Part 5 out of 9
famous because it was always said that her dinners were, on their scale,
better than anybody else's--yea, even that Dr. Rylance's, although that
gentleman spared no expense, and had been known to induce the French cook
from the Dolphin at Southampton to come over and prepare the feast for
Miss Wendover's dinner was an excuse for the bringing forth of rich
stores of old china, old glass, and older silver--the accumulations of
aunts and uncles for past generations, and in some part of the lady
herself, who had the true spirit of a collector, that special gift which
the French connoisseur calls _le flair_. Ida and the lady of the house
worked diligently all the morning in papering and polishing these
treasures; and the dinner table, with its antique silver, Derby china,
heavy diamond-cut glass, and white and scarlet exotics, was a picture to
gladden the eyes of Aunt Betsy's guests.
The party consisted of Colonel and Mrs. Wendover, with their daughter
Bessie, admitted to this sacred function for the first time in her young
life, and duly impressed with the solemnity of the occasion; the Vicar
and his wife; the new curate, an Oxford M.A., and a sprig of a good old
family tree, altogether something very superior in the way of curates;
Mr. and Mrs. Hildrop Havenant, the great people of a neighbouring
settlement, with their eldest son, also an Oxonion; and Dr. and Miss
'Be sure you two girls look your best to-night,' said Miss Wendover, as
she sat before the fire with Bessie and Ida, enjoying the free and easy
luxury of a substantial afternoon tea, which would enable them all to be
gracefully indifferent to the more solid features of dinner, and duly on
the alert, to make conversation. 'We shall have three eligible men.'
'How do you make three, Aunt Betsy?' inquired her niece. 'Of course we
all know that young Hildrop Havenant is heir to nearly all the land
between Havenant and Romsey; but he is such a mass of affectation that I
can't imagine anybody wanting to marry him. And as for Mr. Jardine--'
'Is he a mass of affectation, too, Bess?' inquired Aunt Betsy with
intention, for Mr. Jardine, the curate, was supposed to have impressed
the damsel's fancy more deeply than she would care to own. 'He is an
'There is Oxford and Oxford,' said Bess. 'If all the Oxford men were like
young Havenant, the only course open to the rest of the world would be to
burn Oxford, just as Oxford burned the martyrs.'
'Well, we may count Mr. Jardine as an eligible, I suppose?'
'But that only makes two. Who is your third?' asked Bessie.
'Dr. Rylance an eligible?' cried Bessie, with girlhood's frank laughter
at the absurd idea of middle age coming into the market to bid for youth.
'Why, auntie, the man must be fifty.'
'Five-and-forty at most, and very young-looking for his age; very
polished, very well off. There are many girls who would be proud to win
such a husband,' said Miss Wendover, glancing at Ida in the firelight.
She wanted to test the girl's temper--to find out, were it possible,
whether this girl, whom she so inclined to love, tried in the fierce
furnace of poverty, had acquired mercenary instincts. She had heard from
Urania of that reckless speech about marrying for money, and she wanted
to know how much or how little that speech had implied.
Ida was silent. She had never told anyone of Dr. Rylance's offer. She
would have deemed it dishonourable to let anyone into the secret of his
humiliation--to let his little world know that he, so superior a person,
could offer himself and be rejected.
'What do you think now, Bess,' pursued Miss Wendover; 'would it not be
rather a nice thing if Dr. Rylance were to marry Ida? We all know how
much he admires her.'
'It would be a very horrid thing!' cried the impetuous Bess. 'I would
ever so much rather Ida married poor Brian, although they had to pig in
furnished lodgings for the first ten years of their life. Crabbed age and
youth cannot dwell together.'
'But Dr. Rylance is not crabbed, and he is not old.'
'Let him marry a lady of the same doubtful age, which seems old to me,
but young to you, and then no one will find fault with him,' said Bess,
savagely. 'I feel an inward and spiritual conviction that Ida is doomed
to marry Brian Walford. The poor fellow was so hopelessly in love with
her when he left this place, that, if she had not a stone inside her
instead of a heart, she would have accepted him; but _magno est amor et
praevalebit!_' concluded Bess, with a mighty effort; 'I'm sure I hope
'I think it must be time for you to go home and dress, if you really wish
to look nice to-night,' said Ida, severely. 'You know you generally find
yourself without frilling, or something wrong, at the last moment.'
'Heavens!' exclaimed Bessie, starting up and upsetting the petted
Persian, which had been reposing in her lap, and which now skulked off
resentfully, with a swollen tail, to hide its indignation under a chair,
'you are as bad as an oracle. I have yards and yards of frilling to sew
on before I dress--my sleeves--my neck--my sweeper.'
'Shall I run over and sew the frills on for you?' asked Ida.
'You! when you are going to wear that lovely pink gown. You will want
hours to dress. No: Blanche must make herself useful for once in her
ridiculous life. _Au revoir_, auntie darling. Go, lovely rose'--to
Ida--'and make yourself still lovelier in order to captivate Dr.
The dinner was over. It had passed without a hitch, and the gentlemen
were now enjoying their claret and conversation in a comfortable
semicircle in front of Miss Wendover's roomy hearth.
The conversation was for the most part strictly local, Colonel Wendover
and Mr. Hildrop Havenant leading, and the Vicar a good second; but now
and then there was a brief diversion from the parish to European
politics, when Dr. Rylance--who secretly abhorred parochial talk--dashed
to the fore and talked with an authority which it was hard for the others
to keep under. He spoke of the impending declaration of war--there is
generally some such thing--as if he had been at the War Office that
morning in confidential converse with the chief officials; but this was
more than Squire Havenant could endure, and he flatly contradicted the
physician on the strength of his morning's correspondence. Mr. Havenant
always talked of his letters as if they contained all the law and the
prophets. His correspondents were high in office, unimpeachable
authorities, men who had the ear of the House, or who pulled the strings
of the Government.
'I am told on the best authority that there will be no war,' he said,
swelling, or seeming to swell, as he spoke.
He was a large man, with a florid complexion and gray mutton-chop
Dr. Rylance shrugged his shoulders and smiled blandly. It was the calm,
incredulous smile with which he encountered any rival medico who was bold
enough to question his treatment.
'That is not the opinion of the War Office,' he said quietly.
'But it is the opinion of men who dictate to the War Office,' replied Mr.
'We couldn't have a better place for the working men's club than old
Parker's cottage,' said the Vicar, addressing himself to Colonel
'If Russia advances a foot farther, there must be war in Beloochistan,'
said Dr. Rylance; 'and if England is blind to the exigencies of the
situation, I should like to know how you are going to get your troops
through the Bolan Pass.'
'A single line to Romsey would send up the value of land fifty per cent,'
said the Colonel, who cared much more about Hampshire than Hindostan,
although the best years of his life had been spent under Indian skies.
Hildrop Havenant pricked up his ears, and forgot all about the War
'If the railway company had the pluck they ought to get that Bill through
next Session,' he said, meaning a Bill for a loop between Winchester and
While the elder gentlemen prosed over their wine the two younger men had
found their way, first to the garden, for a cigar under the frosty moon,
then back to Miss Wendover's pretty drawing room, where Ida was playing
Schumann's 'Traeumerei' at one end of the room with Bessie for her only
audience, while Miss By lance, Miss Wendover, and the three matrons made
a stately group around and about the fire-place.
Urania was providing the greater part of the conversation. She had spent
a delightful fortnight in Cavendish Square at the end of November, and
had been everywhere and seen everything--winter exhibitions--new plays.
'I had no idea there could be so many nice people in town out of the
season,' she said with a grand air. 'But then my father knows all the
nicest people; he cultivates no Philistines.'
The Vicar's wife required to have this last remark explained to her. She
only knew the Philistines of Scripture, an unfortunate people who seem
always to have been in the wrong.
'And you saw some good pictures?' inquired Aunt Betsy.
'A few good ones and acres of daubs,' replied Urania. 'Why will so many
people paint? There are pictures which are an affliction to the eye--an
outrage upon common sense. Instead of a huge gallery lined from floor to
ceiling with commonplace, why cannot we have a Temple with a single
Watts, or Burne Jones, or Dante Bossetti, which one could go in and
worship quietly in a subdued light?'
'That is a horridly expensive way of seeing pictures,' said the Vicar's
wife; 'I hate paying a shilling for seeing a single picture. If it is
ever so good one feels one has had so little for one's money. Now at the
Academy there are always at least fifty pictures which delight me.'
'You must be very easy to please,' said Urania.
'I am,' replied the Vicar's wife, curtly, 'and that is one of the
blessings for which I am thankful to God. I hate your _nil admiraris_,'
added the lady, as if it were the name of a species.
After this Urania became suddenly interested in Schumann, and glided
across the room to see what the music meant.
'That is very sweet,' she murmured, sinking into a seat by Bessie;
'classical, of course?'
'Schumann,' answered Ida, briefly.
'I thought so. It has that delicious vagueness one only finds in German
music--a half-developed meaning--leaving wide horizons of melodious
This was a conversational style which Miss Rylance had cultivated since
her entrance into the small world of Kingthorpe, and the larger world of
Cavendish Square, as a grown-up young woman. She had seen a good deal of
a semi-artistic, quasi-literary circle, in which her father was the
medical oracle, attending actresses and singers without any more
substantial guerdon than free admittance to the best theatres on the best
nights; prescribing for newspaper-men and literary lions, who sang his
praises wherever they went.
Urania had fallen at once into all the tricks and manners of the new
school. She had taken to short waists and broad sashes, and a style of
drapery which accentuated the elegant slimness of her figure. She
affected out-of-the-way colours, and quaint combinations--pale pinks and
olive greens, tawny yellow and faded russet--and bought her gowns at a
Japanese warehouse, where limp lengths of flimsy cashmere were mixed in
artistic confusion with sixpenny teapots and paper umbrellas. In a word,
Miss Rylance had become a disciple of the peacock-feather school of art,
and affected to despise every other development of intellect, or beauty.
This was the first time that she and Ida had met since the latter's
return to Kingthorpe, except indeed for briefest greetings in the
churchyard after morning service. Ida had not yet upbraided her for the
trick of which she was the author and originator, but Urania was in no
wise grateful for this forbearance. She had acted with deliberate
maliciousness; and she wanted to know that her malice had given pain. The
whole thing was a failure if it had not hurt the girl who had been
audacious enough to outshine Miss Rylance, and to fascinate Miss
Rylance's father. Urania had no idea that the physician had offered
himself and his two houses to Ida Palliser, nay, had even pledged himself
to sacrifice his daughter at the shrine of his new love. She knew that he
admired Miss Palliser more than he had ever admired anyone else within
her knowledge, and this was more than enough to make Ida hateful.
Ida was particularly obnoxious this evening, in that pale pink cashmere
gown, with a falling collar of fine old Brussels point, a Christmas gift
from Mrs. Wendover. The gown might not be the highest development of the
Grosvenor Gallery school, but it was at once picturesque and becoming,
and Ida was looking her loveliest.
'Why have you never come to see me since your return?' inquired Urania,
with languid graciousness.
'I did not think you wanted me,' Ida answered, coolly.
'I am always glad to see my friends. I stop at home on Thursday
afternoons on purpose; but perhaps you have not quite forgiven Bess and
me for that little bit of fun we indulged in last September,' said
'I have quite forgiven Bess her share of the joke,' answered Ida,
scanning Miss Rylance's smiling countenance with dark, scornful eyes,
'because I know she had no idea of giving me pain.'
'But won't you forgive me too? Are you going to leave me out in the
'I don't think you care a straw whether I forgive or do not forgive you.
You wanted to wound me--to humiliate me--and you succeeded--to a certain
degree. But you see I have survived the humiliation. You did not hurt me
quite so much as you intended, perhaps.'
'What a too absurd view to take of the thing!' cried Urania, with an
injured air. 'An innocent practical joke, not involving harm of any kind;
a little girlish prank played on the spur of the moment. I thought you
were more sensible than to be offended--much less seriously angry--at any
Ida contemplated her enemy silently for a few moments, as her hands
wandered softly through one of those Kinder-scenen which she knew by
'If I am mistaken in your motives it is I who have to apologize,' she
said, quietly. 'Perhaps I am inclined to make too much of what is really
nothing. But I detest all practical jokes, and I should have thought you
were the very last person to indulge in one, Miss Rylance. Sportiveness
is hardly in your line.'
'Nobody is always wise,' murmured Urania, with her disagreeable simper.
'Not even Miss Rylance?' questioned Ida, without looking up from the
'Please don't quarrel,' pleaded Bessie, piteously; 'such a bad use for
the last night of the year. It was more my fault than anyone else's,
though the suggestion did certainly come from Urania--but no harm has
come of it--nor good either, I am sorry to say--and I have repented
in sackcloth and ashes. Why should the dismal failure be raked up
'I should not have spoken of it if Miss Rylance had been silent,' said
Ida; and here, happily, the two young men came in, and made at once for
the group of girls by the piano, whereupon Urania had an opportunity of
parading her newest ideas, all second, third, or even fourth-hand, before
the young Oxonians. One young Oxonian was chillingly indifferent to the
later developments of modern thought, and had eyes for no one but Bessie,
whose childish face beamed with smiles as he talked to her, although his
homely theme was old Sam Jones's rheumatics, and the Providence which had
preserved Martha Morris's boy from instant death when he tumbled into the
fire. It was only parish talk, but Bessie felt as happy as if one of the
saints of old had condescended to converse with her--proud and pleased,
too, when Mr. Jardine told her how grateful old Jones was for her
occasional visits, and how her goodness to Mrs. Morris had made a deep
impression upon that personage, commonly reported to have 'a temper' and
to be altogether a difficult subject.
The conversation drifted not unnaturally from parochial to more personal
topics, and Mr. Jardine showed himself interested in Bessie's pursuits,
studies, and amusements.
'I hear so much of you from those two brothers of yours,' said the
Curate--'fine, frank fellows. They often join me in my walks.'
'I'm sure it is very good of you to have anything to say to them,'
replied Bessie, feeling, like other girls of eighteen, that there could
hardly be anything more despicable--from a Society point of view--than
her two brothers.' They are laboriously idle all through the holidays.'
'Well, I daresay they might work a little more, with ultimate advantage,'
said Mr. Jardine, smiling; 'but it is pleasant to see boys enjoy life so
thoroughly. They are fond of all open air amusements, and they are keen
observers, and I find that they think a good deal, which is a stage
'They are not utterly idiotic,' sighed Bessie; 'but they never read, and
they break things in a dreadful way. The legs of our chairs snap under
those two boys as if old oak were touchwood; and Blanche and Eva, who
ought to know better, devote all their energies to imitating them.'
The other gentlemen had come in by this time, and Dr. Rylance came
gliding across the room with his gentlemanly but somewhat catlike tread,
and planted himself behind Ida, bending down to question her about her
music, and letting her see that he admired her as much as ever, and had
even forgiven her for refusing him. But she rose as soon as she decently
could, and left the piano.
'Miss Rylance will sing, I hope,' she said, politely. Miss Wendover came
over to make the same request, and Urania sane the last fashionable
ballad, 'Blind Man's Holiday,' in a hard chilly voice which was as
unpleasant as a voice well could be without being actually out of tune.
After this Bessie sang 'Darby and Joan,' in a sweet contralto, but with a
doleful slowness which hung heavily upon the spirits of the company, and
a duly dismal effect having been produced, the young ladies were
cordially thanked for--leaving off.
A pair of whist-tables were now started for the elders, while the three
girls and the two Oxonians still clustered round the piano, and seemed to
find plenty to talk about till sweetly and suddenly upon the still night
air came the silver tones of the church bells.
Miss Wendover started up from the card-table with a solemn look, as the
curate opened a window and let in a flood of sound. A silent hush fell
'The New Year is born,' said Aunt Betsy; 'may it spare us those we love,
and end as peacefully for us as the year that is just dead.'
And then they all shook hands with each other and parted.
The dance at The Knoll was a success, and Ida danced with the best men in
the room, and was as much courted and admired as if she had been the
greatest heiress in that part of Hampshire. Urania Rylance went simpering
about the room telling everybody, in the kindest way, who Miss Palliser
was, and how she had been an ill-used drudge at a suburban finishing
school, before that dear good Miss Wendover took her as a useful
companion; but even that crushing phrase, 'useful companion,' did not
degrade Ida in the eyes of her admirers.
'Palliser's a good name,' said one youth. 'There's a Sir Vernon
Palliser--knew him and his brother at Cambridge--members of the Alpine
Club--great athletes. Any relation?'
'Very distant, I should think, from what I know of Miss Palliser's
circumstances;' answered Miss Rylance, with an incredulous sneer.
But Urania failed in making youth and beauty contemptible, and was fain
to admit to herself that Ida Palliser was the belle of the room. Dr.
Rylance, who had not been invited, but who looked so well and so young
that no one could be angry with him for coming, hung upon Miss Palliser's
steps, and tortured her with his politeness.
For Ida the festivity was not all happiness. She would have been
happier at the Homestead, sitting by the fire reading aloud to Miss
Wendover--happier almost anywhere--for she had not only to endure a kind
of gentlemanly persecution from Dr. Rylance, but she was tormented by an
ever-present dread of Brian Walford's appearance. Bessie had sent him a
telegram only that morning, imploring him, as a personal favour, to be
present at her ball, vowing that she would be deeply offended with him if
he did not come; and more than once in the course of the evening Bessie
had told Ida that there was still time, there was a train now just due at
Winchester, and that might have brought him. Ida breathed more freely
after midnight, when it was obviously too late for any one else to
'It is your fault,' said Bessie, pettishly. 'If you had not treated him
very unkindly at Mauleverer he would be here to-night. He never failed me
Ida reddened, and then grew very pale.
'I see,' she said, 'you think I deprive you of your cousin's society. I
will ask Miss Wendover to let me go back to France.'
'No, no, no, you inhuman creature! how can you talk like that? You know
that I love you ever so much better than Brian, though he is my own kith
and kin. I would not lose you for worlds. I don't care a straw about his
coming, for my own sake. Only I should so like you to marry him, and be
one of us. Oh, here's that odious Dr. Rylance stealing after you. Aunt
Betsy is quite right--the man would like to marry you--but you won't
accept him, will you, darling?--not even to have your own house in
Cavendish Square, a victoria and brougham, and all those blessings we
hear so much about from Urania. Remember, you would have her for a
stepdaughter into the bargain.'
'Be assured, dear Bess, I shall never be Urania's stepmother. And now,
darling, put all thoughts of matrimony out of your head; for me, at
That brief flash of Christmas and New Year's gaiety was soon over. The
Knoll resumed its wonted domestic calm. Dr. Rylance went back to
Cavendish Square, and only emerged occasionally from the London vortex to
spend a peaceful day or two at Kingthorpe. His daughter was not installed
as mistress of his town house, as she had fondly hoped would be the case.
She was permitted to spend an occasional week, sometimes stretched to ten
days or a fortnight, in Cavendish Square; but the cook-housekeeper and
the clever German servant, half valet half butler, still reigned supreme
in that well-ordered establishment; and Urania felt that she had no more
authority than a visitor. She dared not find fault with servants who
had lived ten years in her father's service, and who suited him
perfectly--even had there been any legitimate reason for fault-finding,
which there was not.
Dr. Rylance having got on so comfortably during the last twelve years of
his life without a mistress for his town house, was disinclined to
surrender his freedom to a daughter who had more than once ventured to
question his actions, to hint that he was not all-wise. He considered it
a duty to introduce his daughter into the pleasant circles where he was
petted and made much of; and he fondly hoped she would speedily find a
husband sufficiently eligible to be allowed the privilege of taking her
off her father's hands. But in the meanwhile, Urania in London was
somewhat of a bore; and Dr. Rylance was never more cheerful than when
driving her to Waterloo Station.
Miss Rylance's life, therefore, during this period alternated between
rural seclusion and London gaiety. She came back to the pastoral phase of
her existence with the feelings and demeanour of a martyr; and her only
consolation was found in those calm airs of superiority which seemed
justified by her intimate acquaintance with society, and her free use of
a kind of jargon which she called modern thought.
'How you can manage to exist here all the year round without going out of
your mind is more than I can understand,' she told Bessie.
'Well, I know Kingthorpe is dull,' replied Bess, meekly, 'but it's a dear
old hole, and I never find the days too long, especially when those
odious boys are at home.'
'But really now, Bessie, don't you think it is time you should leave off
playing with boys, and begin wearing gloves?' sneered Urania.
'I did wear gloves at Bournemouth, religiously--mousquetaires, up to my
elbows; never went out without them. No, Ranie, I am never dull at old
Kingthorpe; and then there is always a hope of Bournemouth.'
'Bournemouth is worse than this!' exclaimed Urania. 'There is nothing so
laboriously dismal as a semi-fashionable watering-place.'
Talk as she might, Miss Rylance could not sour Bessie's happy disposition
with the vinegar of discontent. Hers was a sweet, joyous soul; and just
now, had she dared to speak the truth, she would have said that this
pastoral village of Kingthorpe, this cluster of fine old houses and
comfortable cottages, grouped around an ancient parish church, was to her
the central point of the universe, to leave which would be as Eve's
banishment from Eden. The pure and tender heart had found its shrine, and
laid down its offering of reverent devotion. Mr. Jardine had said nothing
as yet, but he had sedulously cultivated Bessie Wendover's society, and
had made himself eminently agreeable to her parents, who could find no
fault with a man who was at once a scholar and a gentleman, and who had
an income which made him comfortably independent of immediate preferment.
He was enthusiastic, and he could afford to give his enthusiasm full
scope. Kingthorpe suited him admirably. It was a parish rich in sweet
associations. The present Vicar was a good, easy-going man, a High
Churchman of the old school rather than the new, yet able to sympathize
with men of more advanced opinions and fiercer energies.
Thus it was that while Miss Rylance found her bower at Kingthorpe a place
of dullness and discontent, Bessie rose every morning to a new day of joy
and gladness, which began, oh! so sweetly, in the early morning service,
in which John Jardine's deep musical voice gave new force and meaning to
the daily lessons, new melody to the Psalms. Ida was always present at
this morning service, and the two girls used to walk home together
through the dewy fields, sometimes one, sometimes the other going out of
her way to accompany her friend. Bessie poured all her innocent secrets
into Ida's ear, expatiating with sweet girlish folly upon every look and
tone of Mr. Jardine's, asking Ida again and again if she thought that he
cared, ever so little, for her.
'You never tell me any of your secrets, Ida,' she said, reproachfully,
after one of these lengthy discussions. 'I am always prosing about my
affairs, until I must seem a lump of egotism. Why don't you make me
listen sometimes? I should be deeply interested in any dream of yours, if
it were ever so wild.'
'My darling, I have no dreams, wild or tame,' said Ida. She could not say
that she had no secret, having that one dreadful secret hanging over her
and overshadowing her life.
'And have you never been in love?'
'Never. I once thought--almost thought--that I was in love. It was like
drifting away in a frail, dancing little boat over an unknown sea--all
very well while the sun shone and the boat went gaily--suddenly the boat
fell to pieces, and I found myself in the cold, cruel water.'
'Horrid!' cried Bess, with a shudder. 'That could not have been real
'No, dear, it was a will-o'-the-wisp, not the true light.'
'And you have got over it?'
'Quite. I am perfectly happy in the life I lead now.'
This was the truth. There are these calm pauses in most lives--blessed
intervals of bliss without passion--a period in which heart and mind are
both at rest, and yet growing and becoming nobler and purer in the time
of repose, just as the body grows during sleep.
And thus Ida's life, full and useful, glided on, and the days went by
only too swiftly; for it was never out of her mind that these days of
tranquil happiness were numbered, that she was bound in honour to leave
Kingthorpe before Brian Walford could feel the oppression of banishment
from his kindred. At present Brian Walford was living in Paris, with an
old college friend, both these youths being supposed to be studying the
French language and literature, with a view to making themselves more
valuable at the English bar. He had given up his chambers in the Temple,
as too expensive for a man living from hand to mouth. He was understood
to be contributing to the English magazines, and to be getting his living
decently, which was better than languishing under the cognizance of the
Lamb and Flag, with no immediate prospect of briefs.
THE TRUE KNIGHT.
Kingthorpe, beautiful even in the winter, with its noble panorama of
hills and woods, was now looking its loveliest in the leafy month of
June. Ida had been living with Miss Wendover nearly eight months, and had
become to her as a daughter, waiting upon her with faithful and loving
service, always a bright and cheerful companion, joining with heart and
hand in all good works. Her active life, her freedom from daily cares,
had brightened her proud young beauty. She was lovelier than she had ever
been as the belle of Mauleverer Manor, for that defiant look which had
been the outcome of oppression had now given place to softness and
smiles. The light of happiness beamed in her dark eyes. Between December
and June this tranquil existence had scarcely been rippled by anything
that could be called an event, save the one grand event of Bessie
Wendover's life--her engagement to John Jardine, who had proposed quite
unexpectedly, as Bessie declared, one evening in May, when the two had
gone into a certain copse at the back of The Knoll gardens, famous as the
immemorial resort of nightingales. Here, instead of listening to the
nightingales, or silently awaiting a gush of melody from those pensive
birds, Mr. Jardine had poured out his own melodious strain, which took
the form of an ardent declaration. Bessie, who had been doing 'he loves
me, loves me not,' with every flower in the garden--forgetting that from
a botanical point of view the result was considerably influenced by the
nature of the flower--pretended to be intensely surprised; made believe
there was nothing further from her thoughts; and then, when her
emboldened lover folded her to his breast, owned shyly, and with tears,
that she had loved him desperately ever since Christmas, and that she
would have been heartbroken had he married anyone else.
Colonel and Mrs. Wendover received the Curate's declaration with the
coolness which is so aggravating in parents, who would hardly be elated
if the sons of God came down once more to propose for the daughters of
They both considered that Bessie was ridiculously young--much too young
to receive an offer of marriage. They consented, ultimately, to an
engagement; but Bessie was not to be married till after her twenty-first
birthday. This meant two years from next September, and Mr. Jardine
pleaded hard for a milder sentence. Surely one year would be long enough
to wait, when Bessie and he were so sure of their own minds.
'Bessie is too young to be sure of anything,' said the Colonel; 'and two
years will only give you time to find a living and a nice cosy vicarage,
or rectory, as the case way be.'
Mr. Jardine did not venture to remind Colonel Wendover that for him the
cosiness of vicarage or rectory was a mere detail as compared with a
worthy field for his labours. He meant to spend his life where it would
be of most use to his fellow-creatures; even although the call of duty
should come to him from the smokiest of manufacturing towns, or in the
flat, dull fields of Lincolnshire, among pitmen and stockingers. He was
not the kind of man to consider the snug rectory houses or fat glebes,
but rather the kind of man to take upon himself some long-neglected
parish, and ruin himself in building church and schools.
Fortunately for Bessie's hopes, however, Colonel Wendover did not know
The Curate complained to Aunt Betsy of her brother's hardness.
'Why cannot we be married at the end of this year?' he said. 'We have
pledged ourselves to spend our lives together. Why should we not begin
that bright new life--bright and new, at least to me--in a few months?
That would be ample time for the Colonel and Mrs. Wendover to get
accustomed to the idea of Bessie's marriage.'
'But a few months will not make her old enough or wise enough for a
clergyman's wife,' said Miss Wendover.
'She has plenty of wisdom--the wisdom of a generous and tender heart--the
best kind of wisdom. All her instincts, all her impulses, are pure, and
true, and noble. What can age give her better than that? Girl, as she is,
my parish will be the better for her sweet influence. She will be the
sunshine of my people's life as well as of mine. How will she grow wiser
by living two years longer, and reading novels, and dancing at
Bournemouth? I don't want her to be worldly-wise; and the better kind of
wisdom comes from above. She will learn that in the quiet of her married
'I see,' said Miss Wendover, smiling at him; 'you don't quite like the
afternoon dances and tennis parties at Bournemouth.'
'Pray don't suppose I am jealous,' said the Curate. 'My trust in my
darling's goodness and purity is the strongest part of my love. But I
don't want to see the best years of her youth, her freshness, her girlish
energy and enthusiasm, frittered away upon dances, and tennis, and dress,
which has lately been elevated into an art. I want her help, I want her
sympathy, I want her for my own--the better part of myself--going hand in
hand with me in all my hopes and acts.'
'Two years sounds a long time,' said Miss Wendover, musingly, 'and I
suppose, at your age and Bessie's, it is a long time; though at mine the
years flow onward with such a gliding motion that it is only one's
looking-glass, and the quarterly accounts, that tell one time is moving.
However, I have seen a good many of these two-year engagements--'
'And I have seldom seen one of them last a twelvemonth.'
'They have ended unhappily?'
'Quite the contrary. They have ended in a premature wedding. The
young people have put their heads together, and have talked over the
flinty-hearted parents; and some bright morning, when the father and
mother have been in a good temper, the order for the trousseau has been
given, the bridesmaids have received notice, and in six weeks the whole
business was over, And the old people rather glad to have got rid of a
love-sick damsel and her attendant swain. There is no greater nuisance in
a house than engaged sweethearts. Who knows whether you and Bessie may
not be equally fortunate?'
'I hope we may be so,' said the Curate; 'but I don't think we shall make
'Oh, of course you think not. Every man believes himself superior to
every form of silliness, but I never saw a lover yet who did not lapse
sooner or later into mild idiocy.'
_'Amare et sapere vix deo conceditur.'_
'Of course. Indeed, with the gods of Olympus it was quite the other way.
Nothing could be more absurd than their goings on.'
Ida was delighted at her friend's happiness, and was never tired of
hearing about Mr. Jardine's virtues. Love had already begun to exercise a
sobering influence upon Bessie. She no longer romped with the boys, and
she wore gloves. She had become very studious of her appearance, but all
those little coquettish arts of the toilet which she had learned last
autumn at Bournemouth, the cluster of flowers pinned on her shoulder, the
laces and frivolities, were eschewed; lest Mr. Jardine should be reminded
of the wanton-eyed daughters of Zion, with their tinkling ornaments, and
chains, and bracelets, and mufflers, and rings, and nose-jewels. She
began to read with a view to improving her mind, and plodded laboriously
through certain books of the advanced Anglican school which her lover had
told her were good. But she learnt a great deal more from Mr. Jardine's
oral instructions than from any books, and when the Winchester boys came
home for an occasional Sunday they found her brimful of ecclesiastical
knowledge, and at once nicknamed her the Perambulating Rubric, or by the
name of any feminine saint which their limited learning suggested.
Fortunately for Bessie, however, their jests were not unkindly meant, and
they liked Mr. Jardine, whose knowledge of natural history, the ways and
manners of every creature that flew, or walked, or crawled, or swam in
that region of hill and valley, made him respectable in their eyes.
'He's not half a bad fellow--for a parson,' said Horatio,
'And wouldn't he make a jolly schoolmaster?' exclaimed Reginald. 'Boys
would get on capitally with Jardine. They'd never try to bosh _him_.'
'Schoolmaster, indeed?' echoed Bessie, with an offended air.
'I suppose you think it wouldn't be good enough for him? You expect him
to be made an archbishop off-hand, without being educated up to his work
by the rising generation. No doubt you forget that there have been such
men as Arnold, and Temple, and Moberly. Pray what higher office can a man
hold in this world than to form the minds of the rising generation?'
'I wish your master would form your manners,' said Bessie, 'for they are
It was nearly the end of June, and the song of the nightingales was
growing rarer in the twilight woods.
Ida started early one heavenly midsummer morning, with her book and her
luncheon in a little basket, to see the old lodge-keeper at Wendover
Abbey, who had nursed the elder Wendovers when they were babies in the
nurseries at the Abbey, and who had lived in a Gothic cottage at the
gate--built on purpose for her by the last squire--ever since her
retirement from active service. This walk to the Abbey was one of Ida's
favourite rambles, and on this June morning the common, the wood, the
corn-fields, and distant hills were glorious with that fleeting beauty of
summer which gives a glamour to the most commonplace scenery.
She had a long idle morning before her, a thing which happened rarely.
Miss Wendover had driven to Romsey with the Colonel and his wife, to
lunch with some old friends in the neighbourhood of that quiet town, and
was not likely to be home till afternoon tea. Bessie was left in charge
of the younger members of the household, and was further deeply engaged
in an elaborate piece of ecclesiastical embroidery, all crimson and gold,
and peacock floss, which she hoped to finish before All Saints' Day.
Old Mrs. Rowse, the gatekeeper, was delighted to see Miss Palliser. The
young lady was a frequent visitor, for the old woman was entitled to
particular attention as a sufferer from chronic rheumatism, unable to
do more than just crawl into her little patch of garden, or to the
grass-plat before her door on a sunny afternoon. Her days were spent, for
the most part, in an arm-chair in front of the neat little grate, where a
handful of fire burnt, winter and summer, diffusing a turfy odour.
Ida liked to hear the old woman talk of the past. She had been a bright
young girl, under-nurse when the old squire was born; and now the squire
had been lying at rest in the family vault for nigh upon fifteen years,
and here she was still, without kith or kin, or a friend in the world
except the Wendovers.
She liked to hold forth upon the remarkable events of her life--from her
birth in a labourer's cottage, about half a mile from the Abbey, to the
last time she had been able to walk as far as the parish church, now five
years ago. She was cheerful, yet made the most of her afflictions, and
seemed to think that chronic rheumatism of her particular type was a
social distinction. She was also proud of her advanced age, and had hopes
of living into the nineties, and having her death recorded in the county
That romantic feeling about the Abbey, which had taken possession of
Ida's mind on her first visit, had hardly been lessened by familiarity
with the place, or even by those painful associations which made the spot
fatal to her. The time-old deserted mansion was still to her fancy a poem
in stone; and although she could not think about its unknown master
without a shudder, recalling her miserable delusion, she could not banish
his image from her thoughts, when she roamed about the park, or explored
the house, where the few old servants had grown fond of her and suffered
her to wander at will.
When she had spent an hour with Mrs. Rowse, she walked on to the Abbey,
and seated herself to eat her sandwiches and read her beloved Shelley
under the cedar beneath which she and the Wendover party had picnicked so
gaily on the day of her first visit. Shelley harmonized with her
thoughtful moods, for with most of his longer poems there is interwoven
that sense of wrong and sorrow, that idea of a life spoiled and blighted
by the oppression of stern social laws, which could but remind Ida of her
own entanglement. She had bound herself by a chain that could never be
broken, and here she read of how all noblest and grandest impulses are
above the law, and refuse to be so bound; and how, in such cases, it is
noble to defy and trample upon the law. A kind of heroic lawlessness,
spiritualized and diffused in a cloud of exquisite poetry, was what she
found in her Shelley; and it comforted her to know that before her time
there had been lofty souls caught in the web of their own folly.
When she was tired of reading she went into the Abbey. The great hall
door stood open to admit the summer air and sunshine. Ida wandered from
one room to another as freely as if she had been in her own house,
knowing that any servant she met would be pleased to see her there. The
old housekeeper was a devoted admirer of Miss Palliser; the two young
housemaids were her pupils in a class which met every Sunday afternoon
for study of the Scriptures. She had no fear of being considered an
intruder. Many of the casements stood open, and there was the scent of
flowers in the silent old rooms, where all was neat and prim, albeit a
little faded and gray.
Ida loved to explore the library, where the books were for the most part
quaint and old, original editions of seventeenth and eighteenth century
books, in sober, substantial bindings. It was pleasant to take out a
volume of one of the old poets, or the eighteenth century essayists, and
to read a few stanzas, or a paper of Addison's or Steele's, standing by
the open window in the air and sunlight.
The rooms in which she roamed at will were the public apartments of the
Abbey, and, although beautiful in her eyes, they had the stiffness and
solemnity of rooms which are not for the common uses of daily life.
But on one occasion Mrs. Mawley, the housekeeper, in a particularly
communicative mood, showed her the suite of rooms in which Mr. Wendover
lived when he was alone; and here, in the study where he read, and wrote,
and smoked, and brooded in the long quiet days, she saw those personal
belongings which gave at least some clue to the character of the man.
Here, on shelves which lined the room from floor to ceiling, she saw the
books which Brian Wendover had collected for his own especial pleasure,
and the neatness of their arrangement and classification told her that
the master of Wendover Abbey was a man of calm temper and orderly habits.
'You'll never see a book out of place when he leaves the room,' said Mrs.
Mawley. 'I've seen him take down fifty volumes of a morning, when he's at
his studies. I've seen the table covered with books, and books piled up
on the carpet at each side of his chair, but they'd all be back on their
shelves, as neat as a new pin, when I went to tidy up the room after him.
I never allow no butter-fingered girls in this room, except to sweep or
scrub, under my own eye. There's not many ornaments, but what there is is
precious, and the apple of master's eye.'
It was a lovely room, with a panelled oak ceiling, and a fine old oak
mantel-piece, on which were three or four pieces of Oriental crackle. The
large oak writing-table was neatly arranged with crimson leather
blotting-book, despatch-box, old silver inkstand, and a pair of exquisite
bronze statuettes of Apollo and Mercury, which seemed the presiding
geniuses of the place.
'I don't believe Mr. Wendover could get on with his studies if those two
figures weren't there,' said Mrs. Mawley.
The rooms were kept always aired and ready--no one knew at what hour the
master might return. He was a good master, honoured and beloved by the
old servants, who had known him from his infancy; and his lightest whim
was respected. The fact that he should have given the best part of his
life since he left Oxford to roving about foreign countries was lamented;
but this roving temper was regarded as only an eccentric manner of sowing
those wild oats which youth must in some wise scatter; and it was hoped
that with ripening years he would settle down and spend his days in the
home of his ancestors. He might come home at any time, he had informed
Mrs. Mawley in his last letter, received six weeks ago.
That glimpse of the room in which he lived gave Ida a vivid idea of the
man--the calm, orderly student who had won high honours at the
University, and was never happier than when absorbed in books that took
him back to the past--to that very past which was presided over by the
two pagan gods on the writing-table. She noted that the wide block of
books nearest Mr. Wendover's chair were all Greek and Latin; and straying
round the room she found Homers and Horaces, Greek playwrights and
historians, repeating themselves many times, in various quaint costly
editions. A scholar evidently--perhaps pragmatical and priggish. Bessie's
coolness about her cousin implied that he was not altogether agreeable.
'Perhaps I should have liked him no better than the false Brian,' she
said to herself to-day, as she stood musing before the old brown books in
the library, thinking of that more individual collection which she had
been allowed to inspect on her last visit.
She shuddered at the image of that other Brian, remembering but too
vividly how she had last seen him, kneeling to her, claiming her as his
own. God! could he so claim her? Was she verily his, to summon at his
will?--his by the law of heaven and earth, and only enjoying her liberty
by his sufferance?
The thought was horrible. She snatched a book from the shelf--anything to
distract her mind. Happily, the book was Shakespeare, and she was soon
lost in Lear's woes, wilder, deeper than any sorrow she had ever tasted.
She read for an hour, the soft air fanning her, the sun shining upon her,
the scent of roses and lilies breathing gently round her as she sat in
the deep oak window-seat. Then the clock struck three, and it was time to
think of leaving this enchanted castle, where no prince or princess of
fairy tale ever came.
There was no need for haste. She might depart at her leisure, and dawdle
as much as she pleased on her homeward way. All she wanted was to be
seated neat and trim in a carefully arranged room, ready to pour out Aunt
Betsy's afternoon tea, when the cobs returned from Romsey. She put Lear
back in his place, and strolled slowly through the rooms, opening one
into another, to the hall, where she stopped idly to look at her
favourite picture, that portrait of Sir Tristram Wendover which was
attributed to Vandyke--a noble portrait, and with much of Vandyke's
manner, whoever the painter. It occupied the place of honour in a
richly-carved panel above the wide chimney-piece, a trophy of arms
arranged on each side.
Ida stood gazing dreamily at that picture--the dark, earnest eyes, under
strongly marked brows, the commanding features, somewhat ruggedly
modelled, but fine in their general effect--a Rembrandt face--every line
telling; a face in which manhood and intellect predominated over physical
beauty; and yet to Ida's fancy the face was the finest she had ever seen.
It was her ideal of the knightly countenance, the face of the man who has
won many a hard fight over all comers, and has beaten that last and worst
enemy, his own lower nature, leaving the lofty soul paramount over the
world, the flesh, and the devil. So must Lancelot have looked, Ida
thought, towards the close of life, when conscience had conquered
passion. It was a face that showed the traces of sorrows lived down and
temptations overcome--a face which must have been a living reproof to the
butterfly sybarites of Charles the Second's Court. Ida knew no more of
Sir Tristram's history than that he had been a brave soldier and a
faithful servant of the Stuarts in evil and good fortune; that he had
married somewhat late in life, to become the father of an only son, from
whom the present race of Wendovers were descended. Ida had tried in vain
to discover any resemblance to this pictured face in the Colonel or his
sister; but it was only to be supposed that the characteristics of the
loyal knight had dwindled and vanished from the Wendover countenance with
the passage of two centuries.
'No, there is not one of them has that noble look,' murmured Ida,
thinking aloud, as she turned to leave the hall.
She found herself face to face with a man, who stood looking at her with
friendly eyes, which in their earnest expression and grave dark brows
curiously resembled the eyes of the picture. Her heart gave one leap, and
then seemed to stand still. There could be only one man in the world with
such a face as that, and in that house. Yes, it was a modified copy of
the portrait--younger, the features less rugged, the skin paler and less
tawny, the expression less intense. Yet even here, despite the friendly
smile, there was a gravity, a look of determination which verged upon
This time she was not deceived. This was that very Brian Wendover whom
she had thought of in her foolish day-dreams, the first romantic fancy of
her girlhood, last year; and now, in the flush and glory of summer, he
stood before her, smiling at her with eyes which seemed to invite her
'I am glad you like my ancestor's portrait,' he said. 'I could not resist
watching you for the last five minutes, as you stood in rapt
contemplation of the hero of our race; so unlike the manner of most
visitors to the Abbey, who give Sir Tristram a casual glance, and go on
to the next feature in the housekeeper's catalogue.'
She stood with burning cheeks, looking downward, like a guilty thing, and
for a moment or two could hardly speak. Then she said, faltering--
'It is a very interesting portrait,' after which brilliant remark she
stood looking helplessly towards the open door, which she could not reach
without passing the stranger.
'I think I have the pleasure of speaking to Miss Palliser,' he said. 'Old
Mrs. Rowse told me you were here. I am Brian Wendover.'
Ida made him a little curtsey, so fluttering, so uncertain, as to have
elicited the most severe reproof from Madame Rigolette could she have
seen her pupil at this moment.
'I hope you do not mind,' she said, hesitatingly. 'Bessie and I have
roamed about the Abbey often, while you were away, and to-day I came
alone, and have been reading in the library for an hour or so.'
'I am delighted that the old house should not be quite abandoned.'
How different his tone in speaking of the Abbey from the false Brian's!
There was tenderness and pride of race in every word.
'And I hope that my return will not scare either you or Bessie away; that
you will come here as often as you feel inclined. I am something of a
recluse when I am at home.'
'You are very kind,' said Ida, moving a little way towards the door.
'Have you been to The Knoll yet?'
'I have only just come from Winchester. I landed at Hull yesterday
afternoon, and I have been travelling ever since. But I am very anxious
to see my aunts and cousins, especially Aunt Betsy. If you will allow me,
I will walk back to Kingthorpe with you.'
Ida looked miserable at the suggestion.
'I--I--don't think Miss Wendover will be at home just yet,' she said.
'She has gone to The Grange, near Romsey, you know, to luncheon.'
'But a luncheon doesn't last for ever. What time do you expect her back?'
'Not till five, at the earliest.'
'And it is nearly half-past three. If you'll allow me to come with you I
can lounge in that dear old orchard till Aunt Betty comes home to give me
What could Ida say to this very simple proposition? To object would have
been prudish in the last degree. Brian Wendover could not know what
manifold and guilty reasons she had for shrinking from any association
with him. He could not know that for her there was something akin to
terror in his name, that a sense of shame mingled with her every thought
of him. For him she must needs be as other women, and it was her business
to make him believe that he was to her as other men.
'I shall be very happy,' she said, and then, with a final effort, she
added, 'but are you not tired after your journey? Would it not be wiser
to rest, and go to the Homestead a little later, at half-past seven, when
you are sure of finding Miss Wendover at home?'
'I had rather risk it, and go now, I am only tired of railway travelling,
smoke and sulphur, dust and heat. A quiet walk across the common and
through the wood will be absolute refreshment and repose.'
After this there was nothing to be said, and they went out into the
carriage-way in front of the Abbey, side by side, and across the broad
expanse of turf, on which the cedars flung their wide stretching shadows,
and so by the Park to the corn-fields, where the corn waved green and
tall, and to the open common, above which the skylarks were soaring and
singing as if the whole world were wild with joy.
They had not much to talk about, being such utter strangers to each
other, and Brian Wendover naturally reserved and inclined to silence; but
the little he did say was made agreeable by a voice of singular richness
and melody--just such a voice as that deep and thrilling organ which
Canon Mozley has described in the famous Provost of Oriel, and which was
a marked characteristic of at least one of Bishop Coplestone's nephews--a
voice which gives weight and significance to mere commonplace.
Ida, not prone to shyness, was to-day as one stricken dumb. She could
not think of this man walking by her side, so unconscious of evil,
without unutterable humiliation. If he had been an altogether commonplace
man--pompous, underbred, ridiculous in any way--the situation would have
been a shade less tragic. But he came too near her ideal. This was the
kind of man she had dreamed of, and she had accepted in his stead the
first frivolous, foppish youth whom chance had presented to her, under a
borrowed name. Her own instinct, her own imagination, had told her the
kind of man Brian of the Abbey must needs be, and, in her sordid craving
for wealth and social status, she had allowed herself to be fobbed off
with so poor a counterfeit. And now her very ideal--the dark-browed
knight, with quiet dignity of manner, and that deep, earnest voice--had
come upon the scene; and she thought of her folly with a keener shame
than had touched her yet.
Brian walked at her side, saying very little, but not unobservant. He
knew a good deal about this Miss Palliser from Bessie's letters, which
had given him a detailed account of her chosen friend. He knew that the
damsel had carried on a clandestine flirtation with his cousin, and had
been expelled from Mauleverer Manor in consequence; and these facts,
albeit Bessie had pictured her friend as the innocent victim of tyranny
and wrong, had not given him a favourable opinion of his cousin's chosen
companion. A girl who would meet a lover on the sly, a girl who was
ignominiously ejected from a boarding-school, although clever and useful
there, could not be a proper person for his cousin to know. He was sorry
that Aunt Betsy's good nature had been stronger than her judgment, and
that she had brought such a girl to Kingthorpe as a permanent resident.
He had imagined her a flashy damsel, underbred, with a vulgar style of
beauty, a superficial cleverness, and all those baser arts by which the
needy sometimes ingratiate themselves into the favour of the rich.
Nothing could be more different from his fancy picture than the girl by
whose side he was walking, under that cloudless sky, where the larks were
singing high up in the blue.
What did he see, as he gravely contemplated the lady by his side? A
perfect profile, in which refinement was as distinctly marked as beauty
of line. Darkly fringed lids drooping over lovely eyes, which looked at
him shyly, shrinkingly, with unaffected modesty, when compelled to look.
A tall and beautifully modelled figure, set off by a simple white gown;
glorious dark hair, crowned with the plainest of straw hats. There was
nothing flashy or vulgar here, no trace of bad breeding in tone or
manner. Was this a girl to carry on illicit flirtations, to be mean
or underhand, to do anything meriting expulsion from a genteel
boarding-school? A thousand times no! He began to think that Bessie was
right, that Aunt Betsy's judgment, face to face with the actual facts,
had been wiser than his own view of the case at a distance. And then,
suddenly remembering upon what grounds he was arriving at this more
liberal view, he began to feel scornful of himself, after the manner of
your thinking man, given to metaphysics.
'Heaven help me! I am as weak as the rest of my sex,' he said to himself.
'Because she is lovely I am ready to think she is good--ready to fall
into the old, old trap which has snapped its wicked jaws upon so many
victims. However, be she what she may, at the worst she is not vulgar. I
am glad of that, for Bessie's sake.'
He tried to make a little conversation during the rest of the way, asking
about different members of the Wendover family, and telling Ida some
stray facts about his late wanderings. But she did not encourage him to
talk. Her answers were faltering, her manner absent-minded. He began to
think her stupid; and yet he had been told that she was a wonder of
'I daresay her talent all lies in her fingers' ends,' he thought. 'She
plays Beethoven and works in crewels. That is a girl's idea of feminine
genius. Perhaps she makes her own gowns, which is a higher flight, since
it involves usefulness.'
It was only four o'clock when they went in at the little orchard gate,
and Miss Wendover could hardly be expected for an hour. What was Ida to
do with her guest, unless he kept his word and stayed in the orchard?
'Shall I send you out the newspapers, or any refreshment?' she asked.
There were rustic tables and chairs, a huge Japanese umbrella, every
accommodation for lounging, in that prettiest bit of the spacious old
orchard which adjoined the garden, and here Ida made this polite offer of
refreshment for mind or body.
'No, thank you; I'll stay here and smoke a cigarette. I can get on very
well without newspapers, having lived so long beyond easy reach of them.'
She left him, but glancing back at the garden gate she saw him take a
book from his pocket and settle himself in one of the basket chairs, with
a luxurious air, like a man perfectly content. This was a kind of thing
quite new to her in her experience of the Wendovers, who were not a
She went into the house, and made all her little preparations for
afternoon tea, filling the vases with freshly-cut flowers, drawing up
blinds, arranging book-tables, work-baskets, curtains--all the details of
the prettiest drawing-room in Kingthorpe, but walking to and fro all the
while like a creature in a dream. She had not half recovered from her
surprise, her painful wonder at Brian Wendover's appearance, at his
strange likeness to her ideal knight--strange to her, but not miraculous,
since such hereditary faces are to be found after the lapse of centuries.
When all her small duties had been performed she went up to her room,
bathed her face and brushed her hair, and put on a fresher gown, and then
sat down to read, trying to lose herself in the thoughts of another mind,
trying to forget this embarrassment, this sense of humiliation, which had
come upon her. She sat thus for half an hour or so, reading 'The
Caxtons,' one of her favourite novels, and felt a little more composed
and philosophical, when the rythmical beat of Brimstone and Treacle's
eight iron shoes told her that Miss Wendover had returned.
She ran to the gate to welcome that kind friend, looking so fresh and
bright in her clean white gown that Aunt Betsy saw no sign of the past
'Mr. Wendover is here,' she said, shyly, when Aunt Betsy had kissed her
and given her some brief account of the day's adventures. The rest of the
party had been deposited at The Knoll.
'Whom do you mean by Mr. Wendover, child?'
'Mr. Wendover of the Abbey. He is reading in the orchard.'
'Of course, I never saw him without a book in his hand. So he has
come back at last. I am very glad. He is a good fellow, a little too
reserved and self-contained, too fond of brooding over some beautiful
truism of Plato's when he ought to be thinking of deep drainage and a new
school-house; but a good fellow for all that, and always ready with his
cheque-book. Let us go and look for him.'
'You will find him in the orchard,' said Ida. 'I will go and hurry on the
tea. You must want some tea after your dusty drive.'
'Dusty!' exclaimed Miss Wendover; 'we are positively smothered. Yes. I am
dying for my tea; but I must see this nephew of mine first.'
Ida went back to the drawing-room, where everything was perfectly ready,
as she knew very well beforehand; but she shrank with a sickly dread from
any further acquaintance with the master of Wendover Abbey. She hoped
that he and his aunt might say all they had to say to each other in the
orchard, and that he would go on to The Knoll to pay his respects to the
rest of his relations.
In this she was disappointed. Scarcely had she seated herself before the
tea-table when Aunt Betsy and her nephew entered through the open window.
'You two young people have contrived to get acquainted without my aid,'
said Miss Wendover, cheerily, 'so there's no necessity for any
introduction. Now, Brian, sit down and make yourself comfortable. Give
him some tea, Ida. I believe he is just civilized enough to like tea, in
spite of his wanderings.'
'On account of them you might as well say, Aunt Betsy. I drank nothing
but tea in Scandinavia. It was the easiest thing to get.'
Ida's occupation at the table gave her an excuse for silence. She had
only to attend to her cups and saucers, and to listen to Miss Wendover
and her nephew, who had plenty to talk about. To hear that deep full
voice, with its perfect intonation, was in itself a pleasure--pleasant,
also, to discover that Brian Wendover, albeit a famous Balliol man and a
Greek scholar after the Porsonian ideal, could still be warmly interested
in simple things and lowly folk. She began to feel at ease in his
presence; she began to perceive that here was a thoroughly noble nature,
a mind so lofty and liberal that even had the man known her pitiful
sordid story he would have been more inclined to compassionate than to
Having recovered her favourite nephew, after so long a severance, Aunt
Betsy was in no wise disposed to let him go. She insisted upon his
staying to dinner; and before the evening was over Ida found herself
quite at home with the dreaded master of the Abbey. At Miss Wendover's
request she played for nearly an hour, and Brian listened with evident
appreciation, sitting at his ease just outside the open window, among the
roses and lilies of June, under a moonlit sky. It was a calm, peaceful,
rational kind of evening, and Ida's mind was tranquillized by the time it
was over; and when she went to her room, after a friendly parting with
Miss Wendover's nephew, she told herself that she was not likely to be
often troubled with his society. He was too much a lover of learned
solitude to be likely to be interested in the small amusements and
occupations of the family at The Knoll--too much in the clouds to concern
himself with Aunt Betsy's various endeavours to improve her poorer
neighbours in themselves and their surroundings.
She did not long remain under this delusion. She was busy in the garden,
with basket and scissors, trimming away fading roses and cankered buds
from the luxuriance of bush and standard, arch and trellis, at eleven
o'clock next morning, when she heard the garden gate open, and beheld Mr.
Wendover, Bessie, and Urania coming across the lawn.
'We are going for a botanical prowl in the woods,' said Bessie, 'and we
want you to come with us. You are always anxious to improve your mind,
and here is a grand opportunity for you. Brian is a tremendous botanist,
and Mr. Jardine is not an ignoramus in that line.'
'Oh, then Mr. Jardine is going to prowl too?' said Ida, smiling at her.
'Yes, he is going to give himself a holiday, for once in a way. Blanche
is packing a basket. She and Eva are to have the car, but the rest of us
are going to walk. Come along, Ida, just as you are. We are going to
grovel and grub after club-mosses and toad-stools. Your oldest gown is
'Please wear a white gown, as you did yesterday,' said Brian. 'White has
such a lovely effect amidst the lights and shadows of a wood.'
'Isn't it rather too violent a contrast?' argued Urania. 'A faint
sage-green, or a pale gray--or even that too lovely terra-cotta red--'
'Flower-pot colour!' screamed Bessie. 'Horrid!'
'I should like to go,' faltered Ida, 'but I have so much to do--an
afternoon class--no, it is quite impossible. Thank you very much for
thinking of me, all the same.
'You utterly disagreeable thing!' exclaimed Bessie; and at this moment
Miss Wendover came upon the scene, from an adjacent green-house, where
she had been working diligently with sponge and watering-pot. She heard
the rights and wrongs of the case, and insisted that Ida should go.
'Never mind the afternoon class--I'll take that. You work hard enough,
child; you must have a holiday sometimes.'
'I had a holiday yesterday, Aunt Betsy; and really I had rather not go.
The day is so very warm, and I have a slight headache already.'
'Go and lose it in the wood, where Rosalind lost her heart-ache. Nothing
like a long ramble when one is a little out of sorts. Go and get rid of
your basket, and get your sunshade. Where are you going for your
'All over the world,' said Bessie; 'just as fancy leads us. If you will
promise to meet us anywhere, we'll be there.'
'So be it,' replied Aunt Betsy. 'Suppose we arrange a tea-meeting. I will
be ready for you by the Queen Beech, in Framleigh Wood, as the clock
strikes five, and we will all come home together. And now run away,
before the day gets old. Glad to see you unbending for once in a way,
Miss Rylance had been curiously willing to unbend this morning, when
Bessie ran in and surprised her at her morning practice with the
wonderful tidings of Brian's return. She appeared delighted at the idea
of a botanising expedition, though she cared as little for botany as she
did for Hebrew. But when a young lady of large aspirations is compelled
to vegetate in a village--even after her presentation at court and
introduction into society--she is naturally avid for the society of the
one eligible man in the parish.
'Mr. Jardine is coming with us,' Bessie told her, as a further
Urania gave her hand a little squeeze, and murmured, 'Yes, darling, I'll
come: Mr. Jardine is so nice. Will my frock do?'
The frock was of the pre-Raffaelite or Bedford-Parkian order,
short-waisted, flowing, and flabby, colour the foliage of a lavender
bush, relieved by a broad brick-dust sash. An amber necklace, a large
limp Leghorn hat with a sunflower in it, and a pair of long yellow
gloves, completed Urania's costume.
'Your frock will be spoilt in the woods,' said Bessie; but Urania did not
mean to do much botanical work, and was not afraid of spoiling her frock.
They found Mr. Jardine waiting for them at the churchyard gate, and to
him Bessie presented her cousin, somewhat reversing the ceremonial order
of things, since Brian Wendover was the patron of the living, and could
have made John Jardine vicar on the arising of a vacancy.
Brian and the Curate walked on ahead with Miss Rylance, who seemed bent
upon keeping them both in conversation, and Bessie fell back a little way
'You dearest darling,' she exclaimed, squeezing her arm rapturously.
'What has happened, Bess? Why such unusual radiance?'
'Do you suppose I am not glad of Brian's return?'
'I thought you liked the other one best?'
'Well, yes; one is more at home with him, don't you see. This one was a
double-first--got the Ireland Scholarship. Why Ireland, when it was at
Oxford he got it? He is awfully learned; knows Greek plays by heart, just
as that sweet Mr. Brandram who came last winter to read for the new
school-house knows Shakespeare. But I am very fond of him, all the same;
and oh, Ida, what a too heavenly thing it would be if he were to fall in
love with you!'
'Bessie!' exclaimed Ida, with an indignant frown.
'Don't look so angry. You should have heard how he spoke of you
this morning at breakfast; such praise! Approbation from Sir Hubert
What's-his-name is praise indeed, don't you know. There's Shakespeare for
you!' added Bessie, whose knowledge of polite literature had its limits.
'Bessie, you contrived once--meaning no harm, of course--to give me great
pain, to humiliate me to the very dust,' said Ida, seriously. 'Let us
have no more such fooling. Your cousin is--your cousin--quite out of my
sphere. However civil he may be to me, however kindly he may speak of me,
he can never be any more to me than he is at this moment.'
'Very well,' said Bess, meekly, 'I will be as silent as the grave. I
don't think I said anything very offensive, but--I apologize. Do you
think you would very much mind kissing me, just as if nothing had
Ida clasped the lovable damsel in her arms and kissed her warmly. And now
Mr. Jardine turned back and joined them at the entrance to a wood
supposed to be particularly rich in mosses, flowers, and fungi. Urania
still absorbed the attention of Mr. Wendover, who strolled by her side
and listened somewhat languidly to her disquisitions upon various phases
of modern thought.
'What a beautiful girl Bessie has discovered for her bosom friend,' he
'Miss Palliser: yes, she is quite too lovely, is she not?' said Urania,
with that air of heartiness which every well-trained young woman assumes
when she discusses a rival beauty; 'but she has not the purity of the
early Italian manner. It is a Carlo-Dolci face--the beauty of the
Florentine decadence. I was at school with her.'
'So I understood. Were you great friends?'
'No,' replied Miss Rylance, decisively; 'if we had been at school for as
many years as it took to evolve man from the lowest of the vertebrata we
should not have been friends.'
'I understand. The thousandth part of an inch, unbridged, is as
metaphysically impassable as the gulf which divides us from the farthest
nebula. In your case there was no conveying medium, no sympathy to draw
you together,' said Brian, answering the young lady in her own coin.
She glanced at him doubtfully, rather inclined to think he was laughing
at her, if any one could laugh at Miss Rylance.
'She was frankly detestable,' said Urania. 'I endure her here for
Bessie's sake; just as I would endure the ungraceful curves of a
Dachshund if Bess took it into her head to make a pet of one; but at
school I could keep her at a distance.'
'What has she done to offend you?'
'Done? nothing. She exists, that is quite enough. Her whole nature--her
moral being--is antagonistic to mine. What is your opinion of a young
woman who declares in cold blood that she means to marry for money?'
'Not a pleasant avowal from such lips, certainly,' said Brian. 'She may
have been only joking.'
'After events showed that she was in earnest.'
'How so? Has she married for money? I thought she was still Miss
'She is; but that is not her fault. She tried her hardest to secure a
husband whom she supposed to be rich.'
And then Miss Rylance told how in frolic mood his penniless cousin had
been palmed upon Miss Palliser as the owner of the Abbey; how she had
fallen readily into the trap, and had carried on a clandestine
acquaintance which had resulted in her expulsion from the school where
she had filled the subordinate position of pupil-teacher.
'I have heard most of this before, from Bessie, but not the full
particulars of the practical joke which put Brian Walford in my shoes,'
said Mr. Wendover.
He felt more shocked, more wounded than there was need for him to feel,
perhaps; but the girl's beauty had charmed him, and he was prepared to
think her a goddess.
'How do you know that Miss Palliser did not like my cousin for his own
sake?' he speculated presently. 'Brian Walford is a very nice fellow.'
'She did not like him well enough to marry him when she knew the truth,'
replied Urania. 'I believe the poor fellow was passionately in love with
her. She encouraged him, fooled him to the top of his bent, and then
flung him over directly she found he was not the rich Mr. Wendover. He
has never been to Kingthorpe since. That would show how deeply he was
'The fooling was not all on her side,' said Mr. Wendover. 'She had a
right to resent the trick that had been played upon her. I am surprised
that Bessie could lend herself to such a mean attempt to put her friend
at a disadvantage.'
'Oh, I am sure Bessie meant only the most innocent fun; her tremendous
animal spirits carry her away sometimes, don't you know. And then, again,
she thinks her chosen friend perfection. She could not understand that
Miss Palliser could really marry a man for the sake of his houses and
lands. _I_ knew her better.'
'And it was you who hatched the plot, I think,' said Brian.
Miss Rylance had not been prepared to admit as much. She intended Bessie
to bear whatever blame there might be attached to the escapade in Mr.
Wendover's mind; but it seemed from this remark of his that Bessie had
'I may have thrown out the idea when your cousin suddenly appeared upon
the scene. We were all in wild spirits that day. And really Miss Palliser
had made herself very absurd by her romantic admiration of the Abbey.'
'Well, I hope this young lady-like conspiracy did no harm,' said Brian;
'but I have a hearty abhorrence of all practical jokes.'
They were in a deep, rutty lane by this time, a lane with banks rich in
ferns and floral growth, and here came Blanche and Eva and the youngest
boy, released from Latin grammar and Greek delectus at an earlier hour
than usual. The car was sent on to the wood, and Bessie and her two
sisters produced their fern trowels, and began digging and delving for
rare specimens--real or imaginary--assisted by Mr. Jardine, who had more
knowledge but less enthusiasm than the girls.
'I can't think what you can want with more ferns,' said Urania,
disdainfully; 'every corner at The Knoll has its fernery.'
'Oh, but one can't have too much of a good thing; and then there is the
pleasure of looking for them. Aren't you going to hunt for anything?'
'Thanks, no. It is a day for basking rather than work. Shall we go to the
end of the lane--there is a lovely view from there--and sit and bask?'
'With all my heart,' replied Mr. Wendover. 'Come, Miss Palliser, of
course you'll join the basking detachment.'
Urania would have liked to leave Ida out of the business, but she smiled
sweetly at Mr. Wendover's speech, and they all three strolled to the end
of the lane, which ascended all the way, till they found themselves upon
a fine upland, with a lovely view of woodland and valley stretching away
towards Alresford. Here in the warm June sunshine they seated themselves
on a ferny bank to wait for the diggers and delvers below. It was verily
weather in which to bask was quite the most rapturous employment. The
orchestral harmonies of summer insects made a low drowsy music around
them. There was just enough air to faintly stir the petals of the
dog-roses without blowing them from their frail stems. The dazzling light
above, the cool verdure around, made a delicious contrast. Ida looked
dreamily across the bold grassy downs, with here and there a patch of
white, which shone like a jewel in the sun. It was very pleasant to sit
here--very pleasant to listen to Brian Wendover's description of Norway
and the Norwegians. A book of travels might have been ever so much
better, perhaps; but there was a charm in these vivid pictures of recent
experiences which no printed page could have conveyed. And then the talk
was delightfully desultory, now touching upon literature, now upon art,
now even descending to family reminiscences, stories of the time when
Brian had been a Winchester boy, as his cousins were now, and his happy
hunting grounds had been among these hills.
Ida talked very little. She was disposed to be silent; but had it been
otherwise she would have found slight opportunity for conversation. Miss
Rylance, educated up to the standard of good professional society, was
ready to give her opinions upon anything between heaven and earth, from
the spectrum analysis of the sun's rays to the latest discovery in the
habits of ants. She did not mean Ida to shine, and she so usurped the
conversation that Miss Palliser's opinions and ideas remained a blank to
Yet a glance at Ida's face now and then told him that she was not
unintelligent, and by the time that summer day was over, and they all sat
round the gipsy tea-kettle in the wood, with Aunt Betsy presiding over
the feast, Mr. Wendover felt as if he knew a good deal about Miss
Palliser. They had talked, and walked, and botanized together in the
wood, in spite of Miss Rylance; and Urania felt somehow that the day had
been a failure. She had made up her mind long ago that Mr. Wendover of
the Abbey was just the one person in Hampshire whom she could allow
herself to marry. Anyone else in that locality was impossible.
Under these circumstances it was trying to behold Mr. Wendover laying
himself, as it were, at the feet of a poor dependent and hanger-on of his
family, merely because that young person happened to be handsome. He
could have no ulterior views; he was only revealing that innate
shallowness and frivolity of the masculine mind which allows even the
wisest man to be caught by a pair of fine eyes, a Grecian nose, and a
brilliant complexion. Mr. Wendover was no doubt a great deal too wise to
have any serious ideas about such a person as Ida Palliser; but he liked
to talk to her, he liked to watch the sensitive colour come and go upon
the perfect oval of her cheek, while the dark eye brightened or clouded
with every change of feeling; and while he was yielding to these vulgar
distractions there was no chance of his falling in love with Urania
It was a crushing blow to Miss Rylance when a little conversation at
tea-time showed that Mr. Wendover was not disposed to think Miss Palliser
altogether a nobody, and that a young woman who earned a salary as a
useful companion might belong to a better family than Miss Rylance could
'I have heard your name before to-day, Miss Palliser,' said Brian. 'Is
your father any relation to Sir Vernon Palliser?'
'Sir Vernon is my father's nephew.'
'Indeed! Then your father is the Captain Palliser of whom I've heard
Vernon and Peter Palliser talk sometimes. Your cousins are members of the
Alpine Club, and of the Travellers', and we have often met. Capital
fellows, both of them.'
'I have never seen them,' said Ida, 'so much of my life has been spent at
school. Sir Vernon and his brother went to see my father and step-mother
last October, and made a very good impression. But that is all I know of
A baronet for a first cousin! and she had never mentioned the fact at
Mauleverer, where it would have scored high. What an unaccountable kind
of girl, and quite wanting in human feeling, thought Urania, listening
intently, though pretending to be interested in a vehement discussion
between Blanche and Bessie as to whether a certain puffy excrescence was
or was not a beef-steak fungus, and should or should not be cooked for
'Do you know your cousin's Sussex property? Have you ever been at
Wimperfield?' inquired Brian.
'Never. I have heard my father say it is a lovely place, a little way
'Yes, I know every inch of the country round. It is charming.'
'It cannot be prettier than this,' said Ida, with conviction.
'I hardly agree with you there. It is a wilder and more varied landscape.
Hampshire has nothing so picturesque on this side of the New Forest. If
Sir Veron and his brother are at Wimperfield this summer, we might make
up a party and drive over to see the place. I know he would give us a
Ida was silent, but Aunt Betsy and her niece declared that it was a
splendid idea of Brian's, and must certainly be carried out.
'Fancy Brian introducing Ida to her cousin!' exclaimed Bessie. 'Would it
not be quite too deliciously absurd? "Sir Vernon Palliser, permit me to
introduce you to your first cousin!"
And then Bessie, who was an incorrigible matchmaker where Ida was
concerned, began to think what a happy thing it would be if Sir Vernon
Palliser were to fall in love with his cousin, and incontinently propose
to make her mistress of this delightful place near Petersfield.
They all walked back to Kingthorpe together, and parted at the Homestead
Miss Rylance, who hated woods, wild-flowers, ferns and toadstools, and
all the accompaniments of rustic life, went back to her aesthetic
drawing-room in a savage humour, albeit that fine training which comes of
advanced civilization enabled her to part from her friends with endearing
She expected her father that evening, and she was looking forward to the
refreshment of hearing of that metropolis which suited her so much better
than Hampshire hills and woods; nay, there was even the possibility that
he might bring someone down with him, as it was his custom to do now and
then. But instead of Dr. Rylance she found an orange-coloured envelope
upon the hall table containing an apologetic message.
'Sorry to disappoint you. Have been persuaded to go to first
representation of new play at Lyceum with Lady Jinks and the Titmarshes.
All London will be there.'
'And I am buried alive in this loathsome hole, where nobody cares a straw
about me,' cried Urania, banging her bedroom door, and flinging herself
upon her luxurious sofa in as despairing an attitude as if it had been
the straw pallet of a condemned cell.
From the very beginning of things she had hated Ida Palliser with the
jealous hatred of conscious inferiority. She who had made up her mind
to go through life as a superior being, to be always on the top rung
of the social ladder, found herself easily distanced by the penniless
pupil-teacher. This had been bitter to bear even at Mauleverer, where
that snobbish feeling which prevails among schoolgirls had allowed the
fashionable physician's daughter a certain superiority over the penniless
beauty. But here at Kingthorpe, where rustic ignorance was ready to
worship beauty and talent for their own sakes, it was still harder for
Urania to assert her superiority; while in the depths of her inner
consciousness lurked the uncomfortable conviction that she was in many
ways inferior to her rival. And now that she discovered Ida Palliser's
near relationship to a baronet of old family, owner of a fine property
within thirty miles of Kingthorpe, Urania began to feel that she must
needs be distanced in the race. She might have held her own against the
shabby half-pay captain's daughter, but Sir Vernon Palliser's first
cousin was quite a different person. If Brian Wendover admired Ida, her
lack of fortune was hardly likely to influence him, seeing that in family
she was his equal. Such a man might have shrunk from allying himself with
a woman of obscure parentage and vulgar associations; but to a man of
Brian Wendover's liberal mind and ample fortune, Ida Palliser would no
doubt seem as suitable a match as a daughter of a duke.
Miss Rylance had grown worldly-wise since her introduction to London
society, that particular and agreeable section of upper-middle class life
which prides itself upon cleverness rather than wealth, and which spices
its conversation with a good deal of smart personality. She had formed a
more correct estimate of life in general, and her father's position in
particular, and had acquired a keener sense of proportion than she had
learnt at Mauleverer Manor. She had learnt that Dr. Rylance, of Cavendish
Square, was not quite such a great man as she had supposed in the
ignorant faith of her girlhood. She had discovered that his greatness was
at best a kind of lap-dog or tame cat distinction; that he was better
known as the caressed and petted adviser of patrician dowagers and
effeminate old gentlemen, of fashionable beauties and hysterical matrons,
than as one of the lights of his profession. He was a clever specialist,
who had made his fortune by half-a-dozen prescriptions as harmless as
Morrison's pills, and who owed more to the grace of his manner and the
excellence of his laundress and his tailor, than to his original
discoveries in the grandest science of the age. Other people made
discoveries, and Dr. Rylance talked about them; and he was so quick in
his absorption of every new idea, so glib in his exposition of every new
theory, that his patients swore by him as a man in the front rank of
modern thought and scientific development. He was a clever man, and he
had a large belief in the great healer Nature, so he rarely did much
harm; while his careful consideration of every word his patients said to
him, his earnest countenance and thoughtful brow, taken in conjunction
with his immaculate shirt-front and shapely white hand, rarely failed to
make a favourable impression.
He was a comfortable physician, lenient in the article of diet, exacting
only moderate sacrifices from the high liver. His Hygeia was not a severe
goddess--rather a friendly matron of the monthly-nurse type, who adapted
herself to circumstances.
'We have been taking a pint of Cliquot every day at luncheon, and we
don't feel that we could eat any luncheon without it.'
Well, well, suppose we try about half the quantity, very dry, and make an
effort to eat a cutlet or a little bit of plain roast mutton, Dr. Rylance
would murmur tenderly to a stout middle-aged lady who had confessed that
her appetite was inferior to her powers of absorption. Men who were
drinking themselves to death in a gentlemanly manner always went to Dr.
Rylance. He did not make their lives a burden to them by an impossible
regimen: he kept them alive as long as he could, and made departure as
gradual and as easy as possible; but his was no kill-or-cure system; he
was not a man for heroic remedies. And now Urania had found that her
father was not a great man--that he was praised and petted, and had made
his nest in the purple and velvet of this world, but that he was not
looked up to or pointed at as one of the beacon-lights on the coast-line
of the age--and that he being so small a Somebody, she his daughter was
very little more than Nobody. Knowing this, she had made up her mind that
whenever Brian Wendover of the Abbey should appear upon the scene, she
would do her uttermost to make him her captive.
MR. WENDOVER PLANS AN EXCURSION.
The happy summer glided by--the season of roses and butterflies,
strawberries and cream, haymaking, lawn tennis, picnics, gipsy teas--an
idle, joyous life under blue skies. The Knoll family gave themselves up
heart and soul to summer pleasures--simple joys which were at once
innocent and inexpensive--and Ida Palliser found herself a sharer in all
these holiday rambles. Conscience told her that she had no right to be
there, that she was an impostor sailing under false colours. Conscience,
speaking more loudly, told her that she had no right to accept Brian
Wendover's quiet homage, no right to be so happy in his company day after
day; for there were few of their summer joys in which he was not among
them. Bessie was warm in her praises of him, full of wonder at his having
developed into such a companionable being.
'Norway has done him good,' she said. 'He used to be such a reserved
creature, dawdling away day after day in his library, poring over Greek
and Latin, and now he is almost as companionable as Brian Walford.'
'He'll have to live a good many years before he's up to B. W.,' said
Horace, who had walked across the hills for an afternoon at home and the
chance of a tip, 'B. W. knows every music-hall in London, and can sing a
topical song as well as men who get their sixty pounds a week.'
'I wish you wouldn't put on that knowing air. What do you know of men who
get sixty pounds a week?' exclaimed Bessie, contemptuously.
'As much as you do, anyhow,' answered her brother.
Ida made many faint efforts to keep aloof from the summer revelries, but
Miss Wendover insisted upon her enjoying herself with the others. She had
been such a conscientious and devoted coadjutor in all Aunt Betsy's good
works, she had been so thoroughly energetic and industrious, never
relaxing her efforts or growing weary of labour, that it seemed only
right and fair that she should enjoy the summer holiday-time, the blessed
season when every day was full of temptations.
'Enjoy yourself to your heart's content, my dear,' said Aunt Betsy. 'Our
English summers are so short that if we do not make the most of the
bright warm days while they are with us, we have to endure all the pangs
of remorse through a rainy autumn and a cold winter.'
Not only did Miss Wendover give this generous advice, but she herself
joined in many of their expeditions, and her presence was always a source
of pleasure. She was so genial, so hearty, so thoroughly well-informed,
and yet so modest in the use of her knowledge, that the young people
loved to have her with them. Her enjoyment of the free, roving life was
almost as keen as theirs, while her capacity for planning an agreeable
day, and her foresight in the commissariat department, far exceeded that
of youth. And so, and so, June and July drifted by, and it was the
beginning of August, and Ida felt as if she had known Mr. Wendover of the
Abbey all her life.
What did she know of him after two months of almost daily association?
She knew that no unworthy thought ever found utterance upon his lips;
that no vulgar instinct ever showed itself in his conduct; that he was
essentially to the very core of his heart a gentleman; that without any
high-flown affectation of chivalry he was as chivalrous as Bayard; that
without any languid airs and graces of the modern aesthetic school he was
a man of the highest and broadest culture; and that--oh, _rara avis_
among modern scholars and young laymen--he was honestly and unaffectedly
religious, a staunch Anglican of the school of Pusey, and not ashamed to
confess his faith at all times and seasons. In this day, when the
majority of young men affect to regard the services of their church as an
intolerable bore, only endured as a concession to the weaklings of the
inferior sex, it was pleasant to see the master of the Abbey a regular
attendant at his parish church, an earnest and frequent worshipper at the
altar at which his parents and progenitors had knelt before him.
This much and a great deal more had Ida Palliser discovered of the man
whom nearly a year ago her fancy had exalted into an ideal character. It
was strange to find her most romantic visions realised; strange, but a
strangeness not without pain. He was full of kindness and friendliness
for her whenever they met; but she told herself that his manner to her
involved no more than kindly feeling and friendliness. To imagine
anything beyond this was foolhardiness and vanity. And yet there were
times when she felt she had no right to be in his society--that every day
she spent at Kingthorpe was an offence against honour and right feeling.
One August afternoon Ida had, for once in a way, succeeded in making her
domestic occupations an excuse for absenting herself from what Bessie
called a 'barrow-hunt' on the downs. Brian Wendover being a great
authority upon this ancient form of sepulture, and discoursing eloquently
on those widely different races whose funeral chambers are hidden under
the long and the round barrow.
The day, closely as Ida had been occupied, had seemed just a little
dreary, certainly much duller than such days had been wont to seem
before Brian's return to the Abbey: yet she was glad to be alone; it
was a relief even to be a trifle melancholy, rather than to enjoy that
happiness which was always blended with a faint consciousness of
wrong-doing. And now the slow day was nearly over: she had worked at the
village girls'-school in the morning; she had lectured upon domestic
economy to a class of incipient house-maids and scullery maids after
luncheon; and now at five o'clock she was sitting in a basket chair in
the rose-wreathed verandah working at the swallows and bulrushes upon
that elaborate design which she had begun before Christmas for the
adornment of Miss Wendover's piano.
It was a deliciously drowsy afternoon, but Ida's active brain was not
prone to slumber. She sat working diligently and thinking deeply, when a
shadow came between her and the sunshine and on looking up she saw Mr.
Wendover standing before her.
'How do you do? Have they all come home?' she asked, laying aside her
work on the convenient basket table and preparing to welcome Aunt Betsy.
'I have not been with them--at least not since the morning, answered
Brian. 'I left Bessie to hunt out her own barrows; she is so lazy-minded
that as long as I do all the pointing she will never know the true barrow
from the natural lumpiness of the soil. Besides, she has Aunt Betsy, a
tower of strength in all things.'
'And Miss Rylance, I suppose?'
'No, Miss Rylance thought there would be too much walking for her or for
Pinet. I have been at the Abbey all day, getting up my arrears of
correspondence. This fine weather has made me incorrigibly idle. After I
had written about a score of letters I thought myself entitled to a
little rest and refreshment, so I strolled over here to tell you some
news and to ask you for a cup of tea.'
'You shall have some tea directly,' said Ida, going indoors to ring the
bell, an act in which she was naturally anticipated by her guest. 'What
news can you possibly have that concerns me?' she asked, when they had
come back to the verandah. 'I know by your face that it is not bad news.'
'God forbid I should ever have to tell you that. I think it would hurt me
more than you,' said Brian, with an earnestness which brought the crimson
glow into Ida's cheeks, and made her bend a little lower over the
swallows in her crewel-work. 'No, this is pleasant news I hope. I wrote
to Vernon Palliser more than a month ago to propose that I should drive
you and a lot of people over to luncheon. He was in Switzerland, as
usual, and I had no answer to my letter till the second post to-day, when
I received a most hearty invitation to bring my party immediately. But
you shall hear your cousin's own words.'
Mr. Wendover produced the letter and read as follows:--
'I shall be delighted to make my cousin's acquaintance. She was in
England when I last saw her father at his retreat near Dieppe. Bring her
as soon as you can, and with as large a party as you like--the larger the
better, and the sooner the better--as Peter and I will most likely be on
the wing again for Scotland soon after the twelfth. We shall come back
for the partridges, which I hear are abundant. The road is rather
intricate, so you had better bring your ordnance map, but pretty fair in
dry weather like this; and you'll come through some lovely scenery.
Telegraph your time, and Peter and I will be in the way to welcome you!'
'What do you say to our going to-morrow? I waited to know what you would
like before I telegraphed.'
'You are very good: but there are others to be consulted,' replied Ida,
with her head still bent over her work.
Good manners demanded that she should look at him, but at this particular
moment she felt it quite impossible to be mannerly. He had said nothing
of a thrilling nature, yet his whole tone and expression, his air of
deferential regard, stirred a new feeling in her mind--the conviction
that he cared for her more than it was well for either of them that he
'You are the first person to be consulted,' he said; 'would you like to
'I will go whenever the others like,' answered Ida, still intent upon the
shading of her swallow's wing; 'but I really think you had better leave
me out of your party--I have wasted so much time roaming about--and there
are so many things I want to finish before the summer is over.'
'That elaborate arrangement in swallows and rushes, for instance,' said
Brian, laughingly: 'you are working at it as if for a wager. Perhaps it
is a wager--so many stitches in so many consecutive days--is that it? No,
Miss Palliser, your swallows must wait. The party has been planned on
your account, and to leave you at home would be like leaving Hamlet out
of the play. Besides, I thought you would like to see your cousins and
your ancestral halls.'
'I shall be very glad to see my cousins, for my father likes them very
much; but I do not feel any thrilling interest in the ancestral halls.'
'And yet your father was born there.'
'Yes, that is a reason for being interested in Wimperfield. But my father
has so seldom talked about his birthplace. He speaks a great deal more of
India. That life in a strange far-away land seems to have blotted out the
memory of his childhood. He talks of Addiscomb sometimes but hardly ever
She laid aside her work as the youthful butler brought out the tea-table.
It was no new thing for her to pour out Mr. Wendover's tea, since it was
his custom to drop in at his aunt's very often at this hour, when the day
had not been given up to excursionising; but it was new for her to be
alone with him at this social meal, and she found herself longing
ardently for Aunt Betsy's return.
She who could have found so much to talk about had her mind been at ease,
was curiously silent as she handed Mr. Wendover his tea, and offered the
cake and fruit, which always accompanied the meal at the Homestead. Her
heart was beating much faster than it should have done, and she was
considering whether it was worth while to place herself in the way of
feeling the pain, the hidden shame, the sense of falsehood which
oppressed her at this moment; whether it would not be better to run any
risk, even the hazard of offending Betsy Wendover, the kindest friend she
had in the world, rather than remain in her present position.
One thing she could have done which would have given her immediate
extrication, and that which seemed the most natural thing to do. She
could have told the truth--told Betsy Wendover all about her unlucky
marriage. But she would rather have killed herself than do this one
righteous thing; for she thought that if her marriage were once known to
Brian's relations she would be compelled to assume her natural position
as his wife. So long as the marriage remained a secret to all the world
except those two whom it most concerned they were free to ignore the tie.
They could live their lives apart; and to the end of time it might be as
if such a marriage had never been. Her husband being consentient to this
life-long separation, her lot might be fairly happy. She had never tried
to penetrate the future. Perhaps to-day for the first time there had
flashed into her mind the thought of what a bright and glorious future
might have been hers had she not so forfeited her freedom.
Voices, at least half a dozen, all talking at once, told her that the
barrow-hunt was winding homewards; gleams of colour athwart the hedges
told her that the hunters were in the lane; and in a minute or two Miss
Wendover and her young kins-folk appeared, all more or less sunburnt and
towzled by their tramp across the downs.
'Found a splendid long barrow,' said Bessie, 'on a lovely point, one of
the finest views in the county. What clever corpses they must have been
to pick such glorious spots! Long barrow, long-headed race,
dolichocephalic skulls, men of the stone age, eh?' she said, looking at
Brian. 'You see I know my lesson; but it was very mean of you not to come
with us, all the same.'
'I wanted you to exercise your own acumen, to cultivate the antiquarian
_flair_. Besides, I had a heap of letters to write.'
'You only found that out after we had started. You never have letters to
write when Ida is with us,' said Bessie; a remark which made two people
blush. 'To think that I had known that spot all my life and never
suspected a barrow,' she continued. 'I thought it was only a convenient
bank which Providence had thrown up ready for picnics.'
Ida had enough to do now in providing for the wants of half a dozen
hungry people. Blanche of the short petticoats was at an age when girls
are ogres, distinguished for nothing but the rapidity of their digestion
and the length of their legs. There was a demand for jam, and the
unsophisticated half-gallon loaf instead of the conventional thin bread
'Eat as much as you like, dears,' said Aunt Betsy, 'but remember that
your father will expect you to have some appetite at seven.'
'We won't disappoint him,' said Bessie; 'seven is an hour and half from
now. Blanche can do wonders in an hour and a half.'
Blanche's appetite was one of the stock family jokes, like Urania's tight
boots; so there was a laugh, and the others went on eating.
Brian Wendover told them about to-morrow's excursion. 'I shall put four
horses into the wagonette,' he said. 'I almost wish I had a drag to do
honour to the occasion; but we must resign ourselves to a wagonette. You
will go, of course, Aunt Betsy? and Bessie must come; and I suppose we
ought to invite Miss Rylance. She has joined in most of our excursions,
and it would be invidious to leave her out of this. And I dare-say Bessie
would think the whole thing flat without Mr. Jardine?'
'It's very kind of you to think of him; but I don't believe he'll be able
to spare the day,' said Bessie.
'We'll ask him, at any rate, and then you can't say we've used you badly.
That makes a party of six. I'll go and telegraph to Sir Vernon.'
'Will there be lawn-tennis after lunch?' asked Blanche, with a very long
'I shouldn't wonder if there were,' answered Brian: 'does that mean that
you want to go?'
'I shall not have a creature to speak to at home, and I never go
anywhere,' said Blanche, despairingly.
Both statements were obvious untruths, but no doubt the damsel herself
'Have you a gown that covers your knees?' asked Aunt Betsy, severely.
'My new frock is awfully long. It only came from the dress-maker's last
'Then you have hardly had time to grow out of it,' said Brian.
'Suppose we strain a point, Aunt Betsy, and take her. It will enable us
to say, "we are seven."'
'We shall be a tremendous party,' said Miss Wendover. 'I hope Sir Vernon
is a hospitable, easy-going man, and that your intimacy with him warrants
such an intrusion.'
'I am taking him a cousin,' answered Brian, stealing an admiring glance
at Ida; 'surely that ought to secure our welcome.'
'I hope his housekeeper has large ideas about luncheon,' said Bessie, 'or
Blanche's appetite will throw her out in her calculations. If she is the
sort of person who thinks a pair of ducklings and a dish of rissoles
substantial fare for a large party, I pity her.'
'You're vastly witty,' said Blanche, preparing her final slice of bread
and jam; 'one would think you lived upon roses and lilies, like the
'The poor child means aesthetes,' explained Bessie.
'Bother the pronunciation! But if people had seen you eating rabbit-pie
on the barrow--why a wolf wouldn't have been in it,' concluded Blanche,
who acquired her flowers of speech from the Wintonians.
'I'll go and despatch my telegram,' said Brian, taking up his hat.
THICKER THAN WATER.
The weather was altogether favourable for the thirty-mile drive. The
wagonette with its scratch team and a couple of smart grooms, was at the
Homestead gate at ten o'clock, and after picking up Miss Wendover and her
companion, went on to The Knoll for Bessie and Blanche, and then to Dr.
Rylance's for Urania, who had accepted the invitation most graciously.
Kingthorpe was unwontedly excited by this gorgeous apparition, and the
inhabitants remained at garden gates and cottage doors while so much as a
horse's tail was visible. Everybody was pleased to see the young squire