Part 5 out of 10
difference between a king and a beggar. Do you suppose that man Granger is
no happier for the possession of Arden Court--of those pictures of his?
Why, every time he looks at a Frith or Millais he feels a little thrill of
triumph, as he says to himself, 'And that is mine.' There is a sensuous
delight in beautiful surroundings which will remain to a man whose heart is
dead to every other form of pleasure. I suppose that is why the Popes were
such patrons of art in days gone by. It was the one legitimate delight left
to them. Do you imagine it is no pleasure to dine every night as that man
dines? no happiness to feel the sense of security about the future which he
feels every morning? Great God, when I think of his position and of mine!"
Never before had he spoken so freely to his daughter; never had he so
completely revealed the weakness of his mind.
She was sorry for him, and forbore to utter any of those pious commonplaces
by which she might have attempted to bring him to a better frame of mind.
She had tact enough to divine that he was best left to himself--left to
struggle out of this grovelling state by some effort of his own, rather
than to be dragged from the slough of despond by moral violence of hers.
He dismissed her presently with a brief good-night; but lying awake nearly
two hours afterwards, she heard him pass her door on the way to his room.
He too was wakeful, therefore, and full of care.
* * * * *
TAKING THE PLEDGE.
Clarissa had a visitor next day. She was clipping and trimming the late
roses in the bright autumnal afternoon, when Lady Laura Armstrong's close
carriage drove up to the gate, with my lady inside it, in deep mourning.
The visit was unexpected, and startled Clarissa a little, with a sensation
that was not all pleasure. She could scarcely be otherwise than glad to see
so kind a friend; but there were reasons why the advent of any one from
Hale Castle should be somewhat painful to her. That meeting with George
Fairfax by the churchyard had never been quite out of her mind since it
happened. His looks and his words had haunted her perpetually, and now she
was inclined to ascribe Lady Laura's coming to some influence of his. She
had a guilty feeling, as if she had indeed tried to steal Lady Geraldine's
Lady Laura greeted her with all the old cordiality. There was a relief in
that; and Clarissa's face, which had been very pale when she opened the
gate to admit her visitor, brightened a little as my lady kissed her.
"My dear child, I am so glad to see you again!" exclaimed Lady Laura. "I am
not supposed to stir outside the Castle in all this dreary week. Poor
papa is to be buried to-morrow; but I wanted so much to see you on a most
important business; so I ordered the brougham and drove here, with the
blinds down all the way; and I'm sure, Clary, you won't think that I feel
papa's loss any less because I come to see you just now. But I declare you
are looking as pale and wan as any of us at Hale. You have not recovered
that dreadful shock yet."
"It was indeed a dreadful shock, dear Lady Laura," said Clarissa; and then
in a less steady tone she went on: "Lady Geraldine is better, I hope?"
"Geraldine is what she always is, Clary--a marvel of calmness. And yet I
know she feels this affliction very deeply. She was papa's favourite, you
know, and had a most extraordinary influence over him. He was so proud of
her, poor dear!"
"Won't you come into the house, Lady Laura?"
"By and by, just to pay my respects to your papa. But we'll stay in the
garden for the present, please, dear. I have something most particular to
say to you."
Clarissa's heart beat a little quicker. This most particular something was
about George Fairfax: she felt very sure of that.
"I am going to be quite candid with you, Clary," Lady Laura began
presently, when they were in a narrow walk sheltered by hazel bushes, the
most secluded bit of the garden. "I shall treat you just as if you were a
younger sister of my own. I think I have almost a right to do that; for I'm
sure I love you as much as if you were my sister."
And here Lady Laura's plump little black-gloved hand squeezed Clarissa's
"You have been all goodness to me," the girl answered; "I can never be too
grateful to you."
"Nonsense, Clary; I will not have that word gratitude spoken between us. I
only want you to understand that I am sincerely attached to you, and that
I am the last person in the world to hold your happiness lightly. And now,
dearest child, tell me the truth--have you seen George Fairfax since you
Clarissa flushed crimson. To be asked for the truth, as if, under any
circumstances, she would have spoken anything less than truth about George
Fairfax! And yet that unwonted guilty feeling clung to her, and she was not
a little ashamed to confess that she had seen him.
"Yes, Lady Laura."
"I thought so. I was sure of it. He came here on the very day you left--the
day which was to have been his wedding-day."
"It was on that evening that I saw him; but he did not come to this house.
I was sitting outside the churchyard sketching when I saw him."
"He did not come to the house--no; but he came to Arden on purpose to see
you," Lady Laura answered eagerly. "I am sure of that."
Unhappily Clarissa could not deny the fact. He had told her only too
plainly that he had come to Arden determined to see her.
"Now, Clary, let us be perfectly frank. Before my sister Geraldine came to
Hale, I told you that the attachment between her and George Fairfax was one
of long standing; that I was sure her happiness was involved in the matter,
and how rejoiced I was at the turn things had taken. I told you all this,
Clary; but I did not tell you that in the years we had known him Mr.
Fairfax had been wild and unsteady; that, while always more or less devoted
to Geraldine, he had had attachments elsewhere--unacknowledged attachments
of no very creditable nature; such affairs as one only hears of by a side
wind, as it were. How much Geraldine may have known of this, I cannot tell.
I heard the scandals, naturally enough, through Fred; but she may have
heard very little. I said nothing of this to you, Clarissa; it was not
necessary that I should say anything to depreciate the character of my
future brother-in-law, and of a man I really liked."
"Of course not," faltered Clarissa.
"Of course not. I was only too happy to find that George had become a
reformed person, and that he had declared himself so soon after the change
in his fortunes. I was convinced that Geraldine loved him, and that she
could only be really happy as his wife. I am convinced of that still; but
I know that nothing on earth could induce her to marry him if she had the
least doubt of his devotion to herself."
"I hope that she may never have occasion to doubt that, Lady Laura,"
answered Clarissa. It was really all she could find to say under the
"I hope not, and I think not, Clary. He has been attached to my sister so
long--he proposed to her in such a deliberate manner--that I can scarcely
imagine he would prove really inconstant. But I know that he is a slave to
a pretty face, and fatally apt to be ruled by the impulse of the moment. It
would be very hard now, Clary, if some transient fancy of that kind were to
ruin the happiness of two lives--would it not, my dear?"
"It would be very hard."
"O, Clarissa, do pray be candid. You _must_ understand what I mean. That
wretched man has been making love to you?"
"You ought not to ask me such a question, Lady Laura," answered Clarissa,
sorely perplexed by this straight attack.
"You must know that I should respect Lady Geraldine's position--that I
should be incapable of forgetting her claims upon Mr. Fairfax. Whatever he
may have said to me has been, the merest folly. He knows that I consider it
in that light, and I have refused ever to see him again if I can possibly
"That's right, dear!" cried Lady Laura, with a pleased look. "I knew that
you would come out of the business well, in spite of everything. Of course
you can care nothing for this foolish fellow; but I know Geraldine's
sensitive nature so well, and that if she had the faintest suspicion of
George's conduct, the whole thing would be off for ever--an attachment of
many years' standing, think of that, Clary! Now I want you to promise me
that, come what may, you will give Mr. Fairfax no encouragement. Without
encouragement this foolish fancy will die out very quickly. Of course, if
it were possible you could care for him, I would not come here to ask you
such a thing as this. You would have a right to consider your own happiness
before my sister's. But as that is out of the question, and the man is
almost a stranger to you----"
"Out of the question--almost a stranger." Clarissa remembered that night in
the railway carriage, and it seemed to her as if she and George Fairfax had
never been strangers.
"It is so easy for you to give me this promise. Tell me now, Clary dear,
that you will not have anything to say to him, if he should contrive to see
"I will not, Lady Laura."
"Is that a promise, now, Clarissa?"
"A most sacred promise."
Lady Armstrong kissed her young friend in ratification of the compact.
"You are a dear generous-minded girl," she said, "and I feel as if I had
saved my sister's happiness by this bold course. And now tell me what you
have been doing since you left us. Have you seen anything more of the
Questioned thus, Clarissa was fain to give her friend some slight account
of her day at Arden.
"It must have affected you very much to see the old place. Ah, Clary, it is
you who ought to be mistress there, instead of Miss Granger!"
Clarissa blushed, remembering that awkward avowal of Daniel Granger's.
"I am not fit to be mistress of such, a place," she said. "I could never
manage things as Miss Granger does."
"Not in that petty way, perhaps. I should not care to see you keeping
accounts and prying into grocery-lists as she does. You would govern your
house on a grander scale. I should like to see you the owner of a great
"That is a thing you are never likely to see, Lady Laura."
"I am not so sure of that. I have an idea that there is a great fortune
lying at your feet, if you would only stoop to pick it up. But girls are so
foolish; they never know what is really for their happiness; and if by any
chance there should happen to be some passing folly, some fancy of the
moment, to come between them and good fortune, everything is lost."
She looked at Clarissa closely as she said this. The girl's face had been
changing from red to pale throughout the interview. She was very pale now,
but quite self-possessed, and had left off blushing. Had she not given
her promise--pledged away her freedom of action with regard to George
Fairfax--and thus made an end of everything between them? She felt very
calm, but she felt as if she had made a sacrifice. As for Daniel Granger,
any reference to him and his admiration for her touched upon the regions of
the absurd. Nothing--no friendly manoeuvring of Lady Laura's, no selfish
desires of her father's--could ever induce her to listen for a moment to
any proposition from that quarter.
She asked her visitor to go into the house presently, in order to put an
end to the conversation; and Lady Laura went in to say a few words to
Mr. Lovel. They were very melancholy words--all about the dead, and his
innumerable virtues--which seemed really at this stage of his history
to have been alloyed by no human frailty or shortcoming. Mr. Lovel was
sympathetic to the last degree--sighed in unison with his visitor, and
brushed some stray drops of moisture from his own eyelids when Lady Laura
wept. And then he went out to the carriage with my lady, and saw her drive
away, with the blinds discreetly lowered as before.
"What did she come about, Clarissa?" he asked his daughter, while they were
going back to the house.
"Only to see me, papa."
"Only to see you! She must have had something very important to say to you,
I should think, or she would scarcely have come at such a time."
He glanced at his daughter sharply as he said this, but did not question
her farther, though he would have liked to do so. He had a shrewd suspicion
that this visit of Lady Laura's bore some reference to George Fairfax. Had
there been a row at the Castle? he wondered, and had my lady come to scold
"I don't suppose they would show her much mercy if she stood in the way of
their schemes," he said to himself. "His brother's death makes this young
Fairfax a very decent match. The property must be worth five or six
thousand a year--five or six thousand. I wonder what Daniel Granger's
income is? Nearer fifty thousand than five, if I may believe what I have
Mr. Granger and his daughter called at Mill Cottage next day: the fair
Sophia with a somewhat unwilling aspect, though she was decently civil
to Mr. and Miss Lovel. She had protested against the flagrant breach of
etiquette in calling on people who had just dined with her, instead of
waiting until those diners had discharged their obligation by calling on
her; but in vain. Her father had brought her to look at some of Clarissa's
sketches, he told his friends.
"I want her to take more interest in landscape art, Mr. Lovel," he said,
"and I think your daughter's example may inspire her. Miss Lovel seems to
me to have a real genius for landscape. I saw some studies of ferns and
underwood that she had done at Hale--full of freedom and of feeling. Sophia
doesn't draw badly, but she wants feeling."
The young lady thus coldly commended gave her head rather a supercilious
toss as she replied,--
"You must remember that I have higher duties than sketching, papa," she
said; "I cannot devote _all_ my existence to ferns and blackberry-bushes."
"O, yes, of course; you've your schools, and that kind of thing; but
you might give more time to art than you do, especially if you left the
management of the house more to Mrs. Plumptree. I think you waste time and
energy upon details."
"I hope I know my duty as mistress of a large establishment, papa, and that
I shall never feel the responsibility of administering a large income any
less than I do at present. It would be a bad thing for you if I became
careless of your interests in order to roam about sketching toadstools and
Mr. Granger looked as if he were rather doubtful upon this point, but it
was evidently wisest not to push the discussion too far.
"Will you be so kind as to show us your portfolio, Miss Lovel?" he asked.
"Of course she will," answered her father promptly; "she will only be
too happy to exhibit her humble performances to Miss Granger. Bring your
Clarissa would have given the world to refuse. A drawing-book is in some
measure a silent confidante--almost a journal. She did not know how far her
random sketches--some of them mere vagabondage of the pencil, jotted down
half unconsciously--might betray the secrets of her inner life to the cold
eyes of Miss Granger.
"I'd better bring down my finished drawings, papa; those that were mounted
for you at Belforet," she said.
"Nonsense, child; Mr. Granger wants to see your rough sketches, not
those stiff schoolgirl things, which I suppose were finished by your
drawing-master. Bring that book you are always scribbling in. The girl
has a kind of passion for art," said Mr. Lovel, rather fretfully; "she is
seldom without a pencil in her hand. What are you looking for, Clarissa, in
that owlish way? There's your book on that table."
He pointed to the volume--Clarissa's other self and perpetual
companion--the very book she had been sketching in when George Fairfax
surprised her by the churchyard wall. There was no help for it, no
disobeying that imperious finger of her father's; so she brought the book
meekly and laid it open before Sophia Granger.
The father and daughter turned over the leaves together. It was book of
"bits:" masses of foliage, bramble, and bird's-nest; here the head of an
animal, there the profile of a friend; anon a bit of still life; a vase
of flowers, with the arabesqued drapery of a curtain for a background;
everywhere the evidence of artistic feeling and a practised hand,
everywhere a something much above a schoolgirl's art.
Miss Granger looked through the leaves with an icy air. She was obliged to
say, "Very pretty," or "Very clever," once in a way; but this cold praise
evidently cost her an effort. Not so her father. He was interested in
every page, and criticised everything with a real knowledge of what he was
talking about, which made Clarissa feel that he was at least no pretender
in his love of art; that he was not a man who bought pictures merely
because he was rich and picture-buying was the right thing to do.
They came presently to the pages Clarissa had covered at Hale Castle--bits
of familiar landscape, glimpses of still life in the Castle rooms, and
lightly-touched portraits of the Castle guests. There was one head that
appeared very much oftener than others, and Clarissa felt herself blushing
a deeper red every time Mr. Granger paused to contemplate this particular
He lingered longer over each of these sketches, with rather a puzzled air,
and though the execution of these heads was very spirited, he forbore to
"There is one face here that I see a good deal of, Miss Lovel," he said at
last. "I think it is Mr. Fairfax, is it not?"
Clarissa looked at a profile of George Fairfax dubiously.
"Yes, I believe I meant that for Mr. Fairfax; his is a very easy face
to draw, much easier than Lady Geraldine's, though her features are so
regular. All my portraits of her are failures."
"I have only seen one attempt at Lady Geraldine's portrait in this book,
Miss Lovel," said Sophia.
"I have some more on loose sheets of paper, somewhere; and then I generally
destroy my failures, if they are quite hopeless."
"Mr. Fairfax would be quite flattered if he could see how often you have
sketched him," Sophia continued blandly.
Clarissa thought of the leaf George Fairfax had cut out of her
drawing-book; a recollection which did not serve to diminish her
"I daresay Mr. Fairfax is quite vain enough without any flattery of
that kind," said Mr. Lovel. "And now that you have exhibited your rough
sketches, you can bring those mounted drawings, if you like, Clarissa."
This was a signal for the closing of the book, which Clarissa felt was
intended for her relief. She put the volume back upon the little side-table
from which she had taken it, and ran upstairs to fetch her landscapes.
These Miss Granger surveyed in the same cold tolerant manner with which she
had surveyed the sketch-book--the manner of a person who could have done
much better in that line herself, if she had cared to do anything so
After this Mr. Lovel and his daughter called at the Court; and the
acquaintance between the two families being thus formally inaugurated by a
dinner and a couple of morning calls, Mr. Granger came very often to the
Cottage, unaccompanied by the inflexible Sophia, who began to feel that her
father's infatuation was not to be lessened by any influence of hers, and
that she might just as well let him take his own way. It was an odious
unexpected turn which events had taken; but there was no help for it.
Her confidential maid, Hannah Warman, reminded her of that solemn truth
whenever she ventured to touch upon this critical subject.
"If your pa was a young man, miss, or a man that had admired a great many
ladies in his time, it would be quite different," said the astute Warman;
"but never having took notice of any one before, and taking such particular
notice of this young lady, makes it clear to any one that's got eyes.
Depend upon it, miss, it won't be long before he'll make her an offer; and
it isn't likely she'll refuse him--not with a ruined pa to urge her on!"
"I suppose not," said Sophia disconsolately.
"And after all, miss, he might have made a worse choice. If he were to
marry one of those manoeuvring middle-aged widows we've met so often out
visiting, you'd have had a regular stepmother, that would have taken every
bit of power out of your hands, and treated you like a child. But Miss
Lovel seems a very nice young lady, and being so near your own age will be
quite a companion for you."
"I don't want such a companion. There is no sympathy between Miss Lovel
and me; you ought to know that, Warman. Her tastes are the very reverse of
mine, in every way. It's not possible we can ever get on well together; and
if papa marries her, I shall feel that he is quite lost to me. Besides, how
could I ever have any feeling but contempt for a girl who would marry for
money? and of course Miss Lovel could only marry papa for the sake of his
"It's done so often nowadays. And sometimes those matches turn out very
well--better than some of the love-matches, I've heard say."
"It's no use discussing this hateful business, Warman," Miss Granger
answered haughtily. "Nothing could change my opinion."
And in this inflexible manner did Daniel Granger's daughter set her face
against the woman he had chosen from among all other women for his wife. He
felt that it was so, and that there would be a hard battle for him to fight
in the future between these two influences; but no silent opposition of his
daughter's could weaken his determination to win Clarissa Lovel, if she was
to be won by him.
* * * * *
"HE'S SWEETEST FRIEND, OR HARDEST FOE."
Mr. Granger fell into the habit of strolling across his park, and dropping
into the garden of Mill Cottage by that little gate across which Clarissa
had so often contemplated the groves and shades of her lost home. He would
drop in sometimes in the gloaming, and take a cup of tea in the bright
lamplit parlour, where Mr. Lovel dawdled away life over Greek plays,
Burton's _Anatomy_, and Sir Thomas Browne--a humble apartment, which seemed
pleasanter to Mr. Granger under the dominion of that spell which bound him
just now, than the most luxurious of his mediaeval chambers. Here he would
talk politics with Mr. Lovel, who took a mild interest in the course of
public affairs, and whose languid adherence to the Conservative party
served to sustain discussion with Daniel Granger, who was a vigorous
After tea the visitor generally asked for music; and Clarissa would play
her favourite waltzes and mazourkas, while the two gentlemen went on with
their conversation. There were not many points of sympathy between the two,
perhaps. It is doubtful whether Daniel Granger had ever read a line of a
Greek play since his attainment to manhood and independence, though he had
been driven along the usual highway of the Classics by expensive tutors,
and had a dim remembrance of early drillings in Caesar and Virgil. Burton
he had certainly never looked into, nor any of those other English classics
which were the delight of Marmaduke Lovel; so the subject of books was a
dead letter between them. But they found enough to talk about somehow, and
really seemed to get on very tolerably together. Mr. Granger was bent upon
standing well with his poor neighbour; and Mr. Lovel appeared by no means
displeased by the rapid growth of this acquaintance, from which he had
so obstinately recoiled in the past. He took care, however, not to be
demonstrative of his satisfaction, and allowed Mr. Granger to feel that at
the best he was admitted to Mill Cottage on sufferance, under protest as it
were, and as a concession to his own wishes. Yet Mr. Lovel meant all this
time that his daughter should be mistress of Arden Court, and that his
debts should be paid, and his future comfort provided for out of the ample
purse of Daniel Granger.
"I shall go and live on the Continent," he thought, "when that is all
settled. I could not exist as a hanger-on in the house that was once my
own, I might find myself a _pied a terre_ in Paris or Vienna, and finish
life pleasantly enough among some of the friends I liked when I was young.
Six or seven hundred a year would be opulence for a man of my habits."
Little by little Clarissa came to accept those visits of Mr. Granger's as a
common part of her daily life; but she had not the faintest notion that she
was drifting into a position from which it would be difficult by-and-by to
escape. He paid her no disagreeable attentions; he never alluded to that
unfortunate declaration which she remembered with such a sense of its
absurdity. It did not seem unreasonable to suppose that he came to Mill
Cottage for no keener delight than a quiet chat with Mr. Lovel about the
possibility of a coming war, or the chances of a change in the ministry.
Clarissa had been home from Hale nearly six weeks, and she had neither
heard nor seen any more of George Fairfax. So far there had been no
temptation for the violation of that sacred pledge which she had given to
Lady Laura Armstrong. His persistence did not amount to much evidently; his
ardour was easily checked; he had sworn that night that she should see him,
should listen to him, and six weeks had gone by without his having made the
faintest attempt to approach her. It was best, of course, that it should be
so--an unqualified blessing for the girl whose determination to be true
to herself and her duty was so deeply fixed; and yet she felt a little
wounded, a little humiliated, as if she had been tricked by the common
phrases of a general wooer--duped into giving something where nothing had
been given to her.
"Lady Laura might well talk about his transient folly," she said to
herself. "It has not lasted very long. She need scarcely have taken the
trouble to be uneasy about it."
There had been one brief note for Clarissa from the mistress of Hale
Castle, announcing her departure for Baden with Mr. Armstrong, who was
going to shoot capercailzies in the Black Forest. Lady Geraldine, who was
very much shaken by her father's death, was to go with them. There was not
a word about Mr. Fairfax, and Clarissa had no idea as to his whereabouts.
He had gone with the Baden party most likely, she told herself.
It was near the close of October. The days were free from rain or
blusterous winds, but dull and gray. The leaves were falling silently in
the woods about Arden, and the whole scene wore that aspect of subdued
mournfulness which is pleasant enough to the light of heart, but very
sad to those who mourn. Clarissa Lovel was not light-hearted. She had
discovered of late that there was something wanting in her life. The days
were longer and drearier than they used to be. Every day she awoke with a
faint sense of expectation that was like an undefined hope; something would
come to pass, something would happen to her before the day was done, to
quicken the sluggish current of her life; and at nightfall, when the
uneventful day had passed in its customary blankness, her heart would grow
very heavy. Her father watched her somewhat anxiously at this crisis of her
life, and was inwardly disturbed on perceiving her depression.
She went out into the garden alone one evening after dinner, as it was her
wont to do almost every evening, leaving Mr. Lovel dozing luxuriously in
his easy-chair by the fire--she went out alone in the chill gray dusk, and
paced the familiar walks, between borders in which there were only pale
autumnal flowers, chrysanthemums and china asters of faint yellow and
fainter purple. Even the garden looked melancholy in this wan light,
Clarissa thought. She made the circuit of the small domain, walked up and
down the path by the mill-stream two or three times, and then went into the
leafless orchard, where the gnarled old trees cast their misshapen shadows
on the close-cropped grass. A week-old moon had just risen, pale in the
lessening twilight. The landscape had a cold shadowy beauty of its own; but
to-night everything seemed wan and cheerless to Clarissa.
She was near the gate leading into Arden Park, when she heard a crackling
of withered leaves, the sound of an approaching footstep. It was Mr.
Granger, of course. She gave a sigh of resignation. Another evening of the
pattern which had grown so familiar to her, that it seemed almost as if Mr.
Granger must have been dropping in of an evening all her life. The usual
talk of public matters--the leaders in that day's _Times_, and so on. The
usual request for a little music; the usual inquiries about her recent
artistic studies. It was as monotonous as the lessons she had learned at
Madame Marot's seminary.
"Is my life to go on like that for ever?" she asked herself.
The step came a little nearer. Surely it was lighter and quicker than
Daniel Granger's--it had a sharp martial sound; it was like a step she had
learned to know very well in the gardens of Hale Castle.
"He is at Baden," she said to herself.
But the beating of her heart grew faster in spite of that tranquillizing
assurance. She heard an unaccustomed hand trying the fastening of the gate,
then a bolt withdrawn, the sharp light step upon the turf behind her, and
in the next moment George Fairfax was by her side, among the weird shadows
of the orchard trees.
He tried to draw her towards him, with the air of an accepted lover.
"My darling!" he said, "I knew I should find you here. I had a fancy that
you would be here, waiting for me in the pale moonlight."
Clarissa laughed--rather an artificial little laugh--but she felt the
situation could only be treated lightly. The foolish passionate heart was
beating so fast all the time, and the pale face might have told so much, if
the light of the new-risen moon had not been dim as yet.
"How long do you suppose I have been waiting at this spot for you, Mr.
Fairfax?" she asked lightly. "For six weeks?"
"Six weeks! Yes, it is six weeks since I saw you. It might be six years,
if I were to measure the time by my own impatience. I have been at Nice,
Clarissa, almost ever since that night we parted."
"At Nice! with Lady Laura and Lady Geraldine, I suppose, I thought they
were going to Baden."
"They are at Baden; but I have not been with them. I left England with my
mother, who had a very bad attack of her chronic asthma earlier than usual
this year, and was ordered off to the South of France, where she is obliged
to spend all her winters, poor soul. I went with her, and stayed till she
was set up again in some measure. I was really uneasy about her; and it was
a good excuse for getting away from Hale."
Clarissa murmured some conventional expression of sympathy, but that was
"My darling," said George Fairfax, taking her cold hand in his--she tried
to withdraw it, but it was powerless in that firm grasp--"My darling, you
know why I have come here; and you know now why my coming has been so long
delayed. I could not write to you. The Fates are against us, Clarissa, and
I do not expect much favour from your father. So I feared that a letter
might do us mischief, and put off everything till I could come, I said a
few words to Laura Armstrong before I left the Castle--not telling her very
much, but giving her a strong hint of the truth. I don't think she'll be
surprised by anything I may do; and my letters to Geraldine have all been
written to prepare the way for our parting. I know she will be generous;
and if my position with regard to her is rather a despicable one, I have
done all I could to make the best of it. I have not made things worse by
deceit or double-dealing. I should have boldly asked for my freedom before
this, but I hear such bad accounts of poor Geraldine, who seems to be
dreadfully grieved by her father's loss, that I have put off all idea
of any direct explanation for the present. I am not the less resolved,
Miss Lovel turned her face towards him for the first time, and looked at
him with a proud steady gaze. She had given her promise, and was not afraid
that anything, not even his tenderest, most passionate pleading, could ever
tempt her to break it; but she knew more and more that she loved him--that
it was his absence and silence which, had made her life so blank, that his
coming was the event she had waited and watched for day after day.
"Why should you break faith with Lady Geraldine?" she asked calmly.
"Why! Because my bondage has been hateful to me ever since I came to Hale.
Because there is only one woman I will have for my wife--and her name is
"You had better keep your word, Mr. Fairfax. I was quite in earnest in what
I said to you six weeks ago. Nothing in the world would ever induce me to
have any part in your breach of faith. Why, even if I loved you--" her
voice trembled a little here, and George Fairfax repeated the words after
her, "_Even_ if you loved me--I could never trust you. How could I hope
that, after having been so false to her, you could be true to me?"
"Even if I loved you. Tell me that you do love me--as I have
hoped and dreamed--as I dared to believe sometimes at Hale, when my
wedding-day was so near, that I seemed like some wretch bound to the wheel,
for whom there is no possibility of escape. That is all over now, darling.
To all intents and purposes I am free. Confess that you love me." This was
said half tenderly, half imperiously--with the air of a conqueror
accustomed to easy triumphs, an air which this man's experience had made
natural to him. "Come, Clarissa, think how many miles I have travelled for
the sake of this one stolen half hour. Don't be so inexorable."
He looked down at her with a smile on his face, not very much alarmed by
her obduracy. It seemed to him only a new form of feminine eccentricity.
Here was a woman who actually could resist him for ten minutes at a
stretch--him, George Fairfax!
"I am very sorry you should have come so far. I am very sorry you should
have taken so much trouble; it is quite wasted."
"Then you don't like me, Miss Lovel," still half playfully--the thing was
too impossible to be spoken of in any other tone. "For some reason or other
I am obnoxious to you. Look me full in the face, and swear that you don't
care a straw for me."
"I am not going to swear anything so foolish. You are not obnoxious to me.
I have no wish to forfeit your friendship; but I will not hear of anything
more than friendship from your lips."
"For many reasons. In the first place, because there would be treason
against Lady Geraldine in my listening to you."
"Put that delusion out of your mind. There would be no treason; all is over
between Lady Geraldine and me."
"There are other reasons, connected with papa."
"Oh, your father is against me. Yes, that is only natural. Any more
"What is that?"
"I cannot tell you."
"But I insist upon being told."
She tried her uttermost to avoid answering his questions; but he was
persistent, and she admitted at last that she had promised not to listen to
"To whom was the promise given?"
"That is my secret."
"To your father?"
"That is my secret, Mr. Fairfax. You cannot extort it from me. And now I
must go back to papa, if you please, or he will be sending some one to look
"And I shall be discovered in Mr. Capulet's orchard. Ten minutes more,
Clarissa, and I vanish amidst the woods of Arden, through which I came like
a poacher in order to steal upon you unawares by that little gate. And now,
my darling, since we have wasted almost all our time in fencing with words,
let us be reasonable. Promises such as you speak of are pledges given to
the winds. They cannot hold an hour against true love. Listen, Clary,
And then came the pleading of a man only too well accustomed to plead--a
man this time very much in earnest: words that seemed to Clarissa full of
a strange eloquence, tones that went to her heart of hearts. But she had
given her promise, and with her that promise meant something very sacred.
She was firm to the last--firm even when those thrilling tones changed from
love to auger.
All that he said towards the end she scarcely knew, for there was a
dizziness in her brain that confused her, and her chiefest fear was that
she should drop fainting at his feet; but the last words of all struck upon
her ear with a cruel distinctness, and were never forgotten.
"I am the merest fool and schoolboy to take this matter so deeply to
heart," he said, with a scornful laugh, "when the reason of my rejection
is so obvious. What I saw at Hale Castle might have taught me wisdom. Even
with my improved prospects I am little better than a pauper compared with
Daniel Granger. And I have heard you say that you would give all the world
to win back Arden Court. I will stand aside, and make way for a wealthier
suitor. Perhaps we may meet again some day, and I may not be so unfortunate
as my father."
He was gone. Clarissa stood like a statue, with her hands clasped before
her face. She heard the gate shut by a violent hand. He was gone in supreme
anger, with scorn and insult upon his lips, believing her the basest of the
base, the meanest of the mean, she told herself. The full significance of
his last words she was unable to understand, but it seemed to her that they
veiled a threat.
She was going back to the house slowly, tearless, but with something like
despair in her heart, when she heard the orchard gate open again. He had
come back, perhaps,--returned to forgive and pity her. No, that was not his
footstep; it was Mr. Granger, looking unspeakably ponderous and commonplace
in the moonlight, as he came across the shadowy grass towards her.
"I thought I saw a white dress amongst the trees," he said, holding out his
hand to her for the usual greeting. "How cold your hand is, Miss Lovel! Is
it quite prudent of you to be out so late on such a chilly evening, and in
that thin dress? I think I must ask your papa to lecture you."
"Pray don't, Mr. Granger; I am not in the habit of catching cold, and I am
used to being in the gardens at all times and seasons. You are late."
"Yes; I have been at Holborough all day, and dined an hour later than
usual. Your papa is quite well, I hope?"
"He is just the same as ever. He is always more or less of an invalid, you
They came in sight of the broad bay window of the parlour at this moment,
and the firelight within revealed Mr. Lovel in a very comfortable aspect,
fast asleep, with his pale aristocratic-looking face relieved by the
crimson cushions of his capacious easy-chair, and the brown setter's head
on his knee. There were some books on the table by his side, but it was
evident that his studies since dinner had not been profound.
Clarissa and her companion went in at a half-glass door that opened into a
small lobby next the parlour. She knew that to open the window at such an
hour in the month of October was an unpardonable crime in her father's
eyes. They went into the room very softly; but Mr. Lovel, who was a light
sleeper, started up at their entrance, and declared with some show of
surprise that he must have been indulging in a nap.
"I was reading a German critic on Aeschylus," he said. "Those Germans are
clever, but too much given to paradoxes. Ring the bell for tea, Clary. I
didn't think we should see you to-night, Granger; you said you were going
to a dinner at Sir Archer Taverham's."
"I was engaged to dine with Sir Archer; but I wrote him a note this
morning, excusing myself upon the plea of gout. I really had a few twinges
last night, and I hate dinner-parties."
"I am glad you have so much wisdom. I don't think any man under a
Talleyrand or an Alvanley can make a masculine dinner worth going to; and
as for your mixed herds of men and women, every man past thirty knows that
kind of thing to be an abomination."
The rosy-faced parlour-maid brought in the lamp and the tea-tray, and
Clarissa sat quietly down to perform her nightly duties. She took her seat
in the full light of the lamp, with no evidence of emotion on her face, and
poured out the tea, and listened and replied to Mr. Granger's commonplace
remarks, just the same as usual, though the sound of another voice was in
her ear--the bitter passionate sound of words that had been almost curses.
* * * * *
"IT MEANS ARDEN COURT."
The time went by, and Daniel Granger pursued his wooing, his tacit
undemonstrative courtship, with the quiet persistence of a man who meant
to win. He came to Mill Cottage almost every evening throughout the late
autumn and early winter months, and Clarissa was fain to endure his
presence and to be civil to him. She had no ground for complaint, no
opportunity for rebellion. His visits were not made ostensibly on her
account, though friends, neighbours, and servants knew very well why
he came, and had settled the whole business in their gossiping little
coteries. Nor did he take upon himself the airs of a lover. He was biding
his time, content to rejoice in the daily presence of the woman he loved;
content to wait till custom should have created a tie between them,
and till he could claim her for his wife by right of much patience and
fidelity. He had an idea that no woman, pure and true as he believed this
woman to be, could shut her heart against an honest man's love, if he were
only patient and faithful, single-minded and unselfish in his wooing.
George Fairfax kept his word. From the hour of that bitter parting he made
no sign of his existence to Clarissa Lovel. The Armstrongs were still in
Germany when December came, and people who had any claim upon Lady Laura's
hospitality lamented loudly that there were to be no gaieties at the Castle
this year. It was the second Christmas that the family had been absent. Mr.
Fairfax was with them at Baden most likely, Clarissa thought; and she tried
to hope that it was so.
Christmas came, and Miss Lovel had to assist at Miss Granger's triumphs.
That young lady was in full force at this time of year, dealing out
blankets of the shaggiest and most uncompromising textures--such coverings
as might have suited the requirements of a sturdy Highlander or a stalwart
bushranger sleeping in the open air, but seemed scarcely the pleasantest
gifts for feeble old women or asthmatic old men--and tickets
representative of small donations in kind, such as a quart of split-peas,
or a packet of prepared groats, with here and there the relief of a couple
of ounces of tea. Against plums and currants and candied peel Miss Granger
set her face, as verging on frivolity. The poor, who are always given
to extravagance, would be sure to buy these for themselves: witness
the mountain of currants embellished with little barrows of citron and
orange-peel, and the moorland of plums adorned with arabesques of Jamaica
ginger in the holly-hung chandler's shop at Arden. Split-peas and groats
were real benefits, which would endure when the indigestible delights
of plum-pudding were over. Happily for the model villagers, Mr. Granger
ordered a bullock and a dozen tons of coal to be distributed amongst them,
in a large liberal way that was peculiar to him, without consulting his
daughter as to the propriety of the proceeding. She was very busy with
the beneficent work of providing her special _protegees_ with the ugliest
imaginable winter gowns and frocks. Clarissa, who was eager to contribute
something to this good work, had wounded her fingers desperately in the
manufacture of these implacable fabrics, which set her teeth on edge every
time she touched them. Mr. Lovel would not even allow them to be in the
room where he sat.
"If you must work at those unspeakably odious garments, Clarissa," he said,
"for pity's sake do it out of my presence. Great Heavens! what cultivator
of the Ugly could have invented those loathsome olive-greens, or that
revolting mud-colour? evidently a study from the Thames at low water, just
above Battersea-bridge. And to think that the poor--to whom nature seems to
have given a copyright in warts and wens and boils--should be made still
more unattractive by such clothing as that! If you are ever rich, Clarissa,
and take to benevolence, think of your landscape before you dress your
poor. Give your old women and children scarlet cloaks and gray petticoats,
and gratify your men with an orange neckerchief now and then, to make a
patch of colour against your russet background."
There were dinner-parties at Arden Court that winter, to which Mr. Lovel
consented to take his daughter, obnoxious as he had declared all such
festivities to be to him. He went always as a concession to his host's
desires, and took care to let Daniel Granger know that his going was an
act of self-sacrifice; but he did go, and he gave his daughter a ten-pound
note, as a free-will offering, for the purchase of a couple of new dresses.
Clarissa wondered not a little at the distinction with which her father and
herself were treated by every one who met them at Mr. Granger's house. She
did not know that a good deal of this attention was given to the future
mistress of Arden Court, and that, in the eyes of county people and
Holborough gentry alike, she stood in that position. She did not know that
her destiny was a settled business in every one's mind except her own: that
her aunt Oliver and the Rector, quite as much as her father, looked upon
her marriage with Daniel Granger as inevitable. Mr. Lovel had been careful
not to alarm his daughter by any hint of his convictions. He was very well
satisfied with the progress of affairs. Daniel Granger was too securely
caught for there to be any room for fear of change on his part, and Daniel
Granger's mode of carrying on the siege seemed to Mr. Lovel an excellent
one. Whatever Clarissa's feelings might have been in the beginning, she
must needs succumb before such admirable patience, such almost sublime
Christmas passed, and the new year and all festivities belonging to the
season, and a dreary stretch of winter remained, bleak and ungenial,
enlivened only by Christmas bills, the chill prelude of another year of
struggle. Towards the end of January, Marmarduke Lovel's health broke down
all of a sudden. He was really ill, and very fretful in his illness. Those
creditors of his became desperately pressing in their demands; almost every
morning's post brought him a lawyer's letter; and, however prostrate he
might feel, he was obliged to sit up for an hour or so in the day, resting
his feverish head upon his hand, while he wrote diplomatic letters for the
temporary pacification of impatient attorneys.
Poor Clarissa had a hard time of it in these days. Her father was a
difficult patient, and that ever-present terror of insolvency, and all the
pains and perils attendant thereupon, tormented her by day and kept her
awake at night. Every ring at the cottage gate set her heart beating, and
conjured up the vision of some brutal sheriff's officer, such as she had
read of in modern romance. She nursed her father with extreme tenderness.
He was not confined to his room for any length of time, but was weak and
ill throughout the bleak wintry months, with a racking cough and a touch of
low fever, lying prostrate for the greater part of the day on a sofa by the
fire, and only brightening a little in the evening when Mr. Granger paid
his accustomed visit. Clarissa tended him all through these melancholy
days, when the rain beat against the windows and the dull gray sky looked
as if it would never more be illuminated by a gleam of sunshine; tended him
with supreme patience, and made heroic efforts to cheer and sustain his
spirits, though her own heart was very heavy. And it came to pass that, in
these most trying days, Daniel Granger repeated the avowal of his love, not
urging his suit with any hazardous impatience, but offering to wait as long
as Clarissa pleased for his sentence. And then, in the midst of the girl's
distress at the renewal of this embarrassing declaration, her father spoke
to her, and told her plainly that she was, in all honour, bound to become
Mr. Granger's wife. She had suffered him to devote himself to her, with a
devotion rare in a man of his age and character. She had allowed the outer
world to take the business for granted. It would be a cruel wrong done to
this man, if she were to draw back now and leave him in the lurch.
"Draw back, papa!" she cried with unmitigated surprise and alarm; "but what
have I done to give you or Mr. Granger, or any one else, the slightest
justification for supposing I ever thought of him, except as the most
"That pretence of unconsciousness is the merest affectation, Clarissa. You
must have known why Mr. Granger came here."
"I thought he came to see you, papa, just like any other acquaintance."
"Nonsense, child; one man does not dance attendance upon another like
that--crying off from important dinner-parties in order to drink tea with
his neighbour, and that kind of thing. The case has been clear enough from
the beginning, and you must have known how it was--especially as Granger
made some declaration to you the first time you went to the Court. He told
me what he had done, in a most honourable manner. It is preposterous to
pretend, after that, you could mistake his intentions. I have never worried
you about the business; it seemed to me wisest and best to let matters take
their natural course; and I am the last of men to play the domestic tyrant
in order to force a rich husband upon my daughter; but I never for a moment
doubted that you understood Mr. Granger's feelings, and were prepared to
reward his patience."
"It can never be, papa," Clarissa said decisively; "I would not commit such
a sin as to marry a man I could not love. I am grateful to Mr. Granger,
of course, and very sorry that he should think so much more of me than I
"For God's sake don't preach!" cried her father fretfully. "You won't
have him; that's enough. The only road there was to extrication from my
difficulties is shut up. The sheriff's officers can come to-morrow. I'll
write no more humbugging letters to those attorneys, trying to stave off
the crisis. The sooner the crash comes the better; I can drag out the rest
of my existence somehow, in Bruges or Louvain. It is only a question of a
year or two, I daresay."
The dreary sigh with which Mr. Lovel concluded this speech went to
Clarissa's heart. It can scarcely be said that she loved him very dearly,
but she pitied him very much. To his mind, no doubt, it seemed a hard thing
that she should set her face against a change of fortune that would have
ensured ease and comfort for his declining years. She knew him weighed down
by embarrassments which were very real--which had been known to her before
Daniel Granger's appearance as a wooer. There was no pretence about the
ruin that menaced them; and it was not strange that her father, who had
been loath to move beyond the very outskirts of his lost domain, should
shrink with a shuddering dread from exile in a dismal Belgian town.
After that one bitter speech and that one dreary sigh, Mr. Lovel made
no overt attempt to influence his daughter's decision. He had a more
scientific game to play, and he knew how to play it. Peevish remonstrances
might have availed nothing; threats or angry speeches might have provoked a
spirit of defiance. Mr. Lovel neither complained nor threatened; he simply
collapsed. An air of settled misery fell upon him, an utter hopelessness,
that was almost resignation, took possession of him. There was an unwonted
gentleness in his manner to his daughter; he endured the miseries of
weakness and prostration with unaccustomed patience; meekness pervaded all
his words and actions, but it was the meekness of despair. And so--and
so--this was how the familiar domestic drama came to be acted once
more--the old, old story to be repeated. It was Robin Gray over again. If
the cow was not stolen, the sheriff's officers were at the door, and,
for lack of a broken arm, Marmaduke Lovel did not want piteous silent
arguments. He was weak and ill and despairing, and where threats or
jesuitical pleading would have availed little, his silence did much; until
at last, after several weary weeks of indecision, during which Mr. Granger
had come and gone every evening without making any allusion to his suit,
there came one night when Clarissa fell on her knees by her father's sofa,
and told him that she could not endure the sight of his misery any longer,
and that she was willing to be Daniel Granger's wife. Marmaduke Lovel put
his feeble arms round his daughter's neck, and kissed her as he had never
kissed her before; and then burst into tears, with his face hidden upon her
"It was time, Clarissa," he said at last. "I could not have kept the
brokers out another week. Granger has been offering to lend me money ever
since he began to suspect my embarrassments, but I could not put myself
under an obligation to him while I was uncertain of your intentions: it
will be easy to accept his help now; and he has made most liberal proposals
with regard to your marriage settlements. Bear witness, Clary, that I never
mentioned that till now. I have urged no sordid consideration upon you to
bring about this match; although, God knows, it is the thing I desire most
in this world."
"No, no, papa, I know that," sobbed Clarissa. And then the image of George
Fairfax rose before her, and the memory of those bitter words, "It means
What would he think of her when he should come to hear that she was to be
Daniel Granger's wife? It would seem a full confirmation of his basest
suspicions. He would never know of her unavailing struggles to escape this
doom--never guess her motives for making this sacrifice. He would think of
her, in all the days to come, only as a woman who sold herself for the sake
of a goodly heritage.
Once having given her promise, there was no such thing as drawing back for
Clarissa, even had she been so minded. Mr. Lovel told the anxious lover
that his fate was favourably decided, warning him at the same time that it
would be well to refrain from any hazardous haste, and to maintain as far
as possible that laudable patience and reserve which had distinguished his
conduct up to this point.
"Clarissa is very young," said her father; "and I do not pretend to tell
you that she is able to reciprocate, as fully as I might wish, the ardour
of your attachment. One could hardly expect that all at once."
"No, one could hardly expect that," Mr. Granger echoed with a faint sigh.
"As a man of the world, you would not, I am sure, my dear Granger, overlook
the fact of the very wide difference in your ages, or expect more than is
reasonable. Clarissa admires and esteems you, I am sure, and is deeply
grateful for a devotion to which she declares herself undeserving. She is
not a vain frivolous girl, who thinks a man's best affection only a tribute
due to her attractions. And there is a kind of regard which grows up in a
girl's heart for a sensible man who loves her, and which I believe with all
my soul to be better worth having than the romantic nonsense young people
take for the grand passion. I make no profession, you see, my dear Granger,
on my daughter's part; but I have no fear but that Clarissa will learn to
love you, in good time, as truly as you can desire to be loved."
"Unless I thought that she had some affection for me, I would never ask her
to be my wife," said Mr. Granger.
"Wouldn't you?" thought Mr. Lovel. "My poor Granger, you are farther gone
than you suppose!"
"You can give me your solemn assurance upon one point, eh, Lovel?" said the
master of Arden Court anxiously; "there is no one else in the case? Your
daughter's heart is quite free? It is only a question as to whether I can
"Her heart is entirely free, and as pure as a child's. She is full of
affection, poor girl, only yearning to find an outlet for it. She ought to
make you a good wife, Daniel Granger. There is nothing against her doing
"God grant she may!" replied Mr. Granger solemnly; "God knows how dearly I
love her, and what a new thing this love is to me!"
He took heed of his future father-in-law's counsel, and said nothing more
about his hopes to Clarissa just yet awhile. It was only by an undefinable
change in his manner--a deeper graver tenderness in his tone--that she
guessed her father must have told him her decision.
From this day forth all clouds vanished from the domestic sky at Mill
Cottage. Mr. Lovel's debts were paid; no more threatening letters made his
breakfast-table a terror to him; there were only agreeable-looking stamped
documents in receipt of payment, with little apologetic notes, and
entreaties for future favours.
Mr. Granger's proposals respecting a settlement were liberal, but, taking
into consideration the amount of his wealth, not lavish. He offered to
settle a thousand a year upon his wife--five hundred for her own use as
pin-money, five hundred as an annuity for her father. He might as easily
have given her three thousand, or six thousand, as it was for no lack of
generous inclination that he held his hand; but he did not want to do
anything that might seem like buying his wife. Nor did Marmaduke Lovel
give the faintest hint of a desire for larger concessions from his future
son-in-law: he conducted the business with the lofty air of a man above the
consideration of figures. Five hundred a year was not much to get from a
man in Granger's position; but, added to his annuity of three hundred, it
would make eight--a very decent income for a man who had only himself to
provide for; and then of course there would be no possibility of his ever
wanting money, with such a son-in-law to fall back upon.
Mr. Granger did not lose any time in making his daughter acquainted with
the change that was about to befall her. He was quite prepared to find her
adverse to his wishes, and quite prepared to defend his choice; and yet,
little subject as he was to any kind of mental weakness, he did feel rather
uncomfortable when the time came for addressing Miss Granger.
It was after dinner, and the father and daughter were sitting alone in the
small gothic dining-room, sheltered from possible draughts by mediaeval
screens of stamped leather and brazen scroll-work, and in a glowing
atmosphere of mingled fire and lamp light, making a pretty cabinet-picture
of home life, which might have pleased a Flemish painter.
"I think, Sophia," said Mr. Granger,--"I think, my dear, there is no
occasion for me to tell you that there is a certain friend and neighbour of
yours who is something more to me than the ordinary young ladies of your
Miss Granger seemed as if she were trying to swallow some hard
substance--a knotty little bit of the pineapple she had just been eating,
perhaps--before she replied to this speech of her father's.
"I am sure, papa, I am quite at a loss to comprehend your meaning," she
said at last. "I have no near neighbour whom I can call my friend, unless
you mean Mrs. Patterly, the doctor's wife, who has taken such a warm
interest in my clothing-club, and who has such a beautiful mind. But you
would hardly call her a young lady."
"Patterly's wife! no, I should think not!" exclaimed Mr. Granger
impatiently: "I was speaking of Clarissa Lovel."
Miss Granger drew herself up suddenly, and pinched her lips together as if
they were never to unclose again. She did open them nevertheless, after a
pause, to say in an icy tone,--
"Miss Lovel is my acquaintance, but not my friend."
"Why should she not be your friend? She is a very charming girl."
"Oh, yes, I have no doubt of that, papa, from your point of view; that is
to say, she is very pretty, and thinks a great deal of dress, and is quite
ready to flirt with any one who likes to flirt with her--I'm sure you must
have seen _that_ at Hale Castle--and fills her scrap-book with portraits of
engaged men; witness all those drawings of Mr. Fairfax. I have no doubt she
is just the kind of person gentlemen call charming; but she is no friend of
mine, and she never will be."
"I am sorry to hear that," said her father sternly; "for she is very likely
to be your stepmother."
It was a death-blow, but one that Sophia Granger had anticipated for a long
"You are going to marry Miss Lovel, papa--a girl two years younger than I
"Yes, I am going to marry Miss Lovel, and I am very proud of her youth
and beauty; but I do not admit her want of more solid charms than those,
Sophia. I have watched her conduct as a daughter, and I have a most perfect
faith in the goodness and purity of her heart."
"Oh, very well, papa. Of course you know what is best for your own
happiness. It is not for me to presume to offer an opinion; I trust I have
too clear a sense of duty for that." And here Miss Granger gave a sigh
expressive of resignation under circumstances of profound affliction.
"I believe you have, Sophy," answered her father kindly. "I believe that,
however unwelcome this change may be to you at first--and I suppose it is
only natural that it should be unwelcome--you will reconcile your mind to
it fully when you discover that it is for my happiness. I am not ashamed to
confess to you that I love Clarissa very fondly, and that I look forward
to a happy future when she is my wife."
"I hope, papa, that your life has not been unhappy hitherto--that I have
not in any manner failed in my duties as a daughter."
"Oh, dear no, child; of course not. That has nothing to do with the
"Will it--the marriage--be very soon, papa?" asked Miss Granger, with
another gulp, as if there were still some obstructive substance in her
"I hope so, Sophy. There is no reason, that I can see, why it should not be
"And will Mr. Lovel come to live with us?"
"I don't know; I have never contemplated such a possibility. I think Mr.
Lovel is scarcely the kind of person who would care to live in another
"But this has been his own house, you see, papa, and will seem to belong to
him again when his daughter is the mistress of it. I daresay he will look
upon us as interlopers."
"I don't think so, Sophia. Mr. Lovel is a gentleman, and a sensible man
into the bargain. He is not likely to have any absurd ideas of that kind."
"I suppose he is very much pleased at having secured such a rich husband
for his daughter," Miss Granger hazarded presently, with the air of saying
"Sophia!" exclaimed her father angrily, "I must beg that the question of
money may never be mooted in relation to Miss Lovel and myself--by you
above all people. I daresay there may be men and women in the world
malignant enough to say--mean enough to suppose--that this dear girl can
only consent to marry me because I am a rich man. It is my happiness to
know her to be much too noble to yield to any sordid consideration of that
kind. It is my happiness to know that her father has done nothing to urge
this marriage upon her. She gives herself to me of her own free-will, not
hurried into a decision by any undue persuasion of mine, and under no
pressure from outer circumstances."
"I am very glad to hear it, papa. I think I should have broken my heart, if
I had seen you the dupe of a mercenary woman."
Mr. Granger got up from his seat with an impatient air, and began to pace
the room. His daughter had said very little, but that little had been
beyond measure irritating to him. It galled him to think that this marriage
should seem to her an astonishing--perhaps even a preposterous--thing. True
that the woman he was going to marry was younger, by a year or two, than
his own daughter. In his own mind there was so little sense of age, that he
could scarcely understand why the union should seem discordant. He was not
quite fifty, an age which he had heard men call the very meridian of life;
and he felt himself younger now than he had ever been since he first
assumed the cares of manhood--first grew grave with the responsibilities
involved in the disposal of a great fortune. Was not this newly-born love,
this sudden awakening of a heart that had slumbered so long, a renewal of
youth? Mr. Granger glanced at his own reflection in a glass over a buffet,
as he paced to and fro. The figure that he saw there bore no sign of age.
It was a relief to him to discover that--a thing he had never thought of
till that moment.
"Why should she not love me?" he asked himself. "Are youth and a handsome
face the only high-road to a woman's heart? I can't believe it. Surely
constancy and devotion must count for something. Is there another man in
the world who would love her as well as I? who could say, at fifty years of
age, This is my first love?"
"I am to give up the housekeeping, of course, papa, when you are married,"
Miss Granger said presently, with that subdued air of resignation in which
she had wrapped herself as in a garment since her father's announcement.
"Give up the housekeeping!" he echoed a little impatiently; "I don't see
the necessity for that. Clarissa"--oh, how sweet it was to him to pronounce
her name, and with that delicious sense of proprietorship!--"Clarissa is
too young to care much for that sort of thing--dealing out groceries, and
keeping account-books, as you do. Very meritorious, I am sure, my dear, and
no doubt useful. No, I don't suppose you'll be interfered with, Sophy. In
all essentials you will still be mistress. If Clarissa is queen, you will
be prime minister; and you know it is the minister who really pulls the
strings. And I do hope that in time you two will get to love each other."
"I shall endeavour to do my duty, papa," Miss Granger answered primly. "We
cannot command our feelings."
It was some feeble relief to her to learn that her grocery-books, her
day-books by double-entry, and all those other commercial volumes dear to
her heart, were not to be taken away from her; that she was still to retain
the petty powers she had held as the sole daughter of Daniel Granger's
house and heart. But to resign her place at the head of her father's table,
to see Clarissa courted and caressed, to find faltering allegiance perhaps
even among her model poor--all these things would be very bitter, and in
her heart Sophia Granger was angry with her father for a line of conduct
which she considered the last stage of folly. She loved him, after her
own precise well-regulated fashion--loved him as well as a creature so
self-conscious could be expected to love; but she could not easily forgive
him for an act which seemed, in some sort, a fraud upon herself. She had
been brought up to believe herself his sole heiress, to look upon his
second marriage as an utter impossibility. How often had she heard
him ridicule the notion when it was suggested to him by some jocose
acquaintance! and it did seem a very hard thing that she should be pushed
all at once from this lofty stand-point, and levelled to the very dust.
There would be a new family, of course; a brood of sons and daughters to
divide her heritage. Hannah Warman had suggested as much when discussing
the probability of the marriage, with that friendly candour, and
disposition to look at the darker side of the picture, which are apt to
distinguish confidantes of her class.
"I am sure, papa," Miss Granger whimpered by-and-by, not quite able to
refrain from some expression of ill-temper, "I have scarcely had a pleasant
evening since you have known the Lovels. You are always there, and it is
very dull to be alone every night."
"It has been your own fault in some measure, Sophy. You might have had
Clarissa here, if you'd chosen to cultivate her friendship."
"Our inclinations are beyond our control, papa. Nothing but your express
commands, and a sense of duty, would induce me to select Miss Lovel for a
companion. There is no sympathy between us."
"Why should there not be? You cannot think her unamiable, nor question her
being highly accomplished."
"But it is not a question of playing, or singing, or painting, or talking
foreign languages, papa. One selects a friend for higher qualities than
those. There is Mary Anne Patterly, for instance, who can scarcely play
the bass in a set of quadrilles, but whose admirable gifts and Christian
character have endeared her to me. Miss Lovel is so frivolous. See how
stupid and listless she seemed that day we took her over the schools and
cottages. I don't believe she was really interested in anything she saw.
And, though she has been at home a year and a half, she has not once
offered to take a class in either of the schools."
"I daresay she sees the schools are well officered, my dear, and doesn't
like to interfere with your functions."
"No, papa, it is not that. She has no vocation for serious things. Her mind
is essentially frivolous; you will discover that for yourself by-and-by. I
speak in perfect candour, you know, papa. Whatever your feelings about Miss
Lovel may be, I am above concealing mine. I believe I know my duty; but I
cannot stoop to hypocrisy."
"I suppose not. But I must say, you might have taken this business in a
pleasanter spirit, Sophia. I shall expect, however, to see you take more
pains to overcome your prejudice against the young Indy I have chosen for
my wife; and I shall be rather slow to believe in your affection for myself
unless it shows itself in that manner."
Miss Granger covered her face with her handkerchief, and burst into a flood
"Oh, papa, papa, it only needed that! To think that any one's influence can
make my father doubt my affection for him, after all these years of duty
Mr. Granger muttered something about "duty," which was the very reverse of
a blessing, and walked out of the room, leaving Sophia to her tears.
* * * * *
There was no reason why the marriage should not take place very soon. Mr.
Granger said so; Mr. Lovel agreed with him, half reluctantly as it were,
and with the air of a man who is far from eager to precipitate events.
There was no imaginable reason for delay.
Upon this point Mr. and Mrs. Oliver were as strong as Daniel Granger
himself. A union in every way so propitious could not be too speedily made
secure. Matthew Oliver was full of demonstrative congratulation now when he
dined at Mill Cottage.
"Who would have guessed when I brought you home from the station that
morning, and we drove through the park, that you were going to be mistress
of it so soon, Clary?" he exclaimed triumphantly. "Do you remember crying
when you heard the place was sold? I do, poor child; I can see your piteous
face at this moment. And now it is going to be yours again. Upon my word,
Providence has been very good to you, Clarissa."
Providence had been very good to her. They all told her the same story.
Amongst her few friends there was not one who seemed to suspect that this
marriage might be a sacrifice; that in her heart of hearts there might be
some image brighter than Daniel Granger's.
She found herself staring at these congratulatory friends in blank
amazement sometimes, wondering that they should all look at this engagement
of hers from the same point of view, all be so very certain of her
Had she not reason to be happy, however? There had been a time when she had
talked and thought of her lost home almost as Adam and Eve may have done
when yet newly expelled from Paradise, with the barren world in all its
strangeness before them. Was it not something to win back this beloved
dwelling-place--something to obtain comfort for her father's age--to secure
an income which might enable her to help her brother in the days to come?
Nor was the man she had promised to marry obnoxious to her. He had done
much towards winning her regard in the patient progress of his wooing. She
believed him to be a good and honourable man, whose affection was something
that a woman might be proud of having won--a man whom it would be a bitter
thing to offend. She was clear-sighted enough to perceive his superiority
to her father--his utter truthfulness and openness of character. She did
feel just a little proud of his love. It was something to see this big
strong man, vigorous in mind as in body, reduced to so complete a bondage,
yet not undignified even in his slavery.
What was it, then, which came between her and the happiness which that
congratulatory chorus made so sure of? Only the image of the man she
had loved--the man she had rejected for honour's sake one bleak October
evening, and whom she had never ceased to think of since that time. She
knew that Daniel Granger was, in all likelihood, a better and a nobler
man than George Fairfax; but the face that had been with her in the
dimly-lighted railway-carriage, the friendly voice that had cheered her on
the first night of her womanhood, were with her still.
More than once, since that wintry afternoon when Mr. Granger had claimed
her as his own for the first time--taking her to his breast with a grave
and solemn tenderness, and telling her that every hope and desire of his
mind was centred in her, and that all his life to come would be devoted to
securing her happiness--more than once since that day she had been tempted
to tell her lover all the truth; but shame kept her silent. She did not
know how to begin her confession. On that afternoon she had been strangely
passive, like a creature stunned by some great surprise; and yet, after
what she had said to her father, she had expected every day that Mr.
Granger would speak.
After a good deal of discussion among third parties, and an undeviating
urgency on the part of Mr. Granger himself, it was arranged that the
wedding should take place at the end of May, and that Clarissa should see
Switzerland in its brightest aspect. She had once expressed a longing for
Alpine peaks and glaciers in her lover's presence, and he had from that
moment, determined that Switzerland should be the scene of his honeymoon.
They would go there so early as to avoid the herd of autumnal wanderers. He
knew the country, and could map out the fairest roads for their travels,
the pleasantest resting-places for their repose. And if Clarissa cared to
explore Italy afterwards, and spend October and November in Rome, she
could do so. All the world would be bright and new to him with her for his
companion. He looked forward with boyish eagerness to revisiting scenes
that he had fancied himself weary of until now. Yes; such a love as this
was indeed a renewal of youth.
To all arrangements made on her behalf Clarissa was submissive. What could
a girl, not a quite twenty, urge against the will of a man like Daniel
Granger, supported by such powerful allies as father, and uncle and aunt,
and friends? She thanked him more warmly than usual when he proposed the
Swiss tour. Yes; she had wished very much to see that country. Her brother
had gone there on a walking expedition when he was little more than a boy,
and had very narrowly escaped with his life from the perils of the road.
She had some of his Alpine sketches, in a small portfolio of particular
treasures, to this day.
Mrs. Oliver revelled in the business of the trosseau. Never since the
extravagant days of her early youth had she enjoyed such a feast of
millinery. To an aunt the provision of a wedding outfit is peculiarly
delightful. She has all the pomp and authority of a parent, without a
parent's responsibility. She stands _in loco parentis_ with regard
to everything except the bill. No uneasy twinge disturbs her, as the
glistening silk glides through the shopman's hands, and ebbs and flows in
billows of brightness on the counter. No demon of calculation comes between
her and the genius of taste, when the milliner suggests an extra flounce of
Marines, or a pelerine of Honiton.
A trip to London, and a fortnight or so spent in West-end shops, would have
been very agreeable to Mrs. Oliver; but on mature reflection she convinced
herself that to purchase her niece's trosseau in London would be a foolish
waste of power. The glory to be obtained in Wigmore or Regent-street was
a small thing compared with the _kudos_ that would arise to her from the
expenditure of a round sum of money among the simple traders of Holborough.
Thus it was that Clarissa's wedding finery was all ordered at Brigson and
Holder's, the great linendrapers in Holborough market-place, and all made
by Miss Mallow, the chief milliner and dressmaker of Holborough, who was in
a flutter of excitement from the moment she received the order, and held
little levees amongst her most important customers for the exhibition of
Miss Lovel's silks and laces.
Towards the end of April there came a letter of congratulation from Lady
Laura Armstrong, who was still in Germany; a very cordial and affectionate
letter, telling Clarissa that the tidings of her engagement had just
reached Baden; but not telling her how the news had come, and containing
not a word of allusion to Lady Geraldine or George Fairfax.
"Now that everything is so happily settled, Clary," wrote my lady,
"without any finesse or diplomacy on my part, I don't mind telling
you that I have had this idea in my head from the very first day I
saw you. I wanted you to win back Arden Court, the place you love so
dearly; and as Mr. Granger, to my mind, is a very charming person,
nothing seemed more natural than that my wishes should be realised.
But I really did not hope that matters would arrange themselves so
easily and so speedily. A thousand good wishes, dear, both for
yourself and your papa. We hope to spend the autumn at Hale, and I
suppose I shall then have the pleasure of seeing you begin your
reign as mistress of Arden Court. You must give a great many
parties, and make yourself popular in the neighbourhood at once.
_Entre nous_, I think our friend Miss Granger is rather fond of
power. It will be wise on your part to take your stand in the
beginning of things, and then affairs are pretty sure to go
pleasantly. Ever your affectionate
Not a word about George Fairfax. Clarissa wondered where he was; whether
he was still angry with her, or had forgotten her altogether. The latter
seemed the more likely state of affairs. She wondered about him and then
reminded herself that she had no right even to wonder now. His was an image
which must be blotted out of her life. She cut all those careless sketches
out of her drawing-book. If it had only been as easy to tear the memory of
him out of her mind!
The end of May came very quickly, and with it Clarissa's wedding-day.
Before that day Miss Granger made a little formal address to her future
stepmother--an address worded with studious humility--promising a strict
performance of duty on Miss Granger's part in their new relations.
This awful promise was rather alarming to Clarissa, in whose mind Sophia
seemed one of those superior persons whom one is bound to respect and
admire, yet against whom some evil spark of the old Adam in our degraded
natures is ever ready to revolt.
"Pray don't talk of duty, my dear Sophia," she answered in a shy tremulous
way, clinging a little closer to Mr. Granger's arm. It was at Mill Cottage
that this conversation took place, a few days before the wedding. "There
can scarcely be a question of duty between people of the same age, like
you and me. But I hope we shall get to love each other more and more every
"Of course you will," cried Daniel Granger heartily. "Why should you not
love each other? If your tastes don't happen to be exactly the same just
now, habitual intercourse will smooth down all that, and you'll find all
manner of things in which you _can_ sympathise. I've told Sophy that I
don't suppose you'll interfere much with her housekeeping, Clarissa. That's
rather a strong point with her, and I don't think it's much in your line."
Miss Granger tightened her thin lips with a little convulsive movement.
This speech seemed to imply that Miss Lovel's was a loftier line than hers.
Clarissa remembered Lady Laura's warning, and felt that she might be doing
wrong in surrendering the housekeeping. But then, on the other hand, she
felt herself quite unable to cope with Miss Granger's account-books.
"I have never kept a large house," she said. "I should be very sorry to
"I was sure of it," exclaimed Mr. Granger; "and you will have more time to
be my companion, Clarissa, if your brain is not muddled with groceries and
butcher's-meat. You see, Sophia has such a peculiarly business-like mind."
"However humble my gifts may be, I have always endeavoured to employ them
for your benefit, papa," Miss Granger replied with a frosty air.
She had come to dine at Mill Cottage for the first time since she had known
of her father's engagement. She had come in deference to her father's
express desire, and it was a hard thing for her to offer even this small
tribute to Clarissa. It was a little family dinner--the Olivers, Mr.
Padget, the rector of Arden, who was to assist cheery Matthew Oliver in
tying the fatal knot, and Mr. and Miss Granger--a pleasant little party of
seven, for whom Mr. Lovel's cook had prepared quite a model dinner. She
had acquired a specialty for about half-a-dozen dishes which her master
affected, and in the preparation of these could take her stand against the
pampered matron who ruled Mr. Granger's kitchen at a stipend of seventy
guineas a year, and whose subordinate and assistant had serious thoughts
of launching herself forth upon the world as a professed cook, by
advertisement in the _Times_--"clear soups, entrees, ices, &c."
The wedding was to be a very quiet one. Mr. Lovel had expressed a strong
desire that it should be so; and Mr. Granger's wishes in no way clashed
with those of his father-in-law.
"I am a man of fallen fortunes," said Mr. Lovel, "and all Yorkshire knows
my history. Anything like pomp or publicity would be out of place in the
marriage of my daughter. When she is your wife it will be different. Her
position will be a very fine one; for she will have some of the oldest
blood in the county, supported by abundance of money. The Lycians used to
take their names from their mothers. I think, if you have a son. Granger,
you ought to call him Lovel."
"I should be proud to do so," answered Mr. Granger. "I am not likely to
forget that my wife is my superior in social rank."
"A superiority that counts for very little when unsustained by hard cash,
my dear Granger," returned Marmaduke Lovel lightly. He was supremely
content with the state of affairs, and had no wish to humiliate his
So the wedding was performed as simply as if Miss Lovel had been uniting
her fortunes with those of some fledgling of the curate species. There
were only two bridesmaids--Miss Granger, who performed the office with an
unwilling heart; and Miss Pontifex, a flaxen-haired young lady of high
family and no particular means, provided for the occasion by Mrs. Oliver,
at whose house she and Clarissa had become acquainted. There was a
breakfast, elegant enough in its way--for the Holborough confectioner had
been put upon his mettle by Mrs. Oliver--served prettily in the cottage
parlour. The sun shone brightly upon Mr. Granger's espousals. The village
children lined the churchyard walk, and strewed spring flowers upon the
path of bride and bridegroom--tender vernal blossoms which scarcely
harmonised with Daniel Granger's stalwart presence and fifty years.
Clarissa, very pale and still, with a strange fixed look on her face, came
out of the little church upon her husband's arm; and it seemed to her in
that hour as if all the life before her was like an unknown country, hidden
by a great cloud.
* * * * *
The leaves were yellowing in the park and woods round Arden Court, and
the long avenue began to wear a somewhat dreary look, before Mr. Granger
brought his young wife home. It was October again, and the weather bleaker
and colder than one had a right to expect in October. Mr. Lovel was at Spa,
recruiting his health in the soft breezes that blow across the pine-clad
hills, and leading a pleasant elderly-bachelor existence at one of the best
hotels in the bright little inland watering-place. The shutters were closed
at Mill Cottage, and the pretty rustic dwelling was left in the care of the
honest housekeeper and her handmaiden, the rosy-faced parlour-maid, who
dusted master's books and hung linen draperies before master's bookcases
with a pious awe.
Miss Granger had spent some part of her father's honeymoon in paying visits
to those friends who were eager to have her, and who took this opportunity
of showing special attention to the fallen heiress. The sense of her lost
prestige was always upon her, however, and she was scarcely as grateful
as she might have been for the courtesy she received. People seemed never
weary of talking about her father's wife, whose sweetness, and beauty, and
other interesting qualities, Miss Granger found herself called upon to
discuss continually. She did not bow the knee to the popular idol, however,
but confessed with a charming candour that there was no great sympathy
between her stepmother and herself.
"Her education has been so different from mine," she said, "that it is
scarcely strange if all our tastes are different. But, of course, I shall
do my duty towards her, and I hope and pray that she may make my father
But Miss Granger did not waste all the summer months in visiting. She was
more in her element at the Court. The model children in the new Arden
poor-schools had rather a hard time of it during Mr. Granger's honeymoon,
and were driven through Kings and Chronicles at a more severe pace than
usual. The hardest and driest facts in geography and grammar were pelted
like summer hail upon their weak young brains, and a sterner demand was
made every day upon their juvenile powers of calculation. This Miss Granger
called giving them a solid foundation; but as the edifice destined to be
erected upon this educational basis was generally of the humblest--a career
of carpentering, or blacksmithing, or housemaiding, or plain-cooking,
for the most part--it is doubtful whether that accurate knowledge of the
objective case or the longitude of the Sandwich Islands which Miss Granger
so resolutely insisted upon, was ever of any great service to the grown-up
In these philanthropic labours she had always an ardent assistant in the
person of Mr. Tillott, whose somewhat sandy head and florid complexion used
to appear at the open door of the schoolroom very often when Sophia was
teaching. He did really admire her, with all sincerity and singleness of
heart; describing her, in long confidential letters to his mother, as a
woman possessed of every gift calculated to promote a man's advancement in
this world and the next. He knew that her father's second marriage must
needs make a considerable change in her position. There would be an heir,
in all probability, and Sophia would no longer be the great heiress she had
been. But she would be richly dowered doubtless, come what might; and she
was brought nearer to the aspirations of a curate by this reduction of her
Miss Granger accepted the young priest's services, and patronised him with
a sublime unconsciousness of his aspirations. She had heard it whispered
that his father had been a grocer, and that he had an elder brother who
still carried on a prosperous colonial trade in the City. For anything like
retail trade Miss Granger had a profound contempt. She had all the pride of
a parvenu, and all the narrowness of mind common to a woman who lives in a
world of her own creation. So while Mr. Tillott flattered himself that he
was making no slight impression upon her heart, Miss Granger regarded him
as just a little above the head gardener and the certificated schoolmaster.
October came, and the day appointed for the return of the master of Arden
Court; rather a gloomy day, and one in a succession of wet and dismal days,
with a dull gray sky that narrowed the prospect, and frequent showers of
drizzling rain. Miss Granger had received numerous letters from her father
during his travels, letters which were affectionate if brief; and longer
epistles from Clarissa, describing their route and adventures. They had
done Switzerland thoroughly, and had spent the last month in Rome.
The interior of the old house looked all the brighter, perhaps, because
of that dull sky and, and those sodden woods without. Fires were blazing
merrily in all the rooms; for, whatever Miss Granger's secret feelings
might be, the servants were bent on showing allegiance to the new power,
and on giving the house a gala aspect in honour of their master's return.
The chief gardener, with a temporary indifference to his own interests, had
stripped his hothouses for the decoration of the rooms, and great vases of
exotics made the atmosphere odorous, and contrasted pleasantly with the
Miss Granger sat in the principal drawing-room, with her embroidery-frame
before her, determined not to be flurried or disturbed by the bride's
return. She sat at a respectful distance from the blazing logs, with a
screen interposed carefully between her complexion and the fire, the very
image of stiffness and propriety; not one of her dull-brown hairs ruffled,
not a fold of her dark green-silk dress disarranged.
The carriage was to meet the London express at Holborough station at
half-past four, and at a little before five Miss Granger heard the sound of
wheels in the avenue. She did not even rise from her embroidery-frame to
watch the approach of the carriage, but went on steadily stitch by stitch
at the ear of a Blenheim spaniel. In a few minutes more she heard the clang
of doors thrown open, then the wheels upon the gravel in the quadrangle,
and then her father's voice, sonorous as of old. Even then she did not
fly to welcome him, though her heart beat a little faster, and the colour
deepened in her cheeks.
"I am nothing to him now," she thought.
She began to lay aside her wools, however, and rose as the drawing-room
door opened, to offer the travellers a stately welcome.
Clarissa was looking her loveliest, in violet silk, with a good deal of fur
about her, and with an air of style and fashion which was new to her, Miss
Granger thought. The two young women kissed each other in a formal way, and
then Mr. Granger embraced his daughter with some show of affection.
"How lovely the dear old place looks!" cried Clarissa, as the one triumph
and glory of her marriage came home to her mind: she was mistress of Arden
Court. "Everything is so warm and bright and cheerful, such an improvement
upon foreign houses. What a feast of fires and flowers you have prepared to
welcome us, Sophia!"
She wished to say something cordial to her step-daughter, and she did
really believe that the festive aspect of the house was Miss Granger's
"I have not interfered with the servants' arrangements," that young lady
replied primly; "I hope you don't find so many exotics oppressive in these
hot rooms? _I_ do."
"O dear, no; they are so lovely," answered Clarissa, bending over a pyramid
of stephanotis, "one can scarcely have too many of them. Not if the perfume
makes your head ache, however; in that case they had better be sent away at
But Miss Granger protested against this with an air of meek endurance, and
the flowers were left undisturbed.
"Well, Sophy, what have you been doing with yourself all this time?" Mr.
Granger asked in a cheerful voice; "gadding about finely, according to your
"I spent a week with the Stapletons, and ten days with the Trevors, and
I went to Scarborough with the Chesneys, as you expressed a wish that I
should accept their invitation, papa," Miss Granger replied dutifully; "but
I really think I am happier at home."
"I'm very glad to hear it, my dear, and I hope you'll find your home
pleasanter than ever now.--So you like the look of the old place, do you,
Clary?" he went on, turning to his wife; "and you don't think we've quite
spoilt it by our renovation?"
"O no, indeed. There can be no doubt as to your improvements. And yet, do
you know, I was so fond of the place, that I am almost sorry to miss its
old shabbiness--the faded, curtains, and the queer Indian furniture which
my great-uncle Colonel Radnor, brought home from Bombay. I wonder what
became of those curious old cabinets?"
"I daresay they are still extant in some lumber-room in the roof, my dear.
Your father took very little of the old furniture away with him, and there
was nothing sold. We'll explore the garrets some day, and look for your
Indian cabinets.--Will you take Clarissa to her rooms, Sophy, and see what
she thinks of our arrangements?"
Miss Granger would gladly have delegated this office to a servant; but her
father's word was law; so she led the way to a suite of apartments which
Daniel Granger had ordered to be prepared for his young wife, and which
Clarissa had not yet been allowed to see. They had been kept as a pleasant
surprise for her coming home.
Had she been a princess of the blood royal, she could not have had finer
rooms, or a more perfect taste in the arrangement of them. Money can do so
much, when the man who dispenses it has the art of intrusting the carrying
out of his desires to the best workmen.
Clarissa was delighted with everything, and really grateful for the
generous affection which had done so much to gratify her.
"It is all a great deal too handsome," she said.
"I am glad you like the style in which they have carried out papa's ideas,"
replied Miss Granger; "for my own part, I like plainer furniture, and more
room for one's work; but it is all a matter of taste."
They were in the boudoir, a perfect gem of a room, with satin-wood
furniture and pale green-silk hangings; its only ornaments a set
of priceless Wedgwood vases in cream colour and white, and a few
water-coloured sketches by Turner, and Creswick, and Stanfield. The
dressing-room opened out of this and was furnished in the same style, with
a dressing-table that was a marvel of art and splendour, the looking-glass
in a frame of oxydised silver, between two monster jewel-cases of ebony and
malachite with oxydised silver mouldings. One entire side of this room was
occupied by an inlaid maple wardrobe, with seven doors, and Clarissa's
monogram on all of them--a receptacle that might have contained the
multifarious costumes of a Princess Metternich.
It would have been difficult for Clarissa not to be pleased with such
tribute, ungracious not to have expressed her pleasure; so when Daniel
Granger came presently to ask how she liked the rooms, she was not slow to
give utterance to her admiration.
"You give me so much more than I deserve, Mr. Granger," she said, after
having admired everything; "I feel almost humiliated by your generosity."
"Clarissa," exclaimed her husband, putting his two hands upon her
shoulders, and looking gravely down at her, "when will you remember that
I have a Christian name? When am I to be something more to you than Mr.
"You are all that is good to me, much too good," she faltered. "I will call
you Daniel, if you like. It is only a habit."
"It has such a cold sound, Clary. I know Daniel isn't a pretty name; but
the elder sons of Grangers have been Daniels for the last two centuries. We
were stanch Puritans, you know, in the days of old Oliver, and scriptural
names became a fashion with us. Well, my dear, I'll leave you to dress
for dinner. I'm very glad you like the rooms. Here are the keys of your
jewel-cases; we must contrive to fill them by and by. You see I have no
family diamonds to reset for you."
"You have given me more than enough jewelry already," said Clarissa. And
indeed Mr. Granger had showered gifts upon her with a lavish hand during
his brief courtship.
"Pshaw, child! only a few trinkets bought at random. I mean to fill those
cases with something better. I'll go and change my coat. We dine half an
hour earlier than usual to-day, Sophia tells me."
Mr. Granger retired to his dressing-room on the other side of the spacious
bed-chamber, perhaps the very plainest apartment in the house, for he was
as simple in his habits as the great Duke of Wellington; a room with a
monster bath on one side, and a battered oak office-desk on the other--a
desk that had done duty for fifty years or so in an office at Leeds--in
one corner a well-filled gunstand, in another a rack of formidable-looking
boots--boots that only a strong-minded man could wear.
When she was quite alone, Clarissa sat down in one of the windows of her
boudoir, and looked out at the park. How well she remembered the prospect!
how often she had looked at it on just such darksome autumnal evenings long
ago, when she was little more than a child! This very room had been her
mother's dressing-room. She remembered it deserted and tenantless, the
faded finery of the furniture growing dimmer and duller year by year. She
had come here in an exploring mood sometimes when she was quite a child,
but she never remembered the room having been put to any use; and as she
had grown older it had come to have a haunted air, and she had touched the
inanimate things with a sense of awe, wondering what her mother's life had
been like in that room--trying to conjure up the living image of a lovely
face, which was familiar to her from more than one picture in her father's
She knew more about her mother's life now; knew that there had been a
blight upon it, of which a bad unscrupulous man had been the cause. And
that man was the father of George Fairfax.
"Papa had reason to fear the son, having suffered so bitterly from the
influence of the father," she said to herself; and then the face that she
had first seen in the railway carriage shone before her once more, and her
thoughts drifted away from Arden Court.
She remembered that promise which George Fairfax had made her--the promise
that he would try and find out something about her brother Austin.
He had talked of hunting up a man who had been a close friend of the absent
wanderer's; but it seemed as if he had made no effort to keep his word.
After that angry farewell in the orchard, Clarissa could, of course, expect
no favour from him; but he might have done something before that. She
longed so ardently to know her brother's fate, to find some means of
communication with him, now that she was rich, and able to help him in
his exile. He was starving, perhaps, in a strange land, while she was
surrounded by all this splendour, and had five hundred a year for
Her maid came in to light the candles, and remind her of the dinner-hour,
while she was still looking out at the darkening woods. The maid was an
honest country-bred young woman, selected for the office by Mrs. Oliver.
She had accompanied her mistress on the honeymoon tour, and had been dazed
and not a little terrified by the wonders of Swiss landscape and the
grandeurs of fallen Rome.
"I've been listening for your bell ever so long, ma'am," said the girl;
"you'll scarcely have time to dress."
There was time, however, for Mrs. Granger's toilet, which was not an
elaborate one; and she was seated by the drawing-room fire talking to her
husband when the second dinner-bell rang.
They were not a very lively party that evening. The old adage about three
not being company went near to be verified in this particular case. The
presence of any one so thoroughly unsympathetic as Sophia Granger was in
itself sufficient to freeze any small circle. But although they did not
talk much, Clarissa and her husband seemed to be on excellent terms.
Sophia, who watched them closely during that initiatory evening, perceived
this, and told herself that her father had not yet discovered the mistake
which he had made. That he would make such a discovery sooner or later was
her profound conviction. It was only a question of time.
Thus it was that Clarissa's new life began. She knew herself beloved by
her husband with a quiet unobtrusive affection, the depth and wide measure
whereof had come home to her very often since her marriage with a sense
of obligation that was almost a burden. She knew this, and, knew that she
could give but little in return for so much--the merest, coldest show of
duty and obedience in recompense for all the love of this honest heart. If
love had been a lesson to be learnt, she would have learned it, for she was
not ungrateful, not unmindful of her obligations, or the vow that she
had spoken in Arden Church; but as this flower called love must spring
spontaneous in the human breast, and is not commonly responsive to the
efforts of the most zealous cultivator, Clarissa was fain to confess to
herself after five months of wedded life that her heart was still barren,
and that her husband was little more to her than he had been at the very
first, when for the redemption Of her father's fortunes she had consented
to become his wife.
So the time went on, with much gaiety in the way of feasting and company at
Arden Court, and a palpable dulness when there were no visitors. Mr.
and Mrs. Granger went out a good deal, sometimes accompanied by Sophia,
sometimes without her; and Clarissa was elected by the popular voice the
most beautiful woman in that part of the country. The people who knew her
talked of her so much, that other people who had not met her were eager to
see her, and made quite a favour of being introduced to her. If she knew of
this herself, it gave her no concern; but it was a matter of no small pride
to Daniel Granger that his young wife should be so much admired.
Was he quite happy, having won for himself the woman he loved, seeing
her obedient, submissive, always ready to attend his pleasure, to be his
companion when he wanted her company, with no inclination of her own
which she was not willing to sacrifice at a moment's notice for his
gratification? Was he quite happy in the triumph of his hopes? Well, not
quite. He knew that his wife did not love him. It might come some day
perhaps, that affection for which he still dared to hope, but it had not
come yet. He watched her face sometimes as she sat by his hearth on those
quiet evenings when they were alone, and he knew that a light should have
shone upon it that was not there. He would sigh sometimes as he read his
newspaper by that domestic hearth, and his wife would wonder if he were
troubled by any business cares--whether he were disturbed by any abnormal
commotion among those stocks or consols or other mysterious elements of the
financial world in which all rich men seemed more or less concerned. She
did not ever venture to question him as to those occasional sighs; but she
would bring the draught-board and place it at his elbow, and sit meekly
down to be beaten at a game she hated, but for which Mr. Granger had a
It will be seen, therefore, that Clarissa was at least a dutiful wife,
anxious to give her husband every tribute that gratitude and a deep sense
of obligation could suggest. Even Sophia Granger, always on the watch
for some sign of weariness or shortcoming, could discover no cause for
complaint in her stepmother's conduct.
Mr. Lovel came back to Mill Cottage in December, much improved and
renovated by the Belgian waters or the gaieties of the bright little
pleasure place. The sense of having made an end of his difficulties, and
being moored in a safe harbour for the rest of his life, may have done much
towards giving him a new lease of existence. Whatever the cause may have
been, he was certainly an altered man, and his daughter rejoiced in the
change. To her his manner was at once affectionate and deferential, as
if there had been lurking in his breast some consciousness that she had
sacrificed herself for his welfare. She felt this, and felt that her
marriage had given her something more than Arden Court, if it had won for
her her father's love. He spent some time at the Court, in deference to her
wishes, during those dark winter months; and they fell hack on their old
readings, and the evenings seemed gayer and happier for the introduction
of this intellectual element, which was not allowed to prevail to such an
extant as to overpower the practical Daniel Granger.
* * * * *
IN THE SEASON.
In the spring Mr. Granger took his wife and daughter to London, where they
spent a couple of months in Clarges-street, and saw a good deal of society
in what may he called the upper range of middle-class life--rich merchants
and successful professional men living in fine houses at the West-end,
enlivened with a sprinkling from the ranks of the baronetage and lesser
nobility. In this circle Mr. Granger occupied rather a lofty standing, as
the owner of one of the finest estates in Yorkshire, and of a fortune which
the common love of the marvellous exalted into something fabulous. He found
himself more popular than ever since his marriage, as the husband of one of
the prettiest women who had appeared that season. So, during the two months
of their London life, there was an almost unbroken succession of gaieties,
and Mr. Granger found himself yearning for the repose of Arden Court
sometimes, as he waited in a crowded ball-room while his wife and daughter
danced their last quadrille. It pleased him that Clarissa should taste this
particular pleasure-cup--that she should have every delight she had a right
to expect as his wife; but it pleased him not the less when she frankly
confessed to him one day that this brilliant round of parties and
party-giving had very few charms for her, and that she would be glad to go
back to Arden.
In London Clarissa met Lady Laura Armstrong; for the first time since
that September afternoon in which she had promised that no arts of George
Fairfax's should move her to listen to him. Lord Calderwood had been dead a
year and a half, and my lady was resplendent once more, and giving weekly
receptions in Mr. Armstrong's great house in Portland-place--a corner
house, with about a quarter of a mile of drawing-rooms, stretching back
into one of the lateral streets. For Mr. and Mrs. Granger she gave a
special dinner, with an evening party afterwards; and she took up a good
deal of Clarissa's time by friendly morning calls, and affectionate
insistance upon Mrs. Granger's company in her afternoon drives, and at her
daily kettle-drums--drives and kettle-drums from which Miss Granger felt
herself more or less excluded.
It was during one of these airings, when they had left the crowd and
splendour of the Park, and were driving to Roehampton, that Clarissa heard
the name of George Fairfax once more. Until this afternoon, by some strange
accident as it seemed, Lady Laura had never mentioned her sister's lover.
"I suppose you heard that it was all broken off?" she said, rather
abruptly, and apropos to nothing particular.
"Broken off, Lady Laura?"
"I mean Geraldine's engagement. People are so fond of talking about those
things; you must have heard, surely, Clary."
"No, indeed, I have heard nothing.
"That's very curious. It has been broken off ever so long--soon after poor
papa's death, in fact. But you know what Geraldine is--so reserved--almost
impenetrable, as one may say. I knew nothing of what had happened myself
till one day--months after the breach had occurred, it seems--when I made
some allusion to Geraldine's marriage, she stopped me, in her cold, proud
way, saying, 'It's just as well I should tell you that that affair is all
off, Laura. Mr. Fairfax and I have wished each other good-bye for ever.'
That's what I call a crushing blow for a sister, Clarissa. You know how I
had set my heart upon that marriage."
"I am very sorry," faltered Clarissa. "They had quarrelled, I suppose."
"Quarrelled! O, dear no; she had not seen him since she left Hale with
Frederick and me, and they parted with every appearance of affection. No;
there had been some letters between them, that was all. I have never been
able to discover the actual cause of their parting. Geraldine refused to
answer any questions, in a most arbitrary manner. It is a hard thing,
Clarissa; for I know that she loved him."