‘Which he never was.’ Harriet broke the rhapsody in a monotonous low tone: the Countess was not compelled to hear:
‘–and that a large outfitter–one of the very largest, was in reality a merchant, whose daughters have often wedded nobles of the land, and become ancestresses! Now, Harriet, do you see what a truly religious mind can do for us in the way of comfort? Oh! I bow in gratitude to Herbert Duffian. I will not rest till I have led him back to our fold, recovered from his error. He was our own preacher and pastor. He quitted us from conviction. He shall return to us from conviction.’
The Countess quoted texts, which I respect, and will not repeat. She descanted further on spiritualism, and on the balm that it was to tailors and their offspring; to all outcasts from Society.
Overpowered by her, Harriet thus summed up her opinions: ‘You were always self-willed, Louisa.’
‘Say, full of sacrifice, if you would be just,’ added the Countess; ‘and the victim of basest ingratitude.’
‘Well, you are in a dangerous path, Louisa.’
Harriet had the last word, which usually the Countess was not disposed to accord; but now she knew herself strengthened to do so, and was content to smile pityingly on her sister.
Full upon them in this frame of mind, arrived Caroline’s great news from Beckley.
It was then that the Countess’s conduct proved a memorable refutation of cynical philosophy: she rejoiced in the good fortune of him who had offended her! Though he was not crushed and annihilated (as he deserved to be) by the wrong he had done, the great-hearted woman pardoned him!
Her first remark was: ‘Let him thank me for it or not, I will lose no moment in hastening to load him with my congratulations.’
Pleasantly she joked Andrew, and defended him from Harriet now.
‘So we are not all bankrupts, you see, dear brother-in-law.’
Andrew had become so demoralized by his own plot, that in every turn of events he scented a similar piece of human ingenuity. Harriet was angry with his disbelief, or say, the grudging credit he gave to the glorious news. Notwithstanding her calmness, the thoughts of Lymport had sickened her soul, and it was only for the sake of her children, and from a sense of the dishonesty of spending a farthing of the money belonging, as she conceived, to the creditors, that she had consented to go.
‘I see your motive, Mr. Cogglesby,’ she observed. ‘Your measures are disconcerted. I will remain here till my brother gives me shelter.’
‘Oh, that’ll do,, my love; that’s all I want,’ said Andrew, sincerely.
‘Both of you, fools!’ the Countess interjected. ‘Know you Evan so little? He will receive us anywhere: his arms are open to his kindred: but to his heart the road is through humiliation, and it is to his heart we seek admittance.’
‘What do you mean?’ Harriet inquired.
‘Just this,’ the Countess answered in bold English and her eyes were lively, her figure elastic: ‘ We must all of us go down to the old shop and shake his hand there–every man Jack of us!–I’m only quoting the sailors, Harriet–and that’s the way to win him.’
She snapped her fingers, laughing. Harriet stared at her, and so did Andrew, though for a different reason. She seemed to be transformed. Seeing him inclined to gape, she ran up to him, caught up his chin between her ten fingers, and kissed him on both cheeks, saying:
‘You needn’t come, if you’re too proud, you know, little man!’
And to Harriet’s look of disgust, the cause for which she divined with her native rapidity, she said: ‘What does it matter? They will talk, but they can’t look down on us now. Why, this is my doing!’
She came tripping to her tall sister, to ask plaintively ‘Mayn’t I be glad?’ and bobbed a curtsey.
Harriet desired Andrew to leave them. Flushed and indignant she then faced the Countess.
‘So unnecessary!’ she began. ‘What can excuse your indiscretion, Louisa?’
The Countess smiled to hear her talking to her younger sister once more. She shrugged.
‘Oh, if you will keep up the fiction, do. Andrew knows–he isn’t an idiot–and to him we can make light of it now. What does anybody’s birth matter, who’s well off!’
It was impossible for Harriet to take that view. The shop, if not the thing, might still have been concealed from her husband, she thought.
‘It mattered to me when I was well off,’ she said, sternly.
‘Yes; and to me when I was; but we’ve had a fall and a lesson since that, my dear. Half the aristocracy of England spring from shops!– Shall I measure you?’
Harriet never felt such a desire to inflict a slap upon mortal cheek. She marched away from her in a tiff. On the other hand, Andrew was half fascinated by the Countess’s sudden re-assumption of girlhood, and returned–silly fellow! to have another look at her. She had ceased, on reflection, to be altogether so vivacious: her stronger second nature had somewhat resumed its empire: still she was fresh, and could at times be roguishly affectionate and she patted him, and petted him, and made much of him; slightly railed at him for his uxoriousness and domestic subjection, and proffered him her fingers to try the taste of. The truth must be told: Mr. Duflian not being handy, she in her renewed earthly happiness wanted to see her charms in a woman’s natural mirror: namely, the face of man: if of man on his knees, all the better and though a little man is not much of a man, and a sister’s husband is, or should be, hardly one at all, still some sort of a reflector he must be. Two or three jests adapted to Andrew’s palate achieved his momentary captivation.
He said: ‘Gad, I never kissed you in my life, Louy.’
And she, with a flavour of delicate Irish brogue, ‘Why don’t ye catch opportunity by the tail, then?’
Perfect innocence, I assure you, on both sides.
But mark how stupidity betrays. Andrew failed to understand her, and act on the hint immediately. Had he done so, the affair would have been over without a witness. As it happened, delay permitted Harriet to assist at the ceremony.
‘It wasn’t your mouth, Louy,’ said Andrew.
‘Oh, my mouth!–that I keep for, my chosen,’ was answered.
‘Gad, you make a fellow almost wish–‘ Andrew’s fingers worked over his poll, and then the spectre of righteous wrath flashed on him–naughty little man that he was! He knew himself naughty, for it was the only time since his marriage that he had ever been sorry to see his wife. This is a comedy, and I must not preach lessons of life here: but I am obliged to remark that the husband must be proof, the sister-in-law perfect, where arrangements exist that keep them under one roof. She may be so like his wife! Or, from the knowledge she has of his circumstances, she may talk to him almost as his wife. He may forget that she is not his wife! And then again, the small beginnings, which are in reality the mighty barriers, are so easily slid over. But what is the use of telling this to a pure generation? My constant error is in supposing that I write for the wicked people who begat us.
Note, however, the difference between the woman and the man! Shame confessed Andrew’s naughtiness; he sniggered pitiably: whereas the Countess jumped up, and pointing at him, asked her sister what she thought of that. Her next sentence, coolly delivered, related to some millinery matter. If this was not innocence, what is?
Nevertheless, I must here state that the scene related, innocent as it was, and, as one would naturally imagine, of puny consequence, if any, did no less a thing than, subsequently, to precipitate the Protestant Countess de Saldar into the bosom of the Roman Catholic Church. A little bit of play!
It seems barely just. But if, as I have heard, a lady has trod on a pebble and broken her nose, tremendous results like these warn us to be careful how we walk. As for play, it was never intended that we should play with flesh and blood.
And, oh, be charitable, matrons of Britain! See here, Andrew Cogglesby, who loved his wife as his very soul, and who almost disliked her sister; in ten minutes the latter had set his head spinning! The whole of the day he went about the house meditating frantically on the possibility of his Harriet demanding a divorce.
She was not the sort of woman to do that. But one thing she resolved to do; and it was, to go to Lymport with Louisa, and having once got her out of her dwelling-place, never to allow her to enter it, wherever it might be, in the light of a resident again. Whether anything but the menace of a participation in her conjugal possessions could have despatched her to that hateful place, I doubt. She went: she would not let Andrew be out of her sight. Growing haughtier toward him at every step, she advanced to the strange old shop. EVAN HARRINGTON over the door! There the Countess, having meantime returned to her state of womanhood, shared her shudders. They entered, and passed in to Mrs. Mel, leaving their footman, apparently, in the rear. Evan was not visible. A man in the shop, with a yard measure negligently adorning his shoulders, said that Mr. Harrington was in the habit of quitting the shop at five.
‘Deuced good habit, too,’ said Andrew.
‘Why, sir,’ observed another, stepping forward, ‘as you truly say–yes. But–ah! Mr. Andrew Cogglesby? Pleasure of meeting you once in Fallow field! Remember Mr. Perkins?–the lawyer, not the maltster. Will you do me the favour to step out with me?’
Andrew followed him into the street.
‘Are you aware of our young friend’s good fortune?’ said Lawyer Perkins. ‘Yes. Ah! Well!–Would you believe that any sane person in his condition, now–nonsense apart–could bring his mind wilfully to continue a beggar? No. Um! Well; Mr. Cogglesby, I may tell you that I hold here in my hands a document by which Mr. Evan Harrington transfers the whole of the property bequeathed to him to Lady Jocelyn, and that I have his orders to execute it instantly, and deliver it over to her ladyship, after the will is settled, probate, and so forth: I presume there will be an arrangement about his father’s debts. Now what do you think of that?’
‘Think, sir,–think!’ cried Andrew, cocking his head at him like an indignant bird, ‘I think he’s a damned young idiot to do so, and you’re a confounded old rascal to help him.’
Leaving Mr. Perkins to digest his judgement, which he had solicited, Andrew bounced back into the shop.
IN WHICH THE SHOP BECOMES THE CENTRE OF ATTRACTION
Under the first lustre of a May-night, Evan was galloping over the moon- shadowed downs toward Beckley. At the ridge commanding the woods, the park, and the stream, his horse stopped, as if from habit, snorted, and puffed its sides, while he gazed steadily across the long lighted vale. Soon he began to wind down the glaring chalk-track, and reached grass levels. Here he broke into a round pace, till, gaining the first straggling cottages of the village, he knocked the head of his whip against the garden-gate of one, and a man came out, who saluted him, and held the reins.
‘Animal does work, sir,’ said the man.
Evan gave directions for it to be looked to, and went on to the doorway, where he was met by a young woman. She uttered a respectful greeting, and begged him to enter.
The door closed, he flung himself into a chair, and said:
‘Well, Susan, how is the child?’
‘ Oh! he’s always well, Mr. Harrington; he don’t know the tricks o’ trouble yet.’
‘Will Polly be here soon?’
‘At a quarter after nine, she said, sir.’
Evan bade her sit down. After examining her features quietly, he said:
‘I ‘m glad to see you here, Susan. You don’t regret that you followed my advice?’
‘ No, sir; now it’s over, I don’t. Mother’s kind enough, and father doesn’t mention anything. She’s a-bed with bile–father’s out.’
‘But what? There’s something on your mind.’
‘I shall cry, if I begin, Mr. Harrington.’
‘See how far you can get without.’
‘Oh! Sir, then,’ said Susan, on a sharp rise of her bosom, ‘it ain’t my fault. I wouldn’t cause trouble to Mr. Harry, or any friend of yours; but, sir, father have got hold of his letters to me, and he says, there ‘s a promise in ’em–least, one of ’em; and it’s as good as law, he says –he heard it in a public-house; and he’s gone over to Fall’field to a law-gentleman there.’ Susan was compelled to give way to some sobs. ‘It ain’t for me–father does it, sir,’ she pleaded. ‘I tried to stop him, knowing how it’d vex you, Mr. Harrington; but he’s heady about points, though a quiet man ordinary; and he says he don’t expect–and I know now no gentleman ‘d marry such as me–I ain’t such a stupid gaper at words as I used to be; but father says it’s for the child’s sake, and he does it to have him provided for. Please, don’t ye be angry with me, sir.’
Susan’s half-controlled spasms here got the better of her.
While Evan was awaiting the return of her calmer senses, the latch was lifted, and Polly appeared.
‘At it again!’ was her sneering comment, after a short survey of her apron-screened sister; and then she bobbed to Evan.
‘It’s whimper, whimper, and squeak, squeak, half their lives with some girls. After that they go wondering they can’t see to thread a needle! The neighbours, I suppose. I should like to lift the top off some o’ their houses. I hope I haven’t kept you, sir.’
‘No, Polly,’ said Evan; ‘but you must be charitable, or I shall think you want a lesson yourself. Mr. Raikes tells me you want to see me. What is it? You seem to be correspondents.’
Polly replied: ‘Oh, no, Mr. Harrington: only accidental ones–when something particular’s to be said. And he dances-like on the paper, so that you can’t help laughing. Isn’t he a very eccentric gentleman, sir?’
‘Very,’ said Evan. ‘I ‘ve no time to lose, Polly.’
‘Here, you must go,’ the latter called to her sister. ‘Now pack at once, Sue. Do rout out, and do leave off thinking you’ve got a candle at your eyes, for Goodness’ sake!’
Susan was too well accustomed to Polly’s usage to complain. She murmured a gentle ‘Good night, sir,’ and retired. Whereupon Polly exclaimed: ‘Bless her poor dear soft heart! It ‘s us hard ones that get on best in the world. I’m treated better than her, Mr. Harrington, and I know I ain’t worth half of her. It goes nigh to make one religious, only to see how exactly like Scripture is the way Beckley treats her, whose only sin is her being so soft as to believe in a man! Oh, dear! Mr. Harrington! I wish I had good news for you.’
In spite of all his self-control, Evan breathed quickly and looked eagerly.
‘Speak it out, Polly.’
‘Oh, dear! I must, I suppose,’ Polly answered. ‘Mr. Laxley’s become a lord now, Mr. Harrington.’
Evan tasted in his soul the sweets of contrast. ‘Well?’
‘And my Miss Rose–she–‘
Moved by the keen hunger of his eyes, Polly hesitated. Her face betrayed a sudden change of mind.
‘Wants to see you, sir,’ she said, resolutely.
‘To see me?’
Evan stood up, so pale that Polly was frightened.
‘Where is she? Where can I meet her?’
‘Please don’t take it so, Mr. Harrington.’
Evan commanded her to tell him what her mistress had said.
Now up to this point Polly had spoken truth. She was positive her mistress did want to see him. Polly, also, with a maiden’s tender guile, desired to bring them together for once, though it were for the last time, and for no good on earth. She had been about to confide to him her young mistress’s position toward Lord Laxley, when his sharp interrogation stopped her. Shrinking from absolute invention, she remarked that of course she could not exactly remember Miss Rose’s words; which seemed indeed too much to expect of her.
‘She will see me to-night?’ said Evan.
‘I don’t know about to-night,’ Polly replied.
‘Go to her instantly. Tell her I am ready. I will be at the West park- gates. This is why you wrote, Polly? Why did you lose time? Don’t delay, my good girl! Come!’
Evan had opened the door. He would not allow Polly an instant for expostulation; but drew her out, saying, ‘You will attend to the gates yourself. Or come and tell me the day, if she appoints another.’
Polly made a final effort to escape from the pit she was being pushed into.
‘Mr. Harrington! it wasn’t to tell you this I wrote.
Miss Rose is engaged, sir.’
‘I understand,’ said Evan, hoarsely, scarcely feeling it, as is the case with men who are shot through the heart.
Ten minutes later he was on horseback by the Fallow field gates, with the tidings shrieking through his frame. The night was still, and stiller in the pauses of the nightingales. He sat there, neither thinking of them nor reproached in his manhood for the tears that rolled down his cheeks. Presently his horse’s ears pricked, and the animal gave a low neigh. Evan’s eyes fixed harder on the length of gravel leading to the house. There was no sign, no figure. Out from the smooth grass of the lane a couple of horsemen issued, and came straight to the gates. He heard nothing till one spoke. It was a familiar voice.
‘By Jove, Ferdy, here is the fellow, and we’ve been all the way to Lymport!’
Evan started from his trance.
‘It ‘s you, Harrington?’
‘Sir!’ exclaimed that youth, evidently flushed with wine, ‘what the devil do you mean by addressing me by my Christian name?’
Laxley pushed his horse’s head in front of Harry. In a manner apparently somewhat improved by his new dignity, he said: ‘We have ridden to Lymport to speak to you, sir. Favour me by moving a little ahead of the lodge.’
Evan bowed, and moved beside him a short way down the lane, Harry following.
‘The purport of my visit, sir,’ Laxley began, ‘was to make known to you that Miss Jocelyn has done me the honour to accept me as her husband. I learn from her that during the term of your residence in the house, you contrived to extract from her a promise to which she attaches certain scruples. She pleases to consider herself bound to you till you release her. My object is to demand that you will do so immediately.’
There was no reply.
‘Should you refuse to make this reparation for the harm you have done to her and her family,’ Laxley pursued, ‘I must let you know that there are means of compelling you to it, and that those means will be employed.’
Harry, fuming at these postured sentences, burst out:
‘What do you talk to the fellow in that way for? A fellow who makes a fool of my cousin, and then wants to get us to buy off my sister! What’s he spying after here? The place is ours till we troop. I tell you there’s only one way of dealing with him, and if you don’t do it, I will.’
Laxley pulled his reins with a jerk that brought him to the rear.
‘Miss Jocelyn has commissioned you to make this demand on me in her name?’ said Evan.
‘I make it in my own right,’ returned–Laxley. ‘I demand a prompt reply.’
‘My lord, you shall have it. Miss Jocelyn is not bound to me by any engagement. Should she entertain scruples which I may have it in my power to obliterate, I shall not hesitate to do so–but only to her. What has passed between us I hold sacred.’
‘Hark at that!’ shouted Harry. ‘The damned tradesman means money! You ass, Ferdinand! What did we go to Lymport for? Not to bandy words. Here! I’ve got my own quarrel with you, Harrington. You’ve been setting that girl’s father on me. Can you deny that?’
It was enough for Harry that Evan did not deny it. The calm disdain which he read on Evan’s face acted on his fury, and digging his heels into his horse’s flanks he rushed full at him and dealt him a sharp flick with his whip. Evan’s beast reared.
‘Accept my conditions, sir, or afford me satisfaction,’ cried Laxley.
‘You do me great honour, my lord; but I have told you I cannot,’ said Evan, curbing his horse.
At that moment Rose came among them. Evan raised his hat, as did Laxley. Harry, a little behind the others, performed a laborious mock salute, and then ordered her back to the house. A quick altercation ensued; the end being that Harry managed to give his sister the context of the previous conversation.
‘Now go back, Rose,’ said Laxley. ‘I have particular business with Mr. Harrington.’
‘I came to see him,’ said Rose, in a clear voice.
Laxley reddened angrily.
‘Then tell him at once you want to be rid of him,’ her brother called to her.
Rose looked at Evan. Could he not see that she had no word in her soul for him of that kind? Yes: but love is not always to be touched to tenderness even at the sight of love.
‘Rose,’ he said, ‘I hear from Lord Laxley, that you fancy yourself not at liberty; and that you require me to disengage you.’
He paused. Did he expect her to say there that she wished nothing of the sort? Her stedfast eyes spoke as much: but misery is wanton, and will pull all down to it. Even Harry was checked by his tone, and Laxley sat silent. The fact that something more than a tailor was speaking seemed to impress them.
‘Since I have to say it, Rose, I hold you in no way bound to me. The presumption is forced upon me. May you have all the happiness I pray God to give you.
Gentlemen, good night!’
He bowed and was gone. How keenly she could have retorted on that false prayer for her happiness! Her limbs were nerveless, her tongue speechless. He had thrown her off–there was no barrier now between herself and Ferdinand. Why did Ferdinand speak to her with that air of gentle authority, bidding her return to the house? She was incapable of seeing, what the young lord acutely felt, that he had stooped very much in helping to bring about such a scene. She had no idea of having trifled with him and her own heart, when she talked feebly of her bondage to another, as one who would be warmer to him were she free. Swiftly she compared the two that loved her, and shivered as if she had been tossed to the embrace of a block of ice.
‘You are cold, Rose,’ said Laxley, bending to lay his hand on her shoulder.
‘Pray, never touch me,’ she answered, and walked on hastily to the house.
Entering it, she remembered that Evan had dwelt there. A sense of desolation came over her. She turned to Ferdinand remorsefully, saying: ‘Dear Ferdinand!’ and allowed herself to be touched and taken close to him. When she reached her bed-room, she had time to reflect that he had kissed her on the lips, and then she fell down and shed such tears as had never been drawn from her before.
Next day she rose with an undivided mind. Belonging henceforth to Ferdinand, it was necessary that she should invest him immediately with transcendent qualities. The absence of character in him rendered this easy. What she had done for Evan, she did for him. But now, as if the Fates had been lying in watch to entrap her and chain her, that they might have her at their mercy, her dreams of Evan’s high nature–hitherto dreams only–were to be realized. With the purposeless waywardness of her sex, Pony Wheedle, while dressing her young mistress, and though quite aware that the parting had been spoken, must needs relate her sister’s story and Evan’s share in it. Rose praised him like one forever aloof from him. Nay, she could secretly congratulate herself on not being deceived. Upon that came a letter from Caroline:
‘Do not misjudge my brother. He knew Juliana’s love for him and rejected it. You will soon have proofs of his disinterestedness. Then do not forget that he works to support us all. I write this with no hope save to make you just to him. That is the utmost he will ever anticipate.’
It gave no beating of the heart to Rose to hear good of Evan now: but an increased serenity of confidence in the accuracy of her judgement of persons.
The arrival of Lawyer Perkins supplied the key to Caroline’s communication. No one was less astonished than Rose at the news that Evan renounced the estate. She smiled at Harry’s contrite stupefaction, and her father’s incapacity of belief in conduct so singular, caused her to lift her head and look down on her parent.
‘Shows he knows nothing of the world, poor young fellow!’ said Sir Franks.
‘Nothing more clearly,’ observed Lady Jocelyn. ‘I presume I shall cease to be blamed for having had him here?’
‘Upon my honour, he must have the soul of a gentleman!’ said the baronet. ‘There’s nothing he can expect in return, you know!’
‘One would think, Papa, you had always been dealing with tradesmen!’ remarked Rose, to whom her father now accorded the treatment due to a sensible girl.
Laxley was present at the family consultation. What was his opinion? Rose manifested a slight anxiety to hear it.
‘What those sort of fellows do never surprises me,’ he said, with a semi- yawn.
Rose felt fire on her cheeks.
‘It’s only what the young man is bound to do,’ said Mrs. Shorne.
‘His duty, aunt? I hope we may all do it!’ Rose interjected.
‘Championing him again?’
Rose quietly turned her face, too sure of her cold appreciation of him to retort. But yesterday night a word from him might have made her his; and here she sat advocating the nobility of his nature with the zeal of a barrister in full swing of practice. Remember, however, that a kiss separates them: and how many millions of leagues that counts for in love, in a pure girl’s thought, I leave you to guess.
Now, in what way was Evan to be thanked? how was he to be treated? Sir Franks proposed to go down to him in person, accompanied by Harry. Lady Jocelyn acquiesced. But Rose said to her mother:
‘Will not you wound his sensitiveness by going to him there?’
‘Possibly,’ said her ladyship. ‘Shall we write and ask him to come to us?’
‘No, Mama. Could we ask him to make a journey to receive our thanks?’
‘Not till we have solid ones to offer, perhaps.’
‘He will not let us help him, Mama, unless we have all given him our hands.’
‘Probably not. There’s always a fund of nonsense in those who are capable of great things, I observe. It shall be a family expedition, if you like.’
‘What!’ exclaimed Mrs. Shorne. ‘Do you mean that you intend to allow Rose to make one of the party? Franks! is that your idea?’
Sir Franks looked at his wife.
‘What harm?’ Lady Jocelyn asked; for Rose’s absence of conscious guile in appealing to her reason had subjugated that great faculty.
‘Simply a sense of propriety, Emily,’ said Mrs. Shorne, with a glance at Ferdinand.
‘You have no objection, I suppose!’ Lady Jocelyn addressed him.
‘Ferdinand will join us,’ said Rose.
‘Thank you, Rose, I’d rather not,’ he replied. ‘I thought we had done with the fellow for good last night.’
‘Last night?’ quoth Lady Jocelyn.
No one spoke. The interrogation was renewed. Was it Rose’s swift instinct which directed her the shortest way to gain her point? or that she was glad to announce that her degrading engagement was at an end? She said:
‘Ferdinand and Mr. Harrington came to an understanding last night, in my presence.’
That, strange as it struck on their ears, appeared to be quite sufficient to all, albeit the necessity for it was not so very clear. The carriage was ordered forthwith; Lady Jocelyn went to dress; Rose drew Ferdinand away into the garden. Then, with all her powers, she entreated him to join her.
‘Thank you, Rose,’ he said; ‘I have no taste for the genus.’
‘For my sake, I beg it, Ferdinand.’
‘It’s really too much to ask of me, Rose.’
‘If you care for me, you will.’
”Pon my honour, quite impossible!’
‘You refuse, Ferdinand?’
‘My London tailor ‘d find me out, and never forgive me.’
This pleasantry stopped her soft looks. Why she wished him to be with her, she could not have said. For a thousand reasons: which implies no distinct one something prophetically pressing in her blood.
A LOVERS’ PARTING
Now, to suppose oneself the fashioner of such a chain of events as this which brought the whole of the Harrington family in tender unity together once more, would have elated an ordinary mind. But to the Countess de Saldar, it was simply an occasion for reflecting that she had misunderstood–and could most sincerely forgive–Providence. She admitted to herself that it was not entirely her work; for she never would have had their place of meeting to be the Shop. Seeing, however, that her end was gained, she was entitled to the credit of it, and could pardon the means adopted. Her brother lord of Beckley Court, and all of them assembled in the old 193, Main Street, Lymport! What matter for proud humility! Providence had answered her numerous petitions, but in its own way. Stipulating that she must swallow this pill, Providence consented to serve her. She swallowed it with her wonted courage. In half an hour subsequent to her arrival at Lymport, she laid siege to the heart of Old Tom Cogglesby, whom she found installed in the parlour, comfortably sipping at a tumbler of rum-and-water. Old Tom was astonished to meet such an agreeable unpretentious woman, who talked of tailors and lords with equal ease, appeared to comprehend a man’s habits instinctively, and could amuse him while she ministered to them.
‘Can you cook, ma’am?’ asked Old Tom.
‘All but that,’ said the Countess, with a smile of sweet meaning.
‘Ha! then you won’t suit me as well as your mother.’
‘Take care you do not excite my emulation,’ she returned, graciously, albeit disgusted at his tone.
To Harriet, Old Tom had merely nodded. There he sat, in the arm-chair, sucking the liquor, with the glimpse of a sour chuckle on his cheeks. Now and then, during the evening, he rubbed his hands sharply, but spoke little. The unbending Harriet did not conceal her disdain of him. When he ventured to allude to the bankruptcy, she cut him short.
‘Pray, excuse me–I am unacquainted with affairs of business–I cannot even understand my husband.’
‘Lord bless my soul!’ Old Tom exclaimed, rolling his eyes.
Caroline had informed her sisters up-stairs that their mother was ignorant of Evan’s change of fortune, and that Evan desired her to continue so for the present. Caroline appeared to be pained by the subject, and was glad when Louisa sounded his mysterious behaviour by saying:
‘Evan has a native love of concealment–he must be humoured.’
At the supper, Mr. Raikes made his bow. He was modest and reserved. It was known that this young gentleman acted as shopman there. With a tenderness for his position worthy of all respect, the Countess spared his feelings by totally ignoring his presence; whereat he, unaccustomed to such great-minded treatment, retired to bed, a hater of his kind. Harriet and Caroline went next. The Countess said she would wait up for Evan, but hearing that his hours of return were about the chimes of matins, she cried exultingly: ‘Darling Papa all over!’ and departed likewise. Mrs. Mel, when she had mixed Old Tom’s third glass, wished the brothers good night, and they were left to exchange what sentiments they thought proper for the occasion. The Countess had certainly, disappointed Old Tom’s farce, in a measure; and he expressed himself puzzled by her. ‘You ain’t the only one,’ said his brother. Andrew, with some effort, held his tongue concerning the news of Evan–his fortune and his folly, till he could talk to the youth in person.
All took their seats at the early breakfast next morning.
‘Has Evan not come–home yet?’ was the Countess’s first question.
Mrs. Mel replied, ‘No.’
‘Do you know where he has gone, dear Mama?’
‘He chooses his own way.’
‘And you fear that it leads somewhere?’ added the Countess.
‘I fear that it leads to knocking up the horse he rides.’
‘The horse, Mama! He is out on a horse all night! But don’t you see, dear old pet! his morals, at least, are safe on horseback.’
‘The horse has to be paid for, Louisa,’ said her mother, sternly; and then, for she had a lesson to read to the guests of her son, ‘Ready money doesn’t come by joking. What will the creditors think? If he intends to be honest in earnest, he must give up four-feet mouths.’
‘Fourteen-feet, ma’am, you mean,’ said Old Tom, counting the heads at table.
‘Bravo, Mama!’ cried the Countess, and as she was sitting near her mother, she must show how prettily she kissed, by pouting out her playful lips to her parent. ‘Do be economical always! And mind! for the sake of the wretched animals, I will intercede for you to be his inspector of stables.’
This, with a glance of intelligence at her sisters.
‘Well, Mr. Raikes,’ said Andrew, ‘you keep good hours, at all events– eh?’
‘Up with the lark,’ said Old Tom. ‘Ha! ‘fraid he won’t be so early when he gets rid of his present habits–eh?’
‘Nec dierum numerum, ut nos, sed noctium computant,’ said Mr. Raikes, and both the brothers sniffed like dogs that have put their noses to a hot coal, and the Countess, who was less insensible to the aristocracy of the dead languages than are women generally, gave him the recognition that is occasionally afforded the family tutor.
About the hour of ten Evan arrived. He was subjected to the hottest embrace he had ever yet received from his sister Louisa.
‘Darling!’ she called him before them all. ‘Oh! how I suffer for this ignominy I see you compelled for a moment to endure. But it is but for a moment. They must vacate; and you will soon be out of this horrid hole.’
‘Where he just said he was glad to give us a welcome,’ muttered Old Tom.
Evan heard him, and laughed. The Countess laughed too.
‘No, we will not be impatient. We are poor insignificant people!’ she said; and turning to her mother, added: ‘And yet I doubt not you think the smallest of our landed gentry equal to great continental seigneurs. I do not say the contrary.’
‘You will fill Evan’s head with nonsense till you make him knock up a horse a week, and never go to his natural bed,’ said Mrs. Mel, angrily. ‘Look at him! Is a face like that fit for business?’
‘Certainly, certainly not!’ said the Countess.
‘Well, Mother, the horse is dismissed,–you won’t have to complain any more,’ said Evan, touching her hand. ‘Another history commences from to-day.’
The Countess watched him admiringly. Such powers of acting she could not have ascribed to him.
‘Another history, indeed!’ she said. ‘By the way, Van, love! was it out of Glamorganshire–were we Tudors, according to Papa? or only Powys chieftains? It’s of no moment, but it helps one in conversation.’
‘Not half so much as good ale, though!’ was Old Tom’s comment.
The Countess did not perceive its fitness, till Evan burst into a laugh, and then she said:
‘Oh! we shall never be ashamed of the Brewery. Do not fear that, Mr. Cogglesby.’
Old Tom saw his farce reviving, and encouraged the Countess to patronize him. She did so to an extent that called on her Mrs. Mel’s reprobation, which was so cutting and pertinent, that Harriet was compelled to defend her sister, remarking that perhaps her mother would soon learn that Louisa was justified in not permitting herself and family to be classed too low. At this Andrew, coming from a private interview with Evan, threw up his hands and eyes as one who foretold astonishment but counselled humility. What with the effort of those who knew a little to imply a great deal; of those who knew all to betray nothing; and of those who were kept in ignorance to strain a fact out of the conflicting innuendos the general mystification waxed apace, and was at its height, when a name struck on Evan’s ear that went through his blood like a touch of the torpedo.
He had been called into the parlour to assist at a consultation over the Brewery affairs. Raikes opened the door, and announced, ‘Sir Franks and Lady Jocelyn.’
Them he could meet, though it was hard for his pride to pardon their visit to him there. But when his eyes discerned Rose behind them, the passions of his lower nature stood up armed. What could she have come for but to humiliate, or play with him?
A very few words enabled the Countess to guess the cause for this visit. Of course, it was to beg time! But they thanked Evan. For something generous, no doubt.
Sir Franks took him aside, and returning remarked to his wife that she perhaps would have greater influence with him. All this while Rose sat talking to Mrs. Andrew Cogglesby, Mrs. Strike, and Evan’s mother. She saw by his face the offence she had committed, and acted on by one of her impulses, said: ‘Mama, I think if I were to speak to Mr. Harrington–‘
Ere her mother could make light of the suggestion, Old Tom had jumped up, and bowed out his arm.
‘Allow me to conduct ye to the drawing room, upstairs, young lady. He’ll follow, safe enough!’
Rose had not stipulated for that. Nevertheless, seeing no cloud on her mother’s face, or her father’s, she gave Old Tom her hand, and awaited a movement from Evan. It was too late to object to it on either side. Old Tom had caught the tide at the right instant. Much as if a grim old genie had planted them together, the lovers found themselves alone.
‘Evan, you forgive me?’ she began, looking up at him timidly.
‘With all my heart, Rose,’ he answered, with great cheerfulness.
‘No. I know your heart better. Oh, Evan! you must be sure that we respect you too much to wound you. We came to thank you for your generosity. Do you refuse to accept anything from us? How can we take this that you thrust on us, unless in some way–‘
‘Say no more,’ he interposed. ‘You see me here. You know me as I am, now.’
‘Yes, yes!’ the tears stood in her eyes. ‘Why did I come, you would ask? That is what you cannot forgive! I see now how useless it was. Evan! why did you betray me?’
‘Betray you, Rose?’
‘You said that you loved me once.’
She was weeping, and all his spirit melted, and his love cried out: ‘I said “till death,” and till death it will be, Rose.’
‘Then why, why did you betray me, Evan? I know it all. But if you blackened yourself to me, was it not because you loved something better than me? And now you think me false! Which of us two has been false? It ‘s silly to talk of these things now too late! But be just. I wish that we may be friends. Can we, unless you bend a little?’
The tears streamed down her cheeks, and in her lovely humility he saw the baseness of that pride of his which had hitherto held him up.
‘Now that you are in this house where I was born and am to live, can you regret what has come between us, Rose?’
Her lips quivered in pain.
‘Can I do anything else but regret it all my life, Evan?’
How was it possible for him to keep his strength?
‘Rose!’ he spoke with a passion that made her shrink, ‘are you bound to this man?’ and to the drooping of her eyes, ‘No. Impossible, for you do not love him. Break it. Break the engagement you cannot fulfil. Break it and belong to me. It sounds ill for me to say that in such a place. But Rose, I will leave it. I will accept any assistance that your father–that any man will give me. Beloved–noble girl! I see my falseness to you, though I little thought it at the time–fool that I was! Be my help, my guide-as the soul of my body! Be mine!’
‘Oh, Evan!’ she clasped her hands in terror at the change in him, that was hurrying her she knew not whither, and trembling, held them supplicatingly.
‘Yes, Rose: you have taught me what love can be. You cannot marry that man.’
‘But, my honour, Evan! No. I do not love him; for I can love but one. He has my pledge. Can I break it?’
The stress on the question choked him, just as his heart sprang to her.
‘Can you face the world with me, Rose?’
‘Oh, Evan! is there an escape for me? Think Decide!–No–no! there is not. My mother, I know, looks on it so. Why did she trust me to be with you here, but that she thinks me engaged to him, and has such faith in me? Oh, help me!–be my guide. Think whether you would trust me hereafter! I should despise myself.’
Not if you marry him!’ said Evan, bitterly. And then thinking as men will think when they look on the figure of a fair girl marching serenely to a sacrifice, the horrors of which they insist that she ought to know: half-hating her for her calmness–adoring her for her innocence: he said: ‘It rests with you, Rose. The world will approve you, and if your conscience does, why–farewell, and may heaven be your help.’
She murmured, ‘Farewell.’
Did she expect more to be said by him? What did she want or hope for now? And yet a light of hunger grew in her eyes, brighter and brighter, as it were on a wave of yearning.
‘Take my hand once,’ she faltered.
Her hand and her whole shape he took, and she with closed eyes let him strain her to his breast.
Their swoon was broken by the opening of the door, where Old Tom Cogglesby and Lady Jocelyn appeared.
‘Gad! he seems to have got his recompense–eh, my lady?’ cried Old Tom. However satisfactorily they might have explained the case, it certainly did seem so.
Lady Jocelyn looked not absolutely displeased. Old Tom was chuckling at her elbow. The two principal actors remained dumb.
‘I suppose, if we leave young people to settle a thing, this is how they do it,’ her ladyship remarked.
‘Gad, and they do it well!’ cried Old Tom.
Rose, with a deep blush on her cheeks, stepped from Evan to her mother. Not in effrontery, but earnestly, and as the only way of escaping from the position, she said: ‘I have succeeded, Mama. He will take what I offer.’
‘And what’s that, now?’ Old Tom inquired.
Rose turned to Evan. He bent and kissed her hand.
‘Call it “recompense” for the nonce,’ said Lady Jocelyn. ‘Do you still hold to your original proposition, Tom?’
‘Every penny, my lady. I like the young fellow, and she’s a jolly little lass–if she means it:–she’s a woman.’
‘True,’ said Lady Jocelyn. ‘Considering that fact, you will oblige me by keeping the matter quiet.’
‘Does she want to try whether the tailor’s a gentleman still, my lady- eh?’
‘No. I fancy she will have to see whether a certain nobleman may be one.’
The Countess now joined them. Sir Franks had informed her of her brother’s last fine performance. After a short, uneasy pause, she said, glancing at Evan:–
‘You know his romantic nature. I can assure you he was sincere; and even if you could not accept, at least–‘
‘But we have accepted, Countess,’ said Rose.
‘The estate, Countess. And what is more, to increase the effect of his generosity, he has consented to take a recompense.’
‘Indeed!’ exclaimed the Countess, directing a stony look at her brother.
‘May I presume to ask what recompense?’
Rose shook her head. ‘Such a very poor one, Countess! He has no idea of relative value.’
The Countess’s great mind was just then running hot on estates, and thousands, or she would not have played goose to them, you may be sure. She believed that Evan had been wheedled by Rose into the acceptance of a small sum of money, in return for his egregious gift.
With an internal groan, the outward aspect of which she had vast difficulty in masking, she said: ‘You are right–he has no head. Easily cajoled!’
Old Tom sat down in a chair, and laughed outright. Lady Jocelyn, in pity for the poor lady, who always amused her, thought it time to put an end to the scene.
‘I hope your brother will come to us in about a week,’ she said. ‘May I expect the favour of your company as well?’
The Countess felt her dignity to be far superior as she responded: ‘Lady Jocelyn, when next I enjoy the gratification of a visit to your hospitable mansion, I must know that I am not at a disadvantage. I cannot consent to be twice pulled down to my brother’s level.’
Evan’s heart was too full of its dim young happiness to speak, or care for words. The cold elegance of the Countess’s curtsey to Lady Jocelyn: her ladyship’s kindly pressure of his hand: Rose’s stedfast look into his eyes: Old Tom’s smothered exclamation that he was not such a fool as he seemed: all passed dream-like, and when he was left to the fury of the Countess, he did not ask her to spare him, nor did he defend himself. She bade adieu to him and their mutual relationship that very day. But her star had not forsaken her yet. Chancing to peep into the shop, to intrust a commission to Mr. John Raikes, who was there doing penance for his career as a gentleman, she heard Old Tom and Andrew laughing, utterly unlike bankrupts.
‘Who ‘d have thought the women such fools! and the Countess, too!’
This was Andrew’s voice. He chuckled as one emancipated. The Countess had a short interview with him (before she took her departure to join her husband, under the roof of the Honourable Herbert Duffian), and Andrew chuckled no more.
A YEAR LATER, THE COUNTESS DE SALDAR DE SANCORVO TO HER SISTER CAROLINE
‘Let the post-mark be my reply to your letter received through the Consulate, and most courteously delivered with the Consul’s compliments. We shall yet have an ambassador at Rome–mark your Louisa’s words. Yes, dearest! I am here, body and spirit! I have at last found a haven, a refuge, and let those who condemn me compare the peace of their spirits with mine. You think that you have quite conquered the dreadfulness of our origin. My love, I smile at you! I know it to be impossible for the Protestant heresy to offer a shade of consolation. Earthly-born, it rather encourages earthly distinctions. It is the sweet sovereign Pontiff alone who gathers all in his arms, not excepting tailors. Here, if they could know it, is their blessed comfort!
‘Thank Harriet for her message. She need say nothing. By refusing me her hospitality, when she must have known that the house was as free of creditors as any foreigner under the rank of Count is of soap, she drove me to Mr. Duflian. Oh! how I rejoice at her exceeding unkindness! How warmly I forgive her the unsisterly–to say the least–vindictiveness of her unaccountable conduct! Her sufferings will one day be terrible. Good little Andrew supplies her place to me. Why do you refuse his easily afforded bounty? No one need know of it. I tell you candidly, I take double, and the small good punch of a body is only too delighted. But then, I can be discreet.
‘Oh! the gentlemanliness of these infinitely maligned Jesuits! They remind me immensely of Sir Charles Grandison, and those frontispiece pictures to the novels we read when girls–I mean in manners and the ideas they impose–not in dress or length of leg, of course. The same winning softness; the same irresistible ascendancy over the female mind! They require virtue for two, I assure you, and so I told Silva, who laughed.
‘But the charms of confession, my dear! I will talk of Evan first. I have totally forgiven him. Attache to the Naples embassy, sounds tol- lol. In such a position I can rejoice to see him, for it permits me to acknowledge him. I am not sure that, spiritually, Rose will be his most fitting helpmate. However, it is done, and I did it, and there is no more to be said. The behaviour of Lord Laxley in refusing to surrender a young lady who declared that her heart was with another, exceeds all I could have supposed. One of the noble peers among his ancestors must have been a pig! Oh! the Roman nobility! Grace, refinement, intrigue, perfect comprehension of your ideas, wishes–the meanest trifles! Here you have every worldly charm, and all crowned by Religion! This is my true delight. I feel at last that whatsoever I do, I cannot go far wrong while I am within hail of my gentle priest. I never could feel so before.
‘The idea of Mr. Parsley proposing for the beautiful widow Strike! It was indecent to do so so soon–widowed under such circumstances! But I dare say he was as disinterested as a Protestant curate ever can be. Beauty is a good dowry to bring a poor, lean, worldly curate of your Church, and he knows that. Your bishops and arches are quite susceptible to beautiful petitioners, and we know here how your livings and benefices are dispensed. What do you intend to do? Come to me; come to the bosom of the old and the only true Church, and I engage to marry you to a Roman prince the very next morning or two. That is, if you have no ideas about prosecuting a certain enterprise which I should not abandon. In that case, stay. As Duchess of B., Mr. Duffian says you would be cordially welcome to his Holiness, who may see women. That absurd report is all nonsense. We do not kiss his toe, certainly, but we have privileges equally enviable. Herbert is all charm. I confess he is a little wearisome with his old ruins, and his Dante, the poet. He is quite of my opinion, that Evan will never wash out the trade stain on him until he comes over to the Church of Rome. I adjure you, Caroline, to lay this clearly before our dear brother. In fact, while he continues a Protestant, to me he is a tailor. But here Rose is the impediment. I know her to be just one of those little dogged minds that are incapable of receiving new impressions. Was it not evident in the way she stuck to Evan after I had once brought them together? I am not at all astonished that Mr. Raikes should have married her maid. It is a case of natural selection. But it is amusing to think of him carrying on the old business in 193, and with credit! I suppose his parents are to be pitied; but what better is the creature fit for? Mama displeases me in consenting to act as housekeeper to old Grumpus. I do not object to the fact, for it is prospective; but she should have insisted on another place of resort than Fallow field. I do not agree with you in thinking her right in refusing a second marriage. Her age does not shelter her from scandal in your Protestant communities.
‘I am every day expecting Harry Jocelyn to turn up.
He was rightly sent away, for to think of the folly Evan put into his empty head! No; he shall have another wife, and Protestantism shall be his forsaken mistress!
‘See how your Louy has given up the world and its vanities! You expected me to creep up to you contrite and whimpering? On the contrary, I never felt prouder. And I am not going to live a lazy life, I can assure you. The Church hath need of me! If only for the peace it hath given me on one point, I am eternally bound to serve it.
‘Postscript: I am persuaded of this; that it is utterly impossible for a man to be a true gentleman who is not of the true Church. What it is I cannot say; but it is as a convert that I appreciate my husband. Love is made to me, dear, for Catholics are human. The other day it was a question whether a lady or a gentleman should be compromised. It required the grossest fib. The gentleman did not hesitate. And why? His priest was handy. Fancy Lord Laxley in such a case. I shudder. This shows that your religion precludes any possibility of the being the real gentleman, and whatever Evan may think of himself, or Rose think of him, I KNOW THE THING.’
ETEXT EDITOR’S BOOKMARKS:
A man to be trusted with the keys of anything Because you loved something better than me Bitten hard at experience, and know the value of a tooth From head to foot nothing better than a moan made visible Glimpse of her whole life in the horrid tomb of his embrace Gratuitous insult
How many degrees from love gratitude may be In truth she sighed to feel as he did, above everybody It ‘s us hard ones that get on best in the world It is better for us both, of course
Never intended that we should play with flesh and blood She was unworthy to be the wife of a tailor Sincere as far as she knew: as far as one who loves may be Small beginnings, which are in reality the mighty barriers Spiritualism, and on the balm that it was We deprive all renegades of their spiritual titles