Part 5 out of 9
He railed at her to Algernon, and astonished the youth, who thought them
in a fair way to make an alliance. "Milk and capsicums," he called her,
and compared her to bloody mustard-haired Saxon Queens of history, and
was childishly spiteful. And Mrs. Lovell had it all reported to her, as
he was-quite aware.
"The woman seeking for an anomaly wants a master."
With this pompous aphorism, he finished his reading of the fair Enigma.
Words big in the mouth serve their turn when there is no way of
satisfying the intelligence.
To be her master, however, one must not begin by writhing as her slave.
The attempt to read an inscrutable woman allows her to dominate us too
commandingly. So the lordly mind takes her in a hard grasp, cracks the
shell, and drawing forth the kernel, says, "This was all the puzzle."
Doubtless it is the fate which women like Mrs. Lovell provoke. The truth
was, that she could read a character when it was under her eyes; but its
yesterday and to-morrow were a blank. She had no imaginative hold on
anything. For which reason she was always requiring tangible signs of
virtues that she esteemed.
The thirst for the shows of valour and wit was insane with her; but she
asked for nothing that she herself did not give in abundance, and with
beauty super-added. Her propensity to bet sprang of her passion for
combat; she was not greedy of money, or reckless in using it; but a
difference of opinion arising, her instinct forcibly prompted her to back
her own. If the stake was the risk of a lover's life, she was ready to
put down the stake, and would have marvelled contemptuously at the lover
complaining. "Sheep! sheep!" she thought of those who dared not fight,
and had a wavering tendency to affix the epithet to those who simply did
Withal, Mrs. Lovell was a sensible person; clearheaded and shrewd;
logical, too, more than the run of her sex: I may say, profoundly
practical. So much so, that she systematically reserved the after-years
for enlightenment upon two or three doubts of herself, which struck her
in the calm of her spirit, from time to time.
"France," Edward called her, in one of their colloquies.
It was an illuminating title. She liked the French (though no one was
keener for the honour of her own country in opposition to them), she
liked their splendid boyishness, their unequalled devotion, their
merciless intellects; the oneness of the nation when the sword is bare
and pointing to chivalrous enterprise.
She liked their fine varnish of sentiment, which appears so much on the
surface that Englishmen suppose it to have nowhere any depth; as if the
outer coating must necessarily exhaust the stock, or as if what is at the
source of our being can never be made visible.
She had her imagination of them as of a streaming banner in the jaws of
storm, with snows among the cloud-rents and lightning in the chasms:--
which image may be accounted for by the fact that when a girl she had in
adoration kissed the feet of Napoleon, the giant of the later ghosts of
It was a princely compliment. She received it curtseying, and disarmed
the intended irony. In reply, she called him "Great Britain." I regret
to say that he stood less proudly for his nation. Indeed, he flushed.
He remembered articles girding at the policy of peace at any price, and
half felt that Mrs. Lovell had meant to crown him with a Quaker's hat.
His title fell speedily into disuse; but, "Yes, France," and "No,
France," continued, his effort being to fix the epithet to frivolous
allusions, from which her ingenuity rescued it honourably.
Had she ever been in love? He asked her the question. She stabbed him
with so straightforward an affirmative that he could not conceal the
"Have I not been married?" she said.
He began to experience the fretful craving to see the antecedents of the
torturing woman spread out before him. He conceived a passion for her
girlhood. He begged for portraits of her as a girl. She showed him the
portrait of Harry Lovell in a locket. He held the locket between his
fingers. Dead Harry was kept very warm. Could brains ever touch her
emotions as bravery had done?
"Where are the brains I boast of?" he groaned, in the midst of these
The lull of action was soon to be disturbed. A letter was brought to
He opened it and read--
"Mr. Edward Blancove,--When you rode by me under Fairly Park, I did
not know you. I can give you a medical certificate that since then
I have been in the doctor's hands. I know you now. I call upon you
to meet me, with what weapons you like best, to prove that you are
not a midnight assassin. The place shall be where you choose to
appoint. If you decline I will make you publicly acknowledge what
you have done. If you answer, that I am not a gentleman and you are
one, I say that you have attacked me in the dark, when I was on
horseback, and you are now my equal, if I like to think so. You
will not talk about the law after that night. The man you employed
I may punish or I may leave, though he struck the blow. But I will
meet you. To-morrow, a friend of mine, who is a major in the army,
will be down here, and will call on you from me; or on any friend of
yours you are pleased to name. I will not let you escape. Whether
I shall face a guilty man in you, God knows; but I know I have a
right to call upon you to face me.
"I am, Sir,
Edward's face grew signally white over the contents of this unprecedented
challenge. The letter had been brought in to him at the breakfast table.
"Read it, read it," said Mrs. Lovell, seeing him put it by; and he had
read it with her eyes on him.
The man seemed to him a man of claws, who clutched like a demon. Would
nothing quiet him? Edward thought of bribes for the sake of peace; but a
second glance at the letter assured his sagacious mind that bribes were
powerless in this man's case; neither bribes nor sticks were of service.
Departure from Fairly would avail as little: the tenacious devil would
follow him to London; and what was worse, as a hound from Dahlia's family
he was now on the right scent, and appeared to know that he was. How was
a scandal to be avoided? By leaving Fairly instantly for any place on
earth, he could not avoid leaving the man behind; and if the man saw Mrs.
Lovell again, her instincts as a woman of her class were not to be
trusted. As likely as not she would side with the ruffian; that is, she
would think he had been wronged--perhaps think that he ought to have been
met. There is the democratic virus secret in every woman; it was
predominant in Mrs. Lovell, according to Edward's observation of the
lady. The rights of individual manhood were, as he angrily perceived,
likely to be recognized by her spirit, if only they were stoutly
asserted; and that in defiance of station, of reason, of all the ideas
inculcated by education and society.
"I believe she'll expect me to fight him," he exclaimed. At least, he
knew she would despise him if he avoided the brutal challenge without
some show of dignity.
On rising from the table, he drew Algernon aside. It was an insufferable
thought that he was compelled to take his brainless cousin into his
confidence, even to the extent of soliciting his counsel, but there was
no help for it. In vain Edward asked himself why he had been such an
idiot as to stain his hands with the affair at all. He attributed it to
his regard for Algernon. Having commonly the sway of his passions, he
was in the habit of forgetting that he ever lost control of them; and the
fierce black mood, engendered by Robert's audacious persecution, had
passed from his memory, though it was now recalled in full force.
"See what a mess you drag a man into," he said.
Algernon read a line of the letter. "Oh, confound this infernal fellow!"
he shouted, in sickly wonderment; and snapped sharp, "drag you into the
mess? Upon my honour, your coolness, Ned, is the biggest part about you,
if it isn't the best."
Edward's grip fixed on him, for they were only just out of earshot of
Mrs. Lovell. They went upstairs, and Algernon read the letter through.
"'Midnight assassin,'" he repeated; "by Jove! how beastly that sounds.
It's a lie that you attacked him in the dark, Ned--eh?"
"I did not attack him at all," said Edward. "He behaved like a ruffian
to you, and deserved shooting like a mad dog."
"Did you, though," Algernon persisted in questioning, despite his
cousin's manifest shyness of the subject "did you really go out with that
man Sedgett, and stop this fellow on horseback? He speaks of a blow.
You didn't strike him, did you, Ned? I mean, not a hit, except in
Edward bit his lip, and shot a level reflective side-look, peculiar to
him when meditating. He wished his cousin to propose that Mrs. Lovell
should see the letter. He felt that by consulting with her, he could
bring her to apprehend the common sense of the position, and be so far
responsible for what he might do, that she would not dare to let her
heart be rebellious toward him subsequently. If he himself went to her
it would look too much like pleading for her intercession. The subtle
directness of the woman's spirit had to be guarded against at every
He replied to Algernon,--
"What I did was on your behalf. Oblige me by not interrogating me. I
give you my positive assurance that I encouraged no unmanly assault on
"That'll do, that'll do," said Algernon, eager not to hear more, lest
there should come an explanation of what he had heard. "Of course, then,
this fellow has no right--the devil's in him! If we could only make him
murder Sedgett and get hanged for it! He's got a friend who's a major in
the army? Oh, come, I say; this is pitching it too stiff. I shall
insist upon seeing his commission. Really, Ned, I can't advise. I'll
stand by you, that you may be sure of--stand by you; but what the deuce
to say to help you! Go before the magistrate.... Get Lord Elling to
issue a warrant to prevent a breach of the peace. No; that won't do.
This quack of a major in the army's to call to-morrow. I don't mind, if
he shows his credentials all clear, amusing him in any manner he likes.
I can't see the best scheme. Hang it, Ned, it's very hard upon me to ask
me to do the thinking. I always go to Peggy Lovell when I'm bothered.
There--Mrs. Lovell! Mistress Lovell! Madame! my Princess Lovell, if you
want me to pronounce respectable titles to her name. You're too proud to
ask a woman to help you, ain't you, Ned?"
"No," said Edward, mildly. "In some cases their wits are keen enough.
One doesn't like to drag her into such a business."
"Hm," went Algernon. "I don't think she's so innocent of it as you
"She's very clever," said Edward.
"She's awfully clever!" cried Algernon. He paused to give room for more
praises of her, and then pursued:
"She's so kind. That's what you don't credit her for. I'll go and
consult her, if positively you don't mind. Trust her for keeping it
quiet. Come, Ned, she's sure to hit upon the right thing. May I go?"
"It's your affair, more than mine," said Edward.
"Have it so, if you like," returned the good-natured fellow. "It's worth
while consulting her, just to see how neatly she'll take it. Bless your
heart, she won't know a bit more than you want her to know. I'm off to
her now." He carried away the letter.
Edward's own practical judgement would have advised his instantly sending
a short reply to Robert, explaining that he was simply in conversation
with the man Sedgett, when Robert, the old enemy of the latter, rode by,
and, that while regretting Sedgett's proceedings, he could not be held
accountable for them. But it was useless to think of acting in
accordance with his reason. Mrs. Lovell was queen, and sat in reason's
place. It was absolutely necessary to conciliate her approbation of his
conduct in this dilemma, by submitting to the decided unpleasantness of
talking with her on a subject that fevered him, and of allowing her to
suppose he required the help of her sagacity. Such was the humiliation
imposed upon him. Further than this he had nothing to fear, for no woman
could fail to be overborne by the masculine force of his brain in an
argument. The humiliation was bad enough, and half tempted him to think
that his old dream of working as a hard student, with fair and gentle
Dahlia ministering to his comforts, and too happy to call herself his,
was best. Was it not, after one particular step had been taken, the
manliest life he could have shaped out? Or did he imagine it so at this
moment, because he was a coward, and because pride, and vanity, and
ferocity alternately had to screw him up to meet the consequences of his
acts, instead of the great heart?
If a coward, Dahlia was his home, his refuge, his sanctuary. Mrs. Lovell
was perdition and its scorching fires to a man with a taint of cowardice
Whatever he was, Edward's vanity would not permit him to acknowledge
himself that. Still, he did not call on his heart to play inspiriting
music. His ideas turned to subterfuge. His aim was to keep the good
opinion of Mrs. Lovell while he quieted Robert; and he entered
straightway upon that very perilous course, the attempt, for the sake of
winning her, to bewilder and deceive a woman's instincts.
Over a fire in one of the upper sitting-rooms of the Pilot Inn, Robert
sat with his friend, the beloved friend of whom he used to speak to
Dahlia and Rhoda, too proudly not to seem betraying the weaker point of
pride. This friend had accepted the title from a private soldier of his
regiment; to be capable of doing which, a man must be both officer and
gentleman in a sterner and less liberal sense than is expressed by that
everlasting phrase in the mouth of the military parrot. Major Percy
Waring, the son of a clergyman, was a working soldier, a slayer, if you
will, from pure love of the profession of arms, and all the while the
sweetest and gentlest of men. I call him a working soldier in opposition
to the parading soldier, the, coxcomb in uniform, the hero by accident,
and the martial boys of wealth and station, who are of the army of
England. He studied war when the trumpet slumbered, and had no place but
in the field when it sounded. To him the honour of England was as a babe
in his arms: he hugged it like a mother. He knew the military history of
every regiment in the service. Disasters even of old date brought groans
from him. This enthusiastic face was singularly soft when the large dark
eyes were set musing. The cast of it being such, sometimes in speaking
of a happy play of artillery upon congregated masses, an odd effect was
produced. Ordinarily, the clear features were reflective almost to
sadness, in the absence of animation; but an exulting energy for action
would now and then light them up. Hilarity of spirit did not belong to
him. He was, nevertheless, a cheerful talker, as could be seen in the
glad ear given to him by Robert. Between them it was "Robert" and
"Percy." Robert had rescued him from drowning on the East Anglian shore,
and the friendship which ensued was one chief reason for Robert's
quitting the post of trooper and buying himself out. It was against
Percy's advice, who wanted to purchase a commission for him; but the
humbler man had the sturdy scruples of his rank regarding money, and his
romantic illusions being dispersed by an experience of the absolute
class-distinctions in the service, Robert; that he might prevent his
friend from violating them, made use of his aunt's legacy to obtain
release. Since that date they had not met; but their friendship was
fast. Percy had recently paid a visit to Queen Anne's Farm, where he had
seen Rhoda and heard of Robert's departure. Knowing Robert's birthplace,
he had come on to Warbeach, and had seen Jonathan Eccles, who referred
him to Mrs. Boulby, licenced seller of brandy, if he wished to enjoy an
interview with Robert Eccles.
"The old man sent up regularly every day to inquire how his son was
faring on the road to the next world," said Robert, laughing. "He's
tough old English oak. I'm just to him what I appear at the time. It's
better having him like that than one of your jerky fathers, who seem to
belong to the stage of a theatre. Everybody respects my old dad, and I
can laugh at what he thinks of me. I've only to let him know I've served
an apprenticeship in farming, and can make use of some of his ideas-
-sound! every one of 'em; every one of 'em sound! And that I say of my
"Why don't you tell him?" Percy asked.
"I want to forget all about Kent and drown the county," said Robert.
"And I'm going to, as far as my memory's concerned."
Percy waited for some seconds. He comprehended perfectly this state of
wilfulness in an uneducated sensitive man.
"She has a steadfast look in her face, Robert. She doesn't look as if
she trifled. I've really never seen a finer, franker girl in my life, if
faces are to be trusted."
"It's t' other way. There's no trifling in her case. She's frank. She
fires at you point blank."
"You never mentioned her in your letters to me, Robert."
"No. I had a suspicion from the first I was going to be a fool about the
Percy struck his hand.
"You didn't do quite right."
"Do you say that?"
Robert silenced him with this question, for there was a woman in Percy's
The subject being dismissed, they talked more freely. Robert related the
tale of Dahlia, and of his doings at Fairly.
"Oh! we agree," he said, noting a curious smile that Percy could not
smooth out of sight. "I know it was odd conduct. I do respect my
superiors; but, believe me or not, Percy, injury done to a girl makes me
mad, and I can't hold back; and she's the sister of the girl you saw. By
heaven! if it weren't for my head getting blind now when my blood boils,
I've the mind to walk straight up to the house and screw the secret out
of one of them. What I say is--Is there a God up aloft? Then, he sees
all, and society is vapour, and while I feel the spirit in me to do it, I
go straight at my aim."
"If, at the same time, there's no brandy in you," said Percy, "which
would stop your seeing clear or going straight."
The suggestion was a cruel shock. Robert nodded. "That's true. I
suppose it's my bad education that won't let me keep cool. I'm ashamed
of myself after it. I shout and thunder, and the end of it is, I go away
and think about the same of Robert Eccles that I've frightened other
people into thinking. Perhaps you'll think me to blame in this case?
One of those Mr. Blancoves--not the one you've heard of--struck me on the
field before a lady. I bore it. It was part of what I'd gone out to
meet. I was riding home late at night, and he stood at the corner of the
lane, with an old enemy of mine, and a sad cur that is! Sedgett's his
name--Nic, the Christian part of it. There'd just come a sharp snowfall
from the north, and the moonlight shot over the flying edge of the
rear-cloud; and I saw Sedgett with a stick in his hand; but the gentleman
had no stick. I'll give Mr. Edward Blancove credit for not meaning to be
active in a dastardly assault.
"But why was he in consultation with my enemy? And he let my enemy--by
the way, Percy, you dislike that sort of talk of 'my enemy,' I know. You
like it put plain and simple: but down in these old parts again, I catch
at old habits; and I'm always a worse man when I haven't seen you for a
time. Sedgett, say. Sedgett, as I passed, made a sweep at my horse's
knees, and took them a little over the fetlock. The beast reared. While
I was holding on he swung a blow at me, and took me here."
Robert touched his head. "I dropped like a horse-chestnut from the tree.
When I recovered, I was lying in the lane. I think I was there flat,
face to the ground, for half an hour, quite sensible, looking at the
pretty colour of my blood on the snow. The horse was gone. I just
managed to reel along to this place, where there's always a home for me.
Now, will you believe it possible? I went out next day: I saw Mr. Edward
Blancove, and I might have seen a baby and felt the same to it. I didn't
know him a bit. Yesterday morning your letter was sent up from Sutton
farm. Somehow, the moment I'd read it, I remembered his face. I sent
him word there was a matter to be settled between us. You think I was
Major Waring had set a deliberately calculating eye on him.
"I want to hear more," he said.
"You think I have no claim to challenge a man in his position?"
"Answer me first, Robert. You think this Mr. Blancove helped, or
instigated this man Sedgett in his attack upon you?"
"I haven't a doubt that he did."
"It's not plain evidence."
"It's good circumstantial evidence."
"At any rate, you are perhaps justified in thinking him capable of this:
though the rule is, to believe nothing against a gentleman until it is
flatly proved--when we drum him out of the ranks. But, if you can fancy
it true, would you put yourself upon an equal footing with him?"
"I would," said Robert.
"Then you accept his code of morals."
"That's too shrewd for me: but men who preach against duelling, or any
kind of man-to-man in hot earnest, always fence in that way."
"I detest duelling," Major Waring remarked. "I don't like a system that
permits knaves and fools to exercise a claim to imperil the lives of
useful men. Let me observe, that I am not a preacher against it. I
think you know my opinions; and they are not quite those of the English
magistrate, and other mild persons who are wrathful at the practice upon
any pretence. Keep to the other discussion. You challenge a man--you
admit him your equal. But why do I argue with you? I know your mind as
well as my own. You have some other idea in the background."
"I feel that he's the guilty man," said Robert.
"You feel called upon to punish him."
"No. Wait: he will not fight; but I have him and I'll hold him. I feel
he's the man who has injured this girl, by every witness of facts that I
can bring together; and as for the other young fellow I led such a dog's
life down here, I could beg his pardon. This one's eye met mine. I saw
it wouldn't have stopped short of murder--opportunity given. Why?
Because I pressed on the right spring. I'm like a woman in seeing some
things. He shall repent. By--! Slap me on the face, Percy. I've taken
to brandy and to swearing. Damn the girl who made me forget good
lessons! Bless her heart, I mean. She saw you, did she? Did she colour
when she heard your name?"
"Very much," said Major Waring.
"Was dressed in--?"
"Black, with a crimson ribbon round the collar."
Robert waved the image from his eyes.
"I'm not going to dream of her. Peace, and babies, and farming, and
pride in myself with a woman by my side--there! You've seen her--all
that's gone. I might as well ask the East wind to blow West. Her face
is set the other way. Of course, the nature and value of a man is shown
by how he takes this sort of pain; and hark at me! I'm yelling. I
thought I was cured. I looked up into the eyes of a lady ten times
sweeter--when?--somewhen! I've lost dates. But here's the girl at me
again. She cuddles into me--slips her hand into my breast and tugs at
strings there. I can't help talking to you about her, now we've got over
the first step. I'll soon give it up.
"She wore a red ribbon? If it had been Spring, you'd have seen roses.
Oh! what a stanch heart that girl has. Where she sets it, mind! Her
life where that creature sets her heart! But, for me, not a penny of
comfort! Now for a whole week of her, day and night, in that black dress
with the coloured ribbon. On she goes: walking to church; sitting at
table; looking out of the window!
"Will you believe I thought those thick eyebrows of hers ugly once--a
tremendous long time ago. Yes; but what eyes she has under them! And if
she looks tender, one corner of her mouth goes quivering; and the eyes
are steady, so that it looks like some wonderful bit of mercy.
"I think of that true-hearted creature praying and longing for her
sister, and fearing there's shame--that's why she hates me. I wouldn't
say I was certain her sister had not fallen into a pit. I couldn't. I
was an idiot. I thought I wouldn't be a hypocrite. I might have said I
believed as she did. There she stood ready to be taken--ready to have
given herself to me, if I had only spoken a word! It was a moment of
heaven, and God the Father could not give it to me twice The chance has
"Oh! what a miserable mad dog I am to gabble on in this way.--Come in!
come in, mother."
Mrs. Boulby entered, with soft footsteps, bearing a letter.
"From the Park," she said, and commenced chiding Robert gently, to
establish her right to do it with solemnity.
"He will talk, sir. He's one o' them that either they talk or they hang
silent, and no middle way will they take; and the doctor's their foe, and
health they despise; and since this cruel blow, obstinacy do seem to have
been knocked like a nail into his head so fast, persuasion have not a
atom o' power over him."
"There must be talking when friends meet, ma'am," said Major Waring.
"Ah!" returned the widow, "if it wouldn't be all on one side."
"I've done now, mother," said Robert.
Mrs. Boulby retired, and Robert opened the letter.
It ran thus:--
"Sir, I am glad you have done me the favour of addressing me
temperately, so that I am permitted to clear myself of an unjust and
most unpleasant imputation. I will, if you please, see you, or your
friend; to whom perhaps I shall better be able to certify how
unfounded is the charge you bring against me. I will call upon you
at the Pilot Inn, where I hear that you are staying; or, if you
prefer it, I will attend to any appointment you may choose to direct
elsewhere. But it must be immediate, as the term of my residence in
this neighbourhood is limited.
Major Waning read the lines with a critical attention.
"It seems fair and open," was his remark.
"Here," Robert struck his breast, "here's what answers him. What shall I
do? Shall I tell him to come?"
"Write to say that your friend will meet him at a stated place."
Robert saw his prey escaping. "I'm not to see him?"
"No. The decent is the right way in such cases. You must leave it to
me. This will be the proper method between gentlemen."
"It appears to my idea," said Robert, "that gentlemen are always,
somehow, stopped from taking the straight-ahead measure."
"You," Percy rejoined, "are like a civilian before a fortress. Either he
finds it so easy that he can walk into it, or he gives it up in despair
as unassailable. You have followed your own devices, and what have you
"He will lie to you smoothly."
"Smoothly or not, if I discover that he has spoken falsely, he is
answerable to me."
"To me, Percy."
"No; to me. He can elude you; and will be acquitted by the general
verdict. But when he becomes answerable to me, his honour, in the
conventional, which is here the practical, sense, is at stake, and I have
"I see that. Yes; he can refuse to fight me," Robert sighed. "Hey,
Lord! it's a heavy world when we come to methods. But will you, Percy,
will you put it to him at the end of your fist--'Did you deceive the
girl, and do you know where the girl now is?' Why, great heaven! we only
ask to know where she is. She may have been murdered. She's hidden from
her family. Let him confess, and let him go."
Major Waring shook his head. "You see like a woman perhaps, Robert. You
certainly talk like a woman. I will state your suspicions. When I have
done so, I am bound to accept his reply. If we discover it to have been
false, I have my remedy."
"Won't you perceive, that it isn't my object to punish him by and by, but
to tear the secret out of him on the spot--now--instantly," Robert cried.
"I perceive your object, and you have experienced some of the results of
your system. It's the primitive action of an appeal to the god of
combats, that is exploded in these days. You have no course but to take
"She said"--Robert struck his knee--"she said I should have the girl's
address. She said she would see her. She pledged that to me. I'm
speaking of the lady up at Fairly. Come! things get clearer. If she
knows where Dahlia is, who told her? This Mr. Algernon--not Edward
Blancove--was seen with Dahlia in a box at the Playhouse. He was there
with Dahlia, yet I don't think him the guilty man. There's a finger of
light upon that other."
"Who is this lady?" Major Waring asked, with lifted eyebrows.
At the name, Major Waring sat stricken.
"Lovell!" he repeated, under his breath. "Lovell! Was she ever in
"I don't know, indeed."
"Is she a widow?"
"Ay; that I've heard."
Robert entered upon the task with a dozen headlong exclamations, and very
justly concluded by saying that he could give no idea of her; but his
friend apparently had gleaned sufficient.
Major Waring's face was touched by a strange pallor, and his smile had
vanished. He ran his fingers through his hair, clutching it in a knot,
as he sat eyeing the red chasm in the fire, where the light of old days
and wild memories hangs as in a crumbling world.
Robert was aware of there being a sadness in Percy's life, and that he
had loved a woman and awakened from his passion. Her name was unknown to
him. In that matter, his natural delicacy and his deference to Percy had
always checked him from sounding the subject closely. He might be, as he
had said, keen as a woman where his own instincts were in action; but
they were ineffective in guessing at the cause for Percy's sudden
"She said--this lady, Mrs. Lovell, whoever she may be--she said you
should have the girl's address:--gave you that pledge of her word?" Percy
spoke, half meditating. "How did this happen? When did you see her?"
Robert related the incident of his meeting with her, and her effort to be
a peacemaker, but made no allusion to Mrs. Boulby's tale of the bet.
"A peacemaker!" Percy interjected. "She rides well?"
"Best horsewoman I ever saw in my life," was Robert's ready answer.
Major Waring brushed at his forehead, as in impatience of thought.
"You must write two letters: one to this Mrs. Lovell. Say, you are
about to leave the place, and remind her of her promise. It's
incomprehensible; but never mind. Write that first. Then to the man.
Say that your friend--by the way, this Mrs. Lovell has small hands, has
she? I mean, peculiarly small? Did you notice, or not? I may know her.
Never mind. Write to the man. Say--don't write down my name--say that I
will meet him." Percy spoke on as in a dream. "Appoint any place and
hour. To-morrow at ten, down by the river--the bridge. Write briefly.
Thank him for his offer to afford you explanations. Don't argue it with
me any more. Write both the letters straight off."
His back was to Robert as he uttered the injunction. Robert took pen and
paper, and did as he was bidden, with all the punctilious obedience of a
man who consents perforce to see a better scheme abandoned.
One effect of the equality existing between these two of diverse rank in
life and perfect delicacy of heart, was, that the moment Percy assumed
the lead, Robert never disputed it. Muttering simply that he was
incapable of writing except when he was in a passion, he managed to
produce what, in Percy's eyes, were satisfactory epistles, though Robert
had horrible misgivings in regard to his letter to Mrs. Lovell--the
wording of it, the cast of the sentences, even down to the character of
the handwriting. These missives were despatched immediately.
"You are sure she said that?" Major Waring inquired more than once during
the afternoon, and Robert assured him that Mrs. Lovell had given him her
word. He grew very positive, and put it on his honour that she had said
"You may have heard incorrectly."
"I've got the words burning inside me," said Robert.
They walked together, before dark, to Sutton Farm, but Jonathan Eccles
was abroad in his fields, and their welcome was from Mistress Anne, whom
Major Waring had not power to melt; the moment he began speaking praise
of Robert, she closed her mouth tight and crossed her wrists meekly.
"I see," said Major Waring, as they left the farm, "your aunt is of the
godly who have no forgiveness."
"I'm afraid so," cried Robert. "Cold blood never will come to an
understanding with hot blood, and the old lady's is like frozen milk.
She's right in her way, I dare say. I don't blame her. Her piety's
right enough, take it as you find it."
Mrs. Boulby had a sagacious notion that gentlemen always dined well every
day of their lives, and claimed that much from Providence as their due.
She had exerted herself to spread a neat little repast for Major Waring,
and waited on the friends herself; grieving considerably to observe that
the major failed in his duty as a gentleman, as far as the relish of
eating was concerned.
"But," she said below at her bar, "he smokes the beautifullest--smelling
cigars, and drinks coffee made in his own way. He's very particular."
Which was reckoned to be in Major Waring's favour.
The hour was near midnight when she came into the room, bearing another
letter from the Park. She thumped it on the table, ruffling and making
that pretence at the controlling of her bosom which precedes a feminine
storm. Her indignation was caused by a communication delivered by Dick
Curtis, in the parlour underneath, to the effect that Nicodemus Sedgett
was not to be heard of in the neighbourhood.
Robert laughed at her, and called her Hebrew woman--eye-for-eye and
"Leave real rascals to the Lord above, mother. He's safe to punish them.
They've stepped outside the chances. That's my idea. I wouldn't go out
of my way to kick them--not I! It's the half-and-half villains we've got
to dispose of. They're the mischief, old lady."
Percy, however, asked some questions about Sedgett, and seemed to think
his disappearance singular. He had been examining the handwriting of the
superscription to the letter. His face was flushed as he tossed it for
Robert to open. Mrs. Boulby dropped her departing curtsey, and Robert
read out, with odd pauses and puzzled emphasis:
"Mrs. Lovell has received the letter which Mr. Robert Eccles has
addressed to her, and regrets that a misconception should have
arisen from anything that was uttered during their interview. The
allusions are obscure, and Mrs. Lovell can only remark, that she is
pained if she at all misled Mr. Eccles in what she either spoke or
promised. She is not aware that she can be of any service to him.
Should such an occasion present itself, Mr. Eccles may rest assured
that she will not fail to avail herself of it, and do her utmost to
redeem a pledge to which he has apparently attached a meaning she
can in no way account for or comprehend."
When Robert had finished, "It's like a female lawyer," he said. "That
woman speaking, and that woman writing, they're two different creatures--
upon my soul, they are! Quick, sharp, to the point, when she speaks; and
read this! Can I venture to say of a lady, she's a liar?"
"Perhaps you had better not," said Major Waring, who took the letter in
his hand and seemed to study it. After which he transferred it to his
"To-morrow? To-morrow's Sunday," he observed. "We will go to church
to-morrow." His eyes glittered.
"Why, I'm hardly in the mood," Robert protested. "I haven't had the
"Keep up the habit," said Percy. "It's a good thing for men like you."
"But what sort of a fellow am I to be showing myself there among all the
people who've been talking about me--and the people up at Fairly!" Robert
burst out in horror of the prospect. "I shall be a sight among the
people. Percy, upon my honour, I don't think I well can. I'll read the
Bible at home if you like."
"No; you'll do penance," said Major Waring.
"Are you meaning it?"
"The penance will be ten times greater on my part, believe me."
Robert fancied him to be referring to some idea of mocking the
interposition of religion.
"Then we'll go to Upton Church," he said. "I don't mind it at Upton."
"I intend to go to the church attended by 'The Family,' as we say in our
parts; and you must come with me to Warbeach."
Clasping one hand across his forehead, Robert cried, "You couldn't ask me
to do a thing I hate so much. Go, and sit, and look sheepish, and sing
hymns with the people I've been badgering; and everybody seeing me! How
can it be anything to you like what it is to me?"
"You have only to take my word for it that it is, and far more," said
Major Waring, sinking his voice. "Come; it won't do you any harm to make
an appointment to meet your conscience now and then. You will never be
ruled by reason, and your feelings have to teach you what you learn. At
any rate, it's my request."
This terminated the colloquy upon that topic. Robert looked forward to a
"She is a widow still," thought Major Waring, as he stood alone in his
bed-room, and, drawing aside the curtains of his window, looked up at the
When the sun takes to shining in winter, and the Southwest to blowing,
the corners of the earth cannot hide from him--the mornings are like
halls full of light. Robert had spent his hopes upon a wet day that
would have kept the congregation sparse and the guests at Fairly absent
from public devotions.
He perceived at once that he was doomed to be under everybody's eyes when
he walked down the aisle, for everybody would attend the service on such
a morning as this.
Already he had met his conscience, in so far as that he shunned asking
Percy again what was the reason for their going to church, and he had not
the courage to petition to go in the afternoon instead of the morning.
The question, "Are you ashamed of yourself, then?" sang in his ears as a
retort ready made.
There was no help for it; so he set about assisting his ingenuity to make
the best appearance possible--brushing his hat and coat with
Percy got him to point out the spot designated for the meeting, and
telling him to wait in the Warbeach churchyard, or within sight of it,
strolled off in the direction of the river. His simple neatness and
quiet gentlemanly air abashed Robert, and lured him from his intense
conception of abstract right and wrong, which had hitherto encouraged and
incited him, so that he became more than ever crestfallen at the prospect
of meeting the eyes of the church people, and with the trembling
sensitiveness of a woman who weighs the merits of a lover when passion is
having one of its fatal pauses, he looked at himself, and compared
himself with the class of persons he had outraged, and tried to think
better of himself, and to justify himself, and sturdily reject
comparisons. They would not be beaten back. His enemies had never
suggested them, but they were forced on him by the aspect of his friend.
Any man who takes the law into his own hands, and chooses to stand
against what is conventionally deemed fitting:--against the world, as we
say, is open to these moods of degrading humility. Robert waited for the
sound of the bells with the emotions of a common culprit. Could he have
been driven to the church and deposited suddenly in his pew, his mind
would have been easier.
It was the walking there, the walking down the aisle, the sense of his
being the fellow who had matched himself against those well-attired
gentlemen, which entirely confused him. And not exactly for his own
sake--for Percy's partly. He sickened at the thought of being seen by
Major Waring's side. His best suit and his hat were good enough, as far
as they went, only he did not feel that he wore them--he could not divine
how it was--with a proper air, an air of signal comfort. In fact, the
graceful negligence of an English gentleman's manner had been
unexpectedly revealed to him; and it was strange, he reflected, that
Percy never appeared to observe how deficient he was, and could still
treat him as an equal, call him by his Christian name, and not object to
be seen with him in public.
Robert did not think at the same time that illness had impoverished his
blood. Your sensational beings must keep a strong and a good flow of
blood in their veins to be always on a level with the occasion which they
provoke. He remembered wonderingly that he had used to be easy in gait
and ready of wit when walking from Queen Anne's Farm to Wrexby village
church. Why was he a different creature now? He could not answer the
Two or three of his Warbeach acquaintances passed him in the lanes. They
gave him good day, and spoke kindly, and with pleasant friendly looks.
Their impression when they left him was that he was growing proud.
The jolly butcher of Warbeach, who had a hearty affection for him,
insisted upon clapping his hand, and showing him to Mrs. Billing, and
showing their two young ones to Robert. With a kiss to the children, and
a nod, Robert let them pass.
Here and there, he was hailed by young fellows who wore their hats on one
side, and jaunty-fashioned coats--Sunday being their own bright day of
exhibition. He took no notice of the greetings.
He tried to feel an interest in the robins and twittering wrens, and
called to mind verses about little birds, and kept repeating them, behind
a face that chilled every friendly man who knew him.
Moody the boat-builder asked him, with a stare, if he was going to
church, and on Robert's replying that perhaps he was, said "I'm dashed!"
and it was especially discouraging to one in Robert's condition.
Further to inspirit him, he met Jonathan Eccles, who put the same
question to him, and getting the same answer, turned sharp round and
Robert had a great feeling of relief when the bells were silent, and
sauntered with a superior composure round the holly and laurel bushes
concealing the church. Not once did he ponder on the meeting between
Major Waring and Mr. Edward Blancove, until he beheld the former standing
alone by the churchyard gate, and then he thought more of the empty
churchyard and the absence of carriages, proclaiming the dreadful
admonition that he must immediately consider as to the best way of
comporting himself before an observant and censorious congregation.
Major Waring remarked, "You are late."
"Have I kept you waiting?" said Robert.
"Not long. They are reading the lessons."
"Is it full inside?"
"I dare say it is."
"You have seen him, I suppose?"
"Oh yes; I have seen him."
Percy was short in his speech, and pale as Robert had never seen him
before. He requested hastily to be told the situation of Lord Elling's
"Don't you think of going into the gallery?" said Robert, but received no
answer, and with an inward moan of "Good God! they'll think I've come
here in a sort of repentance," he found himself walking down the aisle;
and presently, to his amazement, settled in front of the Fairly pew, and
with his eyes on Mrs. Lovell.
What was the matter with her? Was she ill? Robert forgot his own
tribulation in an instant. Her face was like marble, and as she stood
with the prayer-book in her hand, her head swayed over it: her lips made
a faint effort at smiling, and she sat quietly down, and was concealed.
Algernon and Sir John Capes were in the pew beside her, as well as Lady
Elling, who, with a backward-turned hand and disregarding countenance,
reached out her smelling-bottle.
"Is this because she fancies I know of her having made a bet of me?"
thought Robert, and it was not his vanity prompted the supposition,
though his vanity was awakened by it. "Or is she ashamed of her
falsehood?" he thought again, and forgave her at the sight of her sweet
pale face. The singing of the hymns made her evident suffering seem holy
as a martyr's. He scarce had the power to conduct himself reverently, so
intense was his longing to show her his sympathy.
"That is Mrs. Lovell--did you see her just now?" he whispered.
"Ah?" said Major Waring.
"I'm afraid she has fainted."
But Mrs. Lovell had not fainted. She rose when the time for rising came
again, and fixing her eyes with a grave devotional collectedness upon the
vicar at his reading-desk, looked quite mistress of herself--but mistress
of herself only when she kept them so fixed. When they moved, it was as
if they had relinquished some pillar of support, and they wavered; livid
shades chased her face, like the rain-clouds on a grey lake-water. Some
one fronting her weighed on her eyelids. This was evident. Robert
thought her a miracle of beauty. She was in colour like days he had
noted thoughtfully: days with purple storm, and with golden horizon
edges. She had on a bonnet of black velvet, with a delicate array of
white lace, that was not suffered to disturb the contrast to her warm
yellow hair. Her little gloved hands were both holding the book; at
times she perused it, or, the oppression becoming unendurable, turned her
gaze toward the corner of the chancel, and thence once more to her book.
Robert rejected all idea of his being in any way the cause of her strange
perturbation. He cast a glance at his friend. He had begun to nourish a
slight suspicion; but it was too slight to bear up against Percy's
self-possession; for, as he understood the story, Percy had been the
sufferer, and the lady had escaped without a wound. How, then, if such
were the case, would she be showing emotion thus deep, while he stood
before her with perfect self-command?
Robert believed that if he might look upon that adorable face for many
days together, he could thrust Rhoda's from his memory. The sermon was
not long enough for him; and he was angry with Percy for rising before
there was any movement for departure in the Fairly pew. In the doorway
of the church Percy took his arm, and asked him to point out the family
tombstone. They stood by it, when Lady Elling and Mrs. Lovell came forth
and walked to the carriage, receiving respectful salutes from the people
"How lovely she is!" said Robert.
"Do you think her handsome?" said Major Waring.
"I can't understand such a creature dying." Robert stepped over an open
The expression of Percy's eyes was bitter.
"I should imagine she thinks it just as impossible."
The Warbeach villagers waited for Lady Elling's carriage to roll away,
and with a last glance at Robert, they too went off in gossiping groups.
Robert's penance was over, and he could not refrain from asking what good
his coming to church had done.
"I can't assist you," said Percy. "By the way, Mr. Blancove denies
everything. He thinks you mad. He promises, now that you have adopted
reasonable measures, to speak to his cousin, and help, as far as he can,
to discover the address you are in search of."
"That's all?" cried Robert.
"That is all."
"Then where am I a bit farther than when I began?"
"You are only at the head of another road, and a better one."
"Oh, why do I ever give up trusting to my right hand--" Robert muttered.
But the evening brought a note to him from Algernon Blancove. It
contained a dignified condemnation of Robert's previous insane behaviour,
and closed by giving Dahlia's address in London.
"How on earth was this brought about?" Robert now questioned.
"It's singular, is it not?" said Major blaring; "but if you want a dog to
follow you, you don't pull it by the collar; and if you want a potato
from the earth, you plant the potato before you begin digging. You are a
soldier by instinct, my good Robert: your first appeal is to force. I,
you see, am a civilian: I invariably try the milder methods. Do you
start for London tonight? I remain. I wish to look at the
Robert postponed his journey to the morrow, partly in dread of his
approaching interview with Dahlia, but chiefly to continue a little
longer by the side of him whose gracious friendship gladdened his life.
They paid a second visit to Sutton Farm. Robert doggedly refused to let
a word be said to his father about his having taken to farming, and
Jonathan listened to all Major Waring said of his son like a man
deferential to the accomplishment of speaking, but too far off to hear
more than a chance word. He talked, in reply, quite cheerfully of the
weather and the state of the ground; observed that the soil was a
perpetual study, but he knew something of horses and dogs, and
Yorkshiremen were like Jews in the trouble they took to over-reach in a
bargain. "Walloping men is poor work, if you come to compare it with
walloping Nature," he said, and explained that, according to his opinion,
"to best a man at buying and selling was as wholesome an occupation as
frowzlin' along the gutters for parings and strays." He himself
preferred to go to the heart of things: "Nature makes you rich, if your
object is to do the same for her. Yorkshire fellows never think except
of making theirselves rich by fattening on your blood, like sheep-ticks."
In fine, Jonathan spoke sensibly, and abused Yorkshire, without
hesitating to confess that a certain Yorkshireman, against whom he had
matched his wits in a purchase of horseflesh, had given him a lively
recollection of the encounter.
Percy asked him what he thought of his country. "I'll tell you," said
Jonathan; "Englishmen's business is to go to war with the elements, and
so long as we fight them, we're in the right academy for learnin' how the
game goes. Our vulnerability commences when we think we'll sit down and
eat the fruits, and if I don't see signs o' that, set me mole-tunnelling.
Self-indulgence is the ruin of our time."
This was the closest remark he made to his relations with Robert, who
informed him that he was going to London on the following day. Jonathan
shook his hand heartily, without troubling himself about any inquiries.
"There's so much of that old man in me," said Robert, when Percy praised
him, on their return, "that I daren't call him a Prince of an old boy:
and never a spot of rancour in his soul. Have a claim on him--and
there's your seat at his table: take and offend him--there's your seat
still. Eat and drink, but you don't get near his heart. I'll surprise
him some day. He fancies he's past surprises."
"Well," said Percy, "you're younger than I am, and may think the future
belongs to you."
Early next morning they parted. Robert was in town by noon. He lost no
time in hurrying to the Western suburb. As he neared the house where he
was to believe Dahlia to be residing, he saw a man pass through the
leafless black shrubs by the iron gate; and when he came to the gate
himself the man was at the door. The door opened and closed on this man.
It was Nicodemus Sedgett, or Robert's eyes did him traitorous service.
He knocked at the door violently, and had to knock a second and a third
time. Dahlia was denied to him. He was told that Mrs. Ayrton had lived
there, but had left, and her present address was unknown. He asked to be
allowed to speak a word to the man who had just entered the house. No
one had entered for the last two hours, was the reply. Robert had an
impulse to rush by the stolid little female liar, but Percy's recent
lesson to him acted as a restraint; though, had it been a brawny woman or
a lacquey in his path, he would certainly have followed his natural
counsel. He turned away, lingering outside till it was dusk and the
bruise on his head gave great throbs, and then he footed desolately
farther and farther from the house. To combat with evil in his own
country village had seemed a simple thing enough, but it appeared a
superhuman task in giant London.
It requires, happily, many years of an ordinary man's life to teach him
to believe in the exceeding variety and quantity of things money can buy:
yet, when ingenuous minds have fully comprehended the potent character of
the metal, they are likely enough to suppose that it will buy everything:
after which comes the groaning anxiety to possess it.
This stage of experience is a sublime development in the great souls of
misers. It is their awakening moment, and it is their first real sense
of a harvest being in their hands. They have begun under the influence
of the passion for hoarding, which is but a blind passion of the
finger-ends. The idea that they have got together, bit by bit, a power,
travels slowly up to their heavy brains. Once let it be grasped,
however, and they clutch a god. They feed on everybody's hunger for it.
And, let us confess, they have in that a mighty feast.
Anthony Hackbut was not a miser. He was merely a saving old man. His
vanity was, to be thought a miser, envied as a miser. He lived in daily
hearing of the sweet chink of gold, and loved the sound, but with a
poetical love, rather than with the sordid desire to amass gold pieces.
Though a saving old man, he had his comforts; and if they haunted him and
reproached him subsequently, for indulging wayward appetites for herrings
and whelks and other sea-dainties that render up no account to you when
they have disappeared, he put by copper and silver continually, weekly
and monthly, and was master of a sum.
He knew the breadth of this sum with accuracy, and what it would expand
to this day come a year, and probably this day come five years. He knew
it only too well. The sum took no grand leaps. It increased, but did
not seem to multiply. And he was breathing in the heart of the place, of
all places in the world, where money did multiply.
He was the possessor of twelve hundred pounds, solid, and in haven; that
is, the greater part in the Bank of England, and a portion in Boyne's
Bank. He had besides a few skirmishing securities, and some such bits of
paper as Algernon had given him in the public-house on that remarkable
night of his visit to the theatre.
These, when the borrowers were defaulters in their payments and pleaded
for an extension of time, inspired him with sentiments of grandeur that
the solid property could not impart. Nevertheless, the anti-poetical
tendency within him which warred with the poetical, and set him reducing
whatsoever he claimed to plain figures, made it but a fitful hour of
He had only to fix his mind upon Farmer Fleming's conception of his
wealth, to feel the miserable smallness of what seemed legitimately his
own; and he felt it with so poignant an emotion that at times his fears
of death were excited by the knowledge of a dead man's impotence to
suggest hazy margins in the final exposure of his property. There it
would lie, dead as himself! contracted, coffined, contemptible!
What would the farmer think when he came to hear that his brother Tony's
estate was not able to buy up Queen Anne's Farm?--when, in point of fact,
he found that he had all along been the richer man of the two!
Anthony's comfort was in the unfaltering strength of his constitution.
He permitted his estimate of it to hint at the probability of his
outlasting his brother William John, to whom he wished no earthly ill,
but only that he should not live with a mitigated veneration for him. He
was really nourished by the farmer's gluttonous delight in his supposed
piles of wealth. Sometimes, for weeks, he had the gift of thinking
himself one of the Bank with which he had been so long connected; and
afterward a wretched reaction set in.
It was then that his touch upon Bank money began to intoxicate him
strangely. He had at times thousands hugged against his bosom, and his
heart swelled to the money-bags immense. He was a dispirited, but a
grateful creature, after he had delivered them up. The delirium came by
fits, as if a devil lurked to surprise him.
"With this money," said the demon, "you might speculate, and in two days
make ten times the amount."
To which Anthony answered: "My character's worth fifty times the amount."
Such was his reply, but he did not think it. He was honest, and his
honesty had become a habit; but the money was the only thing which acted
on his imagination; his character had attained to no sacred halo, and was
just worth his annual income and the respect of the law for his person.
The money fired his brain!
"Ah! if it was mine!" he sighed. "If I could call it mine for just forty
or fifty hours! But it ain't, and I can't."
He fought dogged battles with the tempter, and beat him off again and
again. One day he made a truce with him by saying that if ever the
farmer should be in town of an afternoon he would steal ten minutes or
so, and make an appointment with him somewhere and show him the
money-bags without a word: let him weigh and eye them: and then the plan
was for Anthony to talk of politics, while the farmer's mind was in a
With this arrangement the infernal Power appeared to be content, and
Anthony was temporarily relieved of his trouble. In other words, the
intermittent fever of a sort of harmless rascality was afflicting this
old creature. He never entertained the notion of running clear away with
the money entrusted to him.
Whither could an aged man fly? He thought of foreign places as of spots
that gave him a shivering sense of its being necessary for him to be born
again in nakedness and helplessness, if ever he was to see them and set
foot on them.
London was his home, and clothed him about warmly and honourably, and so
he said to the demon in their next colloquy.
Anthony had become guilty of the imprudence of admitting him to
conferences and arguing with him upon equal terms. They tell us, that
this is the imprudence of women under temptation; and perhaps Anthony was
pushed to the verge of the abyss from causes somewhat similar to those
which imperil them, and employed the same kind of efforts in his
In consequence of this compromise, the demon by degrees took seat at his
breakfast-table, when Mrs. Wicklow, his landlady, could hear Anthony
talking in the tone of voice of one who was pushed to his sturdiest
arguments. She conceived that the old man's head was softening.
He was making one of his hurried rushes with the porterage of money on an
afternoon in Spring, when a young female plucked at his coat, and his
wrath at offenders against the law kindled in a minute into fury.
"Hands off, minx!" he cried. "You shall be given in charge. Where's a
"Uncle!" she said.
"You precious swindler in petticoats!" Anthony fumed.
But he had a queer recollection of her face, and when she repeated
piteously: "Uncle!" he peered at her features, saying,--
"No!" in wonderment, several times.
Her hair was cut like a boy's. She was in common garments, with a
close-shaped skull-cap and a black straw bonnet on her head; not gloved,
of ill complexion, and with deep dark lines slanting down from the
corners of her eyes. Yet the inspection convinced him that he beheld
Dahlia, his remembering the niece. He was amazed; but speedily priceless
trust in his arms, and the wickedness of the streets, he bade her follow
him. She did so with some difficulty, for he ran, and dodged, and
treated the world as his enemy, suddenly vanished, and appeared again
"Why, my girl?" he said: "Why, Dahl--Mrs. What's-your-name? Why, who'd
have known you? Is that"--he got his eyes close to her hair; "is that
the ladies' fashion now? 'Cause, if it is, our young street scamps has
only got to buy bonnets, and--I say, you don't look the Pomp. Not as you
used to, Miss Ma'am, I mean--no, that you don't. Well, what's the news?
How's your husband?"
"Uncle," said Dahlia; "will you, please, let me speak to you somewhere?"
"Ain't we standing together?"
"Oh! pray, out of the crowd!"
"Come home with me, if my lodgings ain't too poor for you," said Anthony.
"Uncle, I can't. I have been unwell. I cannot walk far. Will you take
me to some quiet place?"
"Will you treat me to a cab?" Anthony sneered vehemently.
"I have left off riding, uncle."
"What! Hulloa!" Anthony sang out. "Cash is down in the mouth at home,
is it? Tell me that, now?"
Dahlia dropped her eyelids, and then entreated him once more to conduct
her to a quiet place where they might sit together, away from noise. She
was very earnest and very sad, not seeming to have much strength.
"Do you mind taking my arm?" said Anthony.
She leaned her hand on his arm, and he dived across the road with her,
among omnibuses and cabs, shouting to them through the roar,--
"We're the Independence on two legs, warranted sound, and no
competition;" and saying to Dahlia: "Lor' bless you! there's no retort in
'em, or I'd say something worth hearing. It's like poking lions in cages
with raw meat, afore you get a chaffing-match out o' them. Some of 'em
know me. They'd be good at it, those fellows. I've heard of good things
said by 'em. But there they sit, and they've got no circulation--ain't
ready, except at old women, or when they catch you in a mess, and getting
the worst of it. Let me tell you; you'll never get manly chaff out of
big bundles o' fellows with ne'er an atom o' circulation. The river's
the place for that. I've heard uncommon good things on the river--not of
'em, but heard 'em. T' other's most part invention. And, they tell me,
horseback's a prime thing for chaff. Circulation, again. Sharp and
lively, I mean; not bawl, and answer over your back--most part impudence,
and nothing else--and then out of hearing. That sort o' chaff's
cowardly. Boys are stiff young parties--circulation--and I don't tackle
them pretty often, 'xcept when I'm going like a ball among nine-pins.
It's all a matter o' circulation. I say, my dear," Anthony addressed her
seriously, "you should never lay hold o' my arm when you see me going my
pace of an afternoon. I took you for a thief, and worse--I did.
That I did. Had you been waiting to see me?"
"A little," Dahlia replied, breathless.
"You have been ill?"
"A little," she said.
"You've written to the farm? O' course you have!"
"Oh! uncle, wait," moaned Dahlia.
"But, ha' you been sick, and not written home?"
"Wait; please, wait," she entreated him.
"I'll wait," said Anthony; "but that's no improvement to queerness; and
'queer''s your motto. Now we cross London Bridge. There's the Tower
that lived in times when no man was safe of keeping his own money, 'cause
of grasping kings--all claws and crown. I'm Republican as far as 'none
o' them'--goes. There's the ships. The sun rises behind 'em, and sets
afore 'em, and you may fancy, if you like, there's always gold in their
rigging. Gals o' your sort think I say, come! tell me, if you are a
"No, uncle, no!" Dahlia cried, and then drawing in her breath, added:
"not to you."
"Last time I crossed this bridge with a young woman hanging on my arm, it
was your sister; they say she called on you, and you wouldn't see her;
and a gal so good and a gal so true ain't to be got for a sister every
day in the year! What are you pulling me for?"
Dahlia said nothing, but clung to him with a drooping head, and so they
hurried along, until Anthony stopped in front of a shop displaying cups
and muffins at the window, and leprous-looking strips of bacon, and
sausages that had angled for appetites till they had become pallid sodden
things, like washed-out bait.
Into this shop he led her, and they took possession of a compartment, and
ordered tea and muffins.
The shop was empty.
"It's one of the expenses of relationship," Anthony sighed, after probing
Dahlia unsatisfactorily to see whether she intended to pay for both, or
at least for herself; and finding that she had no pride at all. "My
sister marries your father, and, in consequence--well! a muffin now and
then ain't so very much. We'll forget it, though it is a breach, mind,
in counting up afterwards, and two-pences every day's equal to a good big
cannonball in the castle-wall at the end of the year. Have you written
Dahlia's face showed the bright anguish of unshed tears.
"Uncle-oh! speak low. I have been near death. I have been ill for so
long a time. I have come to you to hear about them--my father and Rhoda.
Tell me what they are doing, and do they sleep and eat well, and are not
in trouble? I could not write. I was helpless. I could not hold a pen.
Be kind, dear uncle, and do not reproach me. Please, tell me that they
have not been sorrowful."
A keenness shot from Anthony's eyes. "Then, where's your husband?" he
She made a sad attempt at smiling. "He is abroad."
"How about his relations? Ain't there one among 'em to write for you
when you're ill?"
"He... Yes, he has relatives. I could not ask them. Oh! I am not
strong, uncle; if you will only leave following me so with questions; but
tell me, tell me what I want to know."
"Well, then, you tell me where your husband banks," returned Anthony.
"Indeed, I cannot say."
"Do you," Anthony stretched out alternative fingers, "do you get money
from him to make payments in gold, or, do you get it in paper?"
She stared as in terror of a pit-fall. "Paper," she said at a venture.
"Well, then, name your Bank."
There was no cunning in her eye as she answered: "I don't know any bank,
except the Bank of England."
"Why the deuce didn't you say so at once--eh?" cried Anthony. "He gives
you bank-notes. Nothing better in the world. And he a'n't been givin'
you many lately--is that it? What's his profession, or business?"
"He is...he is no profession."
"Then, what is he? Is he a gentleman?"
"Yes," she breathed plaintively.
"Your husband's a gentleman. Eh?--and lost his money?"
"How did he lose it?"
The poor victim of this pertinacious interrogatory now beat about within
herself for succour. "I must not say," she replied.
"You're going to try to keep a secret, are ye?" said Anthony; and she, in
her relief at the pause to her torment, said: "I am," with a little
infantile, withering half-smile.
"Well, you've been and kept yourself pretty secret," the old man pursued.
"I suppose your husband's proud? He's proud, ain't he? He's of a family,
I'll be bound. Is he of a family? How did he like your dressing up like
a mill'ner gal to come down in the City and see me?"
Dahlia's guile was not ready. "He didn't mind," she said.
"He didn't mind, didn't he? He don't mind your cutting of your hair so?-
-didn't mind that?"
She shook her head. "No."
Anthony was down upon her like a hawk.
"Why, he's abroad!"
"Yes; I mean, he did not see me."
With which, in a minute, she was out of his grasp; but her heart beat
thick, her lips were dry, and her thoughts were in disorder.
"Then, he don't know you've been and got shaved, and a poll like a
turnip-head of a thief? That's something for him to learn, is it?"
The picture of her beauty gone, seared her eyes like heated brass. She
caught Anthony's arm with one firm hand to hold him silent, and with the
other hand covered her sight and let the fit of weeping pass.
When the tears had spent themselves, she relinquished her hold of the
astonished old man, who leaned over the table to her, and dominated by
the spirit of her touch, whispered, like one who had accepted a bond of
secresy: "Th' old farmer's well. So's Rhoda--my darkie lass. They've
taken on a bit. And then they took to religion for comfort. Th' old
farmer attends Methody meetin's, and quotes Scriptur' as if he was fixed
like a pump to the Book, and couldn't fetch a breath without quotin'.
Rhoda's oftenest along with your rector's wife down there, and does works
o' charity, sicknussin', readin'--old farmer does the preachin'. Old
mother Sumfit's fat as ever, and says her money's for you. Old Gammon
goes on eatin' of the dumplins. Hey! what a queer old ancient he is. He
seems to me to belong to a time afore ever money was. That Mr. Robert's
off...never been down there since he left, 'cause my darkie lass thought
herself too good for him. So she is!--too good for anybody. They're
going to leave the farm; sell, and come to London."
"Oh, no!" exclaimed Dahlia; "not going to leave the dear old farm, and
our lane, and the old oaks, leading up to the heath. Are they? Father
will miss it. Rhoda will mourn so. No place will ever be like that to
them. I love it better than any place on earth."
"That's queer," said Anthony. "Why do you refuse to go, or won't let
your husband take you down there; if you like the place that raving-like?
But 'queer''s your motto. The truth is this--you just listen. Hear me--
hush! I won't speak in a bawl. You're a reasonable being, and you
don't--that's to say, you do understand, the old farmer feels it
"But I never helped him when I was there," said Dahlia, suddenly
shrinking in a perceptible tremble of acute divination. "I was no use.
I never helped him--not at all. I was no--no use!"
Anthony blinked his eyes, not knowing how it was that he had thus been
thrown out of his direct road. He began again, in his circumlocutory
delicacy: "Never mind; help or no help, what th' old farmer feels is--and
quite nat'ral. There's sensations as a father, and sensations as a man;
and what th' old farmer feels is--"
"But Rhoda has always been more to father than I have," Dahlia cried, now
stretching forward with desperate courage to confront her uncle, distract
his speech, and avert the saying of the horrible thing she dreaded.
"Rhoda was everything to him. Mother perhaps took to me--my mother!"
The line of her long underlie drawn sharp to check her tears, stopped her
"All very well about Rhoda," said Anthony. "She's everything to me,
"Every--everybody loves her!" Dahlia took him up.
"Let 'em, so long as they don't do no harm to her," was Anthony's remark.
There was an idea in this that he had said, and the light of it led off
his fancy. It was some time before he returned to the attack.
"Neighbours gossip a good deal. O' course you know that."
"I never listen to them," said Dahlia, who now felt bare at any instant
for the stab she saw coming.
"No, not in London; but country's different, and a man hearing of his
child 'it's very odd!' and 'keepin' away like that!' and 'what's become
of her?' and that sort of thing, he gets upset."
Dahlia swallowed in her throat, as in perfect quietude of spirit, and
pretended to see no meaning for herself in Anthony's words.
But she said, inadvertently, "Dear father!" and it gave Anthony his
"There it is. No doubt you're fond of him. You're fond o' th' old
farmer, who's your father. Then, why not make a entry into the village,
and show 'em? I loves my father, says you. I can or I can't bring my
husband, you seems to say; but I'm come to see my old father. Will you
go down to-morrow wi' me?"
"Oh!" Dahlia recoiled and abandoned all defence in a moan: "I can't--I
"There," said Anthony, "you can't. You confess you can't; and there's
reason for what's in your father's mind. And he hearin' neighbours'
gossip, and it comes to him by a sort of extractin'--'Where's her
husband?' bein' the question; and 'She ain't got one,' the answer--it's
nat'ral for him to leave the place. I never can tell him how you went
off, or who's the man, lucky or not. You went off sudden, on a morning,
after kissin' me at breakfast; and no more Dahly visible. And he
suspects--he more'n suspects. Farm's up for sale. Th' old farmer thinks
it's unbrotherly of me not to go and buy, and I can't make him see I
don't understand land: it's about like changeing sovereigns for lumps o'
clay, in my notions; and that ain't my taste. Long and the short is--
people down there at Wrexby and all round say you ain't married. He
ain't got a answer for 'em; it's cruel to hear, and crueller to think:
he's got no answer, poor old farmer! and he's obliged to go inter exile.
Farm's up for sale."
Anthony thumped with his foot conclusively.
"Say I'm not married!" said Dahlia, and a bad colour flushed her
countenance. "They say--I'm not married. I am--I am. It's false. It's
cruel of father to listen to them--wicked people! base--base people! I
am married, uncle. Tell father so, and don't let him sell the farm.
Tell him, I said I was married. I am. I'm respected. I have only a
little trouble, and I'm sure others have too. We all have. Tell father
not to leave. It breaks my heart. Oh! uncle, tell him that from me."
Dahlia gathered her shawl close, and set an irresolute hand upon her
bonnet strings, that moved as if it had forgotten its purpose. She could
say no more. She could only watch her uncle's face, to mark the effect
of what she had said.
Anthony nodded at vacancy. His eyebrows were up, and did not descend
from their elevation. "You see, your father wants assurances; he wants
facts. They're easy to give, if give 'em you can. Ah, there's a weddin'
ring on your finger, sure enough. Plain gold--and, Lord! how bony your
fingers ha' got, Dahly. If you are a sinner, you're a bony one now, and
that don't seem so bad to me. I don't accuse you, my dear. Perhaps I'd
like to see your husband's banker's book. But what your father hears,
is--You've gone wrong."
Dahlia smiled in a consummate simulation of scorn.
"And your father thinks that's true."
She smiled with an equal simulation of saddest pity.
"And he says this: 'Proof,' he says, 'proof's what I want, that she's an
honest woman.' He asks for you to clear yourself. He says, 'It's hard
for an old man'--these are his words 'it's hard for an old man to hear
his daughter called...'"
Anthony smacked his hand tight on his open mouth.
He was guiltless of any intended cruelty, and Dahlia's first impulse when
she had got her breath, was to soothe him. She took his hand. "Dear
father! poor father! Dear, dear father!" she kept saying.
"Rhoda don't think it," Anthony assured her.
"No?" and Dahlia's bosom exulted up to higher pain.
"Rhoda declares you are married. To hear that gal fight for you--there's
ne'er a one in Wrexby dares so much as hint a word within a mile of her."
"My Rhoda! my sister!" Dahlia gasped, and the tears came pouring down her
In vain Anthony lifted her tea-cup and the muffin-plate to her for
consolation. His hushings and soothings were louder than her weeping.
Incapable of resisting such a protest of innocence, he said, "And I don't
think it, neither."
She pressed his fingers, and begged him to pay the people of the shop: at
which sign of her being probably moneyless, Anthony could not help
mumbling, "Though I can't make out about your husband, and why he lets ye
be cropped--that he can't help, may be--but lets ye go about dressed like
a mill'ner gal, and not afford cabs. Is he very poor?"
She bowed her head.
"He is very poor."
"Is he, or ain't he, a gentleman?"
Dahlia seemed torn by a new anguish.
"I see," said Anthony. "He goes and persuades you he is, and you've been
and found out he's nothin' o' the sort--eh? That'd be a way of
accounting for your queerness, more or less. Was it that fellow that
Wicklow gal saw ye with?"
Dahlia signified vehemently, "No."
"Then, I've guessed right; he turns out not to be a gentleman--eh, Dahly?
Go on noddin', if ye like. Never mind the shop people; we're
well-conducted, and that's all they care for. I say, Dahly, he ain't a
gentleman? You speak out or nod your head. You thought you'd caught a
gentleman and 'taint the case. Gentlemen ain't caught so easy. They all
of 'em goes to school, and that makes 'em knowin'. Come; he ain't a
Dahlia's voice issued, from a terrible inward conflict, like a voice of
the tombs. "No," she said.
"Then, will you show him to me? Let me have a look at him."
Pushed from misery to misery, she struggled within herself again, and
again in the same hollow manner said, "Yes."
"Seein's believin'. If you'll show him to me, or me to him..."
"Oh! don't talk of it." Dahlia struck her fingers in a tight lock.
"I only want to set eye on him, my gal. Whereabouts does he live?"
"Down--down a great--very great way in the West."
She replied to the look: "In the West of London--a long way down."
"That's where he is?"
"I thought--hum!" went the old man suspiciously. When am I to see him?
"Yes; some day."
"Didn't I say, Sunday?"
"Next Sunday?"--Dahlia gave a muffled cry.
"Yes, next Sunday. Day after to-morrow. And I'll write off to-morrow,
and ease th' old farmer's heart, and Rhoda 'll be proud for you. She
don't care about gentleman--or no gentleman. More do th' old farmer.
It's let us, live and die respectable, and not disgrace father nor
mother. Old-fashioned's best-fashioned about them things, I think.
Come, you bring him--your husband--to me on Sunday, if you object to my
callin' on you. Make up your mind to."
"Not next Sunday--the Sunday after," Dahlia pleaded. "He is not here
"Where is he?" Anthony asked.
"He's in the country."
Anthony pounced on her, as he had done previously.
"You said to me he was abroad."
"In the country--abroad. Not--not in the great cities. I could not make
known your wishes to him."
She gave this cool explanation with her eyelids fluttering timorously,
and rose as she uttered it, but with faint and ill-supporting limbs, for
during the past hour she had gone through the sharpest trial of her life,
and had decided for the course of her life. Anthony was witless thereof,
and was mystified by his incapability of perceiving where and how he had
been deluded; but he had eaten all the muffin on the plate, and her
rising proclaimed that she had no intention of making him call for
another; which was satisfactory. He drank off her cup of tea at a gulp.
The waitress named the sum he was to pay, and receiving a meditative look
in return for her air of expectancy after the amount had been laid on the
table, at once accelerated their passage from the shop by opening the
"If ever I did give pennies, I'd give 'em to you," said Anthony, when he
was out of her hearing. "Women beat men in guessing at a man by his
face. Says she--you're honourable--you're legal--but prodigal ain't your
portion. That's what she says, without the words, unless she's a reader.
Now, then, Dahly, my lass, you take my arm. Buckle to. We'll to the
West. Don't th' old farmer pronounce like 'toe' the West? We'll 'toe'
the West. I can afford to laugh at them big houses up there.
"Where's the foundation, if one of them's sound? Why, in the City.
"I'll take you by our governor's house. You know--you know--don't ye,
Dahly, know we been suspecting his nephew? 'cause we saw him with you at
"I didn't suspect. I knew he found you there by chance, somehow. And I
noticed your dress there. No wonder your husband's poor. He wanted to
make you cut a figure as one of the handsomes, and that's as ruinous as
Anthony laughed, but did not reveal what had struck him.
"Sir William Blancove's house is a first-rater. I've been in it. He
lives in the library. All the other rooms--enter 'em, and if 'taint like
a sort of, a social sepulchre! Dashed if he can get his son to live with
him; though they're friends, and his son'll get all the money, and go
into Parliament, and cut a shine, never fear.
"By the way, I've seen Robert, too. He called on me at the Bank. Asked
"'Seen her?' says he.
"'No,' I says.
"'Ever see Mr. Edward Blancove here?' he says.
"I told him, I'd heard say, Mr. Edward was Continentalling. And then
Robert goes off. His opinion is you ain't in England; 'cause a policeman
he spoke to can't find you nowhere.
"'Come," says I, 'let's keep our detectives to catch thieves, and not go
distracting of 'em about a parcel o' women.'
"He's awfully down about Rhoda. She might do worse than take him. I
don't think he's got a ounce of a chance now Religion's set in, though
he's the mildest big 'un I ever come across. I forgot to haul him over
about what he 'd got to say about Mr. Edward. I did remark, I thought-
-ain't I right?--Mr. Algernon's not the man?--eh? How come you in the
theatre with him?"
Dahlia spoke huskily. "He saw me. He had seen me at home. It was an
"Exactly how I put it to Robert. And he agreed with me. There's sense
in that young man. Your husband wouldn't let you come to us there--eh?
because he...why was that?"
Dahlia had it on her lips to say it "Because he was poorer than I
thought;" but in the intensity of her torment, the wretchedness of this
lie, revolted her. "Oh! for God's sake, uncle, give me peace about
The old man murmured: "Ay, ay;" and thought it natural that she should
shun an allusion to the circumstance.
They crossed one of the bridges, and Dahlia stopped and said: "Kiss me,
"I ain't ashamed," said Anthony.
This being over, she insisted on his not accompanying her farther.
Anthony made her pledge her word of honour as a married woman, to bring
her husband to the identical spot where they stood at three o'clock in
the afternoon of Sunday week. She promised it.
"I'll write home to th' old farmer--a penny," said Anthony, showing that
he had considered the outlay and was prepared for it.
"And uncle," she stipulated in turn, "they are not to see me yet. Very
soon; but not yet. Be true to me, and come alone, or it will be your
fault--I shall not appear. Now, mind. And beg them not to leave the
farm. It will kill father. Can you not," she said, in the faded
sweetness of her speech, "could you not buy it, and let father be your
tenant, uncle? He would pay you regularly."
Anthony turned a rough shoulder on her.
"Good-bye, Dahly. You be a good girl, and all 'll go right. Old farmer
talks about praying. If he didn't make it look so dark to a chap, I'd be
ready to fancy something in that. You try it. You try, Dahly. Say a
bit of a prayer to-night."
"I pray every night," Dahlia answered.
Her look of meek despair was hauntingly sad with Anthony on his way home.
He tracked her sorrowfulness to the want of money; and another of his
terrific vague struggles with the money-demon set in.
Sir William Blancove did business at his Bank till the hour of three in
the afternoon, when his carriage conveyed him to a mews near the park of
Fashion, where he mounted horse and obeyed the bidding of his doctor for
a space, by cantering in a pleasant, portly, cock-horsey style, up and
down the Row.
It was the day of the great race on Epsom Downs, and elderly gentlemen
pricked by the doctors were in the ascendant in all London congregations
Like Achilles (if the bilious Shade will permit the impudent comparison),
they dragged their enemy, Gout, at their horses' heels for a term, and
vengeance being accomplished went to their dinners and revived him.
Sir William was disturbed by his son's absence from England. A youth to
whom a baronetcy and wealth are to be bequeathed is an important
organism; and Sir William, though his faith reposed in his son, was
averse to his inexplicably prolonged residence in the French metropolis,
which, a school for many things, is not a school for the study of our
Parliamentary system, and still less for that connubial career Sir
William wished him to commence.
Edward's delightful cynical wit--the worldly man's profundity--and his
apt quotations of the wit of others, would have continued to exercise
their charm, if Sir William had not wanted to have him on the spot that
he might answer certain questions pertinaciously put by Mama Gosling on
behalf of her daughter.
"There is no engagement," Edward wrote; "let the maiden wait and discern
her choice: let her ripen;" and he quoted Horace up to a point.
Nor could his father help smiling and completing the lines. He laughed,
too, as he read the jog of a verse: "Were I to marry the Gosling, pray,
which would be the goose?"
He laughed, but with a shade of disappointment in the fancy that he
perceived a wearing away of the robust mental energy which had
characterized his son: and Sir William knew the danger of wit, and how
the sharp blade cuts the shoots of the sapling. He had thought that
Edward was veritable tough oak, and had hitherto encouraged his light
play with the weapon.
It became a question with him now, whether Wit and Ambition may dwell
together harmoniously in a young man: whether they will not give such
manifestation of their social habits as two robins shut in a cage will
do: of which pretty birds one will presently be discovered with a
slightly ruffled bosom amid the feathers of his defunct associate.
Thus painfully revolving matters of fact and feeling, Sir William
cantered, and, like a cropped billow blown against by the wind, drew up
in front of Mrs. Lovell, and entered into conversation with that lady,
for the fine needles of whose brain he had the perfect deference of an
experienced senior. She, however, did not give him comfort. She
informed him that something was wrong with Edward; she could not tell
what. She spoke of him languidly, as if his letters contained wearisome
"He strains to be Frenchy," she said. "It may be a good compliment for
them to receive: it's a bad one for him to pay."
"Alcibiades is not the best of models," murmured Sir William. "He
doesn't mention Miss Gosling."
"Oh dear, yes. I have a French acrostic on her name."
A more contemptible form of mental exercise was not to be found,
according to Sir William's judgement.
"An acrostic!" he made it guttural. "Well!"
"He writes word that he hears Moliere every other night. That can't harm
him. His reading is principally Memoirs, which I think I have heard you
call 'The backstairs of history.' We are dull here, and I should not
imagine it to be a healthy place to dwell in, if the absence of friends
and the presence of sunshine conspire to dullness. Algy, of course, is
deep in accounts to-day?"
Sir William remarked that he had not seen the young man at the office,
and had not looked for him; but the mention of Algernon brought something
to his mind, and he said,--
"I hear he is continually sending messengers from the office to you
during the day. You rule him with a rod of iron. Make him discontinue
that practice. I hear that he despatched our old porter to you yesterday
with a letter marked 'urgent.'"
Mrs. Lovell laughed pleadingly for Algernon.
"No; he shall not do it again. It occurred yesterday, and on no other
occasion that I am aware of. He presumes that I am as excited as he is
himself about the race--"
The lady bowed to a passing cavalier; a smarting blush dyed her face.
"He bets, does he!" said Sir William. "A young man, whose income, at the
extreme limit, is two hundred pounds a year."
"May not the smallness of the amount in some degree account for the
betting?" she asked whimsically. "You know, I bet a little--just a
little. If I have but a small sum, I already regard it as a stake; I am
tempted to bid it fly."
"In his case, such conduct puts him on the high road to rascality," said
Sir William severely. "He is doing no good."
"Then the squire is answerable for such conduct, I think."
"You presume to say that he is so because he allows his son very little
money to squander? How many young men have to contain their expenses
within two hundred pounds a year!"
"Not sons of squires and nephews of baronets," said Mrs. Lovell. "Adieu!
I think I see a carrier-pigeon flying overhead, and, as you may suppose,
I am all anxiety."
Sir William nodded to her. He disliked certain of her ways; but they
were transparent bits of audacity and restlessness pertaining to a
youthful widow, full of natural dash; and she was so sweetly mistress of
herself in all she did, that he never supposed her to be needing caution
against excesses. Old gentlemen have their pets, and Mrs. Lovell was a
pet of Sir William's.
She was on the present occasion quite mistress of herself, though the
stake was large. She was mistress of herself when Lord Suckling, who had
driven from the Downs and brushed all save a spot of white dust out of
his baby moustache to make himself presentable, rode up to her to say
that the horse Templemore was beaten, and that his sagacity in always
betting against favourites would, in this last instance, transfer a "pot
of money" from alien pockets to his own.
"Algy Blancove's in for five hundred to me," he said; adding with energy,
"I hope you haven't lost? No, don't go and dash my jolly feeling by
saying you have. It was a fine heat; neck-and-neck past the Stand. Have
"A little," she confessed. "It's a failing of mine to like favourites.
I'm sorry for Algy."
"I'm afraid he's awfully hit."
"What makes you think so?"
"He took it so awfully cool."
"That may mean the reverse."
"It don't with him. But, Mrs. Lovell, do tell me you haven't lost. Not
much, is it? Because, I know there's no guessing, when you are
The lady trifled with her bridle-rein.
"I really can't tell you yet. I may have lost. I haven't won. I'm not
cool-blooded enough to bet against favourites. Addio, son of Fortune!
I'm at the Opera to-night."
As she turned her horse from Lord Suckling, the cavalier who had saluted
her when she was with Sir William passed again. She made a signal to her
groom, and sent the man flying in pursuit of him, while she turned and
cantered. She was soon overtaken.
"Madam, you have done me the honour."
"I wish to know why it is your pleasure to avoid me, Major Waring?"
"In this place?"
"Wherever we may chance to meet."
"I must protest."
"Do not. The thing is evident."
They rode together silently.
Her face was toward the sunset. The light smote her yellow hair, and
struck out her grave and offended look, as in a picture.
"To be condemned without a hearing!" she said. "The most dastardly
criminal gets that. Is it imagined that I have no common feelings? Is
it manly to follow me with studied insult? I can bear the hatred of
fools. Contempt I have not deserved. Dead! I should be dead, if my
conscience had once reproached me. I am a mark for slander, and brave
men should beware of herding with despicable slanderers."
She spoke, gazing frontward all the while. The pace she maintained in no
degree impeded the concentrated passion of her utterance.
But it was a more difficult task for him, going at that pace, to make
explanations, and she was exquisitely fair to behold! The falling beams
touched her with a mellow sweetness that kindled bleeding memories.
"If I defend myself?" he said.
"No. All I ask is that you should Accuse me. Let me know what I have
done--done, that I have not been bitterly punished for? What is it? what
is it? Why do you inflict a torture on me whenever you see me? Not by
word, not by look. You are too subtle in your cruelty to give me
anything I can grasp. You know how you wound me. And I am alone."
"That is supposed to account for my behaviour?"
She turned her face to him. "Oh, Major blaring! say nothing unworthy of
yourself. That would be a new pain to me."
He bowed. In spite of a prepossessing anger, some little softness crept
through his heart.
"You may conceive that I have dropped my pride," she said. "That is the
case, or my pride is of a better sort."
"Madam, I fully hope and trust," said he.
"And believe," she added, twisting his words to the ironic tongue. "You
certainly must believe that my pride has sunk low. Did I ever speak to
you in this manner before?"
"Not in this manner, I can attest."
"Did I speak at all, when I was hurt?" She betrayed that he had planted
a fresh sting.
"If my recollection serves me," said he, "your self-command was
Mrs. Lovell slackened her pace.
"Your recollection serves you too well, Major Waring. I was a girl. You