Part 4 out of 10
of things too much for her endurance. For the last ten years of her life,
ever since she was a precocious damsel of twelve, brought to a premature
state of cultivation by an expensive forcing apparatus of governesses and
masters, she had been in the habit of assuring herself and her confidantes
that her father would never marry again. She had a very keen sense of the
importance of wealth, and from that tender age, of twelve or so upwards,
she had been fully aware of the diminution her own position would undergo
in the event of a second marriage, and the advent of a son to the house of
Granger. Governesses and maidservants had perhaps impressed this upon her
at some still earlier stage of her existence; but from this time upwards
she had needed nothing to remind her of the fact, and she had watched her
father with an unwearying vigilance.
More than once, strong-minded and practical as he was, she had seen him in
danger. Attractive widows and dashing spinsters had marked him for their
prey, and he had seemed not quite adamant; but the hour of peril had
passed, and the widow or the spinster had gone her way, with all her
munitions of war expended, and Daniel Granger still unscathed. This time it
was very different. Mr. Granger showed an interest in Clarissa which he had
never before exhibited in any member of her sex since he wooed and won the
first Mrs. Granger; and as his marriage had been by no means a romantic
affair, but rather a prudential arrangement made and entered upon by Daniel
Granger the elder, cloth manufacturer of Leeds and Bradford, on the one
part, and Thomas Talloway, cotton-spinner of Manchester, on the other part,
it is doubtful whether Miss Sophy Talloway had ever in her ante-nuptial
days engrossed so much of his attention.
Having no one else at Hale to whom she could venture to unbosom herself,
Miss Granger was fain to make a confidante of her maid, although she did
not, as a general rule, affect familiarity with servants. This maid, who
was a mature damsel of five-and-thirty or upwards, and a most estimable
Church-of-England person, had been with Miss Granger for a great many
years; had curled her hair for her when she wore it in a crop, and even
remembered her in her last edition of pinafores. Some degree of familiarity
therefore might be excused, and the formal Sophia would now and then expand
a little in her intercourse with Warman.
One night, a very little while before Lady Geraldine's wedding-day, the
cautious Warman, while brushing Miss Granger's hair, ventured to suggest
that her mistress looked out of spirits. Had she said that Sophia looked
excessively cross, she would scarcely have been beside the mark.
"Well, Warman," Miss Granger replied, in rather a shrewish tone, "I _am_
out of spirits. I have been very much annoyed this evening by papa's
attentions to--by the designing conduct of a young lady here."
"I think I can guess who the young lady is, miss," Warman answered
"O, I suppose so," cried Sophia, giving her head an angry jerk which almost
sent the brush out of her abigail's hand; "servants know everything."
"Well, you see, miss, servants have eyes and ears, and they can't very well
help using them. People think we're inquisitive and prying if we venture to
see things going on under our very noses; and so hypocrisy gets be almost
part of a servant's education, and what people call a good servant is
a smooth-faced creature that pretends to see nothing and to understand
nothing. But my principles won't allow of my stooping to that sort of
thing, Miss Granger, and what I think I say. I know my duty as a servant,
and I know the value of my own immortal soul as a human being."
"How you do preach, Warman! Who wants you to be a hypocrite?" exclaimed
Sophia impatiently. "It's always provoking to hear that one's affairs have
been talked over by a herd of servants, but I suppose it's inevitable. And
pray, what have they been saying about papa?"
"Well, miss, I've heard a good deal of talk of one kind and another. You
see, your papa is looked upon as a great gentleman in the county, and
people will talk about him. There's Norris, Lady Laura's own footman, who's
a good deal in the drawing-room--really a very intelligent-well-brought-up
young man, and, I am happy to say, _not_ a dissenter. Norris takes a good
deal of notice of what's going on, and he has made a good many remarks upon
your par's attention to Miss Lovel. Looking at the position of the parties,
you see, miss, it would be such a curious thing if it was to be brought
round for that young lady to be mistress of Arden Court."
"Good gracious me, Warman!" cried Sophia aghast, "you don't suppose that
papa would marry again?"
"Well, I can't really say, miss. But when a gentleman of your par's age
pays so much attention to a lady young enough to be his daughter, it
generally do end that way."
There was evidently no consolation to be obtained from Warman, nor was that
astute handmaiden to be betrayed into any expression of opinion against
Miss Lovel. It seemed to her more than probable that Clarissa Lovel
might come before long to reign over the household at Arden, and this
all-powerful Sophia sink to a minor position. Strong language of any kind
was therefore likely to be dangerous. Hannah Warman valued her place, which
was a good one, and would perhaps be still better under a more impulsive
and generous mistress. The safest thing therefore was to close the
conversation with one of those pious platitudes which Warman had always at
"Whatever may happen, miss, we are in the hands of Providence," she said
solemnly; "and let us trust that things will be so regulated as to work for
the good of our immortal souls. No one can go through life without trials,
miss, and perhaps yours may be coming upon you now; but we know that such
chastisements are intended for our benefit."
Sophia Granger had encouraged this kind of talk from the lips of Warman,
and other humble disciples, too often too be able to object to it just
now; but her temper was by no means improved by this conversation, and she
dismissed her maid presently with a very cool good-night.
On the third day before the wedding, George Fairfax's mother arrived at
the Castle, in order to assist in this important event in her son's life.
Clarissa contemplated this lady with a peculiar interest, and was not a
little wounded by the strange coldness with which Mrs. Fairfax greeted her
upon her being introduced by Lady Laura to the new arrival. This coldness
was all the more striking on account of the perfect urbanity of Mrs.
Fairfax's manners in a general way, and a certain winning gentleness which
distinguished her on most occasions. It seemed to Clarissa as if she
recoiled with something like aversion at the sound of her name.
"Miss Lovel of Arden Court, I believe?" she said, looking at Lady Laura.
"Yes; my dear Clarissa is the only daughter of the gentleman who till
lately was owner of Arden Court. It has passed into other hands now."
"I beg your pardon. I did not know there had been any change."
And then Mrs. Fairfax continued her previous conversation with Lady Laura,
as if anxious to have done with the subject of Miss Lovel.
Nor in the three days before the wedding did she take any farther notice of
Clarissa; a neglect the girl felt keenly; all the more so because she was
interested in spite of herself in this pale faded lady of fifty, who still
bore the traces of great beauty and who carried herself with the grace of a
queen. She had that air _du faubourg_ which we hear of in the great ladies
of a departed era in Parisian society,--a serene and tranquil elegance
which never tries to be elegant, a perfect self-possession which never
degenerates into insolence.
In a party so large as that now assembled at Hale, this tacit avoidance
of one person could scarcely be called a rudeness. It might so easily be
accidental. Clarissa felt it nevertheless, and felt somehow that it was not
accidental. Though she could never be anything to George Fairfax, though
all possibility even of friendship was at an end between them, she would
have liked to gain his mother's regard. It was an idle wish perhaps, but
scarcely an unnatural one.
She watched Mrs. Fairfax and Lady Geraldine together. The affection between
those two was very evident. Never did the younger lady appear to greater
advantage than in her intercourse with her future mother-in-law. All pride
and coldness vanished in that society, and Geraldine Challoner became
genial and womanly.
"She has played her cards well," Barbara Fermor said maliciously. "It is
the mother who has brought about this marriage."
If Mrs. Fairfax showed herself coldly disposed towards Clarissa, there was
plenty of warmth on the parts of Ladies Emily and Louisa Challoner, who
arrived at the Castle about the same time, and at once took a fancy to
their sister's _protegee._
"Laura has told us so much about you, Miss Lovel," said Lady Louisa, "and
we mean to be very fond of you, if you will allow us; and, O, please may we
call you Clarissa? It is such a _sweet_ name!"
Both these ladies had passed that fearful turning-point in woman's life,
her thirtieth birthday, and had become only more gushing and enthusiastic
with increasing years. They were very much like Lady Laura, had all her
easy good-nature and liveliness, and were more or less afraid of the
"Do you know, we are quite glad she is going to be married at last," Lady
Emily said in a confidential tone to Clarissa; "for she has kept up a kind
of frigid atmosphere at home that I really believe has helped to frighten
away all our admirers. Men of the present day don't like that sort of
thing. It went out of fashion in England with King Charles I., I think, and
in France with Louis XIV. You know how badly the royal household behaved
coming home from his funeral, laughing and talking and all that: I
believe it arose from their relief at thinking that the king of forms
and ceremonies was dead. We always have our nicest little
parties--kettle-drums, and suppers after the opera, and that sort of
thing--when Geraldine is away; for we can do anything with papa."
The great day came, and the heavens were propitious. A fine clear September
day, with a cool wind and a warm sun; a day upon which the diaphanous
costumes of the bridesmaids might be a shade too airy; but not a stern
or cruel day, to tinge their young noses with a frosty hue, or blow the
crinkles out of their luxuriant hair.
The bridesmaids were the Ladies Emily and Louisa Challoner, the two Miss
Fermors, Miss Granger, and Clarissa--six in all; a moderation which Lady
Laura was inclined to boast of as a kind of Spartan simplicity. They were
all to be dressed alike, in white, with bonnets that seemed composed of
waxen looking white heather and tremulous harebells, and with blue sashes
to match the harebells. The dresses were Lady Laura's inspiration: they
had come to her almost in her sleep, she declared, when she had well-nigh
despaired of realising her vague desires; and Clarissa's costume was, like
the ball-dress, a present from her benefactress.
The nine-o'clock breakfast--a meal that begun at nine and rarely ended till
eleven--was hurried over in the most uncomfortable and desultory manner on
this eventful morning. The principals in the great drama did not appear at
all, and Clarissa and Miss Granger were the only two bridesmaids who could
spare half an hour from the cares of the toilet. The rest breakfasted
in the seclusion of their several apartments, with their hair in
crimping-pins. Miss Granger was too perfect a being to crinkle her hair,
or to waste three hours on dressing, even for a wedding. Lady Laura
showed herself among her guests, for a quarter of an hour or so, in a
semi-hysterical flutter; so anxious that everything should go off well,
so fearful that something might happen, she knew not what, to throw the
machinery of her arrangements out of gear.
"I suppose it's only a natural feeling on such an occasion as this," she
said, "but I really do feel as if something were going to happen. Things
have gone on so smoothly up to this morning--no disappointments
from milliners, no stupid mistakes on the part of those railway
people--everything has gone upon velvet; and now it is coming to the crisis
I am quite nervous."
Of course every one declared this was perfectly natural, and recommended
his or her favourite specific--a few drops of sal-volatile--a liqueur-glass
of dry curacoa--red lavender--chlorodyne--and so on; and then Lady Laura
laughed and called herself absurd, and hurried away to array herself in a
pearl-coloured silk, half smothered by puffings of pale pink areophane
and Brussels-lace flounces; a dress that was all pearly gray and rose and
white, like the sky at early morning.
Mr. Armstrong, Mr. Granger, with some military men and country squires,
took their breakfast as calmly as if a wedding were part of the daily
business of life. Miss Granger exhibited a polite indifference about
the great event; Miss Level was pale and nervous, not able to give much
attention to Daniel Granger, who had contrived to sit next her that
morning, and talked to her a good deal, with an apparent unconsciousness of
the severe gaze of his daughter, seated exactly opposite to him.
Clarissa was glad to make her toilet an excuse for leaving Mr. Granger; but
once in the sanctuary of her own room, she sat down in an absent manner,
and made no attempt to begin dressing. Fosset, the maid, found her there at
a quarter past ten o'clock--the ceremony was to take place at eleven--and
gave a cry of horror at seeing the toilet uncommenced.
"Good gracious me, miss! what have you been thinking of? Your hair not
begun nor nothing! I've been almost torn to bits with one and another--Miss
Fermor's maid bothering for long hair-pins and narrow black ribbon; and
Jane Roberts--Lady Emily Challoner's maid--who really never has anything
handy, wanting half the things out of my work-box--or I should have been
with you ever so long ago. My Lady would be in a fine way if you were
"I think my hair will do very well as it is, Fosset," Clarissa said
"Lor, no, miss; not in that dowdy style. It don't half show it off."
Clarissa seated herself before the dressing-table with an air of
resignation rather than interest, and the expeditious Fosset began her
work. It was done very speedily--that wealth of hair was so easy to dress;
there was no artful manipulation of long hair-pins and black ribbon needed
to unite borrowed tresses with real ones. The dress was put on, and
Clarissa was invited to look at herself in the cheval-glass.
"I do wish you had a bit more colour in your cheeks to-day, miss," Fosset
said, with rather a vexed air. "Not that I'd recommend you any of their
vinegar rouges, or ineffaceable blooms, or anything of that kind. But I
don't think I ever saw you look so pale. One would think _you_ were going
to be married, instead of Lady Geraldine. _She's_ as cool as a cucumber
this morning, Sarah Thompson told me just now. You can't put _her_ out
The carriages were driving up to the great door by this time. It was about
twenty minutes to eleven, and in ten minutes more the procession would be
starting. Hale Church was within five minutes' drive of the Castle.
Clarissa went fluttering down to the drawing-room, where she supposed
people would assemble. There was no one there but Mr. Granger, who was
stalking up and down the spacious room, dressed in the newest and stiffest
of coats and waistcoats, and looking as if he were going to assist at a
private hanging. Miss Lovel felt almost inclined to ran away at sight of
him. The man seemed to pursue her somehow; and since that night when
George Fairfax had offered her his mocking congratulations, Mr. Granger's
attentions had been particularly repugnant to her.
She could not draw back, however, without positive rudeness, and it was
only a question of five minutes; so she went in and entered upon an
interesting little conversation about the weather. It was still fine; there
was no appearance of rain; a most auspicious day, really; and so on,--from
Mr. Granger; to which novel remarks Clarissa assented meekly.
"There are people who attach a good deal of significance to that kind
of thing," he said presently. "For my own part, _if_ I were going to be
married to the woman I loved, I should care little how black the sky above
us might be. That sounds rather romantic for me, doesn't it? A man of fifty
has no right to feel like that."
This he said with a half-bitter laugh. Clarissa was spared the trouble of
answering by the entrance of more bridesmaids--Lady Louisa Challoner and
Miss Granger--with three of the military men, who wore hothouse flowers
in their buttonholes, and were altogether arrayed like the lilies of the
field, but who had rather the air of considering this marriage business a
tiresome interruption to partridge-shooting.
"I suppose we are going to start directly," cried Lady Louisa, who was a
fluttering creature of three-and-thirty, always eager to flit from one
scene to another. "If we don't, I really think we shall be late--and there
is some dreadful law, isn't there, to prevent people being married after
"After twelve," Mr. Granger answered in his matter of fact way. "Lady
Geraldine has ample margin for delay."
"But why not after twelve?" asked Lady Louisa with a childish air; "why not
in the afternoon or evening, if one liked? What can be the use of such a
ridiculous law? One might as well live in Russia."
She fluttered to one of the windows and looked out.
"There are all the carriages. How well the men look! Laura must have
spent a fortune in white ribbon and gloves for them--and the horses, dear
things!"--a woman of Lady Louisa's stamp is generally enthusiastic about
horses, it is such a safe thing--"they look as if they knew it was a
wedding. O, good gracious!"
"What is the matter. Lady Louisa?"
"A man from the railway--with a telegram--yes, I am sure it's a telegram!
Do you know, I have such a horror of telegrams! I always fancy they mean
illness--or death--or something dreadful. Very absurd of me, isn't it? And
I daresay this is only a message about some delayed parcel, or some one who
was to be here and can't come, or something of that kind."
The room was full of idle people by this time. Every one went to the open
window and stared down at the man who had brought the telegram. He had
given his message, and was standing on the broad flight of steps before
the Castle door, waiting for the return of the official who had taken it.
Whether the electric wires had brought the tidings of some great calamity,
or a milliner's apology for a delayed bonnet, was impossible to guess. The
messenger stood there stolid and impenetrable, and there was nothing to be
divined from his aspect.
But presently, while a vague anxiety possessed almost every one present,
there came from the staircase without a sudden cry of woe--a woman's
shriek, long and shrill, ominous as the wail of the banshee. There was a
rush to the door, and the women crowded, out in a distracted way. Lady
Laura was fainting in her husband's arms, and George Fairfax was standing
near her reading a telegram.
People had not long to wait for the evil news. Lord Calderwood had been
seized with a paralytic stroke--his third attack--at ten o'clock the
previous night, and had expired at half-past eight that morning. There
could be no wedding that day--nor for many days and weeks to come.
"O, Geraldine, my poor Geraldine, let me go to her!" cried Lady Laura,
disengaging herself from her husband's arms and rushing upstairs. Mr.
Armstrong hurried after her.
"Laura, my sweet girl, don't agitate yourself; consider yourself," he
cried, and followed, with Lady Louisa sobbing and wailing behind him.
Geraldine had not left her room yet. The ill news was to find her on the
threshold, calm and lovely in the splendour of her bridal dress.
* * * * *
"'TIS DEEPEST WINTER IN LORD TIMOR'S PURSE."
Before nightfall--before the evening which was to have been enlivened by a
dinner-party and a carpet-dance, and while bride and bridegroom should have
been speeding southwards to that noble Kentish mansion which his uncle had
lent George Fairfax--before the rooks flew homeward across the woods beyond
Hale--there had been a general flight from the Castle. People were anxious
to leave the mourners alone with their grief, and even the most intimate
felt more or less in the way, though Mr. Armstrong entreated that there
might be no hurry, no inconvenience for any one.
"Poor Laura won't be fit to be seen for a day or two," he said, "and of
course I shall have to go up to town for the funeral; but that need make no
difference. Hale is large enough for every one, and it will be a comfort to
her by-and-by to find her friends round her."
Through all that dreary day Lady Laura wandered about her morning-room,
alternately sobbing and talking of her father to those chosen friends with
whom she held little interviews.
Her sisters Louisa and Emily were with her for the greater part of the
time, echoing her lamentations like a feeble chorus. Geraldine kept
her room, and would see no one--not even him who was to have been her
bridegroom, and who might have supposed that he had the chiefest right to
console her in this sudden affliction.
Clarissa spent more than an hour with Lady Laura, listening with a tender
interest to her praises of the departed. It seemed as if no elderly
nobleman--more or less impecunious for the last twenty years of his
life--had ever supported such a load of virtues as Lord Calderwood had
carried with him to the grave. To praise him inordinately was the only
consolation his three daughters could find in the first fervour of their
grief. Time was when they had been apt to confess to one another that
papa was occasionally rather "trying," a vague expression which scarcely
involved a lapse of filial duty on the part of the grumbler. But to hear
them to-day one would have supposed that they had never been tried; that
life with Lord Calderwood in a small house in Chapel-street, Mayfair, had
been altogether a halcyon existence.
Clarissa listened reverently, believing implicitly in the merits of the
newly lost, and did her best to console her kind friend during the hour Mr.
Armstrong allowed her to spend with Lady Laura. At the end of that time he
came and solemnly fetched her away, after a pathetic farewell.
"You must come to me again, Clary, and very, very soon," said my lady,
embracing her. "I only wish Fred would let you stay with me now. You would
be a great comfort."
"My dearest Lady Laura, it is better not. You have your sisters."
"Yes, they are very good; but I wanted you to stay, Clary. I had such plans
for you. O, by the bye, the Grangers will be going back to-day, I
suppose. Why should they not take you with them in their great travelling
carriage?--Frederick, will you arrange for the Grangers to take Clarissa
home?" cried Lady Laura to her husband, who was hovering near the door.
In the midst of her grief my lady brightened a little; with the idea of
managing something, even so small a matter as this.
"Of course, my dear," replied the affectionate Fred. "Granger shall take
Miss Lovel home. And now I must positively hurry her away; all this talk
and excitement is so bad for you."
"I must see the Fermors before they go. You'll let me see the Fermors,
"Well, well, I'll bring them just to say good-bye--that's all--Come along,
Clarissa followed him through the corridor.
"O, if you please, Mr. Armstrong," she said, "I did not like to worry Lady
Laura, but I would so much rather go home alone in a fly."
"Nonsense! the Grangers can take you. You could have Laura's brougham, of
course; but if she wants you to go with the Grangers, you must go. Her word
is law; and she's sure to ask me about it by-and-by. She's a wonderful
woman; thinks of everything."
They met Mr. and Miss Granger presently, dressed for the journey.
"O, if you please, Granger, I want you to take Miss Lovel home in your
carriage. You've plenty of 'room, I know."
Sophia looked as if she would have liked to say that there was no room, but
her father's face quite flushed with pleasure.
"I shall be only too happy," he said, "if Miss Lovel will trust herself to
"And perhaps you'll explain toiler father what has happened, and how sorry
we are to lose her, and so on."
"Certainly, my dear Armstrong. I shall make a point of seeing Mr. Lovel in
order to do so."
So Clarissa had a seat in Mr. Granger's luxurious carriage, the proprietor
whereof sat opposite to her, admiring the pale patrician face, and
wondering a little what that charm was which made it seem to him more
beautiful than any other countenance he had ever looked upon. They did not
talk much, Mr. Granger only making a few stereotyped remarks about the
uncertainties of this life, or occasionally pointing out some feature of
the landscape to Clarissa. The horses went at a splendid pace Their owner
would have preferred a slower transit.
"Remember, Miss Lovel," he said, as they approached the village of Arden,
"you have promised to come and see us."
"You are very good; but I go out so little, and papa is always averse to my
"But he can't be that any more after allowing you to stay at the Castle,
or he will offend commoner folks, like Sophy and me, by his exclusiveness.
Besides, he told me he wished Sophy and you to be good friends. I am sure
he will let you come to us. When shall it be? Shall we say to-morrow,
before luncheon--at twelve or one, say? I will show you what I've done
for the house in the morning, and Sophy can take you over her schools and
cottages in the afternoon."
Sophia Granger made no attempt to second this proposition; but her father
was so eager and decisive, that it seemed quite impossible for Clarissa to
"If papa will let me come," she said doubtfully.
"O, I'm quite sure he will not refuse, after what he was good enough to say
to me," replied Mr. Granger; "and if he does not feel equal to going about
with us in the morning, I hope we shall be able to persuade him to come to
They were at the little rustic gate before Mill Cottage by this time. How
small the place looked after Hale Castle! but not without a prettiness
of its own. The virginia creeper was reddening on the wall; the casement
windows open to the air and sunshine. Ponto ran out directly the gate was
opened--first to bark at the carriage, and then to leap joyously about
Clarissa, overpowering her with a fond canine welcome.
"You'll come in with us, Sophia?" asked Mr. Granger, when he had alighted,
and handed Clarissa out of the carriage.
"I think not, papa. You can't want me; and this dreadful morning has given
me a wretched headache."
"I thought there was something amiss. It would be more respectful to Mr.
Lovel for you to come in. I daresay he'll excuse you, however, when he
hears you are ill."
Clarissa held out her hand, which Miss Granger took with an almost obvious
reluctance, and the two young ladies said "Good-bye" to each other, without
a word from Sophia about the engagement for the next day.
They found Mr. Lovel in his favourite sitting-room; not dreaming over
a Greek play or a volume of Bentley, as it was his custom to do, but
seriously engaged with a number of open letters and papers scattered on the
writing-table before him--papers that looked alarmingly like tradesmens'
bills. He was taken by surprise on the entrance of Clarissa and her
companion, and swept the papers into an open drawer with rather a nervous
"My dear Clarissa, this is quite unexpected!--How do you do, Mr. Granger?
How very good of you to bring my little girl over to see me! Will you take
that chair by the window? I was deep in a file of accounts when you came
in. A man must examine his affairs sometimes, however small his household
may be.--Well, Clary, what news of our kind friends at the Castle? Why,
bless my soul, this is the wedding-day, isn't it? I had quite forgotten the
date. Has anything happened?"
"Yes, papa; there has been a great misfortune, and the wedding is put off."
Between them, Mr. Granger and Clarissa explained the state of affairs at
the Castle. Mr. Lovel seemed really shocked by the intelligence of the
"Poor Calderwood! He and I were great friends thirty years ago. I suppose
it's nearly twenty since I last saw him. He was one of the handsomest men
I ever knew--Lady Geraldine takes after him--and when he was in the
diplomatic service had really a very brilliant career before him; but he
missed it somehow. Had always rather a frivolous mind, I fancy, and a want
of perseverance. Poor Calderwood! And so he is gone! How old could he have
been? Not much over sixty, I believe. I'll look into Debrett presently."
As soon as he could decently do so after this, Mr. Granger urged his
invitation for the next day.
"O, certainly, by all means. Clary shall come to you as early as you
like. It will be a great relief for her from the dulness of this place.
And--well--yes, if you insist upon it, I'll join you at dinner. But you see
what a perfect recluse I am. There will be no one else, I suppose?"
"You have only to say that you wish it, and there shall be no one else,"
Mr. Granger replied courteously.
Never had he been so anxious to propitiate any one. People had courted
him more or less all his life; and here he was almost suing for the
acquaintance of this broken-down spendthrift--a man whom he had secretly
despised until now.
On this assurance Mr. Lovel consented to dine with his neighbour for the
first time; and Mr. Granger, having no excuse for farther lingering, took
his departure, remembering all at once that he had such a thing as a
daughter waiting for him in the carriage outside.
He went, and Clarissa took up the thread of her old life just where she had
dropped it. Her father was by no means so gracious or agreeable to-day
as he had been during his brief visit to Hale Castle. He took out his
tradesmen's letters and bills when Mr. Granger was gone, and went on with
his examination of them, groaning aloud now and then, or sometimes stopping
to rest his head on his hands with a dreary long-drawn sigh. Clarissa would
have been very glad to offer her sympathy, to utter some word of comfort;
but there was something in her father's aspect which forbade any
injudicious approach. She sat by the open window with a book in her hand,
but not reading, waiting patiently in the hope that he would share his
troubles with her by-and-by.
He went on with his work for about an hour, and then tied the papers in a
bundle with an impatient air.
"Arithmetic is no use in such a case as mine," he said; "no man can make
fifty pounds pay a hundred. I suppose it must end in the bankruptcy court.
It will be only our last humiliation, the culminating disgrace."
"The bankruptcy court! O, papa!" cried Clarissa piteously. She had a very
vague idea as to what bankruptcy meant, but felt that it was something
unutterably shameful--the next thing to a criminal offence.
"Better men than I have gone through it," Mr. Lovel went on with a sigh,
and without the faintest notice of his daughter's dismay; "but I couldn't
stand Arden and Holborough after that degradation. I must go abroad, to
some dull old town in the south of France, where I could have my books and
decent wine, and where, as regards everything else, I should be in a living
"But they would never make you bankrupt surely, papa;" Clarissa exclaimed
in the same piteous tone.
"_They_ would never make me bankrupt!" echoed her father fretfully. "What
do you mean by _they_? You talk like a baby, Clarissa. Do you suppose that
tradesmen and bankers and bill-discounters would have more mercy upon me
than upon other people? They may give me more time than they would give
another man, perhaps, because they know I have some pride of race, and
would coin my heart's blood rather than adopt expedients that other men
make light of; but when they know there is no more to be got out of me,
they will do their worst. It is only a question of time."
"Are you very much in debt, papa?" Clarissa asked timidly, anticipating a
"No; that is the most confounded part of the business. My liabilities only
amount to a few pitiful hundreds. When I sold Arden--and I did not do that
till I was obliged, you may believe--the bulk of the purchase-money went to
the mortgagees. With the residue--a paltry sum--I bought myself an annuity;
a transaction which I was able to conclude upon better terms than most men
of my age, on account of my precarious health, and to which I was most
strongly urged by my legal advisers. On this I have existed, or tried to
exist, ever since: but the income has not been sufficient even for the
maintenance of this narrow household; if I lived in a garret, I must live
like a gentleman, and should be always at the mercy of my servants.
These are honest enough, I daresay, but I have no power of checking my
expenditure. And then I had your schooling to pay for--no small amount, I
"Thank heaven that is over, papa! And now, if you would only let me go out
as a governess, I might be some help to you instead of a burden."
"There's time enough to think of that. You are not much of a burden to me
at present. I don't suppose you add many pounds a year to the expenses of
this house. And if I have to face the inevitable, and see my name in the
_Gazette_, we must begin life again upon a smaller scale, and in a cheaper
place--some out-of-the-way corner of France or Belgium. The governess
notion will keep till I am dead. You can always be of some use to me as a
companion, if you choose."
This was quite a concession. Clarissa came over to her father's chair, and
laid her hand caressingly upon his shoulder.
"My dear father," she said in a low sweet voice, "you make me almost happy,
in spite of our troubles. I wish for nothing better than to stay with you
always. And by-and-by, if we have to live abroad, where you need not be so
particular about our name, I may be able to help you a little--by means of
art or music--without leaving home. I think I could be happy anywhere with
you, papa, if you would only love me a little."
That appeal touched a heart not easily moved. Marmaduke Lovel put
his hand--such a slender feminine hand--into his daughter's with an
"Poor child!" he said sadly. "It would be hard if I couldn't love you a
little. But you were born under an evil star, Clarissa; and hitherto
perhaps I have tried to shut my heart against you. I won't do that any
more. Whatever affection is in me to give shall be yours. God knows I have
no reason to withhold it, nor any other creature on this earth on whom to
bestow it. God knows it is a new thing for me to have my love sued for."
There was a melancholy in his tone which touched his daughter deeply.
He seemed to have struck the key-note of his life in those few words; a
disappointed unsuccessful life; a youth in which there had been some hidden
cause for the ungenial temper of his middle age.
It was nearly six o'clock by this time, and Clarissa strolled into the
garden with her father while the table was being laid for dinner. There
were faint glimpses of russet here and there among the woods around Arden
Court, but it still seemed summer time. The late roses were in full bloom
in Mr. Lovel's fertile garden, the rosy apples were brightening in the
orchard, the plums purpling on a crumbling old red-brick wall that bounded
the narrow patch of kitchen-garden. Yes, even after Hale Castle the place
seemed pretty; and a pang went through Clarissa's heart, as she thought
that this too they might have to leave; even this humble home was not
secure to them.
Father and daughter dined together very pleasantly. Clarissa had been
almost happy by her father's unwonted tenderness, and Mr. Lovel was in
tolerable spirits, in spite of that dreary afternoon's labour, that
hopeless task of trying to find out some elastic quality in pounds,
shillings, and pence.
* * * * *
AT seven o'clock Mr. Level composed himself for his after-dinner nap, and
Clarissa, being free to dispose of herself as she pleased till about nine,
at which hour the tea-tray was wont to be brought into the parlour, put on
her hat and went out into the village. It would be daylight till nearly
eight, and moonlight after that; for the moon rose early, as Miss Lovel
remembered. She had a fancy to look at the familiar old plane again--the
quiet village street, with its three or four primitive shops, and single
inn lying back a little from the road, and with a flock of pigeons and
other feathered creatures always on the patch of grass before it; the low
white-walled cottages, in which there were only friendly faces for her.
That suggestion of a foreign home had made her native village newly dear to
She had not held much intercourse with these Arden people since her coming
home. The sense of her inability to help them in any substantial way had
kept her aloof from them. She had not the gift of preaching, or of laying
down the laws of domestic economy, whereby she might have made counsel
and admonition serve instead of gold or silver. Being able to give them
nothing, she felt herself better out of the way; but there were two
or three households upon which she had contrived to bestow some small
benefits--a little packet of grocery bought with her scanty pocket-money,
a jar of good soup that she had coaxed good-natured Martha to make, and so
on--and in which her visits had been very welcome.
All was very quiet this evening. Clarissa went through the village without
meeting any one she knew. The gate of the churchyard stood open, and Arden
churchyard was a favourite spot with Clarissa. A solemn old place, shadowed
by funereal yews and spreading cedars, which must have been trees of some
importance before the Hanoverian succession. There was a narrow footpath
between two rows of tall quaint old tombstones, with skulls and crossbones
out upon the moss-grown stone; a path leading to another gate which opened
upon a wide patch of heath skirted by a scanty firwood.
This was the wildest bit of landscape about Arden, and Clarissa loved it
with all an artist's love. She had sketched that belt of fir-trees under
almost every condition--with the evening sun behind them, standing blackly
out against the warm crimson light; or later, when the day had left no more
than a faint opal glimmer in the western sky; later still, in the fair
summer moonlight, or en a blusterous autumn afternoon, tossed by the
pitiless wind. There was a poetry in the scene that seemed to inspire her
pencil, and yet she could never quite satisfy herself. In short, she
was not Turner; and that wood and sky needed the pencil of a Turner to
translate them fully. This evening she had brought her pocket sketch-book
with her. It was the companion of all her lonely walks.
She sat down upon the low boundary-wall of the churchyard, close by the
rustic wooden gate through which she had come, facing the heath and the
firwood, and took out her sketch-book. There was always something new;
inexhaustible Nature had ever some fresh lesson for her. But this evening
she sat idle for a long time, with her pencil in her hand; and when at last
she began to draw, it was no feature of heathy ridge or dark firwood, but a
man's face, that appeared upon the page.
It was a face that she had drawn very often lately in her idle moods, half
unconsciously sometimes--a bold handsome face, that offered none of those
difficulties by which some countenances baffle the skill of a painter. It
was the face of a man of whom she had told herself it was a sin even to
think; but the face haunted her somehow, and it seemed as if her pencil
reproduced it in spite of herself.
She was thinking as she drew near of Lady Geraldine's postponed wedding. It
would have been better that the marriage should have taken place; better
that the story should have ended to-day and that the frail link between
herself and George Fairfax should have been broken. That accident of Lord
Calderwood's death had made everything more or less uncertain. Would the
marriage ever take place? Would George Fairfax, with ample leisure for
deliberation, hold himself bound by his promise, and marry a woman to whom
he had confessed himself indifferent?
She was brooding over this question when she heard the thud of a horse's
hoofs upon the grass, and, looking up, saw a man riding towards her. He was
leaning across his horse's head, looking down at her in the next moment--a
dark figure shutting out the waving line of fir-trees and the warm light in
the western sky. "What are you doing there, Miss Lovel?" asked a voice that
went straight to her heart. Who shall say that it was deeper or sweeter
than, common voices? but for her it had a thrilling sound.
She started and dropped her book. George Fairfax dismounted, tied
his horse's bridle to the churchyard gate, and picked up the little
"My portrait!" he cried, recognizing the carelessly-pencilled bead. "Then
you do think of me a little, Clarissa! Do you know that I have been
prowling about Arden for the last two hours, waiting and watching for you?
I have ridden past your father's cottage twenty times, I think, and was on
the point of giving up all hope and galloping back to Hale, when I caught
sight of a familiar figure from that road yonder."
He had taken a knife from his pocket, and was deliberately cutting out the
leaf from Miss Lovel's sketch-book.
"I shall keep this, Clarissa,--this one blessed scrap of evidence that you
do sometimes think of me."
"I think of a good many people in the same manner," she said, smiling, with
recovered self-possession. "I have very few acquaintance whose likenesses I
have not attempted in some fashion."
"But you have attempted mine very often," he answered, looking over the
leaves of the book. "Yes, here is my profile amongst bits of foliage, and
scroll-work, and all the vagabond thoughts of your artistic brain. You
shall not snub me, Clarissa. You do think of me--not as I think of you,
perhaps, by day and night, but enough for my encouragement, almost enough
for my happiness. Good heavens, how angry I have been with you during the
last few weeks!"
"What right had you to be angry with me, Mr. Fairfax?"
"The sublime right of loving you. To my mind that constitutes a kind of
moral ownership. And to see you flirting with that fellow Granger, and
yet have to hold my peace! But, thank God, all pretences are done with. I
recognize the event of to-day as an interposition of Providence. As soon as
I can decently do so, I shall tell Lady Geraldine the truth."
"You will not break your engagement--at such a time--when she has double
need of your love?" cried Clarissa indignantly.
She saw the situation from the woman's point of view, and it was of
Geraldine Challoner's feelings she thought at this crisis. George Fairfax
weighed nothing in the scale against that sorrowing daughter. And yet she
"My love she never had, and never can have; nor do I believe that honour
compels me to make myself miserable for life. Of course I shall not disturb
her in the hour of her grief by any talk about our intended marriage; but,
so soon as I can do so with kindness, I shall let her know the real state
of my feelings. She is too generous to exact any sacrifice from me."
"And you will make her miserable for life, perhaps?"
"I am not afraid of that. I tell you, Clarissa, it is not in her cold proud
nature to care much for any man. We can invent some story to account for
the rupture, which will save her womanly pride. The world can be told that
it is she who has broken the engagement: all that will be easily settled.
Poor Lord Calderwood! Don't imagine that I am not heartily sorry for him;
he was always a good friend to me; but his death has been most opportune.
It has saved me, Clarissa. But for that I should have been a married man
this night, a bound slave for evermore. You can never conceive the gloomy
dogged spirit in which I was going to my doom. Thank God, the release came;
and here, sitting by your side, a free man, I feel how bitter a bondage I
He put his arm round Clarissa, and tried to draw her towards him; but she
released herself from him with a quick proud movement, and rose from her
seat on the low wall. He rose at the same moment, and they stood facing
each other in the darkening twilight.
"And what then, Mr. Fairfax?" she said, trembling a little, but looking him
steadily in the face nevertheless. "When you have behaved like a traitor,
and broken your engagement, what then?"
"What then? Is there any possible doubt about what must come then? You will
be my wife, Clarissa!"
"You think that I would be an accomplice to such cruelty? You think that
I could be so basely ungrateful to Lady Laura, my first friend? Yes, Mr.
Fairfax, the first friend I ever had, except my aunt, whose friendship has
always seemed a kind of duty. You think that after all her goodness to me I
could have any part in breaking her sister's heart?"
"I think there is one person whose feelings you overlook in this business."
"And who is that?"
"Myself. You seem to forget that I love you, and that my happiness depends
upon you. Are you going to stand upon punctilio, Clarissa, and break my
heart because Laura Armstrong has been civil to you?"
Clarissa smiled--a very mournful smile.
"I do not believe you are so dreadfully in earnest," she said. "If I did--"
"If you did, what then, Clarissa?"
"It might be different. I might be foolish enough, wicked enough--But I am
sure that this folly of yours is no more than a passing fancy. You will go
away and forget all about me. You would be very sorry by-and-by, if I were
weak enough to take you at your word; just as sorry as you are now for your
engagement to Lady Geraldine. Come, Mr. Fairfax, let us both be sensible,
if we can, and let there be an end of this folly for evermore between us.
Good-night; I must go home. It is half-past eight o'clock, and at nine papa
has his tea."
"You shall go home in time to pour out Mr. Lovel's tea; but you shall hear
me out first, Clarissa, and you shall confess to me. I will not be kept in
And then he urged his cause, passionately, eloquently, or with that which
seemed eloquence to the girl of nineteen, who heard him with pale cheeks
and fast-throbbing heart, and yet tried to seem unmoved. Plead as he might,
he could win no admission from her. It was only in her eyes, which could
not look denial, on her tremulous lips, which could not simulate coldness,
that he read her secret. There he saw enough to make him happy and
"Say what you please, my pitiless one," he cried at last; "in less than
three months you shall be my wife!"
The church-clock chimed the three-quarters. He had no excuse for keeping
her any longer.
"Come then, Clarissa," he said, drawing her hand through his arm; "let me
see you to your father's door."
"But your horse--you can't leave him here?"
"Yes, I can. I don't suppose any one will steal him in a quarter of an hour
or so; and I daresay we shall meet some village urchin whom I can send to
take care of him."
"There is no occasion. I am quite accustomed to walk about Arden alone."
"Not at this hour. I have detained you, and am bound to see you safely
"But if papa should hear----"
"He shall near nothing. I'll leave you within a few yards of his gate."
It was no use for her to protest; so they went back to within half a dozen
paces of Mill Cottage arm-in-arm; not talking very much, but dangerously
happy in each other's company.
"I shall see you again very soon, Clarissa," George Fairfax said. And then
he asked her to tell him her favourite walks; but this she refused to do.
"No matter. I shall find you out in spite of your obstinacy. And remember,
child, you owe nothing to Laura Armstrong except the sort of kindness she
would show to any pretty girl of good family. You are as necessary to her
as the orchids on her dinner-table. I don't deny that she is a warm-hearted
little woman, with a great deal that is good in her--just the sort of woman
to dispense a large fortune. But I shall make matters all right in that
quarter, and at once."
They were now as near Mill Cottage as Mr. Fairfax considered it prudent to
go. He stopped, released Clarissa's hand from his arm, only to lift it to
his lips and kiss it--the tremulous little ungloved hand which had been
sketching his profile when he surprised her, half an hour before, on the
There was not a creature on the road before them, as they Stood thus in
the moonlight; but in spite of this appearance of security, they were not
unobserved. A pair of angry eyes watched them from across a clipped holly
hedge in front of the cottage--the eyes of Marmaduke Lovel, who had
ventured out in the soft September night to smoke his after-dinner cigar.
"Good-night, Clarissa," said George Fairfax; "I shall see you again very
"No, no; I don't wish to see you. No good can come of our seeing each
"You will see me, whether you wish or not. Good-night. There is nine
striking. You will be in time to pour out papa's tea."
He let go the little hand which he had held till now, and went away. When
Clarissa came to the gate, she found it open, and her father standing by
it. She drew back with a guilty start.
"Pray come in," said Mr. Lovel, in his most ceremonious tone. "I am very
glad that a happy accident has enabled me to become familiar with your new
habits. Have you learnt to give clandestine meetings to your lovers at
Hale Castle? Have I to thank Lady Laura for this novel development of your
"I don't know what you mean, papa. I was sitting in the churchyard just
now, sketching, when Mr. Fairfax rode up to me. He stopped talking a
little, and then insisted on seeing me home. That is all."
"That is all. And so it was George Fairfax--the bridegroom that was to have
been--who kissed your hand just now, in that loverlike fashion. Pray come
indoors; I think this is a business that requires to be discussed between
"Believe me you have no reason to be angry, papa," pleaded Clarissa;
"nothing could have been farther from my thoughts than the idea of meeting
Mr. Fairfax to-night."
"I have heard that kind of denial before, and know what it is worth,"
answered her father coldly. "And pray, if he did not come here to meet you,
may I ask what motive brought Mr. Fairfax to Arden to-night? His proper
place would have been at Hale Castle, I should have supposed."
"I don't know, papa. He may have come to Arden for a ride. Everything is in
confusion at the Castle, I scarcely think he would be wanted there."
"You scarcely think! And you encourage him to follow you here--this man who
was to have been married to Lady Geraldine Challoner to-day--and you let
him kiss your hand, and part from you with the air of a lover. I am ashamed
of you, Clarissa. This business is odious enough in itself to provoke the
anger of any father, if there were not circumstances in the past to make it
trebly hateful to me."
They had passed in at the open window by this time, and were standing in
the lamp-lit parlour, which had a pretty air of home comfort, with its
delicate tea-service and quaintly shaped silver urn. Mr. Lovel sank into
his arm-chair with a faint groan, and looking at him in the full light of
the lamp, Clarissa saw that he was deadly pale.
"Do you know that the father of that man was my deadliest foe?" he
"How should I know that, papa?"
"How should you know it!--no. But that you should choose that man for your
secret lover! One would think there was some hereditary curse upon your
mother's race, binding her and hers with that hateful name. I tell you,
Clarissa, that if there had been no such creature as Temple Fairfax, my
life might have been as bright a one as any man need hope for. I owe every
misery of my existence to that man."
"Did he injure you so deeply, papa?"
"He did me the worst wrong that one man can do to another. He came between
me and the woman I loved; he stole your mother's heart from me, Clarissa,
and embittered both our lives."
He stopped, and covered his face with his hand. Clarissa could see that the
hand trembled. She had never seen her father so moved before. She too was
deeply moved. She drew a chair close to him, and sat down by his side, but
dared not speak.
"It is just as well that you should hear the story from me," he said, after
a long pause. "You may hear hints and whispers about it from other people
by-and-by perhaps, if you go more into society; for it was known to
several. It is best you should know the truth. It is a common story enough
in the history of the world; but whenever it happens, it is enough to make
the misery of one man's life. I was not always what you have known me,
Clarissa,--a worn-out machine, dawdling away the remnant of a wasted
existence. I once had hopes and passions like the rest of mankind--perhaps
more ardent than the most. Your mother was the loveliest and most
fascinating woman I ever met, and from the hour of our first meeting I had
but one thought--how I should win her for my wife. It was not a prudent
marriage. She was my equal by birth; but she was the daughter of a ruined
spendthrift, and had learnt extravagance and recklessness in her very
nursery. She thought me much richer than I was, and I did not care to
undeceive her. Later, when we were married, and I could see that her
extravagant habits were hastening my ruin, I was still too much a moral
coward to tell her the naked truth. I could not bear to come between her
and caprices that seemed a natural accompaniment to her charms. I was
weakness itself in all that concerned her."
"And she loved you, papa?" said Clarissa softly. "I am sure she must have
"That is a question that I have never answered with any satisfaction to
myself. I thought she loved me. She liked me well enough, I believe, till
that man crossed her path, and might have learnt to like me better as she
grew older and wiser, and rose above the slavery of frivolous pleasures.
But, in the most evil hour of her life, she met Temple Fairfax, and from
that hour her heart was turned from me. We were travelling, trying to
recover from the expenses of a house perpetually full of my wife's set;
and it was at Florence that we first encountered the Colonel. He had just
returned from India, had been doing great things there, and was considered
rather a distinguished person in Florentine society. I need not stop to
describe him. His son is like him. He and I became friends, and met almost
daily. It was not till a year afterwards that I knew how pitiful a dupe of
this man's treachery I had been from the very first. We were still in Italy
when I made my first discovery; it was one that let in the light upon his
character, but did not seriously involve my wife. We fought, and I was
wounded. When I recovered, I brought my wife home to Arden. Our year's
retrenchment had left me poorer than when I left home. Your mother's
beauty was a luxury not to be maintained more cheaply at Florence than in
There was another pause, and then Marmaduke Lovel went on, in the same
"Within a short time of our return your brother was born. There are things
that I can't even hint to you, Clarissa; but there have been times when the
shadow of that man has come between me and my children. Passion has made me
unjust. I know that in her worst sin against my love--for I went on loving
her to the last--your mother remained what the world calls innocent. But
years after I had believed there was an end of all communion between those
two, I discovered letters, even stolen meetings--rare, I confess, and never
without witnesses, but no less a treason against me. Colonel Fairfax had
friends at Holborough, by whose aid he contrived to see my wife. That he
urged her to leave me, I know, and that she was steadfast in her refusal to
do me that last wrong. But I know too that she loved him. I have read the
confession of that which she called her 'madness' under her own hand."
"O, papa, papa, how sad! how dreadful!"
"Within a year or two of your birth she began to fade. From my heart I
believe it was this struggle between passion and the last remnant of honour
that killed her. I need not tell you the details of my discoveries, some of
them made not very long before her death. They led to bitter scenes between
us; but I thank God I did believe her protestations of innocence, and that
I kept her under my own roof. There were others not so merciful. Colonel
Fairfax's wife was told of his devotion to mine at Florence, and the duel
which ended our acquaintance. She found out something of his subsequent
meetings with your mother, and her jealousy brought about a separation. It
was managed quietly enough, but not without scandal; and nothing but my
determination to maintain my wife's position could have saved her from
utter disgrace. Yes, Clarissa, I loved her to the last, but the misery of
that last year was something that no words can tell. She died in my arms,
and in her latest hours of consciousness thanked me for what she called my
generosity. I went straight from her funeral to London, with a bundle of
letters in my pocket, to find Temple Fairfax. What might have happened
between us, had we met, I can scarcely guess; but there were no scruples on
my side. Fortune favoured him, however; he had sailed for India a few weeks
before, in command of his regiment. I had some thoughts of following him
even there, but abandoned the notion. My wrongs would keep. I waited for
his return, but that never happened. He was killed in Afghanistan, and
carried to his Indian grave the reputation of one of the worst men and best
soldiers who ever bore the king's commission."
This was all. To speak of these things had profoundly agitated Marmaduke
Lovel; but a sudden impulse had moved this man, who was apt to be so silent
about himself and his own feelings, and he had been in a manner constrained
to tell this story.
"You can understand now, I suppose, Clarissa," he said coldly, after
another pause, "why this young man, George Fairfax, is hateful to me."
"Yes, papa. It is only natural that you should be prejudiced against him.
Does he know, do you think----" she faltered and stopped, with a bitter
sense of shame.
"Does he know what?"
"About the past?"
"Of course he must know. Do you suppose his mother has not told him her
Clarissa remembered Mrs. Fairfax's cold manner, and understood the reason
of that tacit avoidance which had wounded her so deeply. She too, no doubt,
was hateful; as hateful to the injured wife of Colonel Fairfax as his son
could be to her father.
"And now, Clarissa," said Mr. Lovel, "remember that any acquaintance
between you and George Fairfax is most repugnant to me. I have told you
this story in order that there may be no possibility of any mistake between
us. God only knows what it costs a man to open old wounds as I have opened
mine to-night. Only this afternoon you affected a considerable regard for
me, which I promised to return to the best of my power. All that is a dead
letter if you hold any communion with this man. Choose him for your friend,
and renounce me for your father. You cannot have both."
"He is not my friend, papa; he is nothing to me. Even it there were no
such thing as this prejudice on your part, I am not so dishonourably as to
forget that Mr. Fairfax is engaged to Lady Geraldine."
"And you promise that there shall be no more meetings, no repetition of the
kind of thing I saw to-night?"
"I promise, papa, that of my own free will I will never see him again. Our
meeting to-night was entirely accidental."
"On your part, perhaps; but was it so on his?"
"I cannot tell that, papa."
Mr. Lovel felt himself obliged to be satisfied with this answer. It seemed
to him a hard thing that the son of his enemy should arise thus to torment
him--an accident that might have tempted a superstitious man to think that
an evil fate brooded over his house; and Marmaduke Lovel's mind, being
by no means strongly influenced by belief, was more or less tainted with
superstition. Looked at from any point of view, it was too provoking that
this man should cross Clarissa's pathway at the very moment when it was
all-important to her destiny that her heart should be untouched, her fancy
"If nothing comes of this Granger business I shall take her abroad," Mr.
Lovel said to himself; "anything to get her out of the way of a Fairfax."
He drank his tea in silence, meditating upon that little scene in the
moonlight, and stealing a look at his daughter every now and then, as she
sat opposite to him pretending to read. He could see that the open book was
the merest pretence, and that Clarissa was profoundly agitated. Was it her
mother's story that had moved her so deeply, or that other newer story
which George Fairfax might have been whispering to her just now in the
lonely moonlit road? Mr. Lovel was disturbed by this question, but did not
care to seek any farther explanation from his daughter. There are some
subjects that will not bear discussion.
* * * * *
MR. GRANGER IS PRECIPITATE.
Clarissa had little sleep that night. The image of George Fairfax, and
of that dead soldier whom she pictured darkly like him, haunted her all
through the slow silent hours. Her mother's story had touched her to the
heart; but her sympathies were with her father. Here was a new reason why
she should shut her heart against Lady Geraldine's lover, if any reason
were wanted to strengthen that sense of honour which reigns supreme in a
girl's unsullied soul. In her conviction as to what was right she never
wavered. She felt herself very weak where this man was concerned--weak
enough to love him in spite of reason and honour; but she did not doubt
her power to keep that guilty secret, and to hide her weakness from George
She had almost forgotten her engagement at Arden Court when her father came
down to his late breakfast, and found her sketching at a little table near
the window, with the affectionate Ponto nestling close at her side.
"I thought you would be dressing for your visit by this time, Clary," he
said very graciously.
"My visit, papa? O, yes, to the Court," she replied, with a faint sigh of
resignation. "I had very nearly forgotten all about it. I was to be there
between twelve and one, I think. I shall have plenty of time to give you
your breakfast. It's not eleven yet."
"Be sure you dress yourself becomingly. I don't want you to appear at a
disadvantage compared with the heiress."
"I'll put on my prettiest dress, if you like, papa; but I can't wear such
silks and laces as Miss Granger wears."
"You will have such things some day, I daresay, and set them off better
than Miss Granger. She is not a bad-looking young woman--good complexion,
fine figure, and so on--but as stiff as a poker."
"I think she is mentally stiff, papa; she is a sort of person I could never
get on with. How I wish you were coming with me this morning!"
"I couldn't manage it, Clarissa. The schools and the model villagers would
be more than I could stand. But at your age you ought to be interested in
that sort of thing; and you really ought to get on with Miss Granger."
It was half-past twelve when Miss Lovel opened the gate leading into Arden
Park--the first time that she had ever opened it; though she had stood
so often leaning on that rustic boundary, and gazing into the well-known
woodland, with fond sad looks. There was an actual pain at her heart as she
entered that unforgotten domain; and she felt angry with Daniel Granger for
having forced this visit upon her.
"I suppose he is determined that we shall pay homage to his wealth, and
admire his taste, and drink the bitter cup of humiliation to the very
dregs. If he had any real delicacy of feeling, he would understand our
reluctance to any intimacy with him."
While she was thinking of Mr. Granger in this unfriendly spirit, a step
sounded on the winding path before her, and looking up, she perceived the
subject of her thoughts coming quickly towards her. Was there ever such an
intrusive man? She blushed rosy red with vexation.
He came to her, with his hat in his hand, looking very big and stiff and
counting-house like among the flickering shadows of forest trees; not
an Arcadian figure by any means, but with a certain formal
business-like-dignity about him, for all that; not a man to be ridiculed or
"I am glad you have not forgotten your promise to come early, Miss Lovel,"
he said, in his strong sonorous voice. "I was just walking over to the
cottage to remind you. Sophia is quite ready to do the honours of her
schools. But I shall not let her carry you off till after luncheon; I want
to show you my improvements. I had set my heart on your seeing the Court
for the first time--since its restoration--under my guidance."
"Pompous, insufferable _parvenu_," thought Clarissa, to whom this desire on
Mr. Granger's part seemed only an odious eagerness to exhibit his wealth.
She little knew how much sentiment there was involved in this wish of
They came into the open part of the park presently, and she was fain to
confess, that whatever changes had been made--and the alterations here were
not many--had been made with a perfect appreciation of the picturesque.
Even the supreme neatness with which the grounds were now kept did not
mar their beauty. Fairy-like young plantations of rare specimens of the
coniferous tribe had arisen at every available point of the landscape,
wherever there had been barrenness before. Here and there the old timber
had been thinned a little, always judiciously. No cockney freaks of fancy
disfigured the scene. There were no sham ruins, no artificial waterfalls
poorly supplied with water, no Chinese pagodas, or Swiss cottages, or
gothic hermitages. At one point of the shrubbery where the gloom of cypress
and fir was deepest, they came suddenly on a Grecian temple, whose slender
marble columns might have gleamed amidst the sacred groves of Diana; and
this was the only indulgence Mr. Granger had allowed to an architect's
fancy, Presently, at the end of a wide avenue, a broad alley of turf
between double lines of unrivalled beeches, the first glimpse of the Court
burst upon Clarissa's sight--unchanged and beautiful. A man must have been
a Goth, indeed, who had altered the outward aspect of the place by a hair's
The house was surrounded by a moat, and there was a massive stone gateway,
of older date than the Court itself--though that was old--dividing a small
prim garden from the park; this gatehouse was a noble piece of masonry, of
the purest gothic, rich with the mellow tint of age, and almost as perfect
as in the days when some wandering companionship of masons gave the last
stroke of their chisels to the delicate tracery of window and parapet.
The Court formed three sides of a quadrangle. A dear old place, lovable
rather than magnificent, yet with all the grandeur of the middle ages; a
place that might have stood a siege perhaps, but had evidently been built
for a home. The garden originally belonging to the house was simplicity
itself, and covered scarcely an acre. All round the inner border of the
moat there ran a broad terrace-walk, divided by a low stone balustrade from
a grassy bank that sloped down to the water. The square plot of ground
before the house was laid out in quaint old flower-beds, where the roses
seemed, to Clarissa at least, to flourish as they flourished nowhere else.
The rest of the garden consisted of lawn and flower-beds, with more roses.
There were no trees near the house, and the stables and out-offices, which
made a massive pile of building, formed a background to the grave old
Without, at least, Mr. Granger had respected the past. Clarissa felt
relieved by this moderation, and was inclined to think him a little less
hateful. So far he had said nothing which could seem to betray a boastful
spirit. He had watched her face and listened to her few remarks with a kind
of deferential eagerness, as if it had been a matter of vital importance
to him that she should approve what he had done. A steward, who had been
entrusted with the conduct of alterations and renovations during the
absence of his master, could scarcely have appeared more anxious as to the
result of his operations.
The great iron gates under the gothic archway stood wide open just as they
had been wont to do in Mr. Lovel's time, and Clarissa and her companion
passed into the quiet garden. How well she remembered the neglected air of
the place when last she had seen it--the mossgrown walks, the duckweed in
the moat, the straggling rose-bushes, everything out of order, from the
broken weathercock on one of the gateway towers, to the scraper by the
half-glass door in one corner of the quadrangle, which had been, used
instead of the chief entrance! It seems natural to a man of decayed fortune
to shut up his hall-door and sneak in and out of his habitation by some
Now all was changed; a kind of antique primness, which had no taint of
cockney stiffness, pervaded the scene. One might have expected to see Sir
Thomas More or Lord Bacon emerge from the massive gothic porch, and stroll
with slow step and meditative aspect towards the stone sun-dial that stood
in the centre of that square rose-garden. The whole place had an air of
doublet and hose. It seemed older to Clarissa than when she had seen
it last--older and yet newer, like the palace of the Sleeping Beauty,
restored, after a century of decay, to all its original grandeur.
The door under the porch stood open; but there were a couple of men in a
sober livery waiting in the hall--footmen who had never been reared
in those Yorkshire wilds--men with powdered hair, and the stamp of
Grosvenor-square upon them. Those flew to open inner doors, and Clarissa
began with wonder to behold the new glories of the mansion. She followed
Mr. Granger in silence through dining and billiard-rooms, saloon and
picture-gallery, boudoir and music-room, in all of which the Elizabethan
air, the solemn grace of a departed age, had been maintained with a
marvellous art. Money can do so much; above all, where a man has no
bigoted belief in his own taste or capacity, and will put his trust in the
intelligence of professional artists. Daniel Granger had done this. He had
said to an accomplished architect, "I give you the house of my choice; make
it what it was in its best days. Improve wherever you can, but alter as
little as possible; and, above all, no modernising."
Empowered by this _carte blanche_, the architect had given his soul to
dreams of mediaeval splendour and had produced a place which, in its way,
was faultless. No matter that some of the carved-oak furniture was fresh
from the chisel of the carver, while other things were the spoil of old
Belgian churches; that the tapestry in one saloon was as old as the days of
its designer, Boucher, and that in the adjoining chamber made on purpose
for Arden Court at the Gobelins manufactory of his Imperial Majesty
Napoleon III. No matter that the gilt-leather hangings in one room had hung
there in the reign of Charles I., while those in another were supplied by a
West-end upholsterer. Perfect taste had harmonised every detail; there was
not so much as a footstool or a curtain that could have been called an
anachronism. Clarissa looked at all these things with a strange sense of
wandering somewhere in a dream. It was, and yet was not her old home. There
was nothing incongruous. The place scarcely seemed new to her, though
everything was altered. It was only as it ought to have been always.
She remembered the bare rooms, the scanty shabby furniture of the Georgian
era, the patches and glimpses of faded splendour here and there, the
Bond-street prettinesses and fripperies in her mother's boudoir, which,
even in her early girlhood, had grown tawdry and _rococo_, the old pictures
rotting in their tarnished frames; everything with that sordid air of
poverty and decay upon it."
"Well, Miss Lovel," Daniel Granger said at last, when they had gone through
all the chief rooms almost in silence, "do you approve of what has been
"It is beautiful," Clarissa answered, "most beautiful; but--but it breaks
my heart to see it."
The words were wrung from her somehow. In the next moment she was ashamed
of them--it seemed like the basest envy.
"O, pray, pray do not think me mean or contemptible, Mr. Granger," she
said; "it is not that I envy you your house, only it was my home so long,
and I always felt its neglect so keenly; and to see it now so beautiful, as
I could have only pictured it in my dreams--and even in them I could not
fancy it so perfect."
"It may be your home again, Clarissa, if you care to make it so," said Mr.
Granger, coming very close to her, and with a sudden passion in his voice.
"I little thought when I planned this place that it would one day seem
worthless to me without one lovely mistress. It is all yours, Clarissa, if
you will have it--and the heart of its master, who never thought that it
was in his nature to feel what he feels for you."
He tried to take her hand; but she shrank away from him, trembling a
little, and with a frightened look in her face.
"Mr. Granger, O, pray, pray don't----"
"For God's sake don't tell me that this seems preposterous or hateful to
you--that you cannot value the love of a man old enough to be your father.
You do not know what it is for a man of my age and my character to love for
the first time. I had gone through life heart-whole, Clarissa, till I saw
you. Between my wife and me there was never more than liking. She was a
good woman, and I respected her, and we got on very well together. That was
all. Clarissa, tell me that there is some hope. I ought not to have spoken
so soon; I never meant to be such a fool--but the words came in spite of
me. O, my dearest, don't crush me with a point-blank refusal. I know that
all this must seem strange to you. Let it pass. Think no more of anything I
have said till you know me better--till you find my love is worth having.
I believe I fell in love with you that first afternoon in the library
at Hale. From that time forth your face haunted me--like some beautiful
picture--the loveliest thing I had ever seen, Clarissa."
"I cannot answer you, Mr. Granger," she said in a broken voice; "you have
shocked and surprised me so much, I----"
"Shocked and surprised you! That seems hard."
In that very moment it flashed upon her that this was what her father and
Lady Laura Armstrong had wished to bring about. She was to win back the
lost heritage of Arden Court--win it by the sacrifice of every natural
feeling of her heart, by the barter of her very self.
How much more Mr. Granger might have said there is no knowing--for,
once having spoken, a man is loth to leave such a subject as this
unexhausted--but there came to Clarissa's relief the rustling sound of a
stiff silk dress, announcing the advent of Miss Granger, who sailed towards
them through a vista of splendid rooms, with a stately uncompromising air
that did not argue the warmest possible welcome for her guest.
"I have been hunting for you everywhere, papa," she said in an aggrieved
tone. "Where have you been hiding Miss Lovel?"
And then she held out her hand and shook hands with Clarissa in the coldest
manner in which it was possible for a human being to perform that ceremony.
She looked at her father with watchful suspicious eyes as he walked away to
one of the windows, not caring that his daughter should see his face just
at that moment. There was something, evidently, Sophia thought,--something
which it concerned her to discover.
* * * * *
They went to luncheon in a secondary dining room--a comfortable apartment,
which served pleasantly for all small gatherings, and had that social air
so impossible in a stately banqueting-chamber--a perfect gem of a room,
hung with gilt leather, relieved here and there by a choice picture in a
frame of gold and ebony. Here the draperies were of a dark crimson cut
velvet, which the sunshine brightened into ruby. The only ornaments in this
room were a pair of matchless Venetian girandoles on the mantelpiece, and
a monster Palissy dish, almost as elaborate in design as the shield of
Achilles, on the oaken buffet.
The luncheon was not a very genial repast; Miss Granger maintained a polite
sulkiness; Clarissa had not yet recovered from the agitation which Mr.
Granger's most unexpected avowal had occasioned; and even the strong man
himself felt his nerves shaken, and knew that he was at a disadvantage,
between the daughter who suspected him and the woman who had all but
refused his hand. He did his utmost to seem at his ease, and to beguile
his daughter into a more cordial bearing; but there was a gloom upon that
little party of three which was palpably oppressive. It seemed in vain to
struggle against the dismal influence. Mr. Granger felt relieved when, just
at the close of the meal, his butler announced that Mr. Tillott was in the
drawing-room. Mr. Tillott was a mild inoffensive young man of High-church
tendencies, the curate of Arden.
"I asked Tillott to go round the schools with us this afternoon," Mr.
Granger said to his daughter in an explanatory tone. "I know what an
interest he takes in the thing, and I thought it would be pleasanter."
"You are very kind, papa," Miss Granger replied, with implacable stiffness;
"but I really don't see what we want with Mr. Tillott, or with you either.
There's not the least reason that we should take you away from your usual
occupations; and you are generally so busy of an afternoon. Miss Lovel and
I can see everything there is to be seen, without any escort; and I have
always heard you complain that my schools bored you."
"Well, perhaps I may have had rather an overdose of the philanthropic
business occasionally, my dear," answered Mr. Granger, with a good-humoured
laugh. "However, I have set my heart upon seeing how all your improvements
affect Miss Lovel. She has such a peculiar interest in the place, you see,
and is so identified with the people. I thought you'd be pleased to have
Tillott. He's really a good fellow, and you and he always seem to have so
much to talk about."
On this they all repaired to the drawing-room, where Mr. Tillott the curate
was sitting at a table, turning over the leaves of an illuminated psalter,
and looking altogether as if he had just posed himself for a photograph.
To this mild young man Miss Granger was in a manner compelled to relax the
austerity of her demeanour. She even smiled in a frosty way as she shook
hands with him; but she had no less a sense of the fact that her father had
out-manoeuvred her, and that this invitation to Mr. Tillott was a crafty
design whereby he intended to have Clarissa all to himself during that
"I am sorry you could not come to luncheon with us, Tillott," said Mr.
Granger in his hearty way. "Or are you sure, by the bye, that you have
taken luncheon? We can go back to the dining-room and hear the last news of
the parish while you wash down some game-pie with a glass or two of the old
"Thanks, you are very good; but I never eat meat on Wednesdays or Fridays.
I had a hard-boiled egg and some cocoa at half-past seven this morning,
and shall take nothing more till sunset. I had duties at Swanwick which
detained me till within the last half-hour, or I should have been very
happy to have eaten a biscuit with you at your luncheon."
"Upon my word, Tillott, you are the most indefatigable of men; but I really
wish you High-church people had not such a fancy for starving yourselves.
So much expenditure of brain-power must involve a waste of the coarser
material. Now, Sophy, if you and Miss Lovel are ready, we may as well
They went out into the sunny quadrangle, where the late roses were blooming
with all their old luxuriance. How well Clarissa remembered them in those
days when they had been the sole glory of the neglected place! In spite
of Sophia, who tried her hardest to prevent the arrangement, Mr. Granger
contrived that he and Clarissa should walk side by side, and that Mr.
Tillott should completely absorb his daughter. This the curate was by no
means indisposed to do; for, if the youthful saint had a weakness, it lay
in the direction of vanity. He sincerely admired the serious qualities of
Miss Granger's mind, and conceived that, blest with such a woman and with
the free use of her fortune, he might achieve a rare distinction for his
labours in tins fold, to say nothing of placing himself on the high-road to
a bishopric. Nor was he inclined to think Miss Granger indifferent to his
own merits, or that the conquest would be by any means an impossible one.
It was a question of time, he thought; the sympathy between them was too
strong not to take some higher development. He thought of St. Francis de
Sales and Madame de Chantal, and fancied himself entrusted with the full
guidance of Miss Granger's superior mind.
They walked across the park to a small gothic gateway, which had been made
since the close of Marmaduke Lovel's reign. Just outside this stood the
chapel of Mr. Granger's building, and the new schools, also gothic, and
with that bran-new aspect against which architecture can do nothing. They
would be picturesque, perhaps, ten years hence. To-day they had the odour
of the architect's drawing-board.
Beyond the schools there were some twenty cottages, of the same modern
gothic, each habitation more or less borne down and in a manner
extinguished by its porch and chimney. If the rooms had been in reasonable
proportion to the chimneys, the cottages would have been mansions; but
gothic chimneys are pleasing objects, and the general effect was good.
These twenty cottages formed the beginning of Mr. Granger's model
village--a new Arden, which was to arise on this side of the Court. They
were for the most part inhabited by gardeners and labourers more or less
dependent on Arden Court, and it had been therefore an easy matter for Miss
Granger to obtain a certain deference to her wishes from the tenants.
The inspection of the schools and cottages was rather a tedious business.
Sophia would not let her companions off with an iota less than the
whole thing. Her model pupils were trotted out and examined in the
Scriptures--always in Kings and Chronicles--and evinced a familiarity with
the ways of Jezebel and Rehoboam that made Clarissa blush at the thought
of her own ignorance. Then there came an exhibition of plain needlework,
excruciatingly suggestive of impaired eyesight; then fancy-work, which Miss
Granger contemplated with a doubtful air, as having a frivolous tendency;
and then the school mistress's parlour and kitchen were shown, and
displayed so extreme a neatness that made one wonder where she lived; and
then the garden, where the heels of one's boots seemed a profanation;
and then, the schools and schoolhouses being exhausted, there came the
How Clarissa's heart bled for the nice clean motherly women who were put
through their paces for Miss Granger's glorification, and were fain to
confess that their housekeeping had been all a delusion and a snare till
that young lady taught them domestic economy! How she pitied them as the
severe Sophia led the way into sacred corners, and lifted the lids of
coppers and dustholes, and opened cupboard-doors, and once, with an aspect
of horror, detected an actual cobweb lurking in an angle of the whitewashed
wall! Clarissa could not admire things too much, in order to do away with
some of the bitterness of that microscopic survey. Then there was such
cross-examination about church-going, and the shortcomings of the absent
husbands were so ruthlessly dragged into the light of day. The poor wives
blushed to own that these unregenerate spirits had still a lurking desire
for an occasional social evening at the Coach and Horses, in spite of the
charms of a gothic chimney, and a porch that was massive enough for the
dungeon of a mediaeval fortress. Miss Granger and the curate played into
each other's hands, and between the two the model villagers underwent a
kind of moral dissection. It was dreary work altogether; and Daniel Granger
had been guilty of more than one yawn before it was all over, even though
he had the new delight of being near Clarissa all the time. It was finished
at last. One woman, who in her benighted state had known Miss Lovel, had
shown herself touched by the sight of her.
"You never come anigh me now, miss," she said tenderly, "though I've knowed
you ever since you was a little girl; and it would do my heart good to see
your sweet face here once in a way."
"You've better friends now, you see, Mrs. Rice," Clarissa answered gently.
"I could do so little for you. But I shall be pleased to look in upon you
now and then."
"Do'ee, now, miss; me and my master will be right down glad to see you.
However kind new friends may be," this was said with a conciliatory curtsey
to Miss Granger, "we can't forget old friends. We haven't forgot your
goodness when my boy Bill was laid up with the fever, miss, and how you sat
beside his bed and read to him."
It was at this juncture that Sophia espied another cobweb, after which the
little party left this the last of the cottages, and walked back to the
park, Daniel Granger still by Clarissa's side. He did not make the faintest
allusion to that desperate avowal of the morning. He was indeed cruelly
ashamed of his precipitation, feeling that he had gone the very way to ruin
his cause. All that afternoon, while his daughter had been peering into
coppers and washing-tubs and dustholes, he had been meditating upon the
absurdity of his conduct, and hating himself for his folly. He was not a
man who suffered from a mean opinion of his own merits. On the contrary, in
all the ordinary commerce of life he fancied himself more than the equal of
the best among his fellow-men. He had never wished himself other than what
he was, or mistrusted his own judgment, or doubted that he, Daniel Granger,
was a very important atom in the scheme of creation. But in this case it
was different. He knew himself to be a grave middle-aged man, with none
of those attributes that might have qualified him to take a young woman's
heart by storm; and as surely as he knew this, he also knew himself to be
passionately in love. All the happiness of his future life depended on this
girl who walked by his side, with her pale calm face and deep hazel eyes.
If she should refuse him, all would be finished. He had dreamed his dream,
and life could never any more be what it had been for him. The days were
past in which, he himself had been all-sufficient for his own happiness.
But, though he repented that hasty betrayal of his feelings, he did not
altogether despair. It is not easy to reduce a man of his age and character
to the humble level of a despairing lover. He had so much to bestow, and
could not separate himself in his own mind from those rich gifts of fortune
which went along with him. No, there was every chance of ultimate success,
he thought, in spite of his rashness of that morning. He had only to teach
himself patience--to bide his time.
* * * * *
VERY FAR GONE.
It was a little after six when they came to the gateway of the Court, at
which point Mr. Tillott made his adieux. Mr. Granger would have been very
glad to ask him to dinner, had he not promised Mr. Lovel that they would
be quite alone; so he made up for any apparent inhospitality towards the
curate by a hearty invitation for the following Sunday.
There was nearly an hour and a half before dinner; but Sophia carried off
her guest to her own rooms at once, for the revision of her toilet, and
detained her in those upper regions until just before the ringing of the
second bell, very much to the aggravation of Mr. Granger, who paced the
long drawing-room in dismal solitude, waiting for Mr. Lovel's arrival.
In her own rooms Miss Granger became a shade more gracious to Clarissa. The
exhibition of her _sanctum sanctorum_ was always pleasing to her. It was
the primmest of apartments, half study, half office; and Sophia, one of
whose proudest boasts was of her methodical habits, here displayed herself
in full force. It seemed as if she had inherited all the commercial
faculties of her father, and having no other outlet for this mercantile
genius, was fain to expend her gifts upon the petty details of a woman's
life. Never had Clarissa seen such a writing-table, with so many
pigeon-holes for the classification of documents, and such ranges of
drawers with Brahma locks. Miss Granger might have carried on a small
banking business with less paraphernalia than she employed in the conduct
of her housekeeping and philanthropy.
"I am my own housekeeper," she told Clarissa triumphantly, "and know the
consumption of this large establishment to an ounce. There is no stint of
anything, of course. The diet in the servant's hall is on the most liberal
scale, but there is no waste. Every cinder produced in the house is sifted;
every candle we burn has been in stock a twelvemonth. I could not pretend
to teach my cottagers economy if I did not practise it myself. I rule
everything by the doctrine of averages--so much consumed in one month, so
much necessarily required in another; and I reduce everything to figures.
Figures cannot deceive, as I tell Mrs. Plumptree, my cook, when she shows
me a result that I cannot understand or accept. And there are my books."
Miss Granger waved her hand towards a row of most uncompromising-looking
volumes of the ledger or day-book species. The delight which she displayed
in these things was something curious to behold. Every small charity
Miss Granger performed, every shortcoming of the recipients thereof, was
recorded in those inexorable volumes. She had a book for the record of the
church-going, a book for the plain needlework, and was wont to freeze the
young blood of her school-children by telling them at the end of the year
how many inches of cambric frilling they had hemmed, and how many times
they had missed afternoon service. To them she appeared a supernatural
creature--a kind of prophetess, sent upon earth for their correction and
On a solid ecclesiastical-looking oak table in one of the windows Miss
Granger had a row of brass-bound money-boxes, inscribed, "For the Home
Mission," "For the Extra Curate Society," and so on--boxes into which Miss
Granger's friends and visitors were expected to drop their mite. Clarissa
felt that if she had been laden down with shillings, she could not for her
very life have approached those formidable boxes to drop one in under Miss
Granger's ken; but, of course, this was a morbid fancy. On another table
there were little piles of material for plain work; so prim, so square,
so geometrically precise, that Clarissa thought the flannel itself looked
cold--a hard, fibrous, cruel fabric, that could never be of use to mortal
flesh except as an irritant.
Miss Granger's bedroom and dressing-room were like Miss Granger's
morning-room. No frivolous mediaevalism here, no dainty upholsterer's work
in many-coloured woods, but solid mahogany, relieved by solemn draperies
of drab damask, in a style which the wise Sophia called unpretentious. The
chief feature in one room was a sewing-machine that looked like a small
church organ, and in the other a monster medicine-chest, from the contents
of which Miss Granger dealt out doses of her own concoction to her
parishioners. Both of these objects she showed to Clarissa with pride, but
the medicine-chest was evidently the favourite.
Having improved the time after this manner till twenty minutes past seven,
with a very brief interval devoted to the duties of the toilet, the two
young ladies went down to the drawing-room, where the lamps were lighted,
and Mr. Lovel just arrived.
That gentleman had the honour of taking Miss Granger in to dinner, and did
his utmost to render himself agreeable to her in a quiet undemonstrative
way, and to take the gauge of her mental powers. She received his
attentions graciously enough--indeed it would not have been easy for any
one to be ungracious to Marmaduke Lovel when he cared to please--but he
could see very clearly that she suspected the state of affairs, and
would be, to the last degree, antagonistic to his own and his daughter's
interests. He saw how close a watch she kept upon her father all through
the dinner, and how her attention was distracted every now and then when he
was talking to Clarissa.
"It is only natural that she should set her face against the business,"
he said to himself; "no woman in her position could be expected to act
otherwise; but it strikes me that Granger is not a man likely to be
influenced by domestic opposition. He is the kind of man to take his own
way, I fancy, in defiance of an opposing universe--a very difficult man
to govern. He seems over head and ears in love, however, and it will be
Clarissa's own fault if she doesn't do what she likes with him. Heaven
grant she may prove reasonable! Most women would be enchanted with such
an opportunity, but with a raw school-girl there is no knowing. And
that fellow Fairfax's influence may work against us, in spite of her
protestations last night."
This was the gist of Mr. Level's disjointed musings during the progress of
the dinner; but he took care not to neglect Miss Granger even for a moment,
and he gave her very little time to listen to her father's conversation
The dinner ceremonial was performed in a manner which seemed perfection,
even to the fastidious taste of Marmaduke Lovel. There was not the faintest
indication of ostentation. Daniel Granger's father had been rich before
him; he had been born in the commercial purple, as it were, and none of
these things were new to him. Before the Arden Court days he had occupied
a handsome modern country house southward, near Doncaster. He had only
expanded his style of living after the purchase of the Court, that was all.
He had good taste too, and a keen sense of the incongruous. He did not
affect the orchids and frivolous floral decorations, the fragile fairy-like
glass, with which Lady Laura Armstrong brightened her dinner-table; but, on
the other hand, his plate, of which he exhibited no vulgar profusion, was
in the highest art, the old Indian china dinner-service scarcely less
costly than solid silver, and the heavy diamond-cut glass, with gold
emblazonment of crest and monogram, worthy to be exhibited behind the
glazed doors of a cabinet. There was no such abomination as gas in the
state chambers of Arden Court. Innumerable candles, in antique silver
candelabra, gave a subdued brightness to the dining-room. More candles,
in sconces against the walls, and two pairs of noble moderator-lamps, on
bronze and ormolu pedestals six feet high, lighted the drawing-room. In
the halls and corridors there was the same soft glow of lamplight. Only in
kitchens and out-offices and stables was the gas permitted to blaze merrily
for the illumination of cooks and scullions, grooms and helpers.
Miss Granger only lingered long enough to trifle with a cluster of purple
grapes before giving the signal for withdrawal Her father started up to
open the dining-room door, with a little sudden sigh. He had had Clarissa
all to himself throughout the dinner, and had been very happy, talking
about things that were commonplace enough in themselves, but finding a
perfect contentment in the fact that he was talking to her, that
she listened to him and smiled upon him graciously, with a sweet
self-possession which put him quite at his ease. She had recovered from
that awkward scene of the morning, and had settled in her own mind that the
business was rather absurd than serious. She had only to take care that Mr.
Granger never had any second opportunity for indulging in such folly.
He held the door open as Clarissa and his daughter went out of the
room--held it till that slim girlish figure had vanished at the end of the
corridor, and then came back to his seat with another sigh.
"Very far gone," Mr. Lovel thought, smiling ever so little, as he bent over
his claret-glass, pretending to admire the colour of the wine.
It was really wonderful. That vague dream which had grown out of Lady
Laura's womanly hints, that pleasant phantom which she had conjured up in
Mr. Lovel's mental vision a month or two ago, in the midsummer afternoon,
had made itself into a reality so quickly as to astound a man too Horatian
in his philosophy to be easily surprised. The fish was such a big one to
be caught so easily--without any exercise of those subtle manoeuvres and
Machiavellian artifices in which the skilful angler delights--nay, to
pounce open-eyed upon the hook, and swallow it bodily!
Mr. Granger filled his glass with such a nervous hand, that half the claret
he poured out ran upon the shining oak table. He wiped up the spilt wine
clumsily enough, with a muttered denunciation of his own folly, and then
made a feeble effort to talk about indifferent things.
It was of no use; with every appearance of courtesy and interest Mr. Lovel
contrived _not_ to help him. One subject after another fell flat: the state
of the Conservative party, the probability of a war--there is always a
probability of war somewhere, according to after-dinner politicians--the
aspect of the country politically and agriculturally, and so on. No, it was
no use; Daniel Granger broke down altogether at last, and thought it best
to unbosom himself.
"There is something that I think you have a right to know, Mr. Lovel," he
said, in an awkward hesitating way; "something which I should scarcely like
you to learn from your daughter's lips, should she think it worth her while
to mention it, before you have heard it from mine. The fact is, in plain
English"--he was playing with his dessert-knife as he spoke, and seemed to
be debating within himself whereabouts upon the dinning-table he should
begin to carve his name--"the fact is, I made an abject fool of myself this
morning. I love your daughter--and told her so."
Mr. Lovel gave a little start, the faintest perceptible movement,
expressive of a gentle astonishment.
"I need hardly tell you that you have taken me entirely by surprise," he
said in his quietest tone.
"Of course not. People always are surprised when a man of my age presumes
to fall in love with a beautiful girl of eighteen or twenty. If I were to
marry some worn-out woman of fashion, some battered widow, steeped to the
lips in worldly wisdom, every one would call the match the most suitable
thing possible. But if a man of fifty ventures to dream a brighter dream,
he is condemned at once for a fool."
"Pardon me, my dear Granger; I have no idea of looking at things in that
light. I only remark that you surprise me, as you no doubt surprised my
daughter by any avowal you may have made this morning."
"Yes; and, I fear, disgusted her still more. I daresay I did my cause all
the harm that it was possible to do it."
"I must own that you were precipitate," Mr. Lovel answered, with his quiet
smile. He felt as if he had been talking to a schoolboy. In his own words
the man was so "very far gone."
"I shall know how to be more careful in future, if not wiser; but I
suffered myself to be carried away by impulse this morning. It was
altogether unworthy of--of my time of life." This was said rather bitterly.
"Frankly, now, Mr. Lovel: if in the future I were able to gain some hold
upon your daughter's affection--without that I would do nothing, no, so
help me heaven, however passionately I might love her; if I could--if, in
spite of the difference of our ages, I could win her heart--would you be in
any way antagonistic to such a marriage?"
"On the contrary, my dear Granger." Mr. Lovel had already something of the
tone of a father-in-law. "Slight as our actual acquaintance has been, I
think I know the estimable qualities of your character well enough from
other sources to be able to say that such a marriage would be eminently
pleasing to me. Nor is this all. I mean to be perfectly candid with you,
Granger. My daughter and myself have both an almost romantic attachment to
this place, and I freely own that it would be very delightful to me to see
her mistress of her old home. But, at the same time, I give you my honour
that nothing would induce me to govern her choice by the smallest exercise
of parental influence. If you can win her, win her, and my best wishes
shall go with your wooing; but I will utter no word to persuade her to be
"I respect you for that resolution; I think I should have asked you to be
neutral, if you hadn't said as much. I couldn't stand the idea of a wife
driven into my arms by fatherly coercion. I suppose such things are done in
modern society. No, I must win my treasure myself, or not at all. I have
everything against me, no doubt, except a rival. There is no fear of
_that_, is there, Lovel?"
"Not the slightest. Clarissa is the merest school-girl. Her visit to Lady
Laura Armstrong was her first glimpse of the world. No, Granger, you have
the field all before you. And you strike me as a man not likely to be
vanquished by small difficulties."
"I never yet set myself to do a thing which I didn't accomplish in the long
run," answered Mr. Granger; "but then I never set myself to win a woman's
heart. My wife and I came together easily enough--in the way of business,
as I may say--and liked each other well enough, and I regretted her
honestly when she was gone, poor soul! but that was all. I was never 'in
love' till I knew your daughter; never understood the meaning of the
phrase. Of all the accidents that might have happened to me, this is the
most surprising to myself. I can never cease to wonder at my own folly."
"I do not know why you should call it a folly. You are only in the very
middle of a man's life; you have a fortune that exempts you from all care
and labour, and of course at the same time leaves you more or less without
occupation. Your daughter will marry and leave you in a year or two, no
doubt. Without some new tie your future existence must needs be very
"I have felt that; but only since I have loved your daughter."
This was all. The men came in with coffee, and put an end to all
confidential converse; after which Mr. Granger seemed very glad to go back
to the drawing-room, where Clarissa was playing a mazurka; while Sophia
sat before a great frame, upon which some splendid achievement in Berlin
woolwork, that was to be the glory of an approaching charity bazaar, was
rapidly advancing towards completion. The design was a group of dogs,
after Landseer, and Miss Granger was putting in the pert black nose of a
Skye-terrier as the gentlemen entered. The two ladies were as far apart as
they well could be in the spacious room, and had altogether an inharmonious
air, Mr. Granger thought; but then he was nervously anxious that these two
should become friends.
He went straight to the piano, and seated himself near Clarissa, almost
with the air of having a right to take that place.
"Pray go on playing," he said; "that seems very pretty music. I am no
judge, and I don't pretend to care for that classical music which every one
talks about nowadays, but I know what pleases me."
The evening was not an especially gay one; but it seemed pleasant enough
to Mr. Granger, and he found himself wondering at its brevity. He showed
Clarissa some of his favourite pictures. His collection of modern art was a
fine one--not large, but very perfect in its way, and he was delighted to
see her appreciation of his treasures. Here at least was a point upon
which they might sympathise. He had been a good deal worried by Sophia's
obtuseness upon all artistic matters.
Mr. Lovel was not very sorry when the fly from the Arden Inn was announced,
and it was time to go home. The pictures were fine, no doubt, and the old
house was beautiful in its restored splendour; but the whole business
jarred upon Marmaduke Lovel's sensitive nerves just a little, in spite of
the sudden realization of that vague dream of his. This place might be his
daughter's home, and he return to it: but not as its master. The day of
his glory was gone. He was doubtful if he should even care to inhabit that
house as his daughter's guest. He had to remind himself of the desperate
condition of his own circumstances before he could feel duly grateful to
Providence for his daughter's subjugation of Daniel Granger.
He was careful to utter no word about her conquest on the way home, or
during the quarter of an hour Clarissa spent with him before going to her
"You look pale and tired, my child," he said, with a sympathetic air,
turning over the leaves of a book as he spoke.
"The day was rather fatiguing, papa," his daughter answered listlessly,
"and Miss Granger is a tiring person. She is so strong-minded, that she
makes one feel weak and helpless by the mere force of contrast."
"Yes, she is a tiring person, certainly; but I think I had the worst of her
at dinner and in the evening."
"But there was all the time before dinner, papa. She showed us her
cottages--O, how I pitied the poor people! though I daresay she is kind to
them, in her way; but imagine any one coming in here and opening all our
cupboards, and spying out cobwebs, and giving a little shriek at the
discovery of a new loaf in our larder. She found out that one of her model
cottagers had been eating new bread. She said it gave her quite a revulsion
of feeling. And then when we went home she showed me her account-books and
her medicine-chest. It was very tiring."
"Poor child! and this young woman will have Arden Court some day--unless
her father should marry again."
Clarissa's pale face flamed with sudden crimson.
"Which he is pretty sure to do, sooner or later," continued Mr. Lovel, with
an absent meditative air, as of a man who discusses the most indifferent
subject possible. "I hope he may. It would be a pity for such a place to
fall into such hands. She would make it a phalanstery, a nest for Dorcas
societies and callow curates."
"But if she does good with her money, papa, what more could one wish?"
"I don't believe that she would do much good. There is a pinched hard
look about the lower part of her face which makes me fancy she is mean. I
believe she would hoard her money, and make a great talk and fuss about
nothing. Yes, I hope Granger will marry again. The house is very fine,
isn't it, since its renovation?"
"It is superb, papa. Dearly as I love the place, I did not think it could
be made so beautiful."
"Yes, and everything has been done in good taste, too," Mr. Lovel went on,
in rather a querulous tone. "I did not expect to see that. But of course a
man of that kind has only to put himself into the hands of a first-class
architect, and if he is lucky enough to select an architect with an
artistic mind, the thing is done. All the rest is merely a question of
money. Good heavens, what a shabby sordid hole this room looks, after the
place we have come from!"
The room was not so bad as to merit that look of angry disgust with which
Mr. Lovel surveyed it. Curtains and carpet were something the worse for
wear, the old-fashioned furniture was a little sombre; but the rich
binding of the books and a rare old bronze here and there redeemed it from
commonness--poor jetsam and flotsam from the wreck of the great house, but
enough to give some touch of elegance to meaner things.
"O, papa," Clarissa cried reproachfully, "the room is very nice, and we
have been peaceful and happy in it. I don't suppose all the splendour of
Arden would have made us much happier. Those external things make so little
She thought of those evenings at Hale Castle, when George Fairfax had
abandoned her to pay duty to his betrothed, and of the desolation of spirit
that had come upon her in the midst of those brilliant surroundings.
Her father paced the little room as if it had been a den, and answered her
philosophic remonstrance with an exclamation of contempt.
"That's rank nonsense, Clarissa--copybook morality, which nobody in his
heart ever believes. External things make all the difference--except when
a man is writhing in physical pain perhaps. External things make the