Part 3 out of 10
sudden yearning for the perfect peace, the calm eventless days of her old
life at Mill Cottage, had taken possession of her. In a moment, as if by
some magical change, the glory and delight of that brilliant existence at
the Castle seemed to have vanished away. There were the same pleasures, the
same people; but the very atmosphere was different, and she began to feel
like those other girls whose dulness of soul she had wondered at a little
"I suppose I enjoyed myself too much when first I came here," she thought,
perplexed by this change in herself. "I gave myself up too entirely to
the novelty of this gay life, and have used up my capacity for enjoyment,
almost like those girls who have gone through half-a-dozen London seasons."
When Lady Geraldine and George Fairfax were gone, it seemed to Clarissa
that the Castle had a vacant air without them. The play still went on,
but the chief actors had vanished from the scene. Miss Lovel had allowed
herself to feel an almost morbid interest in Mr. Fairfax's betrothed. She
had watched Lady Geraldine from day to day, half unconsciously, almost in
spite of herself, wondering whether she really loved her future husband, or
whether this alliance were only the dreary simulacrum she had read of
in fashionable novels--a marriage of convenience. Lady Laura; certainly
declared that her sister was much attached to Mr. Fairfax; but then, in
an artificial world, where such a mode of marrying and giving in marriage
obtained, it would obviously be the business of the bride's relatives to
affect a warm belief in her affection for the chosen victim. In all her
watching Clarissa had never surprised one outward sign of Geraldine
Challoner's love. It was very difficult for a warm-hearted impulsive girl
to believe in the possibility of any depth of feeling beneath that coldly
placid manner. Nor did she perceive in Mr. Fairfax himself many of those
evidences of affection which she would have expected from a man in his
position. It was quite true that as the time of his marriage drew near he
devoted himself more and more exclusively to his betrothed; but Clarissa
could not help fancying, among her many fancies about these two people,
that them was something formal and ceremonial in his devotion; that he had,
at the best, something of the air of a man who was doing his duty. Yet it
would have seemed absurd to doubt the reality of his attachment to Lady
Geraldine, or to fear the result of an engagement that had grown out of a
friendship which had lasted for years. The chorus of friends at Hale Castle
were never tired of dwelling upon this fact, and declaring what a beautiful
and perfect arrangement such a marriage was. It was only Lizzie Fermor who,
in moments of confidential converse with Clarissa, was apt to elevate her
expressive eyebrows and impertinent little nose, and to make disrespectful
comments upon the subject of Lady Geraldine's engagement--remarks which
Miss Lovel felt it in some manner her duty to parry, by a warm defence of
her friend's sister.
"You are such a partisan, Clarissa," Miss Fermor would exclaim impatiently;
"but take my word for it, that woman only marries George Fairfax because
she feels she has come to the end of her chances, and that this is about
the last opportunity she may have of making a decent marriage."
The engaged couple were to be absent only a week--that was a settled point;
for on the very day after that arranged for their return there was to be
a ball at Hale Castle--the first real ball of the season--an event which
would of course lose half its glory if Lady Geraldine and her lover were
missing. So Laura Armstrong had been most emphatic in her parting charge to
"Remember, George, however fascinating your bachelor friends may be--and of
course we know that nothing we have to offer you in a civilized way can be
so delightful as roughing it in a Highland bothy (bothy is what you call
your cottage, isn't it?) with a tribe of wild sportsmen--you are to be back
in time for my ball on the twenty-fifth. I shall never forgive you, if you
"My dear Lady Laura, I would perish in the struggle to be up to time,
rather than be such a caitiff. I would do the journey on foot, like Jeannie
Deans, rather than incur the odium of disappointing so fair a hostess."
And upon this Mr. Fairfax departed, with a gayer aspect than he had worn
of late, almost as if it had been a relief to him to get away from Hale
Lady Laura had a new set of visitors coming, and was full of the business
involved in their reception. She was not a person who left every
arrangement to servants, numerous and skilful as her staff was. She liked
to have a finger in every pie, and it was one of her boasts that no
department of the household was without her supervision. She would stop in
the middle of a page of Tasso to discuss the day's bill of fare with her
cook; and that functionary had enough to do to gratify my lady's eagerness
for originality and distinction even in the details of her dinner-table.
"My good Volavent," she would say, tossing the poor man's list aside, with
a despairing shrug of her shoulders, "all these entrees are as old as the
hills. I am sure Adam must have had stewed pigeons with green peas, and
chicken a la Marengo--they are the very ABC of cookery. Do, pray, strike
out something a little newer. Let me see; I copied the menu of a dinner at
St. Petersburg from 'Count Cralonzki's Diary of his Own Times,' the other
day, on purpose to show you. There really are some ideas in it. Do look it
over, Volavent, and see if it will inspire you. We must try to rise above
the level of a West-end hotel."
In the same manner did my lady supervise the gardens, to the affliction of
the chief official and his dozen or so of underlings. To have the first
peaches and the last grapes in the county of York, to decorate her table
with the latest marvel in pitcher plants and rare butterfly-shaped orchids,
was Lady Laura's ambition; to astonish morning visitors with new effects in
the garden her unceasing desire. Nor within doors was her influence
less actively exercised. Drawing-rooms and boudoirs, morning-rooms and
bedchambers, were always undergoing some improving touch, some graceful
embellishment, inspired by that changeful fancy. When new visitors were
expected at the Castle, Lady Laura flitted about their rooms, inspecting
every arrangement, and thinking of the smallest minutiae. She would even
look into the rooms prepared for the servants on these occasions, to be
sure that nothing was wanting for their comfort. She liked the very maids
and valets to go away and declare there was no place so pleasant as Hale
Castle. Perhaps when people had been to her two or three times, she was apt
to grow a little more careless upon these points. To dazzle and astonish
was her chief delight, and of course it is somewhat difficult to dazzle old
In the two days after Geraldine Challoner's departure Lady Laura was in
her gayest mood. She had a delightful air of mystery in her converse with
Clarissa; would stop suddenly sometimes in the midst of her discourse
to kiss the girl, and would contemplate her for a few moments with her
"My dear Lady Laura, what pleasant subject are you thinking about?"
Clarissa asked wonderingly; "I am sure there is something. You have such a
mysterious air to-day, and one would suppose by your manner that I must be
concerned in this mystery."
"And suppose you were, Clary--suppose I were plotting for your happiness?
But no; there is really nothing; you must not take such silly fancies into
your head. You know how much I love you, Clary--as much as if you were a
younger sister of my own; and there is nothing I would not do to secure
Clarissa shook her head sadly.
"My dear Lady Laura, good and generous as you are, it is not in your power
to do that," she said, "unless you could make my father love me, or bring
my brother happily home."
"Or give you back Arden Court?" suggested Lady Laura, smiling.
"Ah, that is the wildest dream of all! But I would not even ask Providence
for that. I would be content, if my father loved me; if we were only a
happy united family."
"Don't you think your father would be a changed man, if he could get back
his old home somehow? The loss of that must have soured him a good deal."
"I don't know about that. Yes, of course that loss does weigh upon his
mind; but even when we were almost children he did not seem to care much
for my brother Austin or me. He was not like other fathers."
"His money troubles may have oppressed him even then. The loss of Arden
Court might have been a foreseen calamity."
"Yes, it may have been so. But there is no use in thinking of that. Even if
papa were rich enough to buy it, Mr. Granger would never sell the Court."
"Sell it!" repeated Lady Laura, meditatively; "well, perhaps not. One could
hardly expect him to do that--a place for which he has done so much. But
one never knows what may happen; I have really seen such wonderful changes
come to pass among friends and acquaintances of mine, that scarcely
anything would astonish me--no, Clary, not if I were to see you mistress of
And then Lady Laura kissed her protegee once more with effusion, and anon
dipped her brush in the carmine, and went on with the manipulation of a
florid initial in her Missal--a fat gothic M, interlaced with ivy-leaves
"You haven't asked me who the people are that I am expecting this
afternoon," she said presently, with a careless air.
"My dear Lady Laura, if you were to tell me their names, I don't suppose I
should be any wiser than I am now. I know so few people."
"But you do know these--or at least you know all about them. My arrivals
to-day are Mr. and Miss Granger."
Clarissa gave a faint sigh, and bent a little lower over her work.
"Well, child, are you not surprised? have you nothing to say?" cried Lady
Laura, rather impatiently.
"I--I daresay they are very nice people," Clarissa answered, nervously.
"But the truth is--I know you must despise me for such folly--I cannot help
associating them with our loss, and I have a kind of involuntary dislike of
them. I have never so much as seen them, you know--not even at church;
for they go to the gothic chapel which Mr. Granger has built in his model
village, and never come to our dear little church at Arden; and it is very
childish and absurd of me, no doubt, but I don't think I ever could like
"It is very absurd of you, Clary," returned my lady; "and if I could
be angry with you for anything, it certainly would be for this unjust
prejudice against people I want you to like. Think what a nice companion
Miss Granger would be for you when you are at home--so near a neighbour,
and really a very superior girl."
"I don't want a companion; I am used to being alone."
"Well, well, when you come to know her, you will like her very much, I
daresay, in spite of yourself; that will be my triumph. I am bent upon
bringing about friendly relation, between your father and Mr. Granger."
"You will never do that, Lady Laura."
"I don't know. I have a profound faith in my own ideas."
* * * * *
After luncheon that day, Clarissa lost sight of Lady Laura. The Castle
seemed particularly quiet on this afternoon. Nearly every one was out of
doors playing croquet; but Clarissa had begun to find croquet rather a
wearisome business of late, and had excused herself on the plea of letters
to write. She had not begun her letter-writing yet, however, but was
wandering about the house in a purposeless way--now standing still for a
quarter of an hour at a time, looking out of a window, without being in the
least degree conscious of the landscape she was looking at, and then pacing
slowly up and down the long picture gallery with a sense of relief in being
At last she roused herself from this absent dreamy state.
"I am too idle to write this afternoon," she thought. "I'll go to the
library and get a book."
The Hale library was Clarissa's delight. It was a noble collection gathered
by dead-and-gone owners of the Castle, and filled up with all the most
famous modern works at the bidding of Mr. Armstrong, who gave his
bookseller a standing order to supply everything that was proper, and
rarely for his own individual amusement or instruction had recourse to any
shelf but one which contained neat editions of the complete works of the
Druid and Mr. Apperley, the _Life of Assheton Smith_, and all the volumes
of the original _Sporting Magazine_ bound in crimson russia. These, with
_Ruff's Guide_, the _Racing Calendar_, and a few volumes on farriery,
supplied Mr. Armstrong's literary necessities. But to Clarissa, for whom
books were at once the pleasure and consolation of life, this library
seemed a treasure-house of inexhaustible delights. Her father's collection
was of the choicest, but limited. Here she found everything she had ever
heard of, and a whole world of literature she had never dreamed of. She was
not by any means a pedant or a blue-stocking, and it was naturally amongst
the books of a lighter class she found the chief attraction; but she was
better read than most girls of her age, and better able to enjoy solid
To-day she was out of spirits, and came to the library for some relief from
those vaguely painful thoughts that had oppressed her lately. The room was
so little affected by my lady's butterfly guests that she made sure of
having it all to herself this afternoon, when the voices and laughter of
the croquet-players, floating in at the open windows, told her that the
sport was still at its height.
She went into the room, and stopped suddenly a few paces from the doorway.
A gentleman was standing before the wide empty fireplace, where there was
a great dog-stove of ironwork and brass which consumed about half a ton of
coal a day in winter; a tall, ponderous-looking man, with his hands behind
him, glancing downward with cold gray eyes, but not in the least degree
inclining his stately head to listen to Lady Laura Armstrong, who was
seated on a sofa near him, fanning herself and prattling gaily after her
usual vivacious manner.
Clarissa started and drew back at sight of this tall stranger.
"Mr. Granger," she thought, and tried to make her escape without being
The attempt was a failure. Lady Laura called to her.
"Who is that in a white dress? Miss Lovel, I am sure.--Come here,
Clary--what are you running away for? I want to introduce my friend Mr.
Granger to you.--Mr. Granger, this is Miss Lovel, the Miss Lovel whose
birthplace fortune has given to you."
Mr. Granger bowed rather stiffly, and with the air of a man to whom a bow
was a matter of business.
"I regret," he said, "to have robbed Miss Lovel of a home to which she was
attached. I regret still more that she will not avail herself of my desire
to consider the park and grounds entirely at her disposal on all occasions.
Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see her use the place as if
it were her own."
"And nothing could be kinder than such a wish on your part." exclaimed my
Clarissa lifted her eyes rather shyly to the rich man's face. He was not
a connoisseur in feminine loveliness, but they struck him at once as very
fine eyes. He was a connoisseur in pictures, and no mean judge of them,
and those brilliant hazel eyes of Clarissa's reminded him of a portrait by
Velasquez, of which he was particularly proud.
"You are very kind," she murmured; "but--but there are some associations
too painful to bear. The park would remind me so bitterly of all I have
lost since I was a child."
She was thinking of her brother, and his disgrace--or misfortune; she did
not even know which of these two it was that had robbed her of him. Mr.
Granger looked at her wonderingly. Her words and manner seemed to betray
a deeper feeling than he could have supposed involved in the loss of an
estate. He was not a man of sentiment himself, and had gone through life
affected only by its sternest realities. There was something rather too
Rosa-Matildaish for his taste in this faltered speech of Clarissa's; but
he thought her a very pretty girl nevertheless, and was inclined to look
somewhat indulgently upon a weakness he would have condemned without
compunction in his daughter. Mr. Granger was a man who prided himself upon
his strength of mind, and he had a very poor idea of the exclusive recluse
whose early extravagances had made him master of Arden Court. He had not
seen Mr. Lovel half-a-dozen times in his life, for all business between
those two that could be transacted by their respective lawyers had been so
transacted; but what he had seen of that pale careworn face, that fragile
figure, and somewhat irritable manner, had led the ponderous, strong-minded
Daniel Granger to consider Marmaduke Lovel a very poor creature.
He was interested in this predecessor of his nevertheless. A man must be
harder than iron who can usurp another man's home, and sit by another man's
hearthstone, without giving some thought to the exile he has ousted. Daniel
Granger was not so hard as that, and he did profoundly pity the ruined
gentleman he had deposed. Perhaps he was still more inclined to pity the
ruined gentleman's only daughter, who must needs suffer for the sins and
errors of others.
"Now, pray don't run away, Clary," cried Lady Laura, seeing Clarissa moving
towards the door, as if still anxious to escape. "You came to look for some
books, I know.--Miss Lovel is a very clever young lady, I assure you, Mr.
Granger, and has read immensely.--Sit down, Clary; you shall take away an
armful of books by-and-by, if you like."
Clarissa seated herself near my lady's sofa with a gracious submissive air,
which the owner of Arden Court thought a rather pretty kind of thing, in
its way. He had a habit of classifying all young women in a general way
with his own daughter, as if in possessing that one specimen of the female
race he had a key to the whole species. His daughter was obedient--it was
one of her chief virtues; but somehow there was not quite such a graceful
air in her small concessions as he perceived in this little submission of
Mr. Granger was rather a silent man; but my lady rattled on gaily in her
accustomed style, and while that perennial stream of small talk flowed on,
Clarissa had leisure to observe the usurper.
He was a tall man, six feet high perhaps, with a powerful and somewhat
bulky frame, broad shoulders, a head erect and firmly planted as an
obelisk, and altogether an appearance which gave a general idea of
strength. He was not a bad-looking man by any means. His features were
large and well cut, the mouth firm as iron, and unshadowed by beard or
moustache; the eyes gray and clear, but very cold. Such a man could surely
be cruel, Clarissa thought, with an inward shudder. He was a man who would
have looked grand in a judge's wig; a man whose eyes and eyebrows, lowered
upon some trembling delinquent, might have been almost as awful as Lord
Thurlow's. Even his own light-brown hair, faintly streaked with grey, which
he wore rather long, had something of a leonine air.
He listened to Lady Laura's trivial discourse with a manner which was no
doubt meant to be gracious, but with no great show of interest. Once he
went so far as to remark that the Castle gardens were looking very fine for
so advanced a season, and attended politely to my lady's rather diffuse
account of her triumphs in the orchid line.
"I don't pretend to understand much about those things," he said, in his
stately far-off way, as if he lived in some world quite remote from Lady
Laura's, and of a superior rank in the catalogue of worlds. "They are
pretty and curious, no doubt. My daughter interests herself considerably in
that sort of thing. We have a good deal of glass at Arden--more than I care
about. My head man tells me that I must have grapes and pines all the year
round: and since he insists upon it, I submit. But I imagine that a good
many more of his pines and grapes find their way to Covent Garden than to
Clarissa remembered the old kitchen-gardens at the Court in her father's
time, when the whole extent of "glass" was comprised by a couple of
dilapidated cucumber-frames, and a queer little greenhouse in a corner,
where she and her brother had made some primitive experiments in
horticulture, and where there was a particular race of spiders, the biggest
specimens of the spidery species it had ever been her horror to encounter.
"I wonder whether the little greenhouse is there still?" she thought. "O,
no, no; battered down to the ground, of course, by this pompous man's
order. I don't suppose I should know the dear old place, if I were to see
"You are fond of botany, I suppose, Miss Lovel?" Mr. Granger asked
presently, with a palpable effort. He was not an adept in small talk, and
though in the course of years of dinner-eating and dinner-giving he had
been frequently called upon to address his conversation to young ladies, he
never opened his lips to one of the class without a sense of constraint
and an obvious difficulty. He had all his life been most at home in men's
society, where the talk was of grave things, and was no bad talker when
the question in hand was either commercial or political. But as a rich
man cannot go through life without being cultivated more or less by the
frivolous herd, Mr. Granger had been compelled to conform himself somehow
to the requirements of civilised society, and to talk in his stiff bald way
of things which he neither understood nor cared for.
"I am fond of flowers," Clarissa answered, "but I really know nothing of
botany. I would always rather paint them than anatomise them."
"Indeed! Painting is a delightful occupation for a young lady. My daughter
sketches a little, but I cannot say that she has any remarkable talent that
way. She has been well taught, of course."
"You will find Miss Lovel quite a first-rate artist," said Lady Laura,
pleased to praise her favourite. "I really know no one of her age with such
a marked genius for art. Everybody observes it." And then, half afraid
that this praise might seem to depreciate Miss Granger, the good-natured
_chatelaine_ went on, "Your daughter illuminates, I daresay?"
"Well, yes, I suppose so, Lady Laura. I know that Sophia does some massy
kind of work involving the use of gums and colours. I have seen her engaged
in it sometimes. And there are scriptural texts on the walls of our
poor-schools which I conclude are her work. A young woman cannot have too
many pursuits. I like to see my daughter occupied."
"Miss Granger reads a good deal, I suppose, like Clarissa,' Lady Laura
"No, I cannot say that she does. My daughter's habits are active and
energetic rather than studious. Nor should I encourage her in giving
much time to literature, unless the works she read were of a very solid
character. I have never found anything great achieved by reading men of my
own acquaintance; and directly I hear that, a man is never so happy as in
his library, I put him down as a man whose life will be a failure."
"But the great men of our day have generally been men of wide reading, have
"I think not, Lady Laura. They have been men who have made a little
learning go a long way. Of course there are numerous exceptions amongst the
highest class of all--statesmen, and so on. But for success in active life,
I take it, a man cannot have his brain too clear of waste rubbish in the
way of book-learning. He wants all his intellectual coin in his current
account, you see, ready for immediate use, not invested in out-of-the-way
corners, where he can't get at it."
While Mr. Granger and my lady were arguing this question, Clarissa went to
the bookshelves and amused herself hunting for some attractive volumes.
Daniel Granger followed the slender girlish figure with curious eyes.
Nothing could have been more unexpected than this meeting with Marmaduke
Lovel's daughter. He had done his best, in the first year or so of his
residence at the Court, to cultivate friendly relations with Mr. Lovel,
and had most completely failed in that well-meant attempt. Some men in Mr.
Granger's position might have been piqued by this coldness. But Daniel
Granger was not such a one; he was not given to undervalue the advantage
of his friendship or patronage. A career of unbroken prosperity, and a
character by nature self-contained and strong-willed, combined to sustain
his belief in himself. He could not for a moment conceive that Mr. Lovel
declined his acquaintance as a thing not worth having. He therefore
concluded that the banished lord of Arden felt his loss too keenly
to endure to look upon his successor's happiness, and he pitied him
accordingly. It would have been the one last drop of bitterness in
Marmaduke Lovel's cup to know that this man did pity him. Having thus
failed in cultivating anything approaching intimacy with the father, Mr.
Granger was so much the more disposed to feel an interest--half curious,
half compassionate--in the daughter. From the characterless ranks of
young-ladyhood this particular damsel stood out with unwonted distinctness.
He found his mind wandering a little as he tried to talk with Lady Laura.
He could not help watching the graceful figure yonder, the slim white-robed
figure standing out so sharply against the dark background of carved oaken
Clarissa selected a couple of volumes to carry away with her presently, and
then came back to her seat by Lady Laura's sofa. She did not want to appear
rude to Mr. Granger, or to disoblige her kind friend, who for some reason
or other was evidently anxious she should remain, or she would have been
only too glad to run away to her own room.
The talk went on. My lady was confidential after her manner communicating
her family affairs to Daniel Granger as freely as she might have done if
he had been an uncle or an executor. She told him about her sister's
approaching marriage and George Fairfax's expectations.
"They will have to begin life upon an income that I daresay _you_ would
think barely sufficient for bread and cheese," she said.
Mr. Granger shook his head, and murmured that his own personal requirements
could be satisfied for thirty shillings a week.
"I daresay. It is generally the case with millionaires. They give four
hundred a year to a cook, and dine upon a mutton-chop or a boiled chicken.
But really Mr. Fairfax and Geraldine will be almost poor at first; only my
sister has fortunately no taste for display, and George must have sown all
his wild oats by this time. I expect them to be a model couple, they are so
thoroughly attached to each other."
Clarissa opened one of her volumes and bent over it at this juncture. Was
this really true? Did Lady Laura believe what she said? Was that problem
which she had been perpetually trying to solve lately so very simple, after
all, and only a perplexity to her own weak powers of reason? Lady Laura
must be the best judge, of course, and she was surely too warm-hearted
a woman to take a conventional view of things, or to rejoice in a mere
marriage of convenience. No, it must be true. They really did love each
other, these two, and that utter absence of all those small signs and
tokens of attachment which Clarissa had expected to see was only a
characteristic of good taste. What she had taken for coldness was merely a
natural reserve, which at once proved their superior breeding and rebuked
her own vulgar curiosity.
From the question of the coming marriage, Lady Laura flew to the lighter
subject of the ball.
"I hope Miss Granger has brought a ball-dress; I told her all about our
ball in my last note."
"I believe she has provided herself for the occasion," replied Mr. Granger.
"I know there was an extra trunk, to which I objected when my people were
packing the luggage. Sophia is not usually extravagant in the matter of
dress. She has a fair allowance, of course, and liberty to exceed it on
occasion; but I believe she spends more upon her school-children and
pensioners in the village than on her toilet."
"Your ideas on the subject of costume are not quite so wide as Mr.
Brummel's, I suppose," said my lady. "Do you remember his reply, when an
anxious mother asked him what she ought to allow her son for dress?"
Mr. Granger did not spoil my lady's delight in telling an anecdote by
remembering; and he was a man who would have conscientiously declared his
familiarity with the story, had he known it.
"'It might be done on eight hundred a year, madam,' replied Brummel, 'with
the strictest economy.'"
Mr. Granger gave a single-knock kind of laugh.
"Curious fellow, that Brummel," he said. "I remember seeing him at Caen,
when I was travelling as a young man."
And so the conversation meandered on, my lady persistently lively in her
pleasant commonplace way, Mr. Granger still more commonplace, and not
at all lively. Clarissa thought that hour and a half in the library the
longest she had ever spent in her life. How different from that afternoon
in the same room when George Fairfax had looked at his watch and declared
the Castle bell must be wrong!
That infallible bell rang at last--a welcome sound to Clarissa, and perhaps
not altogether unwelcome to Lady Laura and Mr. Granger, who had more than
once sympathised in a smothered yawn.
* * * * *
MR. GRANGER IS INTERESTED.
When Clarissa went to the great drawing-room dressed for dinner, she found
Lizzie Fermor talking to a young lady whom she at once guessed to be Miss
Granger. Nor was she allowed to remain in any doubt of the fact; for the
lively Lizzie beckoned her to the window by which they were seated, and
introduced the two young ladies to each other.
"Miss Granger and I are quite old friends," she said, "and I mean you to
like each other very much."
Miss Granger bowed stiffly, but pledged herself to nothing. She was a tall
young woman of about two-and-twenty, with very little of the tender grace
of girlhood about her; a young woman who, by right of a stately carriage
and a pair of handsome shoulders, might have been called fine-looking.
Her features were not unlike her father's; and those eyes and eyebrows of
Daniel Granger's, which would have looked so well under a judicial wig,
were reproduced in a modified degree in the countenance of his daughter.
She had what would be generally called a fine complexion, fair and florid;
and her hair, of which she had an abundant quantity, was of an insipid
light brown, and the straightest Clarissa had ever seen. Altogether, she
was a young lady who, invested with all the extraneous charms of her
father's wealth, would no doubt be described as attractive, and even
handsome. She was dressed well, with a costly simplicity, in a dark-blue
corded silk, relieved by a berthe of old point lace, and the whiteness of
her full firm throat was agreeably set off by a broad band of black velvet,
from which there hung a Maltese cross of large rubies.
The two young ladies went on with their talk, which was chiefly of gaieties
they had each assisted at since their last meeting, and people they had
Clarissa, being quite unable to assist in this conversation, looked on
meekly, a little interested in Miss Granger, who was, like herself, an
only daughter, and about whose relations with her father she had begun to
wonder. Was he very fond of this only child, and in this, as in all else,
unlike her own father? He had spoken of her that afternoon several times,
and had even praised her, but somewhat coldly, and with a practical
matter-of-course air, almost as Mr. Lovel might have spoken of his daughter
if constrained to talk of her in society.
Miss Granger said a good deal about the great people she had met that year.
They seemed all to be more or less the elect of the earth: but she pulled
herself up once or twice to protest that she cared very little for society;
she was happier when employed with her schools and poor people--_that_ was
her real element.
"One feels all the other thing to be so purposeless and hollow," she said
sententiously. "After a round of dinners and dances and operas and concerts
in London, I always have a kind of guilty feeling. So much time wasted, and
nothing to show for it. And really my poor are improving so wonderfully.
If you could see my cottages, Miss Fermor!" (she did not say, "their
cottages.") "I give a prize for the cleanest floors and windows, an
illuminated ticket for the neatest garden-beds. I don't suppose you could
get a sprig of groundsel for love or money in Arden village. I have
actually to cultivate it in a corner of the kitchen-garden for my canaries.
I give another prize at Christmas for the most economical household
management, accorded to the family which has dined oftenest without meat
in the course of the year; and I give a premium of one per cent upon all
investments in the Holborough savings-bank--one and a half in the case of
widows; a complete suit of clothes to every woman who has attended morning
and evening service without missing one Sunday in the year, the consequence
of which has been to put a total stop to cooking on the day of rest. I
don't believe you could come across so much as a hot potato on a Sunday in
one of my cottages."
"And do the husbands like the cold dinners?" Miss Fermor asked rather
"I should hope that spiritual advantage would prevail over temporal luxury,
even in their half-awakened minds," replied Miss Granger. "I have never
inquired about their feelings on the subject. I did indeed hear that the
village baker, who had driven a profitable trade every Sunday morning
before my improvements, made some most insolent comments upon what I had
done. But I trust I can rise superior to the impertinence of a village
baker. However, you must come to Arden and see my cottages, and judge for
yourself; and if you could only know the benighted state in which I found
these poor creatures----"
Lizzie Fermor glanced towards Clarissa, and then gave a little warning
look, which had the effect of stopping Miss Granger's disquisition.
"I beg your pardon, Miss Lovel," she said; "I forgot that I was talking of
your own old parish. But you were a mere child, I believe, when you
left the Court, and of course could not be capable of effecting much
"We were too poor to do much, or to give prizes," Clarissa answered; "but
we gave what we could, and--and I think the people were fond of us."
Miss Granger looked as if this last fact were very wide from the question.
"I have never studied how to make the people fond of me," she said. "My
constant effort has been to make them improve themselves and their own
condition. All my plans are based upon that principle. 'If you want a new
gown, cloak, and bonnet at Christmas,' I tell the women, 'you must
earn them by unfailing attendance at church. If you wish to obtain the
money-gift I wish to give you, you must first show me something saved by
your own economy and self-sacrifice.' To my children I hold out similar
inducements--a prize for the largest amount of plain needlework, every
stitch of which I make it my duty to examine through a magnifying glass; a
prize for scrupulous neatness in dress; and for scripture knowledge. I
have children in my Sunday-schools who can answer any question upon the
Old-Testament history from Genesis to Chronicles."
Clarissa gave a faint sigh, almost appalled by these wonders. She
remembered the girls' Sunday-school in her early girlhood, and her own
poor little efforts at instruction, in the course of which she had seldom
carried her pupils out of the Garden of Eden, or been able to get over the
rivers that watered that paradise, as described by the juvenile inhabitants
of Arden, without little stifled bursts of laughter on her own part; while,
in the very midst of her most earnest endeavours, she was apt to find her
brother Austin standing behind her, tempting the juvenile mind by the
surreptitious offer of apples or walnuts. The attempts at teaching
generally ended in merry laughter and the distribution of nuts and apples,
with humble apologies to the professional schoolmistress for so useless an
Miss Granger had no time to enlarge farther upon her manifold improvements
before dinner, to which she was escorted by one of the officers from
Steepleton, the nearest garrison town, who happened to be dining there that
day, and was very glad to get an innings with the great heiress. The master
of Arden Court had the honour of escorting Lady Laura; but from his post
by the head of the long table he looked more than once to that remote spot
where Clarissa sat, not far from his daughter. My lady saw those curious
glances, and was delighted to see them. They might mean nothing, of course;
but to that sanguine spirit they seemed an augury of success for the scheme
which had been for a long time hatching in the matron's busy brain.
"What do you think of my pet, Mr. Granger?" she asked presently.
Mr. Granger glanced at the ground near my lady's chair with rather a
puzzled look, half expecting to see a Maltese spaniel or a flossy-haired
Skye terrier standing on its hind legs.
"What do you think of my pet and _protegee_, Miss Lovel?"
"Miss Lovel! Well, upon my word, Lady Laura, I am so poor a judge of the
merits of young ladies in a general way; but she really appears a very
amiable young person."
"And is she not lovely?" asked Lady Laura, contemplating the distant
Clarissa in a dreamy way through her double eye-glass. "I think it is the
sweetest face I ever saw."
"She is certainly very pretty," admitted Mr. Granger. "I was struck by her
appearance this afternoon in the library. I suppose there is something
really out of the common in her face, for I am generally the most
unobservant of men in such matters."
"Out of the common!" exclaimed Lady Laura. "My dear sir, it is such a face
as you do not see twice in a lifetime. Madame Recamier must have been
something like that, I should fancy--a woman who could attract the eyes
of all the people in the great court of the Luxembourg, and divide public
attention with Napoleon."
Mr. Granger did not seem interested in the rather abstract question of
Clarissa's possible likeness to Madame Recamier.
"She is certainly very pretty," he repeated in a meditative manner; and
stared so long and vacantly at a fricandeau which a footman was just
offering him, that any less well-trained attendant must have left him in
The next few days were enlivened by a good deal of talk about the ball, in
which event Miss Granger did not seem to take a very keen interest.
"I go to balls, of course," she said; "one is obliged to do so: for it
would seem so ungracious to refuse one's friends' invitations; but I really
do not care for them. They are all alike, and the rooms are always hot."
"I don't think you will be able to say that here," replied Miss Fermor.
"Lady Laura's arrangements are always admirable; and there is to be an
impromptu conservatory under canvas the whole length of the terrace, in
front of the grand saloon where we are to dance, so that the six windows
can be open all the evening."
"Then I daresay it will be a cold night," said Miss Granger, who was not
prone to admire other people's cleverness. "I generally find that it is so,
when people take special precautions against heat."
Clarissa naturally found herself thrown a good deal into Sophia Granger's
society; but though they worked, and drove, and walked together, and played
croquet, and acted in the same charades, it is doubtful whether there was
really much more sympathy between these two than between Clarissa and Lady
Geraldine. There was perhaps less; for Clarissa Lovel had been interested
in Geraldine Challoner, and she was not in the faintest degree interested
in Miss Granger. The cold and shining surface of that young lady's
character emitted no galvanic spark. It was impossible to deny that she was
wise and accomplished; that she did everything well that she attempted;
that, although obviously conscious of her own supreme advantages as the
heiress to a great fortune, she was benignly indulgent to the less blessed
among her sex,--it was impossible to deny all this; and yet it was not any
more easy to get on with Sophia Granger than with Lady Geraldine.
One day, after luncheon, when a bevy of girls were grouped round the piano
in the billiard-room, Lizzie Fermor--who indulged in the wildest latitude
of discourse--was audacious enough to ask Miss Granger how she would like
her father to marry again.
The faultless Sophia elevated her well-marked eyebrows with a look of
astonishment that ought to have frozen Miss Fermor. The eyebrows were as
hard and as neatly pencilled as the shading in Miss Granger's landscapes.
"Marry again!" she repeated, "papa!--if you knew him better, Miss Fermor,
you would never speculate upon such a thing. Papa will never marry again."
"Has he promised you that?" asked the irrepressible Lizzie.
"I do not require any promise from him. I know him too well to have the
slightest doubt upon the subject. Papa might have married brilliantly,
again and again, since I was a little thing." (It was rather difficult to
fancy Miss Granger a "little thing" in any stage of her existence.) "But
nothing has ever been more remote from his ideas than a second marriage. I
have heard people regret it."
"_You_ have not regretted it, of course."
"I hope I know my duty too well, to wish to stand between papa and his
happiness. If it had been for his happiness to marry--a person of a
suitable age and position, of course--I should not have considered my own
feelings in the matter."
"Well, I suppose not," replied Lizzie, rather doubtfully; "still it is nice
to have one's father all to oneself--to say nothing of being an heiress.
And the worst of the business is, that when a widower of your papa's age
does take it into his head to marry, he is apt to fall in love with some
chit of a girl."
Miss Granger stared at the speaker with a gaze as stony as Antigone herself
could have turned upon any impious jester who had hinted that Oedipus, in
his blindness and banishment, was groping for some frivolous successor to
"My father in love with a girl!" she exclaimed. "What a very false idea you
must have formed of his character, Miss Fermor, when you can suggest such
an utter absurdity!"
"But, you see, I wasn't speaking of Mr. Granger, only of widowers in
general. I have seen several marriages of that kind--men of forty or fifty
throwing themselves away, I suppose one ought to say, upon girls scarcely
out of their teens. In some cases the marriage seems to turn out well
enough; but of course one does sometimes hear of things not going on quite
Miss Granger was grave and meditative after this--perhaps half disposed to
suspect Elizabeth Fermor of some lurking design on her father. She had
been seated at the piano during this conversation, and now resumed her
playing--executing a sonata of Beethoven's with faultless precision and the
highest form of taught expression; so much emphasis upon each note--careful
_rallentando_ here, a gradual _crescendo_ there; nothing careless or
slapdash from the first bar to the last. She would play the same piece a
hundred times without varying the performance by a hair's-breadth. Nor did
she affect anything but classical music. She was one of those young ladies
who, when asked for a waltz or a polka, freeze the impudent demander by
replying that they play no dance music--nothing more frivolous than Mozart.
The day for the ball came, but there was no George Fairfax. Lady Geraldine
had arrived at the Castle on the evening before the festival, bringing an
excellent account of her father's health. He had been cheered by her visit,
and was altogether so much improved, that his doctors would have given him
permission to come down to Yorkshire for his daughter's wedding. It was
only his own valetudinarian habits and extreme dread of fatigue which had
prevented Lady Geraldine bringing him down in triumph.
Lady Laura was loudly indignant at Mr. Fairfax's non-appearance; and for
the first time Clarissa heard Lady Geraldine defend her lover with some
natural and womanly air of proprietorship.
"After pledging his word to me as he did!" exclaimed my lady, when it had
come to luncheon-time and there were still no signs of the delinquent's
"But really, Laura, there is no reason he should not keep his word,"
Geraldine answered, with her serene air. "You know men like to do these
things in a desperate kind of way--as if they were winning a race. I
daresay he has made his plans so as not to leave himself more than
half-an-hour's margin, and will reach the Castle just in time to dress."
"That is all very well; but I don't call that keeping his promise to me,
to come rushing into the place just as we are beginning to dance; after
travelling all night perhaps, and knocking himself up in all sorts of
ways, and with no more animation or vivacity left in him than a man who is
walking in his sleep. Besides, he ought to consider our anxiety."
"Your anxiety, if you please, Laura. I am not anxious. I cannot see that
George's appearance at the ball is a matter of such vital importance."
"But, my deal Geraldine, it would seem so strange for him to be away.
People would wonder so."
"Let them wonder," Lady Geraldine replied, with a little haughty backward
movement of her head, which was natural to her.
Amongst the cases and packages which had been perpetually arriving from
London during the last week or so, there was one light deal box which
Lady Laura's second maid brought to Clarissa's room one morning with
her mistress's love. The box contained the airiest and most girlish of
ball-dresses, all cloudlike white tulle, and the most entrancing wreath of
wild-roses and hawthorn, such a wreath as never before had crowned Miss
Lovel's bright-brown hair. Of course there was the usual amount of thanks
and kissing and raptures.
"I am responsible to your father for your looking your best, you see,
Clary," Lady Laura said, laughing; "and I intend you to make quite a
sensation to-night. The muslin you meant to wear is very pretty, and will
do for some smaller occasion; but to-night is a field-night. Be sure you
come to me when you are dressed. I shall be in my own rooms till the people
begin to arrive; and I want to see you when Fosset has put her finishing
touches to your dress."
Clarissa promised to present herself before her kind patroness. She was
really pleased with her dress, and sincerely grateful to the giver. Lady
Laura was a person from whom it was easy to accept benefits. There was
something bounteous and expansive in her nature, and her own pleasure in
the transaction made it impossible for any but the most churlish recipient
to feel otherwise than pleased.
* * * * *
The ball began, and without the assistance of Mr. Fairfax--much to
my lady's indignation. She was scarcely consoled by the praises and
compliments she received on the subject of her arrangements and
decorations; but these laudations were so unanimous and so gratifying,
that she did at last forget Mr. Fairfax's defection in the delight of such
_The_ Duke--the one sovereign magnate of that district--a tall
grand-looking old man with white hair, even deigned to be pleased and
surprised by what she had done.
"But then you have such a splendid platform to work upon," he said; "I
don't think we have a place in Yorkshire that can compare with Hale. You
had your decorators from London, of course?"
"No, indeed, your grace," replied my lady, sparkling with delighted pride;
"and if there is anything I can boast of, it is that. Fred wanted me
to send for London people, and have the thing done in their wholesale
manner--put myself entirely into their hands, give them _carte blanche_,
and so on; so that, till the whole business was finished, I shouldn't
have known what the place was to be like; but that is just the kind of
arrangement I detest. So I sent for one of my Holborough men, told him
my ideas, gave him a few preliminary sketches, and after a good many
consultations and discussions, we arrived at our present notion. Abolish
every glimmer of gas," I said, "and give me plenty of flowers and
wax-candles. The rest is mere detail."
Everything was successful; Miss Granger's prophecy of cold weather was
happily unfulfilled. The night was unusually still and sultry, a broad
harvest moon steeping terraces and gardens in tender mellow light; not a
breath to stir the wealth of blossoms, or to flutter the draperies of the
many windows, all wide open to the warm night--a night of summer at the
beginning of autumn.
Clarissa found herself in great request for the dances, and danced more
than she had done since the days of her schoolgirl waltzes and polkas in
the play-room at Belforet. It was about an hour after the dancing had
begun, when Lady Laura brought her no less a partner than Mr. Granger, who
had walked a solemn quadrille or two with a stately dowager, and whose
request was very surprising to Clarissa. She had one set of quadrilles,
however, unappropriated on her card, and expressed herself at Mr. Granger's
disposal for that particular dance, and then tripped away, to be whirled
round the great room by one of her military partners.
Daniel Granger stood amongst the loungers at one end of the room, watching
that aerial revolving figure. Yes, Lady Laura was right; she was very
lovely. In all his life he had never before paid much heed to female
loveliness, any more than to the grandeurs and splendours of nature, or
anything beyond the narrow boundary of his own successful commonplace
existence. But in this girl's face there was something that attracted his
attention, and dwelt in his memory when he was away from her; perhaps,
after all, it was the result of her position rather than her beauty. It was
natural that he should be interested in her, poor child. He had robbed her
of her home, or it would seem so to her, no doubt; and she had let him see
that she set an exaggerated value on that lost home, that she clung to it
with a morbid sentimentality.
"I should not wonder if she hates me," he said to himself. He had never
thought as much about her father, but then certainly he had never been
brought into such close contact with her father.
He waited quietly for that appointed quadrille, declining a dance in which
Lady Laura would have enlisted him, and keeping a close watch upon Clarissa
during the interval. What a gay butterfly creature she seemed to-night! He
could scarcely fancy this was the same girl who had spoken so mournfully
of her lost home in the library that afternoon. He looked from her to
his daughter for a moment, comparing the two; Sophia resplendent in pink
areophane and pearls, and showing herself not above the pleasures of a
polka; eminently a fine young woman, but O, of what a different day from
that other one!
Once Miss Fermor, passing the rich man on the arm of her partner, surprised
the watchful gray eyes with a new look in them--a look that was neither
cold nor stern.
"So, my gentleman," thought the lively Lizzie, "is it that way your fancies
are drifting? It was I whom you suspected of dangerous designs the other
day, Miss Granger. Take care your papa doesn't fall into a deeper pitfall.
I should like to see him marry again, if it were only to take down that
great pink creature's insolence." Whereby it will be seen that Miss Granger
was not quite so popular among her contemporaries as, in the serenity of
her self-possessed soul, she was wont to imagine herself.
The quadrille began presently, and Clarissa walked through its serious
mazes with the man whom she was apt to consider the enemy of her race. She
could not help wondering a little to find herself in this position, and her
replies to Mr. Granger's commonplace remarks were somewhat mechanical.
Once he contrived to bring the conversation round to Arden Court.
"It would give me so much pleasure to see you there as my daughter's
guest," he said, in a warmer tone than was usual to him, "and I really
think you would be interested in her parish-work. She has done wonders in a
"I have no doubt. You are very kind," faltered Clarissa; "but I do not the
least understand how to manage people as Miss Granger does, and I could not
bear to come to the Court. I was so happy there with my brother, and now
that he is gone, and that I am forbidden even to mention his name, the
associations of the place would be too painful."
Mr. Granger grew suddenly grave and silent.
"Yes, there was that business about the brother," he thought to himself;
"a bad business no doubt, or the father would never have turned him out of
doors--something very queer perhaps. A strange set these Lovels evidently.
The father a spendthrift, the son something worse."
And then he looked down at Clarissa, and thought again how lovely she was,
and pitied her for her beauty and her helplessness--the daughter of such a
father, the sister of such a brother.
"But she will marry well, of course," he said to himself, just as George
Fairfax had done; "all these young fellows seem tremendously struck by
her. I suppose she is the prettiest girl in the room. She will make a good
match, I daresay, and get out of her father's hands. It must be a dreary
life for her in that cottage, with, a selfish disappointed man."
The night waned, and there was no George Fairfax. Lady Geraldine bore
herself bravely, and danced a good deal more than she would have done, had
there not been appearances to be kept up. She had to answer a great many
questions about her lover, and she answered all with supreme frankness. He
was away in Scotland with some bachelor friends, enjoying himself no doubt.
He promised to be with them to-night, and had broken his promise; that was
all--she was not afraid of any accident.
"I daresay he found the grouse-shooting too attractive," she said coolly.
After supper, while the most determined of the waltzers were still spinning
round to a brisk _deux temps_ of Charles d'Albert's, Clarissa was fain to
tell the last of her partners she could dance no more.
"I am not tired of the ball," she said; "I like looking on, but I really
can't dance another step. Do go and get some one else for this waltz; I
know you are dying to dance it."
This was to the devoted Captain Westleigh, a person with whom Miss Level
always felt very much at home.
"With _you_," he answered tenderly. "But if you mean to sit down, I am at
your service. I would not desert you for worlds. And you really are looking
a little pale. Shall we find some pleasanter place? That inner room, looks
He offered his arm to Clarissa, and they walked slowly away towards a small
room at the end of the saloon; a room which Lady Laura had arranged with an
artful eye to effect, leaving it almost in shadow. There were only a few
wax-candles glimmering here and there among the cool dark foliage of the
ferns and pitcher-plants that filled every niche and corner, and the
moonlight shone full into the room through a wide window that opened upon a
stone balcony a few feet above the terrace.
"If I am left alone with her for five minutes, I am sure I shall propose,"
Captain Westleigh thought, on beholding the soft secluded aspect of this
apartment, which was untenanted when he and Clarissa entered it.
She sank down upon a sofa near the window, more thoroughly tired than she
had confessed. This long night of dancing and excitement was quite a new
thing to her. It was nearly over now, and the reaction was coming, bringing
with it that vague sense of hopelessness and disappointment which had so
grown upon her of late. She had abandoned herself fully to the enchantment
of the ball, almost losing the sense of her own identity in that brilliant
scene. But self-consciousness came back to her now, and she remembered that
she was Clarissa Lovel, for whom life was at best a dreary business.
"Can I get you anything?" asked the Captain, alarmed by her pallor.
"Thanks, you are very kind. If it would not be too much trouble--I know
the refreshment-room is a long way off--but I should be glad of a little
"I'll get some directly. But I really am afraid you are ill," said the
Captain, looking at her anxiously, scarcely liking to leave her for fear
she should faint before he came back.
"No, indeed, I am not ill--only very tired. If you'll let me lest here a
little without talking."
She half closed her eyes. There was a dizziness in her head very much like
the preliminary stage of fainting.
"My dear Miss Lovel, I should be a wretch to bore you. I'll go for the
water this moment."
He hurried away. Clarissa gave a long weary sigh, and that painful
dizziness passed off in some degree. All she wanted was air, she thought,
if there had been any air to be got that sultry night. She rose from the
sofa presently, and went out upon the balcony. Below her was the river; not
a ripple upon the water, not a breath stirring the rushes on the banks.
Between the balcony and the river there was a broad battlemented walk, and
in the embrasures where cannon had once been there were great stone vases
of geraniums and dwarf roses, which seemed only masses of dark foliage in
The Captain was some little time gone for that glass of water. Clarissa had
forgotten him and his errand as she sat upon a bench in the balcony with
her elbow leaning on the broad stone ledge, looking down at the water and
thinking of her own life--thinking what it might have been if everything in
the world had been different.
A sudden step on the walk below startled her, and a low voice said,
"I would I were a glove upon that hand, that I might kiss that cheek."
She knew the voice directly, but was not less startled at hearing it just
then. The step came near her, and in the next moment a dark figure had
swung itself lightly upward from the path below, and George Fairfax was
seated on the angle of the massive balustrade.
"Juliet!" he said, in the same low voice, "what put it into your head to
play Juliet to-night? As if you were not dangerous enough without that."
"Mr. Fairfax, how could you startle me so? Lady Laura has been expecting
you all the evening."
"I suppose so. But you don't imagine I've been hiding in the garden all the
evening, like the man in Tennyson's _Maud_? I strained heaven and earth to
be here in time; but there was a break-down between Edinburgh and Carlisle.
Nothing very serious: an engine-driver knocked about a little, and a few
passengers shaken and bruised more or less, but I escaped unscathed, and
had to cool my impatience for half a dozen hours at a dingy little station
where there was no refreshment for body or mind but a brown jug of
tepid water and a big Bible. There I stayed till I was picked up by the
night-mail, and here I am. I think I shall stand absolved by my lady when
she reads the account of my perils in to-morrow's papers. People are just
going away, I suppose. It would be useless for me to dress and put in an
"I think Lady Laura would be glad to see you. She has been very anxious, I
"Her sisterly cares shall cease before she goes to sleep to-night. She
shall be informed that I am in the house; and I will make my peace
He did not go away however, and Clarissa began to feel that there was
something embarrassing in her position. He had stepped lightly across the
balustrade, and had seated himself very near her, looking down at her face.
"Clarissa, do you know what has happened to me since I have been away from
She looked up at him with an alarmed expression. It was the first time he
had ever uttered her Christian name, but his tone was so serious as to make
that a minor question.
"You cannot guess, I suppose," he went on, "I've made a discovery--a most
perplexing, most calamitous discovery."
"What is that?"
"I have found out that I love you."
Her hand was lying on the broad stone ledge. He took it in his firm grasp,
and held it as he went on:
"Yes, Clarissa; I had my doubts before I went away, but thought I was
master of myself in this, as I have been in other things, and fancied
myself strong enough to strangle the serpent. But it would not be
strangled, Clarissa; it has wound itself about my heart, and here I sit by
your side dishonoured in my own sight, come what may--bound to one woman
and loving another with all my soul--yes, with all my soul. What am I to
"Your duty," Clarissa answered, in a low steady voice.
Her heart was beating so violently that she wondered at her power to utter
those two words. What was it that she felt--anger, indignation? Alas, no;
Pride, delight, rapture, stirred that undisciplined heart. She knew now
what was wanted to make her life bright and happy; she knew now that she
had loved George Fairfax almost from the first. And her own duty--the duty
she was bound in honour to perform--what was that? Upon that question she
had not a moment's doubt. Her duty was to resign him without a murmur;
never to let him know that he had touched her heart. Even after having done
this, there would be much left to her--the knowledge that he had loved her.
"My duty! what is that?" he asked in a hoarse hard voice. "To keep faith
with Geraldine, whatsoever misery it may bring upon both of us? I am not
one of those saints who think of everybody's happiness before their own,
Clarissa. I am very human, with all humanity's selfishness. I want to
be happy. I want a wife for whom I can feel something more than a cold
well-bred liking. I did not think that it was in me to feel more than that.
I thought I had outlived my capacity for loving, wasted the strength of my
heart's youth on worthless fancies, spent all my patrimony of affection;
but the light shines on me again, and I thank God that it is so. Yes,
Clarissa, come what may, I thank my God that I am not so old a man in heart
and feeling as I thought myself."
Clarissa tried to stem the current of his talk, with her heart still
beating stormily, but with semblance of exceeding calmness.
"I must not hear you talk in this wild way, Mr. Fairfax," she said. "I feel
as if I had been guilty of a sin against Lady Geraldine in having listened
so long. But I cannot for a moment think you are in earnest."
"Do not play the Jesuit, Clarissa. You _know_ that I am in earnest."
"Then the railway accident must have turned your brain, and I can only hope
that to-morrow morning will restore your reason."
"Well, I am mad, if you like--madly in love with you. What am I to do? If
with some show of decency I can recover my liberty--by an appeal to Lady
Geraldine's generosity, for instance--believe me, I shall not break her
heart; our mutual regard is the calmest, coolest sentiment possible--if I
can get myself free from this engagement, will you be my wife, Clarissa?"
"No; a thousand times no."
"You don't care for me, then? The madness is all on my side?"
"The madness--if you are really in earnest, and not carrying on some absurd
jest--is all on your side."
"Well, that seems hard. I was vain enough to think otherwise. I thought so
strong a feeling on one side could not co-exist with perfect indifference
on the other. I fancied there was something like predestination in this,
and that my wandering unwedded soul had met its other half--it's an old
Greek notion, you know, that men and women were made in pairs--but I was
miserably mistaken, I suppose. How many lovers have you rejected since you
left school, Miss Lovel?" he asked with a short bitter laugh. "Geraldine
herself could not have given me my quietus more coldly."
He was evidently wounded to the quick, being a creature spoiled by easy
conquests, and would have gone on perhaps in the same angry strain, but
there was a light step on the floor within, and Lady Laura Armstrong came
quickly towards the balcony.
"My dearest Clary, Captain Westleigh tells me that you are quite knocked
up--" she began; and then recognizing the belated traveller, cried out,
"George Fairfax! Is it possible?"
"George Fairfax, my dear Lady Laura, and not quite so base a delinquent as
he seems. I must plead guilty to pushing matters to the last limit; but
I made my plans to be here at seven o'clock this evening, and should
inevitably have arrived at that hour, but for a smash between Edinburgh and
"An accident! Were you hurt?"
"Not so much as shaken; but the break-down lost me half a dozen hours.
We were stuck for no end of time at a dingy little station whose name I
forget, and when I did reach Carlisle, it was too late for any train to
bring me on, except the night-mail, which does not stop at Holborough. I
had to post from York, and arrived about ten minutes ago--too late for
anything except to prove to you that I did make heroic efforts to keep my
"And how, in goodness' name, did you get here, to this room, without my
"From the garden. Finding myself too late to make an appearance in the
ball-room, I prowled round the premises, listening to the sounds of revelry
within; and then seeing Miss Lovel alone here--playing Juliet without a
Romeo--I made so bold as to accost her and charge her with a message for
"You are amazingly considerate; but I really cannot forgive you for having
deferred your return to the last moment. You have quite spoilt Geraldine's
evening, to say nothing of the odd look your absence must have to our
friends. I shall tell her you have arrived, and I suppose that is all I can
do. You must want some supper, by the bye: you'll find plenty of people in
"No, thanks; I had some cold chicken and coffee at Carlisle. I'll ring
for a soda-and-brandy when I get to my room, and that's all I shall do
to-night. Good-night, Lady Laura; good-night, Miss Lovel."
He dropped lightly across the balcony and vanished. Lady Laura stood in
the window for a few moments in a meditative mood, and then, looking up
"O, by the bye, Clarissa, I came to fetch you for another dance, the last
quadrille, if you feel well enough to dance it. Mr. Granger wants you for a
"I don't think I can dance any more, Lady Laura. I refused Captain
Westleigh the last waltz."
"Yes, but a quadrille is different. However, if you are really tired, I
must tell Mr. Granger so. What was George Fairfax saying to you just now?
You both looked prodigiously serious."
"I really don't know--I forget--it was nothing very particular,"
Clarissa answered, conscious that she was blushing, and confused by that
Lady Laura looked at her with a sharp scrutinising glance.
"I think it would have been better taste on George's part if he had taken
care to relieve my sister's anxiety directly he arrived, instead of acting
the balcony scene in _Romeo and Juliet_. I must go back to Mr. Granger with
your refusal, Clarissa. O, here comes Captain Westleigh with some water."
The Captain did appear at this very moment carrying a glass of that
beverage, much to Clarissa's relief, for a _tete-a-tete_ with Lady Laura
was very embarrassing to her just now.
"My dear Miss Lovel, you must think me an utter barbarian," exclaimed
the Captain; "but you really can't conceive the difficulties I've had to
overcome. It seemed as if there wasn't a drop of iced water to be had in
the Castle. If you'd wanted Strasburg pies or barley-sugar temples, I could
have brought you them by cartloads. Moselle and Maraschino are the merest
drugs in the market; but not a creature could I persuade to get me this
glass of water. Of course the fellows all said, 'Yes, sir;' and then went
off and forgot all about me. And even when I had got my prize, I was
waylaid by thirsty dowagers who wanted to rob me of it. It was like
searching for the North-west Passage."
Lady Laura had departed by this time. Clarissa drank some of the water and
took the Captain's arm to return to the ball-room, which was beginning to
look a little empty. On the threshold of the saloon they met Mr. Granger.
"I am so sorry to hear you are not well, Miss Lovel," he said.
"Thank you, Mr. Granger, but I am really not ill--only too tired to dance
"So Lady Laura tells me--very much to my regret. I had hoped for the honour
of dancing this quadrille with you."
"If you knew how rarely Mr. Granger dances, you'd consider yourself rather
distinguished, I think, Miss Lovel," said the Captain, laughing.
"Well, no, I don't often dance," replied Mr. Granger, with a shade of
confusion in his manner; "but really, such a ball as this quite inspires a
man--and Lady Laura was good enough to wish me to dance."
He remained by Clarissa's side as they walked back through the rooms. They
were near the door when Miss Granger met them, looking as cold and prim
in her pink crape and pearls as if she had that moment emerged from her
"Do you know how late it is, papa?" she asked, contemplating her parent
with severe eyes.
"Well, no, one does not think of time upon such an occasion as this. I
suppose it is late; but it would not do for us of the household to desert
before the rest of the company."
"I was thinking of saying good-night," answered Miss Granger. "I don't
suppose any one would miss me, or you either, papa, if we slipped away
quietly; and I am sure you will have one of your headaches to-morrow
There is no weapon so useful in the hands of a dutiful child as some
chronic complaint of its parent. A certain nervous headache from which Mr.
Granger suffered now and then served the fair Sophia as a kind of rod for
his correction on occasions.
"I am not tired, my dear."
"O, papa, I know your constitution better than you do yourself. Poor Lady
Laura, how worn out she must be!"
"Lady Laura has been doing wonders all the evening," said Captain
Westleigh. "She has been as ubiquitous as Richmond at Bosworth, and she has
the talent of never seeming tired."
Clarissa took the first opportunity of saying good-night. If so important a
person as the heiress of Arden Court could depart and not leave a void in
the assembly, there could be assuredly no fear that she would be missed.
Mr. Granger shook hands with her for the first time in his life as he
wished her good-night, and then stood in the doorway watching her receding
figure till it was beyond his ken.
"I like your friend Miss Lovel, Sophia," he said to his daughter presently.
"Miss Lovel is hardly a friend of mine, papa," replied that young lady
somewhat sharply. "I am not in the habit of making sudden friendships, and
I have not known Miss Lovel a week. Besides which, she is not the kind of
girl I care for."
"Why not?" asked her father bluntly.
"One can scarcely explain that kind of thing. She is too frivolous for me
to get on very well with her. She takes no real interest in my poor, in
spite of her connection with Arden, or in church music. I think she hardly
knows one _Te Deum_ from another."
"She is rather a nice girl, though," said the Captain, who would fain be
loyal to Clarissa, yet for whom the good opinion of such an heiress is Miss
Granger could not be a matter of indifference--there was always the chance
that she might take a fancy to him, as he put it to his brother-officers,
and what a lucky hit that would be! "She's a nice girl," he repeated, "and
"I was not discussing her looks, Captain Westleigh," replied Miss Granger
with some asperity; "I was talking of her ideas and tastes, which are quite
different from mine. I am sorry you let Lady Laura persuade you to dance
with a girl like that, papa. You may have offended old friends, who would
fancy they had a prior claim on your attention."
Mr. Granger laughed at this reproof.
"I didn't think a quadrille was such a serious matter, Sophy," he said.
"And then, you see, when a man of my age does make a fool of himself, he
likes to have the prettiest girl in the room for his partner."
Miss Granger made an involuntary wry face, as if she had been eating
something nasty. Mr. Granger gave a great yawn, and, as the rooms by this
time were almost empty, made his way to Lady Laura in order to offer his
congratulations upon her triumph before retiring to rest.
For once in a way, the vivacious chatelaine of Hale Castle was almost
"Do you really think the ball has gone off well?" she asked incredulously.
"It seems to me to have been an elaborate failure." She was thinking of
those two whom she had surprised tete-a-tete in the balcony, and wondering
what George Fairfax could have been saying to produce Clarissa's confusion.
Clarissa was her protegee, and she was responsible to her sister Geraldine
for any mischief brought about by her favourite.
* * * * *
THE MORNING AFTER.
The day after the ball was a broken straggling kind of day, after the usual
manner of the to-morrow that succeeds a festival. Hale Castle was full to
overflowing with guests who, having been invited to spend one night, were
pressed to stay longer. The men spent their afternoon for the most part in
the billiard-room, after a late lingering luncheon, at which there was
a good deal of pleasant gossip. The women sat together in groups in the
drawing-room, pretending to work, but all desperately idle. It was a
fine afternoon, but no one cared for walking or driving. A few youthful
enthusiasts did indeed get up a game at croquet, but even this
soul-enthralling sport was pursued with a certain listlessness.
Mr. Fairfax and Lady Geraldine walked in the garden. To all appearance, a
perfect harmony prevailed between them. Clarissa, sitting alone in an oriel
at the end of the drawing-room, watched them with weary eyes and a dull
load at her heart, wondering about them perpetually, with a painful wonder.
If she could only have gone home, she thought to herself, what a refuge
the dull quiet of her lonely life would have been! She had not slept five
minutes since the festival of last night, but had lain tossing wearily from
side to side, thinking of what George Fairfax had said to her--thinking of
what might have been and could never be, and then praying that she might do
her duty; that she might have strength to keep firmly to the right, if he
should try to tempt her again.
He would scarcely do that, she thought. That wild desperate talk of last
night was perhaps the merest folly--a caprice of the moment, the shallowest
rodomontade, which he would be angry with himself for having spoken. She
told herself that this was so; but she knew now, as she had not known
before last night, that she had given this man her heart.
It would be a hard thing to remain at Hale to perform her part in the grand
ceremonial of the marriage, and yet keep her guilty secret hidden from
every eye; above all, from his whom it most concerned. But there seemed no
possibility of escape from this ordeal, unless she were to be really ill,
and excused on that ground. She sat in the oriel that afternoon, wondering
whether a painful headache, the natural result of her sleeplessness and
hyper-activity of brain, might not be the beginning of some serious
illness--a fever perhaps, which would strike her down for a time and make
an end to all her difficulties.
She had been sitting in the window for a long time quite alone, looking out
at the sunny garden and those two figures passing and repassing upon an
elevated terrace, with such an appearance of being absorbed in each other's
talk, and all-sufficient for each other's happiness. It seemed to Clarissa
that she had never seen them so united before. Had he been laughing at
her last night? she asked herself indignantly; was that balcony scene a
practical joke? He had been describing it to Lady Geraldine perhaps this
afternoon, and the two had been laughing together at her credulity. She was
in so bitter a mood just now that she was almost ready to believe this.
She had been sitting thus a long time, tormented by her own thoughts, and
hearing the commonplace chatter of those cheerful groups, now loud, now
low, without the faintest feeling of interest, when a heavy step sounded
on the floor near her, and looking up suddenly, she saw Mr. Granger
approaching her solitary retreat. The cushioned seat in the oriel, the
ample curtains falling on either side of her, had made a refuge in which
she felt herself alone, and she was not a little vexed to find her retreat
The master of Arden Court drew a chair towards the oriel, and seated
himself deliberately, with an evident intention of remaining. Clarissa was
obliged to answer his courteous inquiries about her health, to admit her
headache as an excuse for the heaviness of her eyes, and then to go on
talking about everything he chose to speak of. He did not talk stupidly by
any means, but rather stiffly, and with the air of a man to whom friendly
converse with a young lady was quite a new thing. He spoke to her a good
deal about the Court and its surroundings--which seemed to her an error in
taste--and appeared anxious to interest her in all his improvements.
"You really must come and see the place, Miss Lovel," he said. "I shall be
deeply wounded if you refuse."
"I will come if you wish it," Clarissa answered meekly; "but you cannot
imagine how painful the sight of the dear old house will be to me."
"A little painful just for the first time, perhaps. But that sort of
feeling will soon wear off. You will come, then? That is settled. I want to
win your father's friendship if I can, and I look to you to put me in the
right way of doing so."
"You are very good, but papa is so reserved--eccentric, I suppose most
people would call him--and he lives shut up in himself, as it were. I
have never known him make a new friend. Even my uncle Oliver and he seem
scarcely more than acquaintances; and yet I know my uncle would do anything
to serve us, and I believe papa knows it too."
"We must trust to time to break down that reserve, Miss Lovel," Mr. Granger
returned cheerily; "and you will come to see us at the Court--that is
understood. I want you to inspect Sophia's schools, and sewing classes, and
cooking classes, and goodness knows what. There are plenty of people
who remember you, and will be delighted to welcome you amongst them. I have
heard them say how kind you were to them before you went abroad."
"I had so little money," said Clarissa, "I could do hardly anything."
"But, after all, money is not everything with that class of people. No
doubt they like it better than anything in the present moment; but as
soon as it is gone they forget it, and are not apt to be grateful for
substantial benefits in the past. But past kindness they do remember. Even
in my own experience, I have known men who have been ungrateful for large
pecuniary benefits, and yet have cherished the memory of some small
kindness; a mere friendly word perhaps, spoken at some peculiar moment
in their lives. No, Miss Lovel, you will not find yourself forgotten at
He was so very earnest in this assurance, that Clarissa could not help
feeling that he meant to do her a kindness. She was ashamed of her unworthy
prejudice against him, and roused herself with a great effort from her
abstraction, in order to talk and listen to Mr. Granger with all due
courtesy. Nor had she any farther opportunity of watching those two figures
pacing backward and forward upon the terrace; for Mr. Granger contrived
to occupy her attention till the dressing-bell rang, and afforded her the
usual excuse for hurrying away.
She was one of the last to return to the drawing-room, and to her surprise
found Mr. Granger by her side, offering his arm in his stately way when the
procession began to file off to the dining-room, oblivious of the claims
which my lady's matronly guests might have upon him.
Throughout that evening Mr. Granger was more or less by Clarissa's side.
His daughter, perceiving this with a scarcely concealed astonishment,
turned a deaf ear to the designing compliments of Captain Westleigh (who
told himself that a fellow might just as well go in for a good thing as
not when he had a chance), and came across the room to take part in her
parent's conversation. She even tried to lure him away on some pretence
or other; but this was vain. He seemed rooted to his chair by Clarissa's
side--she listlessly turning over a folio volume of steel plates, he
pointing out landscapes and scenes which had been familiar to him in his
continental rambles, and remarking upon them in a somewhat disjointed
fashion--"Marathon, yes--rather flat, isn't it? But the mountains make a
fine background. We went there with guides one day, when I was a young man.
The Acropolis--hum! ha!--very fine ruins, but a most inconvenient place to
get at. Would you like to see Greece, Miss Lovel?"
Clarissa gave a little sigh--half pain, half rapture. What chance had she
of ever treading that illustrious soil, of ever emerging from the bondage
of her dull life? She glanced across the room to the distant spot where
Lady Geraldine and George Fairfax sat playing chess. _He_ had been there.
She remembered his pleasant talk of his wanderings, on the night of their
"Who would not like to see Greece?" she said.
"Yes, of course," Mr. Granger answered in his most prosaic way. "It's a
country that ought to be remarkably interesting; but unless one is very
well up in its history, one is apt to look at everything in a vague
uncertain sort of manner. A mountain here, and a temple there--and then the
guides and that kind of people contrive to vulgarise everything somehow;
and then there is always an alarm about brigands, to say nothing of the
badness of the inns. I really think you would be disappointed in Greece,
"Let me keep my dream," Clarissa answered rather sadly "I am never likely
to see the reality."
"You cannot be sure of that; at your age all the world is before you."
"You have read Grote, of course, Miss Lovel?" said Miss Granger, who had
read every book which a young lady ought to have read, and who rather
prided herself upon the solid nature of her studies.
"Yes, I have read a good deal of Grote," Clarissa replied meekly.
Miss Granger looked at her as if she rather doubted this assertion, and
would like to have come down upon her with some puzzling question about the
Archons or the Areopagus, but thought better of it, and asked her father if
he had been talking to Mr. Purdew.
Mr. Purdew was a landed gentleman of some standing, whose estate lay near
Arden Court, and who had come with his wife and daughters to Lady Laura's
"He in sitting over there, near the piano," added Sophia; "I expected to
find you enjoying a chat with him."
"I had my chat with Purdew after luncheon," answered Mr. Granger; and
then he went on turning the leaves for Clarissa with a solemn air, and
occasionally pointing out to her some noted feature in a landscape or
city. His daughter stared at him in supreme astonishment. She had seen
him conventionally polite to young ladies before to-night, but this was
something more than conventional politeness. He kept his place all the
evening, and all that Sophia could do was to remain on guard.
When Clarissa was lighting her candle at a table in the corridor, Mr.
Fairfax came up to her for the first time since the previous night.
"I congratulate you on your conquest, Miss Lovel," he said in a low voice.
She looked up at him with a pale startled face, for she had not known
that he was near her till his voice sounded close in her ear. "I don't
understand you," she stammered.
"O, of course not; young ladies never can understand that sort of thing.
But I understand it very well, and it throws a pretty clear light upon our
interview last night. I wasn't quite prepared for such wise counsel as you
gave me then. I can see now whence came the strength of your wisdom. It is
a victory worth achieving, Miss Lovel. It means Arden Court.--Yes, that's a
very good portrait, isn't it?" he went on in a louder key, looking up at
a somewhat dingy picture, as a little cluster of ladies came towards the
table; "a genuine Sir Joshua, I believe."
And then came the usual good-nights, and Clarissa went away to her room
with those words in her ears, "It means Arden Court."
Could he be cruel enough to think so despicably of her as this? Could he
suppose that she wanted to attract the attention of a man old enough to be
her father, only because he was rich and the master of the home she loved?
The fact is that Mr. Fairfax--not too good or high-principled a man at the
best of times, and yet accounting himself an honourable gentleman--was
angry with himself and the whole world, most especially angry with
Clarissa, because she had shown herself strong where he had thought to find
her weak. Never before had his vanity been so deeply wounded. He had half
resolved to sacrifice himself for this girl--and behold, she cared nothing
* * * * *
The preparations for the wedding went on. Clarissa's headache did not
develop into a fever, and she had no excuse for flying from Hale Castle.
Her father, who had written Lady Laura Armstrong several courteous little
notes expressing his gratitude for her goodness to his child, surprised
Miss Lovel very much by appearing at the Castle one fine afternoon to make
a personal acknowledgment of his thankfulness. He consented to remain to
dinner, though protesting that he had not dined away from home--except at
his brother-in-law's--for a space of years.
"I am a confirmed recluse, my dear Lady Laura, a worn-out old bookworm,
with no better idea of enjoyment than a good fire and a favourite author,"
he said; "and I really feel myself quite unfitted for civilised society.
But you have a knack at commanding, and to hear is to obey; so if you
insist upon it, and will pardon my morning-dress, I remain."
Mr. Lovel's morning-dress was a suit of rather clerical-looking black from
a fashionable West-end tailor--a costume that would scarcely outrage the
proprieties of a patrician dinner-table.
"Clarissa shall show you the gardens between this and dinner-time,"
exclaimed Lady Laura. "It's an age since you've seen them, and I want to
know your opinion of my improvements. Besides, you must have so much to say
Clarissa blushed, remembering how very little her father ever had to say to
her of a confidential nature, but declared that she would be very pleased
to show him the gardens; so after a little more talk with my lady they set
"Well, Clary," Mr. Lovel began, with his kindest air, "you are making a
long stay of it."
"Too long, papa. I should be so glad to come home. Pray don't think me
ungrateful to Lady Laura, she is all goodness; but I am so tired of this
kind of life, and I do so long for the quiet of home."
"Tired of this kind of life! Did ever any one hear of such a girl! I really
think there are some people who would be tired of Paradise. Why, child,
it is the making of you to be here! If I were as rich as--as that fellow
Granger, for instance; confound Croesus!--I couldn't give you a better
chance. You must stay here as long as that good-natured Lady Laura likes
to have you; and I hope you'll have booked a rich husband before you come
home. I shall be very much disappointed if you haven't."
"I wish you would not talk in that way, papa; nothing would ever induce me
to marry for money."
"_For_ money; no, I suppose not," replied Mr. Lovel testily; "but you might
marry a man _with_ money. There's no reason that a rich man should be
inferior to the rest of his species. I don't find anything so remarkably
agreeable in poor men."
"I am not likely to marry foolishly, papa, or to offend you in that way,"
Clarissa answered with a kind of quiet firmness, which her father inwardly
execrated as "infernal obstinacy;" "but no money in the world would be the
faintest temptation to me."
"Humph! Wait till some Yorkshire squire offers you a thousand a year
pin-money; you'll change your tone then, I should hope. Have you seen
anything of that fellow Granger, by the way?"
"I have seen a good deal of Mr. and Miss Granger, papa. They have been
staying here for a fortnight, and are here now."
"You don't say so! Then I shall be linked into an intimacy with the fellow.
Well, it is best to be neighbourly, perhaps. And how do you like Mr.
"He is not a particularly unpleasant person, papa; rather stiff and
matter-of-fact, but not ungentlemanly; and he has been especially polite to
me, as if he pitied me for having lost Arden."
In a general way Mr. Lovel would have been inclined to protest against
being pitied, either in his own person or that of his belongings, by such a
man as Daniel Granger. But in his present humour it was not displeasing to
him to find that the owner of Arden Court had been especially polite to
"Then he is really a nice fellow, this Granger, eh, Clary?" he said airily.
"I did not say nice, papa."
"No, but civil and good-natured, and that kind of thing. Do you know, I
hear nothing but praises of him about Arden; and he is really doing
wonders for the place. Looking at his work with an unjaundiced mind, it is
impossible to deny that. And then his wealth!--something enormous, they
tell me. How do you like the daughter, by the way?"
This question Mr. Lovel asked with something of a wry face, as if the
existence of Daniel Granger's daughter was not a pleasing circumstance in
"Not particularly, papa. She is very good, I daresay, and seems anxious to
do good among the poor; and she is clever and accomplished, but she is not
a winning person. I don't think I could ever get on with her very well."
"That's a pity, since you are such near neighbours."
"But you have always avoided any acquaintance with the Grangers, papa,"
Clarissa said wonderingly.
"Yes, yes, naturally. I have shrunk from knowing people who have turned me
out of house and home, as it were. But that sort of thing must come to an
end sooner or later. I don't want to appear prejudiced or churlish; and in
short, though I may never care to cross that threshold, there is no reason
Miss Granger and you should not be friendly. You have no one at Arden of
your own age to associate with, and a companion of that kind might be
useful. Has the girl much influence with her father, do you think?"
"She is not a girl, papa, she is a young woman. I don't suppose she is more
than two or three-and-twenty, but no one would ever think of calling Miss
Granger a girl."
"You haven't answered my question."
"I scarcely know how to answer it. Mr. Granger seems kind to his daughter,
and she talks as if she had a great deal of influence over him; but one
does not see much of people's real feelings in a great house like this. It
is 'company' all day long. I daresay Mr. and Miss Granger are very fond of
one another, but--but--they are not so much to each other as I should like
you and me to be, papa," Clarissa added with a sudden boldness.
Mr. Lovel coughed, as if something had stuck in his throat.
"My dear child, I have every wish to treat you fairly--affectionately, that
is to say," he replied, after that little nervous cough; "but I am not a
man given to sentiment, you see, and there are circumstances in my life
which go far to excuse a certain coldness. So long as you do not ask too
much of me--in the way of sentiment, I mean--we shall get on very well, as
we have done since your return from school. I have had every reason to be
This was not much, but Clarissa was grateful even for so little.
"Thank you, papa," she said in a low voice; "I have been very anxious to
"Yes, my dear, and I hope--nay, am sure--that your future conduct will give
me the same cause for satisfaction; that you will act wisely, and settle
the more difficult questions of life like a woman of sense and resolution.
There are difficult questions to be solved in life, you know, Clary; and
woe betide the woman who lets her heart get the better of her head!"
Clarissa did not quite understand the drift of this remark, but her father
dismissed the subject in his lightest manner before she could express her
"That's quite enough serious talk, my dear," he said; "and now give me the
_carte du pays_. Who is here besides these Grangers? and what little social
comedies are being enacted? Your letters, though very nice and dutiful, are
not quite up to the Horace-Walpole standard, and have not enlightened me
much about the state of things."
Clarissa ran over the names of the Castle guests. There was one which she
felt would be difficult to pronounce, but it must needs come at last. She
wound up her list with it: "And--and there are Lady Geraldine Challoner,
and the gentleman she is going to marry--Mr. Fairfax."
To her extreme surprise, the name seemed to awaken some unwonted emotion in
her father's breast.
"Fairfax!" he exclaimed; "what Fairfax is that? You didn't tell me whom
Lady Geraldine was to marry when you told me you were to officiate as
bridesmaid. Who is this Mr. Fairfax?"
"He has been in the army, papa, and has sold out. He is the heir to some
great estate called Lyvedon, which he is to inherit from an uncle."
"His son!" muttered Mr. Lovel.
"Do you know Mr. Fairfax, papa?"
"No, I do not know this young man. But I have known others--members of the
same family--and have a good reason for hating his name. He comes of a
false, unprincipled race. I am sorry for Lady Geraldine."
"He may not have inherited the faults of his family, papa."
"May not!" echoed Mr. Lovel contemptuously; "or may. I fancy these vices
run in the blood, child, and pass from father to son more surely than a
landed estate. To lie and betray came natural to the man I knew. Great
Heaven! I can see his false smile at this moment."
This was said in a low voice; not to Clarissa, but to himself; a
half-involuntary exclamation. He turned impatiently presently, and walked
hurriedly back towards the Castle.
"Let us go in," he said. "That name of Fairfax has set my teeth on edge."
"But you will not be uncivil to Mr. Fairfax, papa?" Clarissa asked
"Uncivil to him! No, of course not. The man is Lady Laura's guest, and a
stranger to me; why should I be uncivil to him?"
Nor would it have been possible to imagine by-and-by, when Mr. Lovel and
George Fairfax were introduced to each other, that the name of the younger
man was in any manner unpleasant to the elder. Clarissa's father had
evidently made up his mind to be agreeable, and was eminently successful
in the attempt. At the dinner-table he was really brilliant, and it was
a wonder to every one that a man who led a life of seclusion could shine
forth all at once with more than the success of a professed diner-out. But
it was to Mr. Granger that Marmaduke Lovel was most particularly gracious.
He seemed eager to atone, on this one occasion, for all former coldness
towards the purchaser of his estate. Nor was Daniel Granger slow to take
advantage of his urbane humour. For some reason or other, that gentleman
was keenly desirous of acquiring Mr. Lovel's friendship. It might be the
commoner's slavish worship of ancient race, it might be some deeper motive,
that influenced him, but about the fact itself there could be no doubt. The
master of Arden was eager to place his coverts, his park, his library, his
hot-houses, his picture-gallery--everything that he possessed--at the feet
of his ruined neighbour. Yet even in his eagerness to confer these benefits
there was some show of delicacy, and he was careful not to outrage the
fallen man's dignity.
Mr. Lovel listened, and bowed, and smiled; pledged himself to nothing;
waived off every offer with an airy grace that was all his own. A prime
minister, courted by some wealthy place-hunter, could not have had a
loftier air; and yet he contrived to make Mr. Granger feel that this was
the inauguration of a friendship between them; that he consented to the
throwing down of those barriers which had kept them apart hitherto.
"For myself, I am a hermit by profession," he said; "but I am anxious that
my daughter should have friends, and I do not think she could have a more
accomplished or agreeable companion than Miss Granger."
He glanced towards that young lady with a smile--almost a triumphant
smile--as he said this. She had been seated next him at dinner, and he had
paid her considerable attention--attention which had not been received
by her with quite that air of gratification which Mr. Level's graceful
compliments were apt to cause. He was not angry with her, however. He
contemplated her with a gentle indulgence, as an interesting study in human
"Well, Mr. Lovel," said Lady Laura in a confidential tone, when he was
wishing her good-night, "what do you think of Mr. Granger now?"
"I think he is a very excellent fellow, my dear Lady Laura; and that I am
to blame for having been so prejudiced against him."
"I am so glad to hear you say that!" cried my lady eagerly. She had drawn
him a little way apart from the rest of her visitors, out of earshot of the
animated groups of talkers clustered here and there. "And now I want to
know if you have made any great discovery?" she added, looking at him
He responded to the look with a most innocent stare.
"A discovery, my dearest Lady Laura--you mystify me. What discovery is
there for me to make, except that Hale Castle is the most delightful place
to visit?--and that fact I knew beforehand, knowing its mistress."
"But is it possible that you have seen nothing--guessed nothing? And I
should have supposed you such a keen observer--such a profound judge of
"One does not enlarge one's knowledge of human nature by being buried
amongst books as I have been. But seriously, Lady Laura, what is the answer
to the enigma--what ought I to have guessed, or seen?"
"Why, that Daniel Granger is desperately in love with your daughter."
"With Clarissa! Impossible! Why, the man is old enough to be her father."
"Now, my dear Mr. Lovel, you know that is _no_ reason against it. I tell
you the thing is certain--palpable to any one who has had some experience
in such matters, as I have. I wanted to bring this about; I had set my
heart upon it before Clarissa came here, but I did not think it would be
accomplished so easily. There is no doubt about his feelings, my dear
Mr. Lovel; I know the man thoroughly, and I never saw him pay any woman
attention before. Perhaps the poor fellow is scarcely conscious of his own
infatuation yet, but the fact is no less certain. He has betrayed himself
to me ever so many times by little speeches he has let fall about our dear
Clary. I think even the daughter begins to see it."
"And what then, my kind friend?" asked Mr. Lovel with an air of supreme
indifference. "Suppose this fancy of yours to be correct, do you think
Clarissa would marry the man?"
"I do not think she would be so foolish as to refuse him," Lady Laura
answered quickly; "unless there were some previous infatuation on her
"You need have no apprehension of that," returned Mr. Lovel sharply.
"Clarissa has never had the opportunity for so much as a flirtation."
Lady Laura remembered that scene on the balcony with a doubtful feeling.
"I hope she would have some regard for her own interest," she said
thoughtfully. "And if such an opportunity as this were to present
itself--as I feel very sure it will--I hope your influence would be exerted
on the right side."
"My dear Lady Laura, my influence should be exercised in any manner you
desired," replied Mr. Lovel eagerly. "You have been so good to that poor
friendless girl, that you have a kind of right to dispose of her fate.
Heaven forbid that I should interfere with any plans you may have formed on
her behalf, except to promote them."
"It is so good of you to say that. I really am so fond of my dear Clary,
and it would so please me to see her make a great marriage, such as this
would be. If Mr. Granger were not a good man, if it were a mere question
of money, I would not urge it for a moment; but he really is in every
way unexceptionable, and if you will give me your permission to use my
influence with Clary----"
"My dear Lady Laura, as a woman, as a mother, you are the fittest judge
of what is best for the girl. I leave her in your hands with entire
confidence; and if you bring this marriage about, I shall say Providence
has been good to us. Yes, I confess I should like to see my daughter
mistress of Arden Court."
Almost as he spoke, there arose before him a vision of what his own
position would be if this thing should come to pass. Was it really worth
wishing for at best? Never again could he be master of the home of his
forefathers. An honoured visitor perhaps, or a tolerated inmate--that was
all. Still, it would be something to have his daughter married to a rich
man. He had a growing, almost desperate need of some wealthy friend who
should stretch out a saving hand between him and his fast-accumulating
difficulties; and who so fitted for this office as a son-in-law? Yes, upon
the whole, the thing was worth wishing for.
He bade Lady Laura good-night, declaring that this brief glimpse of the
civilised world had been strangely agreeable to him. He even promised to
stay at the Castle again before long, and so departed, after kissing his
daughter almost affectionately, in a better humour with himself and mankind
than had been common to him lately.
"So that is young Fairfax," he said to himself as he jogged slowly homeward
in the Arden fly, the single vehicle of that kind at the disposal of the
village gentility; "so that is the son of Temple Fairfax. There is a look
of his father in his eyes, but not that look of wicked power in his face
that there was in the Colonel's--not that thorough stamp of a bold bad man.
It will come, I suppose, in good time."
* * * * *
LORD CALDERWOOD IS THE CAUSE OF INCONVENIENCE.
The preparations for the wedding went on gaily, and whatever inclination to
revolt may have lurked in George Fairfax's breast, he made no sign. Since
his insolent address that night in the corridor he had scarcely spoken to
Clarissa; but he kept a furtive watch upon her notwithstanding, and she
knew it, and sickened under it as under an evil influence. He was
very angry with her--she was fully conscious of that--unjustifiably,
unreasonably angry. More than once, when Mr. Granger was especially
attentive, she had encountered a withering glance from those dark gray
eyes, and she had been weak enough, wicked enough perhaps, to try and make
him perceive that Mr. Granger's attentions were in no way pleasant to her.
She could bear anything better than that he should think her capable of
courting this man's admiration. She told herself sometimes that it would be
an unspeakable relief to her when the marriage was over, and George Fairfax
had gone away from Hale Castle, and out of her life for evermore; and then,
while she was trying to believe this, the thought would come to her of what
her life would be utterly without him, with no hope of ever seeing
him again, with the bitter necessity of remembering him only as Lady
Geraldine's husband. She loved him, and knew that she loved him. To hear
his voice, to be in the same room with him, caused her a bitter kind of
joy, a something that was sweeter than common pleasure, keener than common
pain. His presence, were he ever so silent or angry, gave colour to her
life, and to realise the dull blankness of a life without him seemed
While this silent struggle was going on, and the date of the marriage
growing nearer and nearer, Mr. Granger's attentions became daily more
marked. It was impossible even for Clarissa, preoccupied as she was by
those other thoughts, to doubt that he admired her with something more than
common admiration. Miss Granger's evident uneasiness and anger were in
themselves sufficient to give emphasis to this fact. That young lady,
mistress of herself as she was upon most occasions, found the present state