Part 6 out of 10
"And where is Lady Geraldine now?"
"At Hale, with my children. She has no regular home of her own now, you
see, poor girl, and she did not care about another season in London--she
has had enough of that kind of thing--so she begged me to let her stay at
the Castle, and superintend the governesses, and amuse herself in her own
way. Life is full of trouble, Clary!" and here the mistress of Hale Castle,
and of some seventy thousand per annum, gave a despondent sigh.
"Have you seen Mr. Fairfax since you came from Germany?" asked Clarissa.
"Yes, I have met him once--some months ago. You may be sure that I was
tolerably cool to him. He has been very little in society lately, and has
been leading rather a wild life in Paris, I hear. A prudent marriage would
have been his redemption; but I daresay it will end in his throwing himself
away upon some worthless person."
It was a relief to Clarissa to hear that George Fairfax was in Paris,
though that was very near. But in her ignorance of his whereabouts she
had fancied him still nearer, and in all her London festivities had been
tormented by a perpetual dread of meeting him. Many times even she had
imagined that she saw his face across the crowd, and had been relieved to
find it was only a face that bore some faint resemblance to his.
He had kept his word, then, so far as the breaking of his engagement
to Geraldine Challoner. He had been more in earnest than Clarissa had
believed. She thought that she was sorry for this; but it is doubtful
whether the regretful feeling in her heart was really sorrow for
Lady Geraldine. She thought of George Fairfax a good deal after this
conversation with Lady Laura--alas, when had she ceased to think of
him!--and all the splendours and pleasures of her married life seemed to
her more than ever worthless. What a hopeless entanglement, what a dismal
mistake, her existence was! Had she sold herself for these things--for
Arden Court and a town house, and unlimited millinery? No; again and again
she told herself she had married Daniel Granger for her father's sake, and
perhaps a little from a desire to keep faith with Lady Laura.
This marriage had seemed to her the only perfect fulfilment of her promise
that nothing should induce her to marry George Fairfax. But the sacrifice
had been useless, since he had broken his engagement to Geraldine
Sophia Granger's lynx eyes perceived a change in her step mother about this
time. Clarissa had never appeared especially enraptured by the gaieties
of fashionable London; but then had come upon her of late a languor and
weariness of spirit which she tried in vain to disguise by an assumed air
of enjoyment. That simulated gaiety deluded her husband, but it could not
deceive Miss Granger.
"She's getting tired of her life already, even here where we have a
perpetual round of amusements," Sophia said to herself. "What will she be
when we go back to Yorkshire?"
The time was close at hand for the return to Arden, when the thing which
Clarissa had feared came to pass, and the hazard of London life brought her
face to face with George Fairfax.
* * * * *
The season was at its height, and the Grangers found every available hour
of their existence engaged in visiting and receiving visitors. There were
so many people whom Lady Laura insisted upon introducing to her dear
Clarissa--there was so much in the way of party-giving that Lady Laura
wanted her sweet Mrs. Granger to do. Now it was a morning concert of my
lady's planning, at which weird and wonderful-looking denizens of the
Norseland--Poles, Hungarians, Danes, and Swedes--with unkempt hair and
fierce flashing eyes, performed upon every variety of native instrument, or
sang wild national songs in some strange language--concerts to which Lady
Laura brought herds of more or less fashionable people, all of whom were
languishing to know "that sweet Mrs. Granger." My lady had taken pains to
advertise her share in the manufacturer's marriage. Every one belonging to
her set knew that the match was her contriving, and that Clarissa had to
thank the mistress of Hale Castle for her millionaire husband. She was
really proud of her protegee's success, and was never tired of praising her
and "that admirable Granger."
That admirable Granger endured the accession of party-giving with a very
good grace. It pleased him to see his wife admired; it pleased him still
more to see her happy; and he was single-minded enough to believe her
increased volatility a symptom of increased happiness. Whatever undefined
regrets and dim forebodings there might be lurking in his own mind, he had
no doubt of his wife's integrity--no fear of hidden perils in this ordeal
of fashionable life.
She would come to love him in time, he said to himself, trusting as blindly
in the power of time to work this wonder for him as Clarissa herself had
trusted when she set herself to win her father's affection. He believed
this not so much because the thing was probable or feasible, as because he
desired it with an intensity of feeling that blinded him to the force
of hard facts. He--the man who had never made a false reckoning in the
mathematics of business-life--whose whole career was unmarred by a
mistake--whose greatest successes had been the result of unrivalled
coolness of brain and unerring foresight--he, the hard-headed, far-seeing
man of the world--was simple as a child in this matter, which involved the
greater hazard of his heart.
But while Clarissa's husband trusted her with such boundless confidence,
Clarissa's stepdaughter watched her with the vigilant eyes of prejudice,
not to say hatred. That a young lady so well brought up as Miss Granger--so
thoroughly grounded in Kings and Chronicles--should entertain the vulgar
passion of hate, seemed quite out of the question; but so far as a
ladylike aversion may go, Miss Granger certainly went in relation to her
step-mother. In this she was sustained by that model damsel Hannah Warman,
who, not having made much progress in Mrs. Granger's liking, had discovered
that she could not "take to" that lady, and was always ready to dilate upon
her shortcomings, whenever her mistress permitted. Sophia was capricious in
this, sometimes listening eagerly, at other times suppressing Miss Warman
with a high hand.
So Clarissa had, unawares, an enemy within her gates, and could turn
neither to the right nor to the left without her motives for so turning
becoming the subject of a close and profound scrutiny. It is hard to say
what shape Miss Granger's doubts assumed. If put into the witness-box and
subjected to the cross-examination of a popular queen's-counsel, she
would have found it very difficult to give a substance or a form to her
suspicions. She could only have argued in a general way, that Mrs. Granger
was frivolous, and that any kind of wrong-doing might be expected from so
light-minded a person.
It was the beginning of June, and West-end London was glorious with the
brief brilliancy of the early summer. All the Mayfair balconies were bright
with, flowers, and the Mayfair knockers resounded perpetually under the
hand of the archetypal Jeames. The weather was unusually warm; the most
perfect weather for garden-parties, every one declared, and there were
several of these _al fresco_ assemblies inscribed in Mrs. Granger's
visiting-book: one at Wimbledon; another as far afield as Henley-on-Thames,
at a villa whose grounds sloped down to the river.
This Henley party was an affair in which Lady Laura Armstrong was
particularly interested. It was given by a bachelor friend of her
husband's, a fabulously rich stockbroker; and it was Lady Laura who had
brought the proprietor of the villa to Clarges-street, and who had been
instrumental in the getting-up of the fete.
"You must really give us some kind of a party at your Henley place this
year, Mr. Wooster," she said. "There is the regatta now; I have positively
not seen the Henley regatta for three years. The Putney business is all
very well--supremely delightful, in short, while it lasts--but such a mere
lightning flash of excitement. I like a long day's racing, such as one gets
"Lady Laura ought to be aware that my house is at her disposal all the year
round, and that she has only to signify her pleasure to her most devoted
"O, that's all very well." replied my lady. "Of course, I know that if
Frederick and I were to come down, you would give us luncheon or dinner,
and let us roam about the gardens as long as we liked. But that's not what
I want. I want you to give a party on one of the race days, and invite all
the nice people in London."
"Are there any nasty people on this side of Temple-bar, Lady Laura, before
the closing of Parliament? I thought, in the season everybody was nice."
"You know what I mean, sir. I want the really pleasant people. Half-a-dozen
painters or so, and some of the nicest literary men--not the men who write
the best books, but the men who talk cleverly; and, of course, a heap of
musical people--they are always nice, except to one another. You must have
marquees on the lawn for the luncheon--your house is too small for anything
more than tea and coffee; and for once let there be no such thing as
croquet--that alone will give your party an air of originality. I
suppose you had better put yourself entirely into Gunter's hands for the
commissariat, and be sure you tell him you want novelty--no hackneyed
ideas; sparkle and originality in everything, from the eggs to the apples.
I should ask you to give us a dance in the evening, with coloured lamps,
if that were practicable, but there is the coming back to town; and if we
carried the business on to a breakfast next morning, some of the people
might begin to be tired, and the women would look faded and limp. So I
think we had better confine ourselves to a mere garden-party and luncheon,
without any dancing," Lady Laura concluded with a faint sigh.
"Will you send out the invitations, Lady Laura?"
"O, no; I leave all that to you. You really know everybody--or everybody we
need care about."
In this manner Mr. Wooster's party had been arranged, and to this party the
Grangers were bidden. Even the serious Sophia was going; indeed, it is to
be observed that this young lady joined in all mundane gaieties, under
protest as it were.
"I go out, my dear, but I never enjoy myself," she would say to a serious
friend, as if that were a kind of merit. "Papa wishes me to go, and I have
no desire to withdraw myself in any way from Mrs. Granger's amusements,
however little sympathy there may be between us. I endeavour to do _my_
duty, whatever the result may be."
Mr. Wooster did know a great many people. His abnormal wealth, and a
certain amount of cleverness, had been his sole passports to society. Among
Burke's _Landed Gentry_ there was no trace of the Wooster family, nor
had Mr. Wooster ever been heard to allude to a grandfather. He had begun
stockjobbing in the smallest way, but had at a very early stage of his
career developed a remarkable genius for this kind of traffic. Those of
his own set who had watched his steady ascent declared him to be a very
remarkable man; and the denizens of the West-end world, who knew nothing of
stockjobbing or stockbroking, were quite ready to receive him when he came
to them laden with the gold of Ophir, and with a reputation, of being
something distinguished upon 'Change.
Time had begun to thin Mr. Wooster's flowing locks before he landed
himself safely upon the shores of fashionable life, and Mr. Wooster's
carefully-trained moustache and whiskers had a purplish tinge that
looked more like art than nature. He was short and stout, with a florid
complexion, sharp black eyes, and a large aquiline nose, and considered
himself eminently handsome. He dressed with elaborate splendour--"dressed
for two," as some of his less gorgeous friends were wont to say--and was
reputed to spend a small fortune annually in exotics for his buttonhole,
and in dress boots.
His chief merits in the estimation of the polite world lay in the
possession of a perfectly-appointed town house, the villa at Henley,
another villa at Cowes, and a couple of magnificent yachts. He was a
perpetual giver of dinners, and spent his existence between the Stock
Exchange and the dinner-table, devoting whatever mental force remained
to him after his daily traffic to the study of menus, and the grave
consideration of wine-lists.
To dine with Wooster was one of the right things to do once or twice in the
course of a season; and Wooster's steam yacht was a pleasant place of rest
and haven of safety for any juvenile member of the peerage who had been
plunging heavily, and went in fear of the Bankruptcy-court.
So, on a brilliant June morning, the Grangers left the Great Western
station by special train, and sped through the summer landscape to Henley.
This garden-party at Mr. Wooster's villa was almost their last engagement.
They were to return to Arden in two days; and Clarissa was very glad that
it was so. That weariness of spirit which had seemed to her so strange in
some of the young ladies at Hale Castle had come upon herself. She longed
for Arden Court and perfect rest; and then she remembered, with something
like a shudder, that there were people invited for the autumn, and that
Lady Laura Armstrong had promised to spend a week with her dearest
"I want to put you into the way of managing that great house, Clary," said
my lady, brimming over with good-nature and officiousness. "As to leaving
the housekeeping in Miss Granger's hands, that's not to be dreamt of. It
might do very well for the first six months--just to let her down gently,
as it were--but from henceforth you must hold the reins yourself, Clary,
and I'll teach you how to drive."
"But, dear Lady Laura, I don't want the trouble and responsibility of
housekeeping. I would much rather leave all that in Sophy's hands,"
protested Clarissa. "You have no idea how clever she is. And I have my own
rooms, and my painting."
"Yes," exclaimed Lady Laura, "and you will mope yourself to death in your
own rooms, with your painting, whenever you have no company in the house.
You are not going to become a cipher, surely, Clarissa! What with Miss
Granger's schools, and Miss Granger's clothing-club, and Miss Granger's
premiums and prizes for this, that, and the other, you stand a fair chance
of sinking into the veriest nobody, or you would, if it were not for your
pretty face. And then you really must have employment for your mind, Clary.
Look at me; see the work I get through."
"But you are a wonder, dear Lady Laura, and I have neither your energy nor
Laura Armstrong would not admit this, and held to the idea of putting
Clarissa in the right away.
"Wait till I come to you in the autumn," she said. And in that depression
of spirit which had grown upon her of late, Mrs. Granger found it a hard
thing to say that she should be rejoiced when that time came.
She wanted to get back to Arden Court, and was proud to think of herself as
the mistress of the place she loved so dearly; but it seemed to her that
an existence weighed down at once by the wisdom of Sophia Granger and the
exuberant gaiety of Lady Laura would be barely endurable. She sighed for
Arden Court as she remembered it in her childhood--the dreamy quiet of the
dull old house, brightened only by her brother's presence; the perfect
freedom of her own life, so different from the life whose every hour was
subject to the claims of others.
She had changed very much since that visit to Hale Castle. Then all the
pleasures of life were new to her--to-day they seemed all alike flat,
stale, and unprofitable. She had been surfeited with splendours and
pleasures since her marriage. The wealth which Daniel Granger so freely
lavished upon her had rendered these things common all at once. She looked
back and wondered whether she had really ever longed for a new dress, and
been gladdened by the possession of a five-pound note.
* * * * *
"IF I SHOULD MEET THEE--"
Mr. Wooster's villa was almost perfection in its way; but there was
something of that ostentatious simplicity whereby the parvenu endeavours
sometimes to escape from the vulgar glitter of his wealth. The chairs and
tables were of unpolished oak, and of a rustic fashion. There were no
pictures, but the walls of the dining-room were covered with majolica
panels of a pale gray ground, whereon sported groups of shepherds and
shepherdesses after Boucher, painted on the earthenware with the airiest
brush in delicate rose-colour; the drawing-room and breakfast-room were
lined with fluted chintz, in which the same delicate grays and rose-colours
were the prevailing hues. The floors were of inlaid woods, covered only by
a small Persian carpet here and there. There was no buhl or marquetery, not
a scrap of gilding or a yard of silk or satin, in the house; but there
was an all-pervading coolness, and in every room the perfume of
Mr. Wooster told his fashionable acquaintance that in winter the villa was
a howling wilderness by reason of damp and rats; but there were those of
his Bohemian friends who could have told of jovial parties assembled there
in November, and saturnalias celebrated there in January; for Mr. Wooster
was a bachelor of very liberal opinions, and had two sets of visitors.
To-day the villa was looking its best and brightest. The hothouses had been
almost emptied of their choicest treasures in order to fill jardinieres and
vases for all the rooms. Mr. Wooster had obeyed Lady Laura, and there was
nothing but tea, coffee, and ices to be had in the house; nor were the
tea and coffee dispensed in the usual business-like manner, which reduces
private hospitality to the level of a counter at a railway station. Instead
of this, there were about fifty little tables dotted about the rooms, each
provided with a gem of a teapot and egg-shell cups and saucers for three
or four, so that Mr. Wooster's feminine visitors might themselves have the
delight of dispensing that most feminine of all beverages. This contrivance
gave scope for flirtation, and was loudly praised by Mr. Wooster's guests.
The gardens of the villa were large--indeed, the stockbroker had pulled
down a fine old family mansion to get a site for his dainty little
dwelling. There was a good stretch of river-frontage, from which the crowd
could watch the boats flash by; now the striped shirts shooting far ahead
to the cry of "Bravo, Brazenose!" anon the glitter of a line of light-blue
caps, as the Etonian crew answered to the call of their coxswain, and
made a gallant attempt to catch their powerful opponents; while Radley,
overmatched and outweighted, though by no means a bad crew, plodded
hopelessly but pluckily in the rear. Here Clarissa strolled for some time,
leaning on her husband's arm, and taking a very faint interest in the
boats. It was a pretty sight, of course; but she had seen so many pretty
sights lately, and the brightness of them had lost all power to charm her.
She looked on, like a person in a picture-gallery, whose eyes and brain
are dazed by looking at too many pictures. Mr. Granger noticed her
listlessness, and was quick to take alarm. She was paler than usual, he
"I'm afraid you've been overdoing it with so many parties, Clary," he said;
"you are looking quite tired to-day."
"I am rather tired. I shall be glad to go back to Arden."
"And I too, my dear. The fact is, there's nothing in the world I care less
for than this sort of thing: but I wanted you to have all the enjoyment to
be got out of a London season. It is only right that you should have any
pleasure I can give you."
"You are too good to me," Clarissa answered with a faint sigh.
Her husband did not notice the sigh; but he did remark the phrase, which
was one she had used very often--one that wounded him a little whenever he
"It is not a question of goodness, my dear," he said. "I love you, and I
want to make you happy."
Later in the afternoon, when the racing was at its height, and almost all
Mr. Wooster's visitors had crowded to the terrace by the river, Clarissa
strolled into one of the shrubbery walks, quite alone. It was after
luncheon; and the rattle of plates and glasses, and the confusion of
tongues that had obtained during the banquet, had increased the nervous
headache with which she had begun the day. This grove of shining laurel
and arbutus was remote from the river, and as solitary just now as if Mr.
Wooster's hundred or so of guests had been miles away. There were rustic
benches here and there: and Clarissa seated herself upon one of them, which
was agreeably placed in a recess amongst the greenery. She was more than
usually depressed to-day, and no longer able to maintain that artificial
vivacity by which she had contrived to conceal her depression. Her sin had
found her out. The loveless union, entered upon so lightly, was beginning
to weigh her down, as if the impalpable tie that bound her to her husband
had been the iron chain that links a galley-slave to his companion.
"I have been very wicked," she said to herself; "and he is so good to me!
If I could only teach myself to love him."
She knew now that the weakness which had made her so plastic a creature in
her father's hands had been an injustice to her husband; that it was not
herself only she had been bound to consider in this matter. It was one
thing to fling away her own chances of happiness; but it was another thing
to jeopardise the peace of the man she married.
She was meditating on these things with a hopeless sense of confusion--a
sense that her married life was like some dreadful labyrinth, into which
she had strayed unawares, and from which there was no hope of escape--when
she was startled by an approaching footstep, and, looking up suddenly,
saw George Fairfax coming slowly towards her, just as she had seen him in
Marley Wood that summer day. How far away from her that day seemed now!
They had not met since that night in the orchard, nearly two years ago.
She felt her face changing from pale to burning red, and then growing pale
again. But by a great effort she was able to answer him in a steady voice
presently when he spoke to her.
"What a happiness to see you again, my dear Mrs. Granger!" he said in his
lightest tone, dropping quietly down into the seat by her side. "I was told
you were to be here to-day, or I should not have come; I am so heartily
sick of all this kind of thing. But I really wanted to see you."
"You were not at the luncheon, were you?" asked Clarissa, feeling that she
must say something, and not knowing what to say.
"No; I have only been here half-an-hour or so. I hunted for you amongst
that gaping crowd by the river, and then began a circuit of the grounds. I
have been lucky enough to find you without going very far. I have some news
for you, Mrs. Granger."
"News for me?"
"Yes; about your brother--about Mr. Austin Lovel."
That name banished every other thought. She turned to the speaker eagerly.
"News of him--of my dear Austin? O, thank you a thousand times, Mr.
Fairfax! Have you heard where he is, and what he is doing? Pray, pray tell
me quickly!" she said, tremulous with excitement.
"I have done more than that: I have seen him."
"In England--in London?" cried Clarissa, making a little movement as if she
would have gone that moment to find him.
"No, not in England. Pray take things quietly, my dear Mrs. Granger. I have
a good deal to tell you, if you will only listen calmly."
"Tell me first that my brother is well--and happy, and then I will listen
patiently to everything."
"I think I may venture to say that he is tolerably well; but his happiness
is a fact I cannot vouch for. If he does find himself in a condition so
unusual to mankind, he is a very lucky fellow. I never met a man yet who
owned to being happy; and my own experience of life has afforded me only
some few brief hours of perfect happiness."
He looked at her with a smile that said as plainly as the plainest words,
"And those were when I was with you, Clarissa."
She noticed neither the look nor the words that went before it. She was
thinking of her brother, and of him only.
"But you have seen him," she said. "If he is not in England, he must be
very near--in Paris perhaps. I heard you were in Paris."
"Yes; it was in Paris that I saw him."
"So near! O, thank God, I shall see my brother again! Tell me everything
about him, Mr. Fairfax--everything."
"I will. It is best you should have a plain unvarnished account. You
remember the promise I made you at Hale? Well, I tried my utmost to keep
that promise. I hunted up the man I spoke of--a man who had been
an associate of your brother's; but unluckily, there had been no
correspondence between them after Mr. Lovel went abroad; in short, he could
tell me nothing--not even where your brother went. He had only a vague
idea that it was somewhere in Australia. So, you see, I was quite at a
standstill here. I made several attempts in other directions, but all with
the same result; and at last I gave up all hope of ever being of any use to
you in this business."
"You were very kind to take so much trouble."
"I felt quite ashamed of my failure; I feel almost as much ashamed of
my success; for it was perfectly accidental. I was looking at some
water-coloured sketches in a friend's rooms in the Rue du Faubourg St.
Honore--sketches of military life, caricatures full of dash and humour, in
a style that was quite out of the common way, and which yet seemed in some
manner familiar to me. My friend saw that I admired the things. 'They are
my latest acquisitions in the way of art,' he said; they are done by a poor
fellow who lives in a shabby third-floor near the Luxembourg--an Englishman
called Austin. If you admire them so much, you might as well order a set
of them. It would be almost an act of charity.' The name struck me at
once--your brother's Christian name; and then I remembered that
I had been shown some caricature portraits which he had done of his
brother-officers--things exactly in the style of the sketches I had been
looking at. I asked for this Mr. Austin's address, and drove off at once
to find him, with a few lines of introduction from my friend. 'The man is
proud,' he said, 'though he carries his poverty lightly enough.'"
"Poor Austin!" sighed Clarissa.
"I need not weary you with minute details. I found this Mr. Austin, and at
once recognized your brother; though he is much altered--very much altered.
He did not know me until afterwards, when I told him my name, and recalled
our acquaintance. There was every sign of poverty: he looked worn and
haggard; his clothes were shabby; his painting-room was the common
sitting-room; his wife was seated by the open window patching a child's
frock; his two children were playing about the room."
"He is married, then? I did net even know that."
"Yes, he is married; and I could see at a glance that an unequal
marriage has been one among the causes of his ruin. The woman is well
enough--pretty, with a kind of vulgar prettiness, and evidently fond of
him. But such a marriage is moral death to any man. I contrived to get a
little talk with him alone--told him of my acquaintance with you and of
the promise that I had made to you. His manner had been all gaiety and
lightness until then; but at the mention of your name he fairly broke down.
'Tell her that I have never ceased to love her,' he said; 'tell her there
are times when I dare not think of her.'"
"He has not forgotten me, then. But pray go on; tell me everything."
"There is not much more to tell. He gave me a brief sketch of his
adventures since he sold out. Fortune had gone against him. He went to
Melbourne, soon after his marriage, which he confessed was the chief
cause of his quarrel with his father; but in Melbourne, as in every other
Australian city to which he pushed his way, he found art at a discount.
It was the old story: the employers of labour wanted skilled mechanics or
stalwart navigators; there was no field for a gentleman or a genius. Your
brother and his wife just escaped starvation in the new world, and just
contrived to pay their way back to the old world. There were reasons why he
should not show himself in England, so he shipped himself and his family in
a French vessel bound for Havre, and came straight on to Paris, where he
told me he found it tolerably easy to get employment for his pencil. 'I
give a few lessons,' he said, 'and work for a dealer; and by that means we
just contrive to live. We dine every day, and I have a decent coat, though
you don't happen to find me in it. I can only afford to wear it when I go
to my pupils. It is from-hand-to-mouth work; and if any illness should
strike me down, the wife and little ones must starve.'"
"Poor fellow! poor fellow! Did you tell him that I was rich, that I could
"Yes," answered Mr. Fairfax, with an unmistakable bitterness in his tone;
"I told him that you had married the rich Mr. Granger."
"How can I best assist him?" asked Clarissa eagerly. "Every penny I have in
the world is at his disposal. I can give him three or four hundred a year.
I have five hundred quite in my own control, and need not spend more than
one. I have been rather extravagant since my marriage, and have not much
money by me just now, but I shall economise from henceforward; and I do not
mind asking Mr. Granger to help my brother."
"If you will condescend to take my advice, you will do nothing of that
kind. Even my small knowledge of your brother's character is sufficient to
make me very certain that an appeal to Mr. Granger is just the very last
thing to be attempted in this case."
"But why so? my husband is one of the most generous men in the world, I
"To you, perhaps, that is very natural. To a man of Mr. Granger's wealth a
few thousands more or less are not worth consideration; but where there is
a principle or a prejudice at stake, that kind of man is apt to tighten his
purse-strings with a merciless hand. You would not like to run the risk of
"I do not think there is any fear of that."
"Possibly not; but there is your brother to be considered in this matter.
Do you think it would be pleasant for him to know that his necessities were
exposed to such a--to a brother-in-law whom he had never seen?"
"I do not know," said Clarissa thoughtfully; "I fancied that he would be
glad of any helping hand that would extricate him from his difficulties. I
should be so glad to see him restored to his proper position in the world."
"My dear Mrs. Granger, it is better not to think of that. There is a kind
of morass from which no man can be extricated. I believe your brother has
sunk into that lower world of Bohemianism from which a man rarely cares to
emerge. The denizens of that nethermost circle lose their liking for the
upper air, can scarcely breathe it, in fact. No, upon my word, I would
not try to rehabilitate him; least of all through the generosity of Mr.
"If I could only see him," said Clarissa despondingly.
"I doubt whether he would come to England, even for the happiness of seeing
you. If you were in Paris, now, I daresay it might be managed. We could
bring about a meeting. But I feel quite sure that your brother would not
care to make himself known to Mr. Granger, or to meet your father. There is
a deadly feud between those two; and I should think it likely Mr. Lovel has
prejudiced your husband against his son."
Clarissa was fain to admit that it was so. More than once she had ventured
to speak of her brother to Daniel Granger, and on each occasion had quickly
perceived that her husband had some fixed opinion about Austin, and was
inclined to regard her love for him as an amiable weakness that should be
as far as possible discouraged.
"Your father has told me the story of his disagreement with his son, my
dear Clarissa," Daniel Granger had said in his gravest tone, "and after
what I have heard, I can but think it would be infinitely wise in you to
forget that you had ever had a brother."
This was hard; and Clarissa felt her husband's want of sympathy in this
matter as keenly as she could have felt any overt act of unkindness.
"Will you give me Austin's address" she asked, after a thoughtful pause. "I
can write to him, at least, and send him some money, without consulting any
one. I have about thirty pounds left of my last quarter's money, and even
that may be of use to him."
"Most decidedly. The poor fellow told me he had been glad to get ten
napoleons for half-a-dozen sketches: more than a fortnight's hard work.
Would it not be better, by the way, for you to send your letter to me, and
allow me to forward it to your brother? and if you would like to send him
fifty pounds, or a hundred, I shall be only too proud to be your banker."
Clarissa blushed crimson, remembering that scene in the orchard, and her
baffled lover's menaces. Had he forgiven her altogether, and was this kind
interest in her affairs an unconscious heaping of coals of fire on her
head? Had he forgiven her so easily? Again she argued with herself, as she
had so often argued before, that his love had never been more than a truant
fancy, a transient folly, the merest vagabondage of an idle brain.
"You are very good," she said, with a tinge of hauteur, "but I could not
think of borrowing money, even to help my brother. If you will kindly tell
me the best method of remitting money to Paris."
Here, Mr. Fairfax said, there was a difficulty; it ought to be remitted
through a banker, and Mrs. Granger might find this troublesome to arrange,
unless she had an account of her own. Clarissa said she had no account, but
met the objection by suggesting bank notes; and Mr. Fairfax was compelled
to own that notes upon the Bank of England could be converted into French
coin at any Parisian money-changer's.
He gave Clarissa the address, 13, Rue du Chevalier Bayard, near the
"I will write to him to-night," she said, and then rose from the rustic
bench among the laurels. "I think I must go and look for my husband now. I
left him some time ago on account of a headache. I wanted to get away from
the noise and confusion on the river-bank."
"Is it wise to return to the noise and confusion so soon?" asked Mr.
Fairfax, who had no idea of bringing this interview to so sudden a close.
He had been waiting for such a meeting for a long time; waiting with a kind
of sullen patience, knowing that it must some sooner or later, without
any special effort of his; waiting with a strange mixture of feelings and
sentiments--disappointed passion, wounded pride, mortified vanity, an angry
sense of wrong that had been done to him by Clarissa's marriage, an eager
desire to see her again, which was half a lover's yearning, half an enemy's
lust of vengeance.
He was not a good man. Such a life as he had led is a life that no man can
lead with impunity. To say that he might still be capable of a generous
action or unselfish impulse, would be to say much for him, given the story
of his manhood. A great preacher of to-day has declared, that he could
never believe the man who said he had never been tempted. For George
Fairfax life had been crowded with temptations; and he had not made even
the feeblest stand against the tempter. He had been an eminently fortunate
man in all the trifles which make up the sum of a frivolous existence; and
though his successes had been for the most part small social triumphs, they
had not been the less agreeable. He had never felt the sting of failure
until he stood in the Yorkshire orchard that chill October evening, and
pleaded in vain to Clarissa Lovel. She was little more than a schoolgirl,
and she rejected him. It was us if Lauzun, after having played
fast-and-loose with that eldest daughter of France who was afterwards his
wife, had been flouted by some milliner's apprentice, or made light of by
an obscure little soubrette in Moliere's troop of comedians. He had neither
forgotten nor forgiven this slight; and mingled with that blind unreasoning
passion, which he had striven in vain to conquer, there was an ever-present
sense of anger and wrong.
When Clarissa rose from the bench, he rose too, and laid his hand lightly
on her arm with a detaining gesture.
"If you knew how long; I have been wishing for this meeting, you would not
be so anxious to bring it to a close," he said earnestly.
"It was very good of you to wish to tell me about poor Austin," she said,
pretending to misunderstand him, "and I am really grateful. But I must not
stay any longer away from my party."
"Clarissa--a thousand pardons--Mrs. Granger"--there is no describing the
expression he gave to the utterance of that last name--a veiled contempt
and aversion that just stopped short of actual insolence, because it seemed
involuntary--"why are you so hard upon me? You have confessed that you
wanted to escape the noise yonder, and yet to avoid me you would go back to
that. Am I so utterly obnoxious to you?"
"You are not at all obnoxious to me; but I am really anxious to rejoin my
party. My husband will begin to wonder what has become of me. Ah, there is
my stepdaughter coming to look for me."
Yes, there was Miss Granger, slowing advancing towards them. She had been
quite in time to see George Fairfax's entreating gestures, his pleading
air. She approached them with a countenance that would have been quite as
appropriate to a genteel funeral--where any outward demonstration of grief
would be in bad taste--as it was to Mr. Wooster's fete, a countenance
expressive of a kind of dismal resignation to the burden of existence in a
world that way unworthy of her.
"I was just coming back to the river, Sophia," Mrs. Granger said, not
without some faint indications of embarrassment. "I'm afraid Mr.--I'm
afraid Daniel must have been looking for me."
"Papa _has_ been looking for you," Miss Granger replied, with unrelenting
stiffness.--"How do you do, Mr. Fairfax?" shaking hands with him in a
frigid manner.--"He quite lost the last race. When I saw that he was
growing really anxious, I suggested that he should go one way, and I the
other, in search of you. That is what brought me here."
It was as much as to say, Pray understand that I have no personal interest
in your movements.
"And yet I have not been so very long away," Clarissa said, with a
"You may not have been conscious of the lapse of time You have been long.
You said you would go and rest for a quarter of an hour or so; and you have
been resting more than an hour."
"I don't remember saying that; but you are always so correct, Sophia."
"I make a point of being exact in small things. We had better go round the
garden to look for papa.--Good-afternoon, Mr. Fairfax."
"Good-afternoon, Miss Granger."
George Fairfax shook hands with Clarissa.
"Good-bye, Mrs. Granger."
That was all, but the words were accompanied by a look and a pressure of
the hand that brought the warm blood into Clarissa's cheeks. She had made
for herself that worst enemy a woman can have--a disappointed lover.
While they were shaking hands, Mr. Granger came in sight at the other
end of the walk; so it was only natural that Mr. Fairfax, who had been
tolerably intimate with him at Hale Castle, should advance to meet him.
There were the usual salutations between the two men, exchanged with that
stereotyped air of heartiness which seems common to Englishmen.
"I think we had better get home by the next train, Clarissa," said Mr.
Granger; "5.50. I told them to have the brougham ready for us at Paddington
from half-past six."
"I am quite ready to go," Clarissa said.
"Your headache is better, I hope."
"Yes; I had almost forgotten it."
Miss Granger gave an audible sniff, which did not escape George Fairfax.
"What! suspicious already?" he said to himself.
"You may as well come and dine with us, Mr. Fairfax, if you have nothing
better to do," said Mr. Granger, with his lofty air, as much as to say, "I
suppose I ought to be civil to this young man."
"It is quite impossible that I could have anything better to do," replied
"In that case, if you will kindly give your arm to my daughter, we'll move
off at once. I have wished Mr. Wooster good-afternoon on your part, Clary.
I suppose we may as well walk to the station."
"If you please."
And in this manner they departed, Miss Granger just touching George
Fairfax's coat-sleeve with the tips of her carefully-gloved fingers;
Clarissa and her husband walking before them, arm in arm. Mr. Fairfax did
his utmost to make himself agreeable during that short walk to the station;
so much so that Sophia unbent considerably, and was good enough to inform
him of her distaste for these frivolous pleasures, and of her wonder that
other people could go on from year to year with an appearance of enjoyment.
"I really don't see what else one can do with one's life, Miss Granger,"
her companion answered lightly. "Of course, if a man had the genius of a
Beethoven, or a Goethe, or a Michael Angelo--or if he were 'a heaven-born
general,' like Clive, it would be different; he would have some purpose and
motive in his existence. But for the ruck of humanity, what can they do but
enjoy life, after their lights?"
If all the most noxious opinions of Voltaire, and the rest of the
Encyclopedists, had been expressed in one sentence, Miss Granger could not
have looked more horrified than she did on hearing this careless remark of
She gave a little involuntary shudder, and wished that George Fairfax had
been one of the model children, so that she might have set him to learn the
first five chapters in the first book of Chronicles, and thus poured the
light of what she called Biblical knowledge upon his benighted mind.
"I do not consider the destiny of a Michael Angelo or a Goethe to be
envied," she said solemnly. "Our lives are given us for something better
than painting pictures or writing poems."
"Perhaps; and yet I have read somewhere that St. Luke was a painter,"
returned George Fairfax.
"Read somewhere," was too vague a phrase for Miss Granger's approval.
"I am not one of those who set much value on tradition," she said with
increased severity. "It has been the favourite armour of our adversaries."
"Yes, Mr. Fairfax. Of ROME!"
Happily for George Fairfax, they were by this time very near the station.
Mr. and Mrs. Granger had walked before them, and Mr. Fairfax had been
watching the tall slender figure by the manufacturer's side, not
ill-pleased to perceive that those two found very little to say to each
other during the walk. In the railway-carriage, presently, he had the seat
opposite Clarissa, and was able to talk to her as much as he liked; for
Mr. Granger, tired with staring after swift-flashing boats in the open
sunshine, leaned his head back against the cushions and calmly slumbered.
The situation reminded Mr. Fairfax of his first meeting with Clarissa. But
she was altered since then: that charming air of girlish candour, which he
had found so fascinating, had now given place to a womanly self-possession
that puzzled him not a little. He could make no headway against that calm
reserve, which was yet not ungracious. He felt that from first to last in
this business he had been a fool. He had shown his cards in his anger, and
Clarissa had taken alarm.
He was something less than a deliberate villain: but he loved her; he loved
her, and until now fate had always given him the thing that he cared for.
Honest Daniel Granger, sleeping the sleep of innocence, seemed to him
nothing more than a gigantic stumbling-block in his way. He was utterly
reckless of consequences--of harm done to others, above all--just as his
father had been before him. Clarissa's rejection had aroused the worst
attributes of his nature--an obstinate will, a boundless contempt for any
human creature not exactly of his own stamp--for that prosperous trader,
Daniel Granger, for instance--and a pride that verged upon the diabolic.
So, during that brief express journey, he sat talking gaily enough to
Clarissa about the Parisian opera-houses, the last new plays at the Gymnase
and the Odeon, the May races at Chantilly, and so on; yet hatching his
grand scheme all the while. It had taken no definite shape as yet, but it
filled his mind none the less."
"Strange that this fellow Granger should have been civil," he said to
himself. "But that kind of man generally contrives to aid and abet his own
And then he glanced at this fellow Granger, sleeping peacefully with his
head in an angle of the carriage, and made a contemptuous comparison
between himself and the millionaire. Mr. Granger had been all very well in
the abstract, before he became an obstacle in the path of George Fairfax.
But things were altered now, and Mr. Fairfax scrutinized him with the eyes
of an enemy.
The dinner in Clarges-street was a very quiet affair. George Fairfax was
the only visitor, and the Grangers were "due" at an evening party. He
learned with considerable annoyance that they were to leave London at
the end of that week, whereby he could have little opportunity of seeing
Clarissa. He might have followed her down to Yorkshire, certainly; but such
a course would have been open to remark, nor would it be good taste for
him to show himself in the neighbourhood of Hale Castle while Geraldine
Challoner was there. He had an opportunity of talking confidentially to
Clarissa once after dinner, when Mr. Granger, who had not fairly finished
his nap in the railway-carriage, had retired to a dusky corner of the
drawing-room and sunk anew into slumber, and when Miss Granger seemed
closely occupied in the manufacture of an embroidered pincushion for a
fancy fair. Absorbing as the manipulation of chenille and beads might be,
however, her work did not prevent her keeping a tolerably sharp watch upon
those two figures by the open piano: Clarissa with one hand wandering idly
over the keys, playing some random passage, _pianissimo_, now and then;
George Fairfax standing by the angle of the piano, bending down to talk to
her with an extreme earnestness.
He had his opportunity, and he knew how to improve it. He was talking of
her brother. That subject made a link between them that nothing else could
have made. She forgot her distrust of George Fairfax when he spoke with
friendly interest of Austin.
"Is the wife _very_ vulgar?" Clarissa asked, when they had been talking
"Not so especially vulgar. That sort of thing would be naturally toned down
by her association with your brother. But she has an unmistakable air of
Bohemianism; looks like a third-rate actress, or dancer, in short; or
perhaps an artist's model. I should not wonder if that were her position,
by the way, when your brother fell in love with her. She is handsome still,
though a little faded and worn by her troubles, poor soul and seems fond of
"I am glad of that. How I should like to see him, and the poor wife, and
the children--my brother's children! I have never had any children fond of
She thought of Austin in his natural position, as the heir of Arden Court,
with his children playing in the old rooms--not as they were now, in
the restored splendour of the Middle Ages, but as they had been in her
childhood, sombre and faded, with here and there a remnant of former
Mr. Granger woke presently, and George Fairfax wished him good-night.
"I hope we shall see you at the Court some day," Clarissa's husband said,
with a kind of stately cordiality. "We cannot offer you the numerous
attractions of Hale Castle, but we have good shooting, and we generally
have a houseful in September and October."
"I shall be most happy to make one of the houseful," Mr. Fairfax said, with
a smile--that winning smile which had helped him to make so many friends,
and which meant so little. He went away in a thoughtful spirit.
"Is she happy?" he asked himself. "She does not seem unhappy; but then
women have such a marvellous power of repression, or dissimulation, one can
never be sure of anything about them. At Hale I could have sworn that she
loved me. Could a girl of that age be absolutely mercenary, and be caught
at once by the prospect of bringing down such big game as Daniel Granger?
Has she sold herself for a fine house and a great fortune, and is she
satisfied with the price? Surely no. She is not the sort of woman to be
made happy by splendid furniture and fine dresses; no, nor by the common
round of fashionable pleasures. There was sadness in her face when I came
upon her unawares to-day. Yes, I am sure of that. But she has schooled
herself to hide her feelings."
"I wonder you asked Mr. Fairfax to Arden, papa," said Miss Granger, when
the visitor had departed.
"Why, my dear? He is a very pleasant young man; and I know he likes our
part of the country. Besides, I suppose he will be a good deal at Hale this
year, and that his marriage will come off before long. Lord Calderwood must
have been dead year."
"Lord Calderwood has been dead nearly two years," replied Miss Granger. "I
fancy that engagement between Mr. Fairfax and Lady Geraldine must have been
broken off. If it were not so, they would surely have been married before
now. And I observed that Mr. Fairfax was not with Lady Laura to-day. I do
not know how long he may have been in the gardens," Miss Granger added,
with a suspicious glance at her stepmother, "but he certainly was not with
Lady Laura during any part of the time."
Clarissa blushed when Lady Geraldine's engagement was spoken of. She felt
as if she had been in some manner guilty in not having communicated the
intelligence Lady Laura had given her. It seemed awkward to have to speak
of it now.
"Yes," she said, with a very poor attempt at carelessness, "the engagement
is broken off. Lady Laura told me so some time ago."
"Indeed!" exclaimed Sophia. "How odd that you should not mention it!"
Daniel Granger looked first at his daughter, and then at his wife. There
was something in this talk, a sort of semi-significance, that displeased
him. What was George Fairfax, that either his wife or his daughter should
be interested in him?
"Clarissa may not have thought the fact worth mentioning, my dear," he said
stiffly. "It is quite unimportant to us."
He waived the subject away, as he might have done if it had been some small
operation in commerce altogether unworthy of his notice; but in his secret
heart he kept the memory of his wife's embarrassed manner. He had not
forgotten the portfolio of drawings among which the likeness of George
Fairfax figured go prominently. It had seemed a small thing at the
time--the merest accident; one head was as good to draw as another, and so
on--he had told himself; but he knew now that his wife did not love him,
and he wanted to know if she had ever loved any one else.
* * * * *
THE HEIR OF ARDEN.
Clarissa wrote to her brother--a long letter full of warmth and tenderness,
with loving messages for his children, and even for the wife who was so
much beneath him. She enclosed three ten-pound notes, all that remained
to her of a quarter's pin-money; and O, how bitterly she regretted the
frivolous extravagances that had reduced her exchequer to so low a
condition! Toward the close of her letter she came to a standstill. She had
begged Austin to write to her, to tell her all he could about himself,
his hopes, his plans for the future; but when it came to the question of
receiving a letter from him she was puzzled. From the first day of her
married life she had made a point of showing all her letters to her
husband, as a duty, just as she had shown them to her father; who had very
rarely taken the trouble to read them, by the way. But Daniel Granger did
read his wife's letters, and expected that they should be submitted to him.
It would be impossible to reserve from him any correspondence that came to
her in the common way. So Clarissa, though not given to secrecy, was on
this occasion fain to be secret. After considerable deliberation, she told
her brother to write to her under cover to her maid, Jane Target, at Arden
Court. The girl seemed a good honest girl, and Mrs. Granger believed that
she could trust her.
They went back to Arden a day or two afterwards; and Miss Granger returned
with rapture to her duties as commander-in-chief of the model villagers. No
martinet ever struck more terror into the breasts of rank and file than
did this young lady cause in the simple minds of her prize cottagers,
conscience-stricken by the knowledge that stray cobwebs had flourished
and dust-bins run to seed during her absence. There was not much room for
complaint, however, when she did arrive. The note of warning had been
sounded by the servants of the Court, and there had been a general
scrubbing and cleansing in the habitations of New Arden--that particular
Arden which Mr. Granger had built for himself, and the very bricks whereof
ought to have been stamped with his name and titles, as in the case of
Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabopolassar, king of Babylon. For a week before
Miss Granger's coming there had been heard the splashing of innumerable
pails of water, and the scrubbing of perpetual scrubbing-brushes; windows
had been polished to the highest degree of transparency; tin tea-kettles
had been sandpapered until they became as silver; there had been quite a
run upon the village chandler for mottled soap and hearthstone.
So, after a rigorous inspection, Miss Granger was obliged to express her
approval--not an unqualified approval, by any means. Too much praise would
have demoralized the Ardenites, and lowered the standard of perfection.
"I like to be able to say that my papa's village is the cleanest village in
England," she said; "not one of the cleanest, but _the_ cleanest. Why have
you turned the back of that tea-kettle to the wall, Mrs. Binks? I'm afraid
it's smoky. Now there never need be a smoky kettle. Your place looks very
nice, Mrs. Binks; but from the strong smell of soap, I fancy it must have
been cleaned _very lately_. I hope you have not been neglecting things
while I've been away. That sort of thing would militate against your
obtaining my prize for domestic cleanliness next Christmas."
Mrs. Binks did not know what "militate" meant, unless it might be something
in connection with the church militant, of which she had heard a great
deal; but she was not a mild-tempered woman, and she grew very red in the
face at this reproof."
"Well, miss, if to toil and scrub early and late, with a husband and five
children to do for, and to keep the place pretty much as you see it now,
though I don't say as it ain't a little extry perhaps, in honour of your
coming back--if that ain't hard work and cleanliness, and don't deserve
a prize of two pound at the year's end, I don't know what do. It's
hard-earned money, Miss Granger, when all's said and done."
Sophia turned the eyes of reproof upon Mrs. Binks.
"I did not think it was the money you cared for," she said; "I thought it
was the honour you valued most."
She pointed to a card framed and glazed over the mantelpiece--a card upon
which, with many nourishes and fat initial letters in red ink, the model
schoolmaster had recorded the fact, that Mrs. Binks, at the preceding
Christmas distributions, had obtained Miss Granger's annual reward for
"Well, of course, miss, I set store by the card. It's nice to see one's
name wrote out like that, and any strangers as chance to come in the summer
time, they takes notice; but to a hard-working man's wife two pound is a
consideration. I'm sure I beg your parding humbly, miss, if I spoke a bit
short just now; but it is trying, when one has worked hard, to have one's
work found fault with."
"I am not aware that I found fault with your work, Mrs. Sinks," Sophia
replied with supreme dignity; "I merely remarked that it appeared to have
been done hastily. I don't approve of spasmodic industry."
And with this last crushing remark, Miss Granger sailed out of the cottage,
leaving the luckless Mrs. Binks to repent her presumption at leisure, and
to feel that she had hazarded her hopes of Christmas bounties, and enhanced
the chances of her detested rival of three doors off, Mrs. Trotter, a
sanctimonious widow, with three superhuman children, who never had so much
as a spot on their pinafores, and were far in advance of the young Binkses
in Kings and Chronicles; indeed the youngest Trotter had been familiar with
all the works of Hezekiah before the eldest Binks had grasped the abstract
idea of Saul.
For Clarissa the change to Arden Court was a pleasant one. That incessant
succession of London gaieties had wearied her beyond measure. Here, for a
little time before her visitors began to arrive, she lived her own life,
dreaming away a morning over a sketch-book, or reading some newly-published
volume in a favourite thicket in the park. There was a good deal of time,
of course, that she was obliged to devote to her husband, walking or
driving or riding with him, in rather a ceremonial manner, almost as she
might have done had she belonged to that charmed circle whose smallest walk
or drive is recorded by obsequious chroniclers in every journal in the
united kingdom. Then came six brilliant weeks in August and September,
when Arden Court was filled with visitors, and Clarissa began to feel how
onerous are the duties of a chatelaine. She had not Lady Laura Armstrong's
delight in managing a great house. She was sincerely anxious that her
guests might be pleased, but somewhat over-burdened by the responsibility
of pleasing them. It was only after some experience that she found there
was very little to be done, after all. With a skilful combination of
elements, the result was sure to be agreeable. Morning after morning the
cheerful faces gathered round the breakfast-table; and morning after
morning vast supplies of dried salmon, fresh trout, grilled fowl, and
raised pie--to say nothing of lighter provender, in the way of omelets,
new-laid eggs, hot buttered cakes of various descriptions, huge wedges of
honeycomb, and jars of that Scotch marmalade, so dear to the hearts of
boating-men--vanished like smoke before a whirlwind. Whatever troubles
these nomads may have had were hidden in their hearts for the time being.
A wise custom prevailed in Mr. Granger's establishment with regard to the
morning letters, which were dealt out to each guest with his or her early
cup of tea, and not kept back for public distribution, to the confusion of
some luckless recipient, who feels it difficult to maintain an agreeable
smirk upon his countenance while he reads, that unless such or such an
account is settled immediately, proceedings will be taken without delay.
Lady Laura came, as she had promised, and gave her dearest Clarissa lessons
in the art of presiding over a large establishment, and did her utmost
to oust Miss Granger from her position of authority in the giving out of
stores and the ordering of grocery. This, however, was impossible. Sophia
clung to her grocer's book as some unpopular monarch tottering on his
insecure throne might cling to his sceptre. If she could not sit in the
post of honour at her father's dinner-table, as she had sat so long, it
was something to reign supreme in the store-room; if she found herself a
secondary person in the drawing-room, and that unpunctilious callers were
apt to forget the particular card due to her, she could at least hold on
by the keys of those closets in which the superfine china services for Mr.
Granger's great dinners were stored away, with chamois leather between all
the plates and dishes. She had still the whip-hand of the housekeeper, and
could ordain how many French plums and how many muscatel raisins were to
be consumed in a given period. She could bring her powers of arithmetic to
bear upon wax-candles, and torment the souls of hapless underlings by the
precision of her calculations. She had an eye to the preserves; and if
awakened suddenly in the dead of the night could have told, to a jar, how
many pots of strawberry, and raspberry, and currant, and greengage were
ranged on the capacious shelves of that stronghold of her power, the
Even Lady Laura's diplomacy failed here. The genius of a Talleyrand would
not have dislodged Miss Granger.
"I like to feel that I am of _some_ use to papa," she remarked very often,
with the air of a household Antigone. "He has new outlets for his money
now, and it is more than ever my duty as a daughter to protect him from the
wastefulness of servants. With all my care, there are some things in Mrs.
Plumptree's management which I do not understand. I'm sure what becomes of
all the preserved-ginger and crystallized apricots that I give out, is a
mystery that no one could fathom. Who ever eats preserved-ginger? I have
taken particular notice, and could never see any one doing it. The things
are not eaten; _they disappear_."
Lady Laura suggested that, with such a fortune as Mr. Granger's, a little
waste more or less was hardly worth thinking of.
"I cannot admit that," Miss Granger replied solemnly. "It is the abstract
sinfulness of waste which I think of. An under-butler who begins by wasting
preserved-ginger may end by stealing his master's plate."
The summer went by. Picnics and boating parties, archery meetings and
flower-shows, and all the familiar round of country pleasures repeated
themselves just as they had done at Hale Castle two years ago; and Clarissa
wondered at the difference in her own mind which made these things so
different. It was not that all capacity for enjoyment was dead in her.
Youth is too bright a thing to be killed so easily. She could still delight
in a lovely landscape, in exquisite flowers, in that art which she had
loved from her childhood--she could still enjoy good music and pleasant
society; but that keen sense of happiness which she had felt at Hale, that
ardent appreciation of small pleasures, that eager looking forward to the
future--these were gone. She lived in the present. To look back to the past
was to recall the image of George Fairfax, who seemed somehow interwoven
with her girlhood; to look forward to the future was to set her face
towards a land hidden in clouds and darkness. She had positively nothing to
Mr. Granger took life very calmly. He knew that his wife did not love him;
and he was too proud a man to lay himself out to win her love, even if he
had known how to set about a task so incongruous with the experience of his
life. He was angry with himself for having ever been weak enough to think
that this girlish creature--between whom and himself there stretched a gulf
of thirty years--could by any possibility be beguiled into loving him. Of
course, she had married him for his money. There was not one among his
guests who would not have thought him a fool for supposing that it could be
otherwise, or for expecting more from her than a graceful fulfilment of the
duties of her position.
He had little ground for complaint. She was gentle and obedient,
deferential in her manner to him before society, amiable always; he only
knew that she did not love him--that was all. But Daniel Granger was a
proud man, and this knowledge was a bitter thing to him. There were hours
in his life when he sat alone in his own room--that plainly-furnished
chamber which was half study, half dressing-room--withdrawing himself from
his guests under pretence of having business-letters to write to his people
at Bradford and Leeds; sat with his open desk before him, and made no
attempt to write; sat brooding over thoughts of his young wife, and
regretting the folly of his marriage.
Was it true that she had never cared for any one else? He had her father's
word for that; but he know that Marmaduke Lovel was a selfish man, who
would be likely enough to say anything that would conduce to his own
advantage. Had her heart been really true and pure when he won her for his
wife? He remembered those sketches of George Fairfax in the portfolio, and
one day when he was waiting for Clarissa in her morning-room he took the
trouble to look over her drawings. There were many that he recollected
having seen that day at Mill Cottage, but the portraits of Mr. Fairfax were
all gone. He looked through the portfolio very carefully, but found none of
those careless yet life-like sketches which had attracted the attention of
"She has destroyed them, I suppose," he said to himself; and the notion of
her having done so annoyed him a little. He did not care to question her
about them. There would have been an absurdity in that, he thought: as
if it could matter to him whose face she chose for her unstudied
sketches--mere vagabondage of the pencil.
Upon rare occasions Marmaduke Lovel consented to take a languid share in
the festivities at Arden. But although he was very well pleased that his
daughter should be mistress of the house that he had lost, he did not
relish a secondary position in the halls of his forefathers; nor had the
gaieties of the place any charm for him. He was glad to slip away quietly
at the beginning of September, and to go back to Spa, where the waters
agreed with his rheumatism--that convenient rheumatism which was an excuse
for anything he might choose to do.
As for his daughter, he washed his hands of all responsibility in
connection with her. He felt as if he had provided for her in a most
meritorious manner by the diplomacy which had brought about her marriage.
Whether she was happy in her new life, was a question which he had never
asked himself; but if any one else had propounded such a question, he would
have replied unhesitatingly in the affirmative. Of course Clarissa was
happy. Had she not secured for herself all the things that women most
value? could she not run riot in the pleasures for which women will imperil
their souls? He remembered his own wife's extravagance, and he argued with
himself, that if she could have had a perennial supply of fine dresses, and
a perpetual round of amusement, she would speedily have forgotten Colonel
Fairfax. It was the dulness of her life, and the dismal atmosphere of
poverty, that had made her false.
So he went back to Spa, secure in the thought that he could make his home
at Arden whenever he pleased. Perhaps at some remote period of old age,
when his senses were growing dim, he might like to inhabit the familiar
rooms, and feel no sting in the thought that he was a guest, and not the
master. It would be rather pleasant to be carried to his grave from Arden
Court, if anything about a man's burial could be pleasant. He went back to
Spa and led his own life, and in a considerable measure forgot that he had
ever had a son and a daughter.
With September and October there came guests for the shooting, but George
Fairfax was not among them. Mr. Granger had not renewed that careless
invitation of his in Clarges-street. After supervising Clarissa's existence
for two or three weeks, Lady Laura had returned to Hale, there to reign in
all her glory. Mr. and Mrs. Granger dined at the castle twice in the course
of the autumn, and Clarissa saw Lady Geraldine for the first time since
that fatal wedding-day.
There was very little alteration in the fair placid face. Geraldine
Challoner was not a woman to wear the willow in any obvious manner. She
was still coldly brilliant, with just a shade more bitterness, perhaps, in
those little flashes of irony and cynicism which passed for wit. She talked
rather more than of old, Clarissa thought; she was dressed more elaborately
than in the days of her engagement to George Fairfax, and had altogether
the air of a woman who means to shine in society. To Mrs. Granger she was
polite, but as cold as was consistent with civility.
After a fortnight's slaughter of the pheasants, there was a lull in the
dissipations of Arden Court. Visitors departed, leaving Mr. Granger's
gamekeepers with a plethora of sovereigns and half-sovereigns in their
corduroy pockets, and serious thoughts of the Holborough Savings Bank, and
Mr. Granger's chief butler with views that soared as high as Consols.
All the twitter and cheerful confusion of many voices in the rooms and
corridors of the grand old house dwindled and died away, until Mr. Granger
was left alone with his wife and daughter. He was not sorry to see his
visitors depart, though he was a man who, after his own fashion, was fond
of society. But before the winter was over, an event was to happen at Arden
which rendered quiet indispensable.
Late in December, while the villagers were eating Mr. Granger's beef, and
warming themselves before Mr. Granger's coals, and reaping the fruit of
laborious days in the shape of Miss Granger's various premiums for humble
virtue--while the park and woodland were wrapped in snow, and the Christmas
bells were still ringing in the clear crisp air, God gave Clarissa a
son--the first thing she had ever held in her arms which she could and
might love with all her heart.
It was like some strange dream to her, this holy mystery of motherhood. She
had not looked forward to the child's coming with any supreme pleasure, or
supposed that her life would be altered by his advent. But from the moment
she held him in her arms, a helpless morsel of humanity, hardly visible to
the uninitiated amidst his voluminous draperies, she felt herself on the
threshold of a new existence. With him was born her future--it was a most
complete realization of those sweet wise words of the poet,--
"a child, more than all other gifts
That earth can offer to declining man,
Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts."
Mr. Granger was enraptured. For him, too, even more than for his wife, this
baby represented the future. Often and often, after some brilliant stroke
of business which swelled the figures upon the left side of his bank-book
to an abnormal amount, he had felt a dismal sense of the extinction that
must befall his glory by-and-by. There was no one but Sophia. She would
inherit a fortune thrice as large as any woman need desire, and would
in all likelihood marry, and give her wealth to fill the coffers of a
stranger, whose name should wipe out the name of Granger--or preserve it
in a half-and-half way in some inane compound, such, as Granger-Smith,
or Jones-Granger, extended afterwards into Jones-Granger-Jones, or
Perhaps those wintry days that began the new year were the purest, happiest
of Daniel Granger's life. He forgot that his wife did not love him. She
seemed so much more his wife, seated opposite to him beside that quiet
hearth, with her baby in her arms. She made such a lovely picture, bending
over the child in her unconscious beauty. To sit and watch the two was an
all-sufficient delight for him--sometimes withdrawing his mind from the
present, to weave the web of his boy's future.
"I shall send him to Westminster, Clary," he said--it was a long time, by
the way, since he had called his wife Clary, though she herself was hardly
aware of the fact. "I shall certainly send him to Westminster. A provincial
public school is all very well--my father sent me to one--but it's not
_quite_ up to the mark. I should like him to be a good classical scholar,
which I never was, though I was a decent mathematician. I used to do my
Virgil with a crib--a translation, you know--and I never could get on with
Greek. I managed to struggle through the New Testament, but stuck in the
first book of Thucydides. What dreary work it was! I was glad when it was
all over, and my father let me come into his office. But with this fellow
it will be different. He will have no occasion to soil his hands with
trade. He will be a country gentleman, and may distinguish himself in the
House of Commons. Yes, Clary, there may be the material for a great man in
him," Mr. Granger concluded, with an almost triumphant air, as he touched
the soft little cheek, and peered curiously into the bright blue eyes. They
were something like his own eyes, he thought; Clarissa's were hazel.
The mother drew the soft mass of muslin a little nearer to her heart. She
did not care to think of her baby as a man, addressing a noisy constituency
in Holborough market-place, nor even, as a Westminster boy, intent upon
Virgil and cricket, Euclid and football. She liked to think of him as he
was now, and as he would be for the next few years--something soft and warm
and loving, that she could hold in her arms; beside whose bed she could
watch and pray at night. Her future was bounded by the years of her son's
childhood. She thought already, with a vague pang, of the time when he
should go out into the world, and she be no longer necessary to him.
The day came when she looked back to that interval of perfect quiet--the
dimly-lighted rooms, the low wood fire, and her husband's figure seated by
the hearth--with a bitter sense of regret. Daniel Granger was so good to
her in those days--so entirely devoted, in a quiet unobtrusive way--and she
was so selfishly absorbed by the baby as to be almost unconscious of his
goodness at the time. She was inclined to forget that the child belonged to
any one but herself; indeed, had the question been brought home to her, she
would have hardly liked to admit his father's claim upon him. He was her
own--her treasure beyond all price--given to her by heaven for her comfort
Not the least among the tranquil pleasures of that period of
retirement--which Clarissa spun out until the spring flowers were blooming
in the meadows about Arden--was a comparative immunity from the society of
Miss Granger. That young lady made a dutiful call upon her stepmother
every morning, and offered a chilling forefinger--rather a strong-minded
forefinger, with a considerable development of bone--to the infant. On the
child not receiving this advance with rapture, Miss Granger was wont to
observe that he was not so forward in taking notice as some of her model
children; at which the young mother flamed up in defence of her darling,
declaring that he did take notice, and that it was a shame to compare him
to "nasty village children."
"The 'nasty village children' have immortal souls," Sophia replied
"So they may; but they don't take notice sooner than my baby. I would never
believe that. He knows me, the precious darling;" and the little soft warm
thing in voluminous muslin was kissed and squeezed about to extinction.
Miss Granger was great upon the management of infancy, and was never tired
of expounding her ideas to Clarissa. They were of a Spartan character, not
calculated to make the period of babyhood a pleasant time to experience or
to look back upon. Cold water and nauseous medicines formed a conspicuous
part of the system, and where an ordinary nurse would have approached
infancy with a sponge, Miss Granger suggested a flesh-brush. The hardest,
most impracticable biscuits, the huskiest rusks, constituted Miss Granger's
notion of infant food. She would have excluded milk, as bilious, and would
have forbidden sugar, as a creator of acidity; and then, when the little
victim was about one and a half, she would have seated it before the most
dry-as-dust edition of the alphabet, and driven it triumphantly upon the
first stage on the high-road to Kings and Chronicles.
Among the model villagers Miss Granger had ample opportunity of offering
advice of this kind, and fondly believed that her counsel was acted upon.
Obsequious matrons, with an eye to Christmas benefactions, pretended to
profit by her wisdom; but it is doubtful whether the model infants were
allowed to suffer from a practical exposition of her Spartan theories.
Clarissa had her own ideas about the heir of the Grangers. Not a crumpled
rose-leaf--had rose-leaves been flying about just then--must roughen her
darling's bed. The softest lawn, the downiest, most delicate woollens, were
hardly good enough to wrap her treasure. She had solemn interviews with a
regiment of nurses before she could discover a woman who seemed worthy to
be guardian of this infant demigod. And Mr. Granger showed himself scarcely
less weak. It almost seemed as if this boy was his first child. He had
been a busy man when Sophia was born--too entirely occupied by the grave
considerations of commerce to enter into the details of the nursery--and
the sex of the child had been something of a disappointment to him. He
was rich enough even then to desire an heir to his wealth. During the few
remaining years of his first wife's life, he had hoped for the coming of a
son; but no son had been given to him. It was now, in his sober middle age,
that the thing he had longed for was granted to him, and it seemed all the
more precious because of the delay. So Daniel Granger was wont to sit and
stare at the infant as if it had been something above the common clay of
which infancy is made. He would gaze at it for an hour together, in a dumb
rapture, fully believing it to be the most perfect object in creation; and
about this child there sprung up between his wife and himself a sympathy
that had never been before. Only deep in Clarissa's heart there was a vague
jealousy. She would have liked her baby to be hers alone. The thought of
his father's claim frightened her. In the time to come her child might grow
to love his father better than her.
Finding her counsel rejected, Miss Granger would ask in a meek voice if she
might be permitted to kiss the baby, and having chilled his young blood by
the cool and healthy condition of her complexion, would depart with an air
of long-suffering; and this morning visit being over, Clarissa was free of
her for the rest of the day. Miss Granger had her "duties." She devoted her
mornings to the regulation of the household, her afternoons to the drilling
of the model villagers. In the evening she presided at her father's dinner,
which seemed rather a chilling repast to Mr. Granger, in the absence of
that one beloved face. He would have liked to dine off a boiled fowl in
his wife's room, or to have gone dinnerless and shared Clarissa's
tea-and-toast, and heard the latest wonders performed by the baby, but he
was ashamed to betray so much weakness.
So he dined in state with Sophia, and found it hard work to keep up a
little commonplace conversation with her during the solemn meal--his heart
being elsewhere all the time.
That phase of gloom and despondency, through which, his mind had passed
during the summer that was gone, had given place to brighter thoughts. A
new dawn of hope had come for him with the birth of his child.
He told himself again, as he had so often told himself in the past, that
his wife would grow to love him--that time would bring him the fruition
of his desires. In the meanwhile he was almost entirely happy in the
possession of this new blessing. All his life was coloured by the existence
of this infant. He had a new zest in the driest details of his position
as the master of a great estate. He had bought some two thousand acres of
neighbouring land at different times since his purchase of Arden Court; and
the estate, swollen by these large additions, was fast becoming one of the
finest in the county.
There was not a tree he planted in the beginning of this new year which
he did not consider with reference to his boy; and he made extensive
plantations on purpose that he might be able to point to them by-and-by
and say, "These trees were planted the year my son was born." When he went
round his stables, he made a special survey of one particularly commodious
loose-box, which would do for his boy's pony. He fancied the little fellow
trotting by his side across farms and moorlands, or deep into the woods to
see the newly-felled timber, or to plan a fresh clearing.
It was a pleasant day dream.
* * * * *
THE NEAREST WAY TO CARLSRUHE.
A great event befell George Fairfax in the spring of the new year. He
received a summons to Lyvedon, and arrived there only in time to attend
his uncle's death bed. The old man died, and was buried in the tomb of his
forefathers--a spacious vaulted chamber beneath Lyvedon church--and George
Fairfax reigned in his stead. Since his brother's death he had known that
this was to be, and had accepted the fact as a matter of course. His
succession caused him very little elation. He was glad to have unlimited
ready-money, but, in the altered aspect of his life, Le did not care much
for the estate. With Geraldine Challoner for his wife, the possession of
such a place as Lyvedon would have been very agreeable to him. He could
have almost resigned himself to the ordinary country gentleman's life: to
be a magnate in the county; to attend at petty sessions, and keep himself
well posted in parochial questions; to make himself a terror to the soul of
poachers, and to feel that his youth was over. But now it was different. He
had no wife, nor any prospect of a wife. He had no definite plans for his
future. For a long time he had been going altogether the wrong way; leading
a roving, desultory kind of existence; living amongst men whose habits and
principles were worse than his own.
He sent for his mother, and installed her as mistress of Lyvedon. The place
and the position suited her to admiration. He spent a month in dawdling
about the neighbourhood, taking stock of his new possessions, now and then
suggesting some alteration or improvement, but always too lazy to carry
it out; strolling in the park with a couple of dogs and a cigar, or going
fly-fishing along the bank of a little winding river; driving in an open
carriage with his mother; yawning over a book or a newspaper all the
evening, and then sitting up till late into the night, writing letters
which might just as easily have been written in the day. His manner made
his mother anxious. Once, with a sigh, she ventured to say how much she
regretted the breaking-off his engagement to Lady Geraldine.
"You were so admirably adapted for each other," she said.
"Yes, mother, admirably adapted, no doubt; but you see we did not love each
other." He felt a little pang of remorse as he said this, for it misgave
him that Geraldine _had_ loved him. "It would have been like those chestnut
ponies you drive; they go very well together, and look superb, but they are
always snapping at each other's heads. I don't mean to say that Geraldine
and I would have quarrelled--one might as well try to quarrel with a
rock--but we shouldn't have got on. In short, I have a prejudice in favour
of marrying a woman I could love."
"And yet I thought you were so much attached to her."
"I was--in the way of friendship. Her society had become a kind of habit
with me. I do really like her, and shall always consider her one of the
handsomest and cleverest women I know; but it was a mistake to ask her to
marry me, and might have been a fatal one. You will say, of course, that a
man ought not to make that kind of mistake. I quite agree with you there;
but I made it, and I think it infinitely better to pull up even at an
awkward point than to make two lives miserable."
Mrs. Fairfax sighed, and shook her head doubtfully.
"O, George, George, I'm afraid there was some newer fancy--some secret
reason for your conduct to poor Geraldine," she said in a reproachful tone.
"My dear mother, I have a dozen fancies in a month, and rarely know my
own mind for a week at a stretch; but I do know that I never really loved
Geraldine Challoner, and that it is better for me to be free from an
Mrs. Fairfax did not venture to press the question any farther. She had her
suspicions, and her suspicions pointed to Clarissa. But Clarissa now being
married and fairly out of the way, she had some faint hope that her son
would return to his old allegiance, and that she might even yet have
Geraldine Challoner for her daughter. In the meantime she was fain to be
patient, and to refrain from any irritating persistence upon a subject that
was very near to her heart.
So far as her own interests were concerned, it would have been a pleasant
thing for Mrs. Fairfax that her son should remain a bachelor. The
sovereignty of Lyvedon was a pure and perfect delight to her. The place was
the home of her childhood; and there was not a thicket in the park, or a
flower-bed in the garden, that was not familiar and dear to her. Every
corner of the sombre old rooms--in which the furniture had been unchanged
for a century--had its tender associations. All the hopes and dreams of her
long-vanished youth came back to her, faint and pale, like faded flowers
shut in the leaves of a book. And in the event of her son's marriage, she
must of course resign all this--must make a new home for herself outside
the walls of Lyvedon; for she was not a woman to accept a secondary place
in any household. Considering the question merely from a selfish point
of view, she had every reason to be satisfied with the existing state of
things; but it was not of herself she thought. She saw her son restless and
unsettled, and had a secret conviction that he was unhappy. There had been
much in the history of his past life that had troubled her; and for his
future her chief hope had been in the security of a judicious marriage. She
was a woman of strong religious feeling, and had shed many bitter tears and
prayed many prayers on account of this beloved son.
The beloved son in the meanwhile dawdled away life in a very unsatisfactory
manner. He found the roads and lanes about Lyvedon remarkable for nothing
but their dust. There were wild flowers, of course--possibly nightingales
and that sort of thing; but he preferred such imported bouquets, grown on
the flowery slopes of the Mediterranean, as he could procure to order at
Covent Garden; and the song of nightingales in the dusky after dinner-time
made him melancholy. The place was a fine old place and it was undoubtedly
a good thing to possess it; but George Fairfax had lived too wild a life
to find happiness in the simple pleasures of a Kentish squire. So, after
enduring the placid monotony of Lyvedon for a couple of months, he grew
insufferably weary all at once, and told his mother that he was going to
the Black Forest.
"It's too early to shoot capercailzies," he said; "but I daresay I shall
find something to do. I am nothing but a bore to you here, mother; and you
can amuse yourself, while I'm gone, in carrying out any of the improvements
Mrs. Fairfax assured her son that his presence was always a delight to her,
but that, of course, there was nothing in the world she desired so much as
his happiness, and that it had been a pain to her to see him otherwise than
"I had hoped that the possession of this place would have given you so much
occupation," she said, "that you would have gone into parliament and made a
position for yourself."
"My dear mother, I never had any affection for politics; and unless a man
could be a modern Pitt, I don't see the use of that kind of thing. Every
young Englishman turns his face towards the House of Commons, as the
sunflower turns to the sun-god; and see what a charming level of mediocrity
we enjoy in consequence thereof."
"Anything that would occupy your mind, George," remonstrated Mrs. Fairfax.
"The question is, whether I have any mind to be occupied, mother," replied
the young man with a laugh. "I think the average modern intellect, when it
knows its own capacity, rarely soars above billiards. That is a science;
and what can a man be more than scientific?"
"It is so easy to laugh the subject down in that way, George," returned the
mother with a sigh. "But a man has duties to perform."
"Surely not a man with an estate like this, mother! I can never understand
that talk about the duties of a rich man, except to pay his income-tax
properly. A fellow with a wife and children, and no income to speak of, has
duties, of course--imprimis, the duty of working for his belongings;
but what are the privileges of wealth, if one may not take life as one
"Oh, George, George, I used to hope such great things of you!"
"The fond delusion common to maternity, my dearest mother. A brat learns
his A B C a shade quicker than other children, or construes _Qui fit
Maecenas_ with tolerable correctness; and straightway the doting mother
thinks her lad is an embryo Canning. You should never have hoped anything
of me, except that I would love you dearly all my life. You have made that
very easy to me."
Mr. Fairfax took his portmanteau and departed, leaving his servant to carry
the rest of his luggage straight to Paris, and await his master's arrival
at one of the hotels in the Rue de Rivoli. The master himself took a
somewhat circuitous route, and began his journey to the Black Forest by
going down to Holborough.
"I can take a steamer from Hull to Hamburg," he said to himself, "and push
on from there to Carlsruhe."
He wanted to see Clarissa again. He knew that she was at Arden Court, and
that Lady Laura Armstrong was not at Hale Castle. He wanted to see her; his
ulterior views were of the vaguest; but that passionate yearning to see
her, to hear the sweet winning voice, to look into the soft hazel eyes, was
strong upon him. It was a year since the day he dined in Clarges-street;
and in all that year he had done his uttermost to forget her, had hated
himself for the weakness which made her still dearer to him than any other
woman; and then, alike angry with her and with himself, had cried, with
Wilmot Earl of Rochester,--
"Such charms by nature you possess,
'Twere madness not to love you."
He went up to London early one morning, and straight from London to
Holborough, where he arrived late in the evening. He slept at the chief
inn of the place; and in the golden summer noontide set out for Arden
Court--not to make a formal visit, but rather to look about him in a
somewhat furtive way. He did not care to make his advent known to Daniel
Granger just yet; perhaps, indeed, he might find it expedient to avoid any
revelation of himself to that gentleman. He wanted to find out all he could
of Clarissa's habits, so that he might contrive an interview with her. He
had seen the announcement of the baby's birth, and oh, what a bitter pang
the commonplace paragraph had given him! Never before had the fact that
she was another man's wife come home to him so keenly. He tried to put the
subject out of his thoughts, to forget that there had been a son born to
the house of Granger; but often in the dreary spring twilight, walking
among the oaks of Lyvedon, he had said to himself, "_Her_ child ought to
have been heir to this place."
He went in at the lodge gate, and strolled idly into the park, not being at
all clear as to how he was to bring about what he wanted. The weather was
lovely--weather in which few people, untrammelled by necessity, would have
cared to remain indoors. There was just the chance that Mrs. Granger might
be strolling in the park herself, and the still more remote contingency
that she might be alone. He was quite prepared for the possibility of
meeting her accompanied by the lynx-eyed Miss Granger; and was not a man to
be thrown off his guard, or taken at a disadvantage, come what might.
The place wore its fairest aspect: avenues of elms, that had begun to
grow when England was young; gigantic oaks dotted here and there upon
the undulating open ground, reputed a thousand years old; bright young
plantations of rare fir and pine, that had a pert crisp newness about them,
like the air of a modern dandy; everywhere the appearance of that perfect
care and culture which is the most conclusive evidence of unlimited wealth.
George Fairfax looked round him with a sigh. The scene he looked upon was
very fair. It was not difficult to understand how dear association might
have made so beautiful a spot to such a girl as Clarissa. She had told
him she would give the world to win back her lost home; and she had
given--something less than the world--only herself. "Paris is worth a
mass," said the great Henry; and Clarissa's perjury was only one more of
the many lies which men and women have told to compass their desires.
He kept away from the carriage-roads, loitering in the remoter regions of
the park, and considering what he should do. He did not want to present
himself at the Court as a formal visitor. In the first place, it would
have been rather difficult to give any adequate reason for his presence
in Holborough; and in the second, he had an unspeakable repugnance to any
social intercourse with Clarissa's husband.
How he was ever to see her in the future without that hideous hypocrisy of
friendliness towards Daniel Granger, he knew not; but he knew that it would
cost him dearly to take the hand of the man who had supplanted him.
He wandered on till he came to a dell where the ground was broken a good
deal, and where the fern seemed to grow more luxuriantly than in any other
part of the park. There was a glimpse of blue water at the bottom of the
slope--a narrow strip of a streamlet running between swampy banks, where
the forget-me-nots and pale water-plants ran riot. This verdant valley
was sheltered by some of the oldest hawthorns George Fairfax had ever
seen--very Methuselahs of trees, whose grim old trunks and crooked branches
time had twisted into the queerest shapes, and whose massive boles
and strange excrescences of limb were covered with the moss of past
generations. It was such a valley as Gustave Dore would love to draw; a
glimpse of wilderness in the midst of cultivation.
There were not wanted figures to brighten the landscape. A woman dressed
in white sat under one of the hawthorns, with a baby on her lap; and a
nursemaid, in gayer raiment, stood by, looking down at the child.
How well George Fairfax remembered the slight girlish figure, and the day
when he had come upon it unawares in Marley Wood! He stood a few paces off,
and listened to the soft sweet voice.
Clarissa was talking to her baby in the unintelligible mother-language
inspired by the occasion. A baby just able to smile at her, and coo and
crow and chuckle in that peculiarly unctious manner common to babies of
amiable character; a fair blue-eyed baby, big and bonny, with soft rings of
flaxen hair upon his pink young head, and tender little arms that seemed
meant for nothing so much as to be kissed.
After a good deal of that sweet baby-talk, there was a little discussion
between the mistress and maid; and then the child was wrapped up as
carefully as if destruction were in the breath of the softest June zephyr.
Mr. Fairfax was afraid the mother was going away with the child, and that
his chance would be lost; but it was not so. The maid tripped off with
the infant, after it had been brought back two or three times to be half
smothered with kisses--kisses which it seemed to relish in its own peculiar
way, opening its mouth to receive them, as if they had been something
edible. The baby was carried away at last, and Clarissa took up a book and
began to read.
George Fairfax waited till the maid had been gone about ten minutes, and
then came slowly down the hollow to the spot where Clarissa was seated. The
rustle of the fern startled her; she looked up, and saw him standing by her
side. It was just a year since he had surprised her in Mr. Wooster's garden
at Henley. She had thought of him very much in that time, but less since
the birth of her boy. She turned very pale at sight of him; and when she
tried to speak, the words would not come: her lips only moved tremulously.
"I hope I did not alarm you very much," he said, "by the suddenness of
my appearance. I thought I heard your voice just now, speaking to some
one"--he had not the heart to mention her baby--"and came down here to look
for you. What a charming spot it is!"
She had recovered her self-possession by this time, and was able to answer
him quite calmly. "Yes, it is very pretty. It was a favourite spot of
Austin's. I have at least a dozen sketches of it done by him. But I did not
know you were in Yorkshire, Mr. Fairfax."
She wondered whether he was staying at Hale; and then it flashed upon her
that there had been a reconciliation between him and Lady Geraldine.
"I have not been long in Yorkshire. I am merely here _en passant_, in
short. My only excuse for approaching you lies in the fact that I have come
to talk to you about your brother."
"About Austin!" exclaimed Clarissa, with a look of alarm. "There is nothing
wrong--he is well, I hope?"
"Pray don't alarm yourself. Yes, he is tolerably well, I believe; and there
is nothing wrong--nothing that need cause you any immediate concern at
least. I am going to Paris, and I thought you might be glad to send some
"You are very kind to think of that; yes, I shall be glad to send to him.
He is not a good correspondent, and I get very anxious about him sometimes.
What you said just now seemed to imply that there was something wrong. Pray
be candid with me, Mr. Fairfax."
He did not answer her immediately; in fact, for the moment he scarcely was
conscious of her words. He was looking at the beautiful face--looking at it
with a repressed passion that was deeper and more real than any he had ever
felt in his life. His thoughts wandered away from Austin Level. He was
thinking what he would have given, what peril he would have dared, to call
this woman his own. All this lower world seemed nothing to him when weighed
against her; and in such a moment a man of his stamp rarely remembers any
"There is something wrong," repeated Clarissa with increasing anxiety. "I
entreat you to tell me the truth!"
"Yes, there is something wrong," he answered vaguely; and then, wrenching
his mind away from those wild speculations as to what he would or would not
do to win Daniel Granger's wife, he went on in another tone: "The truth is,
my dear Mrs. Granger, I was in Paris last winter, and saw something of your
brother's mode of life; and I cannot say that I consider it a satisfactory
one. You have sent him a good deal of money since I saw you last, I
daresay? Pray understand that there is nothing intrusive or impertinent in
my question. I only wish to be some use to you, if I can."
"I am sure of that. Yes; I have sent him what I could--about four hundred
pounds--since last June; and he has been very grateful, poor fellow! He
ought to know that he is welcome to every shilling I have. I could send him
much more, of course, if I cared to ask my husband for money."
"It is wiser to trust to your own resources. And I doubt if the command of
much money would be a positive benefit to your brother. You have asked me
to be candid; and I shall obey you, even at the hazard of giving you pain.
There is a kind of constitutional weakness in your brother's nature. He
is a man open to every influence, and not always governed by the best
influences. I saw a good deal of him when I was last in Paris, and I saw
him most in the fastest society, amongst people who petted him for the
sake of his genius and vivacity, but who would turn their backs upon him
to-morrow if he were no longer able to amuse them; the set into which an
artist is so apt to fall when his home influences are not strong enough to
keep him steady, and when he has that lurking disposition to Bohemianism
which has been the bane of your brother's life. I speak entirely without
reserve, you see."
"I am grateful to you for doing so. Poor Austin! if he had only chosen more
wisely! But his wife is fond of him, you say?"
"Too fond of him, perhaps; for she is very much given to torment him
with jealous outbreaks; and he is not a man to take that sort of thing
pleasantly. She does not go into society with him: indeed, I doubt if
half-a-dozen out of the people whom he lives amongst know that he has a
wife. I found his social position considerably improved; thanks to your
remittances, no doubt. He was still in the Rue du Chevalier Bayard--as, of
course, you know--but had moved a stage lower down, and had furnished a
painting-room in the stereotyped style--Flemish carved buffets, dingy
tapestry from a passage behind the Rue Richelieu, and a sprinkling of
bric-a-brac from the Quai Voltaire. The poor little woman and her children
were banished; and he had a room full of visitors chattering round him
while he painted. You know his wonderful facility. The atmosphere was
cloudy with tobacco-smoke; and the men were drinking that abominable
concoction of worm-wood with which young France cultivates madness and
"It is not a pleasant picture," said Clarissa with a profound sigh.
"No, my dear Mrs. Granger; but it is a faithful one. Mr. Lovel had won a
certain reputation for his airy style of art, and was beginning to get
better prices for his pictures; but I fancy he has a capacity for spending
money, and an inability to save it, which would bring him always to the
same level of comparative insolvency. I have known so many men like that;
and a man who begins in that way so rarely ends in any other way."
"What am I to do!" exclaimed Clarissa piteously; "what can I do to help
"I am almost at a loss to suggest anything. Perhaps if you were on the
spot, your influence might do something. I know he loves you, and is more
moved by the mention of your name than by any sermon one could preach to
him. But I suppose there is no chance of your being in Paris."
"I don't know. Mr. Granger talked some time ago of spending the autumn
abroad, and asked me if I should like to see a New-Year's day in Paris. I
think, if I were to express a wish about it, he would take me there; and it
would be such happiness to me to see Austin!" And then Mrs. Granger
thought of her baby, and wondered whether the atmosphere of Paris would be
favourable to that rare and beauteous blossom; whether the tops-and-bottoms
of the French capital would agree with his tender digestive machinery,
and if the cowkeepers of the Faubourg St. Honore were an honest and
unadulterating race. The very notion of taking the treasure away from his
own nurseries, his own cow, his own goat-chaise, was enough to make her
"It would be the best chance for his redemption. A little womanly kindness
and counsel from you to the wife might bring about a happier state of
things in his home; and a man who can be happy at home is in a measure
saved. It is hardly possible for your brother to mix much with the people
amongst whom I saw him without injury to himself. They are people to whom
dissipation is the very salt of life; people who breakfast at the Moulin
Rouge at three o'clock in the afternoon, and eat ices at midnight to the
music of the cascade in the Bois; people to be seen at every race-meeting;
men who borrow money at seventy-five per cent to pay for opera-boxes and
dinners at the Cafe Riche, and who manage the rest of their existence on
"But what could my influence do against such friends as these?" asked
Clarissa in a hopeless tone.
"Who can say? It might do wonders. I know your brother has a heart, and
that you have power to touch it. Take my advice, Mrs. Granger, and try to
be in Paris as soon as you can."
"I will," she answered fervently. "I would do anything to save him." She
looked at her watch, and rose from the seat under the hawthorn. "It is
nearly two o'clock," she said, "and I must go back to the house. You will
come to luncheon, of course?"
"Thanks--no. I have an engagement that will take me back to the town
"But Mr. Granger will be surprised to hear that you have been here without
calling upon him."
"Need Mr. Granger hear of my coming?" George Fairfax asked in a low tone.
Clarissa flushed scarlet.
"I have no secrets from my husband, Mr. Fairfax," she said, "even about
"Ten thousand pardons! I scarcely want to make my presence here a secret;
but, in short, I came solely to speak to you about a subject in which I
knew you were deeply interested, and I had not contemplated calling upon
They were walking slowly up the grassy slope as they talked; and after this
there came a silence, during which Clarissa quickened her pace a little,
George Fairfax keeping still by her side. Her heart beat faster than its
wont; and she had a vague sense of danger in this man's presence--a sense
of a net being woven round her, a lurking suspicion that this apparent
interest in her brother veiled some deeper feeling.
They came out of the hollow, side by side, into a short arcade of flowering
limes, at the end of which there was a broad sweep of open grass. A man
on a deep-chested strong-limbed gray horse was riding slowly towards them
across the grass--Daniel Granger.
That picture of his wife walking in the little avenue of limes, with George
Fairfax by her side, haunted Mr. Granger with a strange distinctness in
days to come,--the slight white-robed figure against the background of
sunlit greenery; the young man's handsome head, uncovered, and stooping a
little as he spoke to his companion.
The master of Arden Court dismounted, and led his horse by the bridle as
he came forward to meet Mr. Fairfax. The two men shook hands; but not very
warmly. The encounter mystified Daniel Granger a little. It was strange to
find a man he had supposed to be at the other end of England strolling in
the park with his wife, and that man the one about whom he had had many
a dreary half-hour of brooding. He waited for an explanation, however,
without any outward show of surprise. The business was simple and natural
enough, no doubt, he told himself.
"Have you been to the house?" he asked; "I have been out all the morning."
"No; I was on my way there, when I came upon Mrs. Granger in the most
romantic spot yonder. I felt that I was rather early for a morning-call
even in the depths of the country, and had strolled out of the beaten path
to get rid of an hour or so."
"I did not know you were in Yorkshire," said Mr. Granger, not in the most
cordial tone. "You are staying at Hale, I suppose?"
"No; Lady Laura is away, you know."
"Ah--to be sure; I had forgotten."
"I am spending a few days with a bachelor friend in Holborough. I am off to
Germany before the week is out."
Mr. Granger was not sorry to hear this. He was not jealous of George
Fairfax. If anybody had suggested the possibility of his entertaining such
a sentiment, that person would have experienced the full force of Daniel
Granger's resentment; but this was just the one man whom he fancied his
wife might have cared for a little before her marriage. He was not a man
given to petty jealousies; and of late, since the birth of his son,
there had been growing up in his mind a sense of security in his wife's
fidelity--her affection even. The union between them had seemed very
perfect after the advent of the child; and the master of Arden Court felt
almost as if there were nothing upon this earth left for him to desire. But
he was a little puzzled by the presence of George Fairfax, nevertheless.
Holborough was a small place; and he began to speculate immediately upon
the identity of this bachelor friend of Mr. Fairfax's. It was not a
garrison town. The young men of the place were for the most part small
professional men--half-a-dozen lawyers and doctors, two or three curates, a
couple of bankers' sons, an auctioneer or two, ranking vaguely between the
trading and professional classes, and the sons of tradesmen. Among them all
Mr. Granger could remember no one likely to be a friend of George Fairfax.
It might possibly be one of the curates; but it seemed scarcely probable
that Mr. Fairfax would come two hundred and fifty miles to abide three days
with a curate. Nor was it the season of partridges. There was no shooting
to attract Mr. Fairfax to the neighbourhood of Holborough. There was trout,
certainly, to be found in abundance in brooks, and a river within a walk of
the town; and Mr. Fairfax might be passionately fond of fly-fishing.
"You will come in and have some luncheon, of course," Mr. Granger said,
when they came to the gateway, where George Fairfax pulled up, and began to
wish them good-bye. Not to ask the man to eat and drink would have seemed
to him the most unnatural thing in the world.
"Thanks. I think I had better deny myself that pleasure," Mr. Fairfax said
doubtfully. "The day is getting on, and--and I have an engagement for the
afternoon." ("Trout, no doubt," thought Mr. Granger.) "I have seen you,
that is the grand point. I could not leave Yorkshire without paying my
respects to you and Mrs. Granger."
"Do you leave so soon?"
"To-morrow, I think."
"A hurried journey for trout," thought Mr. Granger.
He insisted upon the visitor coming in to luncheon. George Fairfax was not
very obdurate. It was so sweet to be near the woman he loved, and he had
not the habit of refusing himself the things that were sweet to him. They
went into the small dining-room. The luncheon bell had rung a quarter of
an hour ago, and Miss Granger was waiting for her parents, with an air of
placid self-abnegation, by an open window.
There was a good deal of talk during luncheon, but the chief talker was
George Fairfax. Clarissa was grave and somewhat absent. She was thinking of
her brother Austin, and the gloomy account of him which she had just heard.
It was hardly a surprise to her. His letters had been few and far between,
and they had not been hopeful, or, at the best, brightened by only a flash
of hopefulness, which was more like bravado, now and then. His necessity
for money, too, had seemed without limit. She was planning her campaign.
Come what might, she must contrive some means of being in Paris before
long. Mr. Fairfax was going on to Carlsruhe, that was an advantage; for
something in his manner to-day had told her that he must always be more or
less than her friend. She had a vague sense that his eagerness to establish
a confidence between her and himself was a menace of danger to her.
"If I can only go to Austin myself," she thought, "there need be no
Luncheon was over, and still Mr. Fairfax lingered--strangely indifferent
to the waning of an afternoon which seemed peculiarly advantageous for
fly-fishing, Mr. Granger thought. They went into the drawing-room, and Mr.
Fairfax dawdled an hour away talking of Lyvedon, and giving a serio-comic
description of himself in the novel character of a country gentleman.
It was not till Mr. Granger had looked at his watch once or twice in a
surreptitious manner, thinking of an engagement to meet his architect for
the inspection of some dilapidated cottages on the newest part of his
estate, that the visitor rose to depart. Daniel Granger had quite warmed to
him by this time. His manner was so natural in its pleasant airiness: it
was not easy to think there could be any lurking evil beneath such a show
"Can't you stay and dine with us?" asked Mr. Granger; "or will you go back
to Holborough and fetch your friend? We shall be very glad to know him, if