Part 6 out of 9
driving four-in-hand. It had been supposed that as a bookish young man,
given over to Greek and Latin, he must needs be a poor hand with horses.
But this morning's exhibition gave rise to more hopeful views.
'We shall see the squire setting up his coach, and settling down at the
Abbey,' said one.
'Ay, when he gets married,' said another; 'that's what'll settle he. I
believes as him is sweet on that young 'ooman at the Homestead. Her be a
clipper, her be.'
Over the hills and far away went the scratch team--a little fresh, but
behaving beautifully. Aunt Betsy sat beside her nephew, and watched his
coachmanship with a jealous eye, conscious that she could have kept the
team better in hand herself, but still with moderate approval. The girls
and the grooms were in the back of the vehicle--Bessie, Blanche, and Ida
full of talk and merriment, Urania thoughtful. This day's entertainment
was too much in Ida's honour to be pleasant to Miss Rylance; yet she
could not deny herself the painful privilege of being there. She wanted
to see what happened--how far Mr. Wendover was disposed to make an idiot
of himself. She saw more than enough in the glances of the charioteer,
when he turned to talk to the girls behind him--now to point out some
feature in the landscape, now to ask some idle question, but always with
looks that lingered upon one face, and that face was Ida Palliser's.
It was a long cross country drive, by rustic lanes and dubious roads, but
Mr. Wendover took things easily. He had sent forward a second scratch
team over night to a village half way, and here they changed horses,
while he and his party spent half an hour pleasantly enough exploring an
old gray church and humble graveyard, where the tombstones all bore
record of unrenowned lives that had slowly rusted away in a pastoral
solitude, Blanche, whose schoolroom appetite was wont to damp its keen
edge upon bread and butter at this hour, felt it rather a hard thing that
no one proposed a light refection at the lowly inn; but she bore her
inward gnawings in silence, conscious of the dignity of a frock which
almost reached her ankles, and desirous to prove that she was worthy to
be the associate of grown-up.
Half way between this village inn and Wimperfield they met a couple of
horsemen. These were no other than Sir Vernon and his brother Peter, who
had come to meet their guests, and show them the nearest way, which from
this point became especially intricate.
Brian walked his team gently up a gentle hill, while Sir Vernon and his
brother walked their horses beside him, and during this ascent all
necessary introductions were duly made, everybody being properly
presented except Blanche, who felt that she was being treated with
'I am very glad to see you at last, cousin Ida,' said Sir Vernon,
pleasantly. 'I have been hearing of you all my life, but we seemed fated
not to meet.'
He was a fine, broad-shouldered young fellow, with a frank,
fresh-coloured countenance, auburn whiskers, and curly brown hair. His
brother was after the same pattern, hair a little lighter, no whiskers,
eyes rather a brighter blue. They were as much alike as brothers can be
without being mistaken for each other. There was nothing romantic looking
about either of them, Bessie thought, regretfully. She would have liked
Sir Vernon to have resembled her favourite hero in fiction (the man she
always put in confession books), and to have fallen desperately in love
with Ida at first sight. And here he was, a most matter-of-fact looking
young man, riding behind the wagonette in a provokingly matter-of-fact
Yet perhaps there was a providence in this; for if Brian of the Abbey
were in love with Ida, as Bessie shrewdly suspected, it would have been a
terrible thing for him to have found a rival in a titled cousin. If Ida
were ambitious, the title might have turned the scale.
'And I have so set my heart upon having her for my cousin, thought
Bessie. 'The other Brian was a failure, but this Brian may win the
Mr. Jardine had not been able to leave his parish for a long day; so
Bessie had plenty of leisure to speculate upon the possible loves of
other people, instead of enjoying the blissfulness of her own love
Wimperfield was a mansion built in the Italian manner which prevailed
about a century ago, a style about as uninteresting as any order of
domestic architecture, but which makes a house a good feature in a fine
landscape. The Corinthian facade of Wimperfield stood boldly out against
the verdant slope of a hill, backed and sheltered on either side by
woods. Behind that classic portico there was the usual prim range of
windows, and there were the usual barrack-like rooms. The furniture was
of the same heavy and substantial character, rich dark rosewood, amber
satin hangings faded by a quarter of a century; Spanish mahogany in
dining-rooms and bedrooms; Gillow's fine workmanship everywhere, but the
style dating back to the very infancy of that ancient house.
The large, finely-lighted hall, which looked like the vestibule of some
learned institute, was adorned with four Carrara marble statues, placid
gods and goddesses smirking at vacancy, on pedestals of verde antico. The
only pictures in the reception-rooms were family portraits, and a few of
those large Dutch landscapes, battle scenes, sea-pieces and fruit-pieces,
which cry aloud that they are furniture pictures, and have been bought to
fit the panelling of the rooms.
But for its noble situation this temple of English domestic life would
have been utterly without charm; but the situation was superb, the
gardens were in beautiful order, and the stables, as Aunt Betsy declared
after personal inspection, were perfect.
Sir Vernon did the honours of his house in a frank, friendly manner.
He took his guests round the gardens and stables, showed Ida the old
nursery in which his father and her father had spent their infancy; the
gun-room in which their first guns were carefully preserved; the very
rocking-horse on which they had ridden, and which now occupied a recess
in an obscure lobby opening into the garden.
'Peter and I didn't care to ride him,' said Sir Vernon. 'We had Shelties
when we were three-year-olds; but I know when I began Virgil I used to
think the wooden horse that got into Troy was an exaggerated copy of this
He showed his cousin the room in which her grandfather and grandmother
died--an immense apartment, wherein stood, grim and tall, a gigantic
mahogany four-poster, draped with dark green velvet.
'I can't fancy anybody doing anything else in such a room,' said Ida, to
whom the spacious chamber looked as gloomy as a charnel-house. 'I beg
your pardon. I hope you don't sleep here.'
'No, my diggings are at the other end of the house, looking into the
stable-yard. I like to be able to put my head out of window and order my
horse--saves time and trouble. We keep the rooms at this end for
The gong boomed loud and long, much to the relief of poor Blanche, whose
spirits had been slowly sinking, in unison with her inward cravings, and
who had begun to think that the promised luncheon was a delusion and a
snare, which would end in the fashionable frivolity of afternoon tea.
Sir Vernon offered his arm to Miss Wendover, and asked Brian to take Miss
Palliser, while Peter was told off to Miss Rylance, leaving Bessie and
the clinging Blanche like twin cherries on one stem. It was curious for
Ida to find herself seated presently beside the wealthy cousin of whom
she had heard as a far-off and almost mythical personage, of very little
account in her life; since it was so improbable that any of his wealth
would ever come her way.
The luncheon was of the old-fashioned and ponderous order, excellent of
its kind: the orchard-houses had given up their finest peaches and
nectarines and their earliest grapes to do honour to the occasion. Miss
Rylance contemplated the table decorations with mute scorn, which she
hardly cared to disguise. No Venetian wine-flasks, no languorous lilies
swooning in Salviati goblets, no pottery of the new green and yellow
school, but massive silver, and heavy diamond-cut glass--gaudy
Staffordshire china of 'too utterly quite' the worst period of art.
Everything essentially Philistine.
Sir Vernon had placed his cousin on his left hand, and he talked to her a
good deal during luncheon--asking questions as to her past life, which
she answered with perfect candour. It was only when he spoke of her
future that the fair brow clouded, and the cheeks reddened with a painful
'I hope, now that the ice has been broken, that we are not going to be
strangers any more,' said Vernon, pleasantly. 'To think that you should
be such a near neighbour of mine, and that I should know nothing about
it! You have been at Kingthorpe since last November, you say? How long
are you going to stay there?'
'For a good many Novembers, I hope,' said Aunt Betsy, 'unless she gets
tired of rural solitude, or unless a husband steals her away from me.'
'Ah, that is what all young ladies anticipate. They never are but always
to be blest,' replied Vernon, laughing. He was one of those open-hearted
souls who always appreciate their own mild jokelets.
Brian, who saw Ida's pained expression, made haste to change the
conversation, by an inquiry about Sir Vernon's plans for the autumn,
which set that gentleman on a sporting tack, and spared Miss Palliser all
After luncheon they went to look at the hot-houses, and dawdled away the
time very agreeably until afternoon tea, Miss Rylance doing her best to
improve the occasion with Peter, who was not educated up to the standard
of metropolitan or South Kensingtonian young ladyhood, and who came out
very badly under the process of development; for when talked to about
Ruskin he was at first altogether vacuoous, but, on being pushed har
believed there was a biggish swell of some such name among the Oxford
dons, about whom he could not fairly be expected to know anything, as he
and his brother were Cantabs: while on being languidly asked his opinion
of Swinburne's last tragedy, he grew cheerful, and said he had seen him
play the King to Irving's Hamlet, and that it was a very fine
performance, the actor in question being a good stayer.
The thing was hopeless, and Miss Rylance felt she was wasting herself
upon a dolt. After this she hardly took the trouble to suppress her
yawns; yet if she had condescended to question Peter about his Alpine
adventures, or to talk about his horses, guns, and dogs, she would have
found him lively enough as a companion; but an education of musical 'at
homes' and afternoon teas had tuned Miss Rylance's slender pipe to one
particular strain, which did not suit everybody's dancing. She was heavy
at heart, feeling that the whole business of the day had conduced to Ida
Palliser's glorification. To be the daughter of a man born in that
substantial family mansion--scion of a respectable old county family--was
in itself a distinction far beyond anything Miss Rylance could boast, her
grandfather having been a chemist and druggist in an obscure market town,
and her father the architect of his own fortunes. She had done her best
to forget this fact hitherto, but it was brought home to her mind
unpleasantly to-day, when she saw the articled pupil, whose three pairs
of stockings had moved her to scornful wonder, strolling about her
ancestral home by the side of her first cousin, and that first cousin a
baronet of Charles II's creation.
Sir Vernon and his brother were full of cordiality for their cousin, full
of anticipations of future meetings, and of hopes that Captain Palliser
would come to them in October for what they called a 'shy' at the
Ida had good cause to remember that parting in front of the classic
portico in the warm afternoon sunlight, the two brothers standing side by
side, with frank, bright faces, looking up at their departing guests, all
smiles and cheerful pleasure in this world's pleasantest things--a Dandie
Dinmont and a big black-and-tan colley looking on at their master's
knees--the _beau ideal_ of young English manhood--frank, generous,
outspoken, fearless--the men who can do and die when the need comes. Her
eyes lingered affectionately on that picture as the wagonette drove away
by the broad gravel sweep towards the avenue; and those two figures in
the sunlight haunted her memory in the days to come.
OUGHT SHE TO STAY?
A week after the drive to Wimperfield Miss Wendover received a very big
box of peaches and grapes, enclosing a very brief letter from Vernon
Palliser to his cousin Ida.
'My dear Ida,--I venture to send Miss Wendover some of our fruit,' he
wrote, 'for I understood her to say she has not much glass, and grows
only flowers. Peter and I are just off to Scotland, where I suppose we
shall do a little shooting, and I hope a good deal of yachting and
fishing. I wish you and that nice plump little friend of yours--Bessie, I
think you called her--were coming to us. Such a jolly life, bobbing about
between the islands and the mainland, with the chance of an occasional
storm. But I shall look forward to seeing you again in October, when I
hope Miss Wendover will bring you over to stay for a week or two. What
splendid ideas she has about summering hunters!--never met a more
sensible woman. Always your affectionate cousin,
Aunt Betsy was pleased with the tribute of hothouse fruit, and even more
gratified by that remark about summering horses.
'Your cousin is a fine thoroughbred young fellow,' she said. 'If I had
not been fully satisfied you came from a good stock, by my knowledge of
your own organisation, I should be sure of the fact now I have seen those
two young men. They are all that Englishmen ought to be.'
Ida was silent, for to her mind there was one Englishman who more
completely realised her ideal of manhood--one who was no less generous
and outspoken than her kind young cousins, but whose intellectual gifts,
whose highly cultivated mind, and passionate love of all that is most
beautiful in life, made him infinitely their superior.
And now came, perhaps, the most bitter trial of a young life which had
already seen more cloud than sunshine. The hour had come when Ida told
herself that she must no longer dawdle along the flowery path of sin, no
longer palter with fate. Stern duty must be obeyed, She must leave
Kingthorpe. It was no longer a question of feeling, but a question of
conscience--right against wrong, truth against falsehood, honour against
dishonour; for she knew in her heart of hearts that Brian loved her, and
that she gave him back his love, measure for measure. He had said nothing
definite; she had contrived to ward off anything like a declaration; but
she had not been able to prevent his absorbing her society on all
possible occasions, taking possession of her, as it were, as of one who
belonged to him in the present and the future, deferring to her lightest
wish as only a lover defers to his mistress, studying her preferences in
everything, and hardly taking the trouble to hide his comparative
indifference to the society of other people. It had come to this, and she
knew that there must be no further delay.
One evening, when she and Aunt Betsy had been dining alone, and had
returned to the drawing-room, where it was Ida's custom at this hour to
play her kind patroness to sleep with all the dreamiest and most pensive
melodies in her extensive _repertoire_, the girl suddenly faltered in her
playing, wandered from one air into another, and with a touch so
uncertain that Aunt Betsy, who was fast lapsing into dreamland, became
broad awake again all at once, and wanted to know the reason why.
'Is anything the matter? Are you ill, child?' she asked, abruptly.
Ida rose from the piano, where her tears had been dropping on the keys,
and came out of the shadowy corner to the verandah, where Aunt Betsy sat
among her roses, wrapped in a China crape shawl, one of the gifts of that
Indian warrior, Colonel Wendover, August was nearly over, but the weather
was still warm enough for sitting out of doors in the twilight.
'What is the matter, Ida? What has happened?' repeated Miss Wendover,
with her hand on the girl's shoulder, as she bent to listen to her.
Ida was kneeling by Aunt Betsy's side, her head leaning against the arm
of her chair, her face hidden.
'Nothing, nothing that you can help or cure, dearest friend,' she
answered in a broken voice. 'You must know how good you have been to me.
Yes, even you must know that, although it is your nature to make light of
your goodness. I think you know I love you and am grateful. Tell me that
you believe that before I say another word.'
'I do believe it. Your whole conduct since you have been with me has
shown as much,' answered Miss Wendover, calmly. She saw that Ida was
powerfully moved, and she wanted to tranquillise her. 'What is the
meaning of this preface?'
'Only that I must ask you to let me leave you.'
'Leave me! Oh, you want a holiday, I suppose?--that is natural enough. We
needn't be tragic about that. You want to go over to Dieppe to see your
'I want to go away from Kingthorpe for ever.'
'For ever? Ah, now we are really tragic!' said Miss Wendover, lightly,
her broad, firm white hand tenderly smoothing the girl's hair and brow.
'My dear child, what has gone amiss with you? Something has, I can see.
Have you and Miss Rylance quarrelled? I know she is a viper; but I did
not think she would play any of her viperish tricks with my property.'
'Miss Rylance has done nothing. I have quarrelled with nobody. I love
and honour you and the whole house of Wendover with all my heart and
mind. But there is a reason--a reason which I implore you to refrain
from asking--why I ought never to have come into your house, as I did
come--why I ought to leave it--must leave it for ever!'
'This is very mysterious,' said Aunt Betsy, thinking deeply. 'I
could understand a reason--which might exist in a girl's romantic
mind--a mistaken generosity, or a mistaken pride--the outcome of late
events--which might urge you to run away--like that always wrong-headed
and misguided young person, the heroine of a novel: but what reason
there could have been when you came to me last winter against your
coming--no--that is more than I can comprehend.'
'You are not to comprehend. It is my secret--my burden--which I must
bear. I want you to believe me, that is all,--only to believe me when
I say that I love you dearly, and that I have been unspeakably happy
in your house--and just quietly let me go and seek my fortune
elsewhere--without saying anything to anybody until I am gone.'
'And a nice weeping and wailing there will be from Bessie and her
brothers and sisters when you _are_ gone!' exclaimed Miss Wendover; 'a
pleasant time I shall have of it, with all of them--to say nothing of my
own feelings. Do you think it is fair, Ida, to treat me like this; to
make yourself pleasant to me, useful, necessary to me--to wind yourself
into my heart--and then all at once, with a sudden wrench, to pluck
yourself out again, and leave me to do without you? Do you call that fair
'I know that it must seem like base ingratitude,' answered Ida, calm now,
with a despairing calmness; 'but I cannot help myself. I am more proud
than I can say that you should care for me--that my loving services have
not been unwelcome. I know that you took me out of charity; and it is a
delight to know that I have not been altogether a bad bargain. But I must
'I begin to see light,' said Miss Wendover, who had been thinking all
this time. 'It's your father's doing. He thinks you are not making a
profitable use of your education and talents. He has ordered you to go
where you will get a larger salary. But don't let his needs separate us,
my dear. I love you better than a few pounds a quarter. I will give you
seventy, or even eighty pounds a year, if that will satisfy Captain
'No, no, dear Aunt Betsy. Thank God, my father is not that kind of man.
He knows how happy I have been, he is grateful to you for all your
goodness to me, and more than content that I should be happy without
being a burden to him.'
'Then _why_ do you want to leave me?' asked Miss Wendover, with her hands
on the girl's shoulders, her eyes reading the white agonised face looking
up at her in the thickening twilight. There was just light enough for her
to see the look of intense pain in that pallid countenance.
'_Why_ do you want to go away?' she repeated. 'What kind of reason can
that be which you fear to tell me? It must be an unworthy reason; and yet
I cannot believe that you could have such a reason. Is it on account of
my nephew Brian? Have you found out what I have suspected for a long
time? Have you discovered that he is in love with you, and do you fancy
yourself an ineligible match for him, because he is rich and you are
poor, and do you think that you ought to run away in order to give him a
chance of doing better for himself? If you have any such high-flown idea,
abandon it. The Wendovers are not a mercenary tribe. We shall welcome
Brian's bride, whoever she be, for her own sake, and not for her dowry.'
'It is no such reason. I _cannot_ tell you. You must forgive me, and let
'Then I forgive you, and you can go,' replied Miss Wendover, coldly. 'I
am deeply disappointed in you. If you cared for me as you say you do, you
would trust me. Love without faith is an impossibility. However, I don't
want to distress you. If you are to leave me I will make your departure
as pleasant as I can. When do you want to go?'
'Immediately. As soon as you can spare me.'
'I cannot spare you at all; a few weeks or days more or less will make no
difference to me. Do you want to go among strangers, to be a governess?
or do you wish to go back to your people?'
'I want to earn my own living. The harder I have to work the better I
shall like it. I would not mind even going into a school, though my
experience of Mauleverer is hateful.'
'You shall not go into a school. I will send an advertisement to the
'Would it not be better for me to go to Winchester and apply at some
agency for servants and governesses? When I advertised in the _Times_
there was not a single answer.'
'You may have better luck this time,' replied Miss Wendover, in a
business-like tone. She was too proud to show any further indications of
sorrow, or even to reveal how deeply she was wounded. 'I will do what I
can to help you, though--'
'Though I do not deserve it,' said Ida.
'You know best about that. Yes,' after some moments of silent thought,
'it may not be too late even now. When I lunched with the Trevors, at
Romsey, the day of Brian's return, Mrs. Trevor's sister, Lady
Micheldever, was in a state of anxiety about governesses. Her old
governess was to be married in a few weeks, such an inestimable treasure
that Lady Micheldever thought it would be impossible to replace her, so
sweet, so ladylike, so accomplished. Now, if the situation is not yet
filled, I think it would suit you exactly. They are people who would give
you a liberal salary--you would be able to help your father.'
'I should be glad of that. Do the Micheldevers live near here?' faltered
Ida. 'I want to go quite away.'
'They have property near here, but their place is close to Savernake
Forest, and they spend their winters in Italy. Sir George has a weak
chest, and all the children are delicate. If you go to them, nearly half
your life will be spent abroad.'
'I should like that very much,' said Ida.
'Nothing so pleasant as variety of scenery and people,' replied Miss
Wendover, with a touch of irony in her voice.
She began to think Ida cold-hearted and hypocritical. It was evident to
her that this feverish longing for change was mere selfish ambition, a
desire to be better placed in the world. She had met with the same kind
of feeling too often in her rustic _protegees_ of the cook and house-maid
class, who, when they had learnt all she could teach them, were eager to
spread their wings and soar to the servants' halls of Mayfair, and the
society of powdered footmen.
'Nine o'clock,' said Miss Wendover, wrapping her shawl round her,
and rising to go into the drawing-room as the church clock chimed
silver-sweet across the elm tops and the misty meadows. 'Too late for
this evening's post; but I will write to Lady Micheldever to-night, and
my letter will be ready for the midday mail to-morrow. I hope she has not
found anybody yet.'
'You are too good,' faltered Ida, as they went into the lamplit room.
'I am only doing my duty,' replied Miss Wendover. '"Welcome the coming,
speed the parting guest!"'
'You will not tell Bessie, or anyone, till I am gone?' pleaded Ida,
'Certainly not--if that is your wish.'
AFTER A STORM COMES A CALM.
While Ida Palliser was thus planning her escape from that earthly
paradise where she was dangerously happy, Brian Wendover was thinking of
her and dreaming of her, and building the whole fabric of his life on a
happy future to be shared with her, cherishing the sweet certainty that
she loved him, and that he had only to say the word which was to unite
them for ever. He had been in no haste to say that fateful word; life was
so sweet to him in its present stage--he was so confident of the future.
He had closely and carefully studied the character of the woman he loved,
in the beginning of their acquaintance, before his judgment had lost its
balance, before affection had got the better of the critical faculty. He
had been in somewise impressed by what Urania had told him about Ida. The
slanderer's malice was obvious; but the slander might have some element
of truth. He watched Ida narrowly during the first month of their
acquaintance, expecting to find the serpent-trail somewhere; but no trace
of the evil one had appeared. She was frank, straightforward, intelligent
to a high degree, and with that eager thirst for knowledge which is
generally accompanied by a profound humility. He could see in her no base
worship of wealth for its own sake, no craving for splendour or
fashionable pleasures. She found delight in all the simplest things, in
rustic scenery, in hill and down and wood, in dogs and horses, and birds
and flowers, music and books. A girl who could be happy in such a life as
Ida Palliser lived at Kingthorpe must be in a manner independent of
fortune; her pleasures were not those that cost money.
'If she is the kind of girl Miss Rylance describes her she will set her
cap at me,' he thought. 'If she wants to be mistress of Wendover Abbey,
one mistake and one failure will not daunt her.'
But there was no such setting of caps. For a long time Ida treated Mr.
Wendover of the Abbey with the perfect frankness of friendship. Then, as
his love grew, showing itself by every delicate and unobtrusive token,
there came a change, and a subtle one, in her conduct; and the lover told
himself with triumphant heart that he was beloved. Her sweet shyness, her
careful avoidance of every possible _tete-a-tete,_ her evident
embarrassment on those rare occasions when she found herself alone with
him--surely these things meant love, and love only! There could be no
other meaning. He was no coxcomb, ready to believe every woman in love
with him. He had gone through the world very quietly, admiring many
women, but never till now having found one who seemed to him worth the
infinite anxieties, and fevers, and agues of love. And now he had found
that pearl above price, the one woman predestinate to be adored by him.
He was happily placed in life for a lover, since a lover should always be
an orphan. Fathers and mothers are sore clogs upon the fiery wheel of
love. He was rich; in every way his own master. His kindred were kindly,
simple-minded people, who would give gracious welcome to any virtuous
woman whom he might choose for his wife. There was no impediment to his
happiness, provided always that Ida Palliser loved him; and he believed
that she did love him. This sense of security had made him less eager to
declare himself. He was content to wait for his opportunity.
And now summer was waning, though it was summer still. The days were no
less lovely; not a leaf had fallen in the woods; red roses flushed the
gardens with bloom, yellow roses hung in luxuriant clusters on arches and
walls; but the days were shortening, the sunsets were earlier, coming
inconveniently before dinner was over at The Knoll; and the Wykehamists
began to be weighed down by a sense of impending doom, in the direful
necessity of going back to school.
Bessie's birthday had come round again--that date so fatal to Ida
Palliser--and there was much cheerfulness at The Knoll in honour of the
occasion. This year the event was not to be signalised by a picnic. They
had been picnicking all the summer, and it was felt that the zest of
novelty would be wanting to that form of entertainment; so it was decided
in family counsel that a friendly dinner at home, with a little impromptu
dancing, and perhaps a charade or two afterwards, would be an agreeable
substitute for the usual outdoor feast. Brian, Mr. Jardine Dr. and Miss
Rylance, Aunt Betsy, and Ida Palliser were to be the only guests; but
these with the family made a good sized party. Blanche undertook to play
as many waltzes as might be required of her, and also took upon herself
the arrangement and decoration of the dessert, which was to be something
gorgeous. More boxes of peaches and grapes had been sent over from
Wimperfield in the absence of Sir Vernon and his brother, who were still
Bessie's anniversary was heralded somewhat inauspiciously by a tremendous
gale which swept across the Hampshire Downs, after doing no small
mischief in the Channel, and wrecking a good many fine old oaks and
beeches in the New Forest. It was only the tail of a storm which had been
blowing furiously in Scotland and the north of England, and no one as yet
knew the extent of its destructive force.
The morning after that night of howling winds was dull and blustery, with
frequent gusts of rain.
'How lucky we didn't go in for a picnic!' said Horatio, as the slanting
drops lashed the windows at breakfast time. 'It may rain and blow as hard
as it likes between now and six o'clock, for all we need care. A wet day
will give us time to get up our charades, and for Blanche to thump at her
waltzes. Be sure you give us the Blue Danube.'
'The Blue Danube is out,' said Blanche, tossing up her pointed chin.
'Out of what? Out of time?'
'Out of fashion.'
'Hang fashion! What do I care for fashion?' cried the Wykehamist.
'Fashion means other people's whims and fancies. People who are led by
fashion have no ideas of their own. Byron is out of fashion, but he's
_my_ poet,' added Horatio, as who should say, 'and that ought to be a
sufficient set-off against any lessening of his European renown.'
'Think of the poor creatures at sea!' murmured kind-hearted Mrs.
Wendover, as a sharp gust shook the casement nearest to her.
'Very sad for them, poor beggars!' said Reginald; 'but it would have been
sadder for us if we'd been starting for a picnic. Travellers by sea must
expect bad weather; it's an important factor in the sum of their risk,
and their minds are prepared for the contingency; but when one has
planned a picnic party on the downs a wet day throws out all one's
The rain came and went in fitful showers, the wind blustered a little,
and then died away in sobs, while the young Wendovers spent their morning
noisily and excitedly, in laborious industries of the most frivolous
kind, the end and aim of which was to make a gorgeous display in the
Before luncheon the wind was at rest, and the gardens were smiling in the
sunlight under the hot blue sky of summer, and after luncheon the
Wendover girls and boys were rushing all over the garden cutting flowers.
'I only wish Dr. Rylance were not coming,' said Blanche, stopping to pant
and wipe her crimson countenance, when her two baskets were nearly full.
'He'll impart his own peculiar starchiness to the whole business.'
'Oh, hang it, he'll give the thing a grown-up flavour, anyhow,' replied
Reginald. 'Besides, the man _can_ talk--though he's deuced shallow--and
that is more than anyone else can in these parts.'
'Brian will be the hero of this evening's festivity, just as Brian
Walford was of the last. Don't you remember how nice he looked?' said
Blanche, as they went back to the house loaded with roses, heliotrope,
geranium, and ferns.
'Poor fellow!' sighed Bessie, who was so sentimental that she could but
suppose her favourite cousin a martyr to blighted love.
'If Brian of the Abbey proposes to Ida, as I feel convinced he will, and
if she accepts him, as she is sure to do, it will simply break Brian
'Not a little bit,' said Reginald. 'If he did spoon her last year, is
that any reason, do you think, that he should care for her now? If she be
not fair to me, what the deuce care I how fair she be? And do you suppose
_I_ am going to waste in despair, and all that kind of thing? Not if I
'Say what you like, I believe Brian Walford was deeply in love with Ida,
and that he has never been here since that time, because he can't bear to
see her, knowing she doesn't care for him.'
'That's skittles!' exclaimed the youthful sceptic, using a favourite
expression of his father's to express incredulity. 'The reason Brian
doesn't come to Kingthorpe is, that he has other fish to fry elsewhere.
As if anybody would come to Kingthorpe who wasn't obliged!'
'Brian used to come.'
'Yes, when he was young and verdant; and I daresay my father used to tip
him. He knows better now: he is enjoying himself in Paris--under the
pretence of studying law and modern languages--dancing at the _jardin
Bullier_, and going on no end, I daresay. _I_ know what Paris is.'
'How can you?' exclaimed Bessie; 'you were never there!'
'I was never in the moon, but I'm pretty well acquainted with the
geography of that planet. We have fellows in the Upper Sixth who think no
more of going to Paris than you do of going to Winchester; and a nice
life they lead there. Why, a man who thoroughly knows Paris can steep
himself in dissipation for a five-pound note!'
Loud exclamations of horror concluded the conversation.
AFTER A CALM A STORM.
The dinner-party was a success. Bessie beamed radiantly, with her plump
arms and shoulders set off by a white gown, and a good deal of rather
incongruous trinketry in the way of birthday presents, every item of
which she felt bound to wear, lest the givers should be wounded by her
neglect. Thus, dear mother's amber necklace did not exactly accord with
Mr. Jardine's neat gold and sapphire locket; while the family
subscription gift of pink coral earrings hardly harmonised with either.
Yet earrings, locket, and necklace were all displayed, and the round
white arms were coiled from wrist to elbow with various monstrosities of
the bangle breed.
There was a flavour of happiness in the whole feast which could not be
damped by any ceremonious stiffness on the part of Dr. Rylance and his
daughter. The physician was all sweetness, all geniality; yet a very
close observer might have perceived that his sentiments about Miss
Palliser were of no friendly nature He had tried that young lady, and had
found her wanting,--wanting in that first principle of admiration and
reverence for himself, the lack of which was an unpardonable fault.
He had been willing to pardon her for her first rejection of him; telling
himself that he had spoken too soon; that he had scared her by his unwise
suddenness; that she was wild and wilful, and wanted more gentling before
she was brought to the lure. But after a prolonged period of gentle
treatment, after such courtesies and flatteries as Dr. Rylance had never
before lavished upon anybody under a countess, it galled him to find Ida
Palliser growing always colder and more distant, and obviously anxious to
avoid his distinguished company. Then came the appearance of Brian
Wendover on the scene, and Dr. Rylance was keen enough to see that Mr.
Wendover of the Abbey had acquired more influence over Miss Palliser in a
week than he had been able to obtain in nearly a year's acquaintance. And
then Dr. Rylance decided that this girl was incorrigible: she was beyond
the pale: she was a kind of monster, a being of imperfect development, a
blunder of nature--like the sloth and his fellow tardigrades: a
psychological mystery: inasmuch as she did not care for him.
So having made up his mind to have done with her, Dr. Rylance found that
the end of love is the beginning of hate.
It happened, rather by lack of arrangement than by any special design,
that Brian sat next to Ida. Dr. Rylance had taken Mrs. Wendover in to
dinner, but Brian was on his aunt's left hand, and Ida was on Brian's
left. He talked to her all dinner time, leaving his aunt, who loved to
get hold of a medical man, to expatiate to her heart's content on all the
small ailings and accidents which had affected her children during the
last six months, down to that plague of warts which had lately afflicted
Reginald, and which she would be glad to get charmed away by an old man
in the village, who was a renowned wart-charmer, if Dr. Rylance did not
think the warts might strike inward.
'Our own medical man is a dear good creature, but so very
matter-of-fact,' Mrs. Wendover explained; 'I don't like to ask him these
Brian and Ida talked to each other all through the dinner, and, although
their conversation was of indifferent things, they talked as lovers
talk--all unconsciously on Ida's part, who knew not how deeply she was
sinning. It was to be in all probability their last meeting. She let
herself be happy in spite of fate. What could it matter? In a few days
she would have left Kingthorpe for ever--never to see him again. For
ever, and never, are very real words to the heart of youth, which has no
faith in time and mutability.
After dinner the young people all went straying out into the garden, in
the lovely interval between day and darkness. There had been a glorious
sunset, and red and golden lights shone over the low western sky, while
above them was that tender opalescent green which heralds the mellow
splendour of the moon. The atmosphere was exquisitely tranquil after last
night's storm, not a breath stirring the shrubberies or the tall elms
which divided the garden from adjacent paddocks.
Ida scarcely could have told how it was that Brian and she found
themselves alone. The boys and girls had all left the house together. A
minute ago Bessie and Urania were close to them, Urania laying down the
law about some distinction between the old Oxford high-church party and
the modern ritualists, and Bessie very excited and angry, as became the
intended wife of an Anglican priest.
They were alone--alone at the end of the long, straight gravel walk--and
the garden around them lay wrapped in shadow and mystery; all the flowers
that go to sleep had folded their petals for the night, and the harvest
moon was rising over church-tower and churchyard yews, trees and tower
standing out black against the deep purple of that perfect sky. On this
same night last year Ida and the other Brian had been walking about this
same garden, talking, laughing, full of fun and good spirits, possibly
flirting; but in what a different mood and manner! To-night her heart was
overcharged with feeling, her mind weighed down by the consciousness that
all this sweet life, which she loved so well, was to come to a sudden
end, all this tender love, given her so freely, was to be forfeited by
her own act. Already, as she believed, she had forfeited Miss Wendover's
affection. Soon all the rest of the family would think of her as Aunt
Betsy thought--as a monster of ingratitude; and Urania Rylance would toss
up her sharp chin, and straighten her slim waist, and say, 'Did I not
tell you so?'
Close to where she was standing with Brian there was an old, old stone
sundial, supposed to be almost as ancient as the burial-places of the
long-headed men of the stone age; and against this granite pillar Brian
planted himself, as if prepared for a long conversation.
The voices of the others were dying away in the distance, and they were
evidently all hastening back to the house, which was something less
than a quarter of a mile off. Brian and Ida had been silent for some
moments--moments which seemed minutes to Ida, who felt silence much more
embarrassing than speech. She had nothing to say--she wanted to follow
the others, but felt almost without power or motion.
'I think we--I--ought to go back,' she faltered, looking helplessly
towards the lighted windows at the end of the long walk. 'There is going
to be dancing. They will want us.'
'They can do without us, Ida,' he said, laying his hand upon her arm;
'but I cannot do without telling you my mind any longer. Why have you
avoided me so? Why have you made it so difficult for me to speak to
you of anything but trivialities--when you must know--you must have
known--what I was longing to say?'
The passion in his lowered voice--that voice of deep and thrilling
tone--which had a power over her that no other voice had ever possessed,
the expression of his face as he looked at her in the moonlight, told her
much more than his words. She put up her hands entreatingly to stop him.
'For God's sake, not another word,' she cried,' if--if you are going to
say you care for me, ever so little, even. Not one more word. It is a
sin. I am the most miserable, most guilty, among women, even to be here,
even to have heard so much.'
'What do you mean? What else should I say? What can I say, except that I
love you devotedly, with all my heart and mind? that I will have no other
woman for my wife? You can't be surprised. Ida, don't pretend that you
are surprised. I have never hidden my love, I have let you see that I was
your slave all along. My darling, my beloved, why should you shrink from
me? What can part us for an instant, when I love you so dearly, and
know--yes, dearest, _I know_ that you love me? _That_ is a question upon
which no man ever deceived himself, unless he were a fool or a coxcomb.
Am _I_ a fool, Ida?'
'No, no, no. For pity's sake, say no more. You ought not to have spoken.
I am going away from Kingthorpe to-morrow, perhaps for ever. Yes, for
ever. How could I know, how could I think you would care for me? Let me
go!' she cried, struggling away from him as he clasped her hand, as he
tried to draw her towards him. 'It is hopeless, mad, wicked to talk to me
of love: some day you will know why, but not now. Be merciful to me;
forget that you have ever known me.'
'Ida, Ida,' shrieked shrill voices in the distance. White figures came
flying down the broad gravel-walk, ghost-like in the moonlight.
It was a blessed relief. Ida broke from Brian, and ran to meet Blanche
'Ida, Ida, such fun, such a surprise!' shrieked Blanche, as the flying
white figures came nearer, wavered, and stopped.
'Only think of his coming on my birthday again!' exclaimed Bessie, 'and
at this late hour--just as if he had dropped from the moon!'
'Who,--who has come?' cried Ida, looking from one to the other, with a
scared white face.
It seemed to her as if the moonlit garden was moving away in a thick
white cloud, spots of fire floated before her eyes, and then all the
world went round like a fiery wheel.
'Brian--the other Brian--Brian Walford! Isn't it sweet of him to come
to-night?' said Bessie.
Ida reeled forward, and would have fallen but for the strong arm that
caught her as she sank earthwards, the grip which would have held her and
sustained her through all life's journey had fate so willed it.
She had not quite lost consciousness, but all was hazy and dim. She felt
herself supported in those strong arms, caressed and borne up on the
other side by Bessie, and thus upheld she half walked, and was half
carried along the smooth gravel-path to the house, whence sounds of music
came faintly on her ear. She had almost recovered by the time they came
to the threshold of the lighted drawing-room; but she had a curious
sensation of having been away somewhere for ages, as if her soul had
taken flight to some strange dim world and dwelt there for a space, and
were slowly coming back to this work-a-day life.
The drawing-room was cleared ready for dancing. Urania was sitting at the
piano playing the Swing Song, with dainty mincing touch, ambling and
tripping over the keys with the points of her carefully trained fingers.
She had given up Beethoven and all the men of might, and had cultivated
the niminy-piminy school, which is to music as sunflowers and blue china
are to art.
Brian Walford was standing in the middle of the big empty room, talking
to his uncle the Colonel. Mrs. Wendover and her sister-in-law were
sitting on a capacious old sofa in conversation with Dr. Rylance.
'Oh, you have come at last,' said Brian Walford, as Ida came slowly
through the open window, pale as death, and moving feebly.
He went to meet her, and took her by the hand; then turning to the
Colonel he said quietly and seriously,
'Uncle Wendover, it is just a year to-night since this young lady and I
met for the first time. From the hour I first saw her I loved her, and I
had reason to hope that she returned my love. We were married at a little
church near Mauleverer Manor, on the ninth of October last. After our
marriage my wife--finding that I was not quite so rich as she supposed me
to be--fearful, I suppose, for the chances of our future--refused to live
with me--told me that our marriage was to be as if it had never been--and
left me, within three hours of our wedding, for ever, as she intended.'
Ida was standing in the midst of them all--alone. She had taken her hand
from her husband's--she stood before them, pale as a corpse, but erect,
ready to face the worst.
Brian of the Abbey, that Brian who would have given his life to save her
this agony of humiliation, stood on the threshold of the window watching
her. Could it be that she was false as fair--she whom he had so trusted
Urania had left off playing, and was watching the scene with a triumphant
smile. She looked at Mr. Wendover of the Abbey with a look that meant,
'Perhaps now you can believe what _I_ told you about this girl?'
Aunt Betsy was the first to speak,
'Ida,' she said, standing up, 'is there any truth in this statement?'
'That question is not very complimentary to your nephew!' said Brian
'I am not thinking of my nephew--I am thinking of this girl, whom I have
loved and trusted.'
'I was unworthy of your love and your trust,' answered Ida, looking at
Miss Wendover with wide, despairing eyes. 'It is quite true--I am his
wife--but he has no right to claim me. It was agreed between us that we
should part--for ever--that our marriage was to be as if it had never
been. It was our secret--nobody was ever to know.'
'And pray, after having married him, why did you wish to cancel your
marriage?' asked Colonel Wendover, in a freezing voice. 'You married him
of your own free will I suppose?'
'Of my own free will--yes.'
'Then why repent all of a sudden?'
She stood for a few moments silent, enduring such an agony of shame as
all her sad experiences of life had not yet given her. The bitter,
galling truth must be told--and in _his_ hearing. _He_ must be suffered
to know how sordid and vile she had been.
'Because I had been deceived,' she faltered at last, her eyelids drooping
over those piteous eyes.
Brian of the Abbey had advanced into the room by this time. He was
standing by his uncle's side, his hand upon his uncle's arm. He wanted,
if it were possible, to save Ida from further questioning, to restrain
his uncle's wrath.
'I married your nephew under a delusion,' she said. 'I believed that I
was marrying wealth and station. I had been told that the Brian Wendover
I knew--the man who asked me to be his wife--was the owner of Wendover
'I see,' said the Colonel; 'you wanted to marry Wendover Abbey.'
Miss Rylance gave a little silvery laugh--the most highly cultivated
thing in laughs--but the scowl she got from Brian of the Abbey checked
her vivacity in a breath.
'Oh, I know what a wretch I must seem to you all,' said Ida, looking up
at the Colonel with pleading eyes. 'But you have never known what it is
to be poor--a genteel pauper--to have your poverty flung into you face
like a handful of mud at every hour of your life; to have the instincts,
the needs of a lady, but to be poorer and lower in status than any
servant; to see your schoolfellows grinning at your shabby boots, making
witty speeches about your threadbare gown; to patch, and mend, and
struggle, yet never to be decently clad; to have the desire to help
others, but nothing to give. If any of you--if you, Miss Rylance, with
that exquisite sneer of yours, _you_ who invented the plot that wrecked
me--if you had ever endured what I have borne, you would have been as
ready as I was to thank Providence for having sent me a rich lover, and
to accept him gratefully as my husband.'
'Brian Walford,' interrogated the Colonel, looking severely at his
nephew, 'am I to understand that you married this girl without
undeceiving her as to the children's, or rather Miss Rylance's, most
ill-judged practical joke--that you stood before the altar in God's
House, the temple of truth and holiness, and won her by a lie?'
'I never lied to her,' answered Brian Walford, sulkily. 'My cousins chose
to have their joke, but there was no joke in my love for Ida. I loved
her, and was ready to marry her, and take my chance of the future, as
another young man in my position would have done. I never bragged about
the Abbey, or told her that it belonged to me. She never asked me who I
'Because she had been told a wicked, shameful falsehood, and believed it,
poor darling,' cried Bessie, running to her friend and embracing her.
'Oh, forgive me, dear--pray, pray do. It was all my fault. But as you
have married him, darling, and it can't be helped, do try and be happy
with him, for indeed, dear, he is very nice.'
Ida stood silent, with lowered eyelids.
'My daughter is right, Miss Palliser--Mrs. Brian Walford,' said the
Colonel, in a less severe tone than he had employed before. 'It is quite
true that you have been hardly used. Any deception is bad, worst of all a
cheat that is maintained as far as the steps of the altar. But after all,
in spite of your natural disappointment at finding you had married a poor
man instead of a rich one, my nephew is the same man after marriage as he
was before, the man you were willing to marry. And I cannot think so
badly of you as to believe that you would marry a man you did not love,
for the sake of his wealth and position. No, I cannot think that of you.
I take it, therefore, that you liked my nephew for his own sake; and that
it was only pique and natural indignation at having been duped which made
you cast him off and agree to cancel your marriage. And I say that there
is only one course open to you, as a good and honourable young woman, and
that is to take your husband by the hand, as you took him in the house of
God, for better for worse, and face the difficulties of life honestly and
fearlessly. Heaven is always on the side of true-hearted young couples.'
Ida lifted her drooping eyelids and looked, not at the Colonel, not at
her husband, not at her staunch friend Aunt Betsy, but at that other
Brian--at him who this night only had declared his love. She looked at
him with despair in her eyes, humbly beseeching him to stand between her
and this loathed wedlock. But there was no sign in his sad countenance,
no indication except of deepest sorrow, no ray of light to guide her on
her path. The Colonel had spoken with such perfect common sense and
justice, he had so clearly right on his side, that Brian Wendover, as a
man of principle, could say nothing. Here was this woman he loved, and
she was another man's wife, and that other man claimed her. If the King
of Terrors himself had stretched forth his bony hand and clasped her, she
could not be more utterly lost to the man who loved her than she was by
this pre-existing tie. Brian of the Abbey was not the man to woo his
'Do, dearest, be happy,' pleaded Bessie. 'I'm sure father is right. And
you are our cousin, our own flesh and blood now, as it were. And you know
I always wanted you to belong to us. And we shall all be fonder of you
than ever. And you and Mr. Jardine will be cousins, later on,' she
whispered, as a conclusive argument, as if for the sake of so high a
privilege a girl might fairly make some sacrifice of inclination.
'Is it my duty to do as Colonel Wendover tells me?' asked Ida, looking
round at them all with piteous appeal. 'Is it really my duty?'
'In the sight of God, yes,' said the Colonel and John Jardine.
'Yes, my dear, yes, there can be no doubt of it,' said the Colonel's wife
and Aunt Betsy.
Brian of the Abbey said not a word, and Dr. Rylance looked on in silence,
with a diabolical sneer.
What a fate for the girl who had refused a house in Cavendish square, one
of the prettiest victorias in London, and a matchless collection of old
'Then I will do my duty,' said Ida; and then, before Brian Walford could
take her in his arms, or make any demonstration of delight, she threw
herself upon Miss Betsy Wendover's broad bosom, sobbing hysterically, and
crying, 'Take me away, take me out of this house, for pity's sake!'
'I'll take her home with me. She will be calm, and quiet, and happy
to-morrow,' said Aunt Betsy. And then, as Brian Walford was following
them, 'Stay where you are, Brian,' she said authoritatively. 'She shall
see no one but me till to-morrow. You will drive her crazy among you all,
if you are not careful.'
Miss Wendover took the girl away almost in her arms, and Brian Walford
disappeared at the same time without further speech.
'And now that the bride and bridegroom are gone, I suppose the wedding
party can have their dance,' sneered Urania, playing the first few bars
But Brian of the Abbey had vanished immediately after his cousin, and no
one was disposed for dancing; so, after a good deal of talk, Bessie's
birthday party broke up.
'What a dismal failure it has been, though it began so well!' said
Bessie, as she and the other juveniles went upstairs to bed.
'What! still you are not happy,' quoted Horatio. 'Why, I thought you
wanted Brian Walford to marry Ida Palliser?'
'So I did once,' sighed Bessie; 'but I would rather she had married Brian
of the Abbey; and I know he's over head and ears in love with her.'
'Ah, then he'll have to put his love in his pipe and smoke it! That kind
of thing won't do out of a French novel,' said Horatio, whose personal
knowledge of French romancers was derived from the _Philosophe sous les
toils_, as published wish grammatical notes for the use of schools; but
he liked to talk large.
WAS THIS THE MOTIVE?
Brian Walford came back to The Knoll after the younger members of the
family had gone to their rooms.
'Where have you been all this time?' asked the Colonel, who was strolling
on the broad gravel drive in front of the house, soothing his nerves with
a cheroot, after the agitations of the last hour. 'You are to have your
old room, I believe; I heard it was being got ready.'
'You are very kind. I walked half way to the Abbey with my cousin. We had
a smoke and a talk.'
'I should be glad of a little more talk with you. This business of
to-night is not at all pleasant, you know, Brian. It does not redound to
'I never supposed that it did; but it is not my fault that there should
be this fuss. If my wife had been true to me all would have gone well.'
'I don't think you had a right to expect things to go well, when you had
so cruelly deceived her. It was a base thing to do, Brian.'
'You ought not to say so much as that, sir, knowing so little of the
circumstances. I did not deliberately deceive her.'
'That's skittles,' said the Colonel, flinging away the end of his cigar.
'It is the truth. The business began in sport. Bessie asked me to pretend
to be my cousin, just for fun, to see if Ida would fall in love with
me. Ida had a romantic idea about my cousin, it appears, that he was
an altogether perfect being, and so on. Well, I was introduced to her
as Brian of the Abbey, and though she may have been a little
disappointed--no doubt she was--she accepted me as the perfect being. As
for me--well, sir, you know what she is--how lovely, how winning. I was a
gone coon from that moment. We kept up the fun--Bess, and the boys, and
I--all that evening. I talked of the Abbey as if it were my property,
swaggered a good deal, and so on. Then Bess, knowing that I often stayed
up the river for weeks on end, asked me to go and see Ida, to make sure
that old Pew was not ill-using her, that she was not going into a
decline, and all that kind of thing. So I went, saw Ida, always in the
company of the German teacher, and took no pains to conceal my affection
for her. But I said not another word about the Abbey. I never swaggered
or put on the airs of a rich man; I only told her that I loved her, and
that I hoped our lives would be spent together. I did not even suggest
our marriage as a fact in the near future. I knew I was in no position to
maintain a wife.'
'You should have told her that plainly. As a man of honour you were bound
to undeceive her.'
'I meant to do it, but I wanted her to be very fond of me first. Then
came the row; old Pew expelled her because she had been carrying on a
clandestine flirtation with a young man. Her character was compromised,
and as a man of honour I had no course but to propose immediate
'Her character was not compromised, because Miss Pew chose to act like a
vulgar old tyrant. The German governess, everybody in the school, knew
that Miss Palliser was unjustly treated. There was no wound that needed
to be salved by an imprudent marriage. But in any case, before proposing
such a marriage, it was your bounden duty to tell her the truth about
your circumstances, not to marry her to poverty without her full consent
to the union.'
'Then I did not do my bounden duty,' Brian Walford answered sullenly. 'I
believed in her disinterested affection. Why should she be more mercenary
than I, who was willing to marry her without a sixpence in her pocket,
without a second gown to her back? How could I suppose she was marrying
me for the sake of a fine place and a fine fortune? I thought she was
above such sordid considerations.'
'You ought to have been sure of that before you married her; you ought to
have trusted her fully,' said the Colonel. 'However, having married her,
why did you consent so tamely to let her go? Having let her go, why do
you come here to-night to claim her?'
'Why did I let her go? Well she shrewed me so abominably when she found
out my lowly position that my pride was roused, and I told her she might
go where she pleased. Why did I come here to-night? Well, it was an
impulse that brought me. I am passionately fond of her. I have lived
without her for nearly a year--angry with her and with fate--but to day
was the anniversary of our first meeting. I knew from Bessie that my wife
was here, happy. There was even some hint of a flirtation between her and
_the real Brian,'_--these last words were spoken with intense
bitterness,--'and I thought it was time I should claim my own.'
'I think so to,' said Colonel Wendover, severely; 'you should have
claimed her long ago. Your whole conduct is faulty in the extreme. You
will be a very lucky man if your married life turns out happy after such
a bad beginning.'
'Come, Colonel, we are both young,' remonstrated Brian, with that
careless lightness which seemed natural to him, as a man who could hardly
take the gravest problems of life seriously; 'there is no reason why we
should not shake down into a very happy couple by-and-by.'
'And pray how are you to live?' inquired the Colonel. 'You are taking
this girl from a most comfortable home--a position in which she is valued
and useful. What do you intend to give her in exchange for the Homestead?
A garret and a redherring?'
'Oh, no, sir; I hope it will be a long time before we come to
that--though Beranger says that at twenty a man and the girl he loves may
be happy in a garret. I think we shall do pretty well. My literary work
widened a good deal while I was in Paris. I wrote for some of the London
magazines, and the editors are good enough to think that I am rather a
smart writer. I can earn something by my pen; I think enough to keep the
pot boiling till briefs begin to drop in. My cousin was generous enough
to offer me an income just now--four or five hundred a year so long as I
should require it--but I told him that I thought I could support my wife
with my pen for the next few years.'
'Your cousin is always generous,' said the Colonel.
'Yes, he is an open-handed fellow. I suppose you know that he helped me
while I was in Paris.'
'I did not know, but I am not surprised.'
'Very kind of him, wasn't it? The fact is, I was dipped rather deeply, in
my small way--tailor, and hosier, and so on--before I left London; and I
could not have come back unless Brian had helped me to settle with them,
or I should have had to go through the Bankruptcy Court; and I daresay
some of you would have thought that a disgrace.'
'Some of us!' exclaimed the Colonel; 'we should all have thought so. Do
you suppose the Wendovers are in the habit of cheating their creditors?'
'Oh, but it was not a question of cheating them, only of paying them a
rather insignificant dividend. My only assets are my books and furniture,
and unluckily some of those are still unpaid for.'
'Assets? You have no assets. You are a spendthrift and a scamp!'
protested his uncle, angrily. 'I am deeply sorry for your wife. Good
night. If you want any supper after your journey there are plenty of
people to wait upon you.'
And with that the Colonel turned upon his heel and went into the house,
leaving his nephew to follow at his leisure.
_'Comme il est assommant, le patron,'_ muttered Brian, strolling after
Brian Walford was not ordinarily an early riser, but he was up betimes on
the morning after Bessie's birthday; breakfasted with the family, and
strolled across dewy fields to the Homestead a little after nine o'clock.
But although this was a late hour in Miss Wendover's household, his
young wife was not prepared to receive him. It was Aunt Betsy who came to
him, after he had waited for nearly a quarter of an hour, prowling
restlessly about the drawing-room, looking at the books, and china, and
'I have come for Ida,' he said abruptly, when he had shaken hands with
his aunt. 'There is a train leaves Winchester at twenty minutes past
eleven. She will be ready for that I suppose?'
He was half prepared for reproaches from his aunt, and wholly prepared to
set her at defiance. But if she were civil he would be civil: he did not
court a quarrel.
'I don't know that she can be ready.'
'But she must. I have made up my mind to travel by that train. Why should
there be any delay? Everybody is agreed that we are to begin our lives
together, and we cannot begin too soon.'
'You need not be in such a hurry. You have contrived to live without her
for nearly a year.'
'That is my business. I am not going to live without her any longer.
Please tell her she must be ready by half-past ten.'
'I will tell her so. I am heartily sorry for her. But she must submit to
fate. What home have you prepared for her?'
'At present none. We can go to an hotel for a day or two, and then I
shall take lodgings in South Kensington, or thereabouts.'
'Have you any money?'
'Yes enough to carry on,' answered Brian.
'Truthfulness was not his strong point, although he was a Wendover, and
that race deemed itself free from the taint of falsehood. There may have
been an injurious admixture of races on the maternal side, perhaps;
albeit his mother personally was good and loyal. However this was, Brian
Walford had, even in trifles, shown himself evasive and shifty.
His aunt looked at him sharply.
'Do not take her to discomfort or want,' she said earnestly. 'She has
been very happy with me, poor girl; and although she deceived me, I
cannot find it in my heart to be angry with her.'
'There is no fear of want,' replied Brian. 'We shall not be rich, but
we shall get on pretty comfortably. Please tell her to make haste. The
dog-cart will be round in half an hour. I'll walk about the garden till
Miss Wendover sighed, and left him, without another word. He went out
into the sunlit garden, and walked up and down smoking his favourite
meerschaum, which was a kind of familiar spirit, always carried in his
pocket ready for every possible opportunity. He had arranged with one
of his uncle's men to drive the dog-cart over to Winchester; his
travelling-bag was put in ready; he had taken leave of his kindred--not a
very cordial leave-taking upon anybody's part, and on Bessie's despondent
even to tears. He was not in a good humour with himself or with fate; and
yet he told himself that things had gone well with him, much better than
he could reasonably have expected. Yet it was hard for a young man of
considerable personal attractions and some talent to be treated like one
of the monsters of classical legend, a damsel-devouring Minotaur, when he
came to claim his young wife.
The dog-cart was at the gate for at least ten minutes, and Brian had
looked at his watch at least ten times before Ida appeared at the glass
door. He was pale with anxiety. There were reasons why it might be ruin
to him to lose this morning train; and yet he did not want to betray too
much eagerness, lest that should spoil his chances.
Here she was at last, white as a corpse, and with red swollen eyelids
which indicated a night of weeping. Her appearance was far from
flattering to her husband, yet she gave him a wan little smile and a
civil good morning.
'Here, Pluto, take your Proserpine,' said Miss Wendover, trying to make
light of the situation, though sore at heart. 'I wish you would be
content to keep her six months of the year, and let me have her for the
'It needn't be an eternal parting, Aunt Betsy,' answered Brian, with
assumed cheeriness; 'Ida can come to see you whenever you like, and Ida's
husband too, if you will have him. We are not starting for the
'Be kind to her,' said Miss Wendover, gravely, 'for my sake, if not for
her own. It shall be the better for you when I am dead and gone if you
make her a happy woman.'
This promise from a lady who owned a snug little landed estate, and money
in the funds, meant a good deal. Brian grasped his aunt's hand.
'You know that I adore her,' he said. 'I shall be her slave.'
'Be a good husband, honest and true. She doesn't want a slave,' replied
Miss Wendover, in her incisive way.
Ida flung her arms round that generous friend's neck, and kissed her with
'God bless you for your goodness to me! God bless you for forgiving me,'
'He is a Being of infinite love and pity, and He will not bless those who
cannot pardon,' answered Miss Wendover. 'There, my dear, go and be happy
with your young husband. He may not be such a very bad bargain, after
This was, as it were, the old shoe thrown after the bride and bridegroom.
In another minute the dog-cart was rattling along the lane, Brian
driving, and the groom sitting behind with Ida's luggage, which was more
important by one neat black trunk than it had been a year ago.
Bessie and the younger children were standing on the patch of
grass outside The Knoll gates, in garden hats, and no gloves,
waving affectionate adieux. Brian gave them no chance of any further
leave-taking driving towards the downs at a smart pace. 'Do you remember
my driving you to catch the earlier train, a year ago this day?' he asked
his pale companion, by way of conversation.
'Odd, isn't it?--exactly one year to-day.'
And this was about all their discourse till they were at Winchester
'London papers in yet?' asked Brian.
'No, sir. You'll get them at Basingstoke.'
He took his wife into a first-class carriage--an extravagance which
surprised her, knowing his precarious means.
'I hope you are not travelling first-class on my account,' she said; 'I
am not accustomed to such luxury.'
'Oh, we can afford it to-day. I am not quite such a pauper as I was when
I offered you those two sovereigns. If you would like to buy yourself a
silk gown or a new bonnet, or anything in that line to-day, I can manage
'No, thank you; I have everything I want,' she answered with a faint
The memory of that bygone day was too bitter.
'What a wonderful wife! I thought that to be in want of a new bonnet was
a woman's normal condition,' said Brian, trying to be lively.
He had bought _Punch_ and other comic journals at the station, and spread
them out before his wife--as an intellectual feast. The breezy drive
over the downs had revived her beauty a little. The eyelids had lost
their red swollen look, but she was still very pale, and there was a
nervous quiver of the lips now and then which betokened a tendency to
hysteria. She sat at the open window, looking away towards those
vanishing hills. A moment, and the tufted crest of St. Catherine's had
gone--the low-lying meadows--the winding stream--the cathedral's stunted
tower--it was all gone, like a dream.
'Dreadful hole of a place,' said Brian, contemptuously; 'a comfortably
feathered old nest for rooks and parsons and ancient spinsters, but a
dungeon for anybody else.'
'I think it is the dearest old city in the world.'
'Old enough, and dear enough, in all conscience,' answered Brian. 'My
uncle's tailor had the audacity to charge me thirty shillings for a
waistcoat. But it's the most deadly-lively place I know. All country
towns are deadly-lively; in fact, there are only two places fit for young
people to live in--London and Paris!'
'I suppose you mean to live in London?' said Ida, listlessly. She did not
feel as if she were personally interested in the matter. If she were
forced to live with a man she despised, the place of her habitation would
matter very little.
'I mean to oscillate between the two,' answered Brian. 'Were you ever in
'I envy you. You have something left to live for--a new sensation--a new
birth. We will go there in November.'
He looked for a smile, an expression of pleasure, but there was none. His
wife's face was still turned towards the landscape, her sad eyes still
fixed on the vanishing hills--no longer those familiar hill-tops around
the cathedral city, but like them in character. Soon the last of those
chalky ridges would vanish, and then would come the heathy tracts about
Woking, and the fertile meads in the Thames valley.
The train stopped for five minutes at Basingstoke, and Brian offered his
wife tea, lemonade, anything which the refreshment-room could produce,
but she declined everything.
'We two have not broken bread together since we were one,' he said, still
struggling after liveliness; 'let us eat something together, if it be
only a Bath bun.'
'I am not hungry, thanks,' she answered listlessly.
'Papers! papers!' shouted the small imp attached to the bookstall.
'Morning paper--_Times, Standard, Telegraph, Daily News, Morning Post!_'
Brian drew up the window abruptly, as if he had seen a scorpion.
An elderly gentleman trotted up to the carriage, opened the door, and
came in, his arms full of newspapers. He settled himself in his corner,
and looked about him with a benevolent air, as if courting friendly
intercourse. Brian seated himself opposite his wife, looking black as
thunder. Ida was indifferent to such petty details of life as unknown
elderly gentlemen. Her mind was full of troubled thoughts about the
friends she had left--most of all that one friend whose thrilling voice
still sounded in her ears--that one voice which had power to move her
'And come what may, I _have been_ bless'd.' That is a woman's first
thought in any desperate case of this kind. The poet struck a note of
universal truth in that immortal line. There is endless consolation in
the knowledge that heart has answered to heart; that the fond futile love
to which Fate forbids a happy issue has not been lavished on a dumb,
irresponsive idol. If there has been madness, folly, it has not been
one-sided foolishness. He too has loved; he too must suffer. Bind Eloisa
with what vows, surround her with what walls you will, even in her
despair there is one golden thought: her Abelard has loved her--will love
on till the end of life--since such a flame should be eternal as the
He had loved her! Pride and rapture were in the thought. She told herself
that such pride, such delight was sinful, and that she must fight against
and conquer this sin. She must shut Brian of the Abbey out of her mind
for evermore; she must school herself to believe that he and she had
never met; so train and subjugate herself that a few months hence she
might be able to read the announcement of his marriage--should such a
thing occur--without one guilty pang.
And then she looked back and tried to recall her life before she had
known him. What was it like? A blank? She felt like one who has received
some injury to the brain, or endured severe illness which has blotted out
all memory of the life which went before. She sat with her pale fixed
face turned towards the open window, her eyes gazing on the landscape
with a vacant, far-away look--her husband watching her every now and
then, furtively, anxiously.
The elderly gentleman in the corner beamed at her occasionally through
his spectacles. She was young, handsome, and looked unhappy. He was
interested in her; in a benevolent, paternal spirit. He thought it likely
that the young man was her brother, though there was no likeness between
them; and that she was being parted by family authority from some other
young man who was less, and yet more, than a brother. He made up his
little story about her, and then, by way of consolation, offered her his
_Times_, which he had done with by this time.
Brian turned quickly, and stretched out his hand, as if to intercept the
paper; but he was too late. Ida had taken it, and was staring absently at
the leading articles. She read on listlessly, vaguely, for a little
while, going over the words mechanically, reading how Sir Somebody
Something, a leading light of the Opposition, had been holding forth at
an agricultural meeting, arguing that never since the date of Magna
Charta had the national freedom been in such peril as it was at this
hour; never had any Ministry so wantonly trifled with the rights of a
great people, or so supinely submitted to the degradation of a once
glorious country; never, within the memory of man, or, he would go
further and say, within the records of history, was our agricultural
interest so wantonly neglected, our commercial predominance so supinely
surrendered, our army so unprepared for action, and our influence in the
affairs of Europe so audaciously set at naught. The right honourable
gentleman gave the Ministry another year to complete the ruin of their
country. They might do it in six months; yes, he would venture to say,
or even in three months; but he gave them at most a year. Favourable
accidents, against which even the blind fatuity and garrulous
pig-headedness of septuagenarian senility could not prevail might prolong
the struggle; but the day of doom was inevitable, unless--and so on, and
so on, with a running commentary by the leader writer.
Ida read without knowing what she was reading, till presently her eyes
glanced idly to another part of the page, and there were arrested by a
short paragraph headed, FATAL STORM IN THE HEBRIDES.
Was it not in the Hebrides she had last heard of Sir Vernon's yacht the
'Among other accidents in the terrible gale on Tuesday night and
Wednesday morning, we regret to number the loss of the schooner yacht
_Seamew_, which was capsized in a squall off the Isle of Skye, with the
loss of the owner, Sir Vernon Palliser, his brother, Mr. P. Palliser,
Captain Greenway, and seven of the crew. Three men and the cabin-boy were
saved by a fishing boat, the crew of which witnessed the sad catastrophe,
but were too far off to be of much help.' And then followed a description
of the accident, which had been caused by the violence of the storm,
rather than by bad seamanship or carelessness on the part of the captain,
who, with Sir Vernon and his brother, both skilled seamen, had the vessel
well in hand a few minutes before she went down.
Ida let the paper fall from her hand with a cry of horror.
'Vernon, poor Vernon, and Peter too--those good, kind-hearted young
She burst into tears, remembering the two frank, kind faces looking at
her from the marble portico, in the afternoon sunlight, the warm welcome,
the feeling of kindred which had shown itself so thoroughly in their
words and looks. And they were gone--they who a month ago were full of
life and gladness. The cruel inexorable sea had devoured their youth and
strength and all the promises and hopes of their being.
The elderly gentleman moved to the seat next hers full of compassion.
'Look at that,' she said, as Brian picked up the paper; 'my cousins, both
'I am sorry you have found bad news in the paper,' said the elderly
stranger, looking at her sympathetically through his spectacles.
'My two cousins, sir,' she said, 'they have both been drowned. Such fine,
honest young fellows. It is too dreadful.'
'That wreck in the Hebrides? Yes, it is a sad thing; and Sir Vernon
Palliser and his brother were your cousins?' I am so sorry I showed you
the paper. But I wonder you had not heard of this sooner; it was in the
evening papers yesterday.'
'Then you must have known that my cousins were dead when you came to
Kingthorpe last night?' said Ida, looking up at her husband.
Suddenly, in a flash of memory, came back those thoughtless words of hers
spoke at Les Fontaines, when her father talked of the possibility of
inheriting a fortune and a baronetcy. She remembered how she had said, in
bitterness of spirit, 'Of course they will live to the age of Methuselah.
Whoever heard of luck coming our way?' And now this kind of luck, which
meant sudden death for two amiable, open-handed young men, had come her
way. How lightly she had spoken of those two young lives! how bitter had
been her thoughts about the rich and happy!
This thing had been known in London yesterday afternoon. It was this
knowledge which had sent Brian Walford to Kingthorpe to claim his wife.
She had suddenly become a wife worth claiming--the daughter of Sir
Reginald Palliser of Wimperfield.
'You knew this,' she repeated, looking at her husband, with infinite
scorn expressed in eye and lip.
'No, upon my soul,' he answered; 'I left town early. It flashed upon
me that it was Bessie's birthday--you would be all assembled at The
Knoll--there was just time for me to get there before the fun was
over--don't you know--'
'And you had not seen the papers? you did _not_ know this?' added Ida,
fixing him with her eyes.
'No, upon my word. I had no idea!'
She knew that he was lying.
'Then it was a very curious coincidence,' she said freezingly.
'How a coincidence?'
'That after so long an absence you should happen to come to Kingthorpe on
the day that made such a change in my father's fortunes.'
'I came because of Bessie's birthday--as I told you before. Does this sad
event make any difference to your father?' he asked innocently. 'Are
there not----nearer relatives?'
'None that I know of.'
The elderly gentleman, a little hard of hearing, as he called it, looked
on and wondered at this somewhat eccentric young couple, who seemed, from
those snatches of speech which reached him, to be on the verge of a
quarrel. He felt very sorry for the lady, who was so handsome, and so
interesting. The young man was gentlemanlike and good looking, but had
not that frank bright outlook which is the glory of a young Englishman.
He was dressed a little too foppishly for the elder man's liking, and had
the air of being over-careful of his own person.
And now the train had passed Sandown, was rushing on to Wimbledon and the
London smoke. All the blue had gone out of the sky, all the beauty had
gone from the earth, Ida thought, as small suburban villas followed each
other in a monotonous sequence, some old and shabby, others new and
smart; and then all that is ugliest in the great city surrounded them as
they steamed slowly into Waterloo station.
A four-wheel cab took them to an hotel in the purlieus of Fleet Street, a
big new hotel, but so shut in and surrounded by other buildings that Ida
felt as if she could hardly breathe in it--she who had lived among
gardens and green fields, and with all the winds of heaven blowing on her
across the rolling downs, from the forest and the sea.
'What a hateful place London is!' she exclaimed. 'Can any one like to
live in it?'
'All sensible people like it better than any other bit of the world, bar
Paris,' answered Brian. 'But it is not particularly pretty to look at.
City life is an acquired taste.'
This was on the stairs, while they were following the waiter to the
private sitting-room for which Mr. Walford had asked It was a neat little
room on the first floor, looking into a stony city square, surrounded by
The waiter, after the manner of his kind, was loth to leave without an
order. Ida declined anything in the way of luncheon; so Brian ordered tea
and toast, and the man departed with an air of resignation rather than
alacrity, considering the order a poor one.
When they were quite alone Ida went up to her husband, laid her hand upon
his arm, and looked up at him with earnest, imploring eyes.
'Brian,' she said, 'I have come with you because I was told it was my
duty to come--told so by people who are wiser than I.'
'Of course it was your duty,' Brian answered impatiently. 'Nobody could
doubt that. We have been fools to live asunder so long.'
'Do you think we may not be more foolish for trying our lives
together--if we do not love each other--or trust each other.'
'I love you--that's all I know about it. As for trusting--well, I think I
have been too easy, have trusted you too far.'
'But I do not either love you--or trust you,' she said, lifting up her
head, and looking at him with kindling eyes and burning cheeks--ashamed
for him and for herself. 'I thought once that I could love you. I know
now that I never can; and what is still worse that I never can trust you.
No, Brian, never. You told me a lie to-day.'
'How dare you say that?'
'I dare say what I know to be the truth--the bitter, shameful truth. You
lied to me to-day in the railway-carriage, when you told me that you did
not know of my cousin's death last night--that you did not know of the
change in my fathers position.'
'You are a nice young lady to accuse your husband of lying,' he answered,
scowling at her. 'I tell you I saw no evening papers: I left London at
half-past five o'clock. But even if I had known, what does that matter?
It makes no difference to my right over your life. You are my wife and
you belong to me. I was fool enough to let you go last October: you were
in such a fury that you took me off my guard; I had no time to assert my
rights: and then _vogue la galere_ has always been my motto. But the time
came when I felt that I had been an ass to allow myself to be so treated;
and I made up my mind to claim you, and to stand no denial of my rights.
This determination was some time ripening in my mind; and then came
Bessie's birthday, the anniversary of our first meeting, the birthday of
my love, and I said to myself that I would claim you on that day, and no
'And that day and no other made my father a rich man. Poor Vernon! poor
Peter! so brave, so frank, so true! to think that _you_ should profit by
their death!' this she said with ineffable contempt, looking at him from
head to foot, as if he were a creature of inferior mould. 'But perhaps
you mistook the case. I am not an heiress, remember, even now. I have a
little brother who will inherit everything.'
'I have not forgotten your brother. I don't want you to be an heiress. I
want you--and your love.'
'That you never will have,' she cried passionately; and then she fell on
her knees at his feet--she to whom he had knelt on their wedding-day--and
lifted her clasped hands with piteous entreaty, 'Brian Walford, be
merciful to me. I do not love you, I never loved you, can never love you.
In an evil hour I took the fatal step which gives you power over me. But,
for God's sake, be generous, and forbear to use that power. No good can
ever come of our union--no good, but unspeakable evil; nothing but misery
for me--nothing but bitterness for you. We shall quarrel--we shall hate
'I'll risk that,' he said; 'you are mine, and nothing shall make me give
'Nothing?' she cried, rising suddenly, and flaming out at him like a
sibyl--'nothing? Not even the knowledge that I love another man?'
'Not even that. Let the other man beware, whoever he is. And you beware
how you keep to your duty as my wife. No, Ida, I will not let you go. I
was a fool last year--and I was taken unawares. I am a wiser man now, and
my decision is irrevocable. You are my wife, my goods, my chattels--God
help you if you deny my claim.'
TAKING LIFE QUIETLY.
It was the second week in October, and the woods were changing their
green liveries of summer for tawny and amber tints, so various and so
harmonious in their delicate gradations that the eye of the artist was
gladdened by their decay. The hawthorns in Wimperfield Park glowed in
the distance like patches of crimson flame, and the undulating sweeps
of bracken showed golden-brown against the green-sward; while the
oaks-symbolic of all that is solid, ponderous, and constant in woodland
nature, slow to bloom and slow to die--had hardly a faded leaf to murk
the coming of winter.
A fine domain, this Wimperfield Park, with its hill and vale, its oaks
and beeches, and avenue of immemorial elms, to be owned by the man who
six weeks ago had no better shelter than a lath and plaster villa in a
French village, and who had found it a hard thing to pay the rent of that
trumpery tenement; and yet Sir Reginald Palliser accepted the change in
his circumstances as tranquilly as if it had been but a migration from
the red room to the blue. He took good fortune with the same easy
indolent air with which he had endured evil fortune. He had the Horatian
temperament, uneager to anticipate the future, content if the present
were fairly comfortable, sighing for no palatial halls over-arched with
gold and ivory, no porphyry columns, or marble terraces encroaching upon
the sea. He was a man to whom it had been but a slight affliction to live
in a small house, and to be deprived of all pomp and state, nay, even of
the normal surroundings of gentle birth, so long as he had those things
which were absolutely necessary to his own personal comfort. He was
honestly sorry for the untimely fate of his young kinsmen; but he slipped
into his nephew's vacant place with an ease which filled his wife and
daughter with wonder.
To poor little Fanny Palliser, who had never known the sensation of a
spare five-pound note, nay, of even a sovereign which she might
squander on the whim of the moment, this sudden possession of ample
means was strange even to bewilderment. Not to have to cut and contrive
any more, not to have to cook her husband's dinners, or to run about
from morning till twilight, supplementing the labours of an incompetent
maid-of-all-work, was to enter upon a new phase of life almost as
surprising as if she, Fanny Palliser, had died and been buried, and
been resolved back into the elements, to be born again as a princess of
the blood royal. She kept on repeating feebly that it was all like a
dream--she had not been able to realise the change yet.
To Reginald Palliser the inheritance of Wimperfield was only a return to
the home of his childhood. To his lowly-born little helpmeet it was the
beginning of a new life. It was a new sensation to Fanny Palliser to live
in large rooms, to walk about a house in which the long corridors, the
wide staircase, the echoing stone hall, the plenitude of light and space,
seemed to her to belong to a public institution rather than to a domestic
dwelling--a new sensation, and not altogether a pleasant one. She was
awe-stricken by the grandeur--the largeness and airiness of her new
There was not one of the sitting-rooms at Wimperfield in which, even
after a month's residence, she could feel thoroughly at home. She envied
Mrs. Moggs, the housekeeper, her parlour looking into the stable-yard,
which seemed to Sir Reginald's wife the only really snug room within the
four walls of that respectable mansion. Mrs. Moggs' old-fashioned grate
and brass fender, little round table, tea-tray, and kettle singing on the
hob, reminded Fanny Palliser of her own girlhood, when her mother's
sitting room had worn just such an air of humble comfort. Those white
and gold drawing-rooms, with their amber satin curtains and Georgian
furniture, had a scenic and altogether artificial appearance to the
unaccustomed eyes of one born and reared amidst the narrow surroundings
And then, again, how terrible was that highly respectable old butler, who
knew the ways of gentle folks so much better than his new mistress did;
and who put her to shame, in a quiet unconscious way, a hundred times a
day by his superior knowledge and experience. How often she asked for
things that were altogether wrong; how continually she exposed her
ignorance, both to Rogers the butler, and to Moggs, the housekeeper; and
what a feeble creature she felt herself in the presence of Jane Dyson,
her own maid, who had come to her fresh from the sainted presence of an
archbishop's wife, and who was inclined to be slightly dictatorial in
consequence, always quoting and referring to that paragon of women, her
late mistress, whose only error in life had been the leaving it before
Jane Dyson had saved enough to justify her retirement from service. Those
highly-educated retainers were a terror to poor little Fanny Palliser.
There were times when she would have been glad to be impecunious again,
and running after her faithful Lizette, who had every possible failing
except that of being superior to her mistress. These Wimperfield servants
were models; but they did not disguise their quiet contempt for a lady
who was evidently a stranger in that sphere where powdered footmen and
elaborate dinners are among the indispensables of existence.
Only six weeks, and Sir Reginald and his family were established in the
place that had been Sir Vernon's, and the old servants waited on their
new lord, and all the mechanical routine of life went on as smoothly as
if there had been no change of masters. Ida found herself wondering which
was the reality and which the dream--the past or the present. There had
been a few days of excitement, hurry, and confusion at Les Fontaines
after the awful news of the wreck: and then Sir Reginald had come to
London with his wife and boy, and had put up at the Grosvenor Hotel while
the lawyers settled the details of his inheritance. Sir Vernon had left
no will. Everything went to the heir-at-law--pictures, plate, horses and
carriages, and those wonderful cellars of old wine which had been slowly
accumulated by Sir Reginald's father and grandfather.
Reginald Palliser passed from the pittance of a half-pay captain, eked
out by the desultory donations of his open-handed nephew, to the
possession of a fine income and a perfectly-appointed establishment.
There was nothing for him to do, no trouble of furnishing, or finding
servants. He came into his kingdom, and everything was ready for him. Yet
in this house where he was born, in which every stone was familiar to
him, how little that was mortal was left of those vanished days of his
youth! Among all these old servants there was only one who remembered the
new master's boyhood; and that was a deaf old helper in the garden, a man
who seemed past all labour except the sweeping up of dead leaves, being
himself little better than a withered leaf. This man remembered wheeling
the present baronet about the gardens in his barrow, forty years ago--his
function even then being to collect the fallen leaves--and was a little
offended with Sir Reginald for having forgotten the man and the fact.
At the Grosvenor Hotel, calm even in the dawn of his altered fortunes,
Brian Walford found his father-in-law, and told, with the pleasantest,
most plausible air, the story of Ida's clandestine marriage, slurring
over every detail that reflected on himself, and making very light of
Ida's revulsion of feeling, which he represented as a girlish whim,
rather than a woman's bitter anger against the husband who had allowed
her to marry him under a delusion as to his social status.
Sir Reginald was at first inclined to be angry. The whole thing was a
mystification--absurd, discreditable. His daughter had grossly deceived
him. It needed all the stepmother's gentle influence to soften the
outraged father's feelings. But Lady Palliser said all that was kindly
about Ida's youth and inexperience, her impulsive nature; and a man
who has just dropped into L7,000 a year is hardly disposed to be
inflexible. Sir Reginald was too generous even to question Brian
closely as to his capability of supporting a wife. The man was a
gentleman--young, good-looking, with winning manners, and a member
of a family in which his daughter had found warm and generous friends.
Ida's father could not be uncivil to a Wendover.
'Well, my good fellow, it is altogether a foolish business,' he said;
'but what's done cannot be undone. I am sorry my daughter did not ask my
leave before she plunged into matrimony; but I suppose I must forgive
her, and her husband into the bargain. You have both acted like a pair of
children, falling in love and marrying, and quarrelling, and making
friends again, without rhyme or reason; but the best thing you can do is
to bring your wife--your wife? my little Ida a wife?--Good God, how old I
am getting!--yes, you had better bring her to Wimperfield next week, and
then we can get better acquainted with you, and I shall see what I can do
for you both.'
This no doubt meant a handsome allowance. Brian Walford felt, for
the first time in his life, that he had fallen on his feet. He hated
the country, and Wimperfield would be only a shade better than
Kingthorpe; but it was essential that he should please his easy-tempered
'If he wanted me to live in the moon I should have to go there!' he said
to himself. And then Lady Palliser went into an adjoining chamber and
brought forth little Vernon, to exhibit him, as a particular favour and
privilege, to Ida's husband; and Brian, who detested children, had to
appear grateful, and to address himself to the irksome task of making
friends with the little man. This was not easy, for the boy, though frank
and bright enough in a general way, did not take to his new connexion:
and it was only when Brian spoke of Ida that his young brother-in-law
became friendly. 'Where is she? why haven't you brought her? Take me to
her directly-minute,' said the child, whose English savoured rather of
the lower than the upper strata of society.
Brian snapped at the opportunity, and carried the boy off instanter in a
Hansom cab to that hotel near Fleet Street where his young wife was
pining in her second-floor sitting-room, like a wild woodland bird behind
the bars of a cage. The young man thought the little fellow might be a
harbinger of peace--nor was he mistaken, for Ida melted at sight of him,
and seemed quite happy when they three sat down to a dainty little
luncheon, she waiting upon and petting her young brother all the while.
'This is partridge, isn't it?' asked Vernie. 'I like partridge. We always
have nice dinners now--jellies, and creams, and wine that goes fizz; and
we all have the same as pa. We didn't in France, you know,' explained the
boy, unconscious of any reason for suppressing facts in the presence of
'Mamma and I used to have any little bits--it didn't matter for us, you
know--we could pinch. Mamma was used to it, and it was good for me, you
know, because I'm often bilious--and it's better to go without rich
things than to take Gregory's powder, isn't it?'
'Decidedly,' said Brian, who was not too old to remember that bugbear of
the Edinburgh pharmacopoeia.
'And now we have dessert every day,' continued Vernie; 'lovely
dessert--almonds and raisins, and pears, and nuts, and things, just like
Christmas Day. I thought that kind of dessert was only meant for
Christmas Day. And we have men to wait upon us, dressed like clergymen,
just like him,' added the child, pointing to the waiter.
'Oh, Vernie, it's so rude to point,' murmured Ida.
'Not for me; I can't be rude,' replied the boy, with conviction. 'I'm a
baronet's son. I shall be a baronet myself some day. Mamma told me. I may
do what I like.'
'No, pet, you must be a gentleman. If you were a king's son you would
have to be that.'
'Then I wouldn't. What's the use of being rich if you can't do what you
like?' demanded Vernie, who already began to have ideas, and who was as
sharp for his age as the chicken which begins to catch flies directly its
head is out of the shell.
'What's the good of being somebody if you have to behave just as well as
if you were nobody?' said Brian. 'Little Vernon has the feudal idea
strongly developed; no doubt; in evolution from some long-departed
ancestor, who lived in the days when there were different laws for the
knight and the villain. Now, how are we going to amuse this young
gentleman? I have leave to keep him till half-past seven, when we are all
three to dine with Sir Reginald and Lady Palliser at the Grosvenor.'
Vernie, who was half way through his second glass of sparkling moselle,
burst out laughing.
'Lady Palliser!' he exclaimed, 'it's so funny to hear mamma called Lady:
because she isn't a lady, you know. She used to run about the house all
day with her sleeves tucked up, and she used to cook; and Jane, our
English servant, said no lady ever did that. Jane and mamma used to
quarrel,' explained the infant, calmly.
'Jane knew very little about what makes a lady or not a lady,' said Ida,
grieved to find a want of elevation in the little man's ideas. 'Some of
the truest and noblest ladies have worked hard all their lives.'
'But not with their sleeves tucked up,' argued the boy; 'no lady would do
that. Papa told mamma so one day, and _he_ must know. He told her she was
cook, slush, and bottle-washer. Wasn't that funny? You worked hard too,
didn't you, Ida?' interrogated Vernon. 'Papa paid you were a regular
drudge at Miss Pew's. He said it was a hard thing that such a handsome
girl as you should be a drudge, but his poverty and not his will
'Vernie quotes Shakespeare,' exclaimed Brian, trying to take the thing
lightly, but painfully conscious of the head waiter, who was deliberately
removing crumbs with a silver scraper. It could not matter to any one
what the waiter--a waif from Whitechapel or the Dials most likely--knew
or did not know of Mr. and Mrs. Wendover's family affairs; but there is
an instinctive feeling that any humiliating details of life should be
kept from these menials. They should be maintained in the delusion that
the superior class which employs them has never known want or difficulty.
Perhaps the maintenance of this great sham is not without its evil, as it
is apt to make the waiter class rapacious and exacting, and ready to
impute meanness to that superior order which has wallowed in wealth from
'Suppose we go to the Tower?' inquired Brian. 'Perhaps Vernie has never
seen the Tower?'
Neither Vernon nor Ida had seen that stony page of feudal history, and
Vernon had to be informed what manner of building it was, his sole idea
of a tower being Babel, which he had often tried to reproduce with his
wooden bricks, with no happier result than was obtained in the original
attempt. So another Hansom was chartered, and they all went off to the
Tower, Vernon sitting between them, perky and loquacious, and intensely
curious about every object they passed on their way.
Interested in the associations of the grim old citadel, amused and
pleaded by little Vernon's prattle as he trotted about holding his
sister's hand, Ida forgot to be unhappy upon that particular afternoon.
The whole history of her marriage was a misery to her; the marriage
itself was a mistake; but there are hours of respite in the saddest life,
and she was brave enough to try and make the best of hers. Above all, she
was too generous to wish her husband to be painfully conscious of the
change in their relative positions, that he was now in a manner dependent
upon her father. Her own proud nature, which would have profoundly felt
the humiliation of such a position as that which Brian Walford now
occupied, was moved to pity for those feelings of shame and degradation
which he might or might not experience, and she was kinder to him on this
account than she would have been otherwise.
The dinner at the Grosvenor went off with as much appearance of goodwill
and proper family feeling as if there had been no flaw in Ida's
matrimonial bliss. Sir Reginald was full of kindness for his new
son-in-law: as he would have been for any other human creature whom he
had asked to dinner. Hospitality was a natural instinct of his being, and
he invited Brian Wendover to take up his abode at Wimperfield as easily
as he would have offered him a cigar.
'There are no end of rooms. It is a regular barrack,' he said. 'You and
Ida can be very comfortable without putting my little woman or me out of
This had happened just six weeks ago, and now Ida and her half-brother
were wandering about among the ferny hollows and breezy heights of the
park, or roving off to adjacent heaths and hills, and it seemed almost
as if they had lived there all their lives. Vernon had been quick to
make himself at home in the stately old house, rummaging and foraging
in every room, routing out all manner of forgotten treasures, riding his
father's old rocking-horse, exploring stables and lofts, saddle-rooms,
and long-disused holes and corners, going up ladders, climbing walls,
and endangering life and limbs in every possible way which infantine
ingenuity could suggest.
'Mamma, however could we live so long in that horrid little house in
France?' he demanded one day, as he prowled about his mother's spacious
morning-room in the autumn dusk, dragging fine old folios out of a book