he shouldn't be treated as
I did that fellow up at the covert."
"Ride over him?"
"Something of that kind. Of course Harry is sore about it, and when a
man is sore he frets at a thing like that more than he ought to do. As
for that aunt of mine at Buntingford, there seems to be some hitch in
it. I should have said she'd have married the Old Gentleman had he asked
"Don't talk like that, Joshua."
"But there is some screw loose. Simpson came up to my father about it
yesterday, and the governor let enough of the cat out of the bag to make
me know that the thing is not going as straight as she wishes."
"He has offered, then?"
"I am sure he has asked her."
"And your aunt will accept him?" asked Molly.
"There's probably some difference about money. It's all done with the
intention of injuring poor Harry. If he were my own brother I could not
be more unhappy about him. And as to Aunt Matilda, she's a fool. There
are two fools together. If they choose to marry we can't hinder them.
But there is some screw loose, and if the two young lovers don't know
their own minds things may come right at last." Then, with some farther
blandishments, the prosperous brewer walked away.
In the mean time Florence Mountjoy was not passing her time pleasantly
at Brussels. Various troubles there attended her. All her friends around
her were opposed to her marriage with Harry Annesley. Harry Annesley had
become a very unsavory word in the mouths of Sir Magnus and the British
Embassy generally. Mrs. Mountjoy told her grief to her brother-in-law,
who thoroughly took her part, as did also, very strongly, Lady Mountjoy.
It got to be generally understood that Harry was a _mauvais sujet_. Such
was the name that was attached to him, and the belief so conveyed was
thoroughly entertained by them all. Sir Magnus had written to friends in
London, and the friends in London bore out the reports that were so
conveyed. The story of the midnight quarrel was told in a manner very
prejudicial to poor Harry, and both Sir Magnus and his wife saw the
necessity of preserving their niece from anything so evil as such a
marriage. But Florence was very firm, and was considered to be very
obstinate. To her mother she was obstinate but affectionate To Sir
Magnus she was obstinate and in some degree respectful. But to Lady
Mountjoy she was neither affectionate nor respectful. She took a great
dislike to Lady Mountjoy, who endeavored to domineer; and who, by the
assistance of the two others, was in fact tyrannical. It was her opinion
that the girl should be compelled to abandon the man, and Mrs. Mountjoy
found herself constrained to follow this advice. She did love her
daughter, who was her only child. The main interest of her life was
centred in her daughter. Her only remaining ambition rested on her
daughter's marriage. She had long revelled in the anticipation of being
the mother-in-law of the owner of Tretton Park. She had been very proud
of her daughter's beauty.
Then had come the first blow, when Harry Annesley had come to Montpelier
Place and had been welcomed by Florence. Mrs. Mountjoy had seen it all
long before Florence had been aware of it. And the first coming of Harry
had been long before the absolute disgrace of Captain Scarborough,--at
any rate, before the tidings of that disgrace had reached Cheltenham.
Mrs. Mountjoy had been still able to dream of Tretton Park, after the
Jews had got their fingers on it,--even after the Jews had been forced to
relinquish their hold. It can hardly be said that up to this very time
Mrs. Mountjoy had lost all hope in her nephew, thinking that as the
property had been entailed some portion of it must ultimately belong to
him. She had heard that Augustus was to have it, and her desires had
vacillated between the two. Then Harry had positively declared himself,
and Augustus had given her to understand how wretched, how mean, how
wicked had been Harry's conduct. And he fully explained to her that
Harry would be penniless. She had indeed been aware that Buston,--quite a
trifling thing compared to Tretton,--was to belong to him. But entails
were nothing nowadays. It was part of the radical abomination to which
England was being subjected. Not even Buston was now to belong to Harry
Annesley. The small income which he had received from his uncle was
stopped. He was reduced to live upon his fellowship,--which would be
stopped also if he married. She even despised him because he was the
fellow of a college;--she had looked for a husband for her daughter so
much higher than any college could produce. It was not from any lack of
motherly love that she was opposed to Florence, or from any innate
cruelty that she handed her daughter over to the tender mercies of Lady
And since she had been at Brussels there had come up farther hopes.
Another mode had shown itself of escaping Harry Annesley, who was of all
catastrophes the most dreaded and hated. Mr. Anderson, the second
secretary of legation,--he whose business it was to ride about the
boulevard with Sir Magnus,--had now declared himself in form. "Never saw
a fellow so bowled over," Sir Magnus had declared, by which he had
intended to signify that Mr. Anderson was now truly in love. "I've seen
him spooney a dozen times," Sir Magnus had said, confidentially, to his
sister-in-law, "but he has never gone to this length. He has asked a lot
of girls to have him, but he has always been off it again before the
week was over. He has written to his mother now."
And Mr. Anderson showed his love by very unmistakable signs. Sir Magnus
too, and Lady Mountjoy, were evidently on the same side as Mr. Anderson.
Sir Magnus thought there was no longer any good in waiting for his
nephew, the captain, and of that other nephew, Augustus, he did not
entertain any very high idea. Sir Magnus had corresponded lately with
Augustus, and was certainly not on his side. But he so painted Mr.
Anderson's prospects in life, as did also Lady Mountjoy, as to make it
appear that if Florence could put up with young Anderson she would do
very well with herself.
"He's sure to be a baronet some of these days, you know," said Sir
"I don't think that would go very far with Florence," said her mother.
"But it ought. Look about in the world and you'll see that it does go a
long way. He'd be the fifth baronet."
"But his elder brother is alive."
"The queerest fellow you ever saw in your born days, and his life is not
worth a year's purchase. He's got some infernal disease,--nostalgia, or
what 'd'ye call it?--which never leaves him a moment's peace, and then
he drinks nothing but milk. Sure to go off;--cock sure."
"I shouldn't like Florence to count upon that."
"And then Hugh Anderson, the fellow here, is very well off as it is. He
has four hundred pounds here, and another five hundred pounds of his
own. Florence has, or will have, four hundred pounds of her own. I
should call them deuced rich. I should, indeed, as beginners. She could
have her pair of ponies here, and what more would she want?"
These arguments did go very far with Mrs. Mountjoy, the farther because
in her estimation Sir Magnus was a great man. He was the greatest
Englishman, at any rate, in Brussels, and where should she go for advice
but to an Englishman? And she did not know that Sir Magnus had succeeded
in borrowing a considerable sum of money from his second secretary of
"Leave her to me for a little;--just leave her to me," said Lady
"I would not say anything hard to her," said the mother, pleading for
her naughty child.
"Not too hard, but she must be made to understand. You see there have
been misfortunes. As to Mountjoy Scarborough, he's past hoping for."
"You think so?"
"Altogether. When a man has disappeared there's an end of him. There was
Lord Baltiboy's younger son disappeared, and he turned out to be a
Zouave corporal in a French regiment. They did get him out, of course,
but then he went preaching in America. You may take it for granted, that
when a man has absolutely vanished from the clubs, he'll never be any
good again as a marrying man."
"But there's his brother, who, they say, is to have the property."
"A very cold-blooded sort of young man, who doesn't care a straw for his
own family." He had received very sternly the overtures for a loan from
Sir Magnus. "And he, as I understand, has never declared himself in
Florence's favor. You can't count upon Augustus Scarborough."
"Not just count upon him."
"Whereas there's young Anderson, who is the most gentleman-like young
man I know, all ready. It will have been such a turn of luck your coming
here and catching him up."
"I don't know that it can be called a turn of luck. Florence has a very
nice fortune of her own--"
"And she wants to give it to this penniless reprobate. It is just one of
those cases in which you must deal roundly with a girl. She has to be
frightened, and that's about the truth of it."
After this, Lady Mountjoy did succeed in getting Florence alone with
herself into her morning-room. When her mother told her that her aunt
wished to see her, she answered first that she had no special wish to
see her aunt. Her mother declared that in her aunt's house she was bound
to go when her aunt sent for her. To this Florence demurred. She was,
she thought, her aunt's guest, but by no means at her aunt's disposal.
But at last she obeyed her mother. She had resolved that she would obey
her mother in all things but one, and therefore she went one morning to
her aunt's chamber.
But as she went she was, on the first instance, caught by her uncle, and
taken by him into a little private sanctum behind his official room. "My
dear," he said, "just come in here for two minutes."
"I am on my way up to my aunt."
"I know it, my dear. Lady Mountjoy has been talking it all over with me.
Upon my word you can't do anything better than take young Anderson."
"I can't do that, Uncle Magnus."
"Why not? There's poor Mountjoy Scarborough, he has gone astray."
"There is no question of my cousin."
"And Augustus is no better."
"There is no question of Augustus either."
"As to that other chap, he isn't any good;--he isn't indeed."
"You mean Mr. Annesley?"
"Yes; Harry Annesley, as you call him. He hasn't got a shilling to bless
himself with, or wouldn't have if he was to marry you."
"But I have got something."
"Not enough for both of you, I'm afraid. That uncle of his has