Part 3 out of 9
'To think that perhaps I am going to be rich after all--honoured, looked
up to, able to help those I love,' she thought, thrilling at the
splendour of her visions.
Ah! if this thing were verily to come to pass, how kind, how good she
would be to others! She would have them all at the Abbey,--the shabby old
half-pay father, shabby no longer in those glorious days; the vulgar
little stepmother, improved into elegance; the five-year old brother,
that loveliest and dearest of created beings. How lovely to see him
rioting in the luxuriance of those dear old gardens, rolling on that
velvet sward, racing his favourite dogs round and round the grand old
cedars! What a pony he should ride! His daily raiment should be Genoa
velvet and old point lace. He should be the admiration and delight of
half the county. And Bessie--how kind she could be to Bessie, repaying
in some small measure that which never could be fully repaid--the
kindness shown by the prosperous girl to the poor dependent. And above
all,--vision sweeter even than the thought of doing good,--how she would
trample on Urania Rylance--how the serpentine coils of that damsel's
malice and pride could be trodden under foot! Not a ball, not a dinner,
not a garden-party given at the Abbey that would not be a thorn in
Urania's side, a nail in Urania's coffin.
So ran her fancies--in a very fever--all through the troubled night; but
when the first streak of the autumn dawn glimmered coldly in the east,
dismal presage of the discordant dressing-bell, then she turned upon her
pillow with a weary sigh, and muttered to herself:--
'After all I daresay Mr. Wendover is only fooling me. Perhaps it is his
habit to make love to every decent-looking girl he meets.'
The next day Ida walked on the same riverside path, but this time
not alone. Her natural modesty shrank from the possibility of a second
_tete-a-tete_ with her admirer, and she stooped from her solitary state
to ask Fraeulein Wolf to accompany her in her afternoon walk.
Fraeulein was delighted, honoured even, by the request. She was a
wishy-washy person, sentimental, vapourish, altogether feeble, and she
intensely admired Ida Palliser's vigorous young beauty.
The day was bright and sunny, the air deliciously mild, the river simply
divine. The two young women paced the path slowly, talking of German
poetry. The Fraeulein knew her Schiller by heart, having expounded him
daily for the last four years, and she fondly believed that after
Shakespeare Schiller was the greatest poet who had ever trodden this
'And if God had spared him for twenty more years, who knows if he would
not have been greater than Shakespeare? inquired the Fraeulein, blandly.
She talked of Schiller's idea of friendship, as represented by the
Marquis of Posa.
'Ah,' sighed Ida, 'I doubt if there is any such friendship as that out of
'I could be like the marquis,' said the Fraeulein, smiling tenderly.' Oh,
Ida, you don't know what I would do for anyone I loved--for a dear and
valued friend, like you for instance, if you would only let me love you;
but you have always held me at arm's length.'
'I did not mean to do so,' answered Ida, frankly; 'but perhaps I am not
particularly warm-hearted. It is not in my nature to have many friends. I
was very fond of Bessie Wendover, but then she is such a dear clinging
thing, like a chubby child that puts its fat arms round your neck--an
irresistible creature. She made me love her in spite of myself.'
'Why cannot I make you love me?' asked the fair Gertrude, with a
Ida could have alleged several reasons, but they would have been
unflattering, so she only said feebly,--
'Oh, I really like you very much, and I enjoy talking about German
literature with you. Tell me more about Schiller--you know his poetry so
well--and Jean Paul. I never can quite understand the German idolatry of
him. He is too much in the clouds for me.'
'Too philosophic, you mean,' said Fraeulein. 'I love philosophy.'
'"Unless philosophy can make a Juliet, it helps not, it avails not,"'
said a manly voice from the river close by, and Brian Wendover shot his
boat in against the bank and leapt up from among the rushes like a
Miss Palliser blushed crimson, but it hardly needed her blushes to
convince Fraeulein Wolf that this young stranger was a lover. Her
sentimental soul thrilled at the idea of having plunged into the very
midst of an intrigue.
Ida's heart throbbed heavily, not so much with emotion at beholding her
admirer as at the recollection of her visions last night. She tried to
look calm and indifferent.
'How do you do?' she said, shaking hands with him. 'Mr. Wendover--Miss
Wolf, our German mistress.'
The Fraeulein blushed, sniggered, and curtseyed.
'This gentleman is Bessie Wendover's first cousin, Fraeulein,' said Ida,
with an explanatory air. 'He was staying at The Knoll during the last
part of my visit.'
'Yes, and you saw much of each other, and you became heart-friends,'
gushed Miss Wolf, beaming benevolently at Brian with her pale green orbs.
Brian answered in very fair German, sinking his voice a little so as only
to be heard by the Fraeulein, who was in raptures with this young
stranger. So good-looking, so elegant, and speaking Hanoverian German. He
told her that he had seen only too little of Ida at The Knoll, but enough
to know that she was his 'Schicksal'; and then he took the Fraeulein's
hand and pressed it gently.
'I know you are our friend,' he said.
'Bis den Tod,' gasped Gertrude.
After this no one felt any more restraint. The Fraeulein dropped into her
place of confidante as easily as possible.
'What brings you here again this afternoon, Mr. Wendover?' asked Ida,
trying to sustain the idea of being unconcerned in the matter.
'My load-star; the same that drew me here yesterday, and will draw me
'You had better not come here any more; you have no idea what a terrible
person Miss Pew is. These river-side fields are her own particular
property. Didn't you see the board, "Trespassers will be prosecuted"?'
'Let her prosecute. If her wrath were deadly, I would risk it You know
what Borneo says--
"Wert thou as far
As that vast shore washed with the farthest sea,
I would adventure for such merchandize"
And shall I be afraid of Miss Pew, when the path to my paradise lies so
'Please don't talk such nonsense,' pleaded Ida; 'Fraeulein will think you
a very absurd person.'
But Miss Wolf protested that she would think nothing of the sort.
Sentiment of that kind was her idea of common sense.
'I am established at Penton Hook,' said Brian. 'I live on the water, and
my only thought in life is to be near you. I shall know every stump of
willow--every bulrush before I am a month older.'
'But surely you are not going to stay at Penton Hook for a month!'
exclaimed Ida, 'buried alive in that little lock-house?'
'I shall have my daily resurrection when I see you.'
'But you cannot imagine that I shall walk upon this path every afternoon,
in order that you may land and talk nonsense?' protested Ida.
'I only imagine that this path is your daily walk, and that you would not
be so heartless as to change your habits in order to deprive me of the
sunshine of your presence,' replied Brian, gazing at her tenderly, as if
Miss Wolf counted for nothing, and they two were standing alone among the
reeds and willows.
'You will simply make this walk impossible for me. It is quite out of the
question that I should come here again so long as you are likely to be
lying in wait for me. Is it not so, Fraeulein? You know Miss Pew's way of
thinking, and how she would regard such conduct.'
Fraeulein shook her head dolefully, and admitted that in Miss Pew's
social code such a derogation from maiden dignity would be, in a manner,
death--an offence beyond all hope of pardon.
'Hang Miss Pew!' exclaimed Brian. 'If Miss Pew were Minerva, with all the
weight and influence of her father, the Thunderer, to back her up, I
would defy her. Confess now, dear Fraeulein--liebste Fraeulein'--how tender
his accents sounded in German!--'_you_ do not think it wrong for me to
see the lady of my love for a few all-too-happy moments once a day?'
The Fraeulein declared that it was the most natural thing in the world for
them thus to meet, and that she for her part would be enchanted to play
propriety, and to be her dearest Ida's companion on all such occasions,
nor would thumbscrew or rack extort from her the secret of their loves.
'Nonsense!' exclaimed Ida, 'in future I shall always walk in the kitchen
garden; the walls are ten feet high, and unless you had a horse that
could fly, like Perseus, you would never be able to get at me.'
'I will get a flying horse,' answered Brian. 'Don't defy me. Remember
there are things that have been heard of before now in love-stories,
After this their conversation became as light and airy as that dandelion
seed which every breath of summer blows across the land. They were all
three young, happy in health and hope despite of fortune. Ida began to
think that Brian Wendover, if in nowise resembling her ideal, was a very
agreeable young man. He was full of life and spirits; he spoke German
admirably. He had the Fraeulein's idolized Schiller on the tip of his
tongue. He quoted Heine's tenderest love songs. Altogether his society
was much more intellectual and more agreeable than any to be had at
Mauleverer Manor. Miss Wolf parted from him reluctantly, and thought that
Ida was unreasonably urgent when she insisted on leaving him at the end
of half an hour's dawdling walk up and down the river path.
'Ach, how he is handsome! how he is clever! What for a man!' exclaimed
Miss Wolf, as they went back to the Manor grounds, across the dusty
high-road, the mere passage over which had a faint flavour of excitement,
as a momentary escape into the outside world. 'How proud you must be of
his devotion to you!'
'Indeed I am not,' answered Ida, frankly. 'I only wonder at it. We have
seen so little of each other; we have known each other so short a time.'
'I don't think time counts for lovers,' argued the romantic Gertrude.
'One sees a face which is one's fate, and only wonders how one can have
lived until that moment, since life must have been so empty without
'Have you done that sort of thing often?' asked Ida, with rather a
cynical air. 'You talk as if it were a common experience of yours.'
Fraeulein Wolf blushed and simpered.
'There was one,' she murmured, 'when I was very young. He was to me as a
bright particular star. His father kept a shop, but, oh, his soul would
have harmonized with the loftiest rank in the land. He was in the
Landwehr. If you had seen him in his uniform--ach, Himmel! He went away
to the Franco-Prussian war. I wept for him; I thought of him as Leonora
of her Wilhelm. He came back. Ach!'
'Was he a ghost? Did he carry you off to the churchyard?'
'Neither to churchyard nor church,' sighed Gertrude. 'He was false! He
married his father's cook--a fat, rosy-cheeked Swabian. All that was
delicate and refined in his nature, every poetical yearning of his soul,
had been trampled out of him in that hellish war!'
'I dare say he was hungry after a prolonged existence upon wurst,' said
Ida, 'and that instinct drew him to the cook-maid.'
After this there came many afternoons on which the Fraeulein and Ida
walked in the meadow path by the river, and walk there when they would,
the light wherry always came glancing along the tide, and shot in among
the reeds, and Miss Palliser's faithful swain was in attendance upon her.
On doubtful afternoons, when Ida was inclined to stay indoors, the
sentimental Fraeulein was always at her side to urge her to take the
accustomed walk. Not only was Mr. Wendover's society agreeable to her
poetic soul, but he occasionally brought some tender offering in the
shape of hothouse grapes or Jersey pears, which were still more welcome
to the fair German.
The governesses, Miss Motley, Miss Pillby, and Mademoiselle were always
on duty on fine afternoons, in attendance upon the pupils' regulation
walks--long dusty perambulations of dull high roads; and thus it happened
that Ida and the Fraeulein had the meadow path to themselves.
Nothing occurred during the space of a fortnight to disturb their sense
of security. The river-side seemed a kind of Paradise, without the
possibility of a serpent. Ida's lover had not yet made her any
categorical and formal offer of marriage. Indeed, he had never been one
minute alone with her since their first meeting; but he talked as if it
was a settled thing that they two were to be man and wife in the days to
come. He did not speak as if their marriage were an event in the near
future; and at this Ida wondered a little, seeing that the owner of
Wendover Abbey could have no need to wait for a wife--to consider ways
and means--and to be prudently patient, as struggling professional youth
must be. This was curious; for that he loved her passionately there could
be little doubt. Every look, every tone told her as much a hundred times
in an hour. Nor did she make any protest when he spoke of her as one
pledged to him, though no formal covenant had been entered upon. She
allowed him to talk as he pleased about their future; and her only wonder
was, that in all his conversation he spoke so little of the house in
which he was born, and indeed of his belongings generally.
Once she expatiated to Fraeulein Wolf in Brian's presence upon the
picturesque beauties of the Abbey.
'It is the dearest, noblest old house you can conceive,' she said; 'and
the old, old gardens and park are something too lovely: but I believe Mr.
Wendover does not care a straw about the place.'
'You know what comes of familiarity,' answered Brian, carelessly. 'I have
seen too much of the Abbey to be moved to rapture by its Gothic charms
every time I see it after the agony of separation.'
'But you would like to live there?'
'I would infinitely prefer living anywhere else. The place is too remote
from civilization. A spot one might enjoy, perhaps, on the downhill side
of sixty; but in youth or active middle age every sensible man should
shun seclusion. A man has to fight against an inherent tendency to lapse
into a vegetable.'
'Fox did not become a vegetable,' said Ida; 'yet how he adored St. Ann's
'Fox was a hard drinker and a fast liver,' answered Brian.
'If he had not let the clock run down now and then, the works would have
worn out sooner than they did.'
'But do you never feel the need of rest?' asked Ida.
Brian stifled a yawn.
'No; I'm afraid I have never worked hard enough for that. The need will
come, perhaps, later--when the work comes.'
On more than one occasion when Ida talked of the Abbey, Mr. Wendover
replied in the same tone. It was evident that he was indifferent to the
family seat, or that he even disliked it. He had no pride in surroundings
which might have inspired another man.
'One would think you had been frightened by the family ghost,' Ida said
laughingly, 'you so studiously avoid talking about the Abbey.'
'I have not been frightened by the ghost--I am too modern to believe in
'Oh, but it is modern to believe in everything
'Perhaps; but I am not of that temper.' And then, with a graver look than
Ida had ever seen in his face, he said, 'You are full of enthusiasm about
that old place among the hills, Ida. I hope you do not care more for the
Abbey than for me.'
She crimsoned and looked down. The question touched her weakness too
'Oh, no,' she faltered; 'what are cedars and limestone as compared with
'And if I were without the Abbey--if the Abbey and I were nothing to each
other--should I be nobody in your sight?'
'It is difficult to dissociate a man from his surroundings,' she
answered; 'but I suppose you would be just the same person?'
'I hope so,' said Brian. '"The rank is but the guinea stamp, the man's a
man for a' that." But the guinea stamp is an uncommonly good thing in its
way, I admit.'
These afternoon promenades between four and five o'clock, while the rest
of the school was out walking, had been going on for a fortnight, and no
harm to Ida had come of her indiscretion. Perhaps she hardly considered
how wrong a thing she was doing in violating Miss Pew's confidence by
conduct so entirely averse from Miss Pew's ideas of good behaviour. The
confidence had been so grudgingly given, Miss Pew had been so
systematically unkind, that the girl may be forgiven for detesting her,
nay, even for glorying in the notion of acting in a manner which would
shock all Miss Pew's dearest prejudices. Her meeting with her lover could
scarcely be called clandestine, for she took very little pains to conceal
the fact. If the affair had gone on secretly for so long, it was because
of no artifice on her part.
But that any act of any member of the Mauleverer household could remain
long unknown was almost an impossibility. If there had been but one pair
of eyes in the establishment, and those the eyes of Miss Pillby, the
thing would have been discovered; for those pale unlovely orbs were as
the eyes of Argus himself in their manifold power to spy out the
proceedings of other people--more especially of any person whom their
Now Miss Pillby had never loved Ida Palliser, objecting to her on broad
grounds as a person whose beauty and talents were an indirect injury to
mediocre people. Since Ida's visit to The Knoll her angry feeling had
intensified with every mention of the pleasures and comforts of that
abode. Miss Pillby, who never opened a book for her own pleasure, who
cared nothing for music, and whose highest notion of art was all
blacklead pencil and bread-crumbs, had plenty of vacant space in her
mind for other people's business. She was a sharp observer of the
fiddle-faddle of daily life; she had a keen scent for evil motives
underlying simple actions. Thus when she perceived the intimacy which had
newly arisen between the Fraeulein and Miss Palliser, she told herself
that there must be some occult reason for the fact. Why did those two
always walk together? What hidden charm had they discovered in the
For this question, looked at from Miss Pillby's point of view, there
could be only one answer. The attraction was masculine. One or other of
the damsels must have an admirer whom she contrived to see somehow, or to
correspond with somehow, during her meadow walk. That the thing had gone
so far as it really had gone, that any young lady at Mauleverer could
dare to walk and talk with an unlicensed man in the broad light of day,
was more than Miss Pillby's imagination could conceive. But she
speculated upon some transient glimpse of a man on the opposite bank, or
in the middle distance of the river--a handkerchief waved, a signal
given, perhaps a love-letter hidden in a hollow bree. This was about the
culminating point to which any intrigue at Mauleverer had ever reached
hitherto. Beyond this Miss Pillby's fancy ventured not.
It was on the second Sunday in October, when the Mauleverer pupils were
beginning to look forward, almost hopefully, to the Christmas vacation,
that a flood of light streamed suddenly upon Miss Pillby's troubled mind.
The revelation happened in this wise. Evening service at a smart little
newly-built church, where the function was Anglican to the verge of
Ritualism, was a privilege reserved for the elder and more favoured of
the Mauleverer flock. All the girls liked this evening service at St.
Dunstan's. It had a flavour of dissipation. The lamps, the music, the
gaily decorated altar, the Saint's-day banners and processional hymn,
were faintly suggestive of the opera. The change from the darkness of the
country road to the glow and glitter of the tabernacle was thrilling.
Evening service at St. Dunstan's was the most exciting event of the week.
There was a curate who intoned exquisitely, with that melodious snuffle
so dear to modern congregations, and whose voice had a dying fall when he
gave out a hymn which almost moved girl-worshippers to tears. He was
thought to be in a consumption--had a little dry hacking cough, actually
caused by relaxed tonsils, but painfully recalling her of the camelias.
The Mauleverer girls called him interesting, and hoped that he would
never marry, but live and die like St. Francis de Sales. On this
particular Sunday, Miss Pew--vulgarly Old Pew--happened to be unusually
amiable. That morning's post had brought her the promise of three new
pupils, daughters of a mighty sheep farmer lately returned from
Australia, and supposed to be a millionaire. He was a widower, and wanted
motherly care for his orphans. They were to be clothed as well as fed at
Mauleverer; they were to have all those tender cares and indulgences
which a loving mother could give them. This kind of transaction was
eminently profitable to the Miss Pews. Maternal care meant a tremendous
list of extra charges--treats, medical attendance, little comforts of all
kinds, from old port to lamb's-wool sleeping-socks. Orphans of this kind
were the pigeons whose tender breasts furnished the down with which that
experienced crow, Miss Pew, feathered her nest. She had read the
Australian's letter over three times before evening service, and she was
inclined to think kindly of the human race; so when Miss Palliser asked
if she too--she, the Pariah, might go to St. Dunstan's--she, whose
general duty of a Sunday evening was to hear the little ones their
catechism, or keep them quiet by reading aloud to them 'Pilgrim's
Progress' or 'Agathos,' perhaps--Miss Pew said, loftily, 'I do not see
There was no kindness, no indulgence in her tone, but she said she saw no
objection, and Ida flew off to put on her bonnet,--that poor little black
lace bonnet with yellow rosebuds which had done duty for so many
It was a relief to get a way from school, and its dull monotony, even for
a couple of hours; and then there was the music. Ida loved music too
passionately to be indifferent to the harmony of village voices,
carefully trained to sing her favourite hymns to the sound of a small but
The little church was somewhat poorly attended on this fine autumn
evening, when the hunter's moon hung like a big golden shield above the
river, glorifying the dipping willows, the narrow eyots, haunts of swan
and cygnet, and the distant woodlands of Surrey. It was a night which
tempted the free to wander in the cool shadowy river-side paths, rather
than to worship in the warm little temple.
The Mauleverer girls made a solid block of humanity on one side of the
nave, but on the other side the congregation was scattered thinly in the
open oaken seats.
Miss Pillby, perusing those figures within her view, as she stood in the
back row of the school seats, perceived a stranger--a stranger of elegant
and pleasing appearance, who was evidently casting stolen glances at the
lambs of the Mauleverer fold. Nor was Miss Pillby's keen eye slow to
discover for which lamb those ardent looks were intended. The object of
the stranger's admiration was evidently Ida Palliser.
'I thought as much,' mused Miss Pillby, as she listened, or seemed to
listen, to the trials and triumphs of the children of Israel, chanted by
fresh young voices with a decidedly rural twang; 'this explains
When they left the church, Miss Pillby was perfectly aware of the
stranger following the Mauleverer flock, evidently in the hope of getting
speech with Miss Palliser. He hung on the pathway near them, he shot
ahead of them, and then turned and strolled slowly back. All in vain. Ida
was too closely hemmed in and guarded for him to get speech of her; and
the maiden procession passed on without any violation of the proprieties.
'Did you see that underbred young man following us as we came home?'
asked Miss Pillby, with a disgusted air, as she shared an invigorating
repast of bread and butter and toast and water with the pupils who had
been to church. 'Some London shopman, no doubt, by his bad manners.' She
stole a look at Ida, who flushed ever so slightly at hearing Brian
Wendover thus maligned.
Fraeulein Wolf slept in the room occupied by Miss Pillby and Miss
Motley--three narrow iron bedsteads in a particularly inconvenient room,
always devoted to governesses, and supposed to be a temple of learning.
While Miss Motley was saying her prayers, Miss Pillby wriggled up to the
Fraeulein, who was calmly brushing her flaxen tresses, and whispered
impetuously, 'I have seen him! I know all about it!'
'Ach, Himmel,' cried the Fraeulein. 'Thou wouldst not betray?'
'Not for the world.'
'Is he not handsome, godlike?' demanded the Fraeulein, still in German.
'Yes, he is very nice-looking. Don't tell Palliser that I know anything
about him. She mightn't like it.'
The Fraeulein shook her head, and put her finger to her lips, just as Miss
Motley rose from her knees, remarking that it was impossible for anybody
to pray in a proper business-like manner with such whispering and
chattering going on.
Next day Miss Pillby contrived to get a walk in the garden before the
early dinner. Here among the asparagus beds she had a brief conversation
with a small boy employed in the kitchen-garden, a youth whose mother
washed for the school, and had frequent encounters with Miss Pillby, that
lady having charge of the linen, and being, in the laundress's eye, a
power in the establishment. Miss Pillby had furthermore been what she
called 'kind' to the laundress's hope. She had insisted upon his learning
his catechism, and attending church twice every Sunday, and she had
knitted him a comforter, the material being that harsh and scrubby
worsted which makes the word comforter a sound of derision.
Strong in the sense of these favours, Miss Pillby put it upon the boy as
a duty which he owed to her and to society to watch Ida Palliser's
proceedings in the river-meadow. She also promised him sixpence if he
found out anything bad.
The influence of the Church Catechism, learned by rote, parrot fashion,
had not awakened in the laundress's boy any keen sense of honour. He had
a dim feeling that it was a shabby service which he was called upon to
perform; but then of course Miss Pillby, who taught the young ladies, and
who was no doubt a wise and discreet personage, knew best; and a possible
sixpence was a great temptation.
'Them rushes and weeds down by the bank wants cutting. Gar'ner told me
about it last week,' said the astute youth. 'I'll do 'em this very
'Do, Sam. Be there between four and five. Keep out of sight as much as
you can, but be well within hearing. I want you to tell me all that goes
'And when shall I see you agen, miss?'
'Let me see. That's rather difficult. I'm afraid it can't be managed till
to-morrow. You are in the house at six every morning to clean the boots?'
'Then I'll come down to the boot-room at half-past six to-morrow morning
and hear what you've got to tell me.'
'Lor, miss, it's such a mucky place--all among the coal-cellars.'
'I don't mind,' said Miss Pillby; which was quite true. There was no
amount of muckiness Miss Pillby would not have endured in order to injure
a person she disliked.
'I have never shrunk from my duty, however painful it might be, Sam!' she
said, and left the youth impressed by the idea of her virtues.
In the duskiness of the October dawn Miss Pillby stole stealthily down by
back stairs and obscure passages to the boot-room, where she found Sam
hard at work with brushes and blacking, by the light of a tallow candle,
in an atmosphere flavoured with coals.
'Well, Sam?' asked the vestal, eagerly.
'Well, miss, I seed 'em and I heerd 'em,' answered the boy; 'such goin's
'What kind of thing, Sam?'
'Love-makin,' miss; keepin' company. The young ladies hadn't been there
five minutes when a boat dashes up to the bank, and a young gent jumps
ashore. My, how he went on! I was down among the rushes, right under his
feet, as you may say, most of the time, and I heerd him beautiful. How he
did talk; like a poetry book!'
'Did he kiss her?'
'Yes, miss, just one as they parted company. She was very stand-offish
with him, but he catched hold of her just as she was wishing of him
good-bye. He gave her a squeedge like, and took her unawares. It was only
one kiss, yer know, miss, but he made it last as long as he could. The
foreigner looked the other way.'
'Shameful creatures, both of them!' exclaimed Miss Pillby. 'There's your
sixpence, Sam, and don't say a word to anybody about what you've seen,
till I tell you. I may want you to repeat it all to Miss Pew. If I do,
I'll give you another sixpence.'
'Lawks, miss, that would be cheap at a shilling,' said the boy. 'It would
freeze my blood to have to stand up to talk before Miss Pew.'
'Nonsense, Sam, you will be only telling the truth, and there can be
nothing to frighten you. However, I dare say she will be satisfied with
my statement. She won't want confirmation from you.'
'Confirmation from me,' muttered Sam, as Miss Pillby left his den. 'No, I
should think not. Why, that's what the bishops do. Fancy old Pew being
confirmed too--old Pew in a white frock and a veil. That is a good'un,'
and Sam exploded over his blacking-brush at the preposterous idea.
It was Miss Pew's habit to take a cup of tea and a square of buttered
toast every morning at seven, before she left her pillow; in order to
fortify herself for the effort of getting up and dressing, so as to be in
her place, at the head of the chief table in the school dining-room, when
eight o'clock struck. Had Miss Pew consulted her own inclination she
would have reposed until a much later hour; but the maintenance of
discipline compelled that she should be the head and front of all
virtuous movements at Mauleverer Manor. How could she inveigh with due
force against the sin of sloth if she were herself a slug-a-bed?
Therefore did Miss Pew vanquish the weakness of the flesh, and rise at a
quarter past seven, summer and winter. But this struggle between duty and
inclination made the lady's temper somewhat critical in the morning
Now it was the custom for one of the mistresses to carry Miss Pew's
tea-tray, and to attend at her bedside while she sipped her bohea and
munched her toast. It was a delicate attention, a recognition of her
dignity, which Miss Pew liked. It was the _lever du roi_ upon a small
scale. And this afforded an opportunity for the mistress on duty to
inform her principal of any small fact in connection with the school or
household which it was well for Miss Pew to know. Not for worlds would
Sarah Pew have encouraged a spy, according to her own view of her own
character; but she liked people with keen eyes, who could tell her
everything that was going on under her roof.
'Good morning, Pillby,' said Miss Pew, sitting up against a massive
background of pillows, like a female Jove upon a bank of clouds, an awful
figure in frilled white raiment, with an eye able to command, but hardly
to flatter; 'what kind of a day in it?'
'Dull and heavy,' answered Miss Pillby; 'I shouldn't wonder if there was
'Don't talk nonsense, child; it's too late in the year for thunder. We
shall have the equinoctial gales soon, I dare say.'
'No doubt,' replied Miss Pillby, who had heard about the equinox and its
carryings on all her life without having arrived at any clear idea of its
nature and properties. 'We shall have it very equinoctial before the end
of the month, I've no doubt.'
'Well, is there anything going on? Any of the girls bilious? One of my
black draughts wanted anywhere?'
Miss Pew was not highly intellectual, but she was a great hand at
finance, household economies, and domestic medicine. She compounded most
of the doses taken at Mauleverer with her own fair hands, and her black
draughts were a feature in the school. The pupils never forgot them.
However faint became the memory of youthful joys in after years, the
flavour of Miss Pew's jalap and senna was never obliterated.
'No; there's nobody ill this morning,' answered Miss Pillby, with a faint
'Ah, you may well sigh,' retorted her principal; 'the way those girls ate
veal and ham yesterday was enough to have turned the school into a
hospital--and with raspberry jam tart after, too.'
Veal with ham was the Sunday dinner at Mauleverer, a banquet upon which
Miss Pew prided herself, as an instance of luxurious living rarely to be
met with in boarding-schools. If the girls were ill after it, that was
their look out.
'There's something wrong, I can see by your face, said Miss Pew, after
she had sipped half her tea and enjoyed the whole of her toast; 'is it
the servants or the pupils?'
Strange to say, Miss Pew did not look grateful to the bearer of evil
tidings. This was one of her idiosyncrasies. She insisted upon being kept
informed of all that went wrong in her establishment, but she was apt to
be out of temper with the informant.
'Neither,' answered Miss Pillby, with an awful shake of her sandy locks;
'I don't believe there is a servant in this house who would so far forget
herself. And as to the pupils--'
'We know what they are,' snapped Miss Pew; 'I never heard of anything bad
enough to be beyond their reach. Who is it?'
'Your clever pupil teacher, Ida Palliser.'
'Ah,' grunted Miss Pew, setting down her cup; 'I can believe anything of
her. That girl was born to be troublesome. What has she done now?'
Miss Pillby related the circumstances of Miss Palliser's crime setting
forth her own cleverness in the course of her narrative--how her
misgivings had been excited by the unwonted familiarity between Ida and
the Fraeulein--a young person always open to suspicion as a stranger in
the land--how her fears had been confirmed by the conduct of an unknown
man in the church; and how, urged by her keen sense of duty, she had
employed Mrs. Jones's boy to watch the delinquents.
'I'll make an example of her,' said Miss Pew, flinging back the
bed-clothes with a tragic air as she rose from her couch. 'That will do,
Pillby. I want no further details. I'll wring the rest out of that
bold-faced minx in the face of all the school. You can go.'
And without any word of praise or thanks from her principal, Miss Pillby
retired: yet she knew in her heart that for this piece of ill news Miss
Pew was not ungrateful.
Never had Sarah Pew looked more awful than she appeared that morning at
the breakfast table, clad in sombre robes of olive green merino, and a
cap bristling with olive-green berries and brambly twigs--a cap which to
the more advanced of the pupils suggested the head-gear of Medusa.
Miss Dulcibella, gentle, limp, sea-greeny, looked at her stronger-minded
sister, and was so disturbed by the gloom upon that imperial brow as to
be unable to eat her customary rasher. Not a word did Miss Pew speak to
sister or mistresses during that brief but awful meal; but when the delft
breakfast cups were empty, and the stacks of thick bread and butter had
diminished to nothingness, and the girls were about to rise and disperse
for their morning studies, Miss Pew's voice arose suddenly amidst them
like the sound of thunder.
'Keep your seats, if you please, young ladies. I am about to make an
example; and I hope what I have to say and do may be for the general
good. Miss Palliser, stand up.'
Ida rose in her place, at that end of the table where she was supposed to
exercise a corrective influence upon the younger pupils. She stood up
where all the rest were seated, a tall and perfect figure, a beautiful
statuesque head, supported by a neck like a marble column. She stood up
among all those other girls the handsomest of them all, pale, with
flashing eyes, feeling very sure that she was going to be ill-treated.
'Pray, Miss Palliser, who is the person whom it is your daily habit to
meet and converse with in my grounds? Who is the man who has dared to
trespass on my meadow at your invitation?'
'Not at my invitation,' answered Ida, as calm as marble 'The gentleman
came of his own accord. His name is Brian Wendover, and he and I are
engaged to be married.'
Miss Pew laughed a loud ironical laugh, a laugh which froze the blood of
all the seventeen-year-old pupils who were not without fear or reproach
upon the subject of clandestine glances, little notes, or girlish
carryings-on in the flirtation line.
'Engaged?' she exclaimed, in her stentorian voice, 'That is really too
good a joke. Engaged? Pray, which Mr. Brian Wendover is it?
'Mr. Wendover of the Abbey.'
'Mr. Wendover of the Abbey, the head of the Wendover family?' cried Miss
Pew. 'And you would wish us to believe that Mr. Wendover, of Wendover
Abbey--a gentleman with an estate worth something like seven thousand
a year, young ladies--has engaged himself to the youngest of my
pupil-teachers, whose acquaintance he has cultivated while trespassing on
my meadow? Miss Palliser, when a gentleman of Mr. Wendover's means and
social status wishes to marry a young person in your position--a
concatenation which occurs very rarely in the history of the human
race--he comes to the hall door. Mr. Wendover no more means to marry you
than he means to marry the moon. His views are of quite a different kind,
and you know it.'
Ida cast a withering look at her tyrant, and moved quickly from her
'You are a wretch to say such a thing to me,' she cried passionately; 'I
will not stay another hour under your roof to be so insulted.'
'No, you will not stay under my roof, Miss Palliser,' retorted Miss Pew.
'My mind was made up more than an hour ago on that point. You will not be
allowed to stay in this house one minute longer than is needed for the
packing up of your clothes, and that, I take it,' added the
schoolmistress, with an insolent laugh, 'will not be a lengthy operation.
You are expelled, Miss Palliser--expelled from this establishment for
grossly improper conduct; and I am only sorry for your poor father's sake
that you will have to begin your career as a governess with disgrace
attached to your name.'
'There is no disgrace, except in your own foul mind,' said Ida. 'I can
imagine that as nobody ever admired you or made love to you when you
were young, you may have mistaken ideas as to the nature of lovers and
love-making'--despite the universal awe, this provoked a faint,
irrepressible titter--'but it is hard that you should revenge your
ignorance upon me. Mr. Wendover has never said a word to me which a
gentleman should not say. Fraeulein Wolf, who has heard his every word,
knows that this is true.'
'Fraeulein will leave this house to-morrow, if she is not careful,' said
Miss Pew, who had, however, no intention of parting with so useful and
cheap a teacher.
She could afford to revenge herself upon Ida, whose period of tutelage
was nearly over.
'Fraeulein knows that Mr. Wendover speaks of our future as the future of
man and wife.'
'Ja wohl,' murmured the Fraeulein, 'that is true; ganz und gan.'
'I will not hear another word!' cried Miss Pew, swelling with rage, while
every thorn and berry on her autumnal cap quivered. 'Ungrateful, impudent
young woman! Leave my house instantly. I will not have these innocent
girls perverted by your vile example. In speech and in conduct you are
'Good-bye, girls,' cried Ida, lightly: 'you all know how much harm my
speech and my example have done you. Good-bye, Fraeulein; don't you be
afraid of dismissal,--you are too well worth your salt.'
Polly Cobb, the brewer's daughter, sat near the door by which Ida had to
make her exit. She was quite the richest, and perhaps the best-natured
girl in the school. She caught hold of Ida's gown and thrust a little
Russia-leather purse into her hand, with a tender squeeze.
'Take it, dear,' she whispered; 'I don't want it, I can get plenty more.
Yes, yes, you must; you shall. I'll make a row, and get myself into
disgrace, if you refuse. You can't go to France without money.'
'God bless you, dear. I'll send it you back,' answered Ida.
'Don't; I shall hate you if you do.'
'Is that young woman gone?' demanded Miss Pew's awful voice.
'Going, going, gone!' cried Miss Cobb, forgetting herself in her
excitement, as the door closed behind Ida.
'Who was that?' roared Miss Pew.
Half a dozen informants pronounced Miss Cobb's name.
Now Miss Cobb's people were wealthy, and Miss Cobb had younger sisters,
all coming on under a homely governess to that critical stage in which
they would require the polishing processes of Mauleverer Manor: so Sarah
Pew bridled her wrath, and said quietly--
'Kindly reserve your jocosity for a more appropriate season, Miss Cobb.
Young ladies, you may proceed with your matutinal duties.'
AT THE LOCK-HOUSE.
Miss Pew had argued rightly that the process of packing would not be a
long one with Ida Palliser. The girl had come to Mauleverer with the
smallest number of garments compatible with decency; and her stock had
been but tardily and scantily replenished during her residence in that
manorial abode. It was to her credit that she had contrived still to be
clean, still to be neat, under such adverse conditions; it was Nature's
royal gift that she had looked grandly beautiful in the shabbiest gowns
and mantles ever seen at Mauleverer.
She huddled her poor possessions into her solitary trunk--a battered hair
trunk which had done duty ever since she came as a child from India. She
put a few necessaries into a convenient morocco bag, which the girls in
her class had clubbed their pocket-money to present to her on her last
birthday; and then she washed the traces of angry tears from her face,
put on her hat and jacket, and went downstairs, carrying her bag and
One of the housemaids met her in the hall, a buxom, good-natured country
'Is it true that you are going to leave us, miss?' she asked.
'What! you all know it already?' exclaimed Ida.
'Everybody is talking about it, miss. The young ladies are all on your
side; but they dare not speak up before Miss Pew.'
'I suppose not. Yes, it is quite true; I am expelled, Eliza; sent out
into the world without a character, because I allowed Mr. Wendover to
walk and talk with the Fraeulein and me for half an hour or so in the
river-meadow! Mr. Wendover, my best, my only friend's first cousin.
Rather hard, isn't it?'
Hard? it's shameful,' cried the girl. 'I should like to see old Pew
turning me off for keeping company with my young man. But she daren't do
it. Good servants are hard to get nowadays; or any servants, indeed, for
the paltry wages she gives.'
'And governesses are a drug in the market,' said Ida, bitterly.
'Where are you going, miss? Home?'
'Yes; I suppose so.'
The reckless tone, the careless words alarmed the good-hearted housemaid.
'Oh, miss, pray go home, straight home--wherever your home is. You are
too handsome to be going about alone among strangers. It's a wicked
world, miss--wickeder than you know of, perhaps. Have you got money
enough to get you home comfortable?'
'I'll see,' answered Ida, taking out Miss Cobb's fat little purse and
looking into it.
There were two sovereigns and a good deal of silver--a tremendous fortune
for a schoolgirl; but then it was said that Cobb Brothers coined money by
the useful art of brewing.
'Yes; I have plenty of money for my journey,' said Ida.
'Are you certain sure, now, miss?' pleaded the housemaid; 'for if you
ain't, I've got a pound laid by in my drawer ready to put in the Post
Office Savings Bank, and you're as welcome to it as flowers in May, if
you'll take it off me.'
'God bless you, Eliza. If I were in any want of money, I'd gladly borrow
your sovereign; but Miss Cobb has lent me more than I want. Good-bye.'
Ida held out her hand, which the housemaid, after wiping her own paw upon
her apron, clasped affectionately.
'God bless you, Miss Palliser,' she said fervently; 'I shall miss the
sight of your handsome face when I waits at table.'
A minute more and Ida stood in the broad carriage sweep, with her back to
the stately old mansion which had sheltered her so long, and in which,
despite her dependency and her poverty, she had known some light-hearted
hours. Now, where was she to go? and what was she to do with her life?
She stood with the autumn wind blowing about her--the fallen chestnut
leaves drifting to her feet--pondering that question.
Was she or was she not Brian Wendover's affianced wife? How far was she
to trust in him, to lean upon him, in this crucial hour of her life?
There had been so much playfulness in their love-making, his tone had
been for the most part so light and sportive, that now, when she stood,
as it were, face to face with destiny, she hardly knew how to think of
him, whether as a rock that she might lean upon, or as a reed that would
give way at her touch. Rock or reed, womanly instinct told her that it
was not to this fervent admirer she must apply for aid or counsel yet
awhile. Her duty was to go home at once--to get across the Channel, if
possible, as quickly as Miss Pew's letter to her father.
Intent on doing this, she walked along the dusty high road by the river,
in the direction of the railway station. This station was more than two
miles distant, a long, straight walk by the river, and then a mile or so
across fields and by narrow lanes to an arid spot, where some newly-built
houses were arising round a hopeless-looking little loop-line station in
a desert of agricultural land.
She had walked about three-quarters of a mile, when she heard the rapid
dip of oars, as if in pursuit of her, and a familiar voice calling to
It was Brian, who almost lived in his boat, and who had caught sight of
her in the distance, and followed at racing speed.
'What are you doing?' he asked, coming up close to the bank, and standing
up in his boat. 'Where are you going at such a pace? I don't think I ever
saw a woman walk so fast.'
'Was I walking fast?' she asked, unconscious of the impetus which
excitement had given to her movements.
She knew in her heart of hearts that she did not love him--that love--the
passion which she had read of in prose and poetry was still a stranger to
her soul: but just at this Moment, galled and stung by Miss Pew's
unkindness, heart-sick at her own absolute desolation, the sound of his
voice was sweet in her ears, the look of the tall slim figure, the
friendly face turned towards her, was pleasant to her eyes. No, he was
not a reed, he was a rock. She felt protected and comforted by his
'Were you walking fast! Galloping like a three-year-old--_quoe velut
latis equa trima campis_,' quoted Brian. 'Are you running away from
'I am going away,' she answered calmly. 'I have been expelled.'
'Ex--what?' roared Brian.
'I have been expelled--sent away at a minute's notice--for the
impropriety of my conduct in allowing you to talk to me in the
Brian had been fastening his boat to a pollard willow as he talked. He
leapt on to the bank, and came close to Ida's side.
'My darling, my dearest love, what a burning shame! What a villainous old
hag that Pew woman must be! Bessie told me she was a Tartar, but this
beats everything. Expelled! Your conduct impeached because you let me
talk to you--I, Bessie's cousin, a man who at the worst has some claim to
be considered a gentleman, while you have the highest claim to be
considered a lady. It is beyond all measure infamous.'
'It was rather hard, was it not?' said Ida quietly.
'Abominable, insufferable! I--well. I'll call upon the lady this
afternoon, and make her acquainted with my sentiments upon the subject.
The wicked old harridan.'
'Please don't,' urged Ida, smiling at his wrath; 'it doesn't give me any
consolation to hear you call her horrid names.'
'Did you tell her that I had asked you to be my wife?'
'I said something to that effect--in self-defence--not from any wish to
commit you: and she told me that a man in your position, who intended to
marry a girl in my position, would act in a very different manner from
the way in which you have acted.'
'Did she? She is a wise judge of human nature--and of a lover's nature,
above all. Well, Ida, dearest, we have only one course open to us, and
that is to give her the lie at once--by our conduct. Deeds, not words,
shall be our argument. You do care for me--just a little--don't you, pet?
just well enough to marry me? All the rest will come after?'
'Whom else have I to care for?' faltered Ida, with downcast eyes and
passionately throbbing heart. 'Who else has ever cared for me?'
'I am answered. So long as I am the only one I will confide all the rest
to Fate. We will be married to-morrow.'
'To-morrow! No, no, no.'
'Yes, yes, yes. What is there to hinder our immediate marriage? And what
can be such a crushing answer to that old Jezebel! We will be married at
the little church where I saw you last Sunday night, looking like St.
Cecilia when you joined in the Psalms. We have been both living in the
same parish for the last fortnight. I will run up to Doctors' Commons
this afternoon, bring back the licence, interview the parson, and have
everything arranged for our being married at ten o'clock to-morrow
'No, no, not for the world.'
For some time the girl was firm in her refusal of such a hasty union. She
would not marry her lover except in the face of the world, with the full
consent of his friends and her own. Her duty was to go by the first train
and boat that would convey her to Dieppe, and to place herself in her
'Do you think your father would object to our marriage?' asked Brian.
'No, I am sure he would not object,' she answered, smiling within herself
at the question.
As if Captain Palliser, living upon his half-pay, and the occasional
benefactions of a rich kinsman, could by any possibility object to a
match that would make his daughter mistress of Wendover Abbey!
'Then why delay our marriage, in order to formally obtain a consent which
you are sure of beforehand! As for my friends, Bessie's people are the
nearest and dearest, and you know what their feelings are on your
'Bessie likes me as her friend. I don't know how she might like me as her
cousin's wife,' said Ida.
'Then I will settle your doubts by telling you a little secret. Bessie
sent me here to try and win you for my wife. It was her desire as well as
More arguments followed, and against the lover's ardent pleading there
was only a vague idea of duty in the girl's mind, somewhat weakened by an
instinctive notion that her father would think her an arrant fool for
delaying so grand a triumph as her marriage with a man of fortune and
position. Had he not often spoken to her wistfully of her beauty, and the
dim hope that her handsome face might some day win her a rich husband?
'It's a poor chance at the best,' he told her. 'The days of the Miss
Gunnings have gone by. The world has grown commercial. Nowadays money
And this chance, which her father had speculated upon despondently as a
remote contingency, was now at her feet. Was she to spurn it, and then go
back to the shabby little villa near Dieppe, and expect to be praised for
her filial duty?
While she wavered, Brian urged every argument which a lover could bring
to aid his suit. To-morrow they might be married, and in the meanwhile
Ida could be safely and comfortably housed with the good woman at the
lock-house. Brian would give up his lodgings to her, and would stay at
the hotel at Chertsey. Ida listened, and hesitated: before her lay the
dry, dusty road, the solitary journey by land and sea, the doubtful
welcome at home. And here by her side stood the wealthy lover, the very
embodiment of protecting power--is not every girl's first lover in her
eyes as Olympian Jove?--eager to take upon himself the burden of her
life, to make her footsteps easy.
'Step into the boat, dearest,' he said; 'I know your heart has decided
for me. You are not afraid to trust me, Ida?'
'Afraid? no,' she answered, frankly, looking at him with heavenly
confidence in her large dark eyes; 'I am only afraid of doing wrong.'
'You can do no wrong with me by your side, your husband to-morrow,
responsible for all the rest of your existence.'
'True, after to-morrow I shall be accountable to no one but you,' she
said, thoughtfully. 'How strange it seems!'
'At the worst, I hope you will find me better than old Pew,' answered
'You are too good--too generous,' she said; 'but I am afraid you are
acting too much from impulse. Have you considered what you are going to
do? have you thought what it is to marry a penniless girl, who can give
you none of the things which the world cares for in exchange for your
'I have thought what it is to marry the woman I fondly love, the
loveliest girl these eyes ever looked upon. Step into my boat, Ida; I
must row you up to the lock, and then start for London by the first train
I can catch. I don't know how early the licence-shop closes.'
She obeyed him, and sank into a seat in the stern of the cockle-shell
craft, exhausted, mentally and physically, by the agitation of the last
two hours, She felt an unspeakable relief in sitting quietly in the boat,
the water rippling gently past, like a lullaby, the rushes and willows
waving in the mild western breeze. Henceforth she had little to do in
life but to be cared for and cherished by an all-powerful lord and
master. Wealth to her mind meant power; and this devoted lover was rich.
Fate had been infinitely kind to her.
It was a lovely October morning, warm and bright as August. The river
banks still seemed to wear their summer green, the blue bright water
reflected the cloudless blue above. The bells were ringing for a
saint's-day service as Brian's boat shot past the water-side village,
with its old square-towered church. All the world had a happy look, as if
it smiled at Ida and her choice.
They moved with an easy motion past the pastoral banks, here and there a
villa garden, here and there a rustic inn, and so beneath Chertsey's
wooded heights to the level fields beyond, and to a spot where the Thames
and the Abbey River made a loop round a verdant little marshy island; and
here was the silvery weir, brawling noisily in its ceaseless fall, and
the lockhouse, where Mr. Wendover had lodgings.
The proprietress of that neat abode had just been letting a boat through
the lock, and stood leaning lazily against the woodwork, tasting the
morning air. She was a comfortable, well-to-do person, who rented a
paddock or two by the towing-path, and owned cows. Her little garden was
gay with late geraniums and many-coloured asters.
'Mrs. Topman, I have brought you a young lady to take care of for the
next twenty-four hours,' said Brian, coolly, as he handed Ida out of the
boat. 'Miss Palliser and I are going to be married to-morrow morning;
and, as her friends all live abroad, I want you to take care of her, in a
nice, motherly way, till she and I are one. You can give her my rooms,
and I can put up at the inn.'
Mrs. Topman curtseyed, and gazed admiringly at Ida.
'I shall be proud to wait upon such a sweet young lady,' she said. 'But
isn't it rather sudden? You told me there was a young lady in the case,
but I never knowed you was going to be married off-hand like this.'
'I never knew it myself till an hour ago, Mrs. Topman, answered Brian,
gaily. 'I knew that I was to be one of the happiest of men some day; but
I did not know bliss was so near me. And now I am off to catch the next
train from Chertsey. Be sure you give Miss Palliser some breakfast; I
don't think she has had a very comfortable one.'
He dashed into the cottage, and came out again five minutes afterwards,
having changed his boating clothes for a costume more appropriate to the
streets of London. He clasped Ida's hand, murmured a loving good-bye, and
then ran with light footsteps along the towing-path, while Ida stood
leaning against the lock door looking dreamily down at the water.
How light-hearted he was! and how easily he took life! This marriage,
which was to her an awful thing, signifying fate and the unknown future,
seemed to him as a mere whim of the hour, a caprice, a fancy. And yet
there could be no doubt of his affection for her. Even if his nature was
somewhat shallow, as she feared it must be, he was at least capable of a
warm and generous attachment. To her in her poverty and her disgrace he
had proved himself nobly loyal.
'I ought to be very grateful to him,' she said to herself; and then in
her schoolgirl phrase she added, 'and he is very nice.'
Mrs. Topman was in the house, tidying and smartening that rustic
sitting-room, which had not been kept too neatly during Mr. Wendover's
occupation. Presently came the clinking of cups and saucers, and anon
Mrs. Topman appeared on the doorstep, and announced that breakfast was
What a luxurious breakfast it seemed to the schoolgirl after a month of
the Mauleverer bread and scrape! Frizzled bacon, new laid eggs, cream,
marmalade, and a dainty little cottage loaf, all served with exquisite
cleanliness. Ida was too highly strung to do justice to the excellent
fare, but she enjoyed a cup of strong tea, and ate one of the eggs, to
oblige Mrs. Topman, who waited upon her assiduously, palpably panting
with friendly curiosity.
'Do take off your hat, miss,' she urged; 'you must be very tired after
your journey--a long journey, I daresay. Perhaps you would like me to
send a boy with a barrow for your luggage directly after breakfast. I
suppose your trunks are at the station?'
'No; Mr. Wendover will arrange about my trunk by-and-by,' faltered Ida;
and then looking down at her well-worn gray cashmere gown, she thought
that it was hardly a costume in which to be married. Yet how was she to
get her box from Mauleverer Manor without provoking dangerous inquiries?
And even if she had the box its contents would hardly solve the question
of a wedding gown. Her one white gown would be too cold for the season;
her best gown was black. Would Brian feel very much ashamed of her, she
wondered, if she must needs be married in that shabby gray cashmere?
And then it occurred to her that possibly Brian, while procuring the
licence, might have a happy thought about a wedding gown, and buy her one
ready made at a London draper's. He, to whom money was no object, could
so easily get an appropriate costume. It would be only for him to go into
a shop and say, 'I want a neat, pretty travelling dress for a tall, slim
young lady,' and the thing would be packed in a box and put into his cab
in a trice. Everything in life is made so easy for people with ample
It was some time before Mrs. Topman would consent to leave her new
lodger. She was so anxious to be of use to the sweet young lady, and
threw out as many feelers as an octopus in the way of artfully-devised
conjectures and suppositions calculated to extract information. But Miss
Palliser was not communicative.
'You _must_ be tired after your journey. Those railways are so hot and so
dusty,' said Mrs. Topman, with a despairing effort to discover whence her
unexpected guest had come that morning.
'I am rather tired,' admitted Ida; 'I think, if you don't mind, I'll take
a book and lie down on that comfortable sofa for an hour or two.'
'Do miss. You'll find some books of Mr. Wendover's on the cheffonier. But
perhaps you'll be glad to take a little nap. Shall I draw down the blind
and darken the room for you?'
'No, thanks; I like the sunshine.'
Mrs. Topman unwillingly withdrew, and Ida was alone in the sitting-room
which her lover had occupied for the last fortnight.
Much individuality can hardly be expected in a temporary lodging--a mere
caravansary in life's journey; and yet, even in the brief space of a
fortnight, a room takes some colour from the habits and ideas of the
being who has lived in it.
Ida looked round curiously, wondering whether she would discover any
indications of her lover's character in Mrs. Topman's parlour. The room,
despite its open casements, smelt strongly of tobacco. That was a small
thing, for Ida knew that her lover smoked. She had seen him several times
throw away the end of his cigar as he sprang from his boat by the river
meadow. But that array of various pipes and cigar-holders--that cedar
cigar box--that brass tobacco jar on the mantelpiece, hinted at an ardent
devotion to the nymph Nicotina such as is rarely pleasing to woman.
'I am sorry he is so wedded to his pipes,' thought Ida with a faint sigh.
And then she turned to the cheffonier to inspect her lover's stock of
A man who loves his books never travels without a few old
favourites--Horace or Montaigne, Elia, an odd volume of De Quincey, a
battered Don Juan, a worn-out Faust, a shabby Shelley, or a ponderous
Burton in his threadbare cloth raiment.
But there was not one such book among Mr. Wendover's possessions. His
supply of mental food consisted of a half a dozen shilling magazines, the
two last numbers of _Punch_, and three or four sporting papers. Ida
turned from them with bitter disappointment. She seemed to take the
measure of Brian Wendover's mind in that frivolous collection, and she
was deeply pained at the idea of his shallowness.
'What has he done with himself in the long evenings?' she asked herself.
'Has he done nothing but smoke and read those magazines?'
She took up the _Cornhill_, and found its graver essays uncut. It was the
same with the other magazines. Only the most frivolous articles had been
looked at. Mr. Wendover was evidently anything but a reading man.
'No wonder he does not like the Abbey,' she thought. 'The country must
always seem dull to a man who does not care for books.'
And then she reminded herself remorsefully of his generous affection, his
single-minded devotion to her, and how much gratitude she owed him.
She read all that was worth reading in the magazines, she laughed at all
that was laughable in _Punch,_ and the long, slow day wore on somehow.
Mrs. Topman brought her lunch, and consulted her about dinner.
'You will not dine until Mr. Wendover comes back, I suppose, miss? You
and he can have a nice little dinner together at seven.'
Ida blushed at the mere notion of hobnobbing alone with a gentleman in
that water-side lodging.
'No thanks; this will be my dinner,' she answered quietly. 'Please don't
get anything more for me. No doubt Mr. Wendover will dine at the hotel,
if he has not dined in London. I shall want nothing more except a cup of
After luncheon Ida went out and strolled by the river, that river of
which no one ever seems to grow weary. She wandered about the level
meadows, where the last of the wild-flowers were blooming, or she sat on
the bank, watching the ripple of the water, the slow smooth passage of
pleasure-boat or barge, and the day was long but not dreary. It was so
new to her to be idle, to be able to fold her hands and watch the stream,
and not to fear reproof because she had ceased from toil. At Mauleverer,
at this tranquil afternoon hour, while those rooks were sailing so calmly
high above her head--yonder belated butterfly fluttering so happily over
the feathery grasses--all nature so full of rest--they were grinding away
in the hot schoolroom, grinding at the weekly geography lesson, addling
their brains with feeble efforts to repeat by rote dry-as-dust
explanations about the equator and the torrid zone, latitude, longitude,
winds and tides, the height of mountains, the population of towns,
manufactures, creeds; not trying in the least to understand, or caring to
remember; only intent on getting over to-day's trouble and preparing in
some wise to meet the debts of to-morrow.
'Oh, thank God, to have got away from that treadmill,' said Ida, looking
up at the bright blue sky;' can I ever be sufficiently grateful to
Providence, and to the man whose love has rescued me?'
Her deliverer came strolling across the fields in quest of her presently,
tired and dusty, but delighted to be with her again. He sat down by her
side, and put his arm round her waist for the first time in his life.
'Don't,' he said, as she instinctively recoiled from him; 'you are almost
my own now. I have got the licence, I have seen the parson, and he is
quite charmed at the idea of marrying us to-morrow morning. He had heard
of your little escapade, it seems, and he thinks we are doing quite the
wisest thing possible.'
'He had heard--already!' exclaimed Ida, deeply mortified. 'Has Miss Pew
been calling out my delinquencies from the house-top? Oh, no,--I
understand. Tuesday is Mr. Daly's afternoon for Bible class, and he has
been at the school.'
'Exactly; and Miss Pew unburdened her mind to him.'
'Did he think me a dreadful creature?'
'He thinks you charming, but that I ought to have gone to the hall-door
when I courted you; as I should have done, dearest, only I wanted to be
sure of you first. He was all kindness, and will marry us quietly at nine
o'clock to-morrow, just after Matins, when there will be nobody about to
stare at us; and he has promised to say nothing about our marriage until
we give him leave to make the fact public.'
'I am glad of that,' said Ida, looking at her shabby gown. 'Do you think
it will matter much--will you be very much ashamed of me, if I am married
in this threadbare old cashmere?'
She had a faint hope that he would exclaim, 'My love, I have brought you
a wedding dress from Regent Street; come and see it.' But he only smiled
at her tenderly, and said--
'The gown does not matter a jot; you are lovelier in your shabby frock
than any other bride in satin and pearls. And some of these days you
shall have smart frocks.'
He said it hopefully, but as if it were a remote contingency.
He spoke very much as her impecunious father might have spoken. He, the
master of Wendover Abbey, to whom the possession of things that money
could buy must needs be a dead certainty. But it was evidently a part of
his character to make light of his wealth; assuredly a pleasant
They dawdled about on the bank for half an hour or so, talking somewhat
listlessly, for Ida was depressed and frightened by the idea of that
fateful event, giving a new colour to all her life to come, which was so
soon to happen. Brian was very kind, very good to her; she wished with
all her heart that she had loved him better; yet it seemed to her that
she did love him--a little. Surely this feeling was love, this keen sense
of obligation, this warm admiration for his generous and loyal conduct.
Yes, this must be love. And why, loving him, should she feel this
profound melancholy at the idea of a marriage which satisfied her
Perhaps the cause of her depression lay in the strangeness of this sudden
union, its semi-clandestine character, her loneliness at a crisis in life
when most girls are surrounded by friends. Often in her reckless talk
with Bessie Wendover she had imagined her marriage. She would marry for
money. Yes, the soap-boiler, the candlestick maker--anybody. It should be
a splendid wedding--a dozen of the prettiest girls at Mauleverer for her
bridesmaids, bells ringing, flowers strewn upon her pathway, carriage and
four, postilions in blue jackets and white favours, all the world and his
wife looking on and wondering at her high fortune. This is how fancy
had painted the picture when Ida discoursed of her future in the
butterfly-room at Mauleverer; Miss Rylance listening and making sarcastic
comments; Bessie in fits of smothered laughter at all the comic touches
in the description; for did not true-hearted Bessie know that the thing
was a joke, and that her noble Ida would never so degrade herself as to
marry for money? And now Ida was going to do this thing, scarcely knowing
why she did it, not at all secure in her own mind of future happiness;
not with unalloyed pride in her conquest, but yielding to her lover
because he was the first who had ever asked her; because he was warm and
true when all else in life seemed cold and false; and because the
alternative--return to the poor home--was so dreary.
The conversation flagged as the lovers walked in the twilight. The sun
was sinking behind the low hedge of yonder level meadow. Far away in
mountainous regions the same orb was setting in rocky amphitheatres,
distant, unapproachable. Here in this level land he seemed to be going
down into a grave behind that furthest hedge.
It was a lovely evening--orange and rosy lights reflected on the glassy
river, willows stirred with a murmurous movement by faintest zephyrs--a
wind no louder than a sigh. Brian proposed that they should go on the
river; his boat was there ready, it was only to step into the light
skiff, and drift lazily with the stream.
They got into the Abbey river, among water-lilies whose flowers had all
died long ago, face downwards. The season of golden flowers, buttercup,
marsh-mallow, was over. The fields were grayish-green, with ruddy tinges
here and there. The year was fading.
Ida sat in dead silence watching the declining light, one listless hand
dipping in the river.
Brian was thoughtful, more thoughtful than she had known him in any
period of their acquaintance.
'Where shall we go for our honeymoon? he asked abruptly, jingling some
loose coins in his pocket.
'Oh, that is for you to decide. I--I know what I should like best,'
'What is that?'
'I should like you to take me to Dieppe, where we could see my father,
and explain everything to him.'
'Did you write to him to-day?'
'No; I thought I would tell him nothing till after our marriage. You
might change your mind at the last.'
'Cautious young party,' said Brian, laughing. 'There is no fear of that.
I am too far gone in love for that. For good or ill I am your faithful
slave. Yes, we will go to Dieppe if you like. It is late in the year for
a place of that kind; but what do we care for seasons? Do you think your
father and I will be able to get on?'
'My father is the soul of good nature. He would get on with anyone who
is a gentleman, and I am sure he will like you very much. My stepmother
is--well, she is rather vulgar. But I hope you won't mind that. She is
'Vulgarians generally are, I believe,' answered Brian lightly. 'At least,
one is always told as much. It is hard that the educated classes should
monopolize all the cold hearts. Vulgar but warm-hearted--misplaces her
aspirates--but affectionate! That is the kind of thing one is told when
Achilles marries a housemaid. Never mind, Ida, dearest, I feel sure I
shall like your father; and for his sake I will try to make myself
agreeable to his wife. And your little brother is perfection. I have
heard enough about him from those dear lips of yours.'
'He is a darling little fellow, and I long to see him again. How I wish
they could all be with me to-morrow!'
'It would make our wedding more domestic, but don't you think it would
vulgarize it a little?' said Brian. 'There is something so sweet to me in
the idea of you and me alone in that little church, with no witnesses but
the clerk and the pew-opener.'
'And God!' said Ida, looking upward.
'Did you ever read the discourses of Colonel Bob Ingersoll?' asked Brian,
smiling at her.
'No; what has that to do with it?'
'He has curious ideas of omnipotence; and I fancy he would say that the
Infinite Being who made every shining star is hardly likely to be on the
look-out for our wedding.'
'He cares for the lilies and the sparrows.'
'That's a gospel notion. Colonel Bob is not exactly a gospel teacher,'
'Then don't you learn of him, Brian,' said Ida, earnestly.
A SOLEMN LEAGUE AND COVENANT.
The sun shone upon Ida's wedding morn. She was dressed and down before
seven--her shabby cashmere gown carefully brushed, her splendid hair
neatly arranged, her linen collar and cuffs spotlessly clean. This was
all she could do in the way of costume in honour of this solemn day. She
had not even a new pair of gloves. Mrs. Topman, who was to go to church
with her in a fly from Chertsey, was gorgeous in purple silk and a summer
bonnet--a grand institution, worn only on Sundays. Breakfast was ready in
the neat little parlour, but Ida would only take a cup of tea. She
wandered out to the river-side, and looked at the weir and the little
green island round which the shining blue water twined itself like a
caress. All things looked lovely in the pure freshness of morning.
'What a sweet spot it is!' said Ida to Mrs. Topman, who stood at her
gate, watching for the fly, which was not due for half an hour; 'I should
almost like to spend my life here.'
'Almost, but not quite,' answered the matron. 'Young folks like you wants
change. But I hope you and Mr. Wendover will come here sometimes in the
boating season, in memory of old times.'
'We'll come often,' said Ida; 'I hope I shall always remember how kind
you have been to me.'
A distant church clock struck the half hour.
'Only half-past seven,' exclaimed Mrs. Topman, 'and Simmons's fly is not
to be here till eight. Well, we _are_ early.'
Ida strolled a little way along the bank, glad to be alone. It was an
awful business, this marriage, when she came to the very threshold of
Hymen's temple. Yesterday it had seemed to her that she and Brian
Wendover were familiar friends; to-day she thought of him almost as a
'How little we know of each other, and yet we are going to take the most
solemn vow that ever was vowed,' she thought, as she read the marriage
service in a Prayer-book which Mrs. Topman had lent her for that purpose.
'It's as well to read it over and understand what you're going to bind
yourself to,' said the matron; 'I did before I married Topman. It made me
feel more comfortable in my mind to know what I was doing. But I must say
it's high time there was a change made in the service. It never can have
been intended by Providence for all the obedience to be on the wife's
side, or God Almighty wouldn't have made husbands such fools. If Topman
hadn't obeyed me he'd have died in a workhouse; and if I'd obeyed his I
shouldn't have a stick of furniture belonging to me.'
Ida was not deeply interested in the late Mr. Topman's idiosyncrasies,
but she was interested in the marriage bond, which seemed to her a very
solemn league and covenant, as she read the service beside the quietly
'For better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish, till death us do part.'
Yes, those were awful words--words to be pronounced by her presently,
binding her for the rest of her life. She who was marrying a rich man for
the sake of his wealth was to swear to be true to him in poverty. She who
was marrying youth and good spirits was to swear to be true to sickness
and feeble age. A terrible covenant! And of this man for whom she was to
undertake so much she knew so little.
The fly drove along the towing-path, and drew up in front of Mrs.
Topman's garden gate as the Chertsey clocks struck the hour, and Mrs.
Topman and her charge took their places in that vehicle, and were jolted
off at a jog-trot pace towards the town, and then on by a dusty high road
towards that new church in the fields at which the Mauleverer girls
deemed it such a privilege to worship.
It was about forty minutes' drive from the lock to the church, and Matins
were only just over when the fly drew up at the Gothic door.
The incumbent was hovering near in his surplice, and the pew-opener was
all in a fluster at the idea of a runaway marriage. Brian came out of the
dusky background--the daylight being tempered by small painted windows in
heavy stone mullions--as Ida entered the church. Everything was ready.
Before she knew how it came to pass, she was standing before the altar,
and the fatal words were being spoken.
'Brian Walford, wilt thou have this woman to be thy wedded wife?'
'Brian Walford!' she heard the words as in a dream. Surely Walford was
the second name of Bessie's other cousin, the poor cousin! Ida had heard
Bessie so distinguish him from the master of the Abbey. But no doubt
Walford was some old family name borne by both cousins.
Brian Walford! She had not much time to think about this, when the same
solemn question was asked of her.
And then in a low and quiet voice the priest read the rest of the
time-hallowed ceremonial, and Brian and Ida, glorified by a broad ray of
morning sunshine streaming through an open window, stood up side by side
man and wife.
Then came the signing of the register in the snug little vestry, Mrs.
Topman figuring largely as witness.
'I did not know your name was Walford,' said Ida, looking over her
husband's shoulder as he wrote.
'Didn't you? Second names are of so little use to a man, unless he has
the misfortune to be Smith or Jones, and wants to borrow dignity from a
prefix. Wendover is good enough for me.'
The young couple bade Mrs. Topman good-bye at the churchdoor. The fly was
to take them straight to the station, on the first stage of their
'You know where to send my luggage,' Brian said to his landlady at
'Yes, sir, I've got the address all right;' and the fly drove along
another dusty high road, still within sight of the river, till it turned
at right angles into a bye road leading to the station.
At that uncongenial place they had to wait a quarter of an hour, walking
up and down the windy platform, where the porter abandoned himself to the
contemplation of occasional rooks, and was sometimes surprised by the
arrival of a train for which he had waited so long as to have become
sceptical as to the existence of such things as trains in the scheme of
the universe. The station was a terminus, and the line was a loop, for
which very few people appeared to have any necessity.
'Would you mind telling me where we are going, Brian?' Ida asked her
husband presently, when they had discussed the characteristics of the
station, and Brian had been mildly facetious about the porter.
She had grown curiously shy since the ceremonial. Her lover seemed to her
transformed into another person by those fateful words. He was now the
custodian of her life, the master of her destiny.
'Would I mind telling you, my dearest? What a question! You proposed
Dieppe for our honeymoon, and we are going to Dieppe.'
'Does this train go to Newhaven?'
'Not exactly. Nothing in this life is so convenient as that. This train
will deposit us at Waterloo Station. The train for Newhaven leaves London
Bridge at seven, in time for the midnight boat. We will go to my chambers
and have some lunch.'
'Chambers!' exclaimed Ida, wonderingly. 'Have you really chambers in
'What a strange man you are!'
'That hardly indicates strangeness. But here at last is our train.'
A train had come slowly in and deposited its handful of passengers about
ten minutes ago, and the same train was now ready to start in the
Ida and her husband got into an empty first-class compartment and the
train moved slowly off. And now that they were alone, as it were within
four walls, she summoned up courage to say something that had been on her
mind for the last quarter of an hour--a very hard thing for a bride of an
hour old to say, yet which must be said somehow.
'Would you mind giving me a little money, while we are in London, to buy
some clothes?' she began hesitatingly. 'It is a dreadful thing to have to
ask you, when, if I were not like the beggar girl in the ballad, I should
have a trousseau. But I don't know when I may get my box from Mauleverer,
and when I do most of the things in it are too shabby for your wife; and
in the meantime I have nothing, and I should not like to disgrace you, to
make you feel ashamed of me while we are on our honeymoon tour.'
She sat with downcast eyes and flaming cheeks, deeply humiliated by her
position, hating her poverty more than she had ever hated it in her life
before. She felt that this rich husband of hers had not been altogether
kind to her--that he might by a little forethought have spared her this
shame. He must have known that she had neither clothes nor money. He who
had such large means had done nothing to sweeten her poverty. On this her
wedding morning he had brought her no gift save the ring which the law
prescribed. He had not brought her so much as a flower by way of
greeting; yet she knew by the gossip of her schoolfellows that it was the
custom for a lover to ratify his engagement by some splendid ring, which
was ever afterwards his betrothed's choicest jewel. The girls had talked
of their elder sisters' engagement-rings: how one had diamonds, another
rubies, another catseyes, more distinguished and artistic than either.
And now she sat with drooping eyelids, expecting her lover-husband to
break into an outburst of self-reproach, then pour a shower of gold into
her lap. But he did neither. He rattled some loose coins in his pocket,
just as he had done yesterday when he talked of the honeymoon; and he
answered hesitatingly, with evident embarrassment.
'Yes, you'll want some new clothes, I daresay. All girls do when they
marry, don't they? It's a kind of unwritten law--new husband, new gowns.
But I'm sure you can't look better than you do in that gray gown, and
it looks to me just the right thing for travelling. And for any other
little things you may want for the moment, if a couple of sovereigns will
do'--producing those coins--'you can get anything you like as we drive to
my chambers. We could stop at a draper's on our way.'
Ida was stricken dumb by this reply. Her cheeks changed from crimson to
pale. Her wealthy husband--the man whose fortune was to give her all
those good things she had ever pictured to herself in the airy visions of
a splendid future--offered her, with a half-reluctant air, as if offering
his life's blood, two sovereigns with which to purchase a travelling
outfit. What could she buy for two sovereigns? Not all the economy of her
girlhood could screw half the things she wanted out of that pitiful sum.
She thought of all those descriptions of weddings which were so eagerly
devoured at Mauleverer, whenever a fashionable newspaper fell in the way
of those eager neophytes. She recalled the wonderful gifts which the
bridegroom and the bridegroom's friends showered on the bride--the
glorious gown and bonnet in which the bride departed on her honeymoon
journey. And she was offered two sovereigns, wherewith to supply herself
with all things needful for comfort and respectability.
Pride gave her strength to refuse the sordid boon. She had the contents
of her small travelling bag, and she was going to her father's house,
where her step-mother would, perhaps, contrive to provide what was
absolutely necessary. Anything was better than to be under an obligation
to this rich husband who so little understood her needs.
Could she have married that most detestable of all monsters, a miser? No,
she could hardly believe that. It was not in a Wendover to be mean. And
all that she had observed hitherto of Brian's way of acting and thinking
rather indicated a recklessness about money than an undue care of pounds,
shillings, and pence.
'If you don't object to this gown and hat, I can manage very well till we
get to my father's house,' she said quietly.
'I adore you in that hat and gown,' replied Brian, eagerly, dropping the
sovereigns back into his pocket; and so the question was settled.
An elderly lady came into the carriage at the next station, and there was
no renewal of confidences between bride and bridegroom till they came to
Waterloo, nor even then, for there is not much opportunity for
confidential utterances in a hansom, and it was that convenient vehicle
which carried Brian and his bride to the Temple.
They alighted at a gate on the Embankment, and made their way by a garden
to a row of grave old houses, with a fine view of the river. Brian led
his wife into one of these houses and up the uncarpeted stair to the
third floor, where he ushered her into a room with two old-fashioned
windows looking out upon grass, and trees, and old-fashioned buildings,
all grave and gray, and having an air of sober peacefulness, as of a
collegiate or monastic seclusion, while beyond the broad green lawn shone
the broad blue river.
'What a nice old place!' said Ida, looking down at the garden. 'How
quiet, how grave, how learned-looking! I don't wonder you like this
_pied-a-terre_ in London, as a change from your grand old Abbey.'
Brian gave a little nervous cough, as if something were choking him. He
came to the window, and put his arm round his wife's waist.
'Ida,' he began, somewhat huskily, 'I am going to tell you a secret.'
'What is that?' she asked, turning and looking at him.
'The Abbey does not belong to me!'
'What?' she cried, with wide-open eyes.
'You have been rather fond of talking about the Abbey; but I hope your
heart is not too much set upon it. You told me the other day, you know,
that you did not value me upon account of the Abbey or my position as its
owner. I hope that was the truth, Ida; for Wendover Abbey belongs to my
cousin. You have married the poor Brian and not the rich one!'
'What?' she cried. 'You have lied to me all this time--you have fooled
and deluded me!'
She turned and faced him with eyes that flamed indignant fire, lips that
quivered with unrestrained passion.
'It was not my doing,' he faltered, shrinking before her like the veriest
craven; 'it was the girls--Urania and Bessie--who started the notion as a
practical joke, just to see what you would think of me, believing me to
be my cousin. And when you seemed to like me--a little--Bessie, who is
fond of me and who adores you, urged me to follow up my advantage.'
'But not to cheat me into a marriage. No; it is not in Bessie to suggest
'She hardly contemplated an immediate marriage. I was to win your heart,
and when I was sure of that--'
'You were to tell me the truth,' said Ida, looking him straight in the
His head drooped upon his breast.
'And you did not tell me. You knew that I saw in you Brian Wendover, the
head of the family, the owner of a great estate; that I was proud of
being loved and sought by a man who stooped from such a high position to
love me, who renounced the chance of a brilliant marriage to marry me, a
penniless body! You knew that it was in that character I admired you
and respected you, and was grateful to you! Not as the briefless
barrister--the man without means or position!'
'You harped a good deal upon the Abbey. But I had some right to suppose
you liked me for my own sake, and that you would forgive me for a
stratagem which was prompted by my love for you. How could I know that
you looked upon marriage as a matter of exchange and barter?'
'No,' said Ida, bitterly. 'You are right. You could not know how mean I
am. I did not know it myself till now. And now,' she pursued, with
flashing eyes, with a look in her splendid face that seemed to blight and
wither him, with all her beauty, all her womanhood, up in arms against
him, 'and now to punish you for having kept the truth from me, I will
tell _you_ the truth--plainly. I have never cared one straw for you. I
thought I did while I still believed you Brian Wendover of the Abbey. I
was dazzled by your position; I was grateful in advance for all the good
things that your wealth was to bring me. I tried to delude myself into
the belief that I really loved you; but the voice of my conscience told
me that it was not so, that I was, in sober truth, the basest of
creatures--a woman who marries for money. And now, standing here before
you, I know what a wretch I seem--what a wretch I am.'
'You are my wife,' said Brian, trying to take her hand; 'and we must both
make the best of a bad bargain.'
'Your wife?' she echoed, in a mocking voice.
'Yes, my very wife, Ida. The knot that was tied to-day can only be
loosened by death--or dishonour.'
'You have married me under a false name.'
'No, I have not. You married Brian Walford Wendover. There is no other
man of that name.'
'You have cheated me into a miserable marriage. I will never forgive that
cheat. I will never acknowledge you as my husband. I will never bear your
name, or be anything to you but a stranger, except that I shall hate you
all the days of my life. That will be the only bond between us,' she
added, with a bitter laugh.
'Come, Ida,' said Brian, soothingly, feeling himself quite able to face
the situation now the first shock was over, 'I was prepared for you to be
disappointed--to be angry, even; but you are carrying matters a little
too far. Even your natural disappointment can hardly excuse such language
as this. I am the same man I was yesterday morning when I asked you to
'No, you are not. I saw you in a false light--glorified by attributes
that never belonged to you.'
'In plain words, you thought me the owner of a big house and a fine
income. I am neither; but I am the same Brian Wendover, for all that--a
briefless barrister, but with some talent; not without friends; and with
as fair a chance of success as most young men of my rank.'
'You are an idler--I have heard that from your uncle--self-indulgent,
fond of trivial pleasures. Such men never succeed in life. But if you
were certain to be Lord Chancellor--if you could this moment prove
yourself possessed of a splendid fortune--my feelings would be unchanged.
You have lied to me as no gentleman would have lied. I will own no
husband who is not a gentleman.'
'You carry things with a high hand,' said Brian, with sullen wrath; and
then love prevailed over anger, and he flung himself on his knees at her
feet, clasping her reluctant hands, urging every impassioned argument
which young lips could frame; but to all such prayers she was marble.
'You are my wife,' he pleaded; 'you are my snared bird; your wings are
netted, darling. Do you think I will let you go? Yes, I was false, but it
was love made me deceive you. I loved you so well that I dared not risk
'You have lost me for ever,' she cried, breaking from him and moving
towards the door; 'perhaps, had you been loyal and true, you might have
taught me to love you for your own sake. Women are easier won by truth
'It seems to me they are easier won by houses and lands,' answered Brian,
with a sneer.
And then he followed her to the door, caught her in his arms, and held
her against his passionately beating heart, covering her angry face with
'Let me go!' she cried, tearing herself from his arms, with a shriek of
horror; 'your kisses are poison to me. I hate you--I hate you!'
He recoiled a few paces, and stood looking at her with a countenance in
which the passionate love of a moment ago gave place to gloomy anger.
'So be it,' he said; 'if we cannot be friends we must be enemies. You
reveal your character with an admirable candour. You did not mind
marrying a man who was absolutely repulsive to you--whose kisses are
poison--so long as you thought he was rich. But directly you are told he
is poor you inform him of your real sentiments with a delightful
frankness. Suppose this confession of mine were a hoax, and that I really
were the wealthy Brian after all--playing off a practical joke to test
your feelings--what a sorry figure you would cut!'
'Despicable,' said Ida, with her hand on the handle of the door. 'Yes, I
know that. I despise and loathe myself as much as I despise and loathe
you. I have drained the cup of poverty to the dregs, and I languished for
the elixir of wealth. When you asked me to marry you, I thought Fate had
thrown prosperity in my way--that it would be to lose the golden chance
of a lifetime if I refused you.'
'Not much gold about it,' said Brian, lightly.
He had one of those shallow natures to which the tragedy of life is
impossible. He was disappointed--angry at the turn which affairs had
taken; but he was not reduced to despair. To take things easily had been
his complete code of morals and philosophy from earliest boyhood. He was
not going to break his heart for any woman, were she the loveliest, the
cleverest, the noblest that ever the gods endowed with their choicest
gifts. She might be ever so fair, but if she were not fair for him she
was, in a manner, non-existent. Life, in his philosophy, was too short to
be wasted in following phantoms.
'You must have thought me a mean cad this morning, when I offered you a
couple of sovereigns,' he said; 'yet they constituted a third of my
worldly possessions, and I was sorely puzzled how we were to get to
Dieppe on less than four pounds. I have been living from hand to mouth
ever since I left the university, picking up a few pounds now and then by
literature, writing criticisms for a theatrical journal, and so on--by no
means a brilliant living. Perhaps, after all, it is as well you take
things so severely,' he added, with a sneer. 'If we had been well
disposed towards each other, we must have starved.'
'I could have lived upon a crust with a husband whom I loved and
respected; but not with a man who could act a lie, as you did,' said Ida.
She took her bag from the chair where Brian had thrown it as they entered
the room, and went out on the landing.
'Good-bye, Mrs. Wendover,' he called after her; 'let me know if I can
ever be of any use to you.'
She was going downstairs by this time, and he was looking down at her
across the heavy old banister rail.
'I suppose you are going straight to your father's?'
'Hadn't you better stop and have some lunch? The train doesn't go for
The gray gown fluttered against the sombre brown panelling as his
wife turned the corner of the lower landing and disappeared from his
view--perhaps for ever.
Brian went back to his room, and stood in the middle of it, looking
round him with a contemplative air. It was a pleasant room, arranged
with rather a dandified air--pipes, walking-sticks, old engravings,
_bric-a-brac_--the relics of his college life.
'Well, if she had been more agreeable, I should have had to get new
rooms, and that would have been a bore,' he said to himself; and then he
sank into a chair, gave a laugh that was half a sob, and wiped a mist of
tears from his eyes.
'What fools we have both been!' he muttered to himself, 'I knew she was
in love with the Abbey; but I don't believe a word she says about hating
And yet--and yet--she had seemed very much in earnest when she tore
herself from his arms with that agonized shriek.
A BAD PENNY.
Ida made her way back to the Embankment somehow, hardly knowing where she
was going or what she was going to do. The airy castle which she had
built for herself had fallen about her ears, and she was left standing
amidst the ruins. Wendover Abbey, wealth, position, independence, the
world's respect, were all as far from her as they had been a month ago.
Her sense of disappointment was keen, but not so keen as the sense of her
self-abasement. Her own character stood revealed, to herself in all its
meanness--its sordid longing for worldly wealth--its willingness to
stoop to falsehood in the pursuit of a woman's lowest aim, a good
establishment. Seen in the light of abject failure, the scheme of her
life seemed utterly detestable. Success would have gilded everything. As
the wife of the rich Brian she would have done her duty in all wifely
meekness and obedience, and would have gone down to the grave under
the comforting delusion that she had in no wise forfeited honour or
self-respect. Cheated, duped, degraded, she now felt all the infamy
implied in her willingness to marry a man for whom she cared not a straw.
'Oh, it was cruel, iniquitous,' she said to herself, as she hurried along
the dusty pavement, impelled by agitated thoughts, 'to trade upon my
weakness--my misery--to see me steeped to the lips in odious poverty,
and to tempt me with the glitter of wealth. I never pretended to love
him--never--thank God for that! I let him tell me that he loved me, and I
consented to be his wife; but I pretended no love on my side. Thank God
for that! He cannot say that I lied to him.'
She hurried along, citywards, following the stream of people, and found
herself presently in broad, busy Queen Victoria Street, with all the
traffic hastening by her, staring helplessly at the cabs, and omnibuses,
waggons, carriages streaming east and west under the murky London sky,
vaguely wondering what she was to do next.
He--her husband--had asked her if she were going back to her father, and
she had said 'Yes.' Indeed it was the only course open to her. She must
go home and face the situation, and accept any paternal reproof that
might be offered her. She had lost a day. No doubt Miss Pew's indictment
would have arrived before her; and she would have to explain her conduct
to father and step-mother. But the little white-walled house near Dieppe
was the only shelter the universe held for her, and she must go there.
'Wendover Abbey!' she repeated to herself. I the mistress of Wendover
Abbey! That was too good a joke, 'Why did I not see the folly of such a
dream? But it was just like other dreams. When one dreams one is a queen,
or that one can fly, there is no consciousness of the absurdity of the
She stood staring at the omnibuses till the conductor of one that was
nearly empty murmured invitingly in her ear, 'London Bridge?'
It was the place to which she wanted to go. She nodded to the man, who
opened his door and let her in.
She was at the station at a quarter to four, and the train for Newhaven
did not leave till seven--a long dismal stretch of empty time to be lived