Part 7 out of 10
we don't know him already."
If a blush had been possible to George Fairfax, this friendly speech would
have raised it; but the capacity had departed from him before he left Eton.
He did feel ashamed of himself, nevertheless.
"You are more than good," he said, "but my friend seldom goes anywhere.
He made his adieux with an agreeable abruptness, not caring to prolong the
dinner question. Such men as he tell lies without stint upon occasion; but
the men are few to whom it is actually congenial to lie. He was glad to get
away even from the woman he loved, and the sense of shame was strong upon
him as he departed.
If his mother, who was anxiously awaiting a letter from Paris or Carlsruhe,
could have known of his presence here in this place, to which his father
had come years ago to betray her! If she who loved him so fondly, and was
so full of prayers and hopes for his future, could have seen him so utterly
on the wrong road, what bitter shame and lamenting there would have been in
the halls of Lyvedon that day--those deserted halls in which the lady sat
alone among the sombre old-world grandeurs of oak and tapestry, and sighed
for her absent son!
* * * * *
Instead of going straight back to the Holborough high-road, Mr. Fairfax
struck across the woods by that path which led to the mill-stream and the
orchard, where he had parted from Clarissa on that cheerless October night
nearly three years ago. He knew that Mr. Lovel was away, and the cottage
only tenanted by servants, and he had a fancy for looking at the place
where he had been so angry and so miserable--the scene of that one
rejection which had stung him to the very quick, the single humiliation of
his successful career. It was only the morbid fancy of an idle man, who had
an afternoon to dispose of somehow.
Half-way between the Court and the cottage, he heard the jingling of
bells, and presently, flashing and gleaming among the trees, he saw a
gaily-painted carriage drawn by a pair of goats, with plated harness that
shone in the sun. Mixed with the joyous jingle of the bells, there came
the sound of an infant's laughter. It was the baby taking his after-dinner
airing, attended by a couple of nurses. A turn in the path brought George
Fairfax and the heir of Arden face to face.
A sudden impulse seized him--a sudden impulse of tenderness for _her_
child. He took the little bundle of rosy babyhood and lace and muslin in
his arms, and kissed the soft little face as gently as a woman, and looked
into the innocent blue eyes, dilated to an almost impossible extent in a
wondering stare, with unspeakable love and melancholy in his own. Great
Heaven! if Clarissa had been his wife, this child his son, what a happy
man he might have been, what a new charm there would have been in the
possession of a fine estate, what a new zest in life, the savour of which
seemed to have departed altogether of late!
He put the little one back into his cushioned seat in the goat-chaise with
supreme care and gentleness, not ruffling so much as a plume in his dainty
white satin hat.
"A fine boy, Mrs. Nurse," he said, feeling in his waistcoat-pocket for
bacsheesh; to which proposition the portly head-nurse, who had stared
at him, aghast with horror, while had handled the infant, assented with
"I never nursed a finer, sir; and I was head-nurse to Lady Fitz-Lubin,
which my lady had five boys, and not a girl between them; and Mrs. Granger
does dote on him so. I never see a ma that rapt up in her child."
Mr. Fairfax gave her half-a-sovereign, stooped down to kiss the baby
again--it is doubtful if he had ever kissed a baby before--and then walked
on, wondering at the new sensation. Such a little soft thing, that opened
its mouth to be kissed, like a petted bird! And yet he could contemplate a
future in which he should come between Clarissa and this child; he could
dream of a possibility which should make its mother's name a shame to this
* * * * *
Mr. Granger kept his appointment with the architect, and came to the
natural conclusion of a rich roan upon the subject of dilapidated
buildings. After inspecting the lop-sided old cottages, with their deep
roomy chimneys, in which the farm labourer loved to sit of a night,
roasting his ponderous boots, and smoking the pipe of meditation, and their
impossible staircases, which seemed to have been designed with a deliberate
view to the breaking of legs and endangerment of spines, Mr. Granger made a
wry face, and ordered that rubbish to be swept away.
"You can build me half-a-dozen upon the new Arden design," he said; "red
brick, with stone dressings; and be sure you put a tablet with the date in
front of each."
He was thinking of his son, anxious that there should be some notable
improvement, some new building every year, to mark the progress of his
The farm-labourers and their wives did not look so delighted as they might
have been by this edict. These benighted souls liked the old cottages,
lop-sided as they were--liked the crooked staircase squeezed into a corner
of the living room below, the stuffy little dens above, with casement
windows which only opened on one side, letting in the smallest modicum of
air, and were not often opened at all. Cottages on the Now Arden model
meant stone floors below and open rafters above, thorough draughts
everywhere, and, worst of all, they meant weekly inspection by Miss
Granger. The free sons and daughters of Hickly-on-the-Hill--this little
cluster of houses which formed a part of Mr. Granger's new estate--had
rejoiced that they were not as the Ardenites; that they could revel in
warmth and dirt, and eat liver-and-bacon for supper on a Saturday night,
without any fear of being lectured for their extravagance by the omniscient
Sophia on the following Monday, convicted of their guilt by the evidence of
the grease in an unwashed frying-pan; that their children could sport on
the hillside in garments that were guiltless of strings; that, in short,
they were outside the circle of Miss Granger's sympathies and could live
their own lives. But that sweet liberty was all over now: with the red
brick and stone dressings would come the Draconian laws of New Arden; no
more corners for the comfortable accumulation of dirt, no more delicious
little cupboards for the stowing away of rubbish. Everything was to be
square and solid and stony. They heard Mr. Granger giving orders that the
chimney was to be flush with the wall, and so on; the stove, an "Oxford
front," warranted to hold not more than a pound and a half of coal; no
recesses in which old age could sit and croon, no cosy nook for the cradle
After this interview with the architect, Mr. Granger rode home through
Holborough. His way took him past that very hotel where George Fairfax was
staying--the chief inn of the town, a fine old red-brick building that
filled nearly one side of the market-place.
It happened that just as Mr. Granger rode along the High-street, where
there were some half-a-dozen stragglers visible upon a wide expanse of
pavement, and one carriage waiting at the draper's, Mr. Fairfax walked up
the broad steps of the hotel and entered--entered with the air of a man who
lived there, Daniel Granger thought. And he had said that he was staying
with a bachelor friend. Mr. Granger rode slowly past the principal part of
the hotel to an archway at the end--an archway leading to livery stables,
where the ostler was lounging. He stopped opposite this archway, and
beckoned the man over to him.
"There was a gentleman went into the hotel just now," he said; "did you see
"Yes, sir, I seed him. Mr. Fairfax; him as was to have married Lady Laura
"Is he staying in the house, do you know?"
"Yes, sir; came last night, down from London. Shall I take him your card,
"No, thank you, Giles; I won't call upon him this afternoon, I only wanted
to be sure. Good-day."
He rode on. What was the meaning of this lie which George Fairfax had told
him? Had it any meaning which it behoved him to fathom? It was strange, at
the least--strange enough to make Mr. Granger very uncomfortable as he rode
slowly back to the Court.
* * * * *
Late in the autumn of that year, Mr. Granger and his household took up
their abode in Paris. Clarissa had expressed a wish to winter in that
brilliant city, and Daniel Granger had no greater desire than to please
her. But, in making any concession of this kind, he did it in such a quiet
unobtrusive way, that his wife was scarcely aware how entirely her wishes
had been studied. He was too proud a man to parade his affection for her;
he kept a check upon himself rather, and in a manner regulated his own
conduct by the standard of hers. There was never any show of devotion on
his part. The world might have taken them for a couple brought together by
convenience, and making the best of their loveless union.
So, with regard to the gratification of her wishes, it seemed always that
the thing which Clarissa desired, happened to suit his own humour, rather
than that he sacrificed all personal feeling for her pleasure. In this
Parisian arrangement it had been so, and his wife had no idea that it was
entirely on her account that Daniel Granger set up his tent in the Faubourg
The fair Sophia had, however, a very shrewd suspicion of the fact, and
for some weeks prior to the departure from Arden, existed in a state of
suppressed indignation, which was not good for the model villagers; her
powers of observation were, if possible, sharpened in the matter of
cobwebs; her sense of smell intensified in relation to cabbage-water.
Nor did she refrain from making herself eminently disagreeable to her
"I should not have supposed you would so soon be tired of Arden Court," she
remarked pleasantly, during that dreary quarter of an hour after dinner
which Mr. Granger and his wife and daughter were wont to pass in the
contemplation of crystallized apricots and hothouse grapes, and the
exchange of the baldest commonplaces in the way of conversation; Perhaps
if Clarissa and her husband had been alone on such occasions that air of
ceremony might have vanished. The young wife might have drawn her chair a
little nearer her husband's, and there might have been some pleasant talk
about that inexhaustible source of wonder and delight, the baby. But with
Miss Granger always at hand, the dessert was as ceremonious as if there had
been a party of eighteen, and infinitely more dreary, lacking the cheery
clatter and buzz of company. She ate five hothouse grapes, and sipped
half a glass of claret, with as solemn an air as if she had been making a
libation to the gods.
Mr. Granger looked up from his plate when his daughter made this remark
about Arden, and glanced inquiringly at his wife, with a shadow of
displeasure in his face. Yielding and indulgent as he had been to her,
there was in his composition something of the stuff that makes a tyrant.
His wife must love the things that he loved. It would have been intolerable
to him to suppose that Mrs. Granger could grow weary of the house that he
"I am not tired of the Court," Clarissa answered with a sad smile. "There
are too many recollections to make it dear to me."
Daniel Granger's face flushed ever so slightly at this speech.
It was the past, then, and not the present, that rendered the place dear to
"I could never grow tired of Arden," she went on; "but I think it will be
very nice to spend a winter in Paris."
"Lady Laura Armstrong has put that notion into your head, no doubt," said
Miss Granger, with the faintest suspicion of a sneer. She was not very
warmly attached to the lady of Hale Castle nowadays, regarding her as the
chief promoter of Mr. Granger's marriage.
"Lady Laura has said that they enjoyed themselves very much in Paris the
winter before last," Clarissa answered frankly; "and has promised me plenty
of introductions. She even promises that she and Mrs. Armstrong will come
over for a week or two, while we are there."
"And poor Lady Geraldine Challoner?"
Miss Granger always exhibited a profound pity for Lady Geraldine, and never
lost any opportunity of dwelling upon Mr. Fairfax's bad conduct.
"No; I don't suppose Lady Geraldine would go with them," Clarissa answered,
colouring a little. The name of Geraldine Challoner was always painful to
her. "She doesn't care about going anywhere."
"Perhaps she would not care to run the risk of meeting Mr. Fairfax,"
Mr. Granger looked up again, with that shadow of displeasure upon his
"She would not be more likely to meet him in Paris than at Hale," replied
Clarissa. "He has gone to Germany."
"Yes, for the autumn, he said. Depend upon it, he will spend the winter
in Paris. I have always observed that those dissipated kind of men prefer
Paris to London."
"I don't think you have any right to call Mr. Fairfax dissipated, Sophia,"
said her father, with an offended air; "and I don't think that his
movements can be of the smallest consequence to you, nor those of the Hale
Castle people either? Clarissa and I have determined to spend two or three
months in Paris, and we are not in the slightest degree dependent upon
our English friends for our enjoyment there. If you are disinclined to
accompany us, and would rather remain at Arden----"
"O, papa, papa!" cried Sophia, with an injured look, "don't say that; don't
allow me to think I have grown quite indifferent to you."
"You have not grown indifferent to me; but I don't want to take you away
from home against your wish."
"My wish is to be anywhere with you, papa; _anywhere_--even though you may
feel me an incumbrance. I could endure the humiliation of feeling that, so
long as I was allowed to remain with you."
Mr. Granger gave a sigh that was almost a groan, and, for perhaps the first
time in his life, it occurred to him that it would be a pleasant thing
if his only daughter were to fall in love with some fortunate youth, and
desire to marry him. A curate even. There was Tillott. Why shouldn't she
marry Tillott? He, Daniel Granger, would give his child a handsome portion,
and they could go through life inspecting model cottages, and teaching
village children the works and ways of all those wicked kings of Israel,
who made groves and set up the idols of their heathen neighbours; a pure
and virtuous and useful life, without question, if tempered with come
consideration for the feelings of the model cottagers, and some mercy for
the brains of the humble scholars.
In the interval between this little after-dinner scene and the departure
from Arden, Mr. Granger invited Mr. Tillott to dinner two or three times,
and watched him with the eyes of anxiety as he conversed with Sophia. But
although the curate was evidently eager to find favour in the sight of the
damsel, the damsel herself showed no sign of weakness. Mr. Granger sighed,
and told himself that the lamp of hope burned dimly in this quarter.
"She really ought to marry," he said to himself. "A girl of her energetic
indefatigable nature would be a treasure to some man, and she is only
wasting herself here. Perhaps in Paris we shall meet some one;" and then
there arose before Mr. Granger the vision of some foreign adventurer,
seeking to entangle the wealthy English "meess" in his meshes. Paris might
be a dangerous place; but with such, a girl as Sophia, there could be no
fear; she was a young woman who might be trusted to walk with unfaltering
steps through the most tortuous pathways of this life, always directing
herself aright, and coming in at the finish just at that very point at
which a well brought-up young person should arrive.
Mr. Granger made his Parisian arrangements on the large scale which became
him as a landed gentleman of unlimited wealth. A first floor of some ten
spacious rooms was selected in one of the bran-new stone mansions in a
bran-new street in the fashionable Faubourg; a house that seemed to have
been built for the habitation of giants; a house made splendid by external
decoration in carved stonework, garlands of stone-fruit and flowers,
projecting lion-heads, caryatides, and so on: no gloomy _porte-cochere_,
but a street-door, through which a loaded drag might have been driven
without damage to the hats of the outside passengers. A house glorified
within by egg-and-dart mouldings, white enamelled woodwork and much
gilding; but a house in which the winter wind howled as in a primeval
forest, and which required to be supplied with supplementary padded
crimson-velvet doors before the spacious chambers could be made
comfortable. Here Mr. Granger took up his abode, with ten of his Arden
Court servants quartered on a floor above. The baby had a nursery loosing
into the broad bare street, where some newly-planted sticks of the sycamore
species shivered in the north-east wind; and the baby took his matutinal
airings in the Tuileries Gardens, and his afternoon drives in the Bois,
while every movement of his infant existence was watched or directed by the
tenderest of mothers. The chief nurse, who had lived with more fashionable
mistresses, for whom the duties of the nursery were subordinate to the
business of society, pronounced Mrs. Granger "fidgety"; a very sweet lady,
but too fond of interfering about trifles, and not reposing boundless
confidence in the experience of her nurse.
There were a good many English people in Paris this year whom the Grangers
knew, and Lady Laura had insisted upon giving Clarissa introductions to
some of her dearest friends among the old French nobility--people who had
known Lord Calderwood in their days of exile--and more than one dearest
friend among the newer lights of the Napoleonic firmament. Then there were
a Russian princess and a Polish countess or so, whom Lady Laura had brought
to Mrs. Granger's receptions in Clarges-street: so that Clarissa and her
husband found themselves at once in the centre of a circle, from the
elegant dissipations whereof there was no escape. The pretty Mrs. Granger
and the rich Mr. Granger were in request everywhere; nor was the stately
Sophia neglected, although she took her share in all festivities with the
familiar Sunday-school primness, and seemed to vivacious Gaul the very
archetype of that representative young English lady who is always
exclaiming "Shocking!" Even after her arrival in Paris, when she felt
herself so very near him, after so many years of severance, Clarissa did
not find it the easiest thing in the world to see her brother. Mr. and Mrs.
Granger had only spent a couple of days in Paris during their honeymoon,
and Daniel Granger planned a round of sight-seeing, in the way of churches,
picture-galleries, and cemeteries, which fully occupied the first four or
five days after their arrival. Clarissa was obliged to be deeply interested
in all the details of Gothic architecture--to appreciate Ingres, to give
her mind to Gerome--when her heart was yearning for that meeting which he
had waited so long to compass. Mr. Granger, as an idle man, with no
estate to manage--no new barns being built within his morning's ride--no
dilapidated cottages to be swept away--was not easily to be got rid of.
He devoted his days to showing his wife the glories of the splendid city,
which he knew by heart himself, and admired sufficiently in a sober
business-like way. The evenings were mortgaged to society. Clarissa had
been more than a week in Paris before she had a morning to herself; and
even then there was Miss Granger to be disposed of, and Miss Granger's
curiosity to be satisfied.
Mr. Granger had gone to breakfast at the Maison Doree with a mercantile
magnate from his own country--a solemn commercial breakfast, whereat all
the airy trifles and dainty compositions of fish, flesh, and fowl with
which the butterfly youth of France are nourished, were to be set before
unappreciative Britons. At ten o'clock Clarissa ordered her carriage.
It was best to go in her own carriage, she thought, even at the risk of
exciting the curiosity of servants. To send for a hired vehicle would have
caused greater wonder; to walk alone was impossible; to walk with her nurse
and child might have been considered eccentric.
She could not even take an airing, however, without some discussion with
Miss Granger. That young lady was established in the drawing-room--the vast
foreign chamber, which never looked like a home--illuminating a new set
of Gothic texts for the adornment of her school. She sorely missed the
occupation and importance afforded her by the model village. In Paris there
was no one afraid of her; no humble matrons to quail as her severe eyes
surveyed wall and ceiling, floor and surbase. And being of a temperament
which required perpetual employment, she was fain to fall back upon
illumination, Berlin-wool work, and early morning practice of pianoforte
music of the most strictly mathematical character. It was her boast that
she had been thoroughly "grounded" in the science of harmony; but although
she could have given a reason for every interval in a sonata, her playing
never sparkled into brilliancy or melted into tenderness, and never had her
prim cold fingers found their way to a human soul.
"Are you going out so early?" this wise damsel asked wonderingly, as
Clarissa came into the drawing-room in her bonnet and shawl.
"Yes, it is such a fine morning, and I think baby will enjoy it. I have not
had a drive with him since we have been here."
"No," replied Sophia, "you have only had papa. I shouldn't think he would
be very much flattered if he heard you preferred baby."
"I did not say that I preferred baby, Sophia. What a habit you have of
The nurse appeared at this moment, carrying the heir of the Grangers,
gloriously arrayed in blue velvet, and looking fully conscious of his
"But I do like to have a drive with my pet-lamb, don't I, darling?" said
the mother, stooping to kiss the plump rosy cheek. And then there followed
some low confidential talk, in the fond baby language peculiar to young
"I should have thought you would have been glad to get a morning alone, for
once in a way," remarked Sophia, coming over to the baby, and giving him
a stately kiss. She liked him tolerably well in her own way, and was not
angry with him for having come into the world to oust her from her proud
position as sole heiress to her father's wealth. The position had been very
pleasant to her, and she had not seen it slip away from her without many a
pang; but, however she might dislike Clarissa, she was not base enough to
hate her father's child. If she could have had the sole care and management
of him, physicked and dieted him after her own method, and developed the
budding powers of his infant mind by her favourite forcing system--made a
model villager of him, in short--she might have grown even to love him. But
these privileges being forbidden to her--her wisdom being set at naught,
and her counsel rejected--she could not help regarding Lovel Granger as
more or less an injury.
"I should have thought you would have been glad of a morning at home,
Clarissa," she repeated.
"Not such a fine morning as this, Sophy. It would be such a pity for baby
to lose the sunshine; and I have really nothing to do."
"If I had known a little sooner that you were going, I would have gone with
you," said Miss Granger.
Clarissa's countenance fell. She could not help that little troubled look,
which told Miss Granger that her society would not have been welcome.
"You would have had no objection to my coming with you, I suppose?" the
fair Sophia said sharply. "Baby is not quite a monopoly."
"Of course not. If you'll put on your things now, Sophia, I'll wait for
It was a hard thing for Clarissa to make the offer, when she had been
waiting so anxiously for this opportunity of seeing her brother. To be
in the same city with him, and not see him, was more painful than to be
divided from him by half the earth, as she had been. It was harder still to
have to plot and plan and stoop to falsehood in order to compass a meeting.
But she remembered the stern cold look in her husband's face when she had
spoken of Austin, and she could not bring herself to degrade her brother
by entreating Daniel Granger's indulgence for his past misdeeds, or Daniel
Granger's interest in his future fortunes.
Happily Sophia had made elaborate preparations for the Gothic texts, and
was not inclined to waste so much trouble.
"I have got my colours all ready," she said, "and have put everything out,
you see. No, I don't think I'll go to-day. But another time, if you'll be
so kind as to let me know _beforehand_, I shall be pleased to go with my
brother. I suppose you know there's an east wind to-day, by-the-bye."
The quarter whence the wind came, was a subject about which Clarissa had
never concerned herself. The sun was shining, and the sky was blue.
"We have plenty of wraps," she said, "and we can have the carriage closed
if we are cold."
"It is not a day upon which _I_ should take an infant out," Miss Granger
murmured, dipping her brush in some Prussian-blue; "but of course you know
"O, we shall take care of baby, depend upon it. Good-bye, Sophy."
And Clarissa departed, anxious to avoid farther remonstrance on the part
of her step-daughter. She told the coachman to drive to the Luxembourg
Gardens, intending to leave the nurse and baby to promenade that favourite
resort, while she made her way on foot to the Rue du Chevalier Bayard. She
remembered that George Fairfax had described her brother's lodging as near
They drove through the gay Parisian streets, past the pillar in the Place
Vendome, and along the Rue de la Paix, all shining with jewellers' ware,
and the Rue de Rivoli, where the chestnut-trees in the gardens of the
Tuileries were shedding their last leaves upon the pavement, past the airy
tower of St. Jacques, and across the bridge into that unknown world on
the other side of the Seine. The nurse, who had seen very little of that
quarter of the town, wondered what obscure region she was traversing, and
wondered still more when they alighted at the somewhat shabby-looking
"These are the Luxembourg Gardens," said Clarissa. "As you have been to the
Tuileries every day, I thought it would be a change for you to come here."
"Thank you, ma'am," replied Mrs. Brobson, the chief nurse; "but I don't
think as these gardings is anyways equal to the Tooleries--nor to Regent's
Park even. When I were in Paris with Lady Fitz-Lubin we took the children
to the Tooleries or the Bore de Boulong every day--but, law me! the Bore de
Boulong were a poor place in those days to what it is now."
Clarissa took a couple of turns along one of the walks with Mrs. Brobson,
and then, as they were going back towards the gate, she said, as carelessly
as she could manage to say: "There is a person living somewhere near here
whom I want to see, Mrs. Brobson. I'll leave you and baby in the gardens
for half an hour or so, while I go and pay my visit."
Mrs. Brobson stared. It was not an hour in the day when any lady she had
ever served was wont to pay visits; and that Mrs. Granger of Arden Court
should traverse a neighbourhood of narrow streets and tall houses, on foot
and alone, to call upon her acquaintance at eleven o'clock in the morning,
seemed to her altogether inexplicable.
"You'll take the carriage, won't you, ma'am?" she said, with undisguised
"No, I shall not want the carriage; it's very near. Be sure you keep baby
warm, Mrs. Brobson."
Clarissa hurried out into the street. The landau, with its pair of
Yorkshire-bred horses, was moving slowly up and down, to the admiration of
juvenile Paris, which looked upon Mr. Granger's deep-chested, strong-limbed
bays almost as a new order in the animal creation. Mrs. Granger felt that
the eyes of coachman and footman were upon her as she turned the first
corner, thinking of nothing for the moment, but how to escape the
watchfulness of her own servants. She walked a little way down the street,
and then asked a sleepy-looking waiter, who was sweeping the threshold of a
very dingy restaurant, to direct her to the Rue du Chevalier Bayard. It was
_tous pres_, the man said; only a turn to the right, at that corner yonder,
and the next turning was the street she wanted. She thanked him, and
hurried on, with her heart beating faster at every step. Austin might be
out, she thought, and her trouble wasted; and there was no knowing when she
might have another opportunity. Even if he were at home, their interview
must needs be brief: there was the nurse waiting and wondering; the baby
exposed to possible peril from east winds.
The Rue du Chevalier Bayard was a street of tall gaunt houses that had seen
better days--houses with _porte-cocheres_, exaggerated iron knockers, and
queer old lamps; dreary balconies on the first floor, with here and there a
plaster vase containing some withered member of the palm tribe, or a faded
orange-tree; everywhere and in everything an air of dilapidation and decay;
faded curtains, that had once been fine, flapping in the open windows;
Venetian shutters going to ruin; and the only glimpse of brightness or
domestic comfort confined to the humble parlour of the portress, who kept
watch and ward over one of the dismal mansions, and who had a birdcage
hanging in her window, an Angora cat sunning itself on the stone sill, and
a row of scarlet geraniums in the little iron balcony.
But this model portress did not preside over the house inhabited by Austin
Lovel. There Clarissa found only a little deaf old man, who grinned and
shook his head helplessly when she questioned him, and shrugged his
shoulders and pointed to the staircase--a cavernous stone staircase, with
an odour as of newly opened graves. She went up to the first-floor, past
the _entresol_, where the earthy odour was subjugated by a powerful smell
of cooking, in which garlic was the prevailing feature. One tall door
on the first-floor was painted a pale pink, and had still some dingy
indications of former gilding upon its mouldings. On this pink door was
inscribed the name of Mr. Austin, Painter.
Clarissa rang a bell, and a tawdry-looking French servant, with big
earrings and a dirty muslin cap, came to answer her summons. Mr. Austin
was at home; would madame please to enter. Madame, having replied in
the affirmative, was shown into a small sitting-room, furnished with a
heterogeneous collection of cabinets, tables, and sofas, every one of which
bore the stamp of the broker's shop--things which had been graceful and
pretty in their day, but from which the ormolu-moulding had been knocked
off here, and the inlaid-wood chipped away there, and the tortoiseshell
cracked in another place, until they seemed the very emblems of decay. It
was as if they had been set up as perpetual monitors--monuments of man's
fragility. "This is what life comes to," they said in their silent fashion.
This faded rubbish in buhl and marqueterie was useful enough to Mr. Lovel,
however; and on his canvas the faded furniture glowed and sparkled with all
its original brightness, fresh as the still-life of Meissonier. There were
a child's toys scattered on the floor; and Clarissa heard a woman's voice
talking to a child in an adjoining room, on the other side of a pair
of tall pink folding-doors. Then she heard her brother's voice saying
something to the servant; and at the sound she felt as if she must have
fallen to the ground. Then one of the doors was opened, and a woman came
in; a pretty, faded-looking woman, dressed in a light-blue morning wrapper
that might very well have been cleaner; a woman with a great deal of dyed
hair in an untidy mass at the back of her head; a woman whom Clarissa felt
it must be a difficult thing to like.
This was her brother's wife, of course. There was a boy of four or five
years old clinging to his mother's gown, and Clarissa's heart yearned
to the child. He had Austin's face. It would be easy to love _him_, she
"Mr. Austin is in his paintin'-room, madame," said the wife, putting on a
kind of company manner. "Did you wish to see him about a picture? Je parle
tres poo de Francais, mais si----"
"I am English," Clarissa answered, smiling; "if you will kindly tell Mr.
Austin a lady from England wishes to see him. What a, dear little boy! May
I shake hands with him?"
"Give the lady your hand, Henery," said the mother. "Not that one," as the
boy, after the invariable custom of childhood, offered his left--"the right
Clarissa took the sticky little paw tenderly in her pearl-gray glove. To
think that her brother Austin Lovel should have married a woman who could
call her son "Henery," and who had such an unmistakable air of commonness!
The wife went back to the painting-room; and returned the next minute to
beg the visitor to "step this way, if you please, ma'am." She opened one of
the folding-doors wide as she spoke, and Clarissa went into a large room,
at the other end of which there stood a tall slim young man, in a short
velvet coat, before a small easel.
It was her brother Austin; pale and a trifle haggard, too old in looks for
his years, but very handsome--a masculine edition of Clarissa herself, in
fact: the same delicate clearly-cut features, the same dark hazel eyes,
shaded by long brown lashes tinged with gold. This was what Mrs. Granger
saw in the broad noonday sunshine; while the painter, looking up from his
easel, beheld a radiant creature approaching him, a woman in pale-gray
silk, that it would have been rapture to paint; a woman with one of the
loveliest faces he had ever seen, crowned with a broad plait of dark-brown
hair, and some delicate structure of point-lace and pink roses, called by
courtesy a bonnet.
He laid down his mahl-stick, and came to meet her, with a puzzled look on
his face. Her beauty seemed familiar to him somehow, and yet he had no
recollection of ever having seen her before. He saw the faded counterpart
of that bright face every morning in his looking-glass.
She held out both her hands.
"Austin, don't you know me?"
He gave a cry of pleased surprise, and caught her in his arms.
"Clarissa!" he exclaimed; "why, my darling, how lovely you have grown! My
dear little Clary! How well I remember the sweet young face, and the tears,
and kisses, and the slender little figure in its childish dress, that
day your father carried you off to school! My own little Clary, what a
happiness to see you! But you never told me you were coming to Paris."
"No, dear, I kept that for a surprise. And are you really glad to see me,
"Really glad! Is there any one in the world could make me gladder?"
"I am so happy to hear that. I was almost afraid you had half forgotten me.
Your letters were so few, and so short."
"Letters!" cried Austin Lovel, with a laugh; "I never was much of a hand at
letter-writing; and then I hadn't anything particularly pleasant to write
about. You mustn't gauge my affection by the length of my letters, Clary.
And then I have to work deucedly hard when I am at home, and have very
little time for scribbling."
Clarissa glanced round the room while he was speaking. Every detail in
her brother's surroundings had an interest for her. Here, as in the
drawing-room, there was an untidy air about everything--a want of harmony
in all the arrangements. There were Flemish carved-oak cabinets, and big
Japan vases; a mantelpiece draped with dusty crimson velvet, a broken
Venetian glass above it, and a group of rusty-looking arms on each side;
long limp amber curtains to the three tall windows, with festooned valances
in an advanced state of disarrangement and dilapidation. There were some
logs burning on the hearth, a pot of chocolate simmering among the ashes,
and breakfast laid for one person upon a little table by the fire--the
remnant of a perigord pie, flanked by a stone bottle of curacoa.
She looked at her brother with anxious scrutinising eyes. No, George
Fairfax had not deceived her. He had the look of a man who was going the
wrong way. There were premature lines across the forehead, and about the
dark brilliant eyes; a nervous expression in the contracted lips. It was
the face of a man who burns the candle of life at both ends. Late hours,
anxiety, dissipation of all kinds, had set their fatal seal upon his
"Dear Austin, you are as handsome as ever; but I don't think you are
looking well," she said tenderly.
"Don't look so alarmed, my dear girl," he answered lightly; "I am well
enough; that is to say, I am never ill, never knock under, or strike work.
There are men who go through life like that--never ill, and never exactly
well. I rarely get up in the morning without a headache; but I generally
brighten considerably as the sun goes down. We move with a contrary motion,
Helios and I."
"I am afraid you work too hard, and sit up too late."
"As to working hard, my dear, that is a necessity; and going out every
night is another necessity. I get my commissions in society."
"But you must have a reputation by this time, Austin; and commissions would
come to you, I should think, without your courting them."
"No, child; I have only a reputation _de salon_, I am only known in a
certain set. And a man must live, you see. To a man himself that is the
primary necessity. Your _generosity_ set me on my legs last year, and
tempted me to take this floor, and make a slight advance movement
altogether. I thought better rooms would bring me better work--sitters for
a new style of cabinet-portraits, and so on. But so far the rooms have been
comparatively a useless extravagance. However, I go out a good deal, and
meet a great many influential people; so I can scarcely miss a success in
"But if you sacrifice your health in the meantime, Austin."
"Sacrifice my health! That's just like a woman. If a man looks a trifle
pale, and dark under the eyes, she begins to fancy he's dying. My poor
little wife takes just the same notions into her head, and would like me to
stop at home every evening to watch her darn the children's stockings."
"I think your wife is quite right to be anxious, Austin; and it would be
much better for you to stay at home, even to see stockings darned. It must
be very dull for her too when you are out, poor soul."
Mr. Lovel shrugged his shoulders with a deprecating air.
"_C'est son metier,_" he said. "I suppose she does find it rather dismal at
times; but there are the children, you see--it is a woman's duty to find
all-sufficient society in her children. And now, Clary, tell me about
yourself. You have made a brilliant match, and are mistress of Arden Court.
A strange stroke of fortune that. And you are happy, I hope, my dear?"
"I ought to be very happy," Clarissa answered, with a faint sigh, thinking
perhaps that, bright as her life might be, it was not quite the fulfilment
of her vague girlish dreams--not quite the life she had fancied lying
before her when the future was all unknown; "I ought to be very happy and
very grateful to Providence; and, O Austin, my boy is the sweetest darling
is the world!"
Austin Lovel looked doubtful for a moment, half inclined to think "my boy"
might stand for Daniel Granger.
"You must see him, Austin," continued his sister; "he is nearly ten months
old now, and such a beauty!"
"O, the baby!" said Austin, rather coolly. "I daresay he's a nice little
chap, and I should like to see him very much, if it were practicable. But
how about Granger himself? He is a good sort of fellow, I hope."
"He is all goodness to me," Clarissa answered gravely, casting down her
eyes as she spoke; and Austin Lovel knew that the marriage which had given
his sister Arden Court had been no love-match.
They talked for some time; talked of the old days when they had been
together at Arden; but of the years that made the story of his life, Austin
Lovel spoke very little.
"I have always been an unlucky beggar," he said, in his careless way.
"There's very little use in going over old ground. Some men never get
fairly on the high-road of life. They spend their existence wading across
swamps, and scrambling through bushes, and never reach any particular point
at the end. My career has been that sort of thing."
"But you are so young, Austin," pleaded Clarissa, "and may do so much yet."
He shook his head with an air of hopelessness that was half indifference.
"My dear child, I am neither a Raffaelle nor a Dore," he said, "and I need
be one or the other to redeem my past But so long as I can pick up enough
to keep the little woman yonder and the bairns, and get a decent cigar and
an honest bottle of Bordeaux, I'm content. Ambition departed from me ten
"O Austin, I can't bear to hear you say that! With your genius you ought to
do so much. I wish you would be friends with my husband, and that he could
be of use to you."
"My dear Clarissa, put that idea out of your mind at once and for ever.
There can be no such thing as friendship between Mr. Granger and me. Do
you remember what Samuel Johnson said about some one's distaste for clean
linen--'And I, sir, have no passion for it!' I confess to having no passion
for respectable people. I am very glad to hear Mr. Granger is a good
husband; but he's much too respectable a citizen for my acquaintance."
Clarissa sighed; there was a prejudice here, even if Daniel Granger could
have been induced to think kindly of his brother-in-law.
"Depend upon it, the Prodigal Son had a hard time of it after the fatted
calf had been eaten, Clary, and wished himself back among the swine. Do you
think, however lenient his father might be, that his brother and the
friends of the family spared him? His past was thrown in his face, you may
be sure. I daresay he went back to his evil ways after a year or so. Good
people maintain their monopoly of virtue by making the repentant sinner's
life a burden to him."
Clarissa spoke of his wife presently.
"You must introduce me to her, Austin. She took me for a stranger just now,
and I did not undeceive her."
"Yes I'll introduce you. There's not much in common between you; but she'll
be very proud of your acquaintance. She looks upon my relations as an
exalted race of beings, and myself as a kind of fallen angel. You mustn't
be too hard upon her, Clary, if she seems not quite the sort of woman you
would have chosen for your sister-in-law. She has been a good wife to me,
and she was a good daughter to her drunken old father--one of the greatest
scamps in London, who used to get his bread--or rather his gin--by standing
for Count Ugolino and Cardinal Wolsey, or anything grim and gray and
aquiline-nosed in the way of patriarchs. The girl Bessie was a model too in
her time; and it was in Jack Redgrave's painting-room--the pre-Raphaelite
fellow who paints fearfully and wonderfully made women with red hair and
angular arms--I first met her. Jack and I were great chums at that time--it
was just after I sold out--and I used to paint at his rooms. I was going in
for painting just then with a great spurt, having nothing but my brush to
live upon. You can guess the rest. As Bessie was a very pretty girl, and
neither she nor I had a sixpence wherewith to bless ourselves, of course
we fell in love with each other. Poor little thing, how pretty she used
to look in those days, standing on Jack's movable platform, with her hair
falling loose about her face, and a heap of primroses held up in her
petticoat!--such a patient plaintive look in the sweet little mouth, as
much as to say, 'I'm very tired of standing here; but I'm only a model, to
be hired for eighteenpence an hour; go on smoking your cigars, and talking
your slangy talk about the turf and the theatres, gentlemen. I count for
nothing.' Poor little patient soul! she was so helpless and so friendless,
Clary. I think my love for her was something like the compassion one feels
for some young feeble bird that has fallen out of its nest. So we were
married one morning; and for some time lived in lodgings at Putney, where
I used to suffer considerable affliction from Count Ugolino and two bony
boys, Bessie's brothers, who looked as if the Count had been acting up
to his character with too great a fidelity. Ugolino himself would come
prowling out of a Saturday afternoon to borrow the wherewithal to pay his
week's lodging, lest he should be cast out into the streets at nightfall;
and it was a common thing for one of the bony boys to appear at
breakfast-time with a duplicate of his father's coat, pledged over-night
for drink, and without the means of redeeming which he could not pursue his
honourable vocation. In short, I think it was as much the affliction of the
Ugolino family as my own entanglements that drove me to seek my fortunes on
the other side of the world."
Austin Lovel opened one of the doors, and called his wife "Come here,
Bessie; I've a pleasant surprise for you."
Mrs. Lovel appeared quickly in answer to this summons. She had changed her
morning dress for a purple silk, which was smartly trimmed, but by no means
fresh, and she had dressed her hair, and refreshed her complexion by a
liberal application of violet powder. She had a look which can only be
described as "flashy"--a look that struck Clarissa unpleasantly, in spite
Her expressions of surprise did not sound quite so natural as they might
have done--for she had been listening at the folding-doors during a
considerable part of the interview; but she seemed really delighted by Mrs.
Granger's condescension, and she kissed that lady with much affection.
"I'm sure I do feel proud to know any relation of Austin's," she said, "and
you most of all, who have been so kind to him. Heaven knows what would have
become of us last winter, if it hadn't been for your generosity."
Clarissa laid her hand upon Bessie Lovel's lips.
"You mustn't talk of generosity between my brother and me," she said; "all
I have in the world is at his service. And now let me see my nephews,
please; and then I must run away."
The nephews were produced; the boy Clarissa had seen, and another of
smaller growth--pale-faced, bright-eyed little fellows; They too had been
subjected to the infliction of soap-and-water and hair-brushes, clean
pinafores, and so on, since Mrs. Granger's arrival.
She knelt down and kissed them both, with real motherly tenderness,
thinking of her own darling, and the difference between his fortunes and
theirs; and then, after a warm caress, she slipped a napoleon into each
little warm hand, "to buy toys," and rose to depart.
"I must hurry away now, Austin," she said; "but I shall come again very
soon, if I may. Good-bye, dear, and God bless you."
The embrace that followed was a very fervent one. It had been sweet to meet
again after so many years, and it was hard to leave him so soon--to leave
him with the conviction that his life was a wreck. But Clarissa had no
time to linger. The thought of the baby in the Luxembourg Gardens had been
distracting her for ever so long. These stolen meetings must needs be
She looked at her watch when she got back to the street, and found, to her
horror, that she had been very nearly an hour away from the nurse and her
charge. The carriage was waiting at the gate, and she had to encounter the
full fire of her servants' gaze as she crossed the road and went into the
gardens. Yes, there was the baby's blue-velvet pelisse resplendent at the
end of an avenue, Clarissa walked quickly to meet him.
"My darling!" she cried. "Has he been waiting for his mamma? I hope he has
not been tired of the gardens, nurse?"
"Yes, ma'am, he have been tired," replied Mrs. Brobson, with an outraged
air. "There ain't much in these gardens to keep a baby of his age amused
for an hour at a stretch; and in a east wind too! It's right down cutting
at that corner."
"Why didn't you take him home in the carriage, nurse? It would have been
better than running any risk of his catching cold."
"What, and leave you without a conveyance, ma'am? I couldn't have done
"I was detained longer than I expected to stay. O, by the bye, you need not
mention to Miss Granger that I have been making a call. The people I have
been to see are--are in humble circumstances; and I don't want her to know
anything about it."
"I hope I know my duty, ma'am," replied Mrs. Brobson stiffly. That hour's
parading in the gardens, without any relief from her subordinate, had
soured her temper, and inclined her to look with unfavourable eyes upon the
conduct of her mistress. Clarissa felt that she had excited the suspicion
of her servant, and that all her future meetings with her brother would
involve as much plotting and planning as would serve for the ripening of a
* * * * *
ONLY A PORTRAIT-PAINTER.
While Clarissa was pondering on that perplexing question, how she was to
see her brother frequently without Mr. Granger's knowledge, fortune had
favoured her in a manner she had never anticipated. After what Mr. Fairfax
had said to her about Austin Lovel's "set," the last thing she expected
was to meet her brother in society--that fast Bohemian world in which she
supposed him to exist, seemed utterly remote from the faultless circle
of Daniel Granger's acquaintance. It happened, however, that one of the
dearest friends to whom Lady Laura Armstrong had introduced her sweet
Clarissa was a lady of the Leo-Hunter genus--a certain Madame Caballero,
_nee_ Bondichori, a little elderly Frenchwoman, with sparkling black eyes
and inexhaustible vivacity; the widow of a Portuguese wine-merchant; a lady
whose fortune enabled her to occupy a first floor in one of the freestone
palaces of the Champs Elysees, to wear black velvet and diamonds in
perpetuity, and to receive a herd of small lions and a flock of admiring
nobodies twice a-week. The little widow prided herself on her worship
of genius. All members of the lion tribe came alike to her: painters,
sculptors, singers; actors, and performers upon every variety of known
and unknown musical instruments; budding barristers, who had won forensic
laurels by the eloquent defence of some notorious criminal; homoeopathic
doctors, lady doctresses, or lawyeresses, or deaconesses, from America; and
pretty women who had won a kind of renown by something special in the way
of eyebrows, or arms, or shoulders.
To these crowded saloons Mr. Granger brought his wife and daughter one
evening. They found a great many people assembled in three lofty rooms,
hung with amber satin, in the remotest and smallest of which apartments
Madame Caballero made tea _a l'anglaise_, for her intimates; while, in the
largest, some fearful and wonderful instrumental music was going on, with
the very smallest possible amount of attention from the audience. There was
a perpetual buzz of conversation; and there was a considerable sprinkling
of curious-looking people; weird men with long unkempt hair, strong-minded
women, who counterbalanced these in a manner by wearing their hair
preternaturally short. Altogether, the assembly was an usual one; but
Madame Caballero's guests seemed to enjoy themselves very much. Their good
spirits may have been partly due to the fact that they had the pleasing
anticipation of an excellent supper, furnished with all the choicest
dainties that Chevet can provide; for Madame Caballero's receptions were
of a substantial order, and she owed a good deal of her popularity to the
profusion that distinguished the commissariat department.
Mr. and Mrs. Granger made their way to the inner room by and by. It was the
prettiest room of the three, with a great semi-circular window overlooking
nothing particular in the daytime, but making a handsome amber-hung recess
at night. Here there was a sea-coal fire _a l'anglaise_, and only a subdued
glimmering of wax candles, instead of the broad glare in the larger
saloons. Here, too were to be found the choicest of Madame Caballero's
guests; a cabinet minister, an ambassador, a poet of some standing, and one
of the most distinguished soprano's of the season, a fair-haired German
girl, with great pathetic blue eyes.
Even in this society Madame Caballero was rejoiced to see her sweet Mrs.
Granger and her charming Miss Granger, who was looking unutterably stiff,
in mauve silk and white lace. The lady and her friends had been talking of
some one as the Grangers entered, talking rapturously.
"_J'en raffole!_" exclaimed Madame; "such a charming young man, gifted with
talents of the most original order."
The ambassador was looking at a portrait--the likeness of Madame Caballero
herself--a mere sketch in oils, with a mark of the brush upon it, but
remarkable for the _chic_ and daring of the painter's style, and for that
idealised resemblance which is always so agreeable to the subject.
Clarissa's heart gave a little throb. The picture was like one she had seen
on the easel in the Rue du Chevalier Bayard.
"_Mais c'est charmant!_" exclaimed the ambassador; and the adjective was
echoed in every key by the rest of the little coterie.
"I expect him here this evening," said Madame; "and I shall be very much
gratified if you will permit me to present him to your excellency."
The ambassador bowed. "Any _protegee_ of Madame's," he said, and so on.
Mr. Granger, who was really a judge of art, fastened on to the picture
"There's something fresh in the style, Clary," he said. "I should like this
man to paint your portrait. What's the signature? Austin! That's hardly a
French name, I should think--eh, Madame Caballero?"
"No," replied Madame; "Mr. Austin is an Englishman. I shall be charmed if
you will allow him to paint Mrs. Granger; and I'm sure he will be delighted
to have such a subject."
There was a good deal of talk about Mr. Austin's painting, and art in
general. There were some half dozen pictures of the modern French school
in this inner room, which helped to sustain the conversation. Mr. Granger
talked very fair French, of a soundly grammatical order; and Clarissa's
tongue ran almost as gaily as in her schoolgirl days at Belforet. She was
going to see her brother--to see him shining in good society, and not in
the pernicious "set" of which George Fairfax had spoken. The thought was
rapture to her. They might have a few minutes' talk to themselves, perhaps,
before the evening was over. That interview in the Rue du Chevalier Bayard
had been so sadly brief, and her heart too full for many words.
Austin Lovel came in presently, looking his handsomest, in his careful
evening-dress, with a brilliant light in his eyes, and that appearance of
false brightness which is apt to distinguish the man who is burning the
candle of life at both ends. Only by just the faintest elevation of his
eyebrows did he betray his surprise as he looked at his sister; and his
air, on being presented to her a few moments afterwards, was perfect in its
Mr. Granger talked to him of his picture pleasantly enough, but very much
as he would have talked to his architect, or to one of his clerks in the
great Bradford establishment. There was a marked difference between
the tone of the rich English trader and the German ambassador, when he
expressed himself on the subject of Mr. Austin's talent; but then the
Englishman intended to give the painter a commission, and the German did
"I should like you to paint my wife--and--and--my daughter," said Mr.
Granger, throwing in Sophia as an after-thought. It would be only civil to
have his daughter's portrait painted, he thought.
Mr. Austin bowed. "I shall be most happy," he said. Clarissa's eyes
sparkled with delight. Sophia Granger saw the pleased look, and thought,
"O, the vanity of these children of perdition!" But she did not offer any
objection to the painting of her own likeness.
"When shall we begin?" asked Mr. Granger.
"My time is entirely at your disposal."
"In that case, the sooner the thing is done the better. My wife cannot come
to your studio--she has so many claims upon her time--but that would make
no difficulty, I suppose?"
"Not at all. I can paint Mrs. Granger in her own rooms as well as in mine,
if the light will serve."
"One of our drawing-rooms faces the north," answered Mr. Granger, "and
the windows are large--larger than I like. Any loss of time which you may
suffer in accommodating Mrs. Granger must, of course, be considered in the
price of your pictures."
"I have only one price for my pictures," replied Mr. Austin, with a
loftiness that astonished his patron. "I charge fifty guineas for a
portrait of that kind--whether it is painted for a duke or a grocer in the
Rue St. Honore."
"I will give you a hundred guineas for each of the pictures, if they are
successes," said Mr. Granger. "If they are failures, I will give you your
own price, and make you a present of the canvasses."
"I am not a stoic, and have no objection to accept a premium of a hundred
guineas from so distinguished a capitalist as Mr. Granger," returned Austin
Lovel, smiling. "I don't think Mrs. Granger's portrait will be a failure,"
he added confidently, with a little look at Clarissa.
Sophia Granger saw the look, and resented it. The painter had said nothing
of her portrait. It was of Clarissa's only that he thought. It was a very
small thing; but when her father's wife was concerned, small things were
great in the eyes of Miss Granger.
There was no opportunity for confidential talk between Austin Lovel and his
sister that evening; but Clarissa went home happy in the expectation of
seeing her brother very often in the simplest, easiest way. The portraits
would take some time to paint, of course; indeed Austin might make the
business last almost as long as he liked.
It was rather hard, however, to have to discuss her brother's merits with
Mr. and Miss Granger as if he had been a stranger; and Clarissa had to do
this going home in the carriage that night, and at breakfast next morning.
The young man was handsome, Mr. Granger remarked, but had rather a worn
look--a dissipated look, in point of fact. That sort of people generally
Mrs. Granger ventured to say that she did not think Mr. Austin looked
dissipated--a little worn, perhaps, but nothing more; and that might be the
effect of hard work.
"My dear Clary, what can you know of the physiology of dissipation? I
tell you that young man is dissipated. I saw him playing _ecarte_ with
a Frenchman just before we left Madame Caballero's; and, unless I am
profoundly mistaken, the man is a gambler."
Clarissa shuddered. She could not forget what George Fairfax had said to
her about her brother's ways, nor the fact that her remittances had seemed
of so little use to him. He seemed in good repute too, and talked of fifty
guineas for a picture with the utmost coolness. He must have earned a good
deal of money, and the money must have gone somewhere. In all the details
of his home there was evidence of extravagance in the past and poverty in
He came at eleven o'clock on the second morning after Madame Caballero's
reception; came in a hired carriage, with his easel and all the
paraphernalia of his art. Mr. Granger had made a point of being present at
this first sitting, much to the discomfiture of Clarissa, who was yearning
for a long uninterrupted talk with her brother. Even when Mr. Granger
was absent, there would be Miss Granger, most likely, she thought, with
vexation; and, after all, these meetings with Austin would be only half
meetings. It would be pleasant only to see him, to hear his voice; but she
was longing to talk freely of the past, to give him counsel for the future.
The drawing-room looking north was rather a dreary apartment, if any
apartment furnished with blue-satin damask and unlimited gilding can be
called dreary. There was splendour, of course, but it was a chilling kind
of splendour. The room was large and square, with two tall wide windows
commanding a view of one of the dullest streets in new Paris--a street at
the end of which workmen were still busy cutting away a hill, the removal
whereof was necessary for the realisation of the Augustan idea of that
archetypal city, which was to be left all marble. Mr. Granger's apartments
were in a corner house, and he had the advantage of this side view. There
was very little of what Mr. Wemmick called "portable property" in this
northern drawing-room. There were blue-satin divans running along the
walls, a couple of blue-satin easy-chairs, an ormolu stand with a monster
Sevres dish for cards, and that was all--a room in which one might,
"receive," but could scarcely live.
The light was capital, Mr. Austin said. He set up his easel, settled the
position of his sister, after a little discussion with Mr. Granger, and
began work. Clarissa's was to be the first portrait. This being arranged,
Mr. Granger departed to write letters, leaving Sophia established, with her
Berlin-wool work, at one of the windows. Clarissa would not, of course,
like to be left _tete-a-tete_ for two or three hours with a strange
painter, Miss Granger opened.
Yes, it was very pleasant to have him there, even though their talk was
restrained by the presence of a third person, and they could only speak of
indifferent things. Perhaps to Austin Lovel himself it was pleasanter to
have Miss Granger there than to be quite alone with his sister. He was very
fond of Clarissa, but there was much in his past life--some things in his
present life even--that would not bear talking of, and he shrank a little
from his sister's tender questioning. Protected by Miss Granger and her
Berlin-wool spaniels, he was quite at his ease, and ran gaily on about all
manner of things as he sketched his outline and set his palette. He gave
the two ladies a lively picture of existing French art, with little
satirical touches here and there. Even Sophia was amused, and blushed to
find herself comparing the social graces of Mr. Austin the painter with
those of Mr. Tillott the curate, very much to the advantage of the
former--blushed to find herself so much interested in any conversation that
was not strictly utilitarian or evangelical in its drift. Once or twice
Austin spoke of his travels, his Australian experiences; and at each
mention, Clarissa looked up eagerly, anxious to hear more. The history of
her brother's past was a blank to her, and she was keenly interested by the
slightest allusion that cast a ray of light upon it. Mr. Austin did not
care, however, to dwell much upon his own affairs. It was chiefly of
other people that he talked. Throughout that first sitting Miss Granger
maintained a dignified formality, tempered by maidenly graciousness.
The young man was amusing, certainly, and it was not often Miss Granger
permitted herself to be amused. She thought Clarissa was too familiar
with him, treated him too much with an air of perfect equality. A man who
painted portraits for hire should be received, Miss Granger thought, as one
would receive a superior kind of bootmaker.
More than once, in fact, in the course of that agreeable morning, Clarissa
had for a moment forgotten that she was talking to Mr. Austin the painter,
and not to her brother Austin Lovel. More than once an unconscious
warmth or softness in her tone had made Miss Granger look up from her
embroidery-frame with the eyes of wonder.
Mr. Granger came back to the drawing-room, having finished his
letter-writing just as the sitting concluded, and, luncheon being announced
at the same time, asked Mr. Austin to stay for that meal. Austin had no
objection to linger in his sister's society. He wanted to know what kind
of man this Daniel Granger was; and perhaps wanted to see what probability
there was of Daniel Granger's wife being able to supply him with money in
the future. Austin Lovel had, from his earliest boyhood, possessed a fatal
capacity for getting rid of money, and for getting into debt; not common
plain-sailing debt, which would lead at the worst to the Bankruptcy Court,
but liability of a more disreputable and perilous character, involving the
terror of disgrace, and entanglements that would have to be unravelled by a
Racing debts, gambling debts, and bill-discounting transactions, had been
the agreeable variety of difficulties which had beset Austin Level's
military career; and at the end there had been something--something fully
known to a few only--which had made the immediate sale of his commission
a necessity. He was _allowed_ to sell it; and that was much, his friends
said. If his commanding officer had not been an easy-going kind of man, he
would scarcely have got off so cheaply.
"I wonder how this fellow Granger would treat me, if he knew who I was?" he
thought to himself. "He'd inaugurate our acquaintance by kicking me out of
his house most likely, instead of asking me to luncheon." Notwithstanding
which opinion Mr. Austin sat down to share the sacred bread and salt with
his brother-in-law, and ate a cutlet _a la Maintenon_, and drank half a
bottle of claret, with a perfect enjoyment of the situation. He liked
the idea of being patronised by the man who would not have tolerated his
society for a moment, had he been aware of his identity.
He talked of Parisian life during luncheon, keeping carefully clear of all
subjects which the "young person," as represented by Miss Granger, might
blush to hear; and Mr. Granger, who had only an Englishman's knowledge of
the city, was amused by the pleasant gossip. The meal lasted longer than
usual, and lost all its wonted formality; and the fair Sophia found herself
more and more interested in this fascinating painter, with his brilliant
dark eyes, and sarcastic mouth, and generally agreeable manner. She
sat next him at luncheon, and, when there came a little pause in the
conversation, began to question him about the state of the Parisian poor.
It was very bad, was it not?
Mr. Austin shrugged his shoulders.
"I don't know," he said, "but I don't think it would be possible for a man
to starve to death in Paris under the Imperial regime; and it seems very
easy for an Englishman to do it in Spitalfields or Mile-end New Town. You
don't hear of men and women found dead in their garrets from sheer hunger.
But of course there is a good deal of poverty and squalor to be found in
And then Mr. Austin launched into a graphic description of some interesting
phases of life among the lower classes, borrowed from a novel that had been
recently delighting the reading public of France, but appropriated with
such an air of reality, that Miss Granger fancied this delightful painter
must spend some considerable part of his existence as a district visitor or
"What a pity that Mr. Tillott has not his persuasive powers!" she thought;
Mr. Tillott's eloquence being, in fact, of a very limited order, chiefly
exhibiting itself in little jerky questions about the spiritual and
temporal welfare of his humble parishioners--questions which, in the
vernacular language of agricultural labourers, "put a chap's back up,
"I should like to show Mr. Austin the baby, Daniel," Clarissa said to her
husband shyly, while Miss Granger was keeping Austin hard and fast to the
amelioration of the working classes; "he would make such a lovely picture."
Mr. Granger smiled, a quiet well-satisfied smile. He, the strong man, the
millowner and millionaire, was as weak as the weakest woman in all things
concerning the child of his mature age.
"Yes," he said, with some affectation of indifference; "Lovel would make a
nice picture enough. We'll have him painted if you like, Clary, some day.
Send for him, my dear."
She had her hand upon the bell directly.
"Yes," she cried, "he would make the sweetest picture in the world, and
Austin shall paint him."
The familiar mention of the name Austin, _tout court_, scared Mr. Granger
almost as much as a cannon fired close at his elbow might have done. He
stared at his wife with grave displeasure.
"_Mr_. Austin can paint him some day, if you wish it, Clarissa," he said.
Mrs. Granger blushed crimson; again she remembered that this brother she
loved so dearly was only a strange painter of portraits, whom it behoved
her to treat with only the most formal courtesy. She hated the deception;
and having a strong faith in her husband's generosity, was sorely tempted
to put an end to this acted lie on the spot, and to tell him who his guest
was; but fear of her brother's anger stopped her. She had no right to
betray him; she must wait his permission to tell the secret.
"Even Sophia seems to like him," she thought; "and I don't think Daniel
could help being pleased with him, in spite of anything papa may have said
to his prejudice."
The baby was brought, and, being in a benignant humour, was graciously
pleased to look his brightest and prettiest, and in nurse's phraseology, to
"take to" his unknown uncle. The unknown uncle kissed him affectionately,
and said some civil things about the colour of his eyes, and the plumpness
of his limbs--"quite a Rubens baby," and so on, but did not consider a
boy-baby an especially wonderful creature, having had two boy-babies of his
own, and not having particularly wanted them. He looked upon them rather as
chronic perplexities, like accommodation bills that had matured unawares.
"And this is the heir of Arden," he said to himself, as he looked down at
the fat blue-eyed thing struggling in Clarissa's arms, with that desperate
desire to get nowhere in particular, common to infancy. "So this little
lump of humanity is the future lord of the home that should have been mine.
I don't know that I envy him. Country life and Arden would hardly have
suited me. I think I'd rather have an _entresol_ in the Champs Elysees,
and the run of the boulevards, than the gray old Court and a respectable
position. Unless a man's tastes are 'horsey' or agricultural, country life
must be a bore."
Mr. Austin patted the plump young cheeks without any feeling of enmity.
"Poor little beggar! What ghosts will haunt him in the old rooms by-and-by,
I wonder?" he said to himself, smiling down at the child.
* * * * *
The picture made rapid progress. For his very life--though the finishing of
his work had been the signal of his doom, and the executioner waiting to
make a sudden end of him when the last touch was laid upon the canvas,
Austin Lovel could not have painted slowly. The dashing offhand brush was
like a young thoroughbred, that could not be pulled, let the jockey saw at
his mouth as he might. And yet the painter would have liked much to prolong
this easy intercourse with his sister. But after Clarissa's portrait was
finished, there was Miss Granger to be painted; and then they would want a
picture of that unapproachable baby, no doubt; and after that, perhaps,
Mr. Granger might consent to have his massive features perpetuated. Austin
considered that the millionaire should be good for three hundred guineas or
so; he had promised two hundred, and the painter was spending the money by
anticipation as fast as he could.
He came every other morning to the Rue de Morny, and generally stayed to
luncheon; and those mornings spent in his company were very pleasant to
Clarissa--as pleasant as anything could be which involved deception; there
was always the sting of that fact. Miss Granger was rarely absent for ten
minutes together on these occasions; it was only some lucky chance which
took her from the room to fetch some Berlin wool, or a forgotten skein of
floss silk for the perennial spaniels, and afforded the brother and sister
an opportunity for a few hurried words. The model villagers almost faded
out of Miss Granger's mind in this agreeable society. She found herself
listening to talk about things which were of the earth earthy, and was fain
to confess herself interested in the conversation. She dressed as
carefully to receive the painter as if he had been, to use her particular
phraseology, "a person in her own sphere;" and Mr. Tillott would have
thought his chances of success at a very low point, if he could have seen
her in Austin Lovel's presence.
That gentleman himself was not slow to perceive the impression he had made.
"It's rather a pity I'm married, isn't it, Clary?" he said to his sister
one day, when Sophia, whose habits had not been quite so methodical of
late, had gone in search of some white beads for the spaniels, some of
which were of a beady nature. "It would have been a great chance for me,
What do you mean, Austin?"
"Miss Granger," answered the painter, without looking up from his work, "I
think she rather likes me, do you know; and I suppose her father will give
her fifty thousand or so when she marries, in spite of young Lovel. He
seems to have no end of money. It would have been an uncommonly good thing,
"I don't think it's any use talking of it, Austin, however good it might
have been; and I don't think Sophia would have suited you as a wife."
"Not suited me--bosh! Any woman with fifty thousand pounds would have
suited me. However, you're right--there's no good in talking of _that_. I'm
booked. Poor little woman, she's a good wife to me; but it's rather a
pity. You don't know how many chances I might have had but for that
"I wish, Austin, for your poor wife's sake, you'd let me tell my husband
who you are. This concealment seems so hard upon her, as well as a kind of
wrong to Daniel. I can do so little to serve her, and I might do so much,
if I could own her as my sister-in-law. I don't think Daniel could help
liking you, if he knew everything."
"Drop that, if you please, Clarissa," said Austin, with a darkening
countenance. "I have told you that your husband and I can never be friends,
and I mean it. I don't want to be degraded by any intercession of yours.
_That's_ a little too much even for me. It suits my purpose well enough to
accept Mr. Granger's commissions; and of course it's very agreeable to see
you; but the matter must end there."
Miss Granger returned at this moment; but had she stayed away for an hour,
Clarissa could scarcely have pressed the question farther. In the old days
when they had been boy and girl together, Austin seven years her senior,
Clarissa had always been just a little afraid of her brother; and she was
afraid of him now.
The very fact of his somewhat dependent position made her more fearful
of offending him. She was anxious about his future anxious too about his
present mode of life; but she dared not question closely upon either
subject. Once, when she had ventured to ask him about his plan of life, he
answered in his careless off-hand way,--
"My dearest Clary, I have no plans. I like Paris; and if I am not
particularly successful here, I don't suppose I should be more successful
anywhere else. I mean to stay here as long as I can hold out. I know a good
many people, and sometimes get a stroke of luck."
"But you are ruining your health. Austin, I fear, with--late hours,
"Who told you I keep late hours? The Parisians, as a rule, don't go to bed
at curfew. I don't suppose I'm worse than my neighbours. If I didn't go
out, Clary, and keep myself in the minds of my patrons, I might rot in a
garret. You don't know how soon a man is forgotten--even a man who has made
his mark more positively than I have; and then you see, my dear, I like
society, and have no taste for the domestic hearth, except for variety,
once in a way, like dining on a bouillon after a week's high feeding. Yes,
come what may, I shall stay in Paris--as long as I can."
There was something in the tone of the last words that alarmed Clarissa.
"You--you--are not in debt, are you, Austin?" she asked timidly.
"No--no--I'm not in debt; but I owe a good deal of money."
Clarissa looked puzzled.
"That is to say, I have no vulgar debts--butcher and baker, and so on; but
there are two or three things, involving some hundreds, which I shall have
to settle some of these days or else----"
"Or else what, Austin?"
"Cut Paris, Clary, that's all."
Clarissa turned pale. Austin began to whistle a popular _cafe-chantant_
air, as he bent over his palette, squeezing little dabs of Naples yellow
out of a leaden tube. Some hundreds!--that was a vague phrase, which might
mean a great deal of money; it was a phrase which alarmed Clarissa; but she
was much more alarmed by the recklessness of her brother's tone.
"But if you owe money, you must pay it, Austin," she said; "you can't leave
a place owing money."
The painter shrugged his shoulders.
"It's not an agreeable thing to do," he said, "but it has been done. Of the
two, it's pleasanter than staying in a place where you owe money."
"Of course I shall do all I can to help you, dear," said his sister. "There
will be a hundred and twenty-five pounds due to me at Christmas, and I'll
give you the hundred."
"You're a first-rate girl, Clary, but I think that fellow Granger might
give you more pin-money. Five hundred a year is a beggarly pittance for a
man of his means."
"It is more than I fancied I could ever want; and Daniel allows papa five
hundred a year, you know Austin."
"Humph! that makes a thousand--no great things for a millionaire. A pretty
girl, married to a man of that stamp, ought to have unlimited command of
money," replied her brother. "It's the only compensation," he said to
"I don't like to hear you say these things, Austin. My husband is very kind
to me. I'm afraid I'm not half as grateful as I ought to be."
"Gratitude be----!" He did not finish the ejaculation.
"Gratitude from a Lovel of twenty to a Granger of fifty! My dear Clary,
that's too good a joke! The man is well enough--better than I expected to
find him: but such a girl as you is a prize for which such a man could not
pay too highly."
It was rarely they had the opportunity for so long a conversation as this;
and Austin was by no means sorry that it was so. He had very pressing need
of all the money his sister could give him; but he did not care to enter
into explanations about the state of his affairs.
* * * * *
Clarissa did not forget the existence of the poor little wife in the Rue du
Chevalier Bayard; and on the very first afternoon which she had to herself,
Mr. Granger having gone to see some great cattle-fair a few miles from
Paris, and Miss Granger being afflicted with a headache, she took courage
to order her coachman to drive straight to the house where her brother
"It is much better than making a mystery of it," she thought.
"The man will think that I have come to see a milliner or some one of that
The footman would fain have escorted Mrs. Granger the way she should go,
and held himself in readiness to accompany her into the house; but she
waved him aside on the threshold of the darksome _porte-cochere_, out of
which no coach ever came nowadays.
"I shan't want you, Trotter," she said. "Tell Jarvis to walk the horses
gently up and down. I shall not be very long."
The man bowed and obeyed, wondering what business his mistress could have
in such a dingy street, "on the Surrey side of the water, too," as he said
to his comrade.
Austin was out, but Mrs. Lovel was at home, and it was Mrs. Lovel whom
Clarissa had come chiefly to see. The same tawdrily-dressed maid admitted
her to the same untidy sitting-room, a shade more untidy to-day, where
Bessie Lovel was dozing in an easy-chair by the fire, while the two boys
played and squabbled in one of the windows.
Mrs. Granger, entering suddenly, radiant in golden-brown moire and sables,
seemed almost to dazzle the eyes of Austin's wife, who had not seen much
of the brighter side of existence Her life before her marriage had been
altogether sordid and shabby, brightness or luxury of any kind for her
class being synonymous with vice; and Bessie Stanford the painter's model
had never been vicious. Her life since her marriage had been a life of
trouble and difficulty, with only occasional glimpses of spurious kind of
brilliancy. She lived outside her husband's existence, as it were, and felt
somehow that she was only attached to him by external links, as a dog might
have been. He had a certain kind of affection for her, was conscious of
her fidelity, and grateful for her attachment; and there an end. Sympathy
between them there was none; nor had he ever troubled himself to cultivate
her tastes, or attempted in the smallest degree to bring her nearer to him.
To Bessie Lovel, therefore, this sister of her husband's, in all the glory
of her fresh young beauty and sumptuous apparel, seemed a creature of
another sphere, something to be gazed upon almost in fear and trembling.
"I beg your parding!" she faltered, rubbing her eyes. She was apt, when
agitated, to fall back upon the pronunciation of her girlhood, before
Austin Lovel had winced and ejaculated at her various mutilations of the
language. "I was just taking forty winks after my bit of dinner."
"I am so sorry I disturbed you," said Clarissa, in her gracious way. "You
were tired, I daresay."
"O, pray don't mention it! I'm sure I feel it a great compliment your
comin'. It must seem a poor place to you after your beautiful house in the
Roo de Morny. Austin told me where you lived; and I took the liberty of
walking that way one evening with a lady friend. I'm sure the houses are
"I wish you could come to my house as my sister-in-law ought," replied
Clarissa. "I wanted to confide in my husband, to bring about a friendship
between him and my brother, if I could; but Austin tells me that is
impossible. I suppose he knows best. So, you see, I am obliged to act in
this underhand way, and to come to see you by stealth, as it were."
"It's very good of you to come at all," answered the wife with a sigh. "It
isn't many of Austin's friends take any notice of me. I'm sure most of 'em
treat me as if I was a cipher. Not that I mind that, provided he could
get on; but it's dinners there, and suppers here, and never no orders for
pictures, as you may say. He had next to nothing to do all the autumn;
Paris being so dull, you know, with all the high people away at the sea. He
painted Madame Caballero for nothing, just to get himself talked of among
her set; and if it wasn't for Mr. Granger's orders, I don't know where
we should be.--Come and speak to your aunt, Henery and Arthur, like good
This to the olive-branches in the window, struggling for the possession of
a battered tin railway-engine with a crooked chimney.
"She ain't my aunt," cried the eldest hope. "I haven't got no aunt."
"Yes, this is your aunt Clarissa. You've heard papa talk of her."
"Yes, I remember," said the boy sharply. "I remember one night when he
talked of Arden Court and Clarissa, and thumped his forehead on the
mantelpiece like that;" and the boy pantomimed the action of despair.
"He has fits of that kind sometimes," said Bessie Lovel, "and goes on about
having wasted his life, and thrown away his chances, and all that. He used
to go on dreadful when we were in Australia, till he made me that nervous I
didn't know what to do, thinking he'd go and destroy himself some day. But
he's been better since we've been in Paris. The gaiety suits him. He says
he can't live without society."
Clarissa sighed. Little as she knew of her brother's life, she knew enough
to be very sure that love of society had been among the chief causes of his
ruin. She took one of her nephews on her lap, and talked to him, and let
him play with the trinkets on her chain. Both the children were bright and
intelligent enough, but had that air of premature sharpness which comes
from constant intercourse with grown-up people, and an early initiation in
the difficulties of existence.
She could only stay half an hour with her sister-in-law; but she could see
that her visit of duty had gratified the poor little neglected wife. She
had not come empty-handed, but had brought an offering for Bessie Lovel
which made the tired eyes brighten with something of their old light--a
large oval locket of massive dead gold, with a maltese cross of small
diamonds upon it; one of the simplest ornaments which Daniel Granger had
given her, and which she fancied herself justified in parting with. She had
taken it to a jeweller in the Palais Royal, who had arranged a lock of her
dark-brown hair, with a true-lover's knot of brilliants, inside the locket,
and had engraved the words "From Clarissa" on the back.
Mrs. Lovel clasped her hands in rapture as Clarissa opened the morocco case
and showed her this jewel.
"For me!" she cried. "I never had anything half as beautiful in my life.
And your 'air, too!" She said "'air" in her excitement. "How good of you to
give it to me! I don't know how to thank you."
And the poor little woman made a rapid mental review of her wardrobe,
wondering if she had any gown good enough to wear with that splendid jewel.
Her purple silk--the one silk dress she possessed--was a little shiny
and shabby by daylight, but looked very well by candle-light still, she
thought. She was really delighted with the locket. In all her life she had
had so few presents; and this one gift was worth three times the sum of
them. But Clarissa spoke of it in the lightest, most careless way.
"I wanted to bring you some little souvenir," she said, "and I thought
you might like this. And now I must say good-bye, Bessie. I may call you
Bessie, mayn't I? And remember, you must call me Clarissa. I am sorry I
am obliged to hurry away like this; but I expect Mr. Granger back rather
early, and I want to be at home when he returns. Good-bye, dear!"
She kissed her brother's wife, who clung to her affectionately, touched by
her kindness; kissed the two little nephews also, one of whom caught hold
of her dress and said,--
"You gave me that money for toys the other day, didn't you, aunt Clarissa?"
"But I didn't have it to spend, though. Pa said he'd lay it out for me;
and he brought me home a cart from the Boulevard; but it didn't cost two
napoleons. It was a trumpery cart, that went smash the first time Arthur
and I stood in it."
"You shouldn't stand in a toy-cart, dear. I'll bring you some toys the next
time I come to see mamma."
They were out on the landing by this time. Clarissa disengaged herself from
the little fellow, and went quickly down the darksome staircase.
"Will that be soon?" the boy called over the banisters.
"I do hope I shall be able to keep it," said Bessie Lovel presently, as she
stood in the window gloating over her locket; whereby it will be seen
that Austin's wife did not feel so secure as she might have done in the
possession of her treasure.
* * * * *
"AND THROUGH THY LIFE HAVE I NOT WRIT MY NAME?"
Mid-Winter had come, and the pleasures and splendours of Paris were at
their apogee. The city was at its gayest--that beautiful city, which we
can never see again as we have seen it; which we lament, as some fair and
radiant creature that has come to an untimely death. Paris the beautiful,
Paris the beloved, imperial Paris, with her air of classic splendour, like
the mistress of a Caesar, was in these days overshadowed by no threatening
thundercloud, forerunner of the tempest and earthquake to come. The winter
season had begun; and all those wanderers who had been basking through
the autumn under the blue skies that roof the Pyrenees, or dawdling away
existence in German gambling-saloons, or climbing Alpine peaks, or paddling
down the Danube, flocked back to the central city of civilization in time
to assist at Patti's reappearance in the Rue Lepelletier, or to applaud a
new play of Sardou's at the Gymnase.
Amongst this flock of returning pilgrims came George Fairfax, very much the
worse for two or three months spent in restless meanderings between Baden
and Hombourg, with the consciousness of a large income at his disposal, and
a certain reckless indifference as to which way his life drifted, that had
grown upon him of late years.
He met Mr. and Mrs. Granger within twenty-four hours of his arrival in
Paris, at a ball at the British embassy--the inaugural fete of the season,
as it were, to which the master of Arden Court, by right of his wealth and
weight in the North Riding, had been bidden. The ambassadorial card had
ignored Miss Granger, much to the damsel's dissatisfaction.
Clarissa came upon Mr. Fairfax unawares in the glazed colonnade upon which
the ball-room opened, where he was standing alone, staring moodily at a
tall arum lily shooting up from a bed of ferns, when she approached on
her partner's arm, taking the regulation promenade after a waltz. The
well-remembered profile, which had grown sharper and sterner since she had
seen it for the first time, struck her with a sudden thrill, half pleasure,
half terror. Yes; she was pleased to see him; she, the wife of Daniel
Granger, felt her heart beating faster, felt a sense of joy strangely
mingled with fear. In all the occupations of her life, even amidst the
all-absorbing delight of her child's society, she had not been able quite
to forget this man. The one voice that had touched her heart, the one face
that had haunted her girlish dream, came back to her again and again in
spite of herself. In the dead of the night she had started up from her
pillow with the sound of George Fairfax's familiar tones in her ears; in
too many a dream she had acted over again the meeting in the orchard, and
heard his voice upbraiding her, and had seen his face dark and angry in
the dim light. She had done her duty to Daniel Granger; but she had not
forgotten the man she had loved, and who had loved her after his fashion;
and often in her prayers she had entreated that she might never see him
Her prayers had not been granted--perhaps they did not come so entirely
from the heart, as prayers should, that would fain bring a blessing. He was
here; here to remind her how much she had loved him in the days gone by--to
bewilder her brain with conflicting thoughts. He turned suddenly from that
gloomy contemplation of the arum lily, and met her face to face.
That evening-dress of ours, which has been so liberally abused for its
ugliness, is not without a certain charm when worn by a handsome man.
A tall man looks taller in the perfect black. The broad expanse of
shirt-front, with its delicate embroidery, not obtrusively splendid, but
minutely elaborate rather, involving the largest expenditure of needlework
to produce the smallest and vaguest effect--a suspicion of richness, as it
were, nothing more; the snowy cambric contrasts with the bronzed visage
of the soldier, or blends harmoniously with the fair complexion of the
fopling, who has never exposed his countenance to the rough winds of
heaven; the expanse of linen proclaims the breadth of chest, and gives a
factitious slimness to the waist. Such a costume, relieved perhaps by
the flash of some single jewel, not large, but priceless, is scarcely
unbecoming, and possibly more aesthetic in its simplicity than the
gem-besprinkled brocades and velvets of a Buckingham, in the days when men
wore jewelled cloaks on their shoulders, and point d'Alencon flounces round
George Fairfax, in this evening dress, looked supremely handsome. It is a
poor thing, of course, in man or woman, this beauty; but it has its charm
nevertheless, and in the being who is loved for other and far higher
qualities, the charm is tenfold. Few women perhaps have ever fallen in love
with a man on account of his good looks; they leave such weak worship for
the stronger sex; but having loved him for some other indefinable reason,
are not indifferent to the attraction of splendid eyes or a faultless
Clarissa trembled a little as she held out her hand to be clasped in George
Fairfax's strong fingers, the quiet pressure whereof seemed to say, "You
_know_ that you and I are something more to each other than the world
She could not meet him without betraying, by some faint sign, that there
was neither forgetfulness nor indifference in her mind as to the things
that concerned him.
Her late partner--a youthful secretary of legation, with straw-coloured
hair and an incipient moustache--murmured something civil, and slid away,
leaving those two alone beside the arum lily, or as much alone as they
could be in a place, where the guests were circulating freely, and
about half-a-dozen flirtations ripening amidst the shining foliage of
orange-trees and camellias.
"I thought I should meet you here to-night," he said. "I came here in the
hope of meeting you."
She was not an experienced woman of the world, skilled in the art of
warding off such a speech as this. She had never flirted in her life, and
sorely felt the want of that facility which comes from long practice.
"Have you seen my husband?" she asked, awkwardly enough, in her distress.
"I did not come to see Mr. Granger. It was the hope of seeing you that
brought me here. I am as great a fool as I was at Hale Castle, you see,
Clarissa. There are some follies of which a man cannot cure himself."
She looked up at him gravely, reproachfully, with as much anger as she
could bring herself to feel against him; but as their eyes met, something
in his--a look that told too plainly of passion and daring--made her
eyelids fall, and she stood before him trembling like a frightened child.
And this moment was perhaps the turning-point in Clarissa's life--the
moment in which she took the first step on the wrong road that was to lead
her so far away from the sacred paths of innocence and peace.
George Fairfax drew her hand through his arm--she had neither strength nor
resolution to oppose him--and led her away to the quietest corner of the
colonnade--a recess sheltered by orange-trees, and provided with a rustic
There is no need to record every word that was spoken there; it was the old
story of a man's selfish guilty love, and a woman's sinful weakness. He
spoke, and Clarissa heard him, not willingly, but with faint efforts of
resistance that ended in nothing. She heard him. Never again could she meet
Daniel Granger's honest gaze as she had done--never, it seemed to her,
could she lose the sense of her sin.
He told her how she had ruined his life. That was his chief reproach, and a
reproach that a woman can rarely hear unmoved. He painted in the briefest
words the picture of what he might have been, and what he was. If his life
were wrecked utterly--and from his own account of himself it must needs be
so,--the wreck was her fault. He had been ready to sacrifice everything for
her. She had basely cheated him. His upbraiding stung her too keenly; she
could keep her secret no longer.
"I had promised Laura Armstrong," she said--"I had promised her that no
power on earth should tempt me to marry you--if you should ask me."
"You had promised!" he cried contemptuously. "Promised that shallow
trickster! I might have known she had a hand in my misery. And you thought
a promise to her more sacred than good faith to me? That was hard,
"It was hard," she answered, in a heart-broken voice.
"My God!" he cried, looking at her with those passionate eyes, "and yet
you loved me all the time?"
"With all my heart," she faltered, and then hid her face in her hands.
It seemed as if the confession had been wrung from her somehow. In the next
moment she hated herself for having said the words, and calming herself
with a great effort, said to him quietly.
"And now that you know how weak I was, when I seemed indifferent to you,
have pity upon me, Mr. Fairfax."
"Pity!" he exclaimed. "It is not a question of pity; it is a question of
two lives that have been blighted through your foolish submission to that
plotting woman. But there must be some recompense to be found in the future
for all the tortures of the past. I have broken every tie for your sake,
Clarissa; you must make some sacrifice for me."
Clarissa looked at him wonderingly. Was he so mad as to suppose that she
was of the stuff that makes runaway wives?
"Your father tempted my mother, Mr. Fairfax," she said, "but I thank Heaven
she escaped him. The role of seducer seems hereditary in your family.
You could not make me break my word when I was free to marry you; do you
believe that you can make me false to my husband?"
"Yes, Clarissa. I swore as much that night in the orchard--swore that I
would win you, in spite of the world."
"And my son," she said, with the tone she might have used if he had been
one-and-twenty, "is he to blush for his mother by and by?"
"I have never found that sons have a faculty for blushing on account of
that kind of thing," Mr. Fairfax answered lightly.--"Egad, there'd be a
great deal of blushing going on at some of the crack clubs if they had!" he
said to himself afterwards.
Clarissa rose from the seat amongst the orange-trees, and George Fairfax
did not attempt to detain her.
He offered her his arm to conduct her back to the ball-room; they had been
quite long enough away. He did not want to attract attention; and he had
said as much as he cared to say.
He felt very sure of his ground now. She loved him--that was the
all-important point. His wounded self-esteem was solaced by this knowledge.
His old sense of power came back to him. He had felt himself all at sea, as
it were, when he believed it possible that any woman he cared to win could
be indifferent to him.
From the other side of the ball-room Mr. Granger saw his wife re-enter
arm-in-arm with George Fairfax. The sight gave him a little shock. He had
hoped that young man was far enough away, ruining himself in a fashionable
manner somehow; and here he was in attendance upon Clarissa. He remembered
how his daughter had said that George Fairfax was sure to meet them in
Paris, and his own anger at the suggestion. He would be obliged to be civil
to the young man, of course. There was no reason indeed that he should be
otherwise than civil--only that lurking terror in his mind, that this was
the man his wife had loved. _Had_ loved? is there any past tense to that
Mrs. Granger dropped Mr. Fairfax's arm directly they came to a vacant seat.
"I am rather tired," she said, in her coldest voice. "I think I'll rest a
little, if you please. I needn't detain you. I daresay you are engaged for
the next dance."
"No. I seldom dance."
He stood by her side. One rapid glance across the room had shown him Daniel
Granger making his way towards them, looking unspeakably ponderous and
British amidst that butterfly crowd. He did not mean to leave her just
yet, in spite of her proprietor's approach. She belonged to him, he told
himself, by right of that confession just now in the conservatory. It was
only a question when he should take her to himself. He felt like some bold
rover of the seas, who has just captured a gallant craft, and carries her
proudly over the ocean chained to his gloomy hull.
She was his, he told himself; but before he could carry her away from her
present surroundings he must play the base part which he had once thought
he never could play. He must be civil to Daniel Granger, mask his
batteries, win his footing in the household, so that he might have easy
access to the woman he loved, until one day the thunderbolt would descend,
and an honest man be left desolate, "with his household gods shattered." It
was just one of those sins that will not bear contemplation. George Fairfax
was fain to shut his eyes upon the horror and vileness of it, and only to
say to himself doggedly, "I have sworn to win her."
Mr. Granger greeted him civilly enough presently, and with the stereotyped
cordiality which may mean anything or nothing. Was Mr. Fairfax going to
remain long in Paris? Yes, he meant to winter there, if nothing better
"After all, you see," he said, "there is no place like Paris. One gets
tired of it, of course, in time; but I find that in other places one is
"A very pleasant ball," remarked Mr. Granger, with the air of saying
something original. "You have been dancing, I suppose?"
"No," replied Mr. Fairfax, smiling; "I have come into my property. I don't
dance. 'I range myself,' as our friends here say."
He thought, as he spoke, of sundry breakneck gallops and mahlstrom waltzes
danced in gardens and saloons, the very existence whereof was ignored by or
unknown to respectability; and then thought, "If I were safely planted on
the other side of the world with _her_ for my wife, it would cost me no
more to cut all that kind of thing than it would to throw away a handful of
* * * * *
Miss Granger's portrait was finished; and the baby picture--a chubby
blue-eyed cherub, at play on a bank of primroses, with a yellowhammer
perched on a blossoming blackthorn above his head, and just a glimpse of
blue April sky beyond; a dainty little study of colour in which the painter
had surpassed himself--was making rapid progress, to the young mother's
intense delight. Very soon Mr. Austin would have no longer the privilege
of coming every other day to the Rue da Morny. Daniel Granger had declined
sitting for his portrait.
"I did it once," he said. "The Bradford people insisted upon making me a
present of my own likeness, life-size, with my brown cob, Peter Pindar,
standing beside me. I was obliged to hang the picture in the hall at
Arden--those good fellows would have been wounded if I hadn't given it a
prominent position; but that great shining brown cob plays the mischief
with my finest Velasquez, a portrait of Don Carlos Baltazar, in white satin
slashed with crimson. No; I like your easy, dashing style very much, Mr.
Austin; but one portrait in a lifetime is quite enough for me."
As the Granger family became more acclimatised, as it were, Clarissa found
herself with more time at her disposal. Sophia had attached herself to
a little clique of English ladies, and had her own engagements and her
separate interests. Clarissa's friends were for the most part Frenchwomen,
whom she had known in London, or to whom she had been introduced by Lady
Laura. Mr. Granger had his own set, and spent his afternoons agreeably
enough, drinking soda water, reading _Galignani_, and talking commerce or
politics with his compeers at the most respectable cafe on the Boulevards.
Being free therefore to dispose of her afternoons, Clarissa, when Lovel's
picture was finished, went naturally to the Rue du Chevalier Bayard. Having
once taken her servants there, she had no farther scruples. "They will
think I come to see a dressmaker," she said to herself. But in this she did
not give those domestic officers credit for the sharpness of their class.
Before she had been three times to her brother's lodgings, John Thomas,
the footman, had contrived--despite his utter ignorance of the French
tongue--to discover who were the occupants of No. 7, and had ascertained
that Mr. Austin, the painter, was one of them.
"Who'd have thought of her coming to see that chap Hostin?" said John
Thomas to the coachman. "That's a rum start, ain't it?"
"Life is made up of rum starts, John Thomas," replied the coachman
sententiously. "Is there a Mrs. Hostin, do you know?"
"Yes, he's got a wife. I found that out from the porter, though the blessed
old buffer can't speak anything but his French gibberish. 'Madame?' I said,
bawling into his stupid old ear. 'Mossoo and Madame Hostin? comprenny?' and
he says, 'Ya-ase,' and then bursts out laughing, and looks as proud as a
hen that's just laid a hegg--' Ya-ase, Mossoo et Madame."
George Fairfax and Clarissa met very frequently after that ball at the
Embassy. It happened that they knew the same people; Mr. Fairfax, indeed,
knew every one worth knowing in Paris; and he seemed to have grown suddenly
fond of respectable society, going everywhere in the hope of meeting Mrs.
Granger, and rarely staying long anywhere, if he did not meet her. There
were those who observed this peculiarity in his movements, and shrugged
their shoulders significantly. It was to be expected, of course, said this
butterfly section of humanity: a beautiful young woman, married to a man
old enough to be her father, would naturally have some one interested in
Sometimes Clarissa met George Fairfax in her brother's painting-room;
so often, indeed, that she scarcely cared to keep an account of these
meetings. Austin knew a good many clever agreeable Americans and Frenchmen,
and his room was a pleasant lounge for idle young men, with some interest
in art, and plenty to say upon every subject in the universe. If there
were strangers in the painting-room when Mrs. Granger came to the Rue
du Chevalier Bayard, she remained in the little salon, talking to her
sister-in-law and the two precocious nephews; but it happened generally
that George Fairfax, by some mysterious means, became aware of her
presence, and one of the folding-doors would open presently, and the tall
"Those fellows have fairly smoked me out, Mrs. Austin," he would say.--"Ah,
how do you do, Mrs. Granger? I hope you'll excuse any odour of Victorias
and Patagas I may bring with me. Your brother's Yankee friends smoke like
so many peripatetic furnaces."
And then he would plant himself against a corner of the mantelpiece, and
remain a fixture till Clarissa departed. It was half-an-hour's talk that
was almost a tete-a-tete. Bessie Lovel counted for so little between those
two. Half-an-hour of dangerous happiness, which made all the rest of Mrs.
Granger's life seem dull and colourless; the thought of which even came
between her and her child.
Sometimes she resolved that she would go no more to that shabby street on
the "Surrey side"; but the resolve was always broken. Either Austin had
asked her to come for some special reason, or the poor little wife had
begged some favour of her, which required personal attention; there was
Those were pleasant afternoons, when the painting-room was empty of
strangers, and Clarissa sat in a low chair by the fire, while George
Fairfax and her brother talked. Austin was never so brilliant as in
George's company; the two men suited each other, had lived in the same
world, and loved the same things. They talked of all things in heaven and
earth, touching lightly upon all, and with a careless kind of eloquence