represents to you. Will you learn spiritual-mindedness from the sight of her eyes, from the sound of her mouth, from the measure of her steps, or from the music and the dancing that cease not within the doors of her temple? How can Satan cast out Satan? Whom think ye to deceive by whitening the sepulchre? Is it yourselves? The devil has blinded you already. Is it God? Who shall hide anything from Him? I tell you that he who makes the pursuit of virtue a luxury, and takes refuge from sin, not before the altar, but in the playhouse, is casting out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.
“As I look about me in this church; I see many things intended to give pleasure to the carnal eye. Were the cost of all these dainty robes, this delicate headgear, these clouds of silk, of satin, of lace, and of sparkling jewels, were the price of these things brought into the Church’s treasury, how loudly might the Gospel resound in lands between whose torrid shores and the tropical sun the holy shade of Calvary has not yet fallen! But, you will say, it is a good thing to be comely in the house of the Lord. The sight of what is beautiful elevates the mind. Uncleanness is a vice. This, then, is how you will war with uncleanness. Not by prayer and holy living. Not by pouring of your superfluity into the lap of the poor, and entering by the strait gate upon the narrow path in a garment without seam. No. By the dead and damning gold; by the purple and by the scarlet; by the brightness of the eyes that is born of new wine; by the mincing gait and the gloved fingers; and by the musk and civet instead of the myrrh and frankincense: by these things are you fain to purge your uncleanness. And will they suffice? Can Satan cast out Satan? Beware! ‘_For though thou wash thee with nitre and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord God_.’ There shall come a day when your lace and feathers shall hang on you as heavy as your chains of gold, to drag you down to him in whose name you have thought to cast out devils. Do not think that these things are harmless vanities. Nothing can fill the human heart and be harmless. If your thoughts be not of God, they will keep your minds distraught from His grace as effectually as the blackest broodings of crime. ‘_Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number, saith the Lord God_.’ Yes, your minds are too puny to entertain the full worship of God: do you think they are spacious enough to harbor the worship of Baal side by side with it? Much less dare you pretend that the Baal altar is erected for the honor of God, that you may come into His presence comely and clean. It is but a few days since I stood in the presence of a woman who boasted to me that she bore upon her the value of two hundred pounds of our money. I cared little for the value of money that was upon her. But what shall be said of the weight of sin her attire represented? For, those costly garments were the wages of sin–of hardened, shameless, damnable sin. Yet there is not before me a finer dress or a fairer face. Will you, my sisters, trust to the comeliness of visage and splendor of raiment in which such a woman as this can outshine you? Will you continue to cast out your devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils? Be advised whilst there is yet time. Ask yourself again and again, how can Satan cast out Satan?
“When sin is committed in a great city for wages, is there no fault on the side of those who pay the wages? There is more than fault: there is crime. I trust there are few among you who have done such crime. But I know full well that it may be said of London to-day ‘_Thou art full of stirs, a joyous city: thy slain men are not slain with the sword, nor dead in battle_.’ No. Our young men are slain by the poison of Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. Nor is the crafty old subterfuge lacking here. There are lost ones in this town who say, ‘It is by our means that virtue is preserved to the rich: it is we who appease the wicked rage which would otherwise wreck society.’ There are men who boast that they have brought their sins only to the houses of shame, and that they have respected purity in the midst of their foulness. ‘Such things must be,’ they say: ‘let us alone, lest a worse thing ensue.’ When they are filled full with sin, they cry ‘Lo! our appetite has gone from us and we are clean.’ They are willing to slake lust with satiety, but not to combat it with prayer. They tread one woman into the mire, and excuse themselves because the garment of her sister is spotless. How vain is this lying homage to virtue! How can Satan cast out Satan?
“Oh, my brethren, this hypocrisy is the curse and danger of our age. The Atheist, no longer an execration, an astonishment, a curse, and a reproach, poses now as the friend of man and the champion of right. Those who incur the last and most terrible curse in this book, do so in the name of that truth for which they profess to be seeking. Art, profanely veiling its voluptuous nakedness with the attributes of religion, disguises folly so subtly that it seems like virtue in the slothful eyes of those who neglect continually to watch and pray. The vain woman puts on her ornaments to do honor to her Creator’s handiwork: the lustful man casts away his soul that society may be kept clean: there is not left in these latter days a sin that does not pretend to work the world’s salvation, nor a man who flatters not himself that the sin of one may be the purging of many. To such I say, Look to your own soul: of no other shall any account be demanded of you. A day shall come in which a fire shall be kindled among your gods. The Lord shall array Himself with this land as a shepherd putteth on his garment. Be sure that then if ye shall say ‘I am a devil; but I have cast out many devils,’ He will reply unto you, How can Satan cast out Satan? Who shall prompt you to an answer to that question? Nay, though in His boundless mercy He give you a thousand years to search, and spread before you all the books of science and sociology in which you were wont to find excuses for sin, what will it avail you? Will a scoff, or a quibble over a doubtful passage, serve your turn? No. You cannot scoff whilst your tongue cleaves to the roof of your mouth for fear, and there will be no passage doubtful in all the Scriptures on that day; for the light of the Lord’s countenance will be over all things.”
One Sunday afternoon, as the sun was making rainbows in the cloud of spray thrown from the fountain in Kew Gardens, Sholto Douglas appeared there amongst the promenaders on the banks of the pond. He halted on the steps leading down to the basin, gazing idly at the waterfowl paddling at his feet. A lady in a becoming grey dress came to the top of the steps, and looked curiously at him. Somehow aware of this, he turned indifferently, as if to leave, and found that the lady was Marian. Her ripened beauty, her perfect self-possession, a gain in her as of added strength and wisdom, and a loss in her as of gentleness outgrown and timidity overcome, dazzled him for a moment–caused a revulsion in him which he half recognized as the beginning of a dangerous passion. His former love for her suddenly appeared boyish and unreal to him; and this ruin of a once cherished illusion cost him a pang. Meanwhile, there she was, holding out her hand and smiling with a cool confidence in the success of her advance that would have been impossible to Marian Lind.
“How do you do?” she said.
“Thank you: I am fairly well. You are quite well, I hope?”
“I am in rude health. I hardly knew you at first.”
“Am I altered?”
“You are growing stout.”
“Indeed? Time has not been so bounteous to me as to you.”
“You mean that I am stouter than you?” She laughed; and the sound startled him. He got from it an odd impression that her soul was gone. But he hastened to protest.
“No, no. You know I do not. I meant that you have achieved the impossible–altered for the better.”
“I am glad you think so. I cling to my good looks desperately now that I am growing matronly. How is Mrs. Douglas?”
“She is quite well, thank you. Mr. Conolly is, I trust–“
“He is suffering from Eucalyptus on the brain at present. Do not trouble yourself to maintain that admirable expression of shocked sadness. Eucalyptus means gum-tree; and Ned is at present studying the species somewhere in the neighborhood. He came here with that object: he never goes anywhere without an object. He wants to plant Eucalyptuses round some new works where the people suffer from ague.”
“Oh! You mean that he is here in the gardens.”
“Yes. I left him among the trees, as I prefer the flowers. I want to see the lilies. There used to be some in a hot-house, or rather a hot bath, near this.”
“That is it on our right. May I go through it with you?”
“Just as you please.”
“Thank you. It is a long time since we last met, is it not?”
“More than a year. Fifteen months. I have not seen you since I was married.”
Douglas looked rather foolish at this. He was fatter, lazier, altogether less tenacious of his dignity than of old; and his embarrassment brought out the change strikingly. Marian liked him all the better for it; he was less imposing; but he was more a man and less a mere mask. At last, reddening a little, he said, “I remember our last meeting very well. We were very angry then: I was infuriated. In fact, when I recognized you a minute ago, I was not quite sure that you would renew our acquaintance.”
“I had exactly the same doubt about you.”
“A very unnecessary doubt. Not a sincere one, I am afraid. You know too well that your least beck will bring me to you at any time.”
“Dont you think we had better not begin that. I generally repeat my conversations to Ned. Not that he will mind, if you dont.”
Douglas now felt at his ease and in his clement. He was clearly welcome to philander. Recovering his poise at once, he began, in his finest voice, “You need not chide me. There can be no mistake on my part now. You can entangle me without fear; and I can love without hope. Ned is an unrepealed statute of Forbiddance. Go on, Mrs. Conolly. Play with me: it will amuse you. And–spiritless wretch that I am!–it will help me to live until you throw me away, crushed again.”
“You seem to have been quite comfortable without me: at least you look extremely well. I suspect you are becoming a little lazy and attached to your dinner. Your old haughtiness seems to have faded into a mere habit. It used to be the most active principle in you. Are you quite sure that nobody else has been helping you to live, as you call it?”
“Helping me to forget, you mean. No, not one. Time has taught me the way to vegetate; and so I no longer need to live. As you have remarked, I have habits, not active principles. But one at least of these principles is blossoming again even as I speak. If I could only live as that lily lives now!”
“In a warm bath?”
“No. Floating on the surface of a quiet pool, looking up into your eyes, with no memory for the past, no anticipation of the future.”
“Delightful! especially for me. I think we had better go and look for Ned.”
“Were I in his place I would not be absent from your side now–or ever.”
“That is to say, if you were in his place, you wouldnt be in his place–among the gum trees. Perhaps you would be right.”
“He is the only man I have ever stooped to envy.”
“You have reason to,” said Marian, suddenly grave.
“I envy him sometimes myself. What would you give to be never without a purpose, never with a regret, to regard life as a succession of objects each to be accomplished by so many days’ work; to take your pleasure in trifling lazily with the consciousness of possessing a strong brain; to study love, family affection, and friendship as a doctor studies breathing or digestion; to look on disinterestedness as either weakness or hypocrisy, and on death as a mere transfer of your social function to some member of the next generation?”
“I could achieve all that, if I would, at the cost of my soul. I would not for worlds be such a man, save on one condition.”
“That only as such could I win the woman I loved.”
“Oh, you would not think so much of an insignificant factor like love if you were Ned.”
“May I ask, do you, too, think of love as ‘an insignificant factor’?”
“I? Oh, I am not a sociologist. Besides, I have never been in love.”
“What! You have never been in love?”
“Not the real, romantic, burning, suicidal love your sonnets used to breathe.”
“Then you do not know what love is.”
“You should know whether I do or not.”
“Should I? Then I conclude that you do not. You are growing stout. Your dress is not in the least neglected. I am certain you enjoy life thoroughly. No, you have never known love in all its novelistic-poetic outrageousness. That respectable old passion is a myth.”
“You look for signs that only children shew. When an oak dies, it does not wither and fall at once as a sapling does. Perhaps you will one day know what it is to love.”
“In any case, you will be able to boast of having inspired the passion.”
“I hope so–at least, I mean that it is all nonsense. Do look at that vegetable lobster of a thing, that cactus.”
“In order to set off its ugliness properly, you should see yourself against the background of palms, with that great fan-like leaf for a halo, and—-“
“Thank you. I see it all in my mind’s eye by your eloquent description. You are quite right in supposing that I like compliments; but I am particular about their quality; and I dont need to be told I am pretty in comparison with a hideous cactus. You would not have condescended to make such a speech long ago. You are changed.”
“Not toward you, on my honor.”
“I did not mean that: I meant toward yourself.”
“I am glad you have taken even that slender note of me. I find you somewhat changed, too.”
“I did not know that I shewed it; but it is true. I feel as if Marian Lind was a person whom I knew once, but whom I should hardly know again.”
“The change in me has not produced that effect. I feel as though Marian Lind were the history of my life.”
“You have become quite a master of the art of saying pretty things. You are nearly as glib at it as Ned.”
“We have the same incentive to admiration.”
“The same! You do not suppose that Ned pays _me_ compliments. He never did such a thing in his life. No: I first discovered his talent in that direction at Palermo, where I surprised him in an animated discourse with the dark-eyed daughter of an innkeeper there. That was the first conversation in Italian I succeeded in following. A week later I could understand the language almost as well as he. However, dont let us waste the whole afternoon talking stuff. I want to ask you about your mother. I should greatly like to call upon her; but she has never made me any sign since my marriage; and Mrs. Leith Fairfax tells me that she never allows my name to be mentioned to her. I thought she was fond of me.”
“So she was. But she has never forgiven you for making me suffer as you did. You see she has more spirit than I. She would be angered if she saw me now tamely following the triumphal chariot of my fair tyrant.”
“Seriously, do you think, if I made a raid on Manchester Square some morning, I could coax back her old feeling for me?”
“I think you will be quite safe in calling, at all events. Tell me what day you intend to venture. I know my mother will not oppose me if I shew that I wish you to be kindly received.”
“Most disinterested of you. Thank you: I will fail or succeed on my own merits, not on your recommendation. You must not say a word to her about me or my project.”
“If you command me not to—-“
“I do command you.”
“I must obey. But I fear that the more submissive I am, the more imperious you will become.”
“Very likely. And now look along that avenue to the left. Do you see a man in a brown suit, with straw hat to match, walking towards us at a regular pace, and keeping in a perfectly straight course? He looks at everybody he passes as if he were counting them.”
“He is looking back at somebody now, as if he had missed the number.”
“Just so; but that somebody is a woman; doubtless a pretty one, probably dark. You recognize him, I see. There is a frost come over you which convinces me that you are preparing to receive him in your old ungracious way. I warn you that I am accustomed to see Ned made much of. He has caught sight of us.”
“And has just remarked that there is a man talking to his wife.”
“Quite right. See his speculative air! Now he no longer attends to us. He is looking at the passers-by as before. That means that he has recognized you, and has stowed the observation compactly away in his brain, to be referred to when he comes up to us.”
“So much method must economize his intellect very profitably. How do you do, Mr. Conolly? It is some time since we have had the pleasure of meeting.”
“Glad to see you, Mr. Douglas. We have been away all the winter. Are you staying in London?”
“I hope you will spend an occasional hour with us at Holland Park.”
“You are very kind. Thank you: yes, if Mrs. Conolly will permit me.”
“I should make you come home with us now,” said Marian, “but for this Sunday being a special occasion. Nelly McQuinch is to spend the evening with us; and as I have not seen her since we came back, I must have her all to myself. Come next Sunday, if you care to.”
“Do,” said Conolly. “Half past three is our Sunday hour. If you cannot face that, we are usually at home afterwards the entire evening. Marian: we have exactly fifteen minutes to catch our train.”
“Oh! let us fly. If we miss it, Nelly will be kept waiting half an hour.”
Then they parted, Douglas promising to come to them on that day week.
“Dont you think he is growing very fat?” said she, as they walked away.
“Yes. He is beginning to take the world easily. He does not seem to be making much of his life.”
“What matter, so long as he enjoys it?”
“Pooh! He doesnt know what enjoyment means.”
They said nothing further until they were in the train, where Marian sat looking listlessly through the window, whilst Conolly, opposite, reclining against the cushions, looked thoughtfully at her.
“Ned,” said she, suddenly.
“Do you know that Sholto is more infatuated about me than ever?”
“Naturally. You are lovelier than when he last saw you.”
“You are nearly as complimentary as he,” said Marian, blushing with a gratification which she was very unwilling to betray. “He noticed it sooner than you. I discovered it myself in the glass before either of you.”
“No doubt you did. What station is this?”
“I dont know.” Then, raising her voice so as to be overheard, she exclaimed “Here is a stupid man coming into our carriage.”
A young man entered the compartment, and, after one glance at Marian, who turned her back on him impatiently, spent the remainder of the journey making furtive attempts to catch a second glimpse of her face. Conolly looked a shade graver at his wife’s failure in perfect self-control; but he by no means shared her feelings toward the intrusive passenger. Marian and he were in different humors; and he did not wish to be left alone with her.
As they walked from Addison Road railway station to their house, Conolly mused in silence with his eyes on the gardens by the way. Marian, who wished to talk, followed his measured steps with impatience.
“Let me take your arm, Ned: I cannot keep up with you.”
“I hope I am not inconveniencing you,” she said, after a further interval of silence.
“I am afraid I am. It does not matter. I can get on by myself.”
“Arm in arm is such an inconvenient and ridiculous mode of locomotion–you need not struggle in the public street: now that you have got my arm you shall keep it–I say it is such an inconvenient and ridiculous mode of locomotion that if you were any one else I should prefer to wheel you home in a barrow. Our present mode of proceeding would be inexcusable if I were a traction-engine, and you my tender.”
“Then let me go. What will the people think if they see a great engineer violating the laws of mechanics by dragging his wife by the arm?”
“They will appreciate my motives; and, in fact, if you watch them, you will detect a thinly-disguised envy in their countenances. I violate the laws of mechanics–to use your own sarcastic phrase–for many reasons. I like to be envied when there are solid reasons for it. It gratifies my vanity to be seen in this artistic quarter with a pretty woman on my arm. Again, the sense of possessing you is no longer an abstraction when I hold you bodily, and feel the impossibility of keeping step with you. Besides, Man, who was a savage only yesterday, has his infirmities, and finds a poetic pleasure in the touch of the woman he loves. And I may add that you have been in such a bad temper all the afternoon that I suspect you of an itching to box my ears, and therefore feel safer with your arm in my custody.”
“Oh! _Indeed_ I have not been in a bad temper. I have been most anxious to spend a happy day.”
“And I have been placidly reflective, and not anxious at all. Is that what has provoked you?”
“I am not provoked. But you might tell me what your reflections are about.”
“They would fill volumes, if I could recollect them.”
“You must recollect some of them. From the time we left the station until a moment ago, when we began to talk, you were pondering something with the deepest seriousness. What was it?”
“Of course you forget–just because I want to know. What a crowded road this is!” She disengaged herself from his arm; and this time he did not resist her.
“That reminds me of it. The crowd consists partly of people going to the pro-Cathedral. The pro-Cathedral contains an altar. An altar suggests kneeling on hard stone; and that brings me to the disease called ‘housemaids’ knee,’ which was the subject of my reflections.”
“A pleasant subject for a fine Sunday! Thank you. I dont want to hear any more.”
“But you will hear more of it; for I am going to have the steps of our house taken away and replaced by marble, or slate, or something that can be cleaned with a mop and a pail of water in five minutes.”
“My chain of thought began at the door steps we have passed, all whitened beautifully so as to display every footprint, and all representing an expenditure of useless, injurious labor in hearthstoning, that ought to madden an intelligent housemaid. I dont think our Armande is particularly intelligent; but I am resolved to spare her knees and her temper in future by banishing hearthstone from our establishment forever. I shudder to think that I have been walking upon those white steps and flag ways of ours every day without awakening to a sense of their immorality.”
“I cannot understand why you are always disparaging Armande. And I hate an ill-kept house front. None of our housemaids ever objected to hearthstoning, or were any the worse for it.”
“No. They would not have gained anything by objecting: they would only have lost their situations. You need not fear for your house front. I will order a porch with porphyry steps and alabaster pillars to replace your beloved hearthstone.”
“Yes. That will be clever. Do you know how easy it is to stain marble? Armande will be on her knees all day with a bottle of turpentine and a bit of flannel.”
“You are thinking of inkstains, Marian. You forget that it does not rain ink, and that Nelly will hardly select the porch to write her novels in.”
“Lots of people bring ink on a doorstep. Tax collectors and gasmen carry bottles in their pockets.”
“Ask them into the drawing-room when they call, my dear; or, better still, dont pay them, so that they will have no need to write a receipt. Let me remind you that ink shews as much on white hearthstone as it can possibly do on marble. Yet extensive disfigurements of steps from the visits of tax collectors are not common.”
“Now, Ned, you know that you are talking utter nonsense.”
“Yes, my dear. I think I perceive Nelly looking out of the window for us. Here she is at the door.”
Marian hastened forward and embraced her cousin. Miss McQuinch looked older; and her complexion was drier than before. But she had apparently begun to study her appearance; for her hat and shoes were neat and even elegant, which they had never been within Marian’s previous experience of her.
“_You_ are not changed in the least,” she said, as she gave Conolly her hand. “I have just been wondering at the alteration in Marian. She has grown lovely.”
“I have been telling her so all day, in the vain hope of getting her into a better temper. Come into the drawing-room. Have you been waiting for us long?”
“About fifteen minutes. I have been admiring your organ. I should have tried the piano; but I did not know whether that was allowable on Sunday.”
“Oh! Why did you not pound it to your heart’s content? Ned scandalizes the neighbors every Sunday by continually playing. Armande: dinner as soon as possible, please.”
“I like this house. It is exactly my idea of a comfortable modern home.”
“You must stay long enough to find out its defects,” said Conolly. “We read your novel at Verona; but we could not agree as to which characters you meant to be taken as the good ones.”
“That was only Ned’s nonsense,” said Marian. “Most novels are such rubbish! I am sure you will be able to live by writing just as well as Mrs. Fairfax can.” Conolly shewed Miss McQuinch his opinion of this unhappy remark by a whimsical glance, which she repudiated by turning sharply away from him, and speaking as affectionately as she could to Marian.
After dinner they returned to the drawing-room, which ran from the front to the back of the house. Marian opened a large window which gave access to the garden, and sat down with Elinor on a little terrace outside. Conolly went to the organ.
“May I play a voluntary while you talk?” he asked. “I shall not scandalize any one: the neighbors think all music sacred when it is played on the organ.”
“We have a nice view of the sunset from here,” said Marian, in a low voice, turning her forehead to the cool evening breeze.
“Stuff!” said Elinor. “We didnt come here to talk about the sunset, and what a pretty house you have, and so forth. I want to know–good heavens! what a thundering sound that organ makes!”
“Please dont say anything about it to him: he likes it,” said Marian. “When he wishes to exalt himself, he goes to it and makes it roar until the whole house shakes. Whenever he feels an emotional impulse, he vents it at the organ or the piano, or by singing. When he stops, he is satisfied; his mind is cleared; and he is in a good-humored, playful frame of mind, such as _I_ can gratify.”
“But you were always very fond of music. Dont you ever play together, as we used to do; or sing to one another’s accompaniments?”
“I cannot. I hardly ever touch the piano when he is in the house.”
“Why? Are you afraid of preventing him from having his turn?”
“No: it is not so much that. But–it sounds very silly–if I attempt to play or sing in his presence, I become so frightfully nervous that I hardly know what I am doing. I know he does not like my singing.”
“Are you sure that is not merely your fancy? It sounds very like it.”
“No. At first I used to play a good deal for him, knowing that he was fond of music, and fancying–poor fool that I was! [here Marian spoke so bitterly that Nelly turned and looked hard at her] that it was part of a married woman’s duty in a house to supply music after dinner. At that time he was working hard at his business; and he spent so much time in the city that he had to give up playing himself. Besides, we were flying all about England opening those branch offices, and what not. He always took me with him; and I really enjoyed it, and took quite an interest in the Company. When we were in London, although I was so much alone in the daytime, I was happy in anticipating our deferred honeymoon. Then the time for that paradise came. Ned said that the Company was able to walk by itself at last, and that he was going to have a long holiday after his dry-nursing of it. We went first to Paris, where we heard all the classical concerts that were given while we were there. I found that he never tired of listening to orchestral music; and yet he never ceased grumbling at it. He thought nothing of the great artists in Paris. Then we went for a tour through Brittany; and there, in spite of his classical tastes, he used to listen to the peasants’ songs and write them down. He seemed to like folk songs of all kinds, Irish, Scotch, Russian, German, Italian, no matter where from. So one evening, at a lodging where there was a piano, I played for him that old arrangement of Irish melodies–you know–‘Irish Diamonds,’ it is called.”
“Oh Lord! Yes, I remember. ‘Believe me if all,’ with variations.”
“Yes. He thought I meant it in jest: he laughed at it, and played a lot of ridiculous variations to burlesque it. I didnt tell him that I had been in earnest: perhaps you can imagine how I felt about it. Then, after that, in Italy, he got permission–or rather bought it–to try the organ in a church. It was growing dusk; I was tired with walking; and somehow between the sense of repose, and the mysterious twilight in the old church, I was greatly affected by his playing. I thought it must be part of some great mass or symphony; and I felt how little I knew about music, and how trivial my wretched attempts must appear to him when he had such grand harmonies at his fingers’ ends. But he soon stopped; and when I was about to tell him how I appreciated his performance, he said, ‘What an abominable instrument a bad organ is!’ I had thought it beautiful, of course. I asked him what he had been playing. I said was it not by Mozart; and then I saw his eyebrows go up; so I added, as a saving clause, that perhaps it was something of his own. ‘My dear girl,’ said he, ‘it was only an _entr’acte_ from an opera of Donizetti’s.’ He was carrying my shawl at the time; and he wrapped it about my shoulders in the tenderest manner as he said this, and made love to me all the evening to console me. In his opinion, the greatest misfortune that can happen anyone is to make a fool of oneself; and whenever I do it, he pets me in the most delicate manner, as if I were a child who had just got a tumble. When we settled down here and got the organ, he began to play constantly, and I used to practise the piano in the daytime so as to have duets with him. But though he was always ready to play whenever I proposed it, he was quite different then from what he was when he played by himself. He was all eyes and ears, and the moment I played a wrong note he would name the right one. Then I generally got worse and stopped. He never lost his patience or complained; but I used to feel that he was urging me on, or pulling me back, or striving to get me to do something which I could not grasp. Then he would give me up in despair, and play on mechanically from the notes before him, thinking of something else all the time. I practised harder, and tried again. I thought at first I had succeeded; because our duets went so smoothly and we were always so perfectly together. But I discovered–by instinct I believe–that instead of having a musical treat, he was only trying to please me. He thought I liked playing duets with him; and accordingly he used to sit down beside me and accompany me faithfully, no matter how I chose to play.”
“Dear me! Why doesnt he get Rubinstein to play with him, since he is so remarkably fastidious?”
“It is not so much mechanical skill that I lack; but there is something–I cannot tell what it is. I found it out one night when we were at Mrs. Saunders’s. She is an incurable flirt; and she was quite sure that she had captivated Ned, who is always ready to make love to anyone that will listen to him.”
“A nice sort of man to be married to!”
“He only does it to amuse himself. He does not really care for them: I almost wish he did, sometimes; but it is often none the less provoking. What is worse, no amount of flirtation on my part would make _him_ angry. What happened at Mrs. Saunders’s was this. The Scotts, of Putney, were there; and the first remark Ned made to me was, ‘Who is the woman that knows how to walk?’ It was Mrs. Scott: you know you used to say she moved like a panther. Afterward Mrs. Scott sang ‘Caller Herrin’ in that vulgar Scotch accent that leaks out occasionally in her speech, with Ned at the piano. Everybody came crowding in to listen; and there was great applause. I cannot understand it: she is as hard and matter-of-fact as a woman can be: I dont believe the expression in her singing comes one bit from true feeling. I heard Ned say to her, ‘Thank you, Mrs. Scott: no Englishwoman has the secret of singing a ballad as you have it.’ I knew very well what that meant. _I_ have not the secret. Well, Mrs. Scott came over to me and said ‘Mr. Conolly is a very _pair_tinaceous man. He persuaded me into shewing him the way the little song is sung in Scotland; and I stood up without thinking. And see now, I have been _rag_uilarly singing a song in company for the first time in my life.’ Of course, it was a ridiculous piece of affectation. Ned talked about Mrs. Scott all the way home, and played ‘Caller Herrin’ four times next day. That finished my domestic musical career. I have never sung for him since, except once or twice when he has asked me to try the effect of some passage in one of his music-books.”
“And do you never sing when you go out, as you used to?”
“Only when he is not with me, or when people force me to. If he is in the room, I am so nervous that I can hardly get through the easiest song. He never offers to accompany me now, and generally leaves the room when I am asked to sing.”
“Perhaps he sees the effect his presence has on you.”
“Even so, he ought to stay. He used to like _me_ to listen to _him_, at first.”
Miss McQuinch looked at the sunset with exceeding glumness. There was an ominous pause. Then she said, abruptly, “You remember how we used to debate whether marriage was a mistake or not. Have you found out?”
“I dont know.”
“That sounds rather as if you did know. Are you quite sure you are not in low spirits this evening? He was bantering you about being out of temper when you came in. Perhaps you quarrelled at Kew.”
“Quarrel! He quarrel! I cannot explain to you how we are situated, Nelly. You would not understand me.”
“Suppose you try. For instance, is he as fond of you as he was before you married him?”
“I dont know.”
Miss McQuinch shrugged herself impatiently.
“Really I do not, Nelly. He has changed in a way–I do not quite know how or why. At first he was not very ceremonious. He used to make remarks about people, and discuss everything that came into his head quite freely before me. He was always kind, and never grumbled about his dinner, or lost his temper, or anything of that kind; but–it was not that he was coarse exactly: he was not that in the least; but he was very open and unreserved and plain in his language; and somehow I did not quite like it. He must have found this out: he sees and feels everything by instinct; for he slipped back into his old manner, and became more considerate and attentive than he had ever been before. I was made very happy at first by the change; but I do not think he quite understood what I wanted. I did not at all object to going down to the country with him on his business trips; but he always goes alone now; and he never mentions his work to me. And he is too careful as to what he says to me. Of course, I know that he is right not to speak ill of anybody; but still a man need not be so particular before his wife as before strangers. He has given up talking to me altogether: that is the plain truth, whatever he may pretend. When we do converse, his manner is something like what it was in the laboratory at the Towers. Of course, he sometimes becomes more familiar; only then he never seems in earnest, but makes love to me in a bantering, half playful, half sarcastic way.”
“You are rather hard to please, perhaps. I remember you used to say that a husband should be just as tender and respectful after marriage as before it. You seem to have broken poor Ned into this; and now you are not satisfied.”
“Nelly, if there is one subject on which girls are more idiotically ignorant than on any other, it is happiness in marriage. A courtier, a lover, a man who will not let the winds of heaven visit your face too harshly, is very nice, no doubt; but he is not a husband. I want to be a wife and not a fragile ornament kept in a glass case. He would as soon think of submitting any project of his to the judgment of a doll as to mine. If he has to explain or discuss any serious matter of business with me, he does so apologetically, as if he were treating me roughly.”
“Well, my dear, you see, when he tried the other plan, you did not like that either. What is the unfortunate man to do?”
“I dont know. I suppose I was wrong in shrinking from his confidence. I am always wrong. It seems to me that the more I try to do right, the more mischief I contrive to make.”
“This is all pretty dismal, Marian. What sort of conduct on his part would make you happy?”
“Oh, there are so many little things. He makes me jealous of everything and everybody. I am jealous of the men in the city–I was jealous of the sanitary inspector the other day–because he talks with interest to them. I know he stays in the city later than he need. It is a relief to me to go out in the evening, or to have a few people here once or twice a week; but I am angry because I know it is a relief to him too. I am jealous even of that organ. How I hale those Bach fugues! Listen to the maddening thing twisting and rolling and racing and then mixing itself up into one great boom. He can get on with Bach: he can’t get on with me. I have even condescended to be jealous of other women–of such women as Mrs. Saunders. He despises her: he plays with her as dexterously as she thinks she plays with him; but he likes to chat with her; and they rattle away for a whole evening without the least constraint. She has no conscience: she talks absolute nonsense about art and literature: she flirts even more disgustingly than she used to when she was Belle Woodward; but she is quickwitted, like most Irish people; and she enjoys a broad style of jesting which Ned is a great deal too tolerant of, though he would as soon die as indulge in it before me. Then there is Mrs. Scott, who is just as shrewd as Belle, and much cleverer. I have heard him ask her opinion as to whether he had acted well or not in some stroke of business–something that I had never heard of, of course. I wish I were half as hard and strong and self-reliant as she is. _Her_ husband would be nothing without her.”
“I am afraid I was right all along, Marian. Marriage _is_ a mistake. There is something radically wrong in the institution. If you and Ned cannot be happy, no pair in the world can.”
“We might be very happy if—-” Marian stopped to repress a sob.
“Anybody might be very happy If. There is not much consolation in Ifs. You could not be better off than you are unless you could be Marian Lind again. Think of all the women who would give their souls to have a husband who would neither drink, nor swear at them, nor kick them, nor sulk whenever he was kept waiting half a minute for anything. You have no little pests of children—-“
“I wish I had. That would give us some interest in common. We sometimes have Lucy, Marmaduke’s little girl, up here; and Ned seems to me to be fond of her. She is a very bold little thing.”
“I saw Marmaduke last week. He is not half so jolly as he was.”
“He lives in chambers in Westminster now, and only comes out in this direction occasionally to see Lucy. I am afraid _she_ has taken to drinking. I believe she is going to America. I hope she is; for she makes me uncomfortable when I think of her.”
“Does your–your Ned ever speak of her?”
“No. He used to, before he changed as I described. Now, he never mentions her. Hush! Here he is.”
The sound of the organ had ceased; and Conolly came out and stood between them.
“How do you like my consoler, as Marian calls it?” said he.
“Do you mean the organ?”
“I wasn’t listening to you.”
“You should have: I played the great fugue in A minor expressly for your entertainment: you used to work at Liszt’s transcription of it. The organ is only occasionally my consoler. For the most part I am driven to it by habit and a certain itching in my fingers. Marian is my real consoler.”
“So she has just been telling me,” said Elinor. Conolly’s surprise escaped him for just a moment in a quick glance at Marian. She colored, and looked reproachfully at her cousin, who added, “I am sure you must be a nuisance to the neighbors.”
“Probably,” said Conolly.
“I do not think you should play so much on Sunday,” said Marian.
“I know. [Marian winced.] Well, if the neighbors will either melt down the church bells they jangle so horribly within fifteen yards or so of my unfortunate ears, or else hang them up two hundred feet high in a beautiful tower where they would sound angelic, as they do at Utrecht, then perhaps I will stop the organ to listen to them. Until then, I will take the liberty of celebrating the day of rest with such devices as the religious folk cannot forbid me.”
“Pray do not begin to talk about religion, Ned.”
“My way of thinking is too robust for Marian, Miss McQuinch. I admit that it does not, at first sight, seem pretty or sentimental. But I do not know how even Marian can prefer the church bells to Bach.”
“What do you mean by ‘_even_ Marian’?” said Elinor, sharply.
“I should have said, ‘Marian, who is tolerant and kind to everybody and everything.’ I hope you have forgiven me for carrying her off from you, Miss McQuinch. You are adopting an ominous tone toward me. I fear she has been telling you of our quarrels, and my many domestic shortcomings.”
“No,” said Elinor. “As far as I can judge from her account, you are a monotonously amiable husband.”
“Indeed! Hm! Would you like your coffee out here?”
“Do not stir, Marian: I will ring for it.”
When he was gone, Marian said “Nelly: for Heaven’s sake say nothing that could make the slightest coldness between Ned and me. I am clinging to him with all my heart and soul; and you must help me. Those sharp things that you say to him stab me cruelly; and he is clever enough to guess everything I have said to you from them.”
“If I cannot keep myself from making mischief, I shall go away,” said Elinor. “Dont suppose I am in a huff: I am quite serious. I have an unlucky tongue; and my disposition is such that when I see that a jug is cracked, I feel more inclined to smash and have done with it than to mend it and handle it tenderly ever after. However, I hope your marriage is not a cracked jug yet.”
On the following Wednesday Douglas called on his mother at Manchester Square in the afternoon. As if to emphasize the purely filial motive of his visit, he saluted his mother so affectionately that she was emboldened to be more demonstrative with him than she usually ventured to be.
“My darling boy,” she said, holding him fondly for a moment, “this is the second visit you have paid your poor old mother this week. I want to speak to you about something, too. Marian has been with me this morning.”
“What! Has she gone?” said Douglas.
“Why?” said Mrs. Douglas. “Did you know she was coming?”
“She mentioned to me that she intended to come,” he replied, carelessly; “but she bade me not to tell you.”
“That accounts for your two visits. Well, Sholto, I do not blame you for spending your time in gayer places than this.”
“You must not reproach me for neglecting you, mother. You know my disposition. I am seldom good company for any one; and I do not care to come only to cast a damp on you and your friends when I am morose. I hope you received Marian kindly.”
“I did not expect to see her; and I told her so.”
“But it made no difference. There is no holding her in check now, Sholto; she cares no more for what I say than if I was her father or you. What could I do but kiss and forgive her? She got the better of me.”
“Yes,” said Douglas, gloomily. “She has a wonderful face.”
“The less you see of her face, the better, Sholto. I hope you will not go to her house too often.”
“Do you doubt my discretion, mother?”
“No, no, Sholto. But I am afraid of any unpleasantness arising between you and that man. These working men are so savage to their wives, and so jealous of gentlemen. I hardly like your going into his house at all.”
“Absurd, mother! You must not think that he is a navvy in fustian and corduroys. He seems a sensible man: his address is really remarkably good, considering what he is. As to his being savage, he is quite the reverse. His head is full of figures and machinery; and I am told that he does nothing at home but play the piano. He must bore Marian terribly. I do not want to go to his house particularly; but Marian and he are, of course, very sensitive to anything that can be construed as a slight; and I shall visit them once or twice to prevent them from thinking that I wish to snub Conolly. He will be glad enough to have me at his dinner-table. I am afraid I must hurry away now: I have an appointment at the club. Can I do anything for you in town?”
“No, thank you, Sholto. I thought you would have stayed with me for a cup of tea.”
“Thank you, dear mother, no: not to-day. I promised to be at the club.”
“If you promised, of course, you must go. Good-bye. You will come again soon, will you not?”
“Some day next week, if not sooner. Good-bye, mother.”
Douglas left Manchester Square, not to go to his club, where he had no real appointment, but to avoid spending the afternoon with his mother, who, though a little hurt at his leaving her, was also somewhat relieved by being rid of him. They maintained toward one another an attitude which their friends found beautiful and edifying; but, like artists’ models, they found the attitude fatiguing, in spite of their practice and its dignity.
At Hyde Park Corner, Douglas heard his name unceremoniously shouted. Turning, he saw Marmaduke Lind, carelessly dressed, walking a little behind him.
“Where are you going to?” said Marmaduke, abruptly.
“Why do you ask?” said Douglas, never disposed to admit the right of another to question him.
“I want to have a talk with you. Come and lunch somewhere, will you?”
“Yes, if you wish.”
“Let’s go to the South Kensington Museum.”
“The South—-! My dear fellow, why not suggest Putney, or the Star and Garter? Why do you wish to go westward from Hyde Park in search of luncheon?”
“I have a particular reason. I am to meet someone at the Museum this afternoon; and I want to ask your advice first. You might as well come; it’s only a matter of a few minutes if we drive.”
“Well, as you please. I have not been to the Museum for years.”
“All right. Come al—-oh, damn! There’s Lady Carbury and Constance coming out of the Park. Dont look at them. Come on.”
But Constance, sitting a little more uprightly than her mother, who was supine upon the carriage cushions, had seen the two gentlemen as they stood talking.
“Mamma,” she said, “there’s Marmaduke and Sholto Douglas.”
“Where???” said the Countess, lifting her head quickly. “Josephs, drive slowly. Where are they, Constance?”
“They are going away. I believe Marmaduke saw us. There he is, passing the hospital.”
“We must go and speak to them. Look pleasant, child; and dont make a fool of yourself.”
“Surely youll not speak to him, mamma! You dont expect me—-“
“Nonsense. I heard a great deal about him the other day. He has moved from where he was living, and is quite reformed. His father is very ill. Do as I tell you. Josephs, stop half way to the hotel.”
“I say,” said Marmaduke, finding himself out-manoeuvred: “come back. There they are right ahead, confound them. What are they up to?”
“It cannot be helped,” said Douglas. “There is no escape. You must not cross: it would be pointedly rude.”
Marmaduke went on grumbling. When he attempted to pass, the Countess called his name, and greeted him with smiles.
“We want to know how your father is,” she said. “We have had such alarming accounts of him. I hope he is better.”
“They havnt told me much about him,” said Marmaduke. “There was deuced little the matter with the governor when I saw him last.”
“Wicked prodigal! What shall we do to reform him, Mr. Douglas? He has not been to see us for three years past, and during that time we have had the worst reports of him.”
“You never asked me to go and see you.”
“Silly fellow! Did you expect me to send you invitations and leave cards on you, who are one of ourselves? Come to-morrow to dinner. Your uncle the Bishop will be there; and you will see nearly all the family besides. You cannot plead that you have not been invited now. Will you come?”
“No. I cant stand the Bishop. Besides, I have taken to dining in the middle of the day.”
“Come after dinner, then?”
“Mamma,” said Constance, peevishly, “can’t you see that he does not want to come at all? What is the use of persecuting him?”
“No, I assure you,” said Marmaduke. “It’s only the Bishop I object to. I’ll come after dinner, if I can.”
“And pray what is likely to prevent you?” said the Countess.
“Devilment of some sort, perhaps,” he replied. “Since you have all given me a bad name, I dont see why I should make any secret of earning it.”
The Countess smiled slyly at him, implying that she was amused, but must not laugh at such a sentiment in Constance’s presence. Then, turning so as to give the rest of the conversation an air of privacy, she whispered, “I must tell you that you no longer have a bad name. It is said that your wild oats are all sown, and I will answer for it that even the Bishop will receive you with open arms.”
“And dry my repentant tears on his apron, the old hypocrite,” said Marmaduke, speaking rather more loudly than before. “Well, we must be trotting. We are going to the South Kensington Museum–to improve our minds.”
“Why, that is where we are going; at least, Constance is. She is going to work at her painting while I pay a round of visits. Wont you come with us?”
“Thank you: I’d rather walk. A man should have gloves and a proper hat for your sort of travelling.”
“Nonsense! you look very nice. Besides, it is only down the Brompton Road.”
“The worst neighborhood in London to be seen in with me. I know all sorts of queer people down Brompton way. I should have to bow to them if we met; and that wouldnt do before _her_,”–indicating Constance, who was conversing with Douglas.
“You are incorrigible: I give you up. Good-bye, and dont forget to-morrow evening.”
“I wonder,” said Marmaduke, as the carriage drove off, “what she’s saying about me to Constance now.”
“That you are the rudest man in London, perhaps.”
“Serve her right! I hate her. I have got so now that I can’t stand that sort of woman. You see her game, dont you; she can’t get Constance off her hands; and she thinks there’s a chance of me still. How well she knows about the governor’s state of health! And Conny, too, grinning at me as if we were the best friends in the world. If that girl had an ounce of spirit she would not look on the same side of the street with me.”
Douglas, without replying, called a cab. Marmaduke’s loud conversation was irksome in the street, and it was now clear that he was unusually excited. At the museum they alighted, and passed through the courts into the grill-room, where they sat down together at a vacant table, and ordered luncheon.
“You were good enough to ask my advice about something,” said Douglas. “What is the matter?”
“Well,” said Marmaduke, “I am in a fix. Affairs have become so uncomfortable at home that I have had to take up my quarters elsewhere.”
“I did not know that you had been living at home. I thought your father and you were on the usual terms.”
“My father! Look here: I mean home–_my_ home. My place at Hammersmith, not down at the governor’s.”
“Oh! I beg your pardon.”
“Of course, you know all about my establishment there with Lalage Virtue? her real name is Susanna Conolly.”
“Is it true, then, that she is a cousin of Marian’s husband?”
“Cousin! She’s his sister, and Marian’s sister-in-law.”
“I never believed it.”
“It’s true enough. But thats not the mischief. Douglas: I tell you she’s the cleverest woman in London. She can do anything she likes. She can manage a conversation with any foreigner in his own language, whether she knows it or not. She gabbles Italian like a native. She can learn off her part in a new piece, music and all, between breakfast and luncheon, any day. She can cook: she can make a new bonnet out of the lining of an old coat: she can drive a bargain with a Jew. She says she never learns a thing at all unless she can learn it in ten minutes. She can fence, and shoot. She can dance anything in the world. I never knew such a mimic as she is. If you saw her take off the Bones at the Christy Minstrels, you’d say she was the lowest of the low. Next minute she will give herself the airs of a duchess, or do the ingenuous in a style that would make Conny burst with envy. To see her preaching like George would make you laugh for a week. There’s nothing she couldnt do if she chose. And now, what do you think she has taken to? Liquor. Champagne by the gallon. She used to drink it by the bottle: now she drinks it by the dozen–by the case. She wanted it to keep up her spirits. That was the way it began. If she felt down, a glass of champagne would set her up. Then she was always feeling down, and always setting herself up. At last feeling down came to mean the same thing as being sober. You dont know what a drunken woman is, Douglas, unless youve lived in the same house with one.” Douglas recoiled, and looked very sternly at Marmaduke, who proceeded more vehemently. “She’s nothing but a downright beast. She’s either screaming at you in a fit of rage, or clawing at you in a fit of fondness that makes you sick. When she falls asleep, there she is, a besotted heap tumbled anyhow into bed, snoring and grunting like a pig. When she wakes, she begins planning how to get more liquor. Think of what you or I would feel if we saw our mothers tipsy. By God, that child of mine wouldnt believe its eyes if it saw its mother sober. Only for Lucy, I’d have pitched her over long ago. I did all I could when I first saw that she was overdoing the champagne. I swore I’d break the neck of any man I caught bringing wine into the house. I sacked the whole staff of servants twice because I found a lot of fresh corks swept into the dustpan. I stopped drinking at home myself: I got in doctors to frighten her: I tried bribing, coaxing, threatening: I knocked her down once when I caught her with a bottle in her hand; and she fell with her head against the fender, and frightened me a good deal more than she hurt herself. It was no use. Sometimes she used to defy me, and say she _would_ drink, she didnt care whether she was killing herself or not. Other times she cried; implored me to save her from destroying herself; asked me why I didnt thrash the life out of her whenever I caught her drunk; promised on her oath never to touch another drop. The same evening she would be drunk again, and, when I taxed her with it, say that she wasn’t drunk, that she was sick, and that she prayed the Almighty on her knees to strike her dead if she had a bottle in the house. Aye, and the very stool she knelt on would be a wine case with a red cloth stuck to it with a few gilt-headed nails to make it look like a piece of furniture. Next day she would laugh at me for believing her, and ask me what use I supposed there was in talking to her. How she managed to hold on at the theatre, I dont know. She wouldnt learn new parts, and stuck to old ones that she could do in her sleep, she knew them so well. She would go on the stage and get through a long part when she couldnt walk straight from the wing to her dressing-room. Of course, her voice went to the dogs long ago; but by dint of screeching and croaking she pulls through. She says she darent go on sober now; that she knows she should break down. The theatre has fallen off, too. The actors got out of the place one by one–they didnt like playing with her–and were replaced by a third-rate lot. The audiences used to be very decent: now they are all cads and fast women. The game is up for her in London. She has been offered an engagement in America on the strength of her old reputation; but what is the use of it if she continues drinking.”
“That is very sad,” said Douglas, with cold disgust, perfunctorily veiled by a conventional air of sympathy. “But if she is irreclaimable, why not leave her?”
“So I would, only for the child. I _have_ left her–at least, I’ve taken lodgings in town; but I am always running out to Laurel Grove. I darent trust Lucy to her; and she knows it; for she wouldnt let me take the poor little creature away, although she doesnt care two straws for it. She knows that it gives her a grip over me. Well, I have not seen her for a week past. I have tried the trick of only going out in the evening when she has to be at the theatre. And now she has sent me a long letter; and I dont exactly know what to do about it. She swears she has given up drinking–not touched a spoonful since I saw her last. She’s as superstitious as an old woman; and yet she will swear to that lie with oaths that make _me_ uncomfortable, although I am pretty thick-skinned in religious matters. Then she goes drivelling on about me having encouraged her to drink at first, and then turned upon her and deserted her when I found out the mischief I had done. I used to stand plenty of champagne, but I am sure I never thought what would come of it. Then she says she gave up every friend in the world for me: broke with her brother, and lost her place in society. _Her_ place in society, mind you, Douglas! Thats not bad, is it? Then, of course, I am leaving her to die alone with her helpless child: I might have borne with her a little longer: she will not trouble me nor anyone else much more; and so on. The upshot is that she wants me to come back. She says I ought to be there to save the child from her, if I dont care to save her from herself; that I was the last restraint on her; and that if I dont come she will make an end of the business by changing her tipple to prussic acid. The whole thing is a string of maudlin rot from beginning to end; and I believe she primed herself with about four bottles of champagne to write it. Still, I dont want to leave her in the lurch. You are a man who stand pretty closely on your honor. Do you think I ought to go back? I may tell you that as regards money she is under no compliment to me. Her earnings were a good half of our income; and she saved nothing out of them. In fact, I owe her some money for two or three old debts she paid for me. We always shared like husband and wife.”
“I hardly understand your hesitation, Lind. You can take the little girl out of her hands; allow her something; and be quit of her.”
“Thats very easy to say; but I cant drag her child away from her if she insists on keeping it.”
“Well, so much the better for you. It would be a burden to you. Pay her for its maintenance: that is probably what she wants.”
“No, no,” said Marmaduke, impatiently. “You dont understand. Youre talking as if I were a rake living with a loose woman.”
Douglas looked at him doubtfully. “I confess I do not understand,” he said. “Perhaps you will be good enough to explain.”
“It’s very simple. I went to live with her because I fell in love with her, and she wouldnt marry me. She had a horror of marriage; and I was naturally not very eager for it myself. Matters must be settled between us as if we were husband and wife. Paying her off is all nonsense. She doesnt want money; and I want the child; so she has the advantage of me. Only for the drink I would go back to her to-morrow; but I cant stand her when she is not sober. I bore with it long enough; and now all I want is to get Lucy out of her hands and be quit of her, as you say–although it seems mean to leave her.”
“She must certainly be a very extraordinary woman if she refused to marry you. Are you sure she is not married already?”
“Bosh! Not she. She likes to be independent; and she has a sort of self-respect–not like Constance and the old Countess, who hunted me long enough in the hope of running me down at last in a church.”
“If you offered her marriage, that certainly frees you from the least obligation to stay with her. She reserved liberty to leave you; and, of course, the same privilege was implied on your part. If you have no sentimental wish to return to her, you are most decidedly not bound in honor to.”
“I’m fond enough of her when she is sober; but I loathe her when she is fuddled. If she would only give up drinking, we might make a fresh start. But she wont.”
“You must not think of doing that. Get rid of her, my dear fellow. This marriage of Marian’s has put the affair on a new footing altogether. I tell you candidly, I think that under the circumstances your connexion with Conolly’s sister is a disgraceful one.”
“Hang Conolly! Everybody thinks of Marian, and nobody of Susanna. I have heard enough of that side of the question. Marian married him with her eyes open.”
“Do you mean to say that she knew?”
“Of course she did. Conolly told her, fairly enough. He’s an extraordinary card, that fellow.”
“Reginald Lind told my mother that the discovery was made by accident after the marriage, and that they were all shocked by it. It was he who said that it was Conolly’s _cousin_ that you were with.”
“Uncle Rej. is an old liar. So are most of the family: I never believe a word they say.”
“Marian must have been infatuated. I advise you to break the connexion. She will be glad to give you the child if she sees that you are resolved to leave her. She only holds on because she hopes to make it the means of bringing you back.”
“I expect youre about right. She wants me to meet her here to-day at half past three. Thats the reason I came.”
“Do you know that it now wants twenty minutes of four?”
“Whew! So it does. I had better go and look for her. I’m very much obliged to you, old fellow, for talking it over with me. I suppose you dont want to meet her.”
“I should be in the way at present.”
Marmaduke, leaving Douglas in the grill-room, went upstairs to the picture galleries, where several students were more or less busy at their easels. Lady Constance was in the Sheepshanks gallery, copying “Sterne’s Maria,” by Charles Landseer, as best she could. She had been annoyed some minutes before by the behavior of a stout woman in a rich costume of black silk, who had stopped for a moment to inspect her drawing. Lady Constance, by a look, had made her aware that she was considered intrusive, whereupon she had first stared Lady Constance out of countenance, and then deliberately scanned her work with an expression which conveyed a low opinion of its merit. Having thus revenged herself, she stood looking uneasily at the door for a minute, and at last wandered away into the adjoining gallery. A few minutes later Marmaduke entered, looking round as if in search of someone.
“Here I am,” said Constance to him, playfully.
“So I see,” said Marmaduke, recognizing her with rueful astonishment. “You knew I was looking for you, did you?”
“Of course I did, sir.”
“Youre clever, so you are. What are you doing here?”
“Dont you see? I am copying a picture.”
“Oh! it’s very pretty. Which one are you copying?”
“What an impertinent question! You can tell my poor copy well enough, only you pretend not to.”
“Yes, now that I look closely at it, I fancy it’s a little like Mary the maid of the inn there.”
“It’s not Mary: it’s Maria–Sterne’s Maria.”
“Indeed! Do you read Sterne?”
“Certainly not,” said Constance, looking very serious.
“Then what do you paint his Maria for? How do you know whether she is a fit subject for you?”
“Hush, sir! You must not interrupt my work.”
“I suppose you have lots of fun here over your art studies, eh?”
“You, and all the other girls here.”
“Oh, I am sure I dont know any of them.”
“Quite right, too, your ladyship. Dont make yourself cheap. I hope none of the low beggars ever have the audacity to speak to you.”
“I dont know anything about them,” said Lady Constance, pettishly. “All I mean is that they are strangers to me.”
“Most likely theyll remain so. You all seem to stick to the little pictures tremendously. Why dont you go in for high art? There’s a big picture of Adam and Eve! Why dont you paint that?”
“Will you soon be leaving town?” she replied, looking steadily at her work, and declining to discuss Adam and Eve, who were depicted naked. Receiving no reply, she looked round, and saw Marmaduke leaving the room with the woman in the black silk dress.
“Who is that girl?” said Susanna, as they went out.
“That’s Lady Constance, whom I was to have married.”
“I guessed as much when I saw you talking to her. She is a true English lady, heaven bless her! I took the liberty of looking at her painting; and she stared at me as if I had bitten her.”
“She is a little fool.”
“She will not be such a little fool as to try to snub me again, I think. Bob: did you get my letter?”
“Of course I got it, or I shouldnt be here.”
“Well, I dont believe a word of it.”
“That’s plain speaking.”
“There is no use mincing matters. You are just as likely to stop drinking as you are to stop breathing.”
“Perhaps I shall stop breathing before long.”
“Very likely, at your present rate.”
“That will be a relief to you.”
“It will be a relief to everybody, and a release for yourself. You have made me miserable for a year past; and now you expect me to be frightened at the prospect of being rid of you.”
“I dont expect you to be frightened. I expect you to do what all men do: throw me aside as soon as I have served your turn.”
“Yes. Of course, _you_ are the aggrieved party. Where’s Lucy?”
“I dont know, and I dont care.”
“Well, I want to know; and I do care. Is she at home?”
“How do I know whether she is at home or not. I left her there. Very likely she is with her Aunt Marian, telling stories about her mother.”
“She is better there than with you. What harm has she done you that you should talk about her in that way?”
“No harm. I dont object to her being there. She has very pleasant conversations with Mrs. Ned, which she retails to me at home. ‘Aunty Marian: why do you never drink champagne? Mamma is always drinking it.’ And then, ‘Mamma: why do you drink so much wine? Aunty Marian never drinks any.’ Good heavens! the little devil told me this morning by way of consolation that she always takes care not to tell her Aunty that I get drunk.”
“What did you do to her for saying it?”
“Dont lose your temper. I didnt strangle her, nor even box her ears. Why should I? She only repeats what you teach her.”
“She repeats what her eyes and ears teach her. If she learned the word from me, she learned the meaning from you. A nice lesson for a child hardly three years old.”
Susanna sat down on a bench, and looked down at her feet. After a few moments, she tightened her lips; rose; and walked away.
“Hallo! Where are you going to?” said Marmaduke, following her.
“I’m going to get some drink. I have been sober and miserable ever since I wrote to you. I have not got much thanks for it, except to be made more miserable. So I’ll get drunk, and be happy.”
“No, you shant,” said Marmaduke, seizing her arm, and forcibly stopping her.
“What does it matter to you whether I do or not? You say you won’t come back. Then leave me to go my own way.”
“Here! you sit down,” he said, pushing her into a chair. “I know your game well enough. You think you have me safe as long as you have the child.”
“Oh, thats it, is it? Why dont you go out; take a cab; and go to Laurel Grove for her? There is nothing to prevent you taking her away.”
“I have a good mind to do it.”
“Well, _do_ it. I wont stop you. Why didnt you do it long ago? Her home is no place for her. I’m not fit to have charge of her. I have no fancy for having her talking about me, and most likely mimicking me to other people.”
“Thats exactly what I want to arrange with you to do, if you will only be reasonable. Listen. Let us part friends, Susanna, since there is no use in our going on together. You must give me the child. It would only be a burden to you; and I can have it well taken care of. You can keep the house just as it is: I will pay the rent of it.”
“What good is the house to me?”
“Can’t you hear me out? It will be good to you to live in, I suppose; or you can set it on fire, and wipe it off the face of the earth, for what I care. I can give you five hundred pounds down—-“
“Five hundred pounds! And what will you live on until your October dividends come in? On credit, I suppose. Do you think you can impose on me by flourishing money before me? I will never take a halfpenny from you; no, not if I starve for it.”
“Thats all nonsense, Susanna. You must.”
“Must I? Do you think you can make me take your money as you made me sit down here? by force!”
“I only offer you what I owe you. Those debts—-“
“I dont want what you owe me. If you think it mean to leave me, you shant plaster up your conscience with bank notes. You would like to be able to say in your club that you treated me handsomely.”
“I dont think it mean to leave you, not a bit of it. Any other man would have left you months ago. If I had married that little fool inside there, and she had taken to drink, I wouldnt have stood it a week. I have stood it from you nearly a year. Can you expect me to stay under the same roof with you, with the very thought of you making me sick and angry? I was looking at some of your old likenesses the other day; and I declare that it is enough to make a man cry to look at your face now and listen to your voice. When you used to lecture me for losing a twenty pound note at billiards, and coming home half screwed–no man shall ever see me drunk again–I little thought which of us would be the first to go to the dogs.”
“I shall not trouble you long.”
“What is the use of harping on that? I have seen you drunk so often that I should almost be glad to see you dead.”
“Stop!” said Susanna, rising. “All right: you need say no more. Talking will not remedy matters; and it makes me feel pretty much as if you were throwing big stones at my heart. Youre in the right, I suppose: I’ve chosen to make a beast of myself, and I must take the consequences. You can have the child. I will send for my things: you wont see me at Laurel Grove again. Good-bye.”
“Dont say another word, Bob. Good-bye.” He took her hand irresolutely. She drew it quickly away; nodded to him; and went out, whilst he stood wondering whether it would be safe–seeing that he did not desire a reconciliation–to kiss her good-bye.
On Sunday afternoon Douglas walked, facing a glorious sunset, along Uxbridge Road to Holland Park, where he found Mrs. Conolly, Miss McQuinch, and Marmaduke. A little girl was playing in the garden. They were all so unconstrained, and so like their old selves, that Douglas at once felt that Conolly was absent.
“I am to make Ned’s excuses,” said Marian. “He has some pressing family affairs to arrange.” She seemed about to explain further; but Marmaduke looked so uneasily at her that she stopped. Then, resuming gaily, she added, “I told Ned that he need not stand on ceremony with you. Fancy my saying that of you, the most punctilious of men!”
“Quite right. I am glad that Mr. Conolly has not suffered me to interfere with his movements,” he replied, with a smile, which he suppressed as he turned and greeted Miss McQuinch with his usual cold composure. But to Marmaduke, who seemed much cast down, he gave an encouraging squeeze of the hand. Not that he was moved by the misfortunes of Marmaduke; but he was thawed by the beauty of Marian.
“We shall have a pleasant evening,” continued Marian. “Let us fancy ourselves back at Westbourne Terrace again. Reminiscences make one feel so deliciously aged and sad. Let us think that it is one of our old Sunday afternoons. Sholto had better go upstairs and shave, to heighten the illusion.”
“Not for me, since I cannot see myself, particularly if I have to call you Mrs. Conolly. If I may call you Marian, as I used to do, I think that our conversation will contain fewer reminders of the lapse of time.”
“Of course,” said Marian, disregarding an anxious glance from Elinor. “What else should you call me? We were talking about Nelly’s fame when you came in. The colonial edition of her book has just appeared. Behold the advertisement!”
There was a newspaper open on the table; and Marian pointed to one of its columns as she spoke. Douglas took it up and read the following:
Now Ready, a New and Cheaper Edition, crown 8vo, 5s.
THE WATERS OF MARAH,
BY ELINOR MCQUINCH.
“Superior to many of the numerous tales which find a ready sale at the railway bookstall.” _Athenaeum_.
“There is nothing to fatigue, and something to gratify, the idle reader.” _Examiner_.
“There is a ring of solid metal in ‘The Waters of Marah.'” _Daily Telegraph_.
“Miss McQuinch has fairly established her claim to be considered the greatest novelist of the age.” _Middlingtown Mercury._
“Replete with thrilling and dramatic incident….. Instinct with passion and pathos.” _Ladies’ Gazette_.
TABUTEAU & SON, COVENT GARDEN.
“That is very flattering,” said Douglas, as he replaced the paper on the table.
“Highly so,” said Elinor. “Coriolanus displaying his wounds in the Forum is nothing to it.” And she abruptly took the paper, and threw it disgustedly behind the sofa. Just then a message from the kitchen engaged Marian’s attention, and Douglas, to relieve her from her guests for the moment, strolled out upon the little terrace, whither Marmaduke had moodily preceded him.
“Still in your difficulties, Lind?” he said, with his perfunctory air of concern, looking at the garden with some interest.
“I’m out of my difficulties clean enough,” said Marmaduke. “There’s the child among the currant bushes; and I am rid of her mother: for good, I suppose.”
“So much the better! I hope it has not cost you too much.”
“Not a rap. I met her in the museum after our confab on Wednesday, and told her what you recommended: that I must have the child, and that she must go. She said all right, and shook hands. I havnt seen her since.”
“I congratulate you.”
“I dont feel comfortable about her.”
“Absurd, man! What better could you have done?”
“Thats just what I say. It was her own fault; I did all in my power. I offered her five hundred pounds down. She wouldnt have it, of course; but could I help that? Next day, when she sent her maid for her things, I felt so uneasy that I came to Conolly, and told him the whole affair. He behaved very decently about it, and said that I might as well have left her six months ago for all the good my staying had done or was likely to do. He has gone off to see her to-day–she is in lodgings somewhere near the theatre; and he will let me know in case any money is required. I should like to know what they are saying to one another about me. They’re a rum pair.”
“Well, let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die,” said Douglas, with an unnatural attempt at humor. “Marian seems happy. We must not spoil her evening.”
“Yes: she is always in good spirits when he is away.”
“It seems to me that they dont pull together. I think she is afraid of him.”
“You dont mean to say that he ill-treats her?” said Douglas, fiercely.
“No: I dont mean that he thrashes her, or anything of that sort. And yet he is just that sort of chap that I shouldnt be surprised at anything he might do. As far as ordinary matters go, he seems to treat her particularly well. But Ive noticed that she shuts up and gets anxious when he comes into the room; and he has his own way in everything.”
“Is that all? He embarrasses her by his behavior, I suppose. Perhaps she is afraid of his allowing his breeding to peep out.”
“Not she. His manners are all right enough. Besides, as he is a genius and a celebrity and all that, people dont expect him to be conventional. He might stand on his head, if he chose.”
“Sholto,” said Marian, joining them: “have you spoken to little Lucy?”
“Then you are unacquainted with the most absolute imp on the face of the earth,” said Elinor. “You neednt frown, Marmaduke: it is you who have made her so.”
“Leave her alone,” said Marmaduke to Marian, who was about to call the child. “Petting babies is not in Douglas’s line: she will only bore him.”
“Not at all,” said Douglas.
“It does not matter whether she bores him or not,” said Marian. “He must learn to take a proper interest in children. Lucy: come here.”
Lucy stopped playing, and said, “What for?”
“Because I ask you to, dear,” said Marian, gently.
The child considered for a while, and then resumed her play. Miss McQuinch laughed. Marmaduke muttered impatiently, and went down the garden. Lucy did not perceive him until he was within a few steps of her, when she gave a shrill cry of surprise, and ran to the other side of a flower-bed too wide for him to spring across. He gave chase; but she, with screams of laughter, avoided him by running to and fro so as to keep on the opposite side to him. Feeling that it was undignified to dodge his child thus, he stopped and bade her come to him; but she only laughed the more. He called her in tones of command, entreaty, expostulation, and impatience. At last he shouted to her menacingly. She placed her thumbnail against the tip of her nose; spread her fingers; and made him a curtsy. He uttered an imprecation, and returned angrily to the house, saying, between his teeth:
“Let her stay out, since she chooses to be obstinate.”
“She is really too bad to-day,” said Marian. “I am quite shocked at her.”
“She is quite right not to come in and be handed round for inspection like a doll,” said Elinor.
“She is very bold not to come when she is told,” said Marian.
“Yes, from your point of view,” said Elinor. “I like bold children.”
Marmaduke was sulky and Marian serious for some time after this incident. They recovered their spirits at dinner, when Marian related to Douglas how she had become reconciled to his mother. Afterward, Marmaduke suggested a game at whist.
“Oh no, not on Sunday,” said Marian. “Whist is too wicked.”
“Then what the dickens _may_ we do?” said Marmaduke. “May Nelly play _ecarte_ with me?”
“Well, please dont play for money. And dont sit close to the front window.”
“Come along, then, Nell. You two may sing hymns, if you like.”
“I wish you could sing, Sholto,” said Marian. “It is an age since we last had a game of chess together. Do you still play?”
“Yes,” said Douglas; “I shall be delighted. But I fear you will beat me now, as I suppose you have been practising with Mr. Conolly.”
“Playing with Ned! No: he hates chess. He says it is a foolish expedient for making idle people believe they are doing something very clever when they are only wasting their time. He actually grumbled about the price of the table and the pieces; but I insisted on having them, I suppose in remembrance of you.”
“It is kind of you to say that, Marian. Will you have black or white?”
“White, please, unless you wish me to be always making moves with your men.”
“Now. Will you move?”
“I think I had rather you began. Remember our old conditions. You are not to checkmate me in three moves; and you are not to take my queen.”
“Very well. You may rely upon it I shall think more of my adversary than of my game. Check.”
“Oh! You have done it in three moves. That is not fair. I won’t play any more unless you take back that.”
“No, I assure you it is not checkmate. My bishop should be at the other side for that. There! of course, that will do.”
“What a noise Marmaduke makes over his cards! I hope the people next door will not hear him swearing.”
“Impossible. You must not move that knight: it exposes your king. Do you know, I think there is a great charm about this house.”
“Indeed? Yes, it is a pretty house.”
“And this sunset hour makes it additionally so; Besides, it is inexpressibly sad to see you here, a perfectly happy and perfectly beautiful mistress of this romantic foreign home.”
“What do you mean, Sholto?”
“I call it a foreign home because, though it is yours, I have no part nor lot in it. Remember, we are only playing at old times to-night. Everything around, from the organ to the ring on your finger, reminds me that I am a stranger here. It seems almost unkind of you to regret nothing whilst I am full of regrets.”
“Check,” said Marian. “Mind your game, sir.”
“Flippant!” exclaimed Douglas, impatiently moving his king. “I verily believe that if your husband were at the bottom of the Thames at this moment, you would fly off unconcernedly to some other nest, and break hearts with as much indifference as ever.”
“I wish you would not make suggestions of that sort, Sholto. You make me uncomfortable. Something _might_ happen to Ned. I wish he were home. He is very late.”
“Happy man. You can be serious when you think about him. I envy him.”
“What! Sholto Douglas stoop to envy any mortal! Prodigious!”
“Yes: it has come to that with me. Why should I not envy him? His career has been upward throughout. He has been a successful worker in the world, where I have had nothing real to do. When the good things I had been dreaming of and longing for all my life came in his path, he had them for the mere asking. I valued them so highly that when I fancied I possessed them, I was the proudest of men. I am humble enough now that I am beggared.”
“You are really talking the greatest nonsense.”
“No doubt I am. Still in love, Marian, you see. There is no harm in telling you so now.”
“On the contrary, it is now that there is harm. For shame, Sholto!”
“I am not ashamed. I tell you of my love because now you can listen to me without uneasiness, knowing that it is no longer associated with hope, or desire, or anything but regret. You see that I do not affect the romantic lover. I eat very well; I play chess; I go into society; and you reproach me for growing fat.”
Marian bent over the chessboard for a moment to hide her face. Then she said in a lower voice, “I have thoroughly convinced myself that there is no such thing as love in the world.”
“That means that you have never experienced it.”
“I have told you already that I have never been in love, and that I dont believe a bit in it. I mean romantic love, of course.”
“I verily believe that you have not. The future has one more pang in store for me; for you will surely love some day.”
“I am getting too old for that, I fear. At what age, pray, did you receive the arrow in your heart?”
“When I was a boy, I loved a vision. The happiest hours of my life were those in which I was slowly, tremulously daring to believe that I had found my vision at last in you. And then the dreams that followed! What a career was to have been mine! I remember how you used to reproach me because I was austere with women and proud with men. How could I have been otherwise? I contrasted the gifts of all other women with those of my elect, and the lot of all other men with my own. Can you wonder that, doing so, I carried my head among the clouds? You must remember how unfamiliar failure was to me. At school, at Oxford, in society, I had sought distinction without misgiving, and attained it without difficulty. My one dearest object I deemed secure long before I opened my lips and asked expressly for it. I think I walked through life at that time like a somnambulist; for I have since seen that I must have been piling mistake upon mistake until out of a chaos of meaningless words and smiles I had woven a Paphian love temple. At the first menace of disappointment–a thing as new and horrible to me as death–I fled the country. I came back with only the ruins of the doomed temple. You were not content to destroy a ruin: the feat was too easy to be glorious. So you rebuilt it in one hour to the very dome, and lighted its altars with more than their former radiance. Then, as though it were but a house of cards–as indeed it was nothing else–you gave it one delicate touch and razed it to its foundations. Yet I am afraid those altar lamps were not wholly extinguished. They smoulder beneath the ruins still.”
“I wonder why they made you the Newdigate poet at Oxford, Sholto: you mix your metaphors most dreadfully. Dont be angry with me: I understand what you mean; and I am very sorry. I say flippant things because I must. How _can_ one meet seriousness in modern society except by chaff?”
“I am not angry. I had rather you did not understand. The more flippant you are, the more you harden my heart; and I want it to be as hard as the nether millstone. Your pity would soften me; and I dread that.”
“I believe it does every man good to be softened. If you ever really felt what you describe, you greatly over-estimated me. What can you lose by a little more softness? I often think that men–particularly good men–make their way through the world too much as if it were a solid mass of iron through which they must cut–as if they dared not relax their hardest edge and finest temper for a moment. Surely, that is not the way to enjoy life.”
“Perhaps not. Still, it is the way to conquer in life. It may be pleasant to have a soft heart; but then someone is sure to break it.”
“I do not believe much in broken hearts. Besides, I do not mean that men should be too soft. For instance, sentimental young men of about twenty are odious. But for a man to get into a fighting attitude at the barest suggestion of sentiment; to believe in nature as something inexorable, and to aim at being as inexorable as nature: is not that almost as bad?”
“Do you know any such man? You must not attribute that sort of hardness to me.”
“Oh no; I was not thinking of you. I was not thinking of anyone in fact. I only put a case. I sometimes have disputes with Ned on the subject. One of his cardinal principles is that there is no use in crying for spilt milk. I always argue that as irremediable disasters are the only ones that deserve or obtain sympathy, he might as well say that there is no use in crying for anything. Then he slips out of the difficulty by saying that that was just what he meant, and that there is actually no place for regret in a well-regulated scheme of life. In debating with women, men brazen out all the ridiculous conclusions of which they are convicted; and then they say that there is no use in arguing with a woman. Neither is there, because the woman is always right.”
“Yes; because she suffers her heart to direct her.”
“You are just as bad as the rest of your sex, I see. Where you cannot withold credit from a woman, you give it to her heart and deny it to her head.”
“There! I wont play any more,” said Miss McQuinch, suddenly, at the other end of the room. “Have you finished your chess, Marian?”
“We are nearly done. Ring for the lamps, please, Nelly. Let us finish, Sholto.”
“Whose turn is it to move? I beg your pardon for my inattention.”
“Mine–no, yours. Stop! it must be mine. I really dont know.”
“Nor do I. I have forgotten my game.”
“Then let us put up the board. We can finish some other night.”
It had become dark by this time; and the lamps were brought in whilst Douglas was replacing the chessmen in their box.
“Now,” said Marian, “let us have some music. Marmaduke: will you sing Uncle Ned for us? We have not heard you sing for ages.”
“I believe it is more than three years since that abominable concert at Wandsworth; and I have not heard you sing since,” said Elinor.
“I forget all my songs–havnt sung one of them for months. However, here goes! Have you a banjo in the house?”
“No,” said Marian. “I will play an accompaniment for you.”
“All right. See here: you need only play these three chords. When one sounds wrong, play another. Youll learn it in a moment.”
Marmaduke’s voice was not so fresh, nor his fun so spontaneous, as at Wandsworth; but they were not critical enough to appreciate the difference: they laughed like children at him. Elinor was asked to play; but she would not: she had renounced that folly, she said. Then, at Douglas’s request, Marian sang, in memory of Wandsworth, “Rose, softly blooming.” When she had finished, Elinor asked for some old melodies, knowing that Marian liked these best. So she began gaily with The Oak and the Ash and Robin Adair. After that, finding both herself and the others in a more pathetic vein, she sang them The Bailiff’s Daughter of Islington, and The Banks of Allan Water, at the end of which Marmaduke’s eyes were full of tears, and the rest sat quite still. She paused for a minute, and then broke the silence with Auld Robin Gray, which affected even Douglas, who had no ear. As she sang the last strain, the click of a latchkey was heard from without. Instantly she rose; closed the pianoforte softly; and sat down at some distance from it. Her action was reflected by a change in their behavior. They remembered that they were not at home, and became more or less uneasily self-conscious. Elinor was the least disturbed. Conolly’s first glance on entering was at the piano: his next went in search of his wife.
“Ah!” he said, surprised. “I thought somebody was singing.”
“Oh dear no!” said Elinor drily. “You must have been mistaken.”
“Perhaps so,” said he, smiling. “But I have been listening carefully at the window for ten minutes; and I certainly dreamt that I heard Auld Robin Gray.”
Marian blushed. Conolly did not seem to have been moved by the song. He was alert and loquacious: before he had finished his greeting and apology to Douglas, they all felt as little sentimental as they had ever done in their lives. Marian, after asking whether he had dined, became silent, and dropped the pretty airs of command which, as hostess, she had worn before.
“Have you any news?” said Marmaduke at last. “Douglas knows the whole business. We are all friends here.”
“Only what we expected,” said Conolly. “Affairs are exactly as they were. I called to-day at her address–“
“How did you get it?” said Marmaduke.
“I wrote for it to her at the theatre.”