Part 2 out of 10
'Come along, Molly,' said Maulevrier; 'come and tell me about the
terriers, while I eat my dinner.'
Mary hesitated, glanced doubtfully at her grandmother, who made no sign,
and then slipped out of the room, hanging fondly on her brother's arm,
and almost forgetting that there was any such person as Mr. Hammond in
When these three were gone Lady Lesbia expressed herself strongly upon
Maulevrier's folly in bringing such a person as Mr. Hammond to Fellside.
'What are we to do with him, grandmother?' she said, pettishly. 'Is he
to live with us, and be one of us, a person of whose belongings we know
positively nothing, who owns that his people are common?'
'My dear, he is your brother's friend, and we have the right to suppose
he is a gentleman.'
'Not on that account,' said Lesbia, more sharply than her wont. 'Didn't
he make a friend, or almost a friend of Jack Howell, the huntsman, and
of Ford, the wrestler. I have no confidence in Maulevrier's ideas of
'We shall find out all about this Mr. Hamleigh--no Hammond--in a day or
two,' replied her ladyship, placidly; 'and in the meantime we must
tolerate him, and be grateful to him if he reconcile Maulevrier to
remaining at Fellside for the next six weeks.'
Lesbia was silent. She did not consider Maulevrier's presence at
Fellside an unmitigated advantage, or, indeed, his presence anywhere.
Those two were not sympathetic. Maulevrier made fun of his elder
sister's perfections, chaffed her intolerably about the great man she
was going to captivate, in her first season, the great houses in which
she was going to reign. Lesbia despised him for that neglect of all his
opportunities of culture which had left him, after the most orthodox and
costly curriculum, almost as ignorant as a ploughboy. She despised a man
whose only delight was in horse and hound, gun and fishing-tackle. Molly
would have cared very little for the guns or the fishing-tackle perhaps
in the abstract; but she cared for everything that interested
Maulevrier, even to the bagful of rats which were let loose in the
stable-yard sometimes, for the education of a particularly game
There was plenty of talk and laughter at the dinner-table, while the
Countess and Lady Lesbia conversed gravely and languidly in the
dimly-lighted drawing-room. The dinner was excellent, and both
travellers were ravenous. They had eaten nothing since breakfast, and
had driven from Windermere on the top of the coach in the keen evening
air. When the sharp edge of the appetite was blunted, Maulevrier began
to talk of his adventures since he and Molly had last met. He had not
being dissipating in London all the time--or, indeed, any great part of
the time of his absence from Fellside; but Molly had been left in
Cimmerian, darkness as to his proceedings. He never wrote a letter if he
could possibly avoid doing so. If it became a vital necessity to him to
communicate with anyone he telegraphed, or, in his own language, 'wired'
to that person; but to sit down at a desk and labour with pen and ink
was not within his capacities or his views of his mission in life.
'If a fellow is to write letters he might as well be a clerk in an
office,' he said, 'and sit on a high stool.'
Thus it happened that when Maulevrier was away from Fellside, no fair
_chatelaine_ of the Middle Ages could be more ignorant of the movements
or whereabouts of her crusader knight than Mary was of her brother's
goings on. She could but pray for him with fond and faithful prayer, and
wait and hope for his return. And now he told her that things had gone
badly with him at Epsom, and worse at Ascot, that he had been, as he
expressed it, 'up a tree,' and that he had gone off to the Black Forest
directly the Ascot week was over, and at Rippoldsau he had met his old
friend and fellow traveller, Hammond, and they had gone for a walking
tour together among the homely villages, the watchmakers, the timber
cutters, the pretty peasant girls. They had danced at fairs--and shot at
village sports--and had altogether enjoyed the thing. Hammond, who was
something of an artist, had sketched a good deal. Maulevrier had done
nothing but smoke his German pipe and enjoy himself.
'I was glad to find myself in a world where a horse was an exception and
not the rule,' he said.
'Oh, how I should love to see the Black Forest!' cried Mary, who knew
the first part of Faust by heart, albeit she had never been given
permission to read it, 'the gnomes and the witches--der Freischuetz--all
that is lovely. Of course, you went up the Brocken?'
'Of course,' answered Mr. Hammond; 'Mephistopheles was our _valet de
place_, and we went up among a company of witches riding on
broomsticks.' And then quoted,
'Seh' die Baeume hinter Baeumen,
Wie sie schnell vorueberruecken,
Und die Klippen, die sich buecken,
Und die langen Felsennasen,
Wie sie schnarchen, wie sie blasen!'
This was the first time he had addressed himself directly to Mary, who
sat close to her brother's side, and never took her eyes from his face,
ready to pour out his wine or to change his plate, for the serving-men
had been dismissed at the beginning of this unceremonious meal.
Mary looked at the stranger almost as superciliously as Lesbia might
have done. She was not inclined to be friendly to her brother's friend.
'Do you read German?' she inquired, with a touch of surprise.
'You had better ask him what language he does not read or speak,' said
her brother. 'Hammond is an admirable Crichton, my dear--by-the-by, who
was admirable Crichton?--knows everything, can twist your little head
the right way upon any subject.'
'Oh,' thought Mary, 'highly cultivated, is he? Very proper in a man who
was educated on charity to have worked his hardest at the University.'
She was not prepared to think very kindly of young men who had been
successful in their college career, since poor Maulevrier had made such
a dismal failure of his, had been gated and sent down, and ploughed, and
had everything ignominious done to him that could be done, which
ignominy had involved an expenditure of money that Lady Maulevrier
bemoaned and lamented until this day. Because her brother had not been
virtuous, Mary grudged virtuous young men their triumphs and their
honours. Great, raw-boned fellows, who have taken their degrees at
Scotch Universities, come to Oxford and Cambridge and sweep the board,
Maulevrier had told her, when his own failures demanded explanation.
Perhaps this Mr. Hammond had graduated north of the Tweed, and had come
southward to rob the native. Mary was not any more inclined to be civil
to him because he was a linguist. He had a pleasant manner, frank and
easy, a good voice, a cheery laugh. But she had not yet made up her mind
that he was a gentleman.
'If some benevolent old person were to take a fancy to Charles Ford, the
wrestler, and send him to a Scotch University, I daresay he would turn
out just as fine a fellow,' she thought, Ford being somewhat of a
favourite as a local hero.
The two young men went off to the billiard-room after they had dined. It
was half-past ten by this time, and, of course, Mary did not go with
them. She bade her brother good-night at the dining-room door.
'Good-night, Molly; be sure you are up early to show me the dogs,' said
Maulevrier, after an affectionate kiss.
'Good-night, Lady Mary,' said Mr. Hammond, holding out his hand, albeit
she had no idea of shaking hands with him.
She allowed her hand to rest for an instant in that strong, friendly
grasp. She had not risen to giving a couple of fingers to a person whom
she considered her inferior; but she was inclined to snub Mr. Hammond as
rather a presuming young man.
'Well, Jack, what do you think of my beauty sister?' asked his lordship,
as he chose his cue from the well-filled rack.
The lamps were lighted, the table uncovered and ready, Carambole in his
place, albeit it was months since any player had entered the room.
Everything which concerned Maulevrier's comfort or pleasure was done as
if by magic at Fellside; and Mary was the household fairy whose
influence secured this happy state of things.
'What can any man think except that she is as lovely as the finest of
Reynold's portraits, as that Lady Diana Beauclerk of Colonel Aldridge's,
or the Kitty Fisher, or any example you please to name of womanly
'Glad to hear it,' answered Maulevrier, chalking his cue; 'can't say I
admire her myself--not my style, don't you know. Too much of my lady
Di--too little of poor Kitty. But still, of course, it always pleases a
fellow to know that his people are admired; and I know that my
grandmother has views, grand views,' smiling down at his cue. 'Shall I
break?' and he began with the usual miss in baulk.
'Thank you,' said Mr. Hammond, beginning to play. 'Matrimonial views, of
course. Very natural that her ladyship should expect such a lovely
creature to make a great match. Is there no one in view? Has there been
no family conclave--no secret treaty? Is the young lady fancy free?'
'Perfectly. She has been buried alive here; except parsons and a few
decent people whom she is allowed to meet now and then at the houses
about here, she has seen nothing of the world. My grandmother has kept
Lesbia as close as a nun. She is not so fond of Molly, and that young
person has wild ways of her own, and gives everybody the slip.
By-the-by, how do you like my little Moll?'
The adjective was hardly accurate about a young lady who measured five
feet six, but Maulevrier had not yet grown out of the ideas belonging to
that period when Mary was really his little sister, a girl of twelve,
with long hair and short petticoats.
Mr. Hammond was slow to reply. Mary had not made a very strong
impression upon him. Dazzled by her sister's pure and classical beauty,
he had no eyes for Mary's homelier charms. She seemed to him a frank,
affectionate girl, not too well-mannered; and that was all he thought of
'I'm afraid Lady Mary does not like me,' he said, after his shot, which
gave him time for reflection.
'Oh, Molly is rather _farouche_ in her manners; never would train fine,
don't you know. Her ladyship lectured till she was tired, and now Mary
runs wild, and I suppose will be left at grass till six months before
her presentation, and then they'll put her on the pillar-reins a bit to
give her a better mouth. Good shot, by Jove!'
John Hammond was used to his lordship's style of conversation, and
understood his friend at all times. Maulevrier was not an intellectual
companion, and the distance was wide between the two men; but his
lordship's gaiety, good-nature, and acuteness made amends for all
shortcomings in culture. And then Mr. Hammond may have been one of those
good Conservatives who do not expect very much intellectual power in an
IN THE SUMMER MORNING.
John Hammond loved the wild freshness of morning, and was always eager
to explore a new locality; so he was up at five o'clock next morning,
and out of doors before six. He left the sophisticated beauty of the
Fellside gardens below him, and climbed higher and higher up the Fell,
till he was able to command a bird's-eye view of the lake and village,
and just under his feet, as it were, Lady Maulevrier's favourite abode.
He was provided with a landscape glass which he always carried in his
rambles, and with the aid of this he could see every stone of the
The house, added to at her ladyship's pleasure, and without regard to
cost, covered a considerable extent of ground. The new part consisted of
a straight range of about a hundred and twenty feet, facing the lake,
and commandingly placed on the crest of a steepish slope; the old
buildings, at right angles with the new, made a quadrangle, the third
and fourth sides of which were formed by the dead walls of servants'
rooms and coach-houses, which had no windows upon this inner enclosed
side. The old buildings were low and irregular, one portion of the roof
thatched, another tiled. In the quadrangle there was an old-fashioned
garden, with geometrical flower-beds, a yew tree hedge, and a stone
sun-dial in the centre. A peacock stalked about in the morning light,
and greeted the newly risen sun with a discordant scream. Presently a
man came out of a half glass door under a verandah which shaded one side
of the quadrangle, and strolled about the garden, stopping here and
there to cut a dead rose, or trim a geranium, a stoutly-built broad
shouldered man, with gray hair and beard, the image of well-fed
Mr. Hammond wondered a little at the man's leisurely movements as he
sauntered about, whistling to the peacock. It was not the manner of a
servant who had duties to perform--rather that of a gentleman living at
ease, and hardly knowing how to get rid of his time.
"Some superior functionary, I suppose," thought Hammond, "the
He rambled a long way over the hill, and came back to Fellside by a path
of his own discovering, which brought him to a wooden gate leading into
the stable-yard, just in time to meet Maulevrier and Lady Mary emerging
from the kennel, where his lordship had been inspecting the terriers.
'Angelina is bully about the muzzle,' said Maulevrier; 'we shall have to
give her away.'
'Oh, don't,' cried Mary. 'She is a most perfect darling, and laughs so
deliciously whenever she sees me.'
Angelina was in Lady Mary's arms at this moment; a beautifully marked
little creature, all thew and sinew, palpitating with suppressed
emotions, and grinning to her heart's content.
Lady Mary looked very fresh and bright in her neat tailor gown, kilted
kirtle, and tight-fitting bodice, with neat little brass buttons. It was
a gown of Maulevrier's ordering, made at his own tailor's. Her splendid
chestnut hair was uncovered, the short crisp curls about her forehead
dancing in the morning air. Her large, bright; brown eyes were dancing,
too, with delight at having her brother home again.
She shook hands with Mr. Hammond more graciously than last night; but
still with a carelessness which was not complimentary, looking at him
absently, as if she hardly knew that he was there, and hugging Angelina
all the time.
Hammond told his friend about his ramble over the hills, yonder, up
above that homely bench called 'Rest, and be Thankful,' on the crest of
Loughrigg Fell. He was beginning to learn the names of the hills
already. Yonder darkling brow, rugged, gloomy looking, was Nab Scar;
yonder green slope of sunny pasture, stretching wide its two arms as if
to enfold the valley, was Fairfield; and here, close on the left, as he
faced the lake, were Silver Howe and Helm Crag, with that stony
excrescence on the summit of the latter known as the 'Lion and the
Lamb.' Lady Maulevrier's house stood within a circle of mountain peaks
and long fells, which walled in the deep, placid, fertile valley.
'If you are not too tired to see the gardens, we might show them to you
before breakfast,' said Maulevrier. 'We have three-quarters of an hour
to the good.'
'Half an hour for a stroll, and a quarter to make myself presentable
after my long walk,' said Hammond, who did not wish to face the dowager
and Lady Lesbia in disordered apparel. Lady Mary was such an obvious
Tomboy that he might be pardoned for leaving her out of the question.
They set out upon an exploration of the gardens, Mary clinging to her
brother's arm, as if she wanted to make sure of him, and still carrying
The gardens were as other gardens, but passing beautiful. The sloping
lawns and richly-timbered banks, winding shrubberies, broad terraces cut
on the side of the hill, gave infinite variety. All that wealth and
taste and labour could do to make those grounds beautiful had been
done--the rarest conifers, the loveliest flowering shrubs grew and
flourished there, and the flowers bloomed as they bloom only in
Lakeland, where every cottage garden can show a wealth of luxurious
bloom, unknown in more exposed and arid districts. Mary was very proud
of those gardens. She had loved them and worked in them from her
babyhood, trotting about on chubby legs after some chosen old gardener,
carrying a few weeds or withered leaves in her pinafore, and fancying
'I help 'oo, doesn't I, Teeven?' she used to say to the gray-headed old
gardener, who first taught her to distinguish flowers from weeds.
'I shall never learn as much out of these horrid books as poor old
Stevens taught me,' she said afterwards, when the gray head was at rest
under the sod, and governesses, botany manuals, and hard words from the
Greek were the order of the day.
Nine o'clock was the breakfast hour at Fellside. There were no family
prayers. Lady Maulevrier did not pretend to be pious, and she put no
restraints of piety upon other people. She went to Church on Sunday
mornings for the sake of example; but she read all the newest scientific
books, subscribed to the Anthropological Society, and thought as the
newest scientific people think. She rarely communicated her opinions
among her own sex; but now and then, in strictly masculine and superior
society, she had been heard to express herself freely upon the nebular
hypothesis and the doctrine of evolution.
'After all, what does it matter?' she said, finally, with her grand air;
'I have only to marry my granddaughters creditably, and prevent my
grandson going to the dogs, and then my mission on this insignificant
planet will be accomplished. What new form that particular modification
of molecules which you call Lady Maulevrier may take afterwards is
hidden in the great mystery of material life.'
There was no family prayer, therefore, at Fellside. The sisters had been
properly educated in their religious duties, had been taught the
Anglican faith carefully and well by their governess, Fraeulein Mueller,
who had become a staunch Anglican before entering the families of the
English nobility, and by the kind Vicar of Grasmere, who took a warm
interest in the orphan girls. Their grandmother had given them to
understand that they might be as religious as they liked. She would be
no let or hindrance to their piety; but they must ask her no awkward
'I have read a great deal and thought a great deal, and my ideas are
still in a state of transition,' she told Lesbia; and Lesbia, who was
somewhat automatic in her piety, had no desire to know more.
Lady Maulevrier seldom appeared in the forenoon. She was an early riser,
being too vivid and highly strung a creature, even at sixty-seven years
of age, to give way to sloth. She rose at seven, summer and winter, but
she spent the early part of the day in her own rooms, reading, writing,
giving orders to her housekeeper, and occasionally interviewing
Steadman, who, without any onerous duties, was certainly the most
influential person in the house. People in the village talked of him,
and envied him so good a berth. He had a gentleman's house to live in,
and to all appearance lived as a gentleman. This tranquil retirement,
free from care or labour, was a rich reward for the faithful service of
his youth. And it was known by the better informed among the Grasmere
people that Mr. Steadman was saving money, and had shares in the
North-Western Railway. These facts had oozed out, of themselves, as it
were. He was not a communicative man, and rarely wasted half an hour at
the snug little inn near St. Oswald's Church, amidst the cluster of
habitations that was once called Kirktown. He was an unsociable man,
people said, and thought himself better than Grasmere folk, the
lodging-house keepers, and guides, and wrestlers, and the honest
friendly souls who were the outcome of that band of Norwegian exiles
which found a home in these peaceful vales.
Miss Mueller, more commonly known as Fraeulein, officiated at breakfast.
She never appeared at the board when Lady Maulevrier was present, but in
her ladyship's absence Miss Mueller was guardian of the proprieties. She
was a stout, kindly creature, and by no means a formidable dragon. When
the gong sounded, John Hammond went into the dining-room, where he found
Miss Mueller seated alone in front of the urn.
He bowed, quick to read 'governess' or 'companion' in the lady's
appearance; and she bowed.
'I hope you have had a nice walk,' she said. 'I saw you from my bedroom
'Did you? Then I suppose yours is one of the few windows which look into
that curious old quadrangle?'
'No, there are no windows looking into the quadrangle. Those that were
in the original plan of the house were walled up at her ladyship's
orders, to keep out the cold winds which sweep down from the hills in
winter and early spring, when the edge of Loughrigg Fell is white with
snow. My window looks into the gardens, and I saw you there with his
lordship and Lady Mary.'
Lady Lesbia came in at this moment, and saluted Mr. Hammond with a
haughty inclination of her beautiful head. She looked lovelier in her
simple morning gown of pale blue cambric than in her more elaborate
toilette of last evening; such purity of complexion, such lustrous eyes;
the untarnished beauty of youth, breathing the delicate freshness of a
newly-opened flower. She might be as scornful as she pleased, yet John
Hammond could not withhold his admiration. He was inclined to admire a
woman who kept him at a distance; for the general bent of young women
now-a-days is otherwise.
Maulevrier and Mary came in, and everyone sat down to breakfast. Lady
Lesbia unbent a little presently, and smiled upon the stranger. There
was a relief in a stranger's presence. He talked of new things, places
and people she had never seen. She brightened and became quite friendly,
deigned to invite the expression of Mr. Hammond's opinions upon music
and art, and after breakfast allowed him to follow her into the
drawing-room, and to linger there fascinated for half an hour, looking
over her newest books, and her last batch of music, but looking most of
all at her, while Maulevrier and Mary were loafing on the lawn outside.
'What are you going to do with yourself this morning?' asked Maulevrier,
appearing suddenly at the window.
'Anything you like,' answered Hammond. 'Stay, there is one pilgrimage I
am eager to make. I must see Wordsworth's grave, and Wordsworth's
'You shall see them both, but they are in opposite directions--one at
your elbow, the other a four mile walk. Which will you see first? We'll
toss for it,' taking a shilling from a pocketful of loose cash, always
ready for moments of hesitation. 'Heads, house; tails, grave. Tails it
is. Come and have a smoke, and see the poet's grave. The splendour of
the monument, the exquisite neatness with which it is kept, will astound
you, considering that we live in a period of Wordsworth worship.'
Hammond hesitated, and looked at Lady Lesbia.
'Aren't you coming?' called Maulevrier from the lawn. 'It was a fair
offer. I've got my cigarette case.'
'Yes, I'm coming,' answered the other, with a disappointed air.
He had hoped that Lesbia would offer to show him the poet's grave. He
could not abandon that hope without a struggle.
'Will you come with us, Lady Lesbia? We'll suppress the cigarettes!'
'Thanks, no,' she said, becoming suddenly frigid. 'I am going to
'Do you never walk in the morning--on such a lovely morning as this?'
'Not very often.'
She had re-entered those frozen regions from which his attentions had
lured him for a little while. She had reminded herself of the inferior
social position of this person, in whose conversation she had allowed
herself to be interested.
'_Filons_!' cried Maulevrier from below, and they went.
Mary would have very much liked to go with them, but she did not want to
be intrusive; so she went off to the kennels to see the terriers eat
their morning and only meal of dog biscuit.
THERE IS ALWAYS A SKELETON.
The two young men strolled through the village, Maulevrier pausing to
exchange greetings with almost everyone he met, and so to the rustic
churchyard, above the beck.
The beck was swollen with late rains, and was brawling merrily over its
stony bed; the churchyard grass was deep and cool and shadowy under the
clustering branches. The poet's tomb was disappointing in its unlovely
simplicity, its stern, slatey hue. The plainest granite cross would have
satisfied Mr. Hammond, or a cross in pure white marble, with a
sculptured lamb at the base. Surely the lamb, emblem at once pastoral
and sacred, ought to enter into any monument to Wordsworth; but that
gray headstone, with its catalogue of dates, those stern iron
railings--were these fit memorials of one whose soul so loved nature's
After Mr. Hammond had seen the little old, old church, and the medallion
portrait inside, had seen all that Maulevrier could show him, in fact,
the two young men went back to the place of graves, and sat on the low
parapet above the beck, smoking their cigarettes, and talking with that
perfect unreserve which can only obtain between men who are old and
tried friends. They talked, as it was only natural they should talk, of
that household at Fellside, where all things were new to John Hammond.
'You like my sister Lesbia?' said Maulevrier.
'Like her! well, yes. The difficulty with most men must be not to
'Ah, she's not my style. And she's beastly proud.'
'A little _hauteur_ gives piquancy to her beauty; I admire a grand
'So do I in a picture. Titian's Queen of Cyprus, or any party of that
kind; but for flesh and blood I like humility--a woman who knows she is
human, and not infallible, and only just a little better than you or me.
When I choose a wife, she will be no such example of cultivated
perfection as my sister Lesbia. I want no goddess, but a nice little
womanly woman, to jog along the rough and tumble road of life with me.'
'Lady Maulevrier's influence, no doubt, has in a great measure
determined the bent of your sister's character: and from what you have
told me about her ladyship, I should think a fixed idea of her own
superiority would be inevitable in any girl trained by her.'
'Yes, she is a proud woman--a proud, hard woman--and she has steeped
Lesbia's mind in all her own pet ideas and prejudices. Yet, God knows,
we have little reason to hold our heads high,' said Maulevrier, with a
John Hammond did not reply to this remark: perhaps there was some
difficulty for a man situated as he was in finding a fit reply. He
smoked in silence, looking down at the pure swift waters of the Rotha
tumbling over the crags and boulders below.
'Doesn't somebody say there is always a skeleton in the cupboard, and
the nobler and more ancient the race the bigger the skeleton?' said
Maulevrier, with a philosophical air.
'Yes, your family secret is an attribute of a fine old race. The
Pelopidae, for instance--in their case it was not a single skeleton, but
a whole charnel house. I don't think your skeleton need trouble you,
Maulevrier. It belongs to the remote past.'
'Those things never belong to the past,' said the young man. 'If it were
any other kind of taint--profligacy--madness, even--the story of a duel
that went very near murder--a runaway wife--a rebellious son--a cruel
husband. I have heard such stories hinted at in the records of families.
But our story means disgrace. I seldom see strangers putting their heads
together at the club without fancying they are telling each other about
my grandfather, and pointing me out as the grandson and heir of a
'Why use unduly hard words?'
'Why should I stoop to sophistication, with you, my friend. Dishonesty
is dishonesty all the world over; and to plunder Rajahs on a large scale
is no less vile than to pick a pocket on Ludgate Hill.'
'Nothing was ever proved against your grandfather.'
'No, he died in the nick of time, and the inquiry was squashed, thanks
to the Angersthorpe interest, and my grandmother's cleverness. But if he
had lived a few weeks longer England would have rung with the story of
his profligacy and dishonour. Some people say he committed suicide in
order to escape the inquiry; but I have heard my mother emphatically
deny this. My father told her that he had often talked with the people
who kept the little inn where his father died, and they were clear
enough in their assertion that the death was a natural death--the sudden
collapse of an exhausted constitution.'
'Was it on account of this scandal that your father spent the best part
of his life away from England?' Hammond asked, feeling that it was a
relief to Maulevrier to talk about this secret burden of his.
The young Earl was light-hearted and frivolous by nature, yet even he
had his graver moments; and upon this subject of the old Maulevrier
scandal he was peculiarly sensitive, perhaps all the more so because his
grandmother had never allowed him to speak to her about it, had never
satisfied his curiosity upon any details of that painful story.
'I have very little doubt it was so--though I wasn't old enough when he
died to hear as much from his own lips. My father went straight from the
University to Vienna, where he began his career in the diplomatic
service, and where he soon afterwards married a dowerless English girl
of good family. He went to Rio as first secretary, and died of fever
within seven years of his marriage, leaving a widow and three babies,
the youngest in long clothes. Mother and babies all came over to
England, and were at once established at Fellside. I can remember the
voyage--and I can remember my poor mother who never recovered the blow
of my father's death, and who died in yonder house, after five years of
broken health and broken spirits. We had no one but the dowager to look
to as children--hardly another friend in the world. She did what she
liked with us; she kept the girls as close as nuns, so _they_ have never
heard a hint of the old history; no breach of scandal has reached
_their_ ears. But she could not shut me up in a country house for ever,
though she did succeed in keeping me away from a public school. The time
came when I had to go to the University, and there I heard all that had
been said about Lord Maulevrier. The men who told me about the old
scandal in a friendly way pretended not to believe it; but one night,
when I had got into a row at a wine-party with a tailor's son, he told
me that if his father was a snip my grandfather was a thief, and so he
thought himself the better bred of the two. I smashed his nose for him,
but as it was a decided pug before the row began, that hardly squared
'Did you ever hear the exact story?'
'I have heard a dozen stories; and if only a quarter of them are true my
grandfather was a scoundrel. It seems that he was immensely popular for
the first year or so of his government, gave more splendid
entertainments than had been given at Madras for half a century before
his time, lavished his wealth upon his favourites. Then arose a rumour
that the governor was insolvent and harassed by his creditors, and then
a new source of wealth seemed to be at his command; he was more
reckless, more princely than ever; and then, little by little, there
arose the suspicion that he was trafficking in English interests,
selling his influence to petty princes, winking at those mysterious
crimes by which rightful heirs are pushed aside to make room for
usurpers. Lastly it became notorious that he was the slave of a wicked
woman, false wife, suspected murderess, whose husband, a native prince,
disappeared from the scene just when his existence became perilous to
the governor's reputation. According to one version of the story, the
scandal of this Rajah's mysterious disappearance, followed not long
after by the Ranee's equally mysterious death, was the immediate cause
of my grandfather's recall. How much, or how little of this story--or
other dark stories of the same kind--is true, whether my grandfather was
a consummate scoundrel, or the victim of a baseless slander,--whether he
left India a rich man or a poor man, is known to no mortal except Lady
Maulevrier, and compared with her the Theban Sphinx was a communicative
'Let the dead bury their dead,' said Hammond. 'Neither you nor your
sisters can be the worse for this ancient slander. No doubt every part
of the story has been distorted and exaggerated in the telling; and a
great deal of it may be pure invention, evolved from the inner
consciousness of the slanderer. God forbid that any whisper of scandal
should ever reach Lady Lesbia's ears.'
He ignored poor Mary. It was to him as if there were no such person. Her
feeble light was extinguished by the radiance of her sister's beauty;
her very individuality was annihilated.
'As for you, dear old fellow,' he said, with warm affection, 'no one
will ever think the worse of you on account of your grandfather's
'Yes, they will. Hereditary genius is one of our modern crazes. When a
man's grandfather was a rogue, there must be a taint in his blood.
People don't believe in spontaneous generation, moral or physical,
now-a-days. Typhoid breeds typhoid, and typhus breeds typhus, just as
dog breeds dog; and who will believe that a cheat and a liar can be the
father of honest men?'
'In that case, knowing what kind of man the grandson is, I will never
believe that the grandfather was a rogue,' said Hammond, heartily.
Maulevrier put out his hand without a word, and it was warmly grasped by
'As for her ladyship, I respect and honour her as a woman who has led a
life of self-sacrifice, and has worn her pride as an armour,' continued
'Yes, I believe the dowager's character is rather fine,' said
Maulevrier; 'but she and I have never hit our horses very well together.
She would have liked such a fellow as you for a grandson, Jack--a man
who took high honours at Oxford, and could hold his own against all
comers. Such a grandson would have gratified her pride, and would have
repaid her for the trouble she had taken in nursing the Maulevrier
estate; for however poor a property it was when her husband went to
India there is no doubt that it is a very fine estate now, and that the
dowager has been the making of it.'
The two young men strolled up to Easedale Tarn before they went back to
Fellside, where Lady Maulevrier received them with a stately
graciousness, and where Lady Lesbia unbent considerably at luncheon, and
condescended to an animated conversation with her brother's friend. It
was such a new thing to have a stranger at the family board, a man whose
information was well abreast with the march of progress, who could talk
eloquently upon every subject which people care to talk about. In this
new and animated society Lesbia seemed like an enchanted princess
suddenly awakened from a spell-bound slumber. Molly looked at her sister
with absolute astonishment. Never had she seen her so bright, so
beautiful--no longer a picture or a statue, but a woman warm with the
glow of life.
'No wonder Mr. Hammond admires her,' thought poor Molly, who was quite
acute enough to see the stranger's keen appreciation of her sister's
charms, and positive indifference towards herself.
There are some things which women find out by instinct, just as the
needle turns towards the magnet. Shut a girl up in a tower till she is
eighteen years old, and on the day of her release introduce her to the
first man her eyes have ever looked upon, and she will know at a glance
whether he admires her.
After luncheon the four young people started for Rydal Mount; with
Fraeulein as chaperon and watch-dog. The girls were both good walkers.
Lady Lesbia even, though she looked like a hot-house flower, had been
trained to active habits, could walk and ride, and play tennis, and
climb a hill as became a mountain-bred damsel. Molly, feeling that her
conversational powers were not appreciated by her brother's friend, took
half a dozen dogs for company, and with three fox-terriers, a little
Yorkshire dog, a colley and an otter-hound, was at no loss for society
on the road, more especially as Maulevrier gave her most of his company,
and entertained her with an account of his Black Forest adventures, and
all the fine things he had said to the fair-haired, blue-eyed Baden
girls, who had sold him photographs or wild strawberries, or had
awakened the echoes of the hills with the music of their rustic flutes.
Fraeulein was perfectly aware that her mission upon this particular
afternoon was not to let Lady Lesbia out of her sight for an instant, to
hear every word the young lady said, and every word Mr. Hammond
addressed to her. She had received no specific instructions from Lady
Maulevrier. They were not necessary, for the Fraeulein knew her
ladyship's intentions with regard to her elder granddaughter,--knew
them, at least, so far as that Lesbia was intended to make a brilliant
marriage; and she knew, therefore, that the presence of this handsome
and altogether attractive young man was to the last degree obnoxious to
the dowager. She was obliged to be civil to him for her nephew's sake,
and she was too wise to let Lesbia imagine him dangerous: but the fact
that he was dangerous was obvious, and it was Fraeulein's duty to protect
her employer's interests.
Everybody knew Lord Maulevrier, so there was no difficulty about getting
admission to Wordsworth's garden and Wordsworth's house, and after Mr.
Hammond and his companions had explored these, they went back to the
shores of the little lake, and climbed that rocky eminence upon which
the poet used to sit, above the placid waters of silvery Rydal. It is a
lovely spot, and that narrow lake, so poor a thing were magnitude the
gauge of beauty, had a soft and pensive loveliness in the clear
'Poor Wordsworth' sighed Lesbia, as she stood on the grassy crag looking
down on the shining water, broken in the foreground by fringes of
rushes, and the rich luxuriance of water-lilies. 'Is it not pitiable to
think of the years he spent in this monotonous place, without any
society worth speaking of, with only the shabbiest collection of books,
with hardly any interest in life except the sky, and the hills, and the
'I think Wordsworth's was an essentially happy life, in spite of his
narrow range,' answered Hammond. 'You, with your ardent youth and vivid
desire for a life of action, cannot imagine the calm blisses of reverie
and constant communion with nature. Wordsworth had a thousand companions
you and I would never dream of; for him every flower that grows was an
individual existence--almost a soul.'
'It was a mild kind of lunacy, an everlasting opium dream without the
opium; but I am grateful to him for living such a life, since it has
bequeathed us some exquisite poetry,' said Lesbia, who had been too
carefully cultured to fleer or flout at Wordsworth.
'I do believe there's an otter just under that bank,' cried Molly, who
had been watching the obvious excitement of her bandy-legged hound; and
she rushed down to the brink of the water, leaping lightly from stone to
stone, and inciting the hound to business.
'Let him alone, can't you?' roared Maulevrier; 'leave him in peace till
he's wanted. If you disturb him now he'll desert his holt, and we may
have a blank day. The hounds are to be out to-morrow.'
'I may go with you?' asked Mary, eagerly.
'Well, yes, I suppose you'll want to be in it.' Molly and her brother
went on an exploring ramble along the edge of the water towards
Ambleside, leaving John Hammond in Lesbia's company, but closely guarded
by Miss Mueller. These three went to look at Nab Cottage, where poor
Hartley Coleridge ended his brief and clouded days; and they had gone
some way upon their homeward walk before they were rejoined by
Maulevrier and Mary, the damsel's kilted skirt considerably the worse
for mud and mire.
'What would grandmother say if she were to see you!' exclaimed Lesbia,
looking contemptuously at the muddy petticoat.
'I am not going to let her see me, so she will say nothing,' cried Mary,
and then she called to the dogs, 'Ammon, Agag, Angelina;' and the three
fox terriers flew along the road, falling over themselves in the
swiftness of their flight, darting, and leaping, and scrambling over
each other, and offering the spectators the most intense example of
joyous animal life.
The colley was far up on the hill-side, and the otter-hound was still
hunting the water, but the terriers never went out of Mary's sight. They
looked to her to take the initiative in all their sports.
They were back at Fellside in time for a very late tea. Lady Maulevrier
was waiting for them in the drawing-room.
'Oh, grandmother, why did you not take your tea!' exclaimed Lesbia,
looking really distressed. 'It is six o'clock.'
'I am used to have you at home to hand me my cup,' replied the dowager,
with a touch of reproachfulness.
'I am so sorry,' said Lesbia, sitting down before the tea-table, and
beginning her accustomed duty. 'Indeed, dear grandmother, I had no idea
it was so late; but it was such a lovely afternoon, and Mr. Hammond is
so interested in everything connected with Wordsworth--'
She was looking her loveliest at this moment, all that was softest in
her nature called forth by her desire to please her grandmother, whom
she really loved. She hung over Lady Maulevrier's chair, attending to
her small wants, and seeming scarcely to remember the existence of
anyone else. In this phase of her character she seemed to Mr. Hammond
the perfection of womanly grace.
Mary had rushed off to her room to change her muddy gown, and came in
presently, dressed for dinner, looking the picture of innocence.
John Hammond received his tea-cup from Lesbia's hand, and lingered in
the drawing-room talking to the dowager and her granddaughters till it
was time to dress. Lady Maulevrier found herself favourably impressed by
him in spite of her prejudices. It was very provoking of Maulevrier to
have brought such a man to Fellside. His very merits were objectionable.
She tried with exquisite art to draw him into some revealment as to his
family and antecedents: but he evaded every attempt of that kind. It was
too evident that he was a self-made man, whose intellect and good looks
were his only fortune. It was criminal in Maulevrier to have brought
such a person to Fellside. Her ladyship began to think seriously of
sending the two girls to St. Bees or Tynemouth for change of air, in
charge of Fraeulein. But any sudden proceeding of that kind would
inevitably awaken Lesbia's suspicions; and there is nothing so fatal to
a woman's peace as this idea of danger. No, the peril must be faced. She
could only hope that Maulevrier would soon tire of Fellside. A week's
Westmoreland weather--gray skies and long rainy days, would send these
young men away.
A CRY IN THE DARKNESS.
The peril had to be faced, for the weather did not favour Lady
Maulevrier's hopes. Westmoreland skies forgot to shed their accustomed
showers. Westmoreland hills seemed to have lost their power of drawing
down the rain. That August was a lovely month, and the young people at
Fellside revelled in ideal weather. Maulevrier took his friend
everywhere--by hill and stream and force and gill--to all those chosen
spots which make the glory of the Lake country--on Windermere and
Thirlmere, away through the bleak pass of Kirkstone to Ullswater--on
driving excursions, and on boating excursions, and pedestrian rambles,
which latter the homely-minded Hammond seemed to like best of all, for
he was a splendid walker, and loved the freedom of a mountain ramble,
the liberty to pause and loiter and waste an hour at will, without being
accountable to anybody's coachman, or responsible for the well-being of
On some occasions the two girls and Miss Mueller were of the party, and
then it seemed to John Hammond as if nothing were needed to complete the
glory of earth and sky. There were other days--rougher journeys--when
the men went alone, and there were days when Lady Mary stole away from
her books and music, and all those studies which she was supposed still
to be pursuing--no longer closely supervised by her governess, but on
parole, as it were--and went with her brother and his friend across the
hills and far away. Those were happy days for Mary, for it was always
delight to her to be with Maulevrier; yet she had a profound conviction
of John Hammond's indifference, kind and courteous as he was in all his
dealings with her, and a sense of her own inferiority, of her own humble
charms and little power to please, which was so acute as to be almost
pain. One day this keen sense of humiliation broke from her unawares in
her talk with her brother, as they two sat on a broad heathy slope face
to face with one of the Langdale pikes, and with a deep valley at their
feet, while John Hammond was climbing from rock to rock in the gorge on
their right, exploring the beauties of Dungeon Ghyll.
'I wonder whether he thinks me very ugly?' said Mary, with her hands
clasped upon her knees, her eyes fixed on Wetherlam, upon whose steep
brow a craggy mass of brown rock clothed with crimson heather stood out
from the velvety green of the hill-side.
'Who thinks you ugly?'
'Mr. Hammond. I'm sure he does. I am so sunburnt and so horrid!'
'But you are not ugly. Why, Molly, what are you dreaming about?'
'Oh, yes, I am ugly. I may not seem so to you, perhaps, because you are
used to me, but I know he must think me very plain compared with Lesbia,
whom he admires so much.'
'Yes, he admires Lesbia. There is no doubt of that.'
'And I know he thinks me plain,' said Molly, contemplating Wetherlam
with sorrowful eyes, as if the sequence were inevitable.
'My dearest girl, what nonsense! Plain, forsooth? Ugly, quotha? Why,
there are not a finer pair of eyes in Westmoreland than my Molly's, or a
prettier smile, or whiter teeth.'
'But all the rest is horrid,' said Mary, intensely in earnest. 'I am
sunburnt, freckled, and altogether odious--like a haymaker or a market
woman. Grandmother has said so often enough, and I know it is the truth.
I can see it in Mr. Hammond's manner.'
'What! freckles and sunburn, and the haymaker, and all that?' cried
Maulevrier, laughing. 'What an expressive manner Jack's must be, if it
can convey all that--like Lord Burleigh's nod, by Jove. Why, what a
goose you are, Mary. Jack thinks you a very nice girl, and a very pretty
girl, I'll be bound; but aren't you clever enough to understand that
when a man is over head and ears in love with one woman, he is apt to
seem just a little indifferent to all the other women in the world? and
there is no doubt Jack is desperately in love with Lesbia.'
'You ought not to let him be in love with her,' protested Mary. 'You
know it can only lead to his unhappiness. You must know what grandmother
is, and how she has made up her mind that Lesbia is to marry some great
person. You ought not to have brought Mr. Hammond here. It is like
letting him into a trap.'
'Do you think it was wrong?' asked her brother, smiling at her
earnestness. 'I should be very sorry if poor Jack should come to grief.
But still, if Lesbia likes him--which I think she does--we ought to be
able to talk over the dowager.'
'Never,' cried Mary. 'Grandmother would never give way. You have no idea
how ambitious she is. Why, once when Lesbia was in a poetical mood, and
said she would marry the man she liked best in the world, if he were a
pauper, her ladyship flew into a terrible passion, and told her she
would renounce her, that she would curse her, if she were to marry
beneath her, or marry without her grandmother's consent.'
'Hard lines for Hammond,' said Maulevrier, rather lightly. 'Then I
suppose we must give up the idea of a match between him and Lesbia.'
'You ought not to have brought him here,' retorted Mary. 'You had better
invent some plan for sending him away. If he stay it will be only to
break his heart.'
'Dear child, men's hearts do not break so easily. I have fancied that
mine was broken more than once in my life, yet it is sound enough, I
'Oh!' sighed Mary, 'but you are not like him; wounds do not go so deep
The subject of their conversation came out of the rocky cleft in the
hills as Mary spoke. She saw his hat appearing out of the gorge, and
then the man himself emerged, a tall well-built figure, clad in brown
tweed, coming towards them, with sketch-book and colour-box in his
pocket. He had been making what he called memoranda of the waterfall, a
stone or two here, a cluster of ferns there, or a tree torn up by the
roots, and yet green and living, hanging across the torrent, a rude
This round by the Langdale Pikes and Dungeon Ghyll was one of their best
days; or, at least, Molly and her brother thought so; for to those two
the presence of Lesbia and her chaperon was always a restraint.
Mary could walk twice as far as her elder sister, and revelled in
hill-side paths and all manner of rough places. They ordered their
luncheon at the inn below the waterfall, and had it carried up on to the
furzy slope in front of Wetherlam, where they could eat and drink and be
merry to the music of the force as it came down from the hills behind
them, while the lights and shadows came and went upon yonder rugged
brow, now gray in the shadow, now ruddy in the sunshine.
Mary was as gay as a bird during that rough and ready luncheon. No one
would have suspected her uneasiness about John Hammond's peril or her
own plainness. She might let her real self appear to her brother, who
had been her trusted friend and father confessor from her babyhood; but
she was too thorough a woman to let Mr. Hammond discover the depth of
her sympathy, the tenderness of her compassion for his woes. Later, as
they were walking home across the hills, by Great Langdale and Little
Langdale, and Fox Howe and Loughrigg Fell, she fell behind a few paces
with Maulevrier, and said to him very earnestly--
'You won't tell, will you, dear?'
'Tell what?' he asked, staring at her.
'Don't tell Mr. Hammond what I said about his thinking me ugly. He might
want to apologise to me, and that would be too humiliating. I was very
childish to say such a silly thing.'
'Undoubtedly you were.'
'And you won't tell him?'
'Tell him anything that would degrade my Mary? Assail her dignity by so
much as a breath? Sooner would I have this tongue torn out with red-hot
On the next day, and the next, sunshine and summer skies still
prevailed; but Mr. Hammond did not seem to care for rambling far afield.
He preferred loitering about in the village, rowing on the lake, reading
in the garden, and playing lawn tennis. He had only inclination for
those amusements which kept him within a stone's throw of Fellside: and
Mary knew that this disposition had arisen in his mind since Lesbia had
withdrawn herself from all share in their excursions. Lesbia had not
been rude to her brother or her brother's friend; she had declined their
invitations with smiles and sweetness; but there was always some
reason--a new song to be practised, a new book to be read, a letter to
be written--why she should not go for drives or walks or steamboat trips
with Maulevrier and his friend.
So Mr. Hammond suddenly found out that he had seen all that was worth
seeing in the Lake country, and that there was nothing so enjoyable as
the placid idleness of Fellside; and at Fellside Lady Lesbia could not
always avoid him without a too-marked intention, so he tasted the
sweetness of her society to a much greater extent than was good for his
peace, if the case were indeed as hopeless as Lady Mary declared. He
strolled about the grounds with her; he drank the sweet melody of her
voice in Heine's tenderest ballads; he read to her on the sunlit lawn in
the lazy afternoon hours; he played billiards with her; he was her
faithful attendant at afternoon tea; he gave himself up to the study of
her character, which, to his charmed eyes, seemed the perfection of pure
and placid womanhood. There might, perhaps, be some lack of passion and
of force in this nature, a marked absence of that impulsive feeling
which is a charm in some women: but this want was atoned for by
sweetness of character, and Mr. Hammond argued that in these calm
natures there is often an unsuspected depth, a latent force, a grandeur
of soul, which only reveals itself in the great ordeals of life.
So John Hammond hung about the luxurious drawing-room at Fellside in a
manner which his friend Maulevrier ridiculed as unmanly.
'I had no idea you were such a tame cat,' he said: 'if when we were
salmon fishing in Canada anybody had told me you could loll about a
drawing-room all day listening to a girl squalling and reading novels, I
shouldn't have believed a word of it.'
'We had plenty of roughing on the shores of the St. Lawrence,' answered
Hammond. 'Summer idleness in a drawing-room is an agreeable variety.'
It is not to be supposed that John Hammond's state of mind could long
remain unperceived by the keen eyes of the dowager. She saw the gradual
dawning of his love, she saw the glow of its meridian. She was pleased
to behold this proof of Lesbia's power over the heart of man. So would
she conquer the man foredoomed to be her husband when the coming time
should bring them together. But agreeable as the fact of this first
conquest might be, as an evidence of Lesbia's supremacy among women, the
situation was not without its peril; and Lady Maulevrier felt that she
could no longer defer the duty of warning her granddaughter. She had
wished, if possible, to treat the thing lightly to the very last, so
that Lesbia should never know there had been danger. She had told her, a
few days ago, that those drives, and walks with the two young men were
undignified, even although guarded by the Fraeulein's substantial
'You are making yourself too much a companion to Maulevrier and his
friend,' said the dowager. 'If you do not take care you will grow like
'I would do anything in the world to avoid _that_,' replied Lesbia. 'Our
walks and drives have been very pleasant. Mr. Hammond is extremely
clever, and can talk about everything.'
Her colour heightened ever so little as she spoke of him, an indication
duly observed by Lady Maulevrier.
'No doubt the man is clever; all adventurers are clever; and you have
sense enough to see that this man is an adventurer--a mere sponge and
toady of Maulevrier's.'
'There is nothing of the sponge or the toady in his manner,' protested
Lady Lesbia, with a still deeper blush, the warm glow of angry feeling.
'My dear child, what do you know of such people--or of the atmosphere in
which they are generated? The sponge and toady of to-day is not the
clumsy fawning wretch you have read about in old-fashioned novels. He
can flatter adroitly, and feed upon his friends, and yet maintain a show
of manhood and independence. I'll wager Mr. Hammond's trip to Canada did
not cost him sixpence, and that he hardly opened his purse all the time
he was in Germany.'
'If my brother wants the company of a friend who is much poorer than
himself, he must pay for it,' argued Lesbia. 'I think Maulevrier is
lucky to have such a companion as Mr. Hammond.'
Yet, even while she so argued, Lady Lesbia felt in some manner
humiliated by the idea that this man who so palpably worshipped her was
too poor to pay his own travelling expenses.
Poets and philosophers may say what they will about the grandeur of
plain living and high thinking; but a young woman thinks better of the
plain liver who is not compelled to plainness by want of cash. The idea
of narrow means, of dependence upon the capricious generosity of a
wealthy friend is not without its humiliating influence. Lesbia was
barely civil to Mr. Hammond that evening when he praised her singing;
and she refused to join in a four game proposed by Maulevrier, albeit
she and Mr. Hammond had beaten Mary and Maulevrier the evening before,
with much exultant hilarity.
Hammond had been at Fellside nearly a month, and Maulevrier was
beginning to talk about a move further northward. There was a grouse
moor in Argyleshire which the two young men talked about as belonging to
some unnamed friend of the Earl's, which they had thought of shooting
over before the grouse season was ended.
'Lord Hartfield has property in Argyleshire,' said the dowager, when
they talked of these shootings. 'Do you know his estate, Mr. Hammond?'
'Hammond knows that there is such a place, I daresay,' replied
Maulevrier, replying for his friend.
'But you do not know Lord Hartfield, perhaps,' said her ladyship, not
arrogantly, but still in a tone which implied her conviction that John
Hammond would not be hand-in-glove with earls, in Scotland or elsewhere.
'Oh, yes! I know him by sight every one in Argyleshire knows him by
'Naturally. A young man in his position must be widely known. Is he
'His father and I were friends many years ago,' said Lady Maulevrier,
with a faint sigh. 'Have you ever heard if he resembles his father?'
'I believe not. I am told he is like his mother's family.'
'Then he ought to be handsome. Lady Florence Ilmington was a famous
They were sitting in the drawing-room after dinner, the room dimly
lighted by darkly-shaded lamps, the windows wide open to the summer sky
and moonlit lake. In that subdued light Lady Maulevrier looked a woman
in the prime of life. The classical modelling of her features and the
delicacy of her complexion were unimpaired by time, while those traces
of thought and care which gave age to her face in the broad light of day
were invisible at night. John Hammond contemplated that refined and
placid countenance with profound admiration. He remembered how her
ladyship's grandson had compared her with the Sphinx; and it seemed to
him to-night, as be studied her proud and tranquil beauty, that there
was indeed something of the mysterious, the unreadable in that
countenance, and that beneath its heroic calm there might be the ashes
of tragic passion, the traces of a life-long struggle with fate. That
such a woman, so beautiful, so gifted, so well fitted to shine and
govern in the great world, should have been content to live a long life
of absolute seclusion in this remote valley was in itself a social
mystery which must needs set an observant young man wondering. It was
all very well to say that Lady Maulevrier loved a country life, that she
had made Fellside her earthly Paradise, and had no desire beyond it. The
fact remained that it was not in Lady Maulevrier's temperament to be
satisfied with such an existence; that falcon eye was never meant to
gaze for ever upon one narrow range of mountain and lake; that lip was
made to speak among the great ones of the world.
Lady Maulevrier was particularly gracious to her grandson's friend this
evening. Maulevrier spoke so decisively about a speedy migration
northward, seemed so inclined to regret the time wasted since the
twelfth of the month, that she thought the danger was past, and she
could afford to be civil. She really liked the young man, had no doubt
in her own mind that he was a gentleman in the highest and broadest
sense of the word, but not in the sense which made him an eligible
husband for either of her granddaughters.
Lesbia was in a pensive mood this evening. She sat in the verandah,
looking dreamily at the lake, and at Fairfield yonder, a broad green
slope, silvered with moonlight, and seeming to stretch far away into
If one could but take one's lover by the hand and go wandering over
those mystic moonlit slopes into some new unreal world where it would
not matter whether a man were rich or poor, high-born or low-born, where
there should be no such things as rank and state to be won or lost!
Lesbia felt to-night as if she would like to live out her life in
dreamland. Reality was too hard, too much set round by difficulties and
While Lesbia was losing herself in that dream-world, Lady Maulevrier
unbent considerably to John Hammond, and talked to him with more
appearance of interest in his actual self, and in his own affairs, than
she had manifested hitherto although she had been uniformly courteous.
She asked him his plans for the future--had he chosen a profession?
He told her that he had not. He meant to devote himself to literature
'Is not that rather vague?' inquired her ladyship.
'Everything is vague at first.'
'But literature now--as an amusement, no doubt, it is delightful--but as
a profession--does literature ever pay?'
'There have been such cases.'
'Yes, I suppose so. Walter Scott, Gibbon, Macaulay, Froude, those made
money no doubt. But there is a suspicion of hopelessness in the idea of
a young man starting in life intending to earn his bread by literature.
One remembers Chatterton. I should have thought that in your case the
law or the church would have been better. In the latter Maulevrier might
have been useful to you. He is patron of three or four livings.'
'You are too good even to think of such a thing,' said Hammond; 'but I
have set my heart upon a political career. I must swim or sink in that
Lady Maulevrier looked at him with a compassionate smile Poor young man!
No doubt he thought himself a genius, and that doors which had remained
shut to everybody else would turn on their hinges directly he knocked at
them. She was sincerely sorry for him. Young, clever, enthusiastic, and
doomed to bitterest disappointment.
'You have parents, perhaps, who are ambitious for you--a mother who
thinks her son a heaven-born statesman!' said her ladyship, kindly.
'Alas, no! that incentive to ambition is wanting in my case. I have
neither father nor mother living.'
'That is very sad. No doubt that fact has been a bond of sympathy
between you and Maulevrier?'
'I believe it has.'
'Well, I hope Providence will smile upon your path.'
'Come what may, I shall never forget the happy weeks I have spent at
Fellside,' said Hammond, 'or your ladyship's gracious hospitality.'
He took up the beautiful hand, white to transparency, showing the
delicate tracing of blue veins, and pressed his lips upon it in
chivalrous worship of age and womanly dignity.
Lady Maulevrier smiled upon him with her calm, grave smile. She would
have liked to say, 'You shall be welcome again at Fellside,' but she
felt that the man was dangerous. Not while Lesbia remained single could
she court his company. If Maulevrier brought him she must tolerate his
presence, but she would do nothing to invite that danger.
There was no music that evening. Maulevrier and Mary were playing
billiards; Fraeulein Mueller was sitting in her corner working at a
high-art counterpane. Lesbia came in from the verandah presently, and
sat on a low stool by her grandmother's arm-chair, and talked to her in
soft, cooing accents, inaudible to John Hammond, who sat a little way
off turning the leaves of the _Contemporary Review_: and this went on
till eleven o'clock, the regular hour for retiring, when Mary came in
from the billiard-room, and told Mr. Hammond that Maulevrier was waiting
for a smoke and a talk. Then candles were lighted, and the ladies all
departed, leaving John Hammond and his friend with the house to
They played a fifty game, and smoked and talked till the stroke of
midnight, by which time it seemed as if there were not another creature
awake in the house. Maulevrier put out the lamps in the billiard-room,
and then they went softly up the shadowy staircase, and parted in the
gallery, the Earl going one way, and his friend the other.
The house was large and roomy, spread over a good deal of ground, Lady
Maulevrier having insisted upon there being only two stories. The
servants' rooms were all in a side wing, corresponding with those older
buildings which had been given over to Steadman and his wife, and among
the villagers of Grasmere enjoyed the reputation of being haunted. A
wide panelled corridor extended from one end of the house to the other.
It was lighted from the roof, and served as a gallery for the display of
a small and choice collection of modern art, which her ladyship had
acquired during her long residence at Fellside. Here, too, in Sheraton
cabinets, were those treasures of old English china which Lady
Maulevrier had inherited from past generations.
Her ladyship's rooms were situated at the southern end of this corridor,
her bed-chamber being at the extreme end of the house, with windows
commanding two magnificent views, one across the lake and the village of
Grasmere to the green slopes of Fairfield, the other along the valley
towards Rydal Water. This and the adjoining boudoir were the prettiest
rooms in the house, and no one wondered that her ladyship should spend
so much of her life in the luxurious seclusion of her own apartments.
John Hammond went to his room, which was on the same side of the house
as her ladyship's; but he was in no disposition for sleep. He opened the
casement, and stood looking out upon the moonlit lake and the quiet
village, where one solitary light shone like a faint star in a cottage
window, amidst that little cluster of houses by the old church, once
known as Kirktown. Beyond the village rose gentle slopes, crowned with
foliage, and above those wooded crests appeared the grand outline of the
hills, surrounding and guarding Easedale's lovely valley, as the hills
surrounded Jerusalem of old.
He looked at that delicious landscape with eyes that hardly saw its
beauty. The image of a lovely face came between him and all the glory of
earth and sky.
'I think she likes me,' he was saying to himself. 'There was a look in
her eyes to-night that told me the time was come when----'
The thought died unfinished in his brain. Through the silent house,
across the placid lake, there rang a wild, shrill cry that froze the
blood in his veins, or seemed so to freeze it--a shriek of agony, and in
a woman's voice. It rang out from an open window near his own. The sound
seemed close to his ear.
'O BITTERNESS OF THINGS TOO SWEET.'
Only for an instant did John Hammond stand motionless after hearing that
unearthly shriek. In the next moment he rushed into the corridor,
expecting to hear the sound repeated, to find himself face to face with
some midnight robber, whose presence had caused that wild cry of alarm.
But in the corridor all was silent as the grave. No open door suggested
the entrance of an intruder. The dimly-burning lamps showed only the
long empty gallery. He stood still for a few moments listening for
voices, footsteps, the rustle of garments: but there was nothing.
Nothing? Yes, a groan, a long-drawn moaning sound, as of infinite pain.
This time there was no doubt as to the direction from which the sound
came. It came from Lady Maulevrier's room. The door was ajar, and he
could see the faint light of the night-lamp within. That fearful cry had
come from her ladyship's room. She was in peril or pain of some kind.
Convinced of this one fact, Mr. Hammond had not an instant's hesitation.
He pushed open the door without compunction, and entered the room,
prepared to behold some terrible scene.
But all was quiet as death itself. No midnight burglar had violated the
sanctity of Lady Maulevrier's apartment. The soft, steady light of the
night-lamp shone on the face of the sleeper. Yes, all was quiet in the
room, but not in that sleeper's soul. The broad white brow was painfully
contracted, the lips drawn down and distorted, the delicate hand, half
hidden by the deep Valenciennes ruffle, clutched the coverlet with
convulsive force. Sigh after sigh burst from the agitated breast. John
Hammond gazed upon the sleeper in an agony of apprehension, uncertain
what to do. Was this dreaming only; or was it some kind of seizure which
called for medical aid? At her ladyship's age the idea of paralysis was
not too improbable for belief. If this was a dream, then indeed the
visions of Lady Maulevrier's head upon her bed were more terrible than
the dreams of common mortals.
In any case Mr. Hammond felt that it was his duty to send some attendant
to Lady Maulevrier, some member of the household who was familiar with
her ladyship's habits, her own maid if that person could be unearthed
easily. He knew that the servants slept in a separate wing; but he
thought it more than likely that her ladyship's personal attendant
occupied a room near her mistress.
He went back to the corridor and looked round him in doubt, for a moment
Close against her ladyship's door there was a swing door, covered with
red cloth, which seemed to communicate with the old part of the house.
John Hammond pushed this door, and it yielded to his hand, revealing a
lamp-lit passage, narrow, old-fashioned, and low. He thought it likely
that Lady Maulevrier's maid might occupy a room in this half-deserted
wing. As he pushed open the door he saw an elderly man coming towards
him, with a candle in his hand, and with the appearance of having
huddled on his clothes hastily.
'You heard that scream?' said Hammond.
'Yes. It was her ladyship, I suppose. Nightmare. She is subject to
'It is very dreadful. Her whole countenance was convulsed just now, when
I went into her room to see what was wrong. I was almost afraid of a fit
of some kind. Ought not her maid to go to her?'
'She wants no assistance,' the man answered, coolly. 'It was only a
dream. It is not the first time I have been awakened by a shriek like
that. It is a kind of nightmare, no doubt; and it passes off in a few
minutes, and leaves her sleeping calmly.'
He went to her ladyship's door, pushed it open a little way, and looked
in. 'Yes, she is sleeping as quietly as an infant,' he said, shutting
the door softly as he spoke.
'I am very glad; but surely she ought to have her maid near her at
night, if she is subject to those attacks.'
'It is no attack, I tell you. It is nothing but a dream,' answered
'Yet you were frightened, just as I was, or you would not have got up
and dressed,' said Hammond, looking at the man suspiciously.
He had heard of this old servant Steadman, who was supposed to enjoy
more of her ladyship's confidence than any one else in the household;
but he had never spoken to the man before that night.
'Yes, I came. It was my duty to come, knowing her ladyship's habits. I
am a light sleeper, and that scream woke me instantly. If her ladyship's
maid were wanted I should call her. I am a kind of watch-dog, you see,
'You seem to be a very faithful dog.'
'I have been in her ladyship's service more than forty years. I have
reason to be faithful. I know her ladyship's habits better than any one
in the house. I know that she had a great deal of trouble in her early
life, and I believe the memory of it comes back upon her sometimes in
her dreams, and gets the better of her.'
'If it was memory that wrung that agonised shriek from her just now, her
recollections of the past must be very terrible.'
'Ah, sir, there is a skeleton in every house,' answered James Steadman,
This was exactly what Maulevrier had said under the yew trees which
'Good-night, sir,' said Steadman.
'Good-night. You are sure that Lady Maulevrier may be left safely--that
there is no fear of illness of any kind?'
'No, sir. It was only a bad dream. Good-night, sir.'
Steadman went back to his own quarters. Mr. Hammond heard him draw the
bolts of the swing door, thus cutting off all communication with the
The eight-day clock on the staircase struck two as Mr. Hammond returned
to his room, even less inclined for sleep than when he left it. Strange,
that nocturnal disturbance of a mind which seemed so tranquil in the
day. Or was that tranquillity only a mask which her ladyship wore before
the world: and was the bitter memory of events which happened forty
years ago still a source of anguish to that highly strung nature?
'There are some minds which cannot forget,' John Hammond said to
himself, as he meditated upon her ladyship's character and history. 'The
story of her husband's crime may still be fresh in her memory, though it
is only a tradition for the outside world. His crime may have involved
some deep wrong done to herself, some outrage against her love and faith
as a wife. One of the stories Maulevrier spoke of the other day was of a
wicked woman's influence upon the governor--a much more likely story
than that of any traffic in British interests or British honour, which
would have been almost impossible for a man in Lord Maulevrier's
position. If the scandal was of a darker kind--a guilty wife--the
mysterious disappearance of a husband--the horror of the thing may have
made a deeper impression on Lady Maulevrier than even her nearest and
dearest dream of: and that superb calm which she wears like a royal
mantle may be maintained at the cost of struggles which tear her
heart-strings. And then at night, when the will is dormant, when the
nervous system is no longer ruled by the power of waking intelligence,
the old familiar agony returns, the hated images flash back upon the
brain, and in proportion to the fineness of the temperament is the
intensity of the dreamer's pain.'
And then he went on to reflect upon the long monotonous years spent in
that lonely house, shut in from the world by those everlasting hills.
Albeit the house was an ideal house, set in a landscape of infinite
beauty, the monotony must be none the less oppressive for a mind
burdened with dark memories, weighed down by sorrows which could seek no
relief from sympathy, which could never become familiarised by
'I wonder that a woman of Lady Maulevrier's intellect should not have
better known how to treat her own malady,' thought Hammond.
Mr. Hammond inquired after her ladyship's health next morning, and was
told she was perfectly well.
'Grandmother is in capital spirits,' said Lady Lesbia. 'She is pleased
with the contents of yesterday's _Globe_. Lord Denyer, the son of one of
her oldest friends, has been making a great speech at Liverpool in the
Conservative interest, and her ladyship thinks we shall have a change of
parties before long.'
'A general shuffle of the cards,' said Maulevrier, looking up from his
breakfast. 'I'm sure I hope so. I'm no politician, but I like a row.'
'I hope you are a Conservative, Mr. Hammond,' said Lesbia.
'I had hoped you would have known that ever so long ago, Lady Lesbia.'
Lesbia blushed at his tone, which was almost a reproach.
'I suppose I ought to have understood from the general tenor of your
conversation,' she said; 'but I am terribly stupid about politics. I
take so little interest in them. I am always hearing that we are being
badly governed--that the men who legislate for us are stupid or wicked;
yet the world seems to go on somehow, and we are no worse.'
'It is just the same with sport,' said Maulevrier. 'Every rainy spring
we are told that all the young birds have been drowned, or that the
grouse-disease has decimated the fathers and mothers, and that we shall
have nothing to shoot; but when August comes the birds are there all the
'It is the nature of mankind to complain,' said Hammond. 'Cain and Abel
were the first farmers, and you see one of them grumbled.'
They were rather lively at breakfast that morning--Maulevrier's last
breakfast but one--for he had announced his determination of going to
Scotland next day. Other fellows would shoot all the birds if he dawdled
any longer. Mary was in deep despondency at the idea of his departure,
yet she laughed and talked with the rest. And perhaps Lesbia felt a
little moved at the thought of losing Mr. Hammond. Maulevrier would come
back to Mary, but John Hammond was hardly likely to return. Their
parting would be for ever.
'You needn't sit quite in my pocket, Molly,' said Maulevrier to his
'I like to make the most of you, now you are going away,' sighed Mary.
'Oh, dear, how dull we shall all be when you are gone.'
'Not a bit of it! You will have some fox-hunting, perhaps, before the
snow is on the hills.'
At the very mention of fox-hounds Lady Mary's bright young face
crimsoned, and Maulevrier began to laugh in a provoking way, with
side-long glances at his younger sister.
'Did you ever hear of Molly's fox-hunting, by-the-by, Hammond?' he
Mary tried to put her hand before his lips, but it was useless.
'Why shouldn't I tell?' he exclaimed. 'It was quite a heroic adventure.
You must know our fox-hunting here is rather a peculiar
institution,--very good in its way, but strictly local. No horse could
live among our hills, so we hunt on foot, and as the pace is good, and
the work hard, nobody who starts with the hounds is likely to be in at
the death, except the huntsmen. We are all mad for the sport, and off we
go, over the hills and far away, picking up a fresh field as we go. The
ploughman leaves his plough, and the shepherd leaves his flock, and the
farmer leaves his thrashing, to follow us; in every field we cross we
get fresh blood, while those who join us at the start fall off by
degrees. Well, it happened one day late in October, when there were long
ridges of snow on Helvellyn, and patches of white on Fairfield, Mistress
Mary here must needs take her bamboo staff and start for the Striding
Edge. It was just the day upon which she might have met her death easily
on that perilous point, but happily something occurred to divert her
juvenile fancy, for scarcely had she got to the bottom of Dolly Waggon
Pike--you know Dolly----'
'Intimately,' said Hammond, with a nod.
'Scarcely had she neared the base of Dolly Waggon when she heard the
huntsman's horn and the hounds at full cry, streaming along towards
Dunmail Raise. Off flew Molly, all among the butcher boys, and farmers'
men, and rosy-cheeked squireens of the district--racing over the rugged
fields--clambering over the low stone walls--up hill, down
hill--shouting when the others shouted--never losing sight of the waving
sterns--winding and doubling, and still going upward and upward, till
she stood, panting and puffing like a young grampus, on the top of Seat
Sandal, still all among the butcher boys and the farmer's men, and the
guides and the red-cheeked squireens, her frock torn to ribbons, her hat
lost in a ditch, her hair streaming down her back, and every inch of
her, from her nose downwards, splashed and spattered with mire and clay.
What a spectacle for gods and men, guides and butcher boys. And there
she stood with the sun going down beyond Coniston Old Man, and a
seven-mile walk between her and Fellside.
'Poor Lady Mary!' said Hammond, looking at her very kindly: but Mary did
not see that friendly glance, which betokened sympathy rather than
scorn. She sat silent and very red, with drooping eyelids, thinking her
brother horribly cruel for thus publishing her foolishness.
'Poor, indeed!' exclaimed Maulevrier. 'She came crawling home after
dark, footsore and draggled, looking like a beggar girl, and as evil
fate would have it, her ladyship, who so seldom goes out, must needs
have been taking afternoon tea at the Vicarage upon that particular
occasion, and was driving up the avenue as Mary crawled to the gate. The
storm that followed may be more easily imagined than described.'
'It was years and years ago,' expostulated Mary, looking very angry.
'Grandmother needn't have made such a fuss about it.'
'Ah, but in those days she still had hopes of civilising you,' answered
Maulevrier. 'Since then she has abandoned all endeavour in that
direction, and has given you over to your own devices--and me. Since
then you have become a chartered libertine. You have letters of mark.'
'I don't care what you call me,' said Mary. 'I only know that I am very
happy when you are at home, and very miserable when you are away.'
'It is hardly kind of you to say that, Lady Mary,' remonstrated Fraeulein
Mueller, who, up to this point, had been busily engaged with muffins and
'Oh, I don't mean that any one is unkind to me or uses me badly,' said
Mary. 'I only mean that my life is empty when Maulevrier is away, and
that I am always longing for him to come back again.'
'I thought you adored the hills, and the lake, and the villagers, and
your pony, and Maulevrier's dogs,' said, Lesbia faintly contemptuous.
'Yes, but one wants something human to love,' answered Mary, making it
very obvious that there was no warmth of affection between herself and
the feminine members of her family.
She had not thought of the significance of her speech. She was very
angry with Maulevrier for having held her up to ridicule before Mr.
Hammond, who already despised her, as she believed, and whose contempt
was more galling than it need have been, considering that he was a mere
casual visitor who would go away and return no more. Never till his
coming had she felt her deficiencies; but in his presence she writhed
under the sense of her unworthiness, and had an almost agonising
consciousness of all those faults which her grandmother had told her
about so often with not the slightest effect. In those days she had not
cared what Lady Maulevrier or any one else might say of her, or think of
her. She lived her life, and defied fortune. She was worse than her
reputation. To-day she felt it a bitter thing that she had grown to the
age of womanhood lacking all those graces and accomplishments which made
her sister adorable, and which might make even a plain woman charming.
Never till John Hammond's coming had she felt a pang of envy in the
contemplation of Lesbia's beauty or Lesbia's grace; but now she had so
keen a sense of the difference between herself and her sister that she
began to fear that this cruel pain must indeed be that lowest of all
vices. Even the difference in their gowns was a source of humiliation to
her how. Lesbia was looking her loveliest this morning, in a gown that
was all lace and soft Madras muslin, flowing, cloud-like; while Mary's
tailor gown, with its trim tight bodice, horn buttons, and kilted skirt,
seemed to cry aloud that it had been made for a Tomboy. And this tailor
gown was a costume to which Mary had condemned herself by her own folly.
Only a year ago, moved by an artistic admiration for Lesbia's delicate
breakfast gowns, Mary had told her grandmother that she would like to
have something of the same kind, whereupon the dowager, who did not take
the faintest interest in Mary's toilet, but who had a stern sense of
'I do not think Lesbia's frocks and your habits will agree, but you can
have some pretty morning gowns if you like;' and the order had been
given for a confection in muslin and lace for Lady Mary.
Mary came down to breakfast one bright June morning, in the new frock,
feeling very proud of herself, and looking very pretty.
'Fine feathers make fine birds,' said Fraeulein Mueller. 'I should hardly
have known you.'
'I wish you would always dress like that,' said Lesbia; 'you really look
like a young lady;' and Mary danced about on the lawn, feeling
sylph-like, and quite in love with her own elegance, when a sudden
uplifting of canine voices in the distance had sent her flying to see
what was the matter with the terrier pack.
In the kennel there was riot and confusion. Ahab was demolishing
Angelina, Absalom had Agamemnon in a deadly grip. Dog-whip in hand, Mary
rushed to the rescue, and laid about her, like the knights of old,
utterly forgetful of her frock. She soon succeeded in restoring order,
but the Madras muslin, the Breton lace had perished in the conflict. She
left the kennel panting, and in rags and tatters, some of the muslin and
lace hanging about her in strips a yard long, but the greater part
remaining in the possession of the terriers, who had mauled and munched
her finery to their hearts' content, while she was reading the Riot Act.
She went back to the house, bowed down by shame and confusion, and
marched straight to the dowager's morning-room.
'Look what the terriers have done to me, grandmother,' she said, with a
sob. 'It is all my own fault, of course. I ought not to have gone near
them in that stupid muslin. Please forgive me for being so foolish. I am
not fit to have pretty frocks.'
'I think, my dear, you can now have no doubt that the tailor gowns are
fittest for you,' answered Lady Maulevrier, with crushing placidity. 'We
have tried the experiment of dressing you like Lesbia, and you see it
does not answer. Tell Kibble to throw your new gown in the rag-bag, and
please let me hear no more about it.'
After this dismal failure Mary could not feel herself ill-used in
having to wear tailor gowns all the year round. She was allowed cotton
frocks for very warm weather, and she had pretty gowns for evening wear;
but her usual attire was cloth or linsey woolsey, made by the local
tailor. Sometimes Maulevrier ordered her a gown or a coat from his own
man in Conduit Street, and then she felt herself smart and fashionable.
And even the local tailor contrived to make her gowns prettily, having a
great appreciation of her straight willowy figure, and deeming it a
privilege to work for her, so that hitherto Mary had felt very well
content with her cloth and linsey. But now that John Hammond so
obviously admired Lesbia's delicate raiment, poor Mary began to think
her woollen gowns odious.
After breakfast Mary and Maulevrier went straight off to the kennels.
His lordship had numerous instructions to give on this last day, and his
lieutenant had to receive and register his orders. Lesbia went to the
garden with her book and with Fraeulein--the inevitable Fraeulein as
Hammond thought her--in close attendance.
It was a lovely morning, sultry, summer-like, albeit September had just
begun. The tennis lawn, which had been levelled on one side of the
house, was surrounded on three sides by shrubberies planted forty years
ago, in the beginning of Lady Maulevrier's widowhood. All loveliest
trees grew there in perfection, sheltered by the mighty wall of the
mountain, fed by the mists from the lake. Larch and mountain ash, and
Lawsonian cyprus,--deodara and magnolia, arbutus, and silver broom,
acacia and lilac, flourished here in that rich beauty which made every
cottage garden in the happy district a little paradise; and here in a
semi-circular recess at one end of the lawn were rustic chairs and
tables and an umbrella tent. This was Lady Lesbia's chosen retreat on
summer mornings, and a favourite place for afternoon tea.
Mr. Hammond followed the two ladies to their bower.
'This is to be my last morning,' he said, looking at Lesbia. 'Will you
think me a great bore if I spend it with you?'
'We shall think it very nice of you,' answered Lesbia, without a vestige
of emotion; 'especially if you will read to us.'
'I will do any thing to make myself useful. What shall I read?'
'Anything you like. What do you say to Tennyson?'
'That he is a noble poet, a teacher of all good; but too philosophical
for my present mood. May I read you some of Heine's ballads, those songs
which you sing so exquisitely, or rather some you do not sing, and which
will be fresher to you. My German is far from perfect, but I am told it
is passable, and Fraeulein Mueller can throw her scissors at me when my
accent is too dreadful.'
'You speak German beautifully,' said Fraeulein. 'I wonder where you
'I have been a good deal in Germany, and I had a Hanoverian valet who
was quite a gentleman, and spoke admirably, I think I learned more from
him than from grammars or dictionaries. I'll go and fetch Heine.'
'What a very agreeable person Mr. Hammond is,' said Fraeulein, when he
was gone. 'We shall quite miss him.'
'Yes, I have no doubt we shall miss him,' said Lesbia, again without the
The governess began to think that the ordeal of an agreeable young man's
presence at Fellside had been passed in safety, and that her pupil was
unscathed. She had kept a close watch on the two, as in duty bound. She
knew that Hammond was in love with Lesbia; but she thought Lesbia was
Mr. Hammond came back with a shabby little book in his hand and
established himself comfortably in one of the two Beaconsfield chairs.
He opened his book at that group of short poems called Heimkehr, and
read here and there, as fancy led him. Sometimes the strain was a
love-song, brief, passionate as the cry of a soul in pain; sometimes the
verses were bitter and cynical; sometimes full of tenderest simplicity,
telling of childhood, and youth and purity; sometimes dark with hidden
meanings, grim, awful, cold with the chilling breath of the
charnel-house. Sometimes Lesbia's heart beat a little faster as Mr.
Hammond read, for it seemed as if it was he who was speaking to her, and
not the dead poet.
An hour or more passed in this way. Fraeulein Mueller was charmed at
hearing some of her favourite poems, asking now for this little bit, and
anon for another, and expatiating upon the merits of German poets in
general, and Heine in particular, in the pauses of the lecture. She was
quite carried away by her delight in the poet, and was so entirely
uplifted to the ideal world that, when a footman came with a message
from Lady Maulevrier requesting her presence, she tripped gaily off at
once, without a thought of danger in leaving those two together on the
lawn. She had been a faithful watch-dog up to this point; but she was
now lulled into a false sense of security by the idea that the time of
peril was all but ended.
So she left them; but could she have looked hack two minutes afterwards
she would have perceived the unwisdom of that act.
No sooner had the Fraeulein turned the corner of the shrubbery than
Hammond laid aside his book and drew nearer Lesbia, who sat looking
downward, with her eyes upon the delicate piece of fancy work which had
occupied her fingers all the morning.
'Lesbia, this is my last day at Fellside, and you and I may never have a
minute alone together again while I am here. Will you come for a little
walk with me on the Fell? There is something I must say to you before I
Lesbia's delicate cheek grew a shade more pale. Instinct told her what
was coming, though never mortal man had spoken to her of love. Nor until
now had Mr. Hammond ever addressed her by her Christian name without
the ceremonious prefix. There was a deeper tone in his voice, a graver
look in his eyes, than she had ever noticed before.
She rose, and took up her sunshade, and went with him meekly through the
cultivated shrubbery of ornamental timber to the rougher pathway that
wound through a copse of Scotch fir, which formed the outer boundary of
Lady Maulevrier's domain. Beyond the fir trees rose the grassy slope of
the hill, on the brow of which sheep were feeding. Deep down in the
hollow below the lawns and shrubberries of Fellside the placid bosom of
the lake shone like an emerald floor in the sunlight, reflecting the
verdure of the hill, and the white sheep dotted about here and there.
There was not a breath in the air around them as those two sauntered
slowly side by side in the pine wood, not a cloud in the dazzling blue
sky above; and for a little time they too were silent, as if bound by a
spell which neither dared to break. Then at last Hammond spoke.
'Lesbia, you know that I love you,' he began, in his low, grave voice,
tremulous with feeling. 'No words I can say to-day can tell you of my
love more plainly than my heart has been telling you in every hour of
this happy, happy time that you and I have spent together. I love you as
I never hoped to love, fervently, completely, believing that the
perfection of earthly bliss will be mine if I can but win you. Dearest,
is there such a sweet hope for me; are you indeed my own, as I am yours,
heart and soul, and mind and being, till the last throb of life in this
He tried to take her hand, but she drew herself away from him with a
frightened look. She was very pale, and there was infinite distress in
the dark violet eyes, which looked entreatingly, deprecatingly at her
'I dare not answer as you would like me to answer,' she faltered, after
a painful pause. 'I am not my own mistress. My grandmother has brought
me up, devoted herself to me almost, and she has her own views, her own
plans. I dare not frustrate them!'
'She would like to marry you to a man of rank and fortune--a man who
will choose you, perhaps, because other people admire you, rather than
because he himself loves you as you ought to be loved; who will choose
you because you are altogether the best and most perfect thing of your
year; just as he would buy a yearling at Newmarket or Doncaster. Her
ladyship means you to make a great alliances--coronets, not hearts, are
the counters for her game; but, Lesbia, would you, in the bloom and
freshness of youth--you with the pulses of youth throbbing at your
heart--lend yourself to the calculations of age which has lived its life
and forgotten the very meaning of love? Would you submit to be played as
a card in the game of a dowager's ambition? Trust me, dearest, in the
crisis of a woman's life there is one only counsellor she should listen
to, and that counsellor is her own heart. If you love me--as I dare to
hope you do--trust in me, hold by me, and leave the rest to Heaven. I
know that I can make your life happy.'
'You frighten me by your impetuosity,' said Lesbia. 'Surely you forget
how short a time we have known each other.'
'An age. All my life before the day I saw you is a dead, dull blank as
compared with the magical hours I have spent with you.'
'I do not even know who and what you are.'
'First, I am a gentleman, or I should not be your brother's friend. A
poor gentleman, if you like, with only my own right arm to hew my
pathway through the wood of life to the temple of fortune; but trust me,
only trust me, Lesbia, and I will so hew my path as to reach that
temple. Look at me, love. Do I look like a man born to fail?'
She looked up at him shyly, with eyes that were dim with tears. He
looked like a demi-god, tall, straight as the pine trunks amongst which
he was standing, a frame formed for strength and activity, a face
instinct with mental power, dark eyes that glowed with the fire of
intellect and passion. The sunlight gave an almost unearthly radiance to
the clear dark of his complexion, the curly brown hair cut close to the
finely shaped head, the broad brow and boldly modelled features.
Lesbia felt in her heart that such a man must be destined for success,
born to be a conqueror in all strifes, a victor upon every field.
'Have I the thews and sinews of a man doomed to be beaten in the
battle?' he asked her. 'No, dearest; Heaven meant me to succeed; and
with you to fight for I shall not be beaten by adverse fortune. Can you
not trust Providence and me?'
'I cannot disobey my grandmother. If she will consent----'
'She will not consent. You must defy Lady Maulevrier, Lesbia, if you
mean to reward my love. But I will promise you this much, darling, that
if you will be my wife--with your brother's consent--which I am sure of
before I ask for it, within one year of our marriage I will find means
of reconciling her ladyship to the match, and winning her entire
forgiveness for you and me.'
'You are talking of impossibilities,' said Lesbia, frowning. 'Why do you
talk to me as if I were a child? I know hardly anything of the world,
but I do know the woman who has reared and educated me. My grandmother
would never forgive me if I married a poor man. I should be an outcast.'
'We would be outcasts together--happy outcasts. Besides, we should not
always be poor. I tell you I am predestined to conquer fate.'
'But we should have to begin from the beginning.'
'Yes, we should have to begin from the beginning, as Adam and Eve did
when they left Paradise.'
'We are not told in the Bible that they had any happiness after that. It
seems to have been all trouble and weariness, and toil and death, after
the angel with the flaming sword drove them out of Eden.'
'They were together, and they must have been happy. Oh, Lesbia, if you
do not feel that you can face poverty and the world's contempt by my
side, and for my sake, you do not love me. Love never calculates so
nicely; love never fears the future; and yet you do love me, Lesbia,' he
said, trying to fold her in his arms; but again she drew herself away
from him--this time with a look almost of horror--and stood facing him,
clinging to one of the pine trunks, like a scared wood-nymph.
'You have no right to say that,' she said.
'I have the divine right of my own deep love--of heart which cries out
to heart. Do you think there is no magnetic power in true love which can
divine the answering love in another? Lesbia, call me an insolent
coxcomb if you like, but I know you love me, and that you and I may be
utterly happy together. Oh, why--why do you shrink from me, my beloved;
why withhold yourself from my arms! Oh, love, let me hold you to my
heart--let me seal our betrothal with a kiss!'
'Betrothal--no, no; not for the world,' cried Lesbia. 'Lady Maulevrier
would cast me off for ever; she would curse me.'
'What would the curse of an ambitious woman weigh against my love? And I
tell you that her anger would be only a passing tempest. She would
'Never--you don't know her.'
'I tell you she would forgive you, and all would be well with us before
we had been married a year. Why cannot you believe me, Lesbia?'
'Because I cannot believe impossibilities, even from your lips,' she
She stood before him with downcast eyes, the tears streaming down her
pale cheeks, exquisitively lovely in her agitation and sorrow. Yes, she
did love him; her heart was beating passionately; she was longing to
throw herself on his breast, to be folded upon that manly heart, in
trust in that brave, bright look which seemed to defy fortune. Yes, he
was a man born to conquer; he was handsome, intellectual, powerful in
all mental and physical gifts. A man of men. But he was, by his own
admission, a very obscure and insignificant person, and he had no money.
Life with him meant a long fight with adverse circumstances; life for
his wife must mean patience, submission, long waiting upon destiny, and
perhaps with old age and grey hairs the tardy turning of Fortune's
wheel. And was she for this to resign the kingdom that had been
promised to her, the giddy heights which she was born to scale, the
triumphs and delights and victories of the great world? Yes, Lesbia
loved this fortuneless knight; but she loved herself and her prospects
of promotion still better.
'Oh, Lesbia, can you not be brave for my sake--trustful for my sake? God
will be good to us if we are true to each other.'
'God will not be good to me if I disobey my grandmother. I owe her too
much; ingratitude in me would be doubly base. I will speak to her. I
will tell her all you have said, and if she gives me the faintest
'She will not; that is a foregone conclusion. Tell her all, if you like;
but let us be prepared for the answer. When she denies the right of your
heart to choose its own mate, then rise up in the might of your
womanhood and defy her. Tell her, "I love him, and be he rich or poor, I
will share his fate;" tell her boldly, bravely, nobly, as a true woman
should; and if she be adamant still, proclaim your right to disobey her
worldly wisdom rather than the voice of your own heart. And then come to
me, darling, and be my own, and the world which you and I will face
together shall not be a bad world. I will answer for that. No trouble
shall come near you. No humiliation shall ever touch you. Only believe
'I can believe in you, but not in the impossible,' answered Lesbia, with
The voice was silver-sweet, but passing cold. Just then there was a
rustling among the pine branches, and Lesbia looked round with a
'Is there any one listening?' she exclaimed. 'What was that?'
'Only the breath of heaven. Oh, Lesbia, if you were but a little less
wise, a little more trustful. Do not be a dumb idol. Say that you love
me, or do not love me. If you can look me in the face and say the last,
I will leave you without another word. I will take my sentence and go.'
But this was just what Lesbia could not do. She could not deny her love;
and yet she could not sacrifice all things for her love. She lifted the
heavy lids which veiled those lovely eyes, and looked up at him
'Give me time to breathe, time to think,' she said.
'And then will you answer me plainly, truthfully, without a shadow of
reserve, remembering that the fate of two lives hangs on your words.'
'Let it be so, then. I'll go for a ramble over the hills, and return in
time for afternoon tea. I shall look for you on the tennis lawn at
He took her in his arms, and this time she yielded herself to him, and
the beautiful head rested for a few moments upon his breast, and the
soft eyes looked up at him in confiding fondness. He bent and kissed her
once only, but a kiss that meant for life and death. In the next moment
he was gone, leaving her alone among the pine trees.
'IF I WERE TO DO AS ISEULT DID.'
Lady Maulevrier rarely appeared at luncheon. She took some slight
refection in her morning-room, among her books and papers, and in the
society of her canine favourites, whose company suited her better at
certain hours than the noisier companionship of her grandchildren. She
was a studious woman, loving the silent life of books better than the
inane chatter of everyday humanity. She was a woman who thought much and
read much, and who lived more in the past than the present. She lived
also in the future, counting much upon the splendid career of her
beautiful granddaughter, which should be in a manner a lengthening out,
a renewal of her own life. She looked forward to the day when Lesbia
should reign supreme in the great world, a famous beauty and leader of
fashion, her every act and word inspired and directed by her
grandmother, who would be the shadow behind the throne. It was
possible--nay, probable--that in those days Lady Maulevrier would
herself re-appear in society, establish her salon, and draw around her