Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Can You Forgive Her?
Author: Trollope, Anthony, 1815-1882
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Can You Forgive Her?" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



CAN YOU FORGIVE HER?

by

ANTHONY TROLLOPE

First published serially in 1864-1865 and in book form
in 1864 (Volume I) and 1865 (Volume II)



CONTENTS

         I. Mr Vavasor and His Daughter
        II. Lady Macleod
       III. John Grey, the Worthy Man
        IV. George Vavasor, the Wild Man
         V. The Balcony at Basle
        VI. The Bridge over the Rhine
       VII. Aunt Greenow
      VIII. Mr Cheesacre
        IX. The Rivals
         X. Nethercoats
        XI. John Grey Goes to London
       XII. Mr George Vavasor at Home
      XIII. Mr Grimes Gets His Odd Money
       XIV. Alice Vavasor Becomes Troubled
        XV. Paramount Crescent
       XVI. The Roebury Club
      XVII. Edgehill
     XVIII. Alice Vavasor's Great Relations
       XIX. Tribute from Oileymead
        XX. Which Shall It Be?
       XXI. Alice Is Taught to Grow Upwards, Towards the Light
      XXII. Dandy and Flirt
     XXIII. Dinner at Matching Priory
      XXIV. Three Politicians
       XXV. In Which Much of the History of the Pallisers Is Told
      XXVI. Lady Midlothian
     XXVII. The Priory Ruins
    XXVIII. Alice Leaves the Priory
      XXIX. Burgo Fitzgerald
       XXX. Containing a Love Letter
      XXXI. Among the Fells
     XXXII. Containing an Answer to the Love Letter
    XXXIII. Monkshade
     XXXIV. Mr Vavasor Speaks to His Daughter
      XXXV. Passion versus Prudence
     XXXVI. John Grey Goes a Second Time to London
    XXXVII. Mr Tombe's Advice
   XXXVIII. The Inn at Shap
     XXXIX. Mr Cheesacre's Hospitality
        XL. Mrs Greenow's Little Dinner in the Close
       XLI. A Noble Lord Dies
      XLII. Parliament Meets
     XLIII. Mrs Marsham
      XLIV. The Election for the Chelsea Districts
       XLV. George Vavasor Takes His Seat
      XLVI. A Love Gift
     XLVII. Mr Cheesacre's Disappointment
    XLVIII. Preparations for Lady Monk's Party
      XLIX. How Lady Glencora Went to Lady Monk's Party
         L. How Lady Glencora Came Back from Lady Monk's Party
        LI. Bold Speculations on Murder
       LII. What Occurred in Suffolk Street, Pall Mall
      LIII. The Last Will of the Old Squire
       LIV. Showing How Alice Was Punished
        LV. The Will
       LVI. Another Walk on the Fells
      LVII. Showing How the Wild Beast Got Himself Back from the
            Mountains
     LVIII. The Pallisers at Breakfast
       LIX. The Duke of St Bungay in Search of a Minister
        LX. Alice Vavasor's Name Gets into the Money Market
       LXI. The Bills Are Made All Right
      LXII. Going Abroad
     LXIII. Mr John Grey in Queen Anne Street
      LXIV. The Rocks and Valleys
       LXV. The First Kiss
      LXVI. Lady Monk's Plan
     LXVII. The Last Kiss
    LXVIII. From London to Baden
      LXIX. From Baden to Lucerne
       LXX. At Lucerne
      LXXI. Showing How George Vavasor Received a Visit
     LXXII. Showing How George Vavasor Paid a Visit
    LXXIII. In Which Come Tidings of Great Moment to All Pallisers
     LXXIV. Showing What Happened in the Churchyard
      LXXV. Rouge et Noir
     LXXVI. The Landlord's Bill
    LXXVII. The Travellers Return Home
   LXXVIII. Mr Cheesacre's Fate
     LXXIX. Diamonds Are Diamonds
      LXXX. The Story Is Finished Within the Halls of the Duke of
            Omnium



VOLUME I

CHAPTER I

Mr Vavasor and His Daughter


Whether or no, she, whom you are to forgive, if you can, did or did
not belong to the Upper Ten Thousand of this our English world, I am
not prepared to say with any strength of affirmation. By blood she
was connected with big people,--distantly connected with some very
big people indeed, people who belonged to the Upper Ten Hundred if
there be any such division; but of these very big relations she had
known and seen little, and they had cared as little for her. Her
grandfather, Squire Vavasor of Vavasor Hall, in Westmoreland, was a
country gentleman, possessing some thousand a year at the outside,
and he therefore never came up to London, and had no ambition to have
himself numbered as one in any exclusive set. A hot-headed, ignorant,
honest old gentleman, he lived ever at Vavasor Hall, declaring to any
who would listen to him, that the country was going to the mischief,
and congratulating himself that at any rate, in his county,
parliamentary reform had been powerless to alter the old political
arrangements. Alice Vavasor, whose offence against the world I am to
tell you, and if possible to excuse, was the daughter of his younger
son; and as her father, John Vavasor, had done nothing to raise
the family name to eminence, Alice could not lay claim to any high
position from her birth as a Vavasor. John Vavasor had come up to
London early in life as a barrister, and had failed. He had failed at
least in attaining either much wealth or much repute, though he had
succeeded in earning, or perhaps I might better say, in obtaining,
a livelihood. He had married a lady somewhat older than himself,
who was in possession of four hundred a year, and who was related
to those big people to whom I have alluded. Who these were and the
special nature of the relationship, I shall be called upon to explain
hereafter, but at present it will suffice to say that Alice Macleod
gave great offence to all her friends by her marriage. She did not,
however, give them much time for the indulgence of their anger.
Having given birth to a daughter within twelve months of her
marriage, she died, leaving in abeyance that question as to whether
the fault of her marriage should or should not be pardoned by her
family.

When a man marries an heiress for her money, if that money be within
her own control, as was the case with Miss Macleod's fortune, it is
generally well for the speculating lover that the lady's friends
should quarrel with him and with her. She is thereby driven to throw
herself entirely into the gentleman's arms, and he thus becomes
possessed of the wife and the money without the abominable nuisance
of stringent settlements. But the Macleods, though they quarrelled
with Alice, did not quarrel with her _à l'outrance_. They snubbed
herself and her chosen husband; but they did not so far separate
themselves from her and her affairs as to give up the charge of her
possessions. Her four hundred a year was settled very closely on
herself and on her children, without even a life interest having
been given to Mr Vavasor, and therefore when she died the mother's
fortune became the property of the little baby. But, under these
circumstances, the big people did not refuse to interest themselves
to some extent on behalf of the father. I do not suppose that any
actual agreement or compact was made between Mr Vavasor and the
Macleods; but it came to be understood between them that if he made
no demand upon them for his daughter's money, and allowed them to
have charge of her education, they would do something for him. He was
a practising barrister, though his practice had never amounted to
much; and a practising barrister is always supposed to be capable of
filling any situation which may come his way. Two years after his
wife's death Mr Vavasor was appointed assistant commissioner in some
office which had to do with insolvents, and which was abolished three
years after his appointment. It was at first thought that he would
keep his eight hundred a year for life and be required to do nothing
for it; but a wretched cheeseparing Whig government, as John Vavasor
called it when describing the circumstances of the arrangement to his
father, down in Westmoreland, would not permit this; it gave him the
option of taking four hundred a year for doing nothing, or of keeping
his whole income and attending three days a week for three hours
a day during term time, at a miserable dingy little office near
Chancery Lane, where his duty would consist in signing his name to
accounts which he never read, and at which he was never supposed even
to look. He had sulkily elected to keep the money, and this signing
had been now for nearly twenty years the business of his life. Of
course he considered himself to be a very hardly-used man. One Lord
Chancellor after another he petitioned, begging that he might be
relieved from the cruelty of his position, and allowed to take his
salary without doing anything in return for it. The amount of work
which he did perform was certainly a minimum of labour. Term time, as
terms were counted in Mr Vavasor's office, hardly comprised half the
year, and the hours of weekly attendance did not do more than make
one day's work a week for a working man; but Mr Vavasor had been
appointed an assistant commissioner, and with every Lord Chancellor
he argued that all Westminster Hall, and Lincoln's Inn to boot, had
no right to call upon him to degrade himself by signing his name to
accounts. In answer to every memorial he was offered the alternative
of freedom with half his income; and so the thing went on.

There can, however, be no doubt that Mr Vavasor was better off and
happier with his almost nominal employment than he would have been
without it. He always argued that it kept him in London; but he
would undoubtedly have lived in London with or without his official
occupation. He had become so habituated to London life in a small
way, before the choice of leaving London was open to him, that
nothing would have kept him long away from it. After his wife's death
he dined at his club every day on which a dinner was not given to him
by some friend elsewhere, and was rarely happy except when so dining.
They who have seen him scanning the steward's list of dishes, and
giving the necessary orders for his own and his friend's dinner, at
about half past four in the afternoon, have seen John Vavasor at
the only moment of the day at which he is ever much in earnest. All
other things are light and easy to him,--to be taken easily and to be
dismissed easily. Even the eating of the dinner calls forth from him
no special sign of energy. Sometimes a frown will gather on his brow
as he tastes the first half glass from his bottle of claret; but as
a rule that which he has prepared for himself with so much elaborate
care, is consumed with only pleasant enjoyment. Now and again it will
happen that the cook is treacherous even to him, and then he can hit
hard; but in hitting he is quiet, and strikes with a smile on his
face.

Such had been Mr Vavasor's pursuits and pleasures in life up to the
time at which my story commences. But I must not allow the reader to
suppose that he was a man without good qualities. Had he when young
possessed the gift of industry I think that he might have shone in
his profession, and have been well spoken of and esteemed in the
world. As it was he was a discontented man, but nevertheless he was
popular, and to some extent esteemed. He was liberal as far as his
means would permit; he was a man of his word; and he understood well
that code of by-laws which was presumed to constitute the character
of a gentleman in his circle. He knew how to carry himself well among
men, and understood thoroughly what might be said, and what might
not; what might be done among those with whom he lived, and what
should be left undone. By nature, too, he was kindly disposed, loving
many persons a little if he loved few or none passionately. Moreover,
at the age of fifty, he was a handsome man, with a fine forehead,
round which the hair and beard was only beginning to show itself to
be grey. He stood well, with a large person, only now beginning to
become corpulent. His eyes were bright and grey, and his mouth and
chin were sharply cut, and told of gentle birth. Most men who knew
John Vavasor well, declared it to be a pity that he should spend his
time in signing accounts in Chancery Lane.

I have said that Alice Vavasor's big relatives cared but little for
her in her early years; but I have also said that they were careful
to undertake the charge of her education, and I must explain away
this little discrepancy. The biggest of these big people had hardly
heard of her; but there was a certain Lady Macleod, not very big
herself, but, as it were, hanging on to the skirts of those who
were so, who cared very much for Alice. She was the widow of a Sir
Archibald Macleod, K.C.B., who had been a soldier, she herself having
also been a Macleod by birth; and for very many years past--from
a time previous to the birth of Alice Vavasor--she had lived at
Cheltenham, making short sojourns in London during the spring, when
the contents of her limited purse would admit of her doing so. Of
old Lady Macleod I think I may say that she was a good woman;--that
she was a good woman, though subject to two of the most serious
drawbacks to goodness which can afflict a lady. She was a Calvinistic
Sabbatarian in religion, and in worldly matters she was a devout
believer in the high rank of her noble relatives. She could almost
worship a youthful marquis, though he lived a life that would
disgrace a heathen among heathens; and she could and did, in her own
mind, condemn crowds of commonplace men and women to all eternal
torments of which her imagination could conceive, because they
listened to profane music in a park on Sunday. Yet she was a good
woman. Out of her small means she gave much away. She owed no man
anything. She strove to love her neighbours. She bore much pain with
calm unspeaking endurance, and she lived in trust of a better world.
Alice Vavasor, who was after all only her cousin, she loved with an
exceeding love, and yet Alice had done very much to extinguish such
love. Alice, in the years of her childhood, had been brought up by
Lady Macleod; at the age of twelve she had been sent to a school at
Aix-la-Chapelle,--a comitatus of her relatives having agreed that
such was to be her fate, much in opposition to Lady Macleod's
judgement; at nineteen she had returned to Cheltenham, and after
remaining there for little more than a year, had expressed her
unwillingness to remain longer with her cousin. She could sympathize
neither with her relative's faults or virtues. She made an
arrangement, therefore, with her father, that they two would keep
house together in London, and so they had lived for the last five
years;--for Alice Vavasor when she will be introduced to the reader
had already passed her twenty-fourth birthday.

Their mode of life had been singular and certainly not in all
respects satisfactory. Alice when she was twenty-one had the full
command of her own fortune; and when she induced her father, who for
the last fifteen years had lived in lodgings, to take a small house
in Queen Anne Street, of course she offered to incur a portion of
the expense. He had warned her that his habits were not those of a
domestic man, but he had been content simply so to warn her. He had
not felt it to be his duty to decline the arrangement because he knew
himself to be unable to give to his child all that attention which
a widowed father under such circumstances should pay to an only
daughter. The house had been taken, and Alice and he had lived
together, but their lives had been quite apart. For a short time, for
a month or two, he had striven to dine at home and even to remain at
home through the evening; but the work had been too hard for him and
he had utterly broken down. He had said to her and to himself that
his health would fail him under the effects of so great a change made
so late in life, and I am not sure that he had not spoken truly. At
any rate the effort had been abandoned, and Mr Vavasor now never
dined at home. Nor did he and his daughter ever dine out together.
Their joint means did not admit of their giving dinners, and
therefore they could not make their joint way in the same circle. It
thus came to pass that they lived apart,--quite apart. They saw each
other, probably daily; but they did little more than see each other.
They did not even breakfast together, and after three o'clock in the
day Mr Vavasor was never to be found in his own house.

Miss Vavasor had made for herself a certain footing in society,
though I am disposed to doubt her right to be considered as holding
a place among the Upper Ten Thousand. Two classes of people she had
chosen to avoid, having been driven to such avoidings by her aunt's
preferences; marquises and such-like, whether wicked or otherwise,
she had eschewed, and had eschewed likewise all Low Church
tendencies. The eschewing of marquises is not generally very
difficult. Young ladies living with their fathers on very moderate
incomes in or about Queen Anne Street are not usually much troubled
on that matter. Nor can I say that Miss Vavasor was so troubled. But
with her there was a certain definite thing to be done towards such
eschewal. Lady Macleod by no means avoided her noble relatives,
nor did she at all avoid Alice Vavasor. When in London she was
persevering in her visits to Queen Anne Street, though she considered
herself, nobody knew why, not to be on speaking terms with Mr
Vavasor. And she strove hard to produce an intimacy between Alice
and her noble relatives--such an intimacy as that which she herself
enjoyed;--an intimacy which gave her a footing in their houses but no
footing in their hearts, or even in their habits. But all this Alice
declined with as much consistency as she did those other struggles
which her old cousin made on her behalf,--strong, never-flagging,
but ever-failing efforts to induce the girl to go to such places of
worship as Lady Macleod herself frequented.

A few words must be said as to Alice Vavasor's person; one fact
also must be told, and then, I believe, I may start upon my story.
As regards her character, I will leave it to be read in the story
itself. The reader already knows that she appears upon the scene at
no very early age, and the mode of her life had perhaps given to her
an appearance of more years than those which she really possessed. It
was not that her face was old, but that there was nothing that was
girlish in her manners. Her demeanour was as staid, and her voice
as self-possessed as though she had already been ten years married.
In person she was tall and well made, rather large in her neck and
shoulders, as were all the Vavasors, but by no means fat. Her hair
was brown, but very dark, and she wore it rather lower upon her
forehead than is customary at the present day. Her eyes, too, were
dark, though they were not black, and her complexion, though not
quite that of a brunette, was far away from being fair. Her nose was
somewhat broad, and _retroussé_ too, but to my thinking it was a
charming nose, full of character, and giving to her face at times a
look of pleasant humour, which it would otherwise have lacked. Her
mouth was large, and full of character, and her chin oval, dimpled,
and finely chiselled, like her father's. I beg you, in taking her for
all in all, to admit that she was a fine, handsome, high-spirited
young woman.

And now for my fact. At the time of which I am writing she was
already engaged to be married.



CHAPTER II

Lady Macleod


I cannot say that the house in Queen Anne Street was a pleasant
house. I am now speaking of the material house, made up of the walls
and furniture, and not of any pleasantness or unpleasantness supplied
by the inmates. It was a small house on the south side of the street,
squeezed in between two large mansions which seemed to crush it,
and by which its fair proportion of doorstep and area was in truth
curtailed. The stairs were narrow; the dining-room was dark, and
possessed none of those appearances of plenteous hospitality which a
dining-room should have. But all this would have been as nothing if
the drawing-room had been pretty as it is the bounden duty of all
drawing-rooms to be. But Alice Vavasor's drawing-room was not pretty.
Her father had had the care of furnishing the house, and he had
intrusted the duty to a tradesman who had chosen green paper, a green
carpet, green curtains, and green damask chairs. There was a green
damask sofa, and two green arm-chairs opposite to each other at the
two sides of the fireplace. The room was altogether green, and was
not enticing. In shape it was nearly square, the very small back room
on the same floor not having been, as is usual, added to it. This had
been fitted up as a "study" for Mr Vavasor, and was very rarely used
for any purpose.

Most of us know when we enter a drawing-room whether it is a pretty
room or no; but how few of us know how to make a drawing-room pretty!
There has come up in London in these latter days a form of room so
monstrously ugly that I will venture to say that no other people on
earth but Londoners would put up with it. Londoners, as a rule, take
their houses as they can get them, looking only to situation, size,
and price. What Grecian, what Roman, what Turk, what Italian would
endure, or would ever have endured, to use a room with a monstrous
cantle in the form of a parallelogram cut sheerly out of one corner
of it? This is the shape of room we have now adopted,--or rather
which the builders have adopted for us,--in order to throw the whole
first floor into one apartment which may be presumed to have noble
dimensions,--with such drawback from it as the necessities of the
staircase may require. A sharp unadorned corner projects itself into
these would-be noble dimensions, and as ugly a form of chamber is
produced as any upon which the eye can look. I would say more on
the subject if I dared to do so here, but I am bound now to confine
myself to Miss Vavasor's room. The monstrous deformity of which I
have spoken was not known when that house in Queen Anne Street was
built. There is to be found no such abomination of shape in the
buildings of our ancestors,--not even in the days of George the
Second. But yet the drawing-room of which I speak was ugly, and Alice
knew that it was so. She knew that it was ugly, and she would greatly
have liked to banish the green sofa, to have re-papered the wall, and
to have hung up curtains with a dash of pink through them. With the
green carpet she would have been contented. But her father was an
extravagant man; and from the day on which she had come of age she
had determined that it was her special duty to avoid extravagance.

"It's the ugliest room I ever saw in my life," her father once said
to her.

"It is not very pretty," Alice replied.

"I'll go halves with you in the expense of redoing it," said Mr
Vavasor.

"Wouldn't that be extravagant, papa? The things have not been here
quite four years yet."

Then Mr Vavasor had shrugged his shoulders and said nothing more
about it. It was little to him whether the drawing-room in Queen
Anne Street was ugly or pretty. He was on the committee of his club,
and he took care that the furniture there should be in all respects
comfortable.

It was now June; and that month Lady Macleod was in the habit of
spending among her noble relatives in London when she had succeeded
in making both ends so far overlap each other at Cheltenham as to
give her the fifty pounds necessary for this purpose. For though she
spent her month in London among her noble friends, it must not be
supposed that her noble friends gave her bed or board. They sometimes
gave her tea, such as it was, and once or twice in the month they
gave the old lady a second-rate dinner. On these occasions she
hired a little parlour and bedroom behind it in King Street, Saint
James's, and lived a hot, uncomfortable life, going about at nights
to gatherings of fashionable people of which she in her heart
disapproved, seeking for smiles which seldom came to her, and which
she excused herself for desiring because they were the smiles of her
kith and her kin, telling herself always that she made this vain
journey to the modern Babylon for the good of Alice Vavasor, and
telling herself as often that she now made it for the last time. On
the occasion of her preceding visit she had reminded herself that
she was then seventy-five years old, and had sworn to herself that
she would come to London no more; but here she was again in London,
having justified the journey to herself on the plea that there were
circumstances in Alice's engagement which made it desirable that she
should for a while be near her niece. Her niece, as she thought, was
hardly managing her own affairs discreetly.

"Well, aunt," said Alice, as the old lady walked into the
drawing-room one morning at eleven o'clock. Alice always called Lady
Macleod her aunt, though, as has been before explained, there was no
such close connexion between them. During Lady Macleod's sojourn in
London these morning visits were made almost every day. Alice never
denied herself, and even made a point of remaining at home to receive
them unless she had previously explained that she would be out; but I
am not prepared to say that they were, of their own nature, agreeable
to her.

"Would you mind shutting the window, my dear?" said Lady Macleod,
seating herself stiffly on one of the small ugly green chairs. She
had been educated at a time when easy-chairs were considered vicious,
and among people who regarded all easy postures as being so; and she
could still boast, at seventy-six, that she never leaned back. "Would
you mind shutting the window? I'm so warm that I'm afraid of the
draught."

"You don't mean to say that you've walked from King Street," said
Alice, doing as she was desired.

"Indeed I do,--every step of the way. Cabs are so ruinous. It's a
most unfortunate thing; they always say it's just over the two miles
here. I don't believe a word of it, because I'm only a little more
than the half-hour walking it; and those men will say anything. But
how can I prove it, you know?"

"I really think it's too far for you to walk when it's so warm."

"But what can I do, my dear? I must come, when I've specially come up
to London to see you. I shall have a cab back again, because it'll
be hotter then, and dear Lady Midlothian has promised to send her
carriage at three to take me to the concert. I do so wish you'd go,
Alice."

"It's out of the question, aunt. The idea of my going in that way at
the last moment, without any invitation!"

"It wouldn't be without an invitation, Alice. The marchioness has
said to me over and over again how glad she would be to see you, if
I would bring you."

"Why doesn't she come and call if she is so anxious to know me?"

"My dear, you've no right to expect it; you haven't indeed. She never
calls even on me."

"I know I've no right, and I don't expect it, and I don't want
it. But neither has she a right to suppose that, under such
circumstances, I shall go to her house. You might as well give it up,
aunt. Cart ropes wouldn't drag me there."

"I think you are very wrong,--particularly under your present
circumstances. A young woman that is going to be married, as you
are--"

"As I am,--perhaps."

"That's nonsense, Alice. Of course you are; and for his sake you are
bound to cultivate any advantages that naturally belong to you. As to
Lady Midlothian or the marchioness coming to call on you here in your
father's house, after all that has passed, you really have no right
to look for it."

"And I don't look for it."

"That sort of people are not expected to call. If you'll think of it,
how could they do it with all the demands they have on their time?"

"My dear aunt, I wouldn't interfere with their time for worlds."

"Nobody can say of me, I'm sure, that I run after great people or
rich people. It does happen that some of the nearest relations I
have,--indeed I may say the nearest relations,--are people of high
rank; and I do not see that I'm bound to turn away from my own flesh
and blood because of that, particularly when they are always so
anxious to keep up the connexion."

"I was only speaking of myself, aunt. It is very different with you.
You have known them all your life."

"And how are you to know them if you won't begin? Lady Midlothian
said to me only yesterday that she was glad to hear that you were
going to be married so respectably, and then--"

"Upon my word I'm very much obliged to her ladyship. I wonder whether
she considered that she married respectably when she took Lord
Midlothian?"

Now Lady Midlothian had been unfortunate in her marriage, having
united herself to a man of bad character, who had used her ill, and
from whom she had now been for some years separated. Alice might have
spared her allusion to this misfortune when speaking of the countess
to the cousin who was so fond of her, but she was angered by the
application of that odious word respectable to her own prospects;
and perhaps the more angered as she was somewhat inclined to feel
that the epithet did suit her own position. Her engagement, she
had sometimes told herself, was very respectable, and had as often
told herself that it lacked other attractions which it should have
possessed. She was not quite pleased with herself in having accepted
John Grey,--or rather perhaps was not satisfied with herself in
having loved him. In her many thoughts on the subject, she always
admitted to herself that she had accepted him simply because she
loved him;--that she had given her quick assent to his quick proposal
simply because he had won her heart. But she was sometimes almost
angry with herself that she had permitted her heart to be thus easily
taken from her, and had rebuked herself for her girlish facility.
But the marriage would be at any rate respectable. Mr Grey was a man
of high character, of good though moderate means; he was, too, well
educated, of good birth, a gentleman, and a man of talent. No one
could deny that the marriage would be highly respectable, and her
father had been more than satisfied. Why Miss Vavasor herself was
not quite satisfied will, I hope, in time make itself appear. In the
meanwhile it can be understood that Lady Midlothian's praise would
gall her.

"Alice, don't be uncharitable," said Lady Macleod severely. "Whatever
may have been Lady Midlothian's misfortunes no one can say they have
resulted from her own fault."

"Yes they can, aunt, if she married a man whom she knew to be a
scapegrace because he was very rich and an earl."

"She was the daughter of a nobleman herself, and only married in
her own degree. But I don't want to discuss that. She meant to be
good-natured when she mentioned your marriage, and you should take
it as it was meant. After all she was only your mother's second
cousin--"

"Dear aunt, I make no claim on her cousinship."

"But she admits the claim, and is quite anxious that you should know
her. She has been at the trouble to find out everything about Mr
Grey, and told me that nothing could be more satisfactory."

"Upon my word I am very much obliged to her."

Lady Macleod was a woman of much patience, and possessed also
of considerable perseverance. For another half-hour she went on
expatiating on the advantages which would accrue to Alice as a
married woman from an acquaintance with her noble relatives, and
endeavouring to persuade her that no better opportunity than the
present would present itself. There would be a place in Lady
Midlothian's carriage, as none other of the daughters were going but
Lady Jane. Lady Midlothian would take it quite as a compliment, and a
concert was not like a ball or any customary party. An unmarried girl
might very properly go to a concert under such circumstances as now
existed without any special invitation. Lady Macleod ought to have
known her adopted niece better. Alice was immoveable. As a matter
of course she was immoveable. Lady Macleod had seldom been able to
persuade her to anything, and ought to have been well sure that, of
all things, she could not have persuaded her to this.

Then, at last, they came to another subject, as to which Lady Macleod
declared that she had specially come on this special morning,
forgetting, probably, that she had already made the same assertion
with reference to the concert. But in truth the last assertion was
the correct one, and on that other subject she had been hurried
on to say more than she meant by the eagerness of the moment. All
the morning she had been full of the matter on which she was now
about to speak. She had discussed it quite at length with Lady
Midlothian;--though she was by no means prepared to tell Alice
Vavasor that any such discussion had taken place. From the concert,
and the effect which Lady Midlothian's countenance might have upon
Mr Grey's future welfare, she got herself by degrees round to a
projected Swiss tour which Alice was about to make. Of this Swiss
tour she had heard before, but had not heard who were to be Miss
Vavasor's companions until Lady Midlothian had told her. How it had
come to pass that Lady Midlothian had interested herself so much in
the concerns of a person whom she did not know, and on whom she in
her greatness could not be expected to call, I cannot say; but from
some quarter she had learned who were the proposed companions of
Alice Vavasor's tour, and she had told Lady Macleod that she did not
at all approve of the arrangement.

"And when do you go, Alice?" said Lady Macleod.

"Early in July, I believe. It will be very hot, but Kate must be back
by the middle of August." Kate Vavasor was Alice's first cousin.

"Oh! Kate is to go with you?"

"Of course she is. I could not go alone, or with no one but George.
Indeed it was Kate who made up the party."

"Of course you could not go alone with George," said Lady Macleod,
very grimly. Now George Vavasor was Kate's brother, and was therefore
also first cousin to Alice. He was heir to the old squire down in
Westmoreland, with whom Kate lived, their father being dead. Nothing,
it would seem, could be more rational than that Alice should go to
Switzerland with her cousins; but Lady Macleod was clearly not of
this opinion; she looked very grim as she made this allusion to
cousin George, and seemed to be preparing herself for a fight.

"That is exactly what I say," answered Alice. "But, indeed, he is
simply going as an escort to me and Kate, as we don't like the rôle
of unprotected females. It is very good-natured of him, seeing how
much his time is taken up."

"I thought he never did anything."

"That's because you don't know him, aunt."

"No; certainly I don't know him." She did not add that she had no
wish to know Mr George Vavasor, but she looked it. "And has your
father been told that he is going?"

"Of course he has."

"And does--" Lady Macleod hesitated a little before she went on, and
then finished her question with a little spasmodic assumption of
courage. "And does Mr Grey know that he is going?"

Alice remained silent for a full minute before she answered this
question, during which Lady Macleod sat watching her grimly, with her
eyes very intent upon her niece's face. If she supposed such silence
to have been in any degree produced by shame in answering the
question, she was much mistaken. But it may be doubted whether she
understood the character of the girl whom she thought she knew so
well, and it is probable that she did make such mistake.

"I might tell you simply that he does," said Alice at last, "seeing
that I wrote to him yesterday, letting him know that such were our
arrangements; but I feel that I should not thus answer the question
you mean to ask. You want to know whether Mr Grey will approve of it.
As I only wrote yesterday of course I have not heard, and therefore
cannot say. But I can say this, aunt, that much as I might regret his
disapproval, it would make no change in my plans."

"Would it not? Then I must tell you, you are very wrong. It ought
to make a change. What! the disapproval of the man you are going to
marry make no change in your plans?"

"Not in that matter. Come, aunt, if we must discuss this matter let
us do it at any rate fairly. In an ordinary way, if Mr Grey had asked
me to give up for any reason my trip altogether, I should have given
it up certainly, as I would give up any other indifferent project at
the request of so dear a friend,--a friend with whom I am so--so--so
closely connected. But if he asked me not to travel with my cousin
George, I should refuse him absolutely, without a word of parley
on the subject, simply because of the nature and closeness of my
connection with him. I suppose you understand what I mean, aunt?"

"I suppose I do. You mean that you would refuse to obey him on the
very subject on which he has a right to claim your obedience."

"He has no right to claim my obedience on any subject," said Alice;
and as she spoke Aunt Macleod jumped up with a little start at the
vehemence of the words, and of the tone in which they were expressed.
She had heard that tone before, and might have been used to it; but,
nevertheless, the little jump was involuntary. "At present he has no
right to my obedience on any subject, but least of all on that," said
Alice. "His advice he may give me, but I am quite sure he will not
ask for obedience."

"And if he advises you you will slight his advice."

"If he tells me that I had better not travel with my cousin George I
shall certainly not take his advice. Moreover, I should be careful to
let him know how much I was offended by any such counsel from him.
It would show a littleness on his part, and a suspicion of which I
cannot suppose him to be capable." Alice, as she said this, got up
from her seat and walked about the room. When she had finished she
stood at one of the windows with her back to her visitor. There was
silence between them for a minute or two, during which Lady Macleod
was deeply considering how best she might speak the terrible words,
which, as Alice's nearest female relative, she felt herself bound to
utter. At last she collected her thoughts and her courage, and spoke
out.

"My dear Alice, I need hardly say that if you had a mother living,
or any person with you filling the place of a mother, I should not
interfere in this matter."

"Of course, Aunt Macleod, if you think I am wrong you have quite a
right to say so."

"I do think you are wrong,--very wrong, indeed; and if you persist in
this I am afraid I must say that I shall think you wicked. Of course
Mr Grey cannot like you to travel with George Vavasor."

"And why not, aunt?" Alice, as she asked this question, turned round
and confronted Lady Macleod boldly. She spoke with a steady voice,
and fixed her eyes upon the old lady's face, as though determined to
show that she had no fear of what might be said to her.

"Why not, Alice? Surely you do not wish me to say why not."

"But I do wish you to say why not. How can I defend myself till the
accusation is made?"

"You are now engaged to marry Mr Grey, with the consent and
approbation of all your friends. Two years ago you had--had--"

"Had what, aunt? If you mean to say that two years ago I was engaged
to my cousin George you are mistaken. Three years ago I told him
that under certain conditions I would become engaged to him. But my
conditions did not suit him, nor his me, and no engagement was ever
made. Mr Grey knows the history of the whole thing. As far as it was
possible I have told him everything that took place."

"The fact was, Alice, that George Vavasor's mode of life was such
that an engagement with him would have been absolute madness."

"Dear aunt, you must excuse me if I say that I cannot discuss George
Vavasor's mode of life. If I were thinking of becoming his wife you
would have a perfect right to discuss it, because of your constant
kindness to me. But as matters are he is simply a cousin; and as I
like him and you do not, we had better say nothing about him."

"I must say this--that after what has passed, and at the present
crisis of your life--"

"Dear aunt, I'm not in any crisis."

"Yes you are, Alice; in the most special crisis of a girl's life. You
are still a girl, but you are the promised wife of a very worthy man,
who will look to you for all his domestic happiness. George Vavasor
has the name, at least, of being very wild."

"The worthy man and the wild man must fight it out between them. If I
were going away with George by himself, there might be something in
what you say."

"That would be monstrous."

"Monstrous or not, it isn't what I'm about to do. Kate and I have put
our purses together, and are going to have an outing for our special
fun and gratification. As we should be poor travellers alone, George
has promised to go with his sister. Papa knows all about it, and
never thought of making any objection."

Lady Macleod shook her head. She did not like to say anything against
Mr Vavasor before his daughter; but the shaking of her head was
intended to signify that Mr Vavasor's assent in such a matter was
worth nothing.

"I can only say again," said Lady Macleod, "that I think Mr Grey
will be displeased,--and that he will have very great cause for
displeasure. And I think, moreover, that his approbation ought to be
your chief study. I believe, my dear, I'll ask you to let Jane get me
a cab. I shan't have a bit too much time to dress for the concert."

Alice simply rang the bell, and said no further word on the subject
which they had been discussing. When Lady Macleod got up to go away,
Alice kissed her, as was customary with them, and the old lady as
she went uttered her customary valediction. "God bless you, my dear.
Good-bye! I'll come to-morrow if I can." There was therefore no
quarrel between them. But both of them felt that words had been
spoken which must probably lead to some diminution of their past
intimacy.

When Lady Macleod had gone Alice sat alone for an hour thinking of
what had passed between them,--thinking rather of those two men, the
worthy man and the wild man, whose names had been mentioned in close
connection with herself. John Grey was a worthy man, a man worthy at
all points, as far as she knew him. She told herself it was so. And
she told herself, also, that her cousin George was wild,--very wild.
And yet her thoughts were, I fear, on the whole more kindly towards
her cousin than towards her lover. She had declared to her aunt that
John Grey would be incapable of such suspicion as would be shown by
any objection on his part to the arrangements made for the tour. She
had said so, and had so believed; and yet she continued to brood
over the position which her affairs would take, if he did make the
objection which Lady Macleod anticipated. She told herself over and
over again, that under such circumstances she would not give way an
inch. "He is free to go," she said to herself. "If he does not trust
me he is quite free to go." It may almost be said that she came at
last to anticipate from her lover that very answer to her own letter
which she had declared him to be incapable of making.



CHAPTER III

John Grey, the Worthy Man


Mr Grey's answer to Alice Vavasor's letter, which was duly sent by
return of post and duly received on the morning after Lady Macleod's
visit, may perhaps be taken as giving a sample of his worthiness. It
was dated from Nethercoats, a small country-house in Cambridgeshire
which belonged to him, at which he already spent much of his time,
and at which he intended to live altogether after his marriage.


   Nethercoats, June, 186--.

   DEAREST ALICE,

   I am glad you have settled your affairs,--foreign affairs,
   I mean,--so much to your mind. As to your home affairs
   they are not, to my thinking, quite so satisfactorily
   arranged. But as I am a party interested in the latter my
   opinion may perhaps have an undue bias. Touching the tour,
   I quite agree with you that you and Kate would have been
   uncomfortable alone. It's a very fine theory, that of
   women being able to get along without men as well as with
   them; but, like other fine theories, it will be found very
   troublesome by those who first put it in practice. Gloved
   hands, petticoats, feminine softness, and the general
   homage paid to beauty, all stand in the way of success.
   These things may perhaps some day be got rid of, and
   possibly with advantage; but while young ladies are still
   encumbered with them a male companion will always be found
   to be a comfort. I don't quite know whether your cousin
   George is the best possible knight you might have chosen.
   I should consider myself to be infinitely preferable,
   had my going been upon the cards. Were you in danger
   of meeting Paynim foes, he, no doubt, would kill them
   off much quicker than I could do, and would be much
   more serviceable in liberating you from the dungeons
   of oppressors, or even from stray tigers in the Swiss
   forests. But I doubt his being punctual with the luggage.
   He will want you or Kate to keep the accounts, if any are
   kept. He will be slow in getting you glasses of water at
   the railway stations, and will always keep you waiting at
   breakfast. I hold that a man with two ladies on a tour
   should be an absolute slave to them, or they will not
   fully enjoy themselves. He should simply be an upper
   servant, with the privilege of sitting at the same table
   with his mistresses. I have my doubts as to whether your
   cousin is fit for the place; but, as to myself, it is just
   the thing that I was made for. Luckily, however, neither
   you nor Kate are without wills of your own, and perhaps
   you may be able to reduce Mr Vavasor to obedience.

   As to the home affairs I have very little to say here,--in
   this letter. I shall of course run up and see you before
   you start, and shall probably stay a week in town. I know
   I ought not to do so, as it will be a week of idleness,
   and yet not a week of happiness. I'd sooner have an hour
   with you in the country than a whole day in London. And I
   always feel in town that I've too much to do to allow of
   my doing anything. If it were sheer idleness I could enjoy
   it, but it is a feverish idleness, in which one is driven
   here and there, expecting some gratification which not
   only never comes, but which never even begins to come. I
   will, however, undergo a week of it,--say the last seven
   days of this month, and shall trust to you to recompense
   me by as much of yourself as your town doings will permit.

   And now again as to those home affairs. If I say nothing
   now I believe you will understand why I refrain. You
   have cunningly just left me to imply, from what you say,
   that all my arguments have been of no avail; but you do
   not answer them, or even tell me that you have decided.
   I shall therefore imply nothing, and still trust to my
   personal eloquence for success. Or rather not trust,--not
   trust, but hope.

   The garden is going on very well. We are rather short of
   water, and therefore not quite as bright as I had hoped;
   but we are preparing with untiring industry for future
   brightness. Your commands have been obeyed in all things,
   and Morrison always says "The mistress didn't mean this,"
   or "The mistress did intend that." God bless the mistress
   is what I now say, and send her home, to her own home,
   to her flowers, and her fruit, and her house, and her
   husband, as soon as may be, with no more of these delays
   which are to me so grievous, and which seem to me to be
   so unnecessary. That is my prayer.

   Yours ever and always,

   J. G.


"I didn't give commands," Alice said to herself, as she sat with the
letter at her solitary breakfast-table. "He asked me how I liked the
things, and of course I was obliged to say. I was obliged to seem to
care, even if I didn't care." Such were her first thoughts as she put
the letter back into its envelope, after reading it the second time.
When she opened it, which she did quickly, not pausing a moment
lest she should suspect herself of fearing to see what might be
its contents, her mind was full of that rebuke which her aunt had
anticipated, and which she had almost taught herself to expect. She
had torn the letter open rapidly, and had dashed at its contents with
quick eyes. In half a moment she had seen what was the nature of the
reply respecting the proposed companion of her tour, and then she had
completed her reading slowly enough. "No; I gave no commands," she
repeated to herself, as though she might thereby absolve herself from
blame in reference to some possible future accusations, which might
perhaps be brought against her under certain circumstances which she
was contemplating.

Then she considered the letter bit by bit, taking it backwards, and
sipping her tea every now and then amidst her thoughts. No; she had
no home, no house, there. She had no husband;--not as yet. He spoke
of their engagement as though it were a betrothal, as betrothals used
to be of yore; as though they were already in some sort married. Such
betrothals were not made now-a-days. There still remained, both to
him and to her, a certain liberty of extricating themselves from this
engagement. Should he come to her and say that he found that their
contemplated marriage would not make him happy, would not she release
him without a word of reproach? Would not she regard him as much
more honourable in doing so than in adhering to a marriage which was
distasteful to him? And if she would so judge him,--judge him and
certainly acquit him, was it not reasonable that she under similar
circumstances should expect a similar acquittal? Then she declared
to herself that she carried on this argument within her own breast
simply as an argument, induced to do so by that assertion on his part
that he was already her husband,--that his house was even now her
home. She had no intention of using that power which was still hers.
She had no wish to go back from her pledged word. She thought that
she had no such wish. She loved him much, and admired him even more
than she loved him. He was noble, generous, clever, good,--so good as
to be almost perfect; nay, for aught she knew he was perfect. Would
that he had some faults! Would that he had! Would that he had! How
could she, full of faults as she knew herself to be,--how could she
hope to make happy a man perfect as he was! But then there would
be no doubt as to her present duty. She loved him, and that was
everything. Having told him that she loved him, and having on that
score accepted his love, nothing but a change in her heart towards
him could justify her in seeking to break the bond which bound them
together. She did love him, and she loved him only.

But she had once loved her cousin. Yes, truly it was so. In her
thoughts she did not now deny it. She had loved him, and was
tormented by a feeling that she had had a more full delight in that
love than in this other that had sprung up subsequently. She had told
herself that this had come of her youth;--that love at twenty was
sweeter than it could be afterwards. There had been a something of
rapture in that earlier dream which could never be repeated,--which
could never live, indeed, except in a dream. Now, now that she was
older and perhaps wiser, love meant a partnership, in which each
partner would be honest to the other, in which each would wish and
strive for the other's welfare, so that thus their joint welfare
might be insured. Then, in those early girlish days, it had meant
a total abnegation of self. The one was of earth, and therefore
possible. The other had been a ray from heaven,--and impossible,
except in a dream.

And she had been mistaken in her first love. She admitted that
frankly. He whom she had worshipped had been an idol of clay, and she
knew that it was well for her to have abandoned that idolatry. He had
not only been untrue to her, but, worse than that, had been false in
excusing his untruth. He had not only promised falsely, but had made
such promises with a deliberate, premeditated falsehood. And he had
been selfish, coldly selfish, weighing the value of his own low lusts
against that of her holy love. She had known this, and had parted
from him with an oath to herself that no promised contrition on his
part should ever bring them again together. But she had pardoned him
as a man, though never as a lover, and had bade him welcome again
as a cousin and as her friend's brother. She had again become very
anxious as to his career, not hiding her regard, but professing that
anxiety aloud. She knew him to be clever, ambitious, bold,--and she
believed even yet, in spite of her own experience, that he might not
be bad at heart. Now, as she told herself that in truth she loved the
man to whom her troth was plighted, I fear that she almost thought
more of that other man from whom she had torn herself asunder.

"Why should he find himself unhappy in London?" she said, as she went
back to the letter. "Why should he pretend to condemn the very place
which most men find the fittest for all their energies? Were I a man,
no earthly consideration should induce me to live elsewhere. It is
odd how we differ in all things. However brilliant might be his own
light, he would be contented to hide it under a bushel!"

And at last she recurred to that matter as to which she had been
so anxious when she first opened her lover's letter. It will be
remembered how assured she had expressed herself that Mr Grey would
not condescend to object to her travelling with her cousin. He had
not so condescended. He had written on the matter with a pleasant
joke, like a gentleman as he was, disdaining to allude to the past
passages in the life of her whom he loved, abstaining even from
expressing anything that might be taken as a permission on his part.
There had been in Alice's words, as she told him of their proposed
plan, a something that had betrayed a tremor in her thoughts. She
had studiously striven so to frame her phrases that her tale might
be told as any other simple statement,--as though there had been no
trembling in her mind as she wrote. But she had failed, and she knew
that she had failed. She had failed; and he had read all her effort
and all her failure. She was quite conscious of this; she felt it
thoroughly; and she knew that he was noble and a gentleman to the
last drop of his blood. And yet--yet--yet there was almost a feeling
of disappointment in that he had not written such a letter as Lady
Macleod had anticipated.

During the next week Lady Macleod still came almost daily to Queen
Anne Street, but nothing further was said between her and Miss
Vavasor as to the Swiss tour; nor were any questions asked about Mr
Grey's opinion on the subject. The old lady of course discovered
that there was no quarrel, or, as she believed, any probability of a
quarrel; and with that she was obliged to be contented. Nor did she
again on this occasion attempt to take Alice to Lady Midlothian's.
Indeed, their usual subjects of conversation were almost abandoned,
and Lady Macleod's visits, though they were as constant as
heretofore, were not so long. She did not dare to talk about Mr Grey,
and because she did not so dare, was determined to regard herself as
in a degree ill-used. So she was silent, reserved, and fretful. At
length came the last day of her London season, and her last visit
to her niece. "I would come because it's my last day," said Lady
Macleod; "but really I'm so hurried, and have so many things to do,
that I hardly know how to manage it."

"It's very kind," said Alice, giving her aunt an affectionate squeeze
of the hand.

"I'm keeping the cab, so I can just stay twenty-five minutes. I've
marked the time accurately, but I know the man will swear it's over
the half-hour."

"You'll have no more trouble about cabs, aunt, when you are back in
Cheltenham."

"The flies are worse, my dear. I really think they're worse. I pay
the bill every month, but they've always one down that I didn't have.
It's the regular practice, for I've had them from all the men in the
place."

"It's hard enough to find honest men anywhere, I suppose."

"Or honest women either. What do you think of Mrs Green wanting to
charge me for an extra week, because she says I didn't give her
notice till Tuesday morning? I won't pay her, and she may stop my
things if she dares. However, it's the last time. I shall never come
up to London again, my dear."

"Oh, aunt, don't say that!"

"But I do say it, my dear. What should an old woman like me do,
trailing up to town every year, merely because it's what people
choose to call the season."

"To see your friends, of course. Age doesn't matter when a person's
health is so good as yours."

"If you knew what I suffer from lumbago,--though I must say coming
to London always does cure that for the time. But as for friends--!
Well, I suppose one has no right to complain when one gets to be as
old as I am; but I declare I believe that those I love best would
sooner be without me than with me."

"Do you mean me, aunt?"

"No, my dear, I don't mean you. Of course my life would have been
very different if you could have consented to remain with me till you
were married. But I didn't mean you. I don't know that I meant any
one. You shouldn't mind what an old woman like me says."

"You're a little melancholy because you're going away."

"No, indeed. I don't know why I stayed the last week. I did say to
Lady Midlothian that I thought I should go on the 20th; and, though I
know that she knew that I really didn't go, she has not once sent to
me since. To be sure they've been out every night; but I thought she
might have asked me to come and lunch. It's so very lonely dining by
myself in lodgings in London."

"And yet you never will come and dine with me."

"No, my dear; no. But we won't talk about that. I've just one word
more to say. Let me see. I've just six minutes to stay. I've made
up my mind that I'll never come up to town again,--except for one
thing."

"And what's that, aunt?" Alice, as she asked the question, well knew
what that one thing was.

"I'll come for your marriage, my dear. I do hope you will not keep me
long waiting."

"Ah! I can't make any promise. There's no knowing when that may be."

"And why should there be no knowing? I always think that when a girl
is once engaged the sooner she's married the better. There may be
reasons for delay on the gentleman's part."

"There very often are, you know,"

"But, Alice, you don't mean to say that Mr Grey is putting it off?"

Alice was silent for a moment, during which Lady Macleod's face
assumed a look of almost tragic horror. Was there something wrong on
Mr Grey's side of which she was altogether unaware? Alice, though for
a second or two she had been guilty of a slight playful deceit, was
too honest to allow the impression to remain. "No, aunt," she said;
"Mr Grey is not putting it off. It has been left to me to fix the
time."

"And why don't you fix it?"

"It is such a serious thing! After all it is not more than four
months yet since I--I accepted him. I don't know that there has been
any delay."

"But you might fix the time now, if he wishes it."

"Well, perhaps I shall,--some day, aunt. I'm going to think about it,
and you mustn't drive me."

"But you should have some one to advise you, Alice."

"Ah! that's just it. People always do seem to think it so terrible
that a girl should have her own way in anything. She mustn't like any
one at first; and then, when she does like some one, she must marry
him directly she's bidden. I haven't much of my own way at present;
but you see, when I'm married I shan't have it at all. You can't
wonder that I shouldn't be in a hurry."

"I am not advocating anything like hurry, my dear. But, goodness
gracious me! I've been here twenty-eight minutes, and that horrid
man will impose upon me. Good-bye; God bless you! Mind you write."
And Lady Macleod hurried out of the room more intent at the present
moment upon saving her sixpence than she was on any other matter
whatsoever.

And then John Grey came up to town, arriving a day or two after the
time that he had fixed. It is not, perhaps, improbable that Alice
had used some diplomatic skill in preventing a meeting between Lady
Macleod and her lover. They both were very anxious to obtain the same
object, and Alice was to some extent opposed to their views. Had Lady
Macleod and John Grey put their forces together she might have found
herself unable to resist their joint endeavours. She was resolved
that she would not at any rate name any day for her marriage before
her return from Switzerland; and she may therefore have thought it
wise to keep Mr Grey in the country till after Lady Macleod had gone,
even though she thereby cut down the time of his sojourn in London
to four days. On the occasion of that visit Mr Vavasor did a very
memorable thing. He dined at home with the view of welcoming his
future son-in-law. He dined at home, and asked, or rather assented
to Alice's asking, George and Kate Vavasor to join the dinner-party.
"What an auspicious omen for the future nuptials!" said Kate, with
her little sarcastic smile. "Uncle John dines at home, and Mr Grey
joins in the dissipation of a dinner-party. We shall all be changed
soon, I suppose, and George and I will take to keeping a little
cottage in the country."

"Kate," said Alice, angrily, "I think you are about the most unjust
person I ever met. I would forgive your raillery, however painful it
might be, if it were only fair."

"And to whom is it unfair on the present occasion;--to your father?"

"It was not intended for him."

"To yourself?"

"I care nothing as to myself; you know that very well."

"Then it must have been unfair to Mr Grey."

"Yes; it was Mr Grey whom you meant to attack. If I can forgive him
for not caring for society, surely you might do so."

"Exactly; but that's just what you can't do, my dear. You don't
forgive him. If you did you might be quite sure that I should say
nothing. And if you choose to bid me hold my tongue I will say
nothing. But when you tell me all your own thoughts about this
thing you can hardly expect but that I should let you know mine in
return. I'm not particular; and if you are ready for a little good,
wholesome, useful hypocrisy, I won't balk you. I mayn't be quite so
dishonest as you call me, but I'm not so wedded to truth but what I
can look, and act, and speak a few falsehoods if you wish it. Only
let us understand each other."

"You know I wish for no falsehood, Kate."

"I know it's very hard to understand what you do wish. I know that
for the last year or two I have been trying to find out your wishes,
and, upon my word, my success has been very indifferent. I suppose
you wish to marry Mr Grey, but I'm by no means certain. I suppose the
last thing on earth you'd wish would be to marry George?"

"The very last. You're right there at any rate."

"Alice--! sometimes you drive me too hard; you do, indeed. You make
me doubt whether I hate or love you most. Knowing what my feelings
are about George, I cannot understand how you can bring yourself to
speak of him to me with such contempt!" Kate Vavasor, as she spoke
these words, left the room with a quick step, and hurried up to her
own chamber. There Alice found her in tears, and was driven by her
friend's real grief into the expression of an apology, which she
knew was not properly due from her. Kate was acquainted with all the
circumstances of that old affair between her brother and Alice. She
had given in her adhesion to the propriety of what Alice had done.
She had allowed that her brother George's behaviour had been such as
to make any engagement between them impossible. The fault, therefore,
had been hers in making any reference to the question of such a
marriage. Nor had it been by any means her first fault of the same
kind. Till Alice had become engaged to Mr Grey she had spoken of
George only as her brother, or as her friend's cousin, but now she
was constantly making allusion to those past occurrences, which all
of them should have striven to forget. Under these circumstances was
not Lady Macleod right in saying that George Vavasor should not have
been accepted as a companion for the Swiss tour?

The little dinner-party went off very quietly; and if no other ground
existed for charging Mr Grey with London dissipation than what that
afforded, he was accused most unjustly. The two young men had never
before met each other; and Vavasor had gone to his uncle's house,
prepared not only to dislike but to despise his successor in Alice's
favour. But in this he was either disappointed or gratified, as the
case may be. "He has plenty to say for himself," he said to Kate on
his way home.

"Oh yes; he can talk."

"And he doesn't talk like a prig either, which was what I expected.
He's uncommonly handsome."

"I thought men never saw that in each other. I never see it in any
man."

"I see it in every animal--in men, women, horses, dogs, and even
pigs. I like to look on handsome things. I think people always do who
are ugly themselves."

"And so you're going into raptures in favour of John Grey."

"No, I'm not. I very seldom go into raptures about anything. But he
talks in the way I like a man to talk. How he bowled my uncle over
about those actors; and yet if my uncle knows anything about anything
it is about the stage twenty years ago." There was nothing more said
then about John Grey; but Kate understood her brother well enough to
be aware that this praise meant very little. George Vavasor spoke
sometimes from his heart, and did so more frequently to his sister
than to any one else; but his words came generally from his head.

On the day after the little dinner in Queen Anne Street, John Grey
came to say good-bye to his betrothed;--for his betrothed she
certainly was, in spite of those very poor arguments which she had
used in trying to convince herself that she was still free if she
wished to claim her freedom. Though he had been constantly with Alice
during the last three days, he had not hitherto said anything as to
the day of their marriage. He had been constantly with her alone,
sitting for hours in that ugly green drawing-room, but he had never
touched the subject. He had told her much of Switzerland, which she
had never yet seen but which he knew well. He had told her much of
his garden and house, whither she had once gone with her father,
whilst paying a visit nominally to the colleges at Cambridge. And he
had talked of various matters, matters bearing in no immediate way
upon his own or her affairs; for Mr Grey was a man who knew well how
to make words pleasant; but previous to this last moment he had said
nothing on that subject on which he was so intent.

"Well, Alice," he said, when the last hour had come, "and about that
question of home affairs?"

"Let us finish off the foreign affairs first."

"We have finished them; haven't we?"

"Finished them! why we haven't started yet."

"No; you haven't started. But we've had the discussion. Is there any
reason why you'd rather not have this thing settled."

"No; no special reason."

"Then why not let it be fixed? Do you fear coming to me as my wife?"

"No."

"I cannot think that you repent your goodness to me."

"No; I don't repent it;--what you call my goodness? I love you too
entirely for that."

"My darling!" And now he passed his arm round her waist as they stood
near the empty fireplace. "And if you love me--"

"I do love you."

"Then why should you not wish to come to me?"

"I do wish it. I think I wish it."

"But, Alice, you must have wished it altogether when you consented to
be my wife."

"A person may wish for a thing altogether, and yet not wish for it
instantly."

"Instantly! Come; I have not been hard on you. This is still June.
Will you say the middle of September, and we shall still be in time
for warm pleasant days among the lakes? Is that asking for too much?"

"It is not asking for anything."

"Nay, but it is, love. Grant it, and I will swear that you have
granted me everything."

She was silent, having things to say but not knowing in what words to
put them. Now that he was with her she could not say the things which
she had told herself that she would utter to him. She could not bring
herself to hint to him that his views of life were so unlike her own,
that there could be no chance of happiness between them, unless each
could strive to lean somewhat towards the other. No man could be more
gracious in word and manner than John Grey; no man more chivalrous in
his carriage towards a woman; but he always spoke and acted as though
there could be no question that his manner of life was to be adopted,
without a word or thought of doubting, by his wife. When two came
together, why should not each yield something, and each claim
something? This she had meant to say to him on this day; but now that
he was with her she could not say it.

"John," she said at last, "do not press me about this till I return."

"But then you will say the time is short. It would be short then."

"I cannot answer you now;--indeed, I cannot. That is I cannot answer
in the affirmative. It is such a solemn thing."

"Will it ever be less solemn, dearest?"

"Never, I hope never."

He did not press her further then, but kissed her and bade her
farewell.



CHAPTER IV

George Vavasor, the Wild Man


It will no doubt be understood that George Vavasor did not roam about
in the woods unshorn, or wear leathern trappings and sandals, like
Robinson Crusoe, instead of coats and trousers. His wildness was of
another kind. Indeed, I don't know that he was in truth at all wild,
though Lady Macleod had called him so, and Alice had assented to her
use of the word.

George Vavasor had lived in London since he was twenty, and now, at
the time of the beginning of my story, he was a year or two over
thirty. He was and ever had been the heir to his grandfather's
estate; but that estate was small, and when George first came to
London his father was a strong man of forty, with as much promise
of life in him as his son had. A profession had therefore been
absolutely necessary to him; and he had, at his uncle John's
instance, been placed in the office of a parliamentary land agent.
With this parliamentary land agent he had quarrelled to the knife,
but not before he had by his talents made himself so useful that
he had before him the prospects of a lucrative partnership in the
business. George Vavasor had many faults, but idleness--absolute
idleness--was not one of them. He would occasionally postpone his
work to pleasure. He would be at Newmarket when he should have been
at Whitehall. But it was not usual with him to be in bed when he
should be at his desk, and when he was at his desk he did not whittle
his ruler, or pick his teeth, or clip his nails. Upon the whole
his friends were pleased with the first five years of his life in
London--in spite of his having been found to be in debt on more than
one occasion. But his debts had been paid; and all was going on
swimmingly, when one day he knocked down the parliamentary agent
with a blow between the eyes, and then there was an end of that.
He himself was wont to say that he had known very well what he was
about, that it had behoved him to knock down the man who was to have
been his partner, and that he regretted nothing in the matter. At any
rate the deed was looked upon with approving eyes by many men of good
standing,--or, at any rate, sufficient standing to help George to
another position; and within six weeks of the time of his leaving the
office at Whitehall, he had become a partner in an established firm
of wine merchants. A great-aunt had just then left him a couple of
thousand pounds, which no doubt assisted him in his views with the
wine merchants.

In this employment he remained for another period of five years, and
was supposed by all his friends to be doing very well. And indeed
he did not do badly, only that he did not do well enough to satisfy
himself. He was ambitious of making the house to which he belonged
the first house in the trade in London, and scared his partners by
the boldness and extent of his views. He himself declared that if
they would only have gone along with him he would have made them
princes in the wine market. But they were men either of more prudence
or of less audacity than he, and they declined to walk in his
courses. At the end of the five years Vavasor left the house, not
having knocked any one down on this occasion, and taking with him a
very nice sum of money.

The two last of these five years had certainly been the best period
of his life, for he had really worked very hard, like a man, giving
up all pleasure that took time from him,--and giving up also most
pleasures which were dangerous on account of their costliness. He
went to no races, played no billiards, and spoke of Cremorne as a
childish thing, which he had abandoned now that he was no longer
a child. It was during these two years that he had had his love
passages with his cousin; and it must be presumed that he had, at any
rate, intended at one time to settle himself respectably as a married
man. He had, however, behaved very badly to Alice, and the match had
been broken off.

He had also during the last two years quarrelled with his
grandfather. He had wished to raise a sum of money on the Vavasor
estate, which, as it was unentailed, he could only do with his
grandfather's concurrence. The old gentleman would not hear of
it,--would listen with no patience to the proposition. It was in
vain that George attempted to make the squire understand that the
wine business was going on very well, that he himself owed no man
anything, that everything with him was flourishing;--but that his
trade might be extended indefinitely by the use of a few thousand
pounds at moderate interest. Old Mr Vavasor was furious. No documents
and no assurances could make him lay aside a belief that the wine
merchants, and the business, and his grandson were all ruined and
ruinous together. No one but a ruined man would attempt to raise
money on the family estate! So they had quarrelled, and had never
spoken or seen each other since. "He shall have the estate for his
life," the squire said to his son John. "I don't think I have a right
to leave it away from him. It never has been left away from the heir.
But I'll tie it up so that he shan't cut a tree on it." John Vavasor
perhaps thought that the old rule of primogeniture might under such
circumstances have been judiciously abandoned--in this one instance,
in his own favour. But he did not say so. Nor would he have said it
had there been a chance of his doing so with success. He was a man
from whom no very noble deed could be expected; but he was also one
who would do no ignoble deed.

After that George Vavasor had become a stockbroker, and a stockbroker
he was now. In the first twelve months after his leaving the wine
business,--the same being the first year after his breach with
Alice,--he had gone back greatly in the estimation of men. He had
lived in open defiance of decency. He had spent much money and had
apparently made none, and had been, as all his friends declared, on
the high road to ruin. Aunt Macleod had taken her judgement from this
period of his life when she had spoken of him as a man who never did
anything. But he had come forth again suddenly as a working man; and
now they who professed to know, declared that he was by no means
poor. He was in the City every day; and during the last two years had
earned the character of a shrewd fellow who knew what he was about,
who might not perhaps be very mealy-mouthed in affairs of business,
but who was fairly and decently honourable in his money transactions.
In fact, he stood well on 'Change.

And during these two years he had stood a contest for a seat in
Parliament, having striven to represent the metropolitan borough of
Chelsea, on the extremely Radical interest. It is true that he had
failed, and that he had spent a considerable sum of money in the
contest. "Where on earth does your nephew get his money?" men said to
John Vavasor at his club. "Upon my word I don't know," said Vavasor.
"He doesn't get it from me, and I'm sure he doesn't get it from my
father." But George Vavasor, though he failed at Chelsea, did not
spend his money altogether fruitlessly. He gained reputation by the
struggle, and men came to speak of him as though he were one who
would do something. He was a stockbroker, a thorough-going Radical,
and yet he was the heir to a fine estate, which had come down from
father to son for four hundred years! There was something captivating
about his history and adventures, especially as just at the time of
the election he became engaged to an heiress, who died a month before
the marriage should have taken place. She died without a will, and
her money all went to some third cousins.

George Vavasor bore this last disappointment like a man, and it was
at this time that he again became fully reconciled to his cousin.
Previous to this they had met; and Alice, at her cousin Kate's
instigation, had induced her father to meet him. But at first there
had been no renewal of real friendship. Alice had given her cordial
assent to her cousin's marriage with the heiress, Miss Grant, telling
Kate that such an engagement was the very thing to put him thoroughly
on his feet. And then she had been much pleased by his spirit at that
Chelsea election. "It was grand of him, wasn't it?" said Kate, her
eyes brimming full of tears. "It was very spirited," said Alice. "If
you knew all, you would say so. They could get no one else to stand
but that Mr Travers, and he wouldn't come forward, unless they would
guarantee all his expenses." "I hope it didn't cost George much,"
said Alice. "It did, though; nearly all he had got. But what matters?
Money's nothing to him, except for its uses. My own little mite is
my own now, and he shall have every farthing of it for the next
election, even though I should go out as a housemaid the next day."
There must have been something great about George Vavasor, or he
would not have been so idolized by such a girl as his sister Kate.

Early in the present spring, before the arrangements for the Swiss
journey were made, George Vavasor had spoken to Alice about that
intended marriage which had been broken off by the lady's death. He
was sitting one evening with his cousin in the drawing-room in Queen
Anne Street, waiting for Kate, who was to join him there before going
to some party. I wonder whether Kate had had a hint from her brother
to be late! At any rate, the two were together for an hour, and the
talk had been all about himself. He had congratulated her on her
engagement with Mr Grey, which had just become known to him, and had
then spoken of his own last intended marriage.

"I grieved for her," he said, "greatly."

"I'm sure you did, George."

"Yes, I did;--for her, herself. Of course the world has given me
credit for lamenting the loss of her money. But the truth is, that as
regards both herself and her money, it is much better for me that we
were never married."

"Do you mean even though she should have lived?"

"Yes;--even had she lived."

"And why so? If you liked her, her money was surely no drawback."

"No; not if I had liked her."

"And did you not like her?"

"No."

"Oh, George!"

"I did not love her as a man should love his wife, if you mean that.
As for my liking her, I did like her. I liked her very much."

"But you would have loved her?"

"I don't know. I don't find that task of loving so very easy. It
might have been that I should have learned to hate her."

"If so, it is better for you, and better for her, that she has gone."

"It is better. I am sure of it. And yet I grieve for her, and in
thinking of her I almost feel as though I were guilty of her death."

"But she never suspected that you did not love her?"

"Oh no. But she was not given to think much of such things. She took
all that for granted. Poor girl! she is at rest now, and her money
has gone, where it should go, among her own relatives."

"Yes; with such feelings as yours are about her, her money would have
been a burden to you."

"I would not have taken it. I hope, at least, that I would not have
taken it. Money is a sore temptation, especially to a poor man like
me. It is well for me that the trial did not come in my way."

"But you are not such a very poor man now, are you, George? I thought
your business was a good one."

"It is, and I have no right to be a poor man. But a man will be poor
who does such mad things as I do. I had three or four thousand pounds
clear, and I spent every shilling of it on the Chelsea election.
Goodness knows whether I shall have a shilling at all when another
chance comes round; but if I have I shall certainly spend it, and
if I have not, I shall go in debt wherever I can raise a hundred
pounds."

"I hope you will be successful at last."

"I feel sure that I shall. But, in the mean time, I cannot but know
that my career is perfectly reckless. No woman ought to join her lot
to mine unless she has within her courage to be as reckless as I am.
You know what men do when they toss up for shillings?"

"Yes, I suppose I do."

"I am tossing up every day of my life for every shilling that I
have."

"Do you mean that you're--gambling?"

"No. I have given that up altogether. I used to gamble, but I never
do that now, and never shall again. What I mean is this,--that I hold
myself in readiness to risk everything at any moment, in order to
gain any object that may serve my turn. I am always ready to lead a
forlorn hope. That's what I mean by tossing up every day for every
shilling that I have."

Alice did not quite understand him, and perhaps he did not intend
that she should. Perhaps his object was to mystify her imagination.
She did not understand him, but I fear that she admired the kind of
courage which he professed. And he had not only professed it: in that
matter of the past election he had certainly practised it.

In talking of beauty to his sister he had spoken of himself as being
ugly. He would not generally have been called ugly by women, had not
one side of his face been dreadfully scarred by a cicatrice, which in
healing, had left a dark indented line down from his left eye to his
lower jaw. That black ravine running through his cheek was certainly
ugly. On some occasions, when he was angry or disappointed, it was
very hideous; for he would so contort his face that the scar would,
as it were, stretch itself out, revealing all its horrors, and his
countenance would become all scar. "He looked at me like the devil
himself--making the hole in his face gape at me," the old squire
had said to John Vavasor in describing the interview in which the
grandson had tried to bully his grandfather into assenting to his own
views about the mortgage. But in other respects George's face was not
ugly, and might have been thought handsome by many women. His hair
was black, and was parted in the front. His forehead, though low,
was broad. His eyes were dark and bright, and his eyebrows were very
full, and perfectly black. At those periods of his anger, all his
face which was not scar, was eye and eyebrow. He wore a thick black
moustache, which covered his mouth, but no whiskers. People said of
him that he was so proud of his wound that he would not grow a hair
to cover it. The fact, however, was that no whisker could be made to
come sufficiently forward to be of service, and therefore he wore
none.

The story of that wound should be told. When he was yet hardly more
than a boy, before he had come up to London, he was living in a
house in the country which his father then occupied. At the time
his father was absent, and he and his sister only were in the house
with the maid-servants. His sister had a few jewels in her room, and
an exaggerated report of them having come to the ears of certain
enterprising burglars, a little plan was arranged for obtaining them.
A small boy was hidden in the house, a window was opened, and at the
proper witching hour of night a stout individual crept up-stairs in
his stocking-feet, and was already at Kate Vavasor's door,--when,
in the dark, dressed only in his nightshirt, wholly unarmed, George
Vavasor flew at the fellow's throat. Two hours elapsed before the
horror-stricken women of the house could bring men to the place.
George's face had then been ripped open from the eye downwards, with
some chisel, or house-breaking instrument. But the man was dead.
George had wrenched from him his own tool, and having first jabbed
him all over with insufficient wounds, had at last driven the steel
through his windpipe. The small boy escaped, carrying with him two
shillings and threepence which Kate had left upon the drawing-room
mantelpiece.

George Vavasor was rather low in stature, but well made, with small
hands and feet, but broad in the chest and strong in the loins. He
was a fine horseman and a hard rider; and men who had known him well
said that he could fence and shoot with a pistol as few men care to
do in these peaceable days. Since volunteering had come up, he had
become a captain of Volunteers, and had won prizes with his rifle at
Wimbledon.

Such had been the life of George Vavasor, and such was his character,
and such his appearance. He had always lived alone in London, and did
so at present; but just now his sister was much with him, as she was
staying up in town with an aunt, another Vavasor by birth, with whom
the reader will, if he persevere, become acquainted in course of
time. I hope he will persevere a little, for of all the Vavasors Mrs
Greenow was perhaps the best worth knowing. But Kate Vavasor's home
was understood to be in her grandfather's house in Westmoreland.

On the evening before they started for Switzerland, George and Kate
walked from Queen Anne Street, where they had been dining with Alice,
to Mrs Greenow's house. Everything had been settled about luggage,
hours of starting, and routes as regarded their few first days;
and the common purse had been made over to George. That portion of
Mr Grey's letter had been read which alluded to the Paynims and
the glasses of water, and everything had passed in the best of
good-humour. "I'll endeavour to get the cold water for you," George
had said; "but as to the breakfasts, I can only hope you won't put
me to severe trials by any very early hours. When people go out for
pleasure it should be pleasure."

The brother and sister walked through two or three streets in
silence, and then Kate asked a question.

"George, I wonder what your wishes really are about Alice?"

"That she shouldn't want her breakfast too early while we are away."

"That means that I'm to hold my tongue, of course."

"No, it doesn't."

"Then it means that you intend to hold yours."

"No; not that either."

"Then what does it mean?"

"That I have no fixed wishes on the subject. Of course she'll marry
this man John Grey, and then no one will hear another word about
her."

"She will no doubt, if you don't interfere. Probably she will whether
you interfere or not. But if you wish to interfere--"

"She's got four hundred a year, and is not so good-looking as she
was."

"Yes; she has got four hundred a year, and she is more handsome now
than ever she was. I know that you think so;--and that you love her
and love no one else--unless you have a sneaking fondness for me."

"I'll leave you to judge of that last."

"And as for me,--I only love two people in the world; her and you. If
ever you mean to try, you should try now."



CHAPTER V

The Balcony at Basle


I am not going to describe the Vavasors' Swiss tour. It would not be
fair on my readers. "Six Weeks in the Bernese Oberland, by party of
three," would have but very small chance of success in the literary
world at present, and I should consider myself to be dishonest if
I attempt to palm off such matter on the public in the pages of a
novel. It is true that I have just returned from Switzerland, and
should find such a course of writing very convenient. But I dismiss
the temptation, strong as it is. _Retro age, Satanas._ No living man
or woman any longer wants to be told anything of the Grimsell or
of the Gemmi. Ludgate Hill is now-a-days more interesting than the
Jungfrau.

The Vavasors were not very energetic on their tour. As George had
said, they had gone out for pleasure and not for work. They went
direct to Interlaken and then hung about between that place and
Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, It delighted him to sit still on some
outer bench, looking at the mountains, with a cigar in his mouth,
and it seemed to delight them to be with him. Much that Mr Grey
prophesied had come true. The two girls were ministers to him,
instead of having him as their slave.

"What fine fellows those Alpine club men think themselves," he said
on one of these occasions, "and how thoroughly they despise the sort
of enjoyment I get from mountains. But they're mistaken."

"I don't see why either need be mistaken," said Alice.

"But they are mistaken," he continued. "They rob the mountains of
their poetry, which is or should be their greatest charm. Mont Blanc
can have no mystery for a man who has been up it half a dozen times.
It's like getting behind the scenes at a ballet, or making a conjuror
explain his tricks."

"But is the exercise nothing?" said Kate.

"Yes; the exercise is very fine;--but that avoids the question."

"And they all botanize," said Alice.

"I don't believe it. I believe that the most of them simply walk
up the mountain and down again. But if they did, that avoids the
question also. The poetry and mystery of the mountains are lost to
those who make themselves familiar with their details, not the less
because such familiarity may have useful results. In this world
things are beautiful only because they are not quite seen, or not
perfectly understood. Poetry is precious chiefly because it suggests
more than it declares. Look in there, through that valley, where you
just see the distant little peak at the end. Are you not dreaming
of the unknown beautiful world that exists up there;--beautiful, as
heaven is beautiful, because you know nothing of the reality? If you
make your way up there and back to-morrow, and find out all about it,
do you mean to say that it will be as beautiful to you when you come
back?"

"Yes;--I think it would," said Alice.

"Then you've no poetry in you. Now I'm made up of poetry." After that
they began to laugh at him and were very happy.

I think that Mr Grey was right in answering Alice's letter as he did;
but I think that Lady Macleod was also right in saying that Alice
should not have gone to Switzerland in company with George Vavasor. A
peculiar familiarity sprang up, which, had all its circumstances been
known to Mr Grey, would not have entirely satisfied him, even though
no word was said which might in itself have displeased him. During
the first weeks of their travelling no word was said which would
have displeased him; but at last, when the time for their return was
drawing nigh, when their happiness was nearly over, and that feeling
of melancholy was coming on them which always pervades the last hours
of any period that has been pleasant,--then words became softer than
they had been, and references were made to old days,--allusions which
never should have been permitted between them.

Alice had been very happy,--more happy perhaps in that she had been
a joint minister with Kate to her cousin George's idle fantasies,
than she would have been hurrying about with him as her slave. They
had tacitly agreed to spoil him with comforts; and girls are always
happier in spoiling some man than in being spoiled by men. And he had
taken it all well, doing his despotism pleasantly, exacting much,
but exacting nothing that was disagreeable. And he had been amusing
always, as Alice thought without any effort. But men and women, when
they show themselves at their best, seldom do so without an effort.
If the object be near the heart the effort will be pleasant to him
who makes it, and if it be made well, it will be hidden; but, not the
less, will the effort be there. George Vavasor had on the present
occasion done his very best to please his cousin.

They were sitting at Basle one evening in the balcony of the big
hotel which overlooks the Rhine. The balcony runs the length of the
house, and is open to all the company; but it is spacious, and little
parties can be formed there with perfect privacy. The swift broad
Rhine runs underneath, rushing through from the bridge which here
spans the river; and every now and then on summer evenings loud
shouts come up from strong swimmers in the water, who are glorying
in the swiftness of the current. The three were sitting there, by
themselves, at the end of the balcony. Coffee was before them on a
little table, and George's cigar, as usual, was in his mouth.

"It's nearly all over," said he, after they had remained silent for
some minutes.

"And I do think it has been a success," said Kate. "Always excepting
about the money. I'm ruined for ever."

"I'll make your money all straight," said George.

"Indeed you'll do nothing of the kind," said Kate. "I'm ruined, but
you are ruineder. But what signifies? It is such a great thing ever
to have had six weeks' happiness, that the ruin is, in point of fact,
a good speculation. What do you say, Alice? Won't you vote, too, that
we've done it well?"

"I think we've done it very well. I have enjoyed myself thoroughly."

"And now you've got to go home to John Grey and Cambridgeshire! It's
no wonder you should be melancholy." That was the thought in Kate's
mind, but she did not speak it out on this occasion.

"That's good of you, Alice," said Kate. "Is it not, George? I like a
person who will give a hearty meed of approbation."

"But I am giving the meed of approbation to myself."

"I like a person even to do that heartily," said Kate. "Not that
George and I are thankful for the compliment. We are prepared to
admit that we owe almost everything to you,--are we not, George?"

"I'm not; by any means," said George.

"Well, I am, and I expect to have something pretty said to me in
return. Have I been cross once, Alice?"

"No; I don't think you have. You are never cross, though you are
often ferocious."

"But I haven't been once ferocious,--nor has George."

"He would have been the most ungrateful man alive if he had," said
Alice. "We've done nothing since we've started but realize from him
that picture in 'Punch' of the young gentleman at Jeddo who had a
dozen ladies to wait upon him."

"And now he has got to go home to his lodgings, and wait upon himself
again. Poor fellow! I do pity you, George."

"No, you don't;--nor does Alice. I believe girls always think that
a bachelor in London has the happiest of all lives. It's because
they think so that they generally want to put an end to the man's
condition."

"It's envy that makes us want to get married,--not love," said Kate.

"It's the devil in some shape, as often as not," said he. "With a
man, marriage always seems to him to be an evil at the instant."

"Not always," said Alice.

"Almost always;--but he does it, as he takes physic, because
something worse will come if he don't. A man never likes having his
tooth pulled out, but all men do have their teeth pulled out,--and
they who delay it too long suffer the very mischief."

"I do like George's philosophy," said Kate, getting up from her chair
as she spoke; "it is so sharp, and has such a pleasant acid taste
about it; and then we all know that it means nothing. Alice, I'm
going up-stairs to begin the final packing."

"I'll come with you, dear."

"No, don't. To tell the truth I'm only going into that man's room
because he won't put up a single thing of his own decently. We'll
do ours, of course, when we go up to bed. Whatever you disarrange
to-night, Master George, you must rearrange for yourself to-morrow
morning, for I promise I won't go into your room at five o'clock."

"How I do hate that early work," said George.

"I'll be down again very soon," said Kate. "Then we'll take one turn
on the bridge and go to bed."

Alice and George were left together sitting in the balcony. They
had been alone together before many times since their travels had
commenced; but they both of them felt that there was something to
them in the present moment different from any other period of their
journey. There was something that each felt to be sweet, undefinable,
and dangerous. Alice had known that it would be better for her to go
up-stairs with Kate; but Kate's answer had been of such a nature that
had she gone she would have shown that she had some special reason
for going. Why should she show such a need? Or why, indeed, should
she entertain it?

Alice was seated quite at the end of the gallery, and Kate's chair
was at her feet in the corner. When Alice and Kate had seated
themselves, the waiter had brought a small table for the coffee-cups,
and George had placed his chair on the other side of that. So that
Alice was, as it were, a prisoner. She could not slip away without
some special preparation for going, and Kate had so placed her chair
in leaving, that she must actually have asked George to move it
before she could escape. But why should she wish to escape? Nothing
could be more lovely and enticing than the scene before her. The
night had come on, with quick but still unperceived approach, as it
does in those parts; for the twilight there is not prolonged as it is
with us more northern folk. The night had come on, but there was a
rising moon, which just sufficed to give a sheen to the water beneath
her. The air was deliciously soft;--of that softness which produces
no sensation either of warmth or cold, but which just seems to touch
one with loving tenderness, as though the unseen spirits of the air
kissed one's forehead as they passed on their wings. The Rhine was
running at her feet, so near, that in the soft half light it seemed
as though she might step into its ripple. The Rhine was running
by with that delicious sound of rapidly moving waters, that fresh
refreshing gurgle of the river, which is so delicious to the ear at
all times. If you be talking, it wraps up your speech, keeping it for
yourselves, making it difficult neither to her who listens nor to him
who speaks. If you would sleep, it is of all lullabies the sweetest.
If you are alone and would think, it aids all your thoughts. If
you are alone, and, alas! would not think,--if thinking be too
painful,--it will dispel your sorrow, and give the comfort which
music alone can give. Alice felt that the air kissed her, that
the river sang for her its sweetest song, that the moon shone for
her with its softest light,--that light which lends the poetry of
half-developed beauty to everything that it touches. Why should she
leave it?

Nothing was said for some minutes after Kate's departure, and Alice
was beginning to shake from her that half feeling of danger which had
come over her. Vavasor had sat back in his chair, leaning against
the house, with his feet raised upon a stool; his arms were folded
across his breast, and he seemed to have divided himself between
his thoughts and his cigar. Alice was looking full upon the river,
and her thoughts had strayed away to her future home among John
Grey's flower-beds and shrubs; but the river, though it sang to her
pleasantly, seemed to sing a song of other things than such a home as
that,--a song full of mystery, as are all river songs when one tries
to understand their words.

"When are you to be married, Alice?" said George at last.

"Oh, George!" said she. "You ask me a question as though you were
putting a pistol to my ear."

"I'm sorry the question was so unpleasant."

"I didn't say that it was unpleasant; but you asked it so suddenly!
The truth is, I didn't expect you to speak at all just then. I
suppose I was thinking of something."

"But if it be not unpleasant,--when are you to be married?"

"I do not know. It is not fixed."

"But about when, I mean? This summer?"

"Certainly not this summer, for the summer will be over when we reach
home."

"This winter? Next spring? Next year?--or in ten years' time?"

"Before the expiration of the ten years, I suppose. Anything more
exact than that I can't say."

"I suppose you like it?" he then said.

"What, being married? You see I've never tried yet."

"The idea of it,--the anticipation, You look forward with
satisfaction to the kind of life you will lead at Nethercoats? Don't
suppose I am saying anything against it, for I have no conception
what sort of a place Nethercoats is. On the whole I don't know that
there is any kind of life better than that of an English country
gentleman in his own place;--that is, if he can keep it up, and not
live as the old squire does, in a state of chronic poverty."

"Mr Grey's place doesn't entitle him to be called a country
gentleman."

"But you like the prospect of it?"

"Oh, George, how you do cross-question one! Of course I like it, or
I shouldn't have accepted it."

"That does not follow. But I quite acknowledge that I have no right
to cross-question you. If I ever had such right on the score of
cousinship, I have lost it on the score of--; but we won't mind that,
will we, Alice?" To this she at first made no answer, but he repeated
the question. "Will we, Alice?"

"Will we what?"

"Recur to the old days."

"Why should we recur to them? They are passed, and as we are again
friends and dear cousins the sting of them is gone."

"Ah, yes! The sting of them is gone. It is for that reason, because
it is so, that we may at last recur to them without danger. If we
regret nothing,--if neither of us has anything to regret, why not
recur to them, and talk of them freely?"

"No, George; that would not do."

"By heavens, no! It would drive me mad; and if I know aught of you,
it would hardly leave you as calm as you are at present."

"As I would wish to be left calm--"

"Would you? Then I suppose I ought to hold my tongue. But, Alice, I
shall never have the power of speaking to you again as I speak now.
Since we have been out together, we have been dear friends; is it not
so?"

"And shall we not always be dear friends?"

"No, certainly not. How will it be possible? Think of it. How can I
really be your friend when you are the mistress of that man's house
in Cambridgeshire?"

"George!"

"I mean nothing disrespectful. I truly beg your pardon if it
has seemed so. Let me say that gentleman's house;--for he is a
gentleman."

"That he certainly is."

"You could not have accepted him were he not so. But how can I be
your friend when you are his wife? I may still call you cousin Alice,
and pat your children on the head if I chance to see them; and shall
stop in the streets and shake hands with him if I meet him;--that is
if my untoward fate does not induce him to cut my acquaintance;--but
as for friendship, that will be over when you and I shall have parted
next Thursday evening at London Bridge."

"Oh, George, don't say so!"

"But I do."

"And why on Thursday? Do you mean that you won't come to Queen Anne
Street any more?"

"Yes, that is what I do mean. This trip of ours has been very
successful, Kate says. Perhaps Kate knows nothing about it."

"It has been very pleasant,--at least to me."

"And the pleasure has had no drawback?"

"None to me."

"It has been very pleasant to me, also;--but the pleasure has had its
alloy. Alice, I have nothing to ask from you,--nothing."

"Anything that you should ask, I would do for you."

"I have nothing to ask;--nothing. But I have one word to say."

"George, do not say it. Let me go up-stairs. Let me go to Kate."

"Certainly; if you wish it you shall go." He still held his foot
against the chair which barred her passage, and did not attempt to
rise as he must have done to make way for her passage out. "Certainly
you shall go to Kate, if you refuse to hear me. But after all
that has passed between us, after these six weeks of intimate
companionship, I think you ought to listen to me. I tell you that I
have nothing to ask. I am not going to make love to you."

Alice had commenced some attempt to rise, but she had again settled
herself in her chair. And now, when he paused for a moment, she made
no further sign that she wished to escape, nor did she say a word to
intimate her further wish that he should be silent.

"I am not going to make love to you," he said again. "As for making
love, as the word goes, that must be over between you and me. It has
been made and marred, and cannot be remade. It may exist, or it may
have been expelled; but where it does not exist, it will never be
brought back again."

"It should not be spoken of between you and me."

"So, no doubt, any proper-going duenna would say, and so, too, little
children should be told; but between you and me there can be no
necessity for falsehood. We have grown beyond our sugar-toothed ages,
and are now men and women. I perfectly understood your breaking away
from me. I understood you, and in spite of my sorrow knew that you
were right. I am not going to accuse or to defend myself; but I knew
that you were right."

"Then let there be no more about it."

"Yes; there must be more about it. I did not understand you when you
accepted Mr Grey. Against him I have not a whisper to make. He may
be perfect for aught I know. But, knowing you as I thought I did, I
could not understand your loving such a man as him. It was as though
one who had lived on brandy should take himself suddenly to a milk
diet,--and enjoy the change! A milk diet is no doubt the best. But
men who have lived on brandy can't make those changes very suddenly.
They perish in the attempt."

"Not always, George."

"It may be done with months of agony;--but there was no such agony
with you."

"Who can tell?"

"But you will tell me the cure was made. I thought so, and therefore
thought that I should find you changed. I thought that you, who had
been all fire, would now have turned yourself into soft-flowing milk
and honey, and have become fit for the life in store for you. With
such a one I might have travelled from Moscow to Malta without
danger. The woman fit to be John Grey's wife would certainly do
me no harm,--could not touch my happiness. I might have loved her
once,--might still love the memory of what she had been; but her, in
her new form, after her new birth,--such a one as that, Alice, could
be nothing to me. Don't mistake me. I have enough of wisdom in me to
know how much better, ay, and happier a woman she might be. It was
not that I thought you had descended in the scale; but I gave you
credit for virtues which you have not acquired. Alice, that wholesome
diet of which I spoke is not your diet. You would starve on it, and
perish."

He had spoken with great energy, but still in a low voice, having
turned full round upon the table, with both his arms upon it, and his
face stretched out far over towards her. She was looking full at him;
and, as I have said before, that scar and his gloomy eyes and thick
eyebrows seemed to make up the whole of his face. But the scar had
never been ugly to her. She knew the story, and when he was her lover
she had taken pride in the mark of the wound. She looked at him, but
though he paused she did not speak. The music of the river was still
in her ears, and there came upon her a struggle as though she were
striving to understand its song. Were the waters also telling her of
the mistake she had made in accepting Mr Grey as her husband? What
her cousin was now telling her,--was it not a repetition of words
which she had spoken to herself hundreds of times during the last
two months? Was she not telling herself daily,--hourly,--always,--in
every thought of her life, that in accepting Mr Grey she had assumed
herself to be mistress of virtues which she did not possess? Had
she not, in truth, rioted upon brandy, till the innocence of milk
was unfitted for her? This man now came and rudely told her all
this,--but did he not tell her the truth? She sat silent and
convicted; only gazing into his face when his speech was done.

"I have learned this since we have been again together, Alice; and
finding you, not the angel I had supposed, finding you to be the same
woman I had once loved,--the safety that I anticipated has not fallen
to my lot. That's all. Here's Kate, and now we'll go for our walk."



CHAPTER VI

The Bridge over the Rhine


"George," said Kate, speaking before she quite got up to them, "will
you tell me whether you have been preparing all your things for an
open sale by auction?" Then she stole a look at Alice, and having
learned from that glance that something had occurred which prevented
Alice from joining her in her raillery, she went on with it herself
rapidly, as though to cover Alice's confusion, and give her time to
rally before they should all move. "Would you believe it? he had
three razors laid out on his table--"

"A man must shave,--even at Basle."

"But not with three razors at once; and three hair-brushes, and
half a dozen toothbrushes, and a small collection of combs, and
four or five little glass bottles, looking as though they contained
poison,--all with silver tops. I can only suppose you desired to
startle the weak mind of the chambermaid. I have put them all up; but
remember this, if they are taken out again you are responsible. And
I will not put up your boots, George. What can you have wanted with
three pairs of boots at Basle?"

"When you have completed the list of my wardrobe we'll go out upon
the bridge. That is, if Alice likes it."

"Oh, yes; I shall like it."

"Come along then," said Kate. And so they moved away. When they got
upon the bridge Alice and Kate were together, while George strolled
behind them, close to them, but not taking any part in their
conversation,--as though he had merely gone with them as an escort.
Kate seemed to be perfectly content with this arrangement, chattering
to Alice, so that she might show that there was nothing serious on
the minds of any of them. It need hardly be said that Alice at this
time made no appeal to George to join them. He followed them at their
heels, with his hands behind his back, looking down upon the pavement
and simply waiting upon their pleasure.

"Do you know," said Kate, "I have a very great mind to run away."

"Where do you want to run to?"

"Well;--that wouldn't much signify. Perhaps I'd go to the little inn
at Handek. It's a lonely place, where nobody would hear of me,--and I
should have the waterfall. I'm afraid they'd want to have their bill
paid. That would be the worst of it."

"But why run away just now?"

"I won't, because you wouldn't like going home with George
alone,--and I suppose he'd be bound to look after me, as he's doing
now. I wonder what he thinks of having to walk over the bridge after
us girls. I suppose he'd be in that place down there drinking beer,
if we weren't here."

"If he wanted to go, I dare say he would, in spite of us."

"That's ungrateful of you, for I'm sure we've never been kept in a
moment by his failing us. But as I was saying, I do dread going home.
You are going to John Grey, which may be pleasant enough; but I'm
going--to Aunt Greenow."

"It's your own choice."

"No, it's not. I haven't any choice in the matter. Of course I might
refuse to speak to Aunt Greenow, and nobody could make me;--but
practically I haven't any choice in the matter. Fancy a month at
Yarmouth with no companion but such a woman as that!"

"I shouldn't mind it. Aunt Greenow always seems to me to be a very
good sort of woman."

"She may be a good woman, but I must say I think she's of a bad sort.
You've never heard her talk about her husband?"

"No, never; I think she did cry a little the first day she came to
Queen Anne Street, but that wasn't unnatural."

"He was thirty years older than herself."

"But still he was her husband. And even if her tears are assumed,
what of that? What's a woman to do? Of course she was wrong to marry
him. She was thirty-five, and had nothing, while he was sixty-five,
and was very rich. According to all accounts she made him a very good
wife, and now that she's got all his money, you wouldn't have her go
about laughing within three months of his death."

"No; I wouldn't have her laugh; but neither would I have her cry.
And she's quite right to wear weeds; but she needn't be so very
outrageous in the depth of her hems, or so very careful that her caps
are becoming. Her eyes will be worn out by their double service. They
are always red with weeping, and yet she is ready every minute with a
full battery of execution for any man that she sees."

"Then why have you consented to go to Yarmouth with her?"

"Just because she's got forty thousand pounds. If Mr Greenow had left
her with a bare maintenance I don't suppose I should ever have held
out my hand to her."

"Then you're as bad as she is."

"Quite as bad;--and that's what makes me want to run away. But it
isn't my own fault altogether. It's the fault of the world at large.
Does anybody ever drop their rich relatives? When she proposed to
take me to Yarmouth, wasn't it natural that the squire should ask me
to go? When I told George, wasn't it natural that he should say, 'Oh,
go by all means. She's got forty thousand pounds!' One can't pretend
to be wiser or better than one's relatives. And after all what can I
expect from her money?"

"Nothing, I should say."

"Not a halfpenny. I'm nearly thirty and she's only forty, and of
course she'll marry again. I will say of myself, too, that no person
living cares less for money."

"I should think no one."

"Yet one sticks to one's rich relatives. It's the way of the world."
Then she paused a moment. "But shall I tell you, Alice, why I do
stick to her? Perhaps you'll think the object as mean as though I
wanted her money myself."

"Why is it?"

"Because it is on the cards that she may help George in his career. I
do not want money, but he may. And for such purposes as his, I think
it fair that all the family should contribute. I feel sure that he
would make a name for himself in Parliament; and if I had my way I
would spend every shilling of Vavasor money in putting him there.
When I told the squire so I thought he would have eaten me. I really
did think he would have turned me out of the house."

"And serve you right too after what had happened."

"I didn't care. Let him turn me out. I was determined he should know
what I thought. He swore at me; and then he was so unhappy at what
he had done that he came and kissed me that night in my bedroom, and
gave me a ten-pound note. What do you think I did with it? I sent it
as a contribution to the next election and George has it now locked
up in a box. Don't you tell him that I told you."

Then they stopped and leaned for a while over the parapet of the
bridge. "Come here, George," said Kate; and she made room for him
between herself and Alice. "Wouldn't you like to be swimming down
there as those boys were doing when we went out into the balcony? The
water looks so enticing."

"I can't say I should;--unless it might be a pleasant way of swimming
into the next world."

"I should so like to feel myself going with the stream," said Kate;
"particularly by this light. I can't fancy in the least that I should
be drowned."

"I can't fancy anything else," said Alice.

"It would be so pleasant to feel the water gliding along one's limbs,
and to be carried away headlong,--knowing that you were on the direct
road to Rotterdam."

"And so arrive there without your clothes," said George.

"They would be brought after in a boat. Didn't you see that those
boys had a boat with them? But if I lived here, I'd never do it
except by moonlight. The water looks so clear and bright now, and the
rushing sound of it is so soft! The sea at Yarmouth won't be anything
like that I suppose."

Neither of them any longer answered her, and yet she went on talking
about the river, and their aunt, and her prospects at Yarmouth.
Neither of them answered her, and yet it seemed that they had not a
word to say to each other. But still they stood there looking down
upon the river, and every now and then Kate's voice was to be heard,
preventing the feeling which might otherwise have arisen that their
hearts were too full for speech.

At last Alice seemed to shiver. There was a slight trembling in her
arms, which George felt rather than saw. "You are cold," he said.

"No indeed."

"If you are let us go in. I thought you shivered with the night air."

"It wasn't that. I was thinking of something. Don't you ever think of
things that make you shiver?"

"Indeed I do, very often;--so often that I have to do my shiverings
inwardly. Otherwise people would think I had the palsy."

"I don't mean things of moment," said Alice. "Little bits of things
make me do it;--perhaps a word that I said and ought not to have said
ten years ago;--the most ordinary little mistakes, even my own past
thoughts to myself about the merest trifles. They are always making
me shiver."

"It's not because you have committed any murder then."

"No; but it's my conscience all the same, I suppose."

"Ah! I'm not so good as you. I doubt it's not my conscience at all.
When I think of a chance I've let go by, as I have thousands, then it
is that I shiver. But, as I tell you, I shiver inwardly. I've been in
one long shiver ever since we came out because of one chance that I
let go by. Come, we'll go in. We've to be up at five o'clock, and now
it's eleven. I'll do the rest of my shivering in bed."

"Are you tired of being out?" said Kate, when the other two began to
move.

"Not tired of being out, but George reminds me that we have to be up
at five."

"I wish George would hold his tongue. We can't come to the bridge
at Basle every night in our lives. If one found oneself at the top
of Sinai I'm afraid the first feeling would be one of fear lest one
wouldn't be down in time to dress for dinner. Are you aware, George,
that the king of rivers is running beneath your feet, and that the
moon is shining with a brilliance you never see at home?"

"I'll stay here all night if you'll put off going to-morrow," said
George.

"Our money wouldn't hold out," said Kate.

"Don't talk about Sinai any more after that," said he, "but let's go
in to bed."

They walked across the bridge back to the hotel in the same manner as
before, the two girls going together with the young man after them,
and so they went up the front steps of the hotel, through the hall,
and on to the stairs. Here George handed Alice her candle, and as he
did so he whispered a few words to her. "My shivering fit has to come
yet," said he, "and will last me the whole night." She would have
given much to be able to answer him lightly, as though what he had
said had meant nothing;--but she couldn't do it; the light speech
would not come to her. She was conscious of all this, and went away
to her own room without answering him at all. Here she sat down at
the window looking out upon the river till Kate should join her.
Their rooms opened through from one to the other, and she would not
begin her packing till her cousin should come.

But Kate had gone with her brother, promising, as she did so, that
she would be back in half a minute. That half minute was protracted
beyond half an hour. "If you'll take my advice," said Kate, at last,
standing up with her candle in her hand, "you'll ask her in plain
words to give you another chance. Do it to-morrow at Strasbourg;
you'll never have a better opportunity."

"And bid her throw John Grey over!"

"Don't say anything about John Grey; leave her to settle that matter
with herself. Believe me that she has quite courage enough to dispose
of John Grey, if she has courage enough to accept your offer."

"Kate, you women never understand each other. If I were to do that,
all her most powerful feelings would be arrayed in arms against me.
I must leave her to find out first that she wishes to be rid of her
engagement."

"She has found that out long ago. Do you think I don't know what she
wishes? But if you can't bring yourself to speak to her, she'll marry
him in spite of her wishes."

"Bring myself! I've never been very slow in bringing myself to speak
to any one when there was need. It isn't very pleasant sometimes, but
I do it, if I find occasion."

"But surely it must be pleasant with her. You must be glad to find
that she still loves you. You still love her, I suppose?"

"Upon my word I don't know."

"Don't provoke me, George. I'm moving heaven and earth to bring you
two together; but if I didn't think you loved her, I'd go to her at
once and bid her never see you again."

"Upon my word, Kate, I sometimes think it would be better if you'd
leave heaven and earth alone."

"Then I will. But of all human beings, surely you're the most
ungrateful."

"Why shouldn't she marry John Grey if she likes him?"

"But she doesn't like him. And I hate him. I hate the sound of his
voice, and the turn of his eye, and that slow, steady movement of
his,--as though he was always bethinking himself that he wouldn't
wear out his clothes."

"I don't see that your hating him ought to have anything to do with
it."

"If you're going to preach morals, I'll leave you. It's the darling
wish of my heart that she should be your wife. If you ever loved
anybody,--and I sometimes doubt whether you ever did,--but if you
did, you loved her."

"Did and do are different things."

"Very well, George; then I have done. It has been the same in every
twist and turn of my life. In everything that I have striven to do
for you, you have thrown yourself over, in order that I might be
thrown over too. But I believe you say this merely to vex me."

"Upon my word, Kate, I think you'd better go to bed."

"But not till I've told her everything. I won't leave her to be
deceived and ill-used again."

"Who is ill-using her now? Is it not the worst of ill-usage, trying
to separate her from that man?"

"No;--if I thought so, I would have no hand in doing it. She would
be miserable with him, and make him miserable as well. She does not
really love him. He loves her, but I've nothing to do with that. It's
nothing to me if he breaks his heart."

"I shall break mine if you don't let me go to bed."

With that she went away and hurried along the corridor, till she came
to her cousin's room. She found Alice still seated at the window, or
rather kneeling on the chair, with her head out through the lattice.
"Why, you lazy creature," said Kate; "I declare you haven't touched a
thing."

"You said we'd do it together."

"But he has kept me. Oh, what a man he is! If he ever does get
married, what will his wife do with him?"

"I don't think he ever will," said Alice.

"Don't you? I dare say you understand him better than I do. Sometimes
I think that the only thing wanting to make him thoroughly good, is a
wife. But it isn't every woman that would do for him. And the woman
who marries him should have high courage. There are moments with him
when he is very wild; but he never is cruel and never hard. Is Mr
Grey ever hard?"

"Never; nor yet wild."

"Oh, certainly not that. I'm quite sure he's never wild."

"When you say that, Kate, I know that you mean to abuse him."

"No; upon my word. What's the good of abusing him to you? I like a
man to be wild,--wild in my sense. You knew that before."

"I wonder whether you'd like a wild man for yourself?"

"Ah! that's a question I've never asked myself. I've been often
curious to consider what sort of husband would suit you, but I've
had very few thoughts about a husband for myself. The truth is, I'm
married to George. Ever since--"

"Ever since what?"

"Since you and he were parted, I've had nothing to do in life but to
stick to him. And I shall do so to the end,--unless one thing should
happen."

"And what's that?"

"Unless you should become his wife after all. He will never marry
anybody else."

"Kate, you shouldn't allude to such a thing now. You know that it's
impossible."

"Well, perhaps so. As far as I'm concerned, it is all the better
for me. If George ever married, I should have nothing to do in the
world;--literally nothing--nothing--nothing--nothing!"

"Kate, don't talk in that way," and Alice came up to her and embraced
her.

"Go away," said she. "Go, Alice; you and I must part. I cannot bear
it any longer. You must know it all. When you are married to John
Grey, our friendship must be over. If you became George's wife I
should become nobody. I've nothing else in the world. You and he
would be so all-sufficient for each other, that I should drop away
from you like an old garment. But I'd give up all, everything, every
hope I have, to see you become George's wife. I know myself not to
be good. I know myself to be very bad, and yet I care nothing for
myself. Don't Alice, don't; I don't want your caresses. Caress him,
and I'll kneel at your feet and cover them with kisses." She had now
thrown herself upon a sofa, and had turned her face away to the wall.

"Kate, you shouldn't speak in that way."

"Of course I shouldn't,--but I do."

"You, who know everything, must know that I cannot marry your
brother,--even if he wished it."

"He does wish it."

"Not though I were under no other engagement."

"And why not?" said Kate, again starting up. "What is there to
separate you from George now, but that unfortunate affair, that will
end in the misery of you all. Do you think I can't see? Don't I know
which of the two men you like best?"

"You are making me sorry, Kate, that I have ventured to come here in
your brother's company. It is not only unkind of you to talk to me in
this way, but worse than that--it is indelicate."

"Oh, indelicate! How I do hate that word. If any word in the language
reminds me of a whited sepulchre it is that;--all clean and polished
outside with filth and rottenness within. Are your thoughts delicate?
that's the thing. You are engaged to marry John Grey. That may be
delicate enough if you love him truly, and feel yourself fitted to be
his wife; but it's about the most indelicate thing you can do, if you
love any one better than him. Delicacy with many women is like their
cleanliness. Nothing can be nicer than the whole outside get-up, but
you wouldn't wish to answer for anything beneath."

"If you think ill of me like that--"

"No; I don't think ill of you. How can I think ill of you when I know
that all your difficulties have come from him? It hasn't been your
fault; it has been his throughout. It is he who has driven you to
sacrifice yourself on this altar. If we can, both of us, manage to
lay aside all delicacy and pretence, and dare to speak the truth,
we shall acknowledge that it is so. Had Mr Grey come to you while
things were smooth between you and George, would you have thought it
possible that he could be George's rival in your estimation? It is
Hyperion to Satyr."

"And which is the Satyr?"

"I'll leave your heart to tell you. You know what is the darling
wish of my heart. But, Alice, if I thought that Mr Grey was to you
Hyperion,--if I thought that you could marry him with that sort of
worshipping, idolatrous love which makes a girl proud as well as
happy in her marriage, I wouldn't raise a little finger to prevent
it."

To this Alice made no answer, and then Kate allowed the matter to
drop. Alice made no answer, though she felt that she was allowing
judgement to go against her by default in not doing so. She had
intended to fight bravely, and to have maintained the excellence
of her present position as the affianced bride of Mr Grey, but she
felt that she had failed. She felt that she had, in some sort,
acknowledged that the match was one to be deplored;--that her words
in her own defence would by no means have satisfied Mr Grey, if Mr
Grey could have heard them;--that they would have induced him to
offer her back her troth rather than have made him happy as a lover.
But she had nothing further to say. She could do something. She would
hurry home and bid him name the earliest day he pleased. After that
her cousin would cease to disturb her in her career.

It was nearly one o'clock before the two girls began to prepare for
their morning start, and Alice, when they had finished their packing,
seemed to be worn out with fatigue. "If you are tired, dear, we'll
put it off," said Kate. "Not for worlds," said Alice. "For half a
word we'll do it," continued Kate. "I'll slip out to George and tell
him, and there's nothing he'd like so much." But Alice would not
consent.

About two they got into bed, and punctually at six they were at the
railway station. "Don't speak to me," said George, when he met them
at their door in the passage. "I shall only yawn in your face."
However, they were in time,--which means abroad that they were at the
station half an hour before their train started,--and they went on
upon their journey to Strasbourg.

There is nothing further to be told of their tour. They were but two
days and nights on the road from Basle to London; and during those
two days and nights neither George nor Kate spoke a word to Alice of
her marriage, nor was any allusion made to the balcony at the inn, or
to the bridge over the river.



CHAPTER VII

Aunt Greenow


Kate Vavasor remained only three days in London before she started
for Yarmouth; and during those three days she was not much with her
cousin. "I'm my aunt's, body and soul, for the next six weeks," she
said to Alice, when she did come to Queen Anne Street on the morning
after her arrival. "And she is exigeant in a manner I can't at all
explain to you. You mustn't be surprised if I don't even write a
line. I've escaped by stealth now. She went up-stairs to try on some
new weeds for the seaside, and then I bolted." She did not say a
word about George; nor during those three days, nor for some days
afterwards, did George show himself. As it turned out afterwards, he
had gone off to Scotland, and had remained a week among the grouse.
Thus, at least, he had accounted for himself and his movements; but
all George Vavasor's friends knew that his goings out and comings in
were seldom accounted for openly like those of other men.

It will perhaps be as well to say a few words about Mrs Greenow
before we go with her to Yarmouth. Mrs Greenow was the only daughter
and the youngest child of the old squire at Vavasor Hall. She was
just ten years younger than her brother John, and I am inclined to
think that she was almost justified in her repeated assertion that
the difference was much greater than ten years, by the freshness of
her colour, and by the general juvenility of her appearance. She
certainly did not look forty, and who can expect a woman to proclaim
herself to be older than her looks? In early life she had been taken
from her father's house, and had lived with relatives in one of the
large towns in the north of England. It is certain she had not been
quite successful as a girl. Though she had enjoyed the name of being
a beauty, she had not the usual success which comes from such repute.
At thirty-four she was still unmarried. She had, moreover, acquired
the character of being a flirt; and I fear that the stories which
were told of her, though doubtless more than half false, had in
them sufficient of truth to justify the character. Now this was
very sad, seeing that Arabella Vavasor had no fortune, and that she
had offended her father and brothers by declining to comply with
their advice at certain periods of her career. There was, indeed,
considerable trouble in the minds of the various male Vavasors with
reference to Arabella, when tidings suddenly reached the Hall that
she was going to be married to an old man.

She was married to the old man; and the marriage fortunately turned
out satisfactorily, at any rate for the old man and for her family.
The Vavasors were relieved from all further trouble, and were as much
surprised as gratified when they heard that she did her duty well
in her new position. Arabella had long been a thorn in their side,
never having really done anything which they could pronounce to be
absolutely wrong, but always giving them cause for fear. Now they
feared no longer. Her husband was a retired merchant, very rich, not
very strong in health, and devoted to his bride. Rumours soon made
their way to Vavasor Hall, and to Queen Anne Street, that Mrs Greenow
was quite a pattern wife, and that Mr Greenow considered himself to
be the happiest old man in Lancashire. And now in her prosperity she
quite forgave the former slights which had been put upon her by her
relatives. She wrote to her dear niece Alice, and to her dearest
niece Kate, and sent little presents to her father. On one occasion
she took her husband to Vavasor Hall, and there was a regular renewal
of all the old family feelings. Arabella's husband was an old
man, and was very old for his age; but the whole thing was quite
respectable, and there was, at any rate, no doubt about the money.
Then Mr Greenow died; and the widow, having proved the will, came up
to London and claimed the commiseration of her nieces.

"Why not go to Yarmouth with her for a month?" George had said to
Kate. "Of course it will be a bore. But an aunt with forty thousand
pounds has a right to claim attention." Kate acknowledged the truth
of the argument and agreed to go to Yarmouth for a month. "Your aunt
Arabella has shown herself to be a very sensible woman," the old
squire had written; "much more sensible than anybody thought her
before her marriage. Of course you should go with her if she asks
you." What aunt, uncle, or cousin, in the uncontrolled possession of
forty thousand pounds was ever unpopular in the family?

Yarmouth is not a very prepossessing place to the eye. To my eye,
at any rate, it is not so. There is an old town with which summer
visitors have little or nothing to do; and there are the new houses
down by the sea-side, to which, at any rate, belongs the full
advantage of sea air. A kind of esplanade runs for nearly a mile
along the sands, and there are built, or in the course of building,
rows of houses appropriated to summer visitors all looking out upon
the sea. There is no beauty unless the yellow sandy sea can be called
beautiful. The coast is low and straight, and the east wind blows
full upon it. But the place is healthy; and Mrs Greenow was probably
right in thinking that she might there revive some portion of the
health which she had lost in watching beside the couch of her
departing lord.

"Omnibus;--no, indeed. Jeannette, get me a fly." These were the first
words Mrs Greenow spoke as she put her foot upon the platform at the
Yarmouth station. Her maid's name was Jenny; but Kate had already
found, somewhat to her dismay, that orders had been issued before
they left London that the girl was henceforth to be called Jeannette.
Kate had also already found that her aunt could be imperious; but
this taste for masterdom had not shown itself so plainly in London
as it did from the moment that the train had left the station at
Shoreditch. In London Mrs Greenow had been among Londoners, and her
career had hitherto been provincial. Her spirit, no doubt, had been
somewhat cowed by the novelty of her position. But when she felt
herself to be once beyond the stones as the saying used to be, she
was herself again; and at Ipswich she had ordered Jeannette to get
her a glass of sherry with an air which had created a good deal of
attention among the guards and porters.

The fly was procured; and with considerable exertion all Mrs
Greenow's boxes, together with the more moderate belongings of her
niece and maid, were stowed on the top of it, round upon the driver's
body on the coach box, on the maid's lap, and I fear in Kate's also,
and upon the vacant seat.

"The large house in Montpelier Parade," said Mrs Greenow.

"They is all large, ma'am," said the driver.

"The largest," said Mrs Greenow.

"They're much of a muchness," said the driver.

"Then Mrs Jones's," said Mrs Greenow. "But I was particularly told
it was the largest in the row."

"I know Mrs Jones's well," said the driver, and away they went.

Mrs Jones's house was handsome and comfortable; but I fear Mrs
Greenow's satisfaction in this respect was impaired by her
disappointment in finding that it was not perceptibly bigger than
those to the right and left of her. Her ambition in this and in
other similar matters would have amused Kate greatly had she been
a bystander, and not one of her aunt's party. Mrs Greenow was
good-natured, liberal, and not by nature selfish; but she was
determined not to waste the good things which fortune had given, and
desired that all the world should see that she had forty thousand
pounds of her own. And in doing this she was repressed by no
feeling of false shame. She never hesitated in her demands through
bashfulness. She called aloud for such comfort and grandeur as
Yarmouth could afford her, and was well pleased that all around
should hear her calling. Joined to all this was her uncontrolled
grief for her husband's death.

"Dear Greenow! sweet lamb! Oh, Kate, if you'd only known that man!"
When she said this she was sitting in the best of Mrs Jones's
sitting-rooms, waiting to have dinner announced. She had taken a
drawing-room and dining-room, "because," as she had said, "she didn't
see why people should be stuffy when they went to the seaside;--not
if they had means to make themselves comfortable."

"Oh, Kate, I do wish you'd known him!"

"I wish I had," said Kate,--very untruly. "I was unfortunately away
when he went to Vavasor Hall."

"Ah, yes; but it was at home, in the domestic circle, that Greenow
should have been seen to be appreciated. I was a happy woman,
Kate, while that lasted." And Kate was surprised to see that real
tears--one or two on each side--were making their way down her
aunt's cheeks. But they were soon checked with a handkerchief of the
broadest hem and of the finest cambric.

"Dinner, ma'am," said Jeannette, opening the door.

"Jeannette, I told you always to say that dinner was served."

"Dinner's served then," said Jeannette in a tone of anger.

"Come, Kate," said her aunt. "I've but little appetite myself, but
there's no reason you shouldn't eat your dinner. I specially wrote to
Mrs Jones to have some sweetbread. I do hope she's got a decent cook.
It's very little I eat myself, but I do like to see things nice."

The next day was Sunday; and it was beautiful to see how Mrs Greenow
went to church in all the glory of widowhood. There had been a great
unpacking after that banquet on the sweetbread, and all her funereal
millinery had been displayed before Kate's wondering eyes. The charm
of the woman was in this,--that she was not in the least ashamed of
anything that she did. She turned over all her wardrobe of mourning,
showing the richness of each article, the stiffness of the crape,
the fineness of the cambric, the breadth of the frills,--telling the
price of each to a shilling, while she explained how the whole had
been amassed without any consideration of expense. This she did with
all the pride of a young bride when she shows the glories of her
trousseau to the friend of her bosom. Jeannette stood by the while,
removing one thing and exhibiting another. Now and again through the
performance, Mrs Greenow would rest a while from her employment, and
address the shade of the departed one in terms of most endearing
affection. In the midst of this Mrs Jones came in; but the widow was
not a whit abashed by the presence of the stranger. "Peace be to his
manes!" she said at last, as she carefully folded up a huge black
crape mantilla. She made, however, but one syllable of the classical
word, and Mrs Jones thought that her lodger had addressed herself to
the mortal "remains" of her deceased lord.

"He is left her uncommon well off, I suppose," said Mrs Jones to
Jeannette.

"You may say that, ma'am. It's more nor a hundred thousand of
pounds!"

"No!"

"Pounds of sterling, ma'am! Indeed it is;--to my knowledge."

"Why don't she have a carriage?"

"So she do;--but a lady can't bring her carriage down to the sea when
she's only just buried her husband as one may say. What'd folks say
if they saw her in her own carriage? But it ain't because she can't
afford it, Mrs Jones. And now we're talking of it you must order a
fly for church to-morrow, that'll look private, you know. She said I
was to get a man that had a livery coat and gloves."

The man with the coat and gloves was procured; and Mrs Greenow's
entry into church made quite a sensation. There was a thoughtfulness
about her which alone showed that she was a woman of no ordinary
power. She foresaw all necessities, and made provision for all
emergencies. Another would not have secured an eligible sitting, and
been at home in Yarmouth church, till half the period of her sojourn
there was over. But Mrs Greenow had done it all. She walked up the
middle aisle with as much self-possession as though the chancel had
belonged to her family for years; and the respectable pew-opener
absolutely deserted two or three old ladies whom she was attending,
to show Mrs Greenow into her seat. When seated, she was the cynosure
of all eyes. Kate Vavasor became immediately aware that a great
sensation had been occasioned by their entrance, and equally aware
that none of it was due to her. I regret to say that this feeling
continued to show itself throughout the whole service. How many
ladies of forty go to church without attracting the least attention!
But it is hardly too much to say that every person in that church had
looked at Mrs Greenow. I doubt if there was present there a single
married lady who, on leaving the building, did not speak to her
husband of the widow. There had prevailed during the whole two hours
a general though unexpressed conviction that something worthy of
remark had happened that morning. It had an effect even upon the
curate's reading; and the incumbent, while preaching his sermon,
could not keep his eyes off that wonderful bonnet and veil.

On the next morning, before eleven, Mrs Greenow's name was put down
at the Assembly Room. "I need hardly say that in my present condition
I care nothing for these things. Of course I would sooner be alone.
But, my dear Kate, I know what I owe to you."

Kate, with less intelligence than might have been expected from one
so clever, began to assure her aunt that she required no society;
and that, coming thus with her to the seaside in the early days of
her widowhood, she had been well aware that they would live retired.
But Mrs Greenow soon put her down, and did so without the slightest
feeling of shame or annoyance on her own part. "My dear," she said,
"in this matter you must let me do what I know to be right. I should
consider myself to be very selfish if I allowed my grief to interfere
with your amusements."

"But, aunt, I don't care for such amusements."

"That's nonsense, my dear. You ought to care for them. How are you to
settle yourself in life if you don't care for them?"

"My dear aunt, I am settled."

"Settled!" said Mrs Greenow, astounded, as though there must have
been some hidden marriage of which she had not heard. "But that's
nonsense. Of course you're not settled; and how are you to be, if I
allow you to shut yourself up in such a place as this,--just where a
girl has a chance?"

It was in vain that Kate tried to stop her. It was not easy to stop
Mrs Greenow when she was supported by the full assurance of being
mistress of the place and of the occasion. "No, my dear; I know very
well what I owe to you, and I shall do my duty. As I said before,
society can have no charms now for such a one as I am. All that
social intercourse could ever do for me lies buried in my darling's
grave. My heart is desolate, and must remain so. But I'm not going to
immolate you on the altars of my grief. I shall force myself to go
out for your sake, Kate."

"But, dear aunt, the world will think it so odd, just at present."

"I don't care twopence for the world. What can the world do to me?
I'm not dependent on the world,--thanks to the care of that sainted
lamb. I can hold my own; and as long as I can do that the world won't
hurt me. No, Kate, if I think a thing's right I shall do it. I mean
to make the place pleasant for you if I can, and the world may object
if it likes."

Mrs Greenow was probably right in her appreciation of the value of
her independence. Remarks may perhaps have been made by the world of
Yarmouth as to her early return to society. People, no doubt, did
remind each other that old Greenow was hardly yet four months buried.
Mrs Jones and Jeannette probably had their little jokes down-stairs.
But this did not hurt Mrs Greenow. What was said, was not said in her
hearing, Mrs Jones's bills were paid every Saturday with admirable
punctuality; and as long as this was done everybody about the
house treated the lady with that deference which was due to the
respectability of her possessions. When a recently bereaved widow
attempts to enjoy her freedom without money, then it behoves the
world to speak aloud;--and the world does its duty.

Numerous people came to call at Montpelier Parade, and Kate was
astonished to find that her aunt had so many friends. She was indeed
so bewildered by these strangers that she could hardly ascertain whom
her aunt had really known before, and whom she now saw for the fist
time. Somebody had known somebody who had known somebody else, and
that was allowed to be a sufficient introduction,--always presuming
that the existing somebody was backed by some known advantages of
money or position. Mrs Greenow could smile from beneath her widow's
cap in a most bewitching way. "Upon my word then she is really
handsome," Kate wrote one day to Alice. But she could also frown, and
knew well how to put aside, or, if need be, to reprobate any attempt
at familiarity from those whose worldly circumstances were supposed
to be disadvantageous.

"My dear aunt," said Kate one morning after their walk upon the pier,
"how you did snub that Captain Bellfield!"

"Captain Bellfield, indeed! I don't believe he's a captain at all. At
any rate he has sold out, and the tradesmen have had a scramble for
the money. He was only a lieutenant when the 97th were in Manchester,
and I'm sure he's never had a shilling to purchase since that."

"But everybody here seems to know him."

"Perhaps they do not know so much of him as I do. The idea of his
having the impudence to tell me I was looking very well! Nothing can
be so mean as men who go about in that way when they haven't money
enough in their pockets to pay their washerwomen."

"But how do you know, aunt, that Captain Bellfield hasn't paid his
washerwoman?"

"I know more than you think, my dear. It's my business. How could I
tell whose attentions you should receive and whose you shouldn't, if
I didn't inquire into these things?"

It was in vain that Kate rebelled, or attempted to rebel against this
more than maternal care. She told her aunt that she was now nearly
thirty, and that she had managed her own affairs, at any rate with
safety, for the last ten years;--but it was to no purpose. Kate would
get angry; but Mrs Greenow never became angry. Kate would be quite
in earnest; but Mrs Greenow would push aside all that her niece said
as though it were worth nothing. Kate was an unmarried woman with a
very small fortune, and therefore, of course, was desirous of being
married with as little delay as possible. It was natural that she
should deny that it was so, especially at this early date in their
mutual acquaintance. When the niece came to know her aunt more
intimately, there might be confidence between them, and then they
would do better. But Mrs Greenow would spare neither herself nor her
purse on Kate's behalf, and she would be a dragon of watchfulness in
protecting her from the evil desires of such useless men as Captain
Bellfield.

"I declare, Kate, I don't understand you," she said one morning to
her niece as they sat together over a late breakfast. They had fallen
into luxurious habits, and I am afraid it was past eleven o'clock,
although the breakfast things were still on the table. Kate would
usually bathe before breakfast, but Mrs Greenow was never out of her
room till half-past ten. "I like the morning for contemplation," she
once said. "When a woman has gone through all that I have suffered
she has a great deal to think of." "And it is so much more
comfortable to be a-thinking when one's in bed," said Jeannette, who
was present at the time. "Child, hold your tongue," said the widow.
"Yes, ma'am," said Jeannette. But we'll return to the scene at the
breakfast-table.

"What don't you understand, aunt?"

"You only danced twice last night, and once you stood up with Captain
Bellfield."

"On purpose to ask after that poor woman who washes his clothes
without getting paid for it."

"Nonsense, Kate; you didn't ask him anything of the kind, I'm sure.
It's very provoking. It is indeed."

"But what harm can Captain Bellfield do me?"

"What good can he do you? That's the question. You see, my dear,
years will go by. I don't mean to say you ain't quite as young
as ever you were, and nothing can be nicer and fresher than you
are;--especially since you took to bathing."

"Oh, aunt, don't!"

"My dear, the truth must be spoken. I declare I don't think I ever
saw a young woman so improvident as you are. When are you to begin to
think about getting married if you don't do it now?"

"I shall never begin to think about it, till I buy my wedding
clothes."

"That's nonsense,--sheer nonsense. How are you to get wedding clothes
if you have never thought about getting a husband? Didn't I see Mr
Cheesacre ask you for a dance last night?"

"Yes, he did; while you were talking to Captain Bellfield yourself,
aunt."

"Captain Bellfield can't hurt me, my dear. And why didn't you dance
with Mr Cheesacre?"

"He's a fat Norfolk farmer, with not an idea beyond the virtues of
stall-feeding."

"My dear, every acre of it is his own land,--every acre! And he
bought another farm for thirteen thousand pounds only last autumn.
They're better than the squires,--some of those gentlemen farmers;
they are indeed. And of all men in the world they're the easiest
managed."

"That's a recommendation, no doubt."

"Of course it is;--a great recommendation."

Mrs Greenow had no idea of joking when her mind was intent on serious
things. "He's to take us to the picnic to-morrow, and I do hope
you'll manage to let him sit beside you. It'll be the place of
honour, because he gives all the wine. He's picked up with that
man Bellfield, and he's to be there; but if you allow your name to
be once mixed up with his, it will be all over with you as far as
Yarmouth is concerned."

"I don't at all want to be mixed up with Captain Bellfield, as you
call it," said Kate. Then she subsided into her novel, while Mrs
Greenow busied herself about the good things for the picnic. In
truth, the aunt did not understand the niece. Whatsoever might be the
faults of Kate Vavasor, an unmaidenly desire of catching a husband
for herself was certainly not one of them.



CHAPTER VIII

Mr Cheesacre


Yarmouth is not a happy place for a picnic. A picnic should be held
among green things. Green turf is absolutely an essential. There
should be trees, broken ground, small paths, thickets, and hidden
recesses. There should, if possible, be rocks, old timber, moss, and
brambles. There should certainly be hills and dales,--on a small
scale; and above all, there should be running water. There should be
no expanse. Jones should not be able to see all Greene's movements,
nor should Augusta always have her eye upon her sister Jane. But the
spot chosen for Mr Cheesacre's picnic at Yarmouth had none of the
virtues above described. It was on the seashore. Nothing was visible
from the site but sand and sea. There were no trees there and nothing
green;--neither was there any running water. But there was a long,
dry, flat strand; there was an old boat half turned over, under which
it was proposed to dine; and in addition to this, benches, boards,
and some amount of canvas for shelter were provided by the liberality
of Mr Cheesacre. Therefore it was called Mr Cheesacre's picnic.

But it was to be a marine picnic, and therefore the essential
attributes of other picnics were not required. The idea had come from
some boating expeditions, in which mackerel had been caught, and
during which food had been eaten, not altogether comfortably, in the
boats. Then a thought had suggested itself to Captain Bellfield that
they might land and eat their food, and his friend Mr Cheesacre had
promised his substantial aid. A lady had surmised that Ormesby sands
would be the very place for dancing in the cool of the evening. They
might "Dance on the sand," she said, "and yet no footing seen." And
so the thing had progressed, and the picnic been inaugurated.

It was Mr Cheesacre's picnic undoubtedly. Mr Cheesacre was to supply
the boats, the wine, the cigars, the music, and the carpenter's work
necessary for the turning of the old boat into a banqueting saloon.
But Mrs Greenow had promised to provide the eatables, and enjoyed as
much of the _éclat_ as the master of the festival. She had known Mr
Cheesacre now for ten days and was quite intimate with him. He was a
stout, florid man, of about forty-five, a bachelor, apparently much
attached to ladies' society, bearing no sign of age except that he
was rather bald, and that grey hairs had mixed themselves with his
whiskers, very fond of his farming, and yet somewhat ashamed of it
when he found himself in what he considered to be polite circles. And
he was, moreover, a little inclined to seek the honour which comes
from a well-filled and liberally-opened purse. He liked to give a man
a dinner and then to boast of the dinner he had given. He was very
proud when he could talk of having mounted, for a day's hunting, any
man who might be supposed to be of higher rank than himself. "I had
Grimsby with me the other day,--the son of old Grimsby of Hatherwick,
you know. Blessed if he didn't stake my bay mare. But what matters? I
mounted him again the next day just the same." Some people thought he
was soft, for it was very well known throughout Norfolk that young
Grimsby would take a mount wherever he could get it. In these days
Mrs Greenow had become intimate with Mr Cheesacre, and had already
learned that he was the undoubted owner of his own acres.

"It wouldn't do for me," she had said to him, "to be putting myself
forward, as if I were giving a party myself, or anything of that
sort;--would it now?"

"Well, perhaps not. But you might come with us."

"So I will, Mr Cheesacre, for that dear girl's sake. I should never
forgive myself if I debarred her from all the pleasures of youth,
because of my sorrows. I need hardly say that at such a time as this
nothing of that sort can give me any pleasure."

"I suppose not," said Mr Cheesacre, with solemn look.

"Quite out of the question." And Mrs Greenow wiped away her tears.
"For though as regards age I might dance on the sands as merrily as
the best of them--"

"That I'm sure you could, Mrs Greenow."

"How's a woman to enjoy herself if her heart lies buried?"

"But it won't be so always, Mrs Greenow."

Mrs Greenow shook her head to show that she hardly knew how to answer
such a question. Probably it would be so always;--but she did not
wish to put a damper on the present occasion by making so sad a
declaration. "But as I was saying," continued she--"if you and I do
it between us won't that be the surest way of having it come off
nicely?"

Mr Cheesacre thought that it would be the best way.

"Exactly so;--I'll do the meat and pastry and fruit, and you shall do
the boats and the wine."

"And the music," said Cheesacre, "and the expenses at the place." He
did not choose that any part of his outlay should go unnoticed.

"I'll go halves in all that if you like," said Mrs Greenow. But Mr
Cheesacre had declined this. He did not begrudge the expense, but
only wished that it should be recognised.

"And, Mr Cheesacre," continued Mrs Greenow. "I did mean to send the
music; I did, indeed."

"I couldn't hear of it, Mrs Greenow."

"But I mention it now, because I was thinking of getting Blowehard
to come. That other man, Flutey, wouldn't do at all out in the open
air."

"It shall be Blowehard," said Mr Cheesacre; and it was Blowehard. Mrs
Greenow liked to have her own way in these little things, though her
heart did lie buried.

On the morning of the picnic Mr Cheesacre came down to Montpelier
Parade with Captain Bellfield, whose linen on that occasion certainly
gave no outward sign of any quarrel between him and his washerwoman.
He was got up wonderfully, and was prepared at all points for the
day's work. He had on a pseudo-sailor's jacket, very liberally
ornamented with brass buttons, which displayed with great judgement
the exquisite shapes of his pseudo-sailor's duck trousers. Beneath
them there was a pair of very shiny patent-leather shoes, well
adapted for dancing on the sand, presuming him to be anxious of
doing so, as Venus offered to do, without leaving any footmarks. His
waistcoat was of a delicate white fabric, ornamented with very many
gilt buttons. He had bejewelled studs in his shirt, and yellow kid
gloves on his hands; having, of course, another pair in his pocket
for the necessities of the evening. His array was quite perfect, and
had stricken dismay into the heart of his friend Cheesacre, when he
joined that gentleman. He was a well-made man, nearly six feet high,
with dark hair, dark whiskers, and dark moustache, nearly black, but
of that suspicious hue which to the observant beholder seems always
to tell a tale of the hairdresser's shop. He was handsome, too, with
well-arranged features,--but carrying, perhaps, in his nose some
first symptoms of the effects of midnight amusements. Upon the whole,
however, he was a nice man to look at--for those who like to look on
nice men of that kind.

Cheesacre, too, had adopted something of a sailor's garb. He had on
a jacket of a rougher sort, coming down much lower than that of the
captain, being much looser, and perhaps somewhat more like a garment
which a possible seaman might possibly wear. But he was disgusted
with himself the moment that he saw Bellfield. His heart had been
faint, and he had not dared to ornament himself boldly as his friend
had done. "I say, Guss, you are a swell," he exclaimed. It may be
explained that Captain Bellfield had been christened Gustavus.

"I don't know much about that," said the captain; "my fellow sent me
this toggery, and said that it was the sort of thing. I'll change
with you if you like it." But Cheesacre could not have worn that
jacket, and he walked on, hating himself.

It will be remembered that Mrs Greenow had spoken with considerable
severity of Captain Bellfield's pretensions when discussing his
character with her niece; but, nevertheless, on the present occasion
she received him with most gracious smiles. It may be that her
estimate of his character had been altered, or that she was making
sacrifice of her own feelings in consideration of Mr Cheesacre, who
was known to be the captain's intimate friend. But she had smiles for
both of them. She had a wondrous power of smiling; and could, upon
occasion, give signs of peculiar favour to half a dozen different
gentlemen in as many minutes. They found her in the midst of hampers
which were not yet wholly packed, while Mrs Jones, Jeannette, and the
cook of the household moved around her, on the outside of the circle,
ministering to her wants. She had in her hand an outspread clean
napkin, and she wore fastened round her dress a huge coarse apron,
that she might thus be protected from some possible ebullition of
gravy, or escape of salad mixture, or cream; but in other respects
she was clothed in the fullest honours of widowhood. She had not
mitigated her weeds by half an inch. She had scorned to make any
compromise between the world of pleasure and the world of woe. There
she was, a widow, declared by herself to be of four months' standing,
with a buried heart, making ready a dainty banquet with skill and
liberality. She was ready on the instant to sit down upon the baskets
in which the grouse pie had been just carefully inhumed, and talked
about her sainted lamb with a deluge of tears. If anybody didn't like
it, that person--might do the other thing. Mr Cheesacre and Captain
Bellfield thought that they did like it.

"Oh, Mr Cheesacre, if you haven't caught me before I've half done!
Captain Bellfield, I hope you think my apron becoming."

"Everything that you wear, Mrs Greenow, is always becoming."

"Don't talk in that way when you know--; but never mind--we will
think of nothing sad to-day if we can help it. Will we, Mr
Cheesacre?"

"Oh dear no; I should think not;--unless it should come on to rain."

"It won't rain--we won't think of such a thing. But, by the by,
Captain Bellfield, I and my niece do mean to send out a few things,
just in a bag you know, so that we may tidy ourselves up a little
after the sea. I don't want it mentioned, because if it gets about
among the other ladies, they'd think we wanted to make a dressing of
it;--and there wouldn't be room for them all; would there?"

"No; there wouldn't," said Mr Cheesacre, who had been out on the
previous evening, inspecting, and perhaps limiting, the carpenters
in their work.

"That's just it," said Mrs Greenow. "But there won't be any harm,
will there, Mr Cheesacre, in Jeanette's going out with our things?
She'll ride in the cart, you know, with the eatables. I know
Jeannette's a friend of yours."

"We shall be delighted to have Jeanette," said Mr Cheesacre.

"Thank ye, sir," said Jeannette, with a curtsey.

"Jeannette, don't you let Mr Cheesacre turn your head; and mind you
behave yourself and be useful. Well; let me see;--what else is there?
Mrs Jones, you might as well give me that ham now. Captain Bellfield,
hand it over. Don't you put it into the basket, because you'd turn it
the wrong side down. There now, if you haven't nearly made me upset
the apricot pie." Then, in the transfer of the dishes between the
captain and the widow, there occurred some little innocent by-play,
which seemed to give offence to Mr Cheesacre; so that that gentleman
turned his back upon the hampers and took a step away towards the
door.

Mrs Greenow saw the thing at a glance, and immediately applied
herself to cure the wound. "What do you think, Mr Cheesacre," said
she, "Kate wouldn't come down because she didn't choose that you
should see her with an apron on over her frock!"

"I'm sure I don't know why Miss Vavasor should care about my seeing
her."

"Nor I either. That's just what I said. Do step up into the
drawing-room; you'll find her there, and you can make her answer for
herself."

"She wouldn't come down for me," said Mr Cheesacre. But he didn't
stir. Perhaps he wasn't willing to leave his friend with the widow.

At length the last of the dishes was packed and Mrs Greenow went
up-stairs with the two gentlemen. There they found Kate and two or
three other ladies who had promised to embark under the protection of
Mrs Greenow's wings. There were the two Miss Fairstairs, whom Mrs
Greenow had especially patronized, and who repaid that lady for her
kindness by an amount of outspoken eulogy which startled Kate by its
audacity.

"Your dear aunt!" Fanny Fairstairs had said on coming into the room.
"I don't think I ever came across a woman with such genuine milk of
human kindness!"

"Nor with so much true wit," said her sister Charlotte,--who had been
called Charlie on the sands of Yarmouth for the last twelve years.

When the widow came into the room, they flew at her and devoured her
with kisses, and swore that they had never seen her looking so well.
But as the bright new gloves which both the girls wore had been
presents from Mrs Greenow, they certainly did owe her some affection.
There are not many ladies who would venture to bestow such gifts upon
their friends after so very short an acquaintance; but Mrs Greenow
had a power that was quite her own in such matters. She was already
on a very confidential footing with the Miss Fairstairs, and had
given them much useful advice as to their future prospects.

And then was there a Mrs Green, whose husband was first-lieutenant on
board a man-of-war on the West Indian Station. Mrs Green was a quiet,
ladylike little woman, rather pretty, very silent, and, as one would
have thought, hardly adapted for the special intimacy of Mrs Greenow.
But Mrs Greenow had found out that she was alone, not very rich,
and in want of the solace of society. Therefore she had, from sheer
good-nature, forced herself upon Mrs Green, and Mrs Green, with much
trepidation, had consented to be taken to the picnic. "I know your
husband would like it," Mrs Greenow had said, "and I hope I may live
to tell him that I made you go."

There came in also a brother of the Fairstairs girls, Joe Fairstairs,
a lanky, useless, idle young man, younger than them, who was supposed
to earn his bread in an attorney's office at Norwich, or rather to be
preparing to earn it at some future time, and who was a heavy burden
upon all his friends. "We told Joe to come to the house," said Fanny
to the widow, apologetically, "because we thought he might be useful
in carrying down the cloaks." Mrs Greenow smiled graciously upon
Joe, and assured him that she was charmed to see him, without any
reference to such services as those mentioned.

And then they started. When they got to the door both Cheesacre and
the captain made an attempt to get possession of the widow's arm. But
she had it all arranged. Captain Bellfield found himself constrained
to attend to Mrs Green, while Mr Cheesacre walked down to the beach
beside Kate Vavasor. "I'll take your arm, Mr Joe," said the widow,
"and the girls shall come with us." But when they got to the boats,
round which the other comers to the picnic were already assembled, Mr
Cheesacre,--although both the boats were for the day his own,--found
himself separated from the widow. He got into that which contained
Kate Vavasor, and was shoved off from the beach while he saw Captain
Bellfield arranging Mrs Greenow's drapery. He had declared to himself
that it should be otherwise; and that as he had to pay the piper,
the piper should play as he liked it. But Mrs Greenow with a word
or two had settled it all, and Mr Cheesacre had found himself to be
powerless. "How absurd Bellfield looks in that jacket, doesn't he?"
he said to Kate, as he took his seat in the boat.

"Do you think so? I thought it was so very pretty and becoming for
the occasion."

Mr Cheesacre hated Captain Bellfield, and regretted more than ever
that he had not done something for his own personal adornment. He
could not endure to think that his friend, who paid for nothing,
should carry away the honours of the morning and defraud him of the
delights which should justly belong to him, "It may be becoming,"
said Cheesacre; "but don't you think it's awfully extravagant?"

"As to that I can't tell. You see I don't at all know what is the
price of a jacket covered all over with little brass buttons."

"And the waistcoat, Miss Vavasor!" said Cheesacre, almost solemnly.

"The waistcoat I should think must have been expensive."

"Oh, dreadful! and he's got nothing, Miss Vavasor; literally nothing.
Do you know,"--and he reduced his voice to a whisper as he made this
communication,--"I lent him twenty pounds the day before yesterday;
I did indeed. You won't mention it again, of course. I tell you,
because, as you are seeing a good deal of him just now, I think it
right that you should know on what sort of a footing he stands."
It's all fair, they say, in love and war, and this small breach of
confidence was, we must presume, a love stratagem on the part of Mr
Cheesacre. He was at this time smitten with the charms both of the
widow and of the niece, and he constantly found that the captain was
interfering with him on whichever side he turned himself. On the
present occasion he had desired to take the widow for his share, and
was, upon the whole, inclined to think that the widow was the more
worthy of his attentions. He had made certain little inquiries within
the last day or two, the answers to which had been satisfactory.
These he had by no means communicated to his friend, to whom, indeed,
he had expressed an opinion that Mrs Greenow was after all only a
flash in the pan. "She does very well pour passer le temps," the
captain had answered. Mr Cheesacre had not quite understood the exact
gist of the captain's meaning, but had felt certain that his friend
was playing him false.

"I don't want it to be mentioned again, Miss Vavasor," he continued.

"Such things should not be mentioned at all," Kate replied,
having been angered at the insinuation that the nature of Captain
Bellfield's footing could be a matter of any moment to her.

"No, they shouldn't; and therefore I know that I'm quite safe with
you, Miss Vavasor. He's a very pleasant fellow, very; and has seen
the world,--uncommon; but he's better for eating and drinking with
than he is for buying and selling with, as we say in Norfolk. Do you
like Norfolk, Miss Vavasor?"

"I never was in it before, and now I've only seen Yarmouth."

"A nice place, Yarmouth, very; but you should come up and see our
lands. I suppose you don't know that we feed one-third of England
during the winter months."

"Dear me!"

"We do, though; nobody knows what a county Norfolk is. Taking it
altogether, including the game you know, and Lord Nelson, and its
watering-places and the rest of it, I don't think there's a county
in England to beat it. Fancy feeding one-third of all England and
Wales!"

"With bread and cheese, do you mean, and those sort of things?"

"Beef!" said Mr Cheesacre, and in his patriotic energy he repeated
the word aloud. "Beef! Yes indeed; but if you were to tell them that
in London they wouldn't believe you. Ah! you should certainly come
down and see our lands. The 7.45 A.M. train would take you through
Norwich to my door, as one may say, and you would be back by the 6.22
P.M." In this way he brought himself back again into good-humour,
feeling, that in the absence of the widow, he could not do better
than make progress with the niece.

In the mean time Mrs Greenow and the captain were getting on very
comfortably in the other boat. "Take an oar, Captain," one of the
men had said to him as soon as he had placed the ladies. "Not to-day,
Jack," he had answered. "I'll content myself with being bo'san this
morning." "The best thing as the bo'san does is to pipe all hands to
grog," said the man. "I won't be behind in that either," said the
captain; and so they all went on swimmingly.

"What a fine generous fellow your friend, Mr Cheesacre, is!" said the
widow.

"Yes, he is; he's a capital fellow in his way. Some of these Norfolk
farmers are no end of good fellows."

"And I suppose he's something more than a common farmer. He's visited
by the people about where he lives, isn't he?"

"Oh, yes, in a sort of a way. The county people, you know, keep
themselves very much to themselves."

"That's of course. But his house;--he has a good sort of place,
hasn't he?"

"Yes, yes;--a very good house;--a little too near to the horse-pond
for my taste. But when a man gets his money out of the till, he
mustn't be ashamed of the counter;--must he, Mrs Greenow?"

"But he could live like a gentleman if he let his own land, couldn't
he?"

"That depends upon how a gentleman wishes to live." Here the privacy
of their conversation was interrupted by an exclamation from a young
lady to the effect that Charlie Fairstairs was becoming sick. This
Charlie stoutly denied, and proved the truth of her assertion by her
behaviour. Soon after this they completed their marine adventures,
and prepared to land close to the spot at which the banquet was
prepared.



CHAPTER IX

The Rivals


There had been a pretence of fishing, but no fish had been caught.
It was soon found that such an amusement would interfere with the
ladies' dresses, and the affairs had become too serious to allow of
any trivial interruption. "I really think, Mr Cheesacre," an anxious
mother had said, "that you'd better give it up. The water off the
nasty cord has got all over Maria's dress, already." Maria made a
faint protest that it did not signify in the least; but the fishing
was given up,--not without an inward feeling on the part of Mr
Cheesacre that if Maria chose to come out with him in his boat,
having been invited especially to fish, she ought to have put up with
the natural results. "There are people who like to take everything
and never like to give anything," he said to Kate afterwards, as he
was walking up with her to the picnic dinner. But he was unreasonable
and unjust. The girls had graced his party with their best hats and
freshest muslins, not that they might see him catch a mackerel, but
that they might flirt and dance to the best advantage. "You can't
suppose that any girl will like to be drenched with sea-water when
she has taken so much trouble with her starch," said Kate. "Then she
shouldn't come fishing," said Mr Cheesacre. "I hate such airs."

But when they arrived at the old boat, Mrs Greenow shone forth
pre-eminently as the mistress of the occasion, altogether
overshadowing Mr Cheesacre by the extent of her authority. There was
a little contest for supremacy between them, invisible to the eyes
of the multitude; but Mr Cheesacre in such a matter had not a chance
against Mrs Greenow. I am disposed to think that she would have
reigned even though she had not contributed to the eatables; but
with that point in her favour, she was able to make herself supreme.
Jeannette, too, was her servant, which was a great thing. Mr
Cheesacre soon gave way; and though he bustled about and was
conspicuous, he bustled about in obedience to orders received, and
became a head servant. Captain Bellfield also made himself useful,
but he drove Mr Cheesacre into paroxysms of suppressed anger by
giving directions, and by having those directions obeyed. A man to
whom he had lent twenty pounds the day before yesterday, and who had
not contributed so much as a bottle of champagne!

"We're to dine at four, and now it's half-past three," said Mrs
Greenow, addressing herself to the multitude.

"And to begin to dance at six," said an eager young lady.

"Maria, hold your tongue," said the young lady's mother.

"Yes, we'll dine at four," said Mr Cheesacre. "And as for the music,
I've ordered it to be here punctual at half-past five. We're to have
three horns, cymbals, triangle, and a drum."

"How very nice; isn't it, Mrs Greenow?" said Charlie Fairstairs.

"And now suppose we begin to unpack," said Captain Bellfield. "Half
the fun is in arranging the things."

"Oh, dear, yes; more than half," said Fanny Fairstairs.

"Bellfield, don't mind about the hampers," said Cheesacre. "Wine is a
ticklish thing to handle, and there's my man there to manage it."

"It's odd if I don't know more about wine than the boots from the
hotel," said Bellfield. This allusion to the boots almost cowed Mr
Cheesacre, and made him turn away, leaving Bellfield with the widow.

There was a great unpacking, during which Captain Bellfield and Mrs
Greenow constantly had their heads in the same hamper. I by no means
intend to insinuate that there was anything wrong in this. People
engaged together in unpacking pies and cold chickens must have their
heads in the same hamper. But a great intimacy was thereby produced,
and the widow seemed to have laid aside altogether that prejudice
of hers with reference to the washerwoman. There was a long table
placed on the sand, sheltered by the upturned boat from the land
side, but open towards the sea, and over this, supported on poles,
there was an awning. Upon the whole the arrangement was not an
uncomfortable one for people who had selected so very uncomfortable
a dining-room as the sand of the sea-shore. Much was certainly due
to Mr Cheesacre for the expenditure he had incurred,--and something
perhaps to Captain Bellfield for his ingenuity in having suggested
it.

Now came the placing of the guests for dinner, and Mr Cheesacre
made another great effort. "I'll tell you what," he said, aloud,
"Bellfield and I will take the two ends of the table, and Mrs Greenow
shall sit at my right hand." This was not only boldly done, but there
was a propriety in it which at first sight seemed to be irresistible.
Much as he had hated and did hate the captain, he had skilfully made
the proposition in such a way as to flatter him, and it seemed for a
few moments as though he were going to have it all his own way. But
Captain Bellfield was not a man to submit to defeat in such a matter
as this without an effort. "I don't think that will do," said he.
"Mrs Greenow gives the dinner, and Cheesacre gives the wine. We must
have them at the two ends of the table. I am sure Mrs Greenow won't
refuse to allow me to hand her to the place which belongs to her. I
will sit at her right hand and be her minister." Mrs Greenow did not
refuse,--and so the matter was adjusted.

Mr Cheesacre took his seat in despair. It was nothing to him that
he had Kate Vavasor at his left hand. He liked talking to Kate very
well, but he could not enjoy that pleasure while Captain Bellfield
was in the very act of making progress with the widow. "One would
think that he had given it himself; wouldn't you?" he said to Maria's
mother, who sat at his right hand.

The lady did not in the least understand him. "Given what?" said she.

"Why, the music and the wine and all the rest of it. There are some
people full of that kind of impudence. How they manage to carry it on
without ever paying a shilling, I never could tell. I know I have to
pay my way, and something over and beyond generally."

Maria's mother said, "Yes, indeed." She had other daughters there
besides Maria, and was looking down the table to see whether they
were judiciously placed. Her beauty, her youngest one, Ophelia, was
sitting next to that ne'er-do-well Joe Fairstairs, and this made
her unhappy. "Ophelia, my dear, you are dreadfully in the draught;
there's a seat up here, just opposite, where you'll be more
comfortable."

"There's no draught here, mamma," said Ophelia, without the slightest
sign of moving. Perhaps Ophelia liked the society of that lanky,
idle, useless young man.

The mirth of the table certainly came from Mrs Greenow's end. The
widow had hardly taken her place before she got up again and changed
with the captain. It was found that the captain could better carve
the great grouse pie from the end than from the side. Cheesacre, when
he saw this, absolutely threw down his knife and fork violently upon
the table. "Is anything the matter?" said Maria's mother.

"Matter!" said he. Then he shook his head in grief of heart and
vexation of spirit, and resumed his knife and fork. Kate watched
it all, and was greatly amused. "I never saw a man so nearly
broken-hearted," she said, in her letter to Alice the next day.
"Eleven, thirteen, eighteen, twenty-one," said Cheesacre to himself,
reckoning up in his misery the number of pounds sterling which he
would have to pay for being ill-treated in this way.

"Ladies and gentlemen," said Captain Bellfield, as soon as the eating
was over, "if I may be permitted to get upon my legs for two minutes,
I am going to propose a toast to you." The real patron of the feast
had actually not yet swallowed his last bit of cheese. The thing was
indecent in the violence of its injustice.

"If you please, Captain Bellfield," said the patron, indifferent to
the cheese in his throat, "I'll propose the toast."

"Nothing on earth could be better, my dear fellow," said the captain,
"and I'm sure I should be the last man in the world to take the job
out of the hands of one who would do it so much better than I can;
but as it's your health that we're going to drink, I really don't see
how you are to do it."

Cheesacre grunted and sat down. He certainly could not propose his
own health, nor did he complain of the honour that was to be done
him. It was very proper that his health should be drunk, and he had
now to think of the words in which he would return thanks. But the
extent of his horror may be imagined when Bellfield got up and made a
most brilliant speech in praise of Mrs Greenow. For full five minutes
he went on without mentioning the name of Cheesacre. Yarmouth, he
said, had never in his days been so blessed as it had been this year
by the presence of the lady who was now with them. She had come among
them, he declared, forgetful of herself and of her great sorrows,
with the sole desire of adding something to the happiness of others.
Then Mrs Greenow had taken out her pocket-handkerchief, sweeping back
the broad ribbons of her cap over her shoulders. Altogether the scene
was very affecting, and Cheesacre was driven to madness. They were
the very words that he had intended to speak himself.

"I hate all this kind of thing," he said to Kate. "It's so fulsome."

"After-dinner speeches never mean anything," said Kate.

At last, when Bellfield had come to an end of praising Mrs Greenow,
he told the guests that he wished to join his friend Mr Cheesacre in
the toast, the more so as it could hardly be hoped that Mrs Greenow
would herself rise to return thanks. There was no better fellow than
his friend Cheesacre, whom he had known for he would not say how
many years. He was quite sure they would all have the most sincere
pleasure in joining the health of Mr Cheesacre with that of Mrs
Greenow. Then there was a clattering of glasses and a murmuring of
healths, and Mr Cheesacre slowly got upon his legs.

"I'm very much obliged to this company," said he, "and to my friend
Bellfield, who really is,--but perhaps that doesn't signify now. I've
had the greatest pleasure in getting up this little thing, and I'd
made up my mind to propose Mrs Greenow's health; but, h'm, ha, no
doubt it has been in better hands. Perhaps, considering all things,
Bellfield might have waited."

"With such a subject on my hands, I couldn't wait a moment."

"I didn't interrupt you, Captain Bellfield, and perhaps you'll let me
go on without interrupting me. We've all drunk Mrs Greenow's health,
and I'm sure she's very much obliged. So am I for the honour you've
done me. I have taken some trouble in getting up this little thing,
and I hope you like it. I think somebody said something about
liberality. I beg to assure you that I don't think of that for a
moment. Somebody must pay for these sort of things, and I'm always
very glad to take my turn. I dare say Bellfield will give us the
next picnic, and if he'll appoint a day before the end of the month,
I shall be happy to be one of the party." Then he sat down with some
inward satisfaction, fully convinced that he had given his enemy a
fatal blow.

"Nothing on earth would give me so much pleasure," said Bellfield.
After that he turned again to Mrs Greenow and went on with his
private conversation.

There was no more speaking, nor was there much time for other
after-dinner ceremonies. The three horns, the cymbals, the triangle,
and the drum were soon heard tuning-up behind the banqueting-hall,
and the ladies went to the further end of the old boat to make their
preparations for the dance. Then it was that the thoughtful care of
Mrs Greenow, in having sent Jeannette with brushes, combs, clean
handkerchiefs, and other little knick-knackeries, became so apparent.
It was said that the widow herself actually changed her cap,--which
was considered by some to be very unfair, as there had been an
understanding that there should be no dressing. On such occasions
ladies are generally willing to forego the advantage of dressing
on the condition that other ladies shall forego the same advantage;
but when this compact is broken by any special lady, the treason
is thought to be very treacherous. It is as though a fencer should
remove the button from the end of his foil. But Mrs Greenow was so
good-natured in tendering the services of Jeannette to all the young
ladies, and was so willing to share with others those good things of
the toilet which her care had provided, that her cap was forgiven her
by the most of those present.

When ladies have made up their minds to dance they will dance let the
circumstances of the moment be ever so antagonistic to that exercise.
A ploughed field in February would not be too wet, nor the side of a
house too uneven. In honest truth the sands of the seashore are not
adapted for the exercise. It was all very well for Venus to make the
promise, but when making it she knew that Adonis would not keep her
to her word. Let any lightest-limbed nymph try it, and she will find
that she leaves most palpable footing. The sands in question were
doubtless compact, firm, and sufficiently moist to make walking on
them comfortable; but they ruffled themselves most uncomfortably
under the unwonted pressure to which they were subjected.
Nevertheless our friends did dance on the sands; finding, however,
that quadrilles and Sir Roger de Coverley suited them better than
polkas and waltzes.

"No, my friend, no," Mrs Greenow said to Mr Cheesacre when that
gentleman endeavoured to persuade her to stand up; "Kate will be
delighted I am sure to join you,--but as for me, you must excuse me."

But Mr Cheesacre was not inclined at that moment to ask Kate Vavasor
to dance with him. He was possessed by an undefined idea that Kate
had snubbed him, and as Kate's fortune was, as he said, literally
nothing, he was not at all disposed to court her favour at the
expense of such suffering to himself.

"I'm not quite sure that I'll dance myself," said he, seating himself
in a corner of the tent by Mrs Greenow's side. Captain Bellfield at
that moment was seen leading Miss Vavasor away to a new place on
the sands, whither he was followed by a score of dancers; and Mr
Cheesacre saw that now at last he might reap the reward for which he
had laboured. He was alone with the widow, and having been made bold
by wine, had an opportunity of fighting his battle, than which none
better could ever be found. He was himself by no means a poor man,
and he despised poverty in others. It was well that there should be
poor gentry, in order that they might act as satellites to those who,
like himself, had money. As to Mrs Greenow's money, there was no
doubt. He knew it all to a fraction. She had spread for herself, or
some one else had spread for her, a report that her wealth was almost
unlimited; but the forty thousand pounds was a fact, and any such
innocent fault as that little fiction might well be forgiven to a
woman endorsed with such substantial virtues. And she was handsome
too. Mr Cheesacre, as he regarded her matured charms, sometimes felt
that he should have been smitten even without the forty thousand
pounds. "By George! there's flesh and blood," he had once said to his
friend Bellfield before he had begun to suspect that man's treachery.
His admiration must then have been sincere, for at that time the
forty thousand pounds was not an ascertained fact. Looking at the
matter in all its bearings Mr Cheesacre thought that he couldn't do
better. His wooing should be fair, honest, and above board. He was a
thriving man, and what might not they two do in Norfolk if they put
their wealth together?

"Oh, Mr Cheesacre, you should join them," said Mrs Greenow; "they'll
not half enjoy themselves without you. Kate will think that you mean
to neglect her."

"I shan't dance, Mrs Greenow, unless you like to stand up for a set."

"No, my friend, no; I shall not do that. I fear you forget how recent
has been my bereavement. Your asking me is the bitterest reproach to
me for having ventured to join your festive board."

"Upon my honour I didn't mean it, Mrs Greenow. I didn't mean it,
indeed."

"I do not suspect you. It would have been unmanly."

"And nobody can say that of me. There isn't a man or woman in Norfolk
that wouldn't say I was manly."

"I'm quite sure of that."

"I have my faults, I'm aware."

"And what are your faults, Mr Cheesacre?"

"Well; perhaps I'm extravagant. But it's only in these kind of
things you know, when I spend a little money for the sake of making
my friends happy. When I'm about, on the lands at home, I ain't
extravagant, I can tell you."

"Extravagance is a great vice."

"Oh, I ain't extravagant in that sense;--not a bit in the world. But
when a man's enamoured, and perhaps looking out for a wife, he does
like to be a little free, you know."

"And are you looking out for a wife, Mr Cheesacre?"

"If I told you I suppose you'd only laugh at me."

"No; indeed I would not. I am not given to joking when any one that I
regard speaks to me seriously."

"Ain't you though? I'm so glad of that. When one has really got a
serious thing to say, one doesn't like to have fun poked at one."

"And, besides, how could I laugh at marriages, seeing how happy I
have been in that condition?--so--very--happy," and Mrs Greenow put
up her handkerchief to her eyes.

"So happy that you'll try it again some day; won't you?"

"Never, Mr Cheesacre; never. Is that the way you talk of serious
things without joking? Anything like love--love of that sort--is
over for me. It lies buried under the sod with my poor dear departed
saint."

"But, Mrs Greenow,"--and Cheesacre, as he prepared to argue the
question with her, got nearer to her in the corner behind the
table,--"But, Mrs Greenow, care killed a cat, you know."

"And sometimes I think that care will kill me."

"No, by George; not if I can prevent it."

"You're very kind, Mr Cheesacre; but there's no preventing such care
as mine."

"Isn't there though? I'll tell you what, Mrs Greenow; I'm in earnest,
I am indeed. If you'll inquire, you'll find there isn't a fellow in
Norfolk pays his way better than I do, or is better able to do it. I
don't pay a sixpence of rent, and I sit upon seven hundred acres of
as good land as there is in the county. There's not an acre that
won't do me a bullock and a half. Just put that and that together,
and see what it comes to. And, mind you, some of these fellows that
farm their own land are worse off than if they'd rent to pay. They've
borrowed so much to carry on with, that the interest is more than
rent. I don't owe a sixpence to ere a man or ere a company in the
world. I can walk into every bank in Norwich without seeing my
master. There ain't any of my paper flying about, Mrs Greenow. I'm
Samuel Cheesacre of Oileymead, and it's all my own." Mr Cheesacre, as
he thus spoke of his good fortunes and firm standing in the world,
became impetuous in the energy of the moment, and brought down his
fist powerfully on the slight table before them. The whole fabric
rattled, and the boat resounded, but the noise he had made seemed to
assist him. "It's all my own, Mrs Greenow, and the half of it shall
be yours if you'll please to take it;" then he stretched out his hand
to her, not as though he intended to grasp hers in a grasp of love,
but as if he expected some hand-pledge from her as a token that she
accepted the bargain.

"If you'd known Greenow, Mr Cheesacre--"

"I've no doubt he was a very good sort of man."

"If you'd known him, you would not have addressed me in this way."

"What difference would that make? My idea is that care killed a cat,
as I said before. I never knew what was the good of being unhappy.
If I find early mangels don't do on a bit of land, then I sow late
turnips; and never cry after spilt milk. Greenow was the early
mangels; I'll be the late turnips. Come then, say the word. There
ain't a bedroom in my house,--not one of the front ones,--that isn't
mahogany furnished!"

"What's furniture to me?" said Mrs Greenow, with her handkerchief to
her eyes.

Just at this moment Maria's mother stepped in under the canvas. It
was most inopportune. Mr Cheesacre felt that he was progressing well,
and was conscious that he had got safely over those fences in the
race which his bashfulness would naturally make difficult to him. He
knew that he had done this under the influence of the champagne, and
was aware that it might not be easy to procure again a combination
of circumstances that would be so beneficial to him. But now he was
interrupted just as he was expecting success. He was interrupted,
and felt himself to be looking like a guilty creature under the eye
of the strange lady. He had not a word to say; but drawing himself
suddenly a foot and half away from the widow's side, sat there
confessing his guilt in his face.

Mrs Greenow felt no guilt, and was afraid of no strange eyes. "Mr
Cheesacre and I are talking about farming," she said.

"Oh; farming!" answered Maria's mother.

"Mr Cheesacre thinks that turnips are better than early mangels,"
said Mrs Greenow.

"Yes, I do," said Cheesacre,

"I prefer the early mangels," said Mrs Greenow. "I don't think nature
ever intended those late crops. What do you say, Mrs Walker?"

"I daresay Mr Cheesacre understands what he's about when he's at
home," said the lady.

"I know what a bit of land can do as well as any man in Norfolk,"
said the gentleman.

"It may be very well in Norfolk," said Mrs Greenow, rising from her
seat; "but the practice isn't thought much of in the other counties
with which I am better acquainted."

"I'd just come in to say that I thought we might be getting to the
boats," said Mrs Walker. "My Ophelia is so delicate." At this moment
the delicate Ophelia was to be seen, under the influence of the
music, taking a distant range upon the sands with Joe Fairstairs' arm
round her waist. The attitude was justified by the tune that was in
progress, and there is no reason why a galop on the sands should have
any special termination in distance, as it must have in a room. But,
under such circumstances, Mrs Walker's solicitude was not
unreasonable.

The erratic steps of the distant dancers were recalled and
preparations were made for the return journey. Others had strayed
besides the delicate Ophelia and the idle Joe, and some little time
was taken up in collecting the party. The boats had to be drawn down,
and the boatmen fetched from their cans and tobacco-pipes. "I hope
they're sober," said Mrs Walker, with a look of great dismay.

"Sober as judges," said Bellfield, who had himself been looking after
the remains of Mr Cheesacre's hampers, while that gentleman had been
so much better engaged in the tent.

"Because," continued Mrs Walker, "I know that they play all manner of
tricks when they're--in liquor. They'd think nothing of taking us out
to sea, Mrs Greenow."

"Oh, I do wish they would," said Ophelia.

"Ophelia, mind you come in the boat with me," said her mother, and
she looked very savage when she gave the order. It was Mrs Walker's
intention that that boat should not carry Joe Fairstairs. But Joe and
her daughter together were too clever for her. When the boats went
off she found herself to be in that one over which Mr Cheesacre
presided, while the sinning Ophelia with her good-for-nothing admirer
were under the more mirthful protection of Captain Bellfield.

"Mamma will be so angry," said Ophelia, "and it was all your fault. I
did mean to go into the other boat. Don't, Mr Fairstairs." Then they
got settled down in their seats, to the satisfaction, let us hope, of
them both.

Mr Cheesacre had vainly endeavoured to arrange that Mrs Greenow
should return with him. But not only was Captain Bellfield opposed
to such a change in their positions, but so also was Mrs Greenow. "I
think we'd better go back as we came," she said, giving her hand to
the Captain.

"Oh, certainly," said Captain Bellfield. "Why should there be any
change? Cheesacre, old fellow, mind you look after Mrs Walker. Come
along, my hearty." It really almost appeared that Captain Bellfield
was addressing Mrs Greenow as "his hearty," but it must be presumed
that the term of genial endearment was intended for the whole boat's
load. Mrs Greenow took her place on the comfortable broad bench in
the stern, and Bellfield seated himself beside her, with the tiller
in his hand.

"If you're going to steer, Captain Bellfield, I beg that you'll be
careful."

"Careful,--and with you on board!" said the Captain. "Don't you know
that I would sooner perish beneath the waves than that a drop of
water should touch you roughly?"

"But you see, we might perish beneath the waves together."

"Together! What a sweet word that is;--perish together! If it were
not that there might be something better even than that, I would wish
to perish in such company."

"But I should not wish anything of the kind, Captain Bellfield, and
therefore pray be careful."

There was no perishing by water on that occasion. Mr Cheesacre's boat
reached the pier at Yarmouth first, and gave up its load without
accident. Very shortly afterwards Captain Bellfield's crew reached
the same place in the same state of preservation. "There," said he,
as he handed out Mrs Greenow. "I have brought you to no harm, at any
rate as yet."

"And, as I hope, will not do so hereafter."

"May the heavens forbid it, Mrs Greenow! Whatever may be our lots
hereafter,--yours I mean and mine,--I trust that yours may be free
from all disaster. Oh, that I might venture to hope that, at some
future day, the privilege might be mine of protecting you from all
danger!"

"I can protect myself very well, I can assure you. Good night,
Captain Bellfield. We won't take you and Mr Cheesacre out of your
way;--will we, Kate? We have had a most pleasant day."

They were now upon the esplanade, and Mrs Greenow's house was to the
right, whereas the lodgings of both the gentlemen were to the left.
Each of them fought hard for the privilege of accompanying the widow
to her door; but Mrs Greenow was self-willed, and upon this occasion
would have neither of them. "Mr Joe Fairstairs must pass the house,"
said she, "and he will see us home. Mr Cheesacre, good night. Indeed
you shall not;--not a step." There was that in her voice which
induced Mr Cheesacre to obey her, and which made Captain Bellfield
aware that he would only injure his cause if he endeavoured to make
further progress in it on the present occasion.

"Well, Kate, what do you think of the day?" the aunt said when she
was alone with her niece.

"I never think much about such days, aunt. It was all very well, but
I fear I have not the temperament fitted for enjoying the fun. I
envied Ophelia Walker because she made herself thoroughly happy."

"I do like to see girls enjoy themselves," said Mrs Greenow, "I do,
indeed;--and young men too. It seems so natural; why shouldn't young
people flirt?"

"Or old people either for the matter of that?"

"Or old people either,--if they don't do any harm to anybody. I'll
tell you what it is, Kate; people have become so very virtuous, that
they're driven into all manner of abominable resources for amusement
and occupation. If I had sons and daughters I should think a little
flirting the very best thing for them as a safety valve. When people
get to be old, there's a difficulty. They want to flirt with the
young people and the young people don't want them. If the old people
would be content to flirt together, I don't see why they should ever
give it up;--till they're obliged to give up every thing, and go
away."

That was Mrs Greenow's doctrine on the subject of flirtation.



CHAPTER X

Nethercoats


We will leave Mrs Greenow with her niece and two sisters at Yarmouth,
and returning by stages to London, will call upon Mr Grey at his
place in Cambridgeshire as we pass by. I believe it is conceded by
all the other counties, that Cambridgeshire possesses fewer rural
beauties than any other county in England. It is very flat; it is
not well timbered; the rivers are merely dikes; and in a very large
portion of the county the farms and fields are divided simply by
ditches--not by hedgerows. Such arrangements are, no doubt, well
adapted for agricultural purposes, but are not conducive to rural
beauty. Mr Grey's residence was situated in a part of Cambridgeshire
in which the above-named characteristics are very much marked. It was
in the Isle of Ely, some few miles distant from the Cathedral town,
on the side of a long straight road, which ran through the fields
for miles without even a bush to cheer it. The name of his place was
Nethercoats, and here he lived generally throughout the year, and
here he intended to live throughout his life.

His father had held a prebendal stall at Ely in times when prebendal
stalls were worth more than they are at present, and having also
been possessed of a living in the neighbourhood, had amassed a
considerable sum of money. With this he had during his life purchased
the property of Nethercoats, and had built on it the house in which
his son now lived. He had married late in life, and had lost his wife
soon after the birth of an only child. The house had been built in
his own parish, and his wife had lived there for a few months and had
died there. But after that event the old clergyman had gone back to
his residence in the Close at Ely, and there John Grey had had the
home of his youth. He had been brought up under his father's eye,
having been sent to no public school. But he had gone to Cambridge,
had taken college honours, and had then, his father dying exactly at
this time, declined to accept a fellowship. His father had left to
him an income of some fifteen hundred a year, and with this he sat
himself down, near to his college friends, near also to the old
cathedral which he loved, in the house which his father had built.

But though Nethercoats possessed no beauty of scenery, though the
country around it was in truth as uninteresting as any country
could be, it had many delights of its own. The house itself was as
excellent a residence for a country gentleman of small means as
taste and skill together could construct. I doubt whether prettier
rooms were ever seen than the drawing-room, the library, and the
dining-room at Nethercoats. They were all on the ground-floor, and
all opened out on to the garden and lawn. The library, which was
the largest of the three, was a handsome chamber, and so filled as
to make it well known in the University as one of the best private
collections in that part of England. But perhaps the gardens of
Nethercoats constituted its greatest glory. They were spacious
and excellently kept up, and had been originally laid out with
that knowledge of gardening without which no garden, merely as a
garden, can be effective. And such, of necessity, was the garden of
Nethercoats. Fine single forest trees there were none there, nor was
it possible that there should have been any such. Nor could there
be a clear rippling stream with steep green banks, and broken rocks
lying about its bed. Such beauties are beauties of landscape, and do
not of their nature belong to a garden. But the shrubs of Nethercoats
were of the rarest kind, and had been long enough in their present
places to have reached the period of their beauty. Nothing had been
spared that a garden could want. The fruit-trees were perfect in
their kind, and the glass-houses were so good and so extensive that
John Grey in his prudence was some times tempted to think that he had
too much of them.

It must be understood that there were no grounds, according to
the meaning usually given to that word, belonging to the house at
Nethercoats. Between the garden and the public road there was a
paddock belonging to the house, along the side of which, but divided
from it by a hedge and shrubbery, ran the private carriageway up to
the house. This swept through the small front flower-garden, dividing
it equally; but the lawns and indeed the whole of that which made
the beauty of the place lay on the back of the house, on which side
opened the windows from the three sitting-rooms. Down on the public
road there stood a lodge at which lived one of the gardeners. There
was another field of some six or seven acres, to which there was
a gate from the corner of the front paddock, and which went round
two sides of the garden. This was Nethercoats, and the whole estate
covered about twelve acres.

It was not a place for much bachelor enjoyment of that sort generally
popular with bachelors; nevertheless Mr Grey had been constant in his
residence there for the seven years which had now elapsed since he
had left his college. His easy access to Cambridge had probably done
much to mitigate what might otherwise have been the too great tedium
of his life; and he had, prompted thereto by early associations,
found most of his society in the Close of Ely Cathedral. But, with
all the delight he could derive from these two sources, there had
still been many solitary hours in his life, and he had gradually
learned to feel that he of all men wanted a companion in his home.

His visits to London had generally been short and far between,
occasioned probably by some need in the library, or by the necessity
of some slight literary transaction with the editor or publisher of a
periodical. In one of these visits he had met Alice Vavasor, and had
remained in Town,--I will not say till Alice had promised to share
his home in Cambridgeshire, but so long that he had resolved before
he went that he would ask her to do so. He had asked her, and we
know that he had been successful. He had obtained her promise, and
from that moment all his life had been changed for him. Hitherto at
Nethercoats his little smoking-room, his books, and his plants had
been everything to him. Now he began to surround himself with an
infinity of feminine belongings, and to promise himself an infinity
of feminine blessings, wondering much that he should have been
content to pass so long a portion of his life in the dull seclusion
which he had endured. He was not by nature an impatient man; but now
he became impatient, longing for the fruition of his new idea of
happiness,--longing to have that as his own which he certainly loved
beyond all else in the world, and which, perhaps, was all he had ever
loved with the perfect love of equality. But though impatient, and
fully aware of his own impatience, he acknowledged to himself that
Alice could not be expected to share it. He could plan nothing
now,--could have no pleasure in life that she was not expected to
share. But as yet it could not be so with her. She had her house
in London, her town society, and her father. And, inasmuch as the
change for her would be much greater than it would be for him, it was
natural that she should require some small delay. He had not pressed
her. At least he had not pressed her with that eager pressure which
a girl must resist with something of the opposition of a contest,
if she resist it at all. But in truth his impatience was now waxing
strong, and during the absence in Switzerland of which we have
spoken, he resolved that a marriage very late in the autumn,--that a
marriage even in winter, would be better than a marriage postponed
till the following year. It was not yet late in August when the party
returned from their tour. Would not a further delay of two months
suffice for his bride?

Alice had written to him occasionally from Switzerland, and her
first two letters had been very charming. They had referred almost
exclusively to the tour, and had been made pleasant with some
slightly coloured account of George Vavasor's idleness, and of Kate's
obedience to her brother's behests. Alice had never written much of
love in her love-letters, and Grey was well enough contented with her
style, though it was not impassioned. As for doubting her love, it
was not in the heart of the man to do so after it had been once
assured to him by her word. He could not so slightly respect himself
or her as to leave room for such a doubt in his bosom. He was a man
who could never have suggested to himself that a woman loved him till
the fact was there before him; but who having ascertained, as he
might think, the fact, could never suggest to himself that her love
would fail him. Her first two letters from Switzerland had been very
pleasant; but after that there had seemed to have crept over her a
melancholy which she unconsciously transferred to her words, and
which he could not but taste in them,--at first unconsciously, also,
but soon with so plain a flavour that he recognised it, and made it a
matter of mental inquiry. During the three or four last days of the
journey, while they were at Basle and on their way home, she had not
written. But she did write on the day after her arrival, having then
received from Mr Grey a letter, in which he told her how very much
she would add to his happiness if she would now agree that their
marriage should not be postponed beyond the end of October. This
letter she found in her room on her return, and this she answered at
once. And she answered it in such words that Mr Grey resolved that he
would at once go to her in London. I will give her letter at length,
as I shall then be best able to proceed with my story quickly.


   Queen Anne Street,
   -- August, 186--.

   DEAREST JOHN,--

   We reached home yesterday tired enough, as we came through
   from Paris without stopping. I may indeed say that we
   came through from Strasbourg, as we only slept in Paris.
   I don't like Strasbourg. A steeple, after all, is not
   everything, and putting the steeple aside, I don't think
   the style is good. But the hotel was uncomfortable, which
   goes for so much;--and then we were saturated with beauty
   of a better kind.

   I got your letter directly I came in last night, and
   I suppose I had better dash at it at once. I would so
   willingly delay doing so, saying nice little things the
   while, did I not know that this would be mere cowardice.
   Whatever happens I won't be a coward, and therefore I will
   tell you at once that I cannot let you hope that we should
   be married this year. Of course you will ask me why,
   as you have a right to do, and of course I am bound to
   answer. I do not know that I can give any answer with
   which you will not have a right to complain. If it be so,
   I can only ask your pardon for the injury I am doing you.

   Marriage is a great change in life,--much greater to me
   than to you, who will remain in your old house, will keep
   your old pursuits, will still be your own master, and will
   change in nothing,--except in this, that you will have a
   companion who probably may not be all that you expect.
   But I must change everything. It will be to me as though
   I were passing through a grave to a new world. I shall
   see nothing that I have been accustomed to see, and must
   abandon all the ways of life that I have hitherto adopted.
   Of course I should have thought of this before I accepted
   you; and I did think of it. I made up my mind that, as I
   truly loved you, I would risk the change;--that I would
   risk it for your sake and for mine, hoping that I might
   add something to your happiness, and that I might secure
   my own. Dear John, do not suppose that I despair that it
   may be so; but, indeed, you must not hurry me. I must tune
   myself to the change that I have to make. What if I should
   wake some morning after six months living with you, and
   tell you that the quiet of your home was making me mad?

   You must not ask me again till the winter shall have
   passed away. If in the meantime I shall find that I have
   been wrong, I will humbly confess that I have wronged
   you, and ask you to forgive me. And I will freely admit
   this. If the delay which I now purpose is so contrary
   to your own plans as to make your marriage, under such
   circumstances, not that which you had expected, I know
   that you are free to tell me so, and to say that our
   engagement shall be over. I am well aware that I can have
   no right to bind you to a marriage at one period which you
   had only contemplated as to take place at another period.
   I think I may promise that I will obey any wish you may
   express in anything,--except in that one thing which you
   urged in your last letter.

   Kate is going down to Yarmouth with Mrs Greenow, and I
   shall see no more of her probably till next year, as she
   will be due in Westmoreland after that. George left me at
   the door when he brought me home, and declared that he
   intended to vanish out of London. Whether in town or out,
   he is never to be seen at this period of the year. Papa
   offers to go to Ramsgate for a fortnight, but he looks so
   wretched when he makes the offer, that I shall not have
   the heart to hold him to it. Lady Macleod very much wants
   me to go to Cheltenham. I very much want not to go, simply
   because I can never agree with her about anything; but
   it will probably end in my going there for a week or two.
   Over and beyond that, I have no prospects before Christmas
   which are not purely domestic. There is a project that we
   shall all eat our Christmas dinner at Vavasor Hall,--of
   course not including George,--but this project is quite
   in the clouds, and, as far as I am concerned, will remain
   there.

   Dear John, let me hear that this letter does not make you
   unhappy.

   Most affectionately yours,

   ALICE VAVASOR.


At Nethercoats, the post was brought in at breakfast-time, and Mr
Grey was sitting with his tea and eggs before him, when he read
Alice's letter. He read it twice before he began to think what he
would do in regard to it, and then referred to one or two others
which he had received from Switzerland,--reading them also very
carefully. After that, he took up the slouch hat which he had been
wearing in the garden before he was called to his breakfast, and,
with the letters in his hand, sauntered down among the shrubs and
lawns.

He knew, he thought he knew, that there was more in Alice's mind than
a mere wish for delay. There was more in it than that hesitation to
take at once a step which she really desired to take, if not now,
then after some short interval. He felt that she was unhappy, and
unhappy because she distrusted the results of her marriage; but it
never for a moment occurred to him that, therefore, the engagement
between them should be broken. In the first place he loved her too
well to allow of his admitting such an idea without terrible sorrow
to himself. He was a constant, firm man, somewhat reserved, and
unwilling to make new acquaintances, and, therefore, specially
unwilling to break away from those which he had made. Undoubtedly,
had he satisfied himself that Alice's happiness demanded such a
sacrifice of himself, he would have made it, and made it without a
word of complaint. The blow would not have prostrated him, but the
bruise would have remained on his heart, indelible, not to be healed
but by death. He would have submitted, and no man would have seen
that he had been injured. But it did not once occur to him that such
a proceeding on his part would be beneficial to Alice. Without being
aware of it, he reckoned himself to be the nobler creature of the
two, and now thought of her as of one wounded, and wanting a cure.
Some weakness had fallen on her, and strength must be given to her
from another. He did not in the least doubt her love, but he knew
that she had been associated, for a few weeks past, with two persons
whose daily conversation would be prone to weaken the tone of her
mind. He no more thought of giving her up than a man thinks of having
his leg cut off because he has sprained his sinews. He would go up to
town and see her, and would not even yet abandon all hope that she
might be found sitting at his board when Christmas should come. By
that day's post he wrote a short note to her.

"Dearest Alice," he said, "I have resolved to go to London at once. I
will be with you in the evening at eight, the day after to-morrow.

"Yours, J. G."

There was no more in the letter than that.

"And now," she said, when she received it, "I must dare to tell him
the whole truth."



CHAPTER XI

John Grey Goes to London


And what was the whole truth? Alice Vavasor, when she declared to
herself that she must tell her lover the whole truth, was expressing
to herself her intention of putting an end to her engagement with Mr
Grey. She was acknowledging that that which had to be told was not
compatible with the love and perfect faith which she owed to the man
who was her affianced husband. And yet, why should it be so? She did
not intend to tell him that she had been false in her love to him.
It was not that her heart had again veered itself round and given
itself to that wild cousin of hers. Though she might feel herself
constrained to part from John Grey, George Vavasor could never be her
husband. Of that she assured herself fifty times during the two days'
grace which had been allowed her. Nay, she went farther than that
with herself, and pronounced a verdict against any marriage as
possible to her if she now decided against this marriage which had
for some months past been regarded as fixed by herself and all her
friends.

People often say that marriage is an important thing, and should be
much thought of in advance, and marrying people are cautioned that
there are many who marry in haste and repent at leisure. I am not
sure, however, that marriage may not be pondered over too much; nor
do I feel certain that the leisurely repentance does not as often
follow the leisurely marriages as it does the rapid ones. That some
repent no one can doubt; but I am inclined to believe that most men
and women take their lots as they find them, marrying as the birds
do by force of nature, and going on with their mates with a general,
though not perhaps an undisturbed satisfaction, feeling inwardly
assured that Providence, if it have not done the very best for them,
has done for them as well as they could do for themselves with all
the thought in the world. I do not know that a woman can assure to
herself, by her own prudence and taste, a good husband any more than
she can add two cubits to her stature; but husbands have been made
to be decently good,--and wives too, for the most part, in our
country,--so that the thing does not require quite so much thinking
as some people say.

That Alice Vavasor had thought too much about it, I feel quite sure.
She had gone on thinking of it till she had filled herself with a
cloud of doubts which even the sunshine of love was unable to drive
from her heavens. That a girl should really love the man she intends
to marry,--that, at any rate, may be admitted. But love generally
comes easily enough. With all her doubts Alice never doubted her love
for Mr Grey. Nor did she doubt his character, nor his temper, nor his
means. But she had gone on thinking of the matter till her mind had
become filled with some undefined idea of the importance to her of
her own life. What should a woman do with her life? There had arisen
round her a flock of learned ladies asking that question, to whom it
seems that the proper answer has never yet occurred. Fall in love,
marry the man, have two children, and live happy ever afterwards.
I maintain that answer has as much wisdom in it as any other that
can be given;--or perhaps more. The advice contained in it cannot,
perhaps, always be followed to the letter; but neither can the advice
of the other kind, which is given by the flock of learned ladies who
ask the question.

A woman's life is important to her,--as is that of a man to him,--not
chiefly in regard to that which she shall do with it. The chief thing
for her to look to is the manner in which that something shall be
done. It is of moment to a young man when entering life to decide
whether he shall make hats or shoes; but not of half the moment that
will be that other decision, whether he shall make good shoes or bad.
And so with a woman;--if she shall have recognised the necessity of
truth and honesty for the purposes of her life, I do not know that
she need ask herself many questions as to what she will do with it.

Alice Vavasor was ever asking herself that question, and had by
degrees filled herself with a vague idea that there was a something
to be done; a something over and beyond, or perhaps altogether beside
that marrying and having two children;--if she only knew what it was.
She had filled herself, or had been filled by her cousins, with an
undefined ambition that made her restless without giving her any real
food for her mind. When she told herself that she would have no scope
for action in that life in Cambridgeshire which Mr Grey was preparing
for her, she did not herself know what she meant by action. Had any
one accused her of being afraid to separate herself from London
society, she would have declared that she went very little into
society and disliked that little. Had it been whispered to her that
she loved the neighbourhood of the shops, she would have scorned the
whisperer. Had it been suggested that the continued rattle of the big
city was necessary to her happiness, she would have declared that she
and her father had picked out for their residence the quietest street
in London because she could not bear noise;--and yet she told herself
that she feared to be taken into the desolate calmness of
Cambridgeshire.

When she did contrive to find any answer to that question as to what
she should do with her life,--or rather what she would wish to do
with it if she were a free agent, it was generally of a political
nature. She was not so far advanced as to think that women should be
lawyers and doctors, or to wish that she might have the privilege of
the franchise for herself; but she had undoubtedly a hankering after
some second-hand political manoeuvering. She would have liked, I
think, to have been the wife of the leader of a Radical opposition,
in the time when such men were put into prison, and to have kept up
for him his seditious correspondence while he lay in the Tower. She
would have carried the answers to him inside her stays,--and have
made long journeys down into northern parts without any money, if the
cause required it. She would have liked to have around her ardent
spirits, male or female, who would have talked of "the cause," and
have kept alive in her some flame of political fire. As it was, she
had no cause. Her father's political views were very mild. Lady
Macleod's were deadly conservative. Kate Vavasor was an aspiring
Radical just now, because her brother was in the same line; but
during the year of the love-passages between George and Alice, George
Vavasor's politics had been as conservative as you please. He did not
become a Radical till he had quarrelled with his grandfather. Now,
indeed, he was possessed of very advanced views,--views with which
Alice felt that she could sympathize. But what would be the use of
sympathizing down in Cambridgeshire? John Grey had, so to speak, no
politics. He had decided views as to the treatment which the Roman
Senate received from Augustus, and had even discussed with Alice the
conduct of the Girondists at the time of Robespierre's triumph; but
for Manchester and its cares he had no apparent solicitude, and had
declared to Alice that he would not accept a seat in the British
House of Commons if it were offered to him free of expense. What
political enthusiasm could she indulge with such a companion down in
Cambridgeshire?

She thought too much of all this,--and was, if I may say,
over-prudent in calculating the chances of her happiness and of
his. For, to give her credit for what was her due, she was quite as
anxious on the latter head as on the former. "I don't care for the
Roman Senate," she would say to herself. "I don't care much for the
Girondists. How am I to talk to him day after day, night after night,
when we shall be alone together?"

No doubt her tour in Switzerland with her cousin had had some effect
in making such thoughts stronger now than they had ever been. She had
not again learned to love her cousin. She was as firmly sure as ever
that she could never love him more. He had insulted her love; and
though she had forgiven him and again enrolled him among her dearest
friends, she could never again feel for him that passion which a
woman means when she acknowledges that she is in love. That, as
regarded her and George Vavasor, was over. But, nevertheless, there
had been a something of romance during those days in Switzerland
which she feared she would regret when she found herself settled
at Nethercoats. She envied Kate. Kate could, as his sister, attach
herself on to George's political career, and obtain from it all that
excitement of life which Alice desired for herself. Alice could not
love her cousin and marry him; but she felt that if she could do so
without impropriety she would like to stick close to him like another
sister, to spend her money in aiding his career in Parliament as Kate
would do, and trust herself and her career into the boat which he was
to command. She did not love her cousin; but she still believed in
him,--with a faith which he certainly did not deserve.

As the two days passed over her, her mind grew more and more fixed as
to its purpose. She would tell Mr Grey that she was not fit to be his
wife--and she would beg him to pardon her and to leave her. It never
occurred to her that perhaps he might refuse to let her go. She felt
quite sure that she would be free as soon as she had spoken the word
which she intended to speak. If she could speak it with decision she
would be free, and to attain that decision she would school herself
with her utmost strength. At one moment she thought of telling all to
her father and of begging him to break the matter to Mr Grey; but she
knew that her father would not understand her, and that he would be
very hostile to her,--saying hard, uncomfortable words, which would
probably be spared if the thing were done before he was informed. Nor
would she write to Kate, whose letters to her at this time were full
of wit at the expense of Mrs Greenow. She would tell Kate as soon as
the thing was done, but not before. That Kate would sympathize with
her, she was quite certain.

So the two days passed by and the time came at which John Grey was to
be there. As the minute hand on the drawing-room clock came round to
the full hour, she felt that her heart was beating with a violence
which she could not repress. The thing seemed to her to assume bigger
dimensions than it had hitherto done. She began to be aware that she
was about to be guilty of a great iniquity, when it was too late for
her to change her mind. She could not bring herself to resolve that
she would, on the moment, change her mind. She believed that she
could never pardon herself such weakness. But yet she felt herself to
be aware that her purpose was wicked. When the knock at the door was
at last heard she trembled and feared that she would almost be unable
to speak to him. Might it be possible that there should yet be a
reprieve for her? No; it was his step on the stairs, and there he was
in the room with her.

"My dearest," he said, coming to her. His smile was sweet and loving
as it ever was, and his voice had its usual manly, genial, loving
tone. As he walked across the room Alice felt that he was a man of
whom a wife might be very proud. He was tall and very handsome, with
brown hair, with bright blue eyes, and a mouth like a god. It was the
beauty of his mouth,--beauty which comprised firmness within itself,
that made Alice afraid of him. He was still dressed in his morning
clothes; but he was a man who always seemed to be well dressed. "My
dearest," he said, advancing across the room, and before she knew how
to stop herself or him, he had taken her in his arms and kissed her.

He did not immediately begin about the letter, but placed her upon
the sofa, seating himself by her side, and looked into her face with
loving eyes,--not as though to scrutinize what might be amiss there,
but as though determined to enjoy to the full his privilege as a
lover. There was no reproach at any rate in his countenance;--none as
yet; nor did it seem that he thought that he had any cause for fear.
They sat in this way for a moment or two in silence, and during those
moments Alice was summoning up her courage to speak. The palpitation
at her heart was already gone, and she was determined that she would
speak.

"Though I am very glad to see you," she said, at last, "I am sorry
that my letter should have given you the trouble of this journey."

"Trouble!" he said. "Nay, you ought to know that it is no trouble. I
have not enough to do down at Nethercoats to make the running up to
you at any time an unpleasant excitement. So your Swiss journey went
off pleasantly?"

"Yes; it went off very pleasantly." This she said in that tone of
voice which clearly implies that the speaker is not thinking of the
words spoken.

"And Kate has now left you?"

"Yes; she is with her aunt, at the seaside."

"So I understand;--and your cousin George?"

"I never know much of George's movements. He may be in Town, but I
have not seen him since I came back."

"Ah! that is the way with friends living in London. Unless
circumstances bring them together, they are in fact further apart
than if they lived fifty miles asunder in the country. And he managed
to get through all the trouble without losing your luggage for you
very often?"

"If you were to say that we did not lose his, that would be nearer
the mark. But, John, you have come up to London in this sudden way to
speak to me about my letter to you. Is it not so?"

"Certainly it is so. Certainly I have."

"I have thought much, since, of what I then wrote, very much,--very
much, indeed; and I have learned to feel sure that we had better--"

"Stop, Alice; stop a moment, love. Do not speak hurriedly. Shall I
tell you what I learned from your letter?"

"Yes; tell me, if you think it better that you should do so."

"Perhaps it may be better. I learned, love, that something had been
said or done during your journey,--or perhaps only something thought,
that had made you melancholy, and filled your mind for a while with
those unsubstantial and indefinable regrets for the past which we are
all apt to feel at certain moments of our life. There are few of us
who do not encounter, now and again, some of that irrational spirit
of sadness which, when over-indulged, drives men to madness and
self-destruction. I used to know well what it was before I knew you;
but since I have had the hope of having you in my house, I have
banished it utterly. In that I think I have been stronger than you.
Do not speak under the influence of that spirit till you have thought
whether you, too, cannot banish it."

"I have tried, and it will not be banished."

"Try again, Alice. It is a damned spirit, and belongs neither to
heaven nor to earth. Do not say to me the words that you were about
to say till you have wrestled with it manfully. I think I know what
those words were to be. If you love me, those words should not be
spoken. If you do not--"

"If I do not love you, I love no one upon earth."

"I believe it. I believe it as I believe in my own love for you. I
trust your love implicitly, Alice. I know that you love me. I think I
can read your mind. Tell me that I may return to Cambridgeshire, and
again plead my cause for an early marriage from thence. I will not
take such speech from you to mean more than it says!"

She sat quiet, looking at him--looking full into his face. She had in
nowise changed her mind, but after such words from him, she did not
know how to declare to him her resolution. There was something in his
manner that awed her,--and something also that softened her.

"Tell me," said he, "that I may see you again to-morrow morning in
our usual quiet, loving way, and that I may return home to-morrow
evening. Pronounce a yea to that speech from me, and I will ask for
nothing further."

"No; I cannot do so," she said. And the tone of her voice, as she
spoke, was different to any tone that he had heard before from her
mouth.

"Is that melancholy fiend too strong for you?" He smiled as he said
this, and as he smiled, he took her hand. She did not attempt to
withdraw it, but sat by him in a strange calmness, looking straight
before her into the middle of the room. "You have not struggled with
it. You know, as I do, that it is a bad fiend and a wicked one,--a
fiend that is prompting you to the worst cruelty in the world. Alice!
Alice! Alice! Try to think of all this as though some other person
were concerned. If it were your friend, what advice would you give
her?"

"I would bid her tell the man who had loved her,--that is, if he were
noble, good, and great,--that she found herself to be unfit to be his
wife; and then I would bid her ask his pardon humbly on her knees."
As she said this, she sank before him on to the floor, and looked up
into his face with an expression of sad contrition which almost drew
him from his purposed firmness.

He had purposed to be firm,--to yield to her in nothing, resolving
to treat all that she might say as the hallucination of a sickened
imagination,--as the effect of absolute want of health, for which
some change in her mode of life would be the best cure. She might
bid him begone in what language she would. He knew well that such
was her intention. But he would not allow a word coming from her in
such a way to disturb arrangements made for the happiness of their
joint lives. As a loving husband would treat a wife, who, in some
exceptionable moment of a melancholy malady, should declare herself
unable to remain longer in her home, so would he treat her. As for
accepting what she might say as his dismissal, he would as soon think
of taking the fruit-trees from the southern wall because the sun
sometimes shines from the north. He could not treat either his
interests or hers so lightly as that.

"But what if he granted no such pardon, Alice? I will grant none
such. You are my wife, my own, my dearest, my chosen one. You are all
that I value in the world, my treasure and my comfort, my earthly
happiness and my gleam of something better that is to come hereafter.
Do you think that I shall let you go from me in that way? No, love.
If you are ill I will wait till your illness is gone by; and, if you
will let me, I will be your nurse."

"I am not ill."

"Not ill with any defined sickness. You do not shake with ague, nor
does your head rack you with aching; but yet you may be ill. Think of
what has passed between us. Must you not be ill when you seek to put
an end to all that without any cause assigned."

"You will not hear my reasons,"--she was still kneeling before him
and looking up into his face.

"I will hear them if you will tell me that they refer to any supposed
faults of my own."

"No, no, no!"

"Then I will not hear them. It is for me to find out your faults, and
when I have found out any that require complaint, I will come and
make it. Dear Alice, I wish you knew how I long for you." Then he put
his hand upon her hair, as though he would caress her.

But this she would not suffer, so she rose slowly, and stood with her
hand upon the table in the middle of the room. "Mr Grey--" she said.

"If you will call me so, I shall think it only a part of your
malady."

"Mr Grey," she continued, "I can only hope that you will take me at
my word."

"Oh, but I will not; certainly I will not, if that would be adverse
to my own interests."

"I am thinking of your interests; I am, indeed;--at any rate as much
as of my own. I feel quite sure that I should not make you happy as
your wife,--quite sure; and feeling that, I think that I am right,
even after all that has passed, to ask your forgiveness, and to beg
that our engagement may be over."

"No, Alice, no; never with my consent. I cannot tell you with what
contentment I would marry you to-morrow,--to-morrow, or next month,
or the month after. But if it cannot be so, then I will wait. Nothing
but your marriage with some one else would convince me."

"I cannot convince you in that way," she said, smiling.

"You will convince me in no other. You have not spoken to your father
of this as yet?"

"Not as yet."

"Do not do so, at any rate for the present. You will own that it
might be possible that you would have to unsay what you had said."

"No; it is not possible."

"Give yourself and me the chance. It can do no harm. And, Alice, I
ask you now for no reasons. I will not ask your reasons, or even
listen to them, because I do not believe that they will long have
effect even on yourself. Do you still think of going to Cheltenham?"

"I have decided nothing as yet."

"If I were you, I would go. I think a change of air would be good for
you."

"Yes; you treat me as though I were partly silly, and partly insane;
but it is not so. The change you speak of should be in my nature, and
in yours."

He shook his head and still smiled. There was something in the
imperturbed security of his manner which almost made her angry with
him. It seemed as though he assumed so great a superiority that he
felt himself able to treat any resolve of hers as the petulance of
a child. And though he spoke in strong language of his love, and of
his longing that she should come to him, yet he was so well able
to command his feelings, that he showed no sign of grief at the
communication she had made to him. She did not doubt his love, but
she believed him to be so much the master of his love,--as he was the
master of everything else, that her separation from him would cause
him no uncontrollable grief. In that she utterly failed to understand
his character. Had she known him better, she might have been sure
that such a separation now would with him have carried its mark to
the grave. Should he submit to her decision, he would go home and
settle himself to his books the next day; but on no following day
would he be again capable of walking forth among his flowers with an
easy heart. He was a strong, constant man, perhaps over-conscious of
his own strength; but then his strength was great. "He is perfect!"
Alice had said to herself often. "Oh that he were less perfect!"

He did not stay with her long after the last word that has been
recorded. "Perhaps," he said, as for a moment he held her hand at
parting, "I had better not come to-morrow."

"No, no; it is better not."

"I advise you not to tell your father of this, and doubtless you will
think of it before you do so. But if you do tell him, let me know
that you have done so."

"Why that?"

"Because in such case I also must see him. God bless you, Alice! God
bless you, dearest, dearest Alice!" Then he went, and she sat there
on the sofa without moving, till she heard her father's feet as he
came up the stairs.

"What, Alice, are you not in bed yet?"

"Not yet, papa."

"And so John Grey has been here. He has left his stick in the hall. I
should know it among a thousand."

"Yes; he has been here."

"Is anything the matter, Alice?"

"No, papa, nothing is the matter."

"He has not made himself disagreeable, has he?"

"Not in the least. He never does anything wrong. He may defy man or
woman to find fault with him."

"So that is it, is it? He is just a shade too good. Well, I have
always thought that myself. But it's a fault on the right side."

"It's no fault, Papa. If there be any fault, it is not with him. But
I am yawning and tired, and I will go to bed."

"Is he to be here to-morrow?"

"No; he returns to Nethercoats early. Good night, papa."

Mr Vavasor, as he went up to his bedroom, felt sure that there had
been something wrong between his daughter and her lover. "I don't
know how she'll ever put up with him," he said to himself, "he is so
terribly conceited. I shall never forget how he went on about Charles
Kemble, and what a fool he made of himself."

Alice, before she went to bed, sat down and wrote a letter to her
cousin Kate.



CHAPTER XII

Mr George Vavasor at Home


It cannot perhaps fairly be said that George Vavasor was an
unhospitable man, seeing that it was his custom to entertain his
friends occasionally at Greenwich, Richmond, or such places; and
he would now and again have a friend to dine with him at his club.
But he never gave breakfasts, dinners, or suppers under his own
roof. During a short period of his wine-selling career, at which
time he had occupied handsome rooms over his place of business in
New Burlington Street, he had presided at certain feasts given to
customers or expectant customers by the firm; but he had not found
this employment to his taste, and had soon relinquished it to one
of the other partners. Since that he had lived in lodgings in Cecil
Street,--down at the bottom of that retired nook, near to the river
and away from the Strand. Here he had simply two rooms on the first
floor, and hither his friends came to him very rarely. They came very
rarely on any account. A stray man might now and then pass an hour
with him here; but on such occasions the chances were that the visit
had some reference, near or distant, to affairs of business. Eating
or drinking there was never any to be found here by the most intimate
of his allies. His lodgings were his private retreat, and they were
so private that but few of his friends knew where he lived.

And had it been possible he would have wished that no one should have
known his whereabouts. I am not aware that he had any special reason
for this peculiarity, or that there was anything about his mode of
life that required hiding; but he was a man who had always lived as
though secrecy in certain matters might at any time become useful
to him. He had a mode of dressing himself when he went out at night
that made it almost impossible that any one should recognise him. The
people at his lodgings did not even know that he had relatives, and
his nearest relatives hardly knew that he had lodgings. Even Kate
had never been at the rooms in Cecil Street, and addressed all her
letters to his place of business or his club. He was a man who would
bear no inquiry into himself. If he had been out of view for a month,
and his friends asked him where he had been, he always answered the
question falsely, or left it unanswered. There are many men of whom
everybody knows all about all their belongings;--as to whom everybody
knows where they live, whither they go, what is their means, and how
they spend it. But there are others of whom no man knows anything,
and George Vavasor was such a one. For myself I like the open babbler
the best. Babbling may be a weakness, but to my thinking mystery is a
vice.

Vavasor also maintained another little establishment, down in
Oxfordshire; but the two establishments did not even know of each
other's existence. There was a third, too, very closely hidden from
the world's eye, which shall be nameless; but of the establishment in
Oxfordshire he did sometimes speak, in very humble words, among his
friends. When he found himself among hunting men, he would speak of
his two nags at Roebury, saying that he had never yet been able to
mount a regular hunting stable, and that he supposed he never would;
but that there were at Roebury two indifferent beasts of his if any
one chose to buy them. And men very often did buy Vavasor's horses.
When he was on them they always went well and sold themselves
readily. And though he thus spoke of two, and perhaps did not keep
more during the summer, he always seemed to have horses enough when
he was down in the country. No one even knew George Vavasor not to
hunt because he was short of stuff. And here, at Roebury, he kept
a trusty servant, an ancient groom with two little bushy grey eyes
which looked as though they could see through a stable door. Many
were the long whisperings which George and Bat Smithers carried on
at the stable door, in the very back depth of the yard attached to
the hunting inn at Roebury. Bat regarded his master as a man wholly
devoted to horses, but often wondered why he was not more regular in
his sojournings in Oxfordshire. Of any other portion of his master's
life Bat knew nothing. Bat could give the address of his master's
club in London, but he could give no other address.

But though Vavasor's private lodgings were so very private, he had,
nevertheless, taken some trouble in adorning them. The furniture in
the sitting-room was very neat, and the book-shelves were filled
with volumes that shone with gilding on their backs. The inkstand,
the paper-weight, the envelope case on his writing-table were all
handsome. He had a single good portrait of a woman's head hanging on
one of his walls. He had a special place adapted for his pistols,
others for his foils, and again another for his whips. The room was
as pretty a bachelor's room as you would wish to enter, but you
might see, by the position of the single easy-chair that was brought
forward, that it was seldom appropriated to the comfort of more than
one person. Here he sat lounging over his breakfast, late on a Sunday
morning in September, when all the world was out of town. He was
reading a letter which had just been brought down to him from his
club. Though the writer of it was his sister Kate, she had not been
privileged to address it to his private lodgings. He read it very
quickly, running rapidly over its contents, and then threw it aside
from him as though it were of no moment, keeping, however, an
enclosure in his hand. And yet the letter was of much moment, and
made him think deeply. "If I did it at all," said he, "it would be
more with the object of cutting him out than with any other."

The reader will hardly require to be told that the him in question
was John Grey, and that Kate's letter was one instigating her brother
to renew his love affair with Alice. And Vavasor was in truth well
inclined to renew it, and would have begun the renewing it at once,
had he not doubted his power with his cousin. Indeed it has been seen
that he had already attempted some commencement of such renewal at
Basle. He had told Kate more than once that Alice's fortune was not
much, and that her beauty was past its prime; and he would no doubt
repeat the same objections to his sister with some pretence of
disinclination. It was not his custom to show his hand to the players
at any game that he played. But he was, in truth, very anxious to
obtain from Alice a second promise of her hand. How soon after that
he might marry her, would be another question.

Perhaps it was not Alice's beauty that he coveted, nor yet her money
exclusively. Nevertheless he thought her very beautiful, and was
fully aware that her money would be of great service to him. But I
believe that he was true in that word that he spoke to himself, and
that his chief attraction was the delight which he would have in
robbing Mr Grey of his wife. Alice had once been his love, had
clung to his side, had whispered love to him, and he had enough of
the weakness of humanity in him to feel the soreness arising from
her affection for another. When she broke away from him he had
acknowledged that he had been wrong, and when, since her engagement
with Mr Grey, he had congratulated her, he had told her in his quiet,
half-whispered, impressive words how right she was; but not the less,
therefore, did he feel himself hurt that John Grey should be her
lover. And when he had met this man he had spoken well of him to
his sister, saying that he was a gentleman, a scholar, and a man
of parts; but not the less had he hated him from the first moment
of his seeing him. Such hatred under such circumstances was almost
pardonable. But George Vavasor, when he hated, was apt to follow up
his hatred with injury. He could not violently dislike a man and yet
not wish to do him any harm. At present, as he sat lounging in his
chair, he thought that he would like to marry his cousin Alice; but
he was quite sure that he would like to be the means of putting a
stop to the proposed marriage between Alice and John Grey.

Kate had been very false to her friend, and had sent up to her
brother the very letter which Alice had written to her after that
meeting in Queen Anne Street which was described in the last
chapter,--or rather a portion of it, for with the reserve common to
women she had kept back the other half. Alice had declared to herself
that she would be sure of her cousin's sympathy, and had written out
all her heart on the matter, as was her wont when writing to Kate.
"But you must understand," she wrote, "that all that I said to him
went with him for nothing. I had determined to make him know that
everything between us must be over, but I failed. I found that I had
no words at command, but that he was able to talk to me as though I
were a child. He told me that I was sick and full of phantasies, and
bade me change the air. As he spoke in this way, I could not help
feeling how right he was to use me so; but I felt also that he,
in his mighty superiority, could never be a fitting husband for a
creature so inferior to him as I am. Though I altogether failed
to make him understand that it was so, every moment that we were
together made me more fixed in my resolution."

This letter from Alice to Kate, Vavasor read over and over again,
though Kate's letter to himself, which was the longer one, he had
thrown aside after the first glance. There was nothing that he could
learn from that. He was as good a judge of the manner in which he
would play his own game as Kate could be; but in this matter he was
to learn how he would play his game from a knowledge of the other
girl's mind. "She'll never marry him, at any rate," he said to
himself, "and she is right. He'd make an upper servant of her; very
respectable, no doubt, but still only an upper servant. Now with
me;--well, I hardly know what I should make of her. I cannot think of
myself as a man married." Then he threw her letter after Kate's, and
betook himself to his newspaper and his cigar.

It was two hours after this, and he still wore his dressing-gown, and
he was still lounging in his easy-chair, when the waiting-maid at
the lodgings brought him up word that a gentleman wished to see him.
Vavasor kept no servant of his own except that confidential groom
down at Bicester. It was a rule with him that people could be better
served and cheaper served by other people's servants than by their
own. Even in the stables at Bicester the innkeeper had to find what
assistance was wanted, and charge for it in the bill. And George
Vavasor was no Sybarite. He did not deem it impracticable to put on
his own trousers without having a man standing at his foot to hold up
the leg of the garment. A valet about a man knows a great deal of a
man's ways, and therefore George had no valet.

"A gentleman!" said he to the girl. "Does the gentleman look like a
public-house keeper?"

"Well, I think he do," said the girl.

"Then show him up," said George.

And the gentleman was a public-house keeper. Vavasor was pretty sure
of his visitor before he desired the servant to give him entrance.
It was Mr Grimes from the "Handsome Man" public-house and tavern, in
the Brompton Road, and he had come by appointment to have a little
conversation with Mr Vavasor on matters political. Mr Grimes was
a man who knew that business was business, and as such had some
considerable weight in his own neighbourhood. With him politics was
business, as well as beer, and omnibus-horses, and foreign wines;--in
the fabrication of which latter article Mr Grimes was supposed
to have an extended experience. To such as him, when intent on
business, Mr Vavasor was not averse to make known the secrets of his
lodging-house; and now, when the idle of London world was either at
morning church or still in bed, Mr Grimes had come out by appointment
to do a little political business with the lately-rejected member for
the Chelsea Districts.

Vavasor had been, as I have said, lately rejected, and the new member
who had beaten him at the hustings had sat now for one session in
parliament. Under his present reign he was destined to the honour of
one other session, and then the period of his existing glory,--for
which he was said to have paid nearly six thousand pounds,--would be
over. But he might be elected again, perhaps for a full period of six
sessions; and it might be hoped that this second election would be
conducted on more economical principles. To this, the economical view
of the matter, Mr Grimes was very much opposed, and was now waiting
upon George Vavasor in Cecil Street, chiefly with the object of
opposing the new member's wishes on this head. No doubt Mr Grimes was
personally an advocate for the return of Mr Vavasor, and would do all
in his power to prevent the re-election of the young Lord Kilfenora,
whose father, the Marquis of Bunratty, had scattered that six
thousand pounds among the electors and non-electors of Chelsea; but
his main object was that money should be spent. "'Tain't altogether
for myself," he said to a confidential friend in the same way of
business; "I don't get so much on it. Perhaps sometimes not none. May
be I've a bill agin some of those gents not paid this werry moment.
But it's the game I looks to. If the game dies away, it'll never be
got up again;--never. Who'll care about elections then? Anybody'd go
and get hisself elected if we was to let the game go by!" And so,
that the game might not go by, Mr Grimes was now present in Mr George
Vavasor's rooms.

"Well Mr Grimes," said George, "how are you this morning? Sit down, Mr
Grimes. If every man were as punctual as you are, the world would go
like clock-work; wouldn't it?"

"Business is business, Mr Vavasor," said the publican, after having
made his salute, and having taken his chair with some little show of
mock modesty. "That's my maxim. If I didn't stick to that, nothing
wouldn't ever stick to me; and nothing doesn't much as it is. Times
is very bad, Mr Vavasor."

"Of course they are. They're always bad. What was the Devil made
for, except that they should be bad? But I should have thought you
publicans were the last men who ought to complain."

"Lord love you, Mr Vavasor; why, I suppose of all the men as is put
upon, we're put upon the worst. What's the good of drawing of beer,
if the more you draw the more you don't make. Yesterday as ever was
was Saturday, and we drawed three pound ten and nine. What'll that
come to, Mr Vavasor, when you reckons it up with the brewer? Why,
it's a next to nothing. You knows that well enough."

"Upon my word I don't. But I know you don't sell a pint of beer
without getting a profit out of it."

"Lord love you, Mr Vavasor. If I hadn't nothink to look to but beer I
couldn't keep a house over my head; no I couldn't. That house of mine
belongs to Meux's people; and very good people they are too;--have
made a sight of money; haven't they, Mr Vavasor? I has to get my beer
from them in course. Why not, when it's their house? But if I sells
their stuff as I gets it, there ain't a halfpenny coming to me out of
a gallon. Look at that, now."

"But then you don't sell it as you get it. You stretch it."

"That's in course. I'm not going to tell you a lie, Mr Vavasor. You
know what's what as well as I do, and a sight better, I expect.
There's a dozen different ways of handling beer, Mr Vavasor. But
what's the use of that, when they can take four or five pounds a day
over the counter for their rot-gut stuff at the 'Cadogan Arms,' and I
can't do no better nor yet perhaps so well, for a real honest glass
of beer. Stretch it! It's my belief the more you poison their liquor,
the more the people likes it!"

Mr Grimes was a stout man, not very tall, with a mottled red face,
and large protruding eyes. As regards his own person, Mr Grimes
might have been taken as a fair sample of the English innkeeper,
as described for many years past. But in his outer garments he was
very unlike that description. He wore a black, swallow-tailed coat,
made, however, to set very loose upon his back, a black waistcoat,
and black pantaloons. He carried, moreover, in his hands a black
chimney-pot hat. Not only have the top-boots and breeches vanished
from the costume of innkeepers, but also the long, particoloured
waistcoat, and the birds'-eye fogle round their necks. They get
themselves up to look like Dissenting ministers or undertakers,
except that there is still a something about their rosy gills which
tells a tale of the spigot and corkscrew.

Mr Grimes had only just finished the tale of his own hard ways as a
publican, when the door-bell was again rung. "There's Scruby," said
George Vavasor, "and now we can go to business."



CHAPTER XIII

Mr Grimes Gets His Odd Money


The handmaiden at George Vavasor's lodgings announced "another gent,"
and then Mr Scruby entered the room in which were seated George, and
Mr Grimes the publican from the "Handsome Man" on the Brompton Road.
Mr Scruby was an attorney from Great Marlborough Street, supposed to
be very knowing in the ways of metropolitan elections; and he had now
stepped round, as he called it, with the object of saying a few words
to Mr Grimes, partly on the subject of the forthcoming contest at
Chelsea, and partly on that of the contest last past. These words
were to be said in the presence of Mr Vavasor, the person interested.
That some other words had been spoken between Mr Scruby and Mr Grimes
on the same subjects behind Mr Vavasor's back I think very probable.
But even though this might have been so I am not prepared to say that
Mr Vavasor had been deceived by their combinations.

The two men were very civil to each other in their salutations, the
attorney assuming an air of patronizing condescension, always calling
the other Grimes; whereas Mr Scruby was treated with considerable
deference by the publican, and was always called Mr Scruby. "Business
is business," said the publican as soon as these salutations were
over; "isn't it now, Mr Scruby?"

"And I suppose Grimes thinks Sunday morning a particularly good time
for business," said the attorney, laughing.

"It's quiet, you know," said Grimes. "But it warn't me as named
Sunday morning. It was Mr Vavasor here. But it is quiet; ain't it, Mr
Scruby?"

Mr Scruby acknowledged that it was quiet, especially looking out
over the river, and then they proceeded to business. "We must pull
the governor through better next time than we did last," said the
attorney.

"Of course we must, Mr Scruby; but, Lord love you, Mr Vavasor,
whose fault was it? What notice did I get,--just tell me that? Why,
Travers's name was up on the liberal interest ever so long before the
governor had ever thought about it."

"Nobody is blaming you, Mr Grimes," said George.

"And nobody can't, Mr Vavasor. I done my work true as steel, and
there ain't another man about the place as could have done half
as much. You ask Mr Scruby else. Mr Scruby knows, if ere a man in
London does. I tell you what it is, Mr Vavasor, them Chelsea fellows,
who lives mostly down by the river, ain't like your Maryboners or
Finsburyites. It wants something of a man to manage them. Don't it Mr
Scruby?"

"It wants something of a man to manage any of them as far as my
experience goes," said Mr Scruby.

"Of course it do; and there ain't one in London knows so much about
it as you do, Mr Scruby. I will say that for you. But the long and
the short of it is this;--business is business, and money is money."

"Money is money, certainly," said Mr Scruby. "There's no doubt in the
world about that, Grimes;--and a deal of it you had out of the last
election."

"No, I hadn't; begging your pardon, Mr Scruby, for making so free.
What I had to my own cheek wasn't nothing to speak of. I wasn't paid
for my time; that's what I wasn't. You look how a publican's business
gets cut up at them elections;--and then the state of the house
afterwards! What would the governor say to me if I was to put down
painting inside and out in my little bill?"

"It doesn't seem to make much difference how you put it down," said
Vavasor. "The total is what I look at."

"Just so, Mr Vavasor; just so. The total is what I looks at too. And
I has to look at it a deuced long time before I gets it. I ain't a
got it yet; have I, Mr Vavasor?"

"Well; if you ask me I should say you had," said George. "I know I
paid Mr Scruby three hundred pounds on your account."

"And I got every shilling of it, Mr Vavasor. I'm not a going to deny
the money, Mr Vavasor. You'll never find me doing that. I'm as round
as your hat, and as square as your elbow,--I am. Mr Scruby knows me;
don't you, Mr Scruby?"

"Perhaps I know you too well, Grimes."

"No you don't, Mr Scruby; not a bit too well. Nor I don't know you
too well, either. I respect you, Mr Scruby, because you're a man as
understands your business. But as I was saying, what's three hundred
pounds when a man's bill is three hundred and ninety-two thirteen and
fourpence?"

"I thought that was all settled, Mr Scruby," said Vavasor.

"Why you see, Mr Vavasor, it's very hard to settle these things. If
you ask me whether Mr Grimes here can sue you for the balance, I tell
you very plainly that he can't. We were a little short of money when
we came to a settlement, as is generally the case at such times, and
so we took Mr Grimes' receipt for three hundred pounds."

"Of course you did, Mr Scruby."

"Not on account, but in full of all demands."

"Now Mr Scruby!" and the publican as he made this appeal looked at
the attorney with an expression of countenance which was absolutely
eloquent. "Are you going to put me off with such an excuse as that?"
so the look spoke plainly enough. "Are you going to bring up my own
signature against me, when you know very well that I shouldn't have
got a shilling at all for the next twelve months if I hadn't given
it? Oh Mr Scruby!" That's what Mr Grimes' look said, and both Mr
Scruby and Mr Vavasor understood it perfectly.

"In full of all demands," said Mr Scruby, with a slight tone of
triumph in his voice, as though to show that Grimes' appeal had no
effect at all upon his conscience. "If you were to go into a court
of law, Grimes, you wouldn't have a leg to stand upon."

"A court of law? Who's a going to law with the governor, I should
like to know? not I; not if he didn't pay me them ninety-two pounds
thirteen and fourpence for the next five years."

"Five years or fifteen would make no difference," said Scruby. "You
couldn't do it."

"And I ain't a going to try. That's not the ticket I've come here
about, Mr Vavasor, this blessed Sunday morning. Going to law, indeed!
But Mr Scruby, I've got a family."

"Not in the vale of Taunton, I hope," said George.

"They is at the 'Handsome Man' in the Brompton Road, Mr Vavasor; and
I always feels that I owes my first duty to them. If a man don't work
for his family, what do he work for?"

"Come, come, Grimes," said Mr Scruby. "What is it you're at? Out with
it, and don't keep us here all day."

"What is it I'm at, Mr Scruby? As if you didn't know very well
what I'm at. There's my house;--in all them Chelsea districts it's
the most convenientest of any public as is open for all manner of
election purposes. That's given up to it."

"And what next?" said Scruby.

"The next is, I myself. There isn't one of the lot of 'em can work
them Chelsea fellows down along the river unless it is me. Mr Scruby
knows that. Why I've been a getting of them up with a view to this
very job ever since;--why ever since they was a talking of the
Chelsea districts. When Lord Robert was a coming in for the county
on the religious dodge, he couldn't have worked them fellows anyhow,
only for me. Mr Scruby knows that."

"Let's take it all for granted, Mr Grimes," said Vavasor. "What comes
next?"

"Well;--them Bunratty people; it is they as has come next. They know
which side their bread is likely to be buttered; they do. They're a
bidding for the 'Handsome Man' already; they are."

"And you'd let your house to the Tory party, Grimes!" said Mr Scruby,
in a tone in which disgust and anger were blended.

"Who said anything of my letting my house to the Tory party, Mr
Scruby? I'm as round as your hat, Mr Scruby, and as square as your
elbow; I am. But suppose as all the liberal gents as employs you,
Mr Scruby, was to turn again you and not pay you your little bills,
wouldn't you have your eyes open for customers of another kind? Come
now, Mr Scruby?"

"You won't make much of that game, Grimes."

"Perhaps not; perhaps not. There's a risk in all these things; isn't
there, Mr Vavasor? I should like to see you a Parliament gent; I
should indeed. You'd be a credit to the districts; I really think you
would."

"I'm much obliged by your good opinion, Mr Grimes," said George.

"When I sees a gent coming forward I knows whether he's fit for
Parliament, or whether he ain't. I says you are fit. But Lord love
you, Mr Vavasor; it's a thing a gentleman always has to pay for."

"That's true enough; a deal more than it's worth, generally."

"A thing's worth what it fetches. I'm worth what I'll fetch; that's
the long and the short of it. I want to have my balance, that's the
truth. It's the odd money in a man's bill as always carries the
profit. You ask Mr Scruby else;--only with a lawyer it's all profit I
believe."

"That's what you know about it," said Scruby.

"If you cut off a man's odd money," continued the publican, "you
break his heart. He'd almost sooner have that and leave the other
standing. He'd call the hundreds capital, and if he lost them at
last, why he'd put it down as being in the way of trade. But the odd
money;--he looks at that, Mr Vavasor, as in a manner the very sweat
of his brow, the work of his own hand; that's what goes to his
family, and keeps the pot a boiling down-stairs. Never stop a man's
odd money, Mr Vavasor; that is, unless he comes it very strong
indeed."

"And what is it you want now?" said Scruby.

"I wants ninety-two pounds thirteen and fourpence, Mr Scruby, and
then we'll go to work for the new fight with contented hearts. If
we're to begin at all, it's quite time; it is indeed, Mr Vavasor."

"And what you mean us to understand is, that you won't begin at all
without your money," said the lawyer.

"That's about it, Mr Scruby."

"Take a fifty-pound note, Grimes," said the lawyer.

"Fifty-pound notes are not so ready," said George.

"Oh, he'll be only too happy to have your acceptance; won't you,
Grimes."

"Not for fifty pounds, Mr Scruby. It's the odd money that I wants.
I don't mind the thirteen and four, because that's neither here nor
there among friends, but if I didn't get all them ninety-two pounds
I should be a broken-hearted man; I should indeed, Mr Vavasor. I
couldn't go about your work for next year so as to do you justice
among the electors. I couldn't indeed."

"You'd better give him a bill for ninety pounds at three months, Mr
Vavasor. I have no doubt he has got a stamp in his pocket."

"That I have, Mr Scruby; there ain't no mistake about that. A bill
stamp is a thing that often turns up convenient with gents as mean
business like Mr Vavasor and you. But you must make it ninety-two;
you must indeed, Mr Vavasor. And do make it two months if you can,
Mr Vavasor; they do charge so unconscionable on ninety days at them
branch banks; they do indeed."

George Vavasor and Mr Scruby, between them, yielded at last, so far
as to allow the bill to be drawn for ninety-two pounds, but they were
stanch as to the time. "If it must be, it must," said the publican,
with a deep sigh, as he folded up the paper and put it into the
pocket of a huge case which he carried. "And now, gents, I'll tell
you what it is. We'll make safe work of this here next election. We
know what's to be our little game in time, and if we don't go in and
win, my name ain't Jacob Grimes, and I ain't the landlord of the
'Handsome Man.' As you gents has perhaps got something to say among
yourselves, I'll make so bold as to wish you good morning." So, with
that, Mr Grimes lifted his hat from the floor, and bowed himself out
of the room.

"You couldn't have done it cheaper; you couldn't, indeed," said the
lawyer, as soon as the sound of the closing front door had been
heard.

"Perhaps not; but what a thief the man is! I remember your telling me
that the bill was about the most preposterous you had ever seen."

"So it was, and if we hadn't wanted him again of course we shouldn't
have paid him. But we'll have it all off his next account, Mr
Vavasor,--every shilling of it, It's only lent; that's all;--it's
only lent."

"But one doesn't want to lend such a man money, if one could help
it."

"That's true. If you look at it in that light, it's quite true. But
you see we cannot do without him. If he hadn't got your bill, he'd
have gone over to the other fellows before the week was over; and the
worst of it would have been that he knows our hand. Looking at it all
round you've got him cheap, Mr Vavasor;--you have, indeed."

"Looking at it all round is just what I don't like, Mr Scruby, But if
a man will have a whistle, he must pay for it."

"You can't do it cheap for any of these metropolitan seats; you
can't, indeed, Mr Vavasor. That is, a new man can't. When you've
been in four or five times, like old Duncombe, why then, of course,
you may snap your fingers at such men as Grimes. But the Chelsea
districts ain't dear. I don't call them by any means dear. Now
Marylebone is dear,--and so is Southwark. It's dear, and nasty;
that's what the borough is. Only that I never tell tales, I could
tell you a tale, Mr Vavasor, that'd make your hair stand on end; I
could indeed."

"Ah! the game is hardly worth the candle, I believe."

"That depends on what way you choose to look at it. A seat in
Parliament is a great thing to a man who wants to make his way;--a
very great thing;--specially when a man's young, like you, Mr
Vavasor."

"Young!" said George. "Sometimes it seems to me as though I've been
living for a hundred years. But I won't trouble you with that, Mr
Scruby, and I believe I needn't keep you any longer." With that, he
got up and bowed the attorney out of the room, with just a little
more ceremony than he had shown to the publican.

"Young!" said Vavasor to himself, when he was left alone. "There's
my uncle, or the old squire,--they're both younger men than I am.
One cares for his dinner, and the other for his bullocks and his
trees. But what is there that I care for, unless it is not getting
among the sheriff's officers for debt?" Then he took out a little
memorandum-book from his breast-pocket, and having made in it an
entry as to the amount and date of that bill which he had just
accepted on the publican's behalf, he conned over the particulars of
its pages. "Very blue; very blue, indeed," he said to himself when he
had completed the study. "But nobody shall say I hadn't the courage
to play the game out, and that old fellow must die some day, one
supposes. If I were not a fool, I should make it up with him before
he went; but I am a fool, and shall remain so to the last." Soon
after that he dressed himself slowly, reading a little every now and
then as he did so. When his toilet was completed, and his Sunday
newspapers sufficiently perused, he took up his hat and umbrella and
sauntered out.



CHAPTER XIV

Alice Vavasor Becomes Troubled


Kate Vavasor had sent to her brother only the first half of her
cousin's letter, that half in which Alice had attempted to describe
what had taken place between her and Mr Grey. In doing this, Kate
had been a wicked traitor,--a traitor to that feminine faith against
which treason on the part of one woman is always unpardonable in
the eyes of other women. But her treason would have been of a deeper
die had she sent the latter portion, for in that Alice had spoken
of George Vavasor himself. But even of this treason, Kate would, I
think, have been guilty, had the words which Alice wrote been of a
nature to serve her own purpose if read by her brother. But they had
not been of this nature. They had spoken of George as a man with
whom any closer connection than that which existed at present was
impossible, and had been written with the view of begging Kate to
desist from making futile attempts in that direction. "I feel myself
driven," Alice had said, "to write all this, as otherwise,--if I were
simply to tell you that I have resolved to part from Mr Grey,--you
would think that the other thing might follow. The other thing cannot
follow. I should think myself untrue in my friendship to you if I did
not tell you about Mr Grey; and you will be untrue in your friendship
to me if you take advantage of my confidence by saying more about
your brother." This part of Alice's letter Kate had not sent to
George Vavasor;--"But the other thing shall follow," Kate had said,
as she read the words for the second time, and then put the papers
into her desk. "It shall follow."

To give Kate Vavasor her due, she was, at any rate, unselfish in
her intrigues. She was obstinately persistent, and she was moreover
unscrupulous, but she was not selfish. Many years ago she had made
up her mind that George and Alice should be man and wife, feeling
that such a marriage would be good at any rate for her brother. It
had been almost brought about, and had then been hindered altogether
through a fault on her brother's part. But she had forgiven him this
sin as she had forgiven many others, and she was now at work in
his behalf again, determined that they two should be married, even
though neither of them might be now anxious that it should be so. The
intrigue itself was dear to her, and success in it was necessary to
her self-respect.

She answered Alice's letter with a pleasant, gossiping epistle, which
shall be recorded, as it will tell us something of Mrs Greenow's
proceedings at Yarmouth. Kate had promised to stay at Yarmouth for a
month, but she had already been there six weeks, and was still under
her aunt's wing.


   Yarmouth, October, 186--.

   DEAREST ALICE,

   Of course I am delighted. It is no good saying that I am
   not. I know how difficult it is to deal with you, and
   therefore I sit down to answer your letter with fear and
   trembling, lest I should say a word too much, and thereby
   drive you back, or not say quite enough and thereby fail
   to encourage you on. Of course I am glad. I have long
   thought that Mr Grey could not make you happy, and as
   I have thought so, how can I not be glad? It is no use
   saying that he is good and noble, and all that sort of
   thing. I have never denied it. But he was not suited to
   you, and his life would have made you wretched. Ergo, I
   rejoice. And as you are the dearest friend I have, of
   course I rejoice mightily.

   I can understand accurately the sort of way in which
   the interview went. Of course he had the best of it.
   I can see him so plainly as he stood up in unruffled
   self-possession, ignoring all that you said, suggesting
   that you were feverish or perhaps bilious, waving his
   hand over you a little, as though that might possibly do
   you some small good, and then taking his leave with an
   assurance that it would be all right as soon as the wind
   changed. I suppose it's very noble in him, not taking you
   at your word, and giving you, as it were, another chance;
   but there is a kind of nobility which is almost too great
   for this world. I think very well of you, my dear, as
   women go, but I do not think well enough of you to believe
   that you are fit to be Mr John Grey's wife.

   Of course I'm very glad. You have known my mind from the
   first to the last, and, therefore, what would be the good
   of my mincing matters? No woman wishes her dearest friend
   to marry a man to whom she herself is antipathetic. You
   would have been as much lost to me, had you become Mrs
   Grey of Nethercoats, Cambridgeshire, as though you had
   gone to heaven. I don't say but what Nethercoats may be a
   kind of heaven,--but then one doesn't wish one's friend
   that distant sort of happiness. A flat Eden I can fancy
   it, hemmed in by broad dykes, in which cream and eggs are
   very plentiful, where an Adam and an Eve might drink the
   choicest tea out of the finest china, with toast buttered
   to perfection, from year's end to year's end; into which
   no money troubles would ever find their way, nor yet
   any naughty novels. But such an Eden is not tempting to
   me, nor, as I think, to you. I can fancy you stretching
   your poor neck over the dyke, longing to fly away that
   you might cease to be at rest, but knowing that the
   matrimonial dragon was too strong for any such flight. If
   ever bird banged his wings to pieces against gilded bars,
   you would have banged yours to pieces in that cage.

   You say that you have failed to make him understand that
   the matter is settled. I need not say that of course it is
   settled, and that he must be made to understand it. You
   owe it to him now to put him out of all doubt. He is, I
   suppose, accessible to the words of a mortal, god though
   he be. But I do not fear about this, for, after all, you
   have as much firmness about you as most people;--perhaps
   as much as he has at bottom, though you may not have so
   many occasions to show it.

   As to that other matter I can only say that you shall be
   obliged, as far as it is in my power to obey you. For
   what may come out from me by word of mouth when we are
   together, I will not answer with certainty. But my pen is
   under better control, and it shall not write the offending
   name.

   And now I must tell you a little about myself;--or rather,
   I am inclined to spin a yarn, and tell you a great deal.
   I have got such a lover! But I did describe him before.
   Of course it's Mr Cheesacre. If I were to say he hasn't
   declared himself, I should hardly give you a fair idea of
   my success. And yet he has not declared himself,--and,
   which is worse, is very anxious to marry a rival. But it's
   a strong point in my favour that my rival wants him to
   take me, and that he will assuredly be driven to make me
   an offer sooner or later, in obedience to her orders. My
   aunt is my rival, and I do not feel the least doubt as to
   his having offered to her half a dozen times. But then she
   has another lover, Captain Bellfield, and I see that she
   prefers him. He is a penniless scamp and looks as though
   he drank. He paints his whiskers too, which I don't
   like; and, being forty, tries to look like twenty-five.
   Otherwise he is agreeable enough, and I rather approve of
   my aunt's taste in preferring him.

   But my lover has solid attractions, and allures me on by
   a description of the fat cattle which he sends to market.
   He is a man of substance, and should I ever become Mrs
   Cheesacre, I have reason to think that I shall not be left
   in want. We went up to his place on a visit the other day.
   Oileymead is the name of my future home;--not so pretty
   as Nethercoats, is it? And we had such a time there! We
   reached the place at ten and left it at four, and he
   managed to give us three meals. I'm sure we had before our
   eyes at different times every bit of china, delf, glass,
   and plate in the establishment. He made us go into the
   cellar, and told us how much wine he had got there, and
   how much beer. "It's all paid for, Mrs Greenow, every
   bottle of it," he said, turning round to my aunt, with a
   pathetic earnestness, for which I had hardly given him
   credit. "Everything in this house is my own; it's all paid
   for. I don't call anything a man's own till it's paid for.
   Now that jacket that Bellfield swells about with on the
   sands at Yarmouth,--that's not his own,--and it's not
   like to be either." And then he winked his eye as though
   bidding my aunt to think of that before she encouraged
   such a lover as Bellfield. He took us into every bedroom,
   and disclosed to us all the glories of his upper chambers.
   It would have done you good to see him lifting the
   counterpanes, and bidding my aunt feel the texture of
   the blankets! And then to see her turn round to me and
   say:--"Kate, it's simply the best-furnished house I ever
   went over in my life!"--"It does seem very comfortable,"
   said I. "Comfortable!" said he. "Yes, I don't think
   there's anybody can say that Oileymead isn't comfortable."
   I did so think of you and Nethercoats. The attractions
   are the same;--only in the one place you would have a god
   for your keeper, and in the other a brute. For myself, if
   ever I'm to have a keeper at all, I shall prefer a man.
   But when we got to the farmyard his eloquence reached the
   highest pitch. "Mrs Greenow," said he, "look at that," and
   he pointed to heaps of manure raised like the streets of a
   little city. "Look at that!" "There's a great deal," said
   my aunt. "I believe you," said he. "I've more muck upon
   this place here than any farmer in Norfolk, gentle or
   simple; I don't care who the other is." Only fancy, Alice;
   it may all be mine; the blankets, the wine, the muck, and
   the rest of it. So my aunt assured me when we got home
   that evening. When I remarked that the wealth had been
   exhibited to her and not to me, she did not affect to deny
   it, but treated that as a matter of no moment. "He wants
   a wife, my dear," she said, "and you may pick him up
   to-morrow by putting out your hand." When I remarked that
   his mind seemed to be intent on low things, and specially
   named the muck, she only laughed at me. "Money's never
   dirty," she said, "nor yet what makes money." She talks of
   taking lodgings in Norwich for the winter, saying that in
   her widowed state she will be as well there as anywhere
   else, and she wants me to stay with her up to Christmas.
   Indeed she first proposed the Norwich plan on the ground
   that it might be useful to me,--with a view to Mr
   Cheesacre, of course; but I fancy that she is unwilling
   to tear herself away from Captain Bellfield. At any rate
   to Norwich she will go, and I have promised not to leave
   her before the second week in November. With all her
   absurdities I like her. Her faults are terrible faults,
   but she has not the fault of hiding them by falsehood. She
   is never stupid, and she is very good-natured. She would
   have allowed me to equip myself from head to foot at her
   expense, if I would have accepted her liberality, and
   absolutely offered to give me my trousseau if I would
   marry Mr Cheesacre.

   I live in the hope that you will come down to the old
   place at Christmas. I won't offend you more than I can
   help. At any rate he won't be there. And if I don't see
   you there, where am I to see you? If I were you I would
   certainly not go to Cheltenham. You are never happy there.

   Do you ever dream of the river at Basle? I do;--so often.

   Most affectionately yours,

   KATE VAVASOR.


Alice had almost lost the sensation created by the former portion of
Kate's letter by the fun of the latter, before she had quite made
that sensation her own. The picture of the Cambridgeshire Eden would
have displeased her had she dwelt upon it, and the allusion to the
cream and toast would have had the very opposite effect to that which
Kate had intended. Perhaps Kate had felt this, and had therefore
merged it all in her stories about Mr Cheesacre. "I will go to
Cheltenham," she said to herself. "He has recommended it. I shall
never be his wife;--but, till we have parted altogether, I will show
him that I think well of his advice." That same afternoon she told
her father that she would go to Lady Macleod's at Cheltenham before
the end of the month. She was, in truth, prompted to this by a
resolution, of which she was herself hardly conscious, that she would
not at this period of her life be in any way guided by her cousin.
Having made up her mind about Mr Grey, it was right that she should
let her cousin know her purpose; but she would never be driven to
confess to herself that Kate had influenced her in the matter. She
would go to Cheltenham. Lady Macleod would no doubt vex her by hourly
solicitations that the match might be renewed; but, if she knew
herself, she had strength to withstand Lady Macleod.

She received one letter from Mr Grey before the time came
for her departure, and she answered it, telling him of her
intention;--telling him also that she now felt herself bound to
explain to her father her present position. "I tell you this," she
said, "in consequence of what you said to me on the matter. My father
will know it to-morrow, and on the following morning I shall start
for Cheltenham. I have heard from Lady Macleod and she expects me."

On the following morning she did tell her father, standing by him as
he sat at his breakfast. "What!" said he, putting down his tea-cup
and looking up into her face; "What! not marry John Grey!"

"No, papa; I know how strange you must think it."

"And you say that there has been no quarrel."

"No;--there has been no quarrel. By degrees I have learned to feel
that I should not make him happy as his wife."

"It's d----d nonsense," said Mr Vavasor. Now such an expression as
this from him, addressed to his daughter, showed that he was very
deeply moved.

"Oh, papa! don't talk to me in that way."

"But it is. I never heard such trash in my life. If he comes to me I
shall tell him so. Not make him happy! Why can't you make him happy?"

"We are not suited to each other."

"But what's the matter with him? He's a gentleman."

"Yes; he's a gentleman."

"And a man of honour, and with good means, and with all that
knowledge and reading which you profess to like. Look here, Alice;
I am not going to interfere, nor shall I attempt to make you marry
anyone. You are your own mistress as far as that is concerned. But I
do hope, for your sake and for mine,--I do hope that there is nothing
again between you and your cousin."

"There is nothing, papa."

"I did not like your going abroad with him, though I didn't choose
to interrupt your plan by saying so. But if there were anything of
that kind going on, I should be bound to tell you that your cousin's
position at present is not a good one. Men do not speak well of him."

"There is nothing between us, papa; but if there were, men speaking
ill of him would not deter me."

"And men speaking well of Mr Grey will not do the other thing. I know
very well that women can be obstinate."

"I haven't come to this resolution without thinking much about it,
papa."

"I suppose not. Well;--I can't say anything more. You are your own
mistress, and your fortune is in your own keeping. I can't make you
marry John Grey. I think you very foolish, and if he comes to me I
shall tell him so. You are going down to Cheltenham, are you?"

"Yes, papa; I have promised Lady Macleod."

"Very well. I'd sooner it should be you than me; that's all I can
say." Then he took up his newspaper, thereby showing that he had
nothing further to say on the matter, and Alice left him alone.

The whole thing was so vexatious that even Mr Vavasor was disturbed
by it. As it was not term time he had no signing to do in Chancery
Lane, and could not, therefore, bury his unhappiness in his daily
labour,--or rather in his labour that was by no means daily. So he
sat at home till four o'clock, expressing to himself in various
phrases his wonder that "any man alive should ever rear a daughter."
And when he got to his club the waiters found him quite unmanageable
about his dinner, which he ate alone, rejecting all proposition of
companionship. But later in the evening he regained his composure
over a glass of whiskey-toddy and a cigar. "She's got her own money,"
he said to himself, "and what does it matter? I don't suppose she'll
marry her cousin. I don't think she's fool enough for that. And after
all she'll probably make it up again with John Grey." And in this way
he determined that he might let this annoyance run off him, and that
he need not as a father take the trouble of any interference.

But while he was at his club there came a visitor to Queen Anne
Street, and that visitor was the dangerous cousin of whom, according
to his uncle's testimony, men at present did not speak well. Alice
had not seen him since they had parted on the day of their arrival
in London,--nor, indeed, had heard of his whereabouts. In the
consternation of her mind at this step which she was taking,--a step
which she had taught herself to regard as essentially her duty before
it was taken, but which seemed to herself to be false and treacherous
the moment she had taken it,--she had become aware that she had been
wrong to travel with her cousin. She felt sure,--she thought that
she was sure,--that her doing so had in nowise affected her dealings
with Mr Grey. She was very certain,--she thought that she was
certain,--that she would have rejected him just the same had she
never gone to Switzerland. But every one would say of her that her
journey to Switzerland with such companions had produced that result.
It had been unlucky and she was sorry for it, and she now wished to
avoid all communication with her cousin till this affair should be
altogether over. She was especially unwilling to see him; but she
had not felt it necessary to give any special injunctions as to his
admittance; and now, before she had time to think of it,--on the eve
of her departure for Cheltenham,--he was in the room with her, just
as the dusk of the October evening was coming on. She was sitting
away from the fire, almost behind the window-curtains, thinking of
John Grey and very unhappy in her thoughts, when George Vavasor was
announced. It will of course be understood that Vavasor had at this
time received his sister's letter. He had received it, and had had
time to consider the matter since the Sunday morning on which we
saw him in his own rooms in Cecil Street. "She can turn it all into
capital to-morrow, if she pleases," he had said to himself when
thinking of her income. But he had also reminded himself that her
grandfather would probably enable him to settle an income out of the
property upon Alice, in the event of their being married. And then
he had also felt that he could have no greater triumph than "walking
atop of John Grey," as he called it. His return for the Chelsea
Districts would hardly be sweeter to him than that.

"You must have thought I had vanished out of the world," said George,
coming up to her with his extended hand.

Alice was confused, and hardly knew how to address him. "Somebody
told me that you were shooting," she said after a pause.

"So I was, but my shooting is not like the shooting of your great
Nimrods,--men who are hunters upon the earth. Two days among the
grouse and two more among the partridges are about the extent of it.
Capel Court is the preserve in which I am usually to be found."

Alice knew nothing of Capel Court, and said, "Oh, indeed."

"Have you heard from Kate?" George asked.

"Yes, once or twice; she is still at Yarmouth with Aunt Greenow."

"And is going to Norwich, as she says. Kate seems to have made
a league with Aunt Greenow. I, who don't pretend to be very
disinterested in money matters, think that she is quite right. No
doubt Aunt Greenow may marry again, but friends with forty thousand
pounds are always agreeable."

"I don't believe that Kate thinks much of that," said Alice.

"Not so much as she ought, I dare say. Poor Kate is not a rich woman,
or, I fear, likely to become one. She doesn't seem to dream of
getting married, and her own fortune is less than a hundred a year."

"Girls who never dream of getting married are just those who make the
best marriages at last," said Alice.

"Perhaps so, but I wish I was easier about Kate. She is the best
sister a man ever had."

"Indeed she is."

"And I have done nothing for her as yet. I did think, while I was in
that wine business, that I could have done anything I pleased for
her. But my grandfather's obstinacy put me out of that; and now I'm
beginning the world again,--that is, comparatively. I wonder whether
you think I'm wrong in trying to get into Parliament?"

"No; quite right. I admire you for it. It is just what I would do in
your place. You are unmarried, and have a right to run the risk."

"I am so glad to hear you speak like that," said he. He had now
managed to take up that friendly, confidential, almost affectionate
tone of talking which he had so often used when abroad with her, and
which he had failed to assume when first entering the room.

"I have always thought so."

"But you have never said it."

"Haven't I? I thought I had."

"Not heartily like that. I know that people abuse me;--my own people,
my grandfather, and probably your father,--saying that I am reckless
and the rest of it. I do risk everything for my object; but I do not
know that any one can blame me,--unless it be Kate. To whom else do I
owe anything?"

"Kate does not blame you."

"No; she sympathizes with me; she, and she only, unless it be you."
Then he paused for an answer, but she made him none. "She is brave
enough to give me her hearty sympathy. But perhaps for that very
reason I ought to be the more chary in endangering the only support
that she is like to have. What is ninety pounds a year for the
maintenance of a single lady?"

"I hope that Kate will always live with me," said Alice; "that is, as
soon as she has lost her home at Vavasor Hall."

He had been very crafty and had laid a trap for her. He had laid a
trap for her, and she had fallen into it. She had determined not to
be induced to talk of herself; but he had brought the thing round so
cunningly that the words were out of her mouth before she remembered
whither they would lead her. She did remember this as she was
speaking them, but then it was too late.

"What;--at Nethercoats?" said he. "Neither she nor I doubt your love,
but few men would like such an intruder as that into their household,
and of all men Mr Grey, whose nature is retiring, would like it the
least."

"I was not thinking of Nethercoats," said Alice.

"Ah, no; that is it, you see. Kate says so often to me that when you
are married she will be alone in the world."

"I don't think she will ever find that I shall separate myself from
her."

"No; not by any will of your own. Poor Kate! You cannot be surprised
that she should think of your marriage with dread. How much of her
life has been made up of her companionship with you;--and all the
best of it too! You ought not to be angry with her for regarding your
withdrawal into Cambridgeshire with dismay."

Alice could not act the lie which now seemed to be incumbent on her.
She could not let him talk of Nethercoats as though it were to be her
future home. She made the struggle, and she found that she could not
do it. She was unable to find the words which should tell no lie to
the ear, and which should yet deceive him. "Kate may still live with
me," she said slowly. "Everything is over between me and Mr Grey."

"Alice!--is that true?"

"Yes, George; it is true. If you will allow me to say so, I would
rather not talk about it;--not just at present."

"And does Kate know it?"

"Yes, Kate knows it."

"And my uncle?"

"Yes, papa knows it also."

"Alice, how can I help speaking of it? How can I not tell you that I
am rejoiced that you are saved from a thraldom which I have long felt
sure would break your heart?"

"Pray do not talk of it further."

"Well; if I am forbidden I shall of course obey. But I own it is hard
to me. How can I not congratulate you?" To this she answered nothing,
but beat with her foot upon the floor as though she were impatient
of his words. "Yes, Alice, I understand. You are angry with me,"
he continued. "And yet you have no right to be surprised that when
you tell me this I should think of all that passed between us in
Switzerland. Surely the cousin who was with you then has a right to
say what he thinks of this change in your life; at any rate he may do
so, if as in this case he approves altogether of what you are doing."

"I am glad of your approval, George; but pray let that be an end to
it."

After that the two sat silent for a minute or two. She was waiting
for him to go, but she could not bid him leave the house. She was
angry with herself, in that she had allowed herself to tell him
of her altered plans, and she was angry with him because he would
not understand that she ought to be spared all conversation on
the subject. So she sat looking through the window at the row of
gaslights as they were being lit, and he remained in his chair with
his elbow on the table and his head resting on his hand.

"Do you remember asking me whether I ever shivered," he said at last;
"--whether I ever thought of things that made me shiver? Don't you
remember; on the bridge at Basle?"

"Yes; I remember."

"Well, Alice;--one cause for my shivering is over. I won't say more
than that now. Shall you remain long at Cheltenham?"

"Just a month."

"And then you come back here?"

"I suppose so. Papa and I will probably go down to Vavasor Hall
before Christmas. How much before I cannot say."

"I shall see you at any rate after your return from Cheltenham? Of
course Kate will know, and she will tell me."

"Yes; Kate will know. I suppose she will stay here when she comes up
from Norfolk. Good-bye."

"Good-bye, Alice. I shall have fewer fits of that inward shivering
that you spoke of,--many less, on account of what I have now heard.
God bless you, Alice; good-bye."

"Good-bye, George."

As he went he took her hand and pressed it closely between his own.
In those days when they were lovers,--engaged lovers, a close,
long-continued pressure of her hand had been his most eloquent speech
of love. He had not been given to many kisses,--not even to many
words of love. But he would take her hand and hold it, even as he
looked away from her, and she remembered well the touch of his palm.
It was ever cool,--cool, and with a surface smooth as a woman's,--a
small hand that had a firm grip. There had been days when she had
loved to feel that her own was within it, when she trusted in it, and
intended that it should be her staff through life. Now she distrusted
it; and as the thoughts of the old days came upon her, and the
remembrance of that touch was recalled, she drew her hand away
rapidly. Not for that had she driven from her as honest a man as had
ever wished to mate with a woman. He, George Vavasor, had never so
held her hand since the day when they had parted, and now on this
first occasion of her freedom she felt it again. What did he think of
her? Did he suppose that she could transfer her love in that way, as
a flower may be taken from one buttonhole and placed in another? He
read it all, and knew that he was hurrying on too quickly. "I can
understand well," he said in a whisper, "what your present feelings
are; but I do not think you will be really angry with me because I
have been unable to repress my joy at what I cannot but regard as
your release from a great misfortune." Then he went.

"My release!" she said, seating herself on the chair from which he
had risen. "My release from a misfortune! No;--but my fall from
heaven! Oh, what a man he is! That he should have loved me, and that
I should have driven him away from me!" Her thoughts travelled off to
the sweetness of that home at Nethercoats, to the excellence of that
master who might have been hers; and then in an agony of despair
she told herself that she had been an idiot and a fool, as well as
a traitor. What had she wanted in life that she should have thus
quarrelled with as happy a lot as ever had been offered to a woman?
Had she not been mad, when she sent from her side the only man that
she loved,--the only man that she had ever truly respected? For hours
she sat there, all alone, putting out the candles which the servant
had lighted for her, and leaving untasted the tea that was brought to
her.

Poor Alice! I hope that she may be forgiven. It was her special
fault, that when at Rome she longed for Tibur, and when at Tibur
she regretted Rome. Not that her cousin George is to be taken as
representing the joys of the great capital, though Mr Grey may be
presumed to form no inconsiderable part of the promised delights
of the country. Now that she had sacrificed her Tibur, because it
had seemed to her that the sunny quiet of its pastures lacked the
excitement necessary for the happiness of life, she was again
prepared to quarrel with the heartlessness of Rome, and already was
again sighing for the tranquillity of the country.

Sitting there, full of these regrets, she declared to herself that
she would wait for her father's return, and then, throwing herself
upon his love and upon his mercy, would beg him to go to Mr Grey and
ask for pardon for her. "I should be very humble to him," she said;
"but he is so good, that I may dare to be humble before him." So
she waited for her father. She waited till twelve, till one, till
two;--but still he did not come. Later than that she did not dare to
wait for him. She feared to trust him on such business returning so
late as that,--after so many cigars; after, perhaps, some superfluous
beakers of club nectar. His temper at such a moment would not be fit
for such work as hers. But if he was late in coming home, who had
sent him away from his home in unhappiness? Between two and three she
went to bed, and on the following morning she left Queen Anne Street
for the Great Western Station before her father was up.



CHAPTER XV

Paramount Crescent


Lady Macleod lived at No. 3, Paramount Crescent, in Cheltenham, where
she occupied a very handsome first-floor drawing-room, with a bedroom
behind it, looking over a stable-yard, and a small room which would
have been the dressing-room had the late Sir Archibald been alive,
but which was at present called the dining-room: and in it Lady
Macleod did dine whenever her larger room was to be used for any
purposes of evening company. The vicinity of the stable-yard was not
regarded by the tenant as among the attractions of the house; but it
had the effect of lowering the rent, and Lady Macleod was a woman who
regarded such matters. Her income, though small, would have sufficed
to enable her to live removed from such discomforts; but she was one
of those women who regard it as a duty to leave something behind
them,--even though it be left to those who do not at all want it;
and Lady Macleod was a woman who wilfully neglected no duty. So
she pinched herself, and inhaled the effluvia of the stables, and
squabbled with the cabmen, in order that she might bequeath a
thousand pounds or two to some Lady Midlothian, who cared, perhaps,
little for her, and would hardly thank her memory for the money.

Had Alice consented to live with her, she would have merged that duty
of leaving money behind her in that other duty of finding a home for
her adopted niece. But Alice had gone away, and therefore the money
was due to Lady Midlothian rather than to her. The saving, however,
was postponed whenever Alice would consent to visit Cheltenham; and a
bedroom was secured for her which did not look out over the stables.
Accommodation was also found for her maid much better than that
provided for Lady Macleod's own maid. She was a hospitable, good old
woman, painfully struggling to do the best she could in the world. It
was a pity that she was such a bore, a pity that she was so hard to
cabmen and others, a pity that she suspected all tradesmen, servants,
and people generally of a rank of life inferior to her own, a pity
that she was disposed to condemn for ever and ever so many of her own
rank because they played cards on week days, and did not go to church
on Sundays,--and a pity, as I think above all, that while she was
so suspicious of the poor she was so lenient to the vices of earls,
earl's sons, and such like.

Alice, having fully considered the matter, had thought it most
prudent to tell Lady Macleod by letter what she had done in regard
to Mr Grey. There had been many objections to the writing of such a
letter, but there appeared to be stronger objection to that telling
it face to face which would have been forced upon her had she not
written. There would in such case have arisen on Lady Macleod's
countenance a sternness of rebuke which Alice did not choose
to encounter. The same sternness of rebuke would come upon the
countenance on receipt of the written information; but it would come
in its most aggravated form on the immediate receipt of the letter,
and some of its bitterness would have passed away before Alice's
arrival. I think that Alice was right. It is better for both parties
that any great offence should be confessed by letter.

But Alice trembled as the cab drew up at No. 3, Paramount Crescent.
She met her aunt, as was usual, just inside the drawing-room door,
and she saw at once that if any bitterness had passed away from that
face, the original bitterness must indeed have been bitter. She had
so timed her letter that Lady Macleod should have no opportunity of
answering it. The answer was written there in the mingled anger and
sorrow of those austere features.

"Alice!" she said, as she took her niece in her arms and kissed her;
"oh, Alice, what is this?"

"Yes, aunt; it is very bad, I know," and poor Alice tried to make a
jest of it. "Young ladies are very wicked when they don't know their
own minds. But if they haven't known them and have been wicked, what
can they do but repent?"

"Repent!" said Lady Macleod. "Yes; I hope you will repent. Poor Mr
Grey;--what must he think of it?"

"I can only hope, aunt, that he won't think of it at all for very
long."

"That's nonsense, my dear, Of course he'll think of it, and of course
you'll marry him."

"Shall I, aunt?"

"Of course you will. Why, Alice, hasn't it been all settled among
families? Lady Midlothian knew all the particulars of it just as
well as I did. And is not your word pledged to him? I really don't
understand what you mean. I don't see how it is possible you should
go back. Gentlemen when they do that kind of thing are put out of
society;--but I really think it is worse in a woman."

"Then they may if they please put me out of society;--only that I
don't know that I'm particularly in it."

"And the wickedness of the thing, Alice! I'm obliged to say so."

"When you talk to me about society, aunt, and about Lady Midlothian,
I give up to you, willingly;--the more willingly, perhaps, because I
don't care much for one or the other." Here Lady Macleod tried to say
a word; but she failed, and Alice went on, boldly looking up into her
aunt's face, which became a shade more bitter than ever. "But when
you tell me about wickedness and my conscience, then I must be my own
judge. It is my conscience, and the fear of committing wickedness,
that has made me do this."

"You should submit to be guided by your elders, Alice."

"No; my elders in such a matter as this cannot teach me. It cannot be
right that I should go to a man's house and be his wife, if I do not
think that I can make him happy."

"Then why did you accept him?"

"Because I was mistaken. I am not going to defend that. If you choose
to scold me for that, you may do so, aunt, and I will not answer you.
But as to marrying him or not marrying him now,--as to that, I must
judge for myself."

"It was a pity you did not know your own mind earlier."

"It was a pity,--a great pity. I have done myself an injury that is
quite irretrievable;--I know that, and am prepared to bear it. I have
done him, too, an injustice which I regret with my whole heart. I
can only excuse myself by saying that I might have done him a worse
injustice."

All this was said at the very moment of her arrival, and the greeting
did not seem to promise much for the happiness of the next month; but
perhaps it was better for them both that the attack and the defence
should thus be made suddenly, at their first meeting. It is better to
pull the string at once when you are in the shower-bath, and not to
stand shivering, thinking of the inevitable shock which you can only
postpone for a few minutes. Lady Macleod in this case had pulled the
string, and thus reaped the advantage of her alacrity.

"Well, my dear," said her ladyship, "I suppose you will like to go
up-stairs and take off your bonnet. Mary shall bring you some tea
when you come down." So Alice escaped, and when she returned to the
comfort of her cup of tea in the drawing-room, the fury of the storm
had passed away. She sat talking of other things till dinner; and
though Lady Macleod did during the evening make one allusion to "poor
Mr Grey," the subject was allowed to drop. Alice was very tender as
to her aunt's ailments, was more than ordinarily attentive to the
long list of Cheltenham iniquities which was displayed to her, and
refrained from combating any of her aunt's religious views. After
a while they got upon the subject of Aunt Greenow, for whose name
Lady Macleod had a special aversion,--as indeed she had for all the
Vavasor side of Alice's family; and then Alice offered to read, and
did read to her aunt many pages out of one of those terrible books of
wrath, which from time to time come forth and tell us that there is
no hope for us. Lady Macleod liked to be so told; and as she now,
poor woman, could not read at nights herself, she enjoyed her
evening.

Lady Macleod no doubt did enjoy her niece's sojourn at Cheltenham,
but I do not think it could have been pleasant to Alice. On the
second day nothing was said about Mr Grey, and Alice hoped that by
her continual readings in the book of wrath her aunt's heart might
be softened towards her. But it seemed that Lady Macleod measured
the periods of respite, for on the third day and on the fifth she
returned to the attack. "Did John Grey still wish that the match
should go on?" she asked, categorically. It was in vain that Alice
tried to put aside the question, and begged that the matter might
not be discussed. Lady Macleod insisted on her right to carry on the
examination, and Alice was driven to acknowledge that she believed he
did wish it. She could hardly say otherwise, seeing that she had at
that moment a letter from him in her pocket, in which he still spoke
of his engagement as being absolutely binding on him, and expressed a
hope that this change from London to Cheltenham would bring her round
and set everything to rights. He certainly did, in a fashion, wave
his hand over her, as Kate had said of him. This letter Alice had
resolved that she would not answer. He would probably write again,
and she would beg him to desist. Instead of Cheltenham bringing her
round, Cheltenham had made her firmer than ever in her resolution. I
am inclined to think that the best mode of bringing her round at this
moment would have been a course of visits from her cousin George, and
a series of letters from her cousin Kate. Lady Macleod's injunctions
would certainly not bring her round.

After ten days, ten terrible days, devoted to discussions on
matrimony in the morning, and to the book of wrath in the
evening,--relieved by two tea-parties, in which the sins of
Cheltenham were discussed at length,--Lady Macleod herself got a
letter from Mr Grey. Mr Grey's kindest compliments to Lady Macleod.
He believed that Lady Macleod was aware of the circumstances of his
engagement with Miss Vavasor. Might he call on Miss Vavasor at Lady
Macleod's house in Cheltenham? and might he also hope to have the
pleasure of making Lady Macleod's acquaintance? Alice had been in
the room when her aunt received this letter, but her aunt had said
nothing, and Alice had not known from whom the letter had come.
When her aunt crept away with it after breakfast she had suspected
nothing, and had never imagined that Lady Macleod, in the privacy of
her own room looking out upon the stables, had addressed a letter to
Nethercoats. But such a letter had been addressed to Nethercoats,
and Mr Grey had been informed that he would be received in Paramount
Crescent with great pleasure.

Mr Grey had even indicated the day on which he would come, and on the
morning of that day Lady Macleod had presided over the two teacups
in a state of nervous excitement which was quite visible to Alice.
More than once Alice asked little questions, not supposing that she
was specially concerned in the matter which had caused her aunt's
fidgety restlessness, but observing it so plainly that it was almost
impossible not to allude to it. "There's nothing the matter, my dear,
at all," at last Lady Macleod said; but as she said so she was making
up her mind that the moment had not come in which she must apprise
Alice of Mr Grey's intended visit. As Alice had questioned her at the
breakfast table she would say nothing about it then, but waited till
the teacups were withdrawn, and till the maid had given her last
officious poke to the fire. Then she began. She had Mr Grey's letter
in her pocket, and as she prepared herself to speak, she pulled it
out and held it on the little table before her.

"Alice," she said, "I expect a visitor here to-day."

Alice knew instantly who was the expected visitor. Probably any girl
under such circumstances would have known equally well. "A visitor,
aunt," she said, and managed to hide her knowledge admirably.

"Yes, Alice a visitor. I should have told you before, only I
thought,--I thought I had better not. It is Mr--Mr Grey."

"Indeed, aunt! Is he coming to see you?"

"Well;--he is desirous no doubt of seeing you more especially; but he
has expressed a wish to make my acquaintance, which I cannot, under
the circumstances, think is unnatural. Of course, Alice, he must want
to talk over this affair with your friends."

"I wish I could have spared them," said Alice,--"I wish I could."

"I have brought his letter here, and you can see it if you please.
It is very nicely written, and as far as I am concerned I should not
think of refusing to see him. And now comes the question. What are we
to do with him? Am I to ask him to dinner? I take it for granted that
he will not expect me to offer him a bed, as he knows that I live in
lodgings."

"Oh no, aunt; he certainly will not expect that."

"But ought I to ask him to dinner? I should be most happy to
entertain him, though you know how very scanty my means of doing so
are;--but I really do not know how it might be,--between you and him,
I mean."

"We should not fight, aunt."

"No, I suppose not;--but if you cannot be affectionate in your manner
to him--"

"I will not answer for my manners, aunt; but you may be sure of
this,--that I should be affectionate in my heart. I shall always
regard him as a dearly loved friend; though for many years, no doubt,
I shall be unable to express my friendship."

"That may be all very well, Alice, but it will not be what he will
want. I think upon the whole that I had better not ask him to
dinner."

"Perhaps not, aunt."

"It is a period of the day in which any special constraint among
people is more disagreeable than at any other time, and then at
dinner the servants must see it. I think there might be some
awkwardness if he were to dine here."

"I really think there would," said Alice, anxious to have the subject
dropped.

"I hope he won't think that I am inhospitable. I should be so happy
to do the best I could for him, for I regard him, Alice, quite as
though he were to be your husband. And when anybody at all connected
with me has come to Cheltenham I always have asked them to dine, and
then I have Gubbins's man to come and wait at table,--as you know."

"Of all men in the world Mr Grey is the last to think about it."

"That should only make me the more careful. But I think it would
perhaps be more comfortable if he were to come in the evening."

"Much more comfortable, aunt."

"I suppose he will be here in the afternoon, before dinner, and we
had better wait at home for him. I dare say he'll want to see you
alone, and therefore I'll retire to my own rooms,"--looking over
the stables! Dear old lady. "But if you wish it, I will receive him
first--and then Martha,"--Martha was Alice's maid--"can fetch you
down."

This discussion as to the propriety or impropriety of giving her
lover a dinner had not been pleasant to Alice, but, nevertheless,
when it was over she felt grateful to Lady Macleod. There was an
attempt in the arrangement to make Mr Grey's visit as little painful
as possible; and though such a discussion at such a time might as
well have been avoided, the decision to which her ladyship had at
last come with reference both to the dinner and the management of
the visit was, no doubt, the right one.

Lady Macleod had been quite correct in all her anticipations. At
three o'clock Mr Grey was announced, and Lady Macleod, alone,
received him in her drawing-room. She had intended to give him a
great deal of good advice, to bid him still keep up his heart and as
it were hold up his head, to confess to him how very badly Alice was
behaving, and to express her entire concurrence with that theory of
bodily ailment as the cause and origin of her conduct. But she found
that Mr Grey was a man to whom she could not give much advice. It
was he who did the speaking at this conference, and not she. She
was overawed by him after the first three minutes. Indeed her first
glance at him had awed her. He was so handsome,--and then, in his
beauty, he had so quiet and almost saddened an air! Strange to say
that after she had seen him, Lady Macleod entertained for him an
infinitely higher admiration than before, and yet she was less
surprised than she had been at Alice's refusal of him. The conference
was very short; and Mr Grey had not been a quarter of an hour in the
house before Martha attended upon her mistress with her summons.

Alice was ready and came down instantly. She found Mr Grey standing
in the middle of the room waiting to receive her, and the look of
majesty which had cowed Lady Macleod had gone from his countenance.
He could not have received her with a kinder smile, had she come to
him with a promise that she would at this meeting name the day for
their marriage. "At any rate it does not make him unhappy," she said
to herself.

"You are not angry," he said, "that I should have followed you all
the way here, to see you."

"No, certainly; not angry, Mr Grey. All anger that there may be
between us must be on your side. I feel that thoroughly."

"Then there shall be none on either side. Whatever may be done, I
will not be angry with you. Your father advised me to come down here
to you."

"You have seen him, then?"

"Yes, I have seen him. I was in London the day you left."

"It is so terrible to think that I should have brought upon you all
this trouble."

"You will bring upon me much worse trouble than that unless--.
But I have not now come down here to tell you that. I believe that
according to rule in such matters I should not have come to you at
all, but I don't know that I care much about such rules."

"It is I that have broken all rules."

"When a lady tells a gentleman that she does not wish to see more of
him--"

"Oh, Mr Grey, I have not told you that."

"Have you not? I am glad at any rate to hear you deny it. But you
will understand what I mean. When a gentleman gets his dismissal
from a lady he should accept it,--that is, his dismissal under such
circumstances as I have received mine. But I cannot lay down my love
in that way; nor, maintaining my love, can I give up the battle.
It seems to me that I have a right at any rate to know something of
your comings and goings as long as,--unless, Alice, you should take
another name than mine."

"My intention is to keep my own." This she said in the lowest
possible tone,--almost in a whisper,--with her eyes fixed upon the
ground.

"And you will not deny me that right?"

"I cannot hinder you. Whatever you may do, I myself have sinned so
against you that I can have no right to blame you."

"There shall be no question between us of injury from one to
the other. In any conversation that we may have, or in any
correspondence--"

"Oh, Mr Grey, do not ask me to write."

"Listen to me. Should there be any on either side, there shall be no
idea of any wrong done."

"But I have done you wrong;--great wrong."

"No, Alice; I will not have it so. When I asked you to accept my
hand,--begging the greatest boon which it could ever come to my lot
to ask from a fellow-mortal,--I knew well how great was your goodness
to me when you told me that it should be mine. Now that you refuse
it, I know also that you are good, thinking that in doing so you are
acting for my welfare,--thinking more of my welfare than of your
own."

"Oh yes, yes; it is so, Mr Grey; indeed it is so."

"Believing that, how can I talk of wrong? That you are wrong in your
thinking on this subject,--that your mind has become twisted by
false impressions,--that I believe. But I cannot therefore love you
less,--nor, so believing, can I consider myself to be injured. Nor am
I even so little selfish as you are. I think if you were my wife that
I could make you happy; but I feel sure that my happiness depends on
your being my wife."

She looked up into his face, but it was still serene in all its manly
beauty. Her cousin George, if he were moved to strong feeling, showed
it at once in his eyes,--in his mouth, in the whole visage of his
countenance. He glared in his anger, and was impassioned in his love.
But Mr Grey when speaking of the happiness of his entire life, when
confessing that it was now at stake with a decision against him that
would be ruinous to it, spoke without a quiver in his voice, and
had no more sign of passion in his face than if he were telling his
gardener to move a rose tree.

"I hope--and believe that you will find your happiness elsewhere, Mr
Grey."

"Well; we can but differ, Alice. In that we do differ. And now I will
say one word to explain why I have come here. If I were to write to
you against your will, it would seem that I were persecuting you. I
cannot bring myself to do that, even though I had the right. But if I
were to let you go from me, taking what you have said to me and doing
nothing, it would seem that I had accepted your decision as final. I
do not do so. I will not do so. I come simply to tell you that I am
still your suitor. If you will let me, I will see you again early
in January,--as soon as you have returned to town. You will hardly
refuse to see me."

"No," she said; "I cannot refuse to see you."

"Then it shall be so," he said, "and I will not trouble you with
letters, nor will I trouble you longer now with words. Tell your aunt
that I have said what I came to say, and that I give her my kindest
thanks." Then he took her hand and pressed it,--not as George Vavasor
had pressed it,--and was gone. When Lady Macleod returned, she found
that the question of the evening's tea arrangements had settled
itself.



CHAPTER XVI

The Roebury Club


It has been said that George Vavasor had a little establishment at
Roebury, down in Oxfordshire, and thither he betook himself about
the middle of November. He had been long known in this county, and
whether or no men spoke well of him as a man of business in London,
men spoke well of him down there, as one who knew how to ride to
hounds. Not that Vavasor was popular among fellow-sportsmen. It was
quite otherwise. He was not a man that made himself really popular
in any social meetings of men. He did not himself care for the loose
little talkings, half flat and half sharp, of men when they meet
together in idleness. He was not open enough in his nature for such
popularity. Some men were afraid of him, and some suspected him.
There were others who made up to him, seeking his intimacy, but these
he usually snubbed, and always kept at a distance. Though he had
indulged in all the ordinary pleasures of young men, he had never
been a jovial man. In his conversations with men he always seemed to
think that he should use his time towards serving some purpose of
business. With women he was quite the reverse. With women he could be
happy. With women he could really associate. A woman he could really
love;--but I doubt whether for all that he could treat a woman well.

But he was known in the Oxfordshire country as a man who knew what he
was about, and such men are always welcome. It is the man who does
not know how to ride that is made uncomfortable in the hunting field
by cold looks or expressed censure. And yet it is very rarely that
such men do any real harm. Such a one may now and then get among
the hounds or override the hunt, but it is not often so. Many such
complaints are made; but in truth the too forward man, who presses
the dogs, is generally one who can ride, but is too eager or too
selfish to keep in his proper place. The bad rider, like the bad
whist player, pays highly for what he does not enjoy, and should be
thanked. But at both games he gets cruelly snubbed. At both games
George Vavasor was great and he never got snubbed.

There were men who lived together at Roebury in a kind of club,--four
or five of them, who came thither from London, running backwards and
forwards as hunting arrangements enabled them to do so,--a brewer or
two and a banker, with a would-be fast attorney, a sporting literary
gentleman, and a young unmarried Member of Parliament who had no
particular home of his own in the country. These men formed the
Roebury Club, and a jolly life they had of it. They had their own
wine closet at the King's Head,--or Roebury Inn as the house had come
to be popularly called,--and supplied their own game. The landlord
found everything else; and as they were not very particular about
their bills, they were allowed to do pretty much as they liked in
the house. They were rather imperious, very late in their hours,
sometimes, though not often, noisy, and once there had been a hasty
quarrel which had made the landlord in his anger say that the club
should be turned out of his house. But they paid well, chaffed the
servants much oftener than they bullied them, and on the whole were
very popular.

To this club Vavasor did not belong, alleging that he could not
afford to live at their pace, and alleging, also, that his stays at
Roebury were not long enough to make him a desirable member. The
invitation to him was not repeated and he lodged elsewhere in the
little town. But he occasionally went in of an evening, and would
make up with the members a table at whist.

He had come down to Roebury by mail train, ready for hunting the next
morning, and walked into the club-room just at midnight. There he
found Maxwell the banker, Grindley the would-be fast attorney, and
Calder Jones the Member of Parliament, playing dummy. Neither of the
brewers were there, nor was the sporting literary gentleman.

"Here's Vavasor," said Maxwell, "and now we won't play this
blackguard game any longer. Somebody told me, Vavasor, that you were
gone away."

"Gone away;--what, like a fox?"

"I don't know what it was; that something had happened to you since
last season; that you were married, or dead, or gone abroad. By
George, I've lost the trick after all! I hate dummy like the devil.
I never hold a card in dummy's hand. Yes, I know; that's seven points
on each side. Vavasor, come and cut. Upon my word if any one had
asked me, I should have said you were dead."

"But you see, nobody ever does think of asking you anything."

"What you probably mean," said Grindley, "is that Vavasor was not
returned for Chelsea last February; but you've seen him since that.
Are you going to try it again, Vavasor?"

"If you'll lend me the money I will."

"I don't see what on earth a man gains by going into the house," said
Calder Jones. "I couldn't help myself as it happened, but, upon my
word it's a deuce of a bore. A fellow thinks he can do as he likes
about going,--but he can't. It wouldn't do for me to give it up,
because--"

"Oh no, of course not; where should we all be?" said Vavasor.

"It's you and me, Grindems," said Maxwell. "D---- parliament, and now
let's have a rubber."

They played till three and Mr Calder Jones lost a good deal of
money,--a good deal of money in a little way, for they never played
above ten-shilling points, and no bet was made for more than a pound
or two. But Vavasor was the winner, and when he left the room he
became the subject of some ill-natured remarks.

"I wonder he likes coming in here," said Grindley, who had himself
been the man to invite him to belong to the club, and who had at one
time indulged the ambition of an intimacy with George Vavasor.

"I can't understand it," said Calder Jones, who was a little bitter
about his money. "Last year he seemed to walk in just when he liked,
as though he were one of us."

"He's a bad sort of fellow," said Grindley; "he's so uncommonly dark.
I don't know where on earth he gets his money from, He was heir to
some small property in the north, but he lost every shilling of that
when he was in the wine trade."

"You're wrong there, Grindems," said Maxwell,--making use of a
playful nickname which he had invented for his friend. "He made a pot
of money at the wine business, and had he stuck to it he would have
been a rich man."

"He's lost it all since then, and that place in the north into the
bargain."

"Wrong again, Grindems, my boy. If old Vavasor were to die to-morrow,
Vavasor Hall would go just as he might choose to leave it. George may
be a ruined man for aught I know--"

"There's no doubt about that, I believe," said Grindley.

"Perhaps not, Grindems; but he can't have lost Vavasor Hall because
he has never as yet had an interest in it. He's the natural heir, and
will probably get it some day."

"All the same," said Calder Jones, "isn't it rather odd he should
come in here?"

"We've asked him often enough," said Maxwell; "not because we like
him, but because we want him so often to make up a rubber. I don't
like George Vavasor, and I don't know who does; but I like him
better than dummy. And I'd sooner play whist with men I don't like,
Grindems, than I'd not play at all." A bystander might have thought
from the tone of Mr Maxwell's voice that he was alluding to Mr
Grindley himself, but Mr Grindley didn't seem to take it in that
light.

"That's true, of course," said he. "We can't pick men just as we
please. But I certainly didn't think that he'd make it out for
another season."

The club breakfasted the next morning at nine o'clock, in order that
they might start at half-past for the meet at Edgehill. Edgehill is
twelve miles from Roebury, and the hacks would do it in an hour and
a half,--or perhaps a little less. "Does anybody know anything about
that brown horse of Vavasor's?" said Maxwell. "I saw him coming into
the yard yesterday with that old groom of his."

"He had a brown horse last season," said Grindley;--"a little thing
that went very fast, but wasn't quite sound on the road."

"That was a mare," said Maxwell, "and he sold her to Cinquebars."*


   [*Ah, my friend, from whom I have borrowed this scion of the
   nobility! Had he been left with us he would have forgiven me
   my little theft, and now that he has gone I will not change
   the name.]


"For a hundred and fifty," said Calder Jones, "and she wasn't worth
the odd fifty."

"He won seventy with her at Leamington," said Maxwell, "and I doubt
whether he'd take his money now."

"Is Cinquebars coming down here this year?"

"I don't know," said Maxwell. "I hope not. He's the best fellow in
the world, but he can't ride, and he don't care for hunting, and he
makes more row than any fellow I ever met. I wish some fellow could
tell me something about that fellow's brown horse."

"I'd never buy a horse of Vavasor's if I were you," said Grindley.
"He never has anything that's all right all round."

"And who has?" said Maxwell, as he took into his plate a second
mutton chop, which had just been brought up hot into the room
especially for him. "That's the mistake men make about horses, and
that's why there's so much cheating. I never ask for a warranty with
a horse, and don't very often have a horse examined. Yet I do as
well as others. You can't have perfect horses any more than you can
perfect men, or perfect women. You put up with red hair, or bad
teeth, or big feet,--or sometimes with the devil of a voice. But a
man when he wants a horse won't put up with anything! Therefore those
who've got horses to sell must lie. When I go into the market with
three hundred pounds I expect a perfect animal. As I never do that
now I never expect a perfect animal. I like 'em to see; I like 'em to
have four legs; and I like 'em to have a little wind. I don't much
mind anything else."

"By Jove you're about right," said Calder Jones. The reader will
therefore readily see that Mr Maxwell the banker reigned as king in
that club.

Vavasor had sent two horses on in charge of Bat Smithers, and
followed on a pony about fourteen hands high, which he had ridden as
a cover hack for the last four years. He did not start till near ten,
but he was able to catch Bat with his two horses about a mile and a
half on that side of Edgehill. "Have you managed to come along pretty
clean?" the master asked as he came up with his servant.

"They be the most beastly roads in all England," said Bat, who always
found fault with any county in which he happened to be located. "But
I'll warrant I'm cleaner than most on 'em. What for any county should
make such roads as them I never could tell."

"The roads about there are bad, certainly;--very bad. But I suppose
they would have been better had Providence sent better materials. And
what do you think of the brown horse, Bat?"

"Well, sir." He said no more, and that he said with a drawl.

"He's as fine an animal to look at as ever I put my eye on," said
George.

"He's all that," said Bat.

"He's got lots of pace too."

"I'm sure he has, sir."

"And they tell me you can't beat him at jumping."

"They can mostly do that, sir, if they're well handled."

"You see he's a deal over my weight."

"Yes, he is, Mr Vavasor. He is a fourteen stoner."

"Or fifteen," said Vavasor.

"Perhaps he may, sir. There's no knowing what a 'orse can carry till
he's tried."

George asked his groom no more questions, but felt sure that he had
better sell his brown horse if he could. Now I here protest that
there was nothing specially amiss with the brown horse. Towards the
end of the preceding season he had overreached himself and had been
lame, and had been sold by some owner with more money than brains who
had not cared to wait for a cure. Then there had gone with him a bad
character, and a vague suspicion had attached itself to him, as there
does to hundreds of horses which are very good animals in their way.
He had come thus to Tattersall's, and Vavasor had bought him cheap,
thinking that he might make money of him, from his form and action.
He had found nothing amiss with him,--nor, indeed, had Bat Smithers.
But his character went with him, and therefore Bat Smithers thought
it well to be knowing. George Vavasor knew as much of horses as most
men can,--as, perhaps, as any man can who is not a dealer, or a
veterinary surgeon; but he, like all men, doubted his own knowledge,
though on that subject he would never admit that he doubted it.
Therefore he took Bat's word and felt sure that the horse was wrong.

"We shall have a run from the big wood," said George.

"If they make un break, you will, sir," said Bat.

"At any rate I'll ride the brown horse," said George. Then, as soon
as that was settled between them, the Roebury Club overtook them.

There was now a rush of horses on the road altogether, and they were
within a quarter of a mile of Edgehill church, close to which was the
meet. Bat with his two hunters fell a little behind, and the others
trotted on together. The other grooms with their animals were on in
advance, and were by this time employed in combing out forelocks, and
rubbing stirrup leathers and horses' legs free from the dirt of the
roads;--but Bat Smithers was like his master, and did not congregate
much with other men, and Vavasor was sure to give orders to his
servant different from the orders given by others.

"Are you well mounted this year?" Maxwell asked of George Vavasor.

"No, indeed; I never was what I call well mounted yet. I generally
have one horse and three or four cripples. That brown horse behind
there is pretty good, I believe."

"I see your man has got the old chestnut mare with him."

"She's one of the cripples,--not but what she's as sound as a bell,
and as good a hunter as ever I wish to ride; but she makes a little
noise when she's going."

"So that you can hear her three fields off," said Grindley.

"Five if the fields are small enough and your ears are sharp enough,"
said Vavasor. "All the same I wouldn't change her for the best horse
I ever saw under you."

"Had you there, Grindems," said Maxwell.

"No, he didn't," said Grindley. "He didn't have me at all."

"Your horses, Grindley, are always up to all the work they have to
do," said George; "and I don't know what any man wants more than
that."

"Had you again, Grindems," said Maxwell.

"I can ride against him any day," said Grindley.

"Yes; or against a brick wall either, if your horse didn't know any
better," said George.

"Had you again, Grindems," said Maxwell. Whereupon Mr Grindley
trotted on, round the corner by the church, and into the field in
which the hounds were assembled. The fire had become too hot for him,
and he thought it best to escape. Had it been Vavasor alone he would
have turned upon him and snarled, but he could not afford to exhibit
any ill temper to the king of the club. Mr Grindley was not popular,
and were Maxwell to turn openly against him his sporting life down at
Roebury would decidedly be a failure.

The lives of such men as Mr Grindley,--men who are tolerated in the
daily society of others who are accounted their superiors, do not
seem to have many attractions. And yet how many such men does one see
in almost every set? Why Mr Grindley should have been inferior to Mr
Maxwell the banker, or to Stone, or to Prettyman who were brewers, or
even to Mr Pollock the heavy-weight literary gentleman, I can hardly
say. An attorney by his trade is at any rate as good as a brewer, and
there are many attorneys who hold their heads high anywhere. Grindley
was a rich man,--or at any rate rich enough for the life he led. I
don't know much about his birth, but I believe it was as good as
Maxwell's. He was not ignorant, or a fool;--whereas I rather think
Maxwell was a fool. Grindley had made his own way in the world, but
Maxwell would certainly not have made himself a banker if his father
had not been a banker before him; nor could the bank have gone on
and prospered had there not been partners there who were better men
of business than our friend. Grindley knew that he had a better
intellect than Maxwell; and yet he allowed Maxwell to snub him, and
he toadied Maxwell in return. It was not on the score of riding that
Maxwell claimed and held his superiority, for Grindley did not want
pluck, and every one knew that Maxwell had lived freely and that his
nerves were not what they had been. I think it had come from the
outward look of the men, from the form of each, from the gait and
visage which in one was good and in the other insignificant. The
nature of such dominion of man over man is very singular, but this is
certain that when once obtained in manhood it may be easily held.

Among boys at school the same thing is even more conspicuous, because
boys have less of conscience than men, are more addicted to tyranny,
and when weak are less prone to feel the misery and disgrace of
succumbing. Who has been through a large school and does not remember
the Maxwells and Grindleys,--the tyrants and the slaves,--those who
domineered and those who submitted? Nor was it, even then, personal
strength, nor always superior courage, that gave the power of
command. Nor was it intellect, or thoughtfulness, nor by any means
such qualities as make men and boys lovable. It is said by many who
have had to deal with boys, that certain among them claim and obtain
ascendancy by the spirit within them; but I doubt whether the
ascendancy is not rather thrust on them than claimed by them. Here
again I think the outward gait of the boy goes far towards obtaining
for him the submission of his fellows.

But the tyrant boy does not become the tyrant man, or the slave boy
the slave man, because the outward visage, that has been noble or
mean in the one, changes and becomes so often mean or noble in the
other.

"By George, there's Pollock!" said Maxwell, as he rode into the
field by the church. "I'll bet half a crown that he's come down from
London this morning, that he was up all night last night, and that he
tells us so three times before the hounds go out of the paddock." Mr
Pollock was the heavy-weight sporting literary gentleman.



CHAPTER XVII

Edgehill


Of all sights in the world there is, I think, none more beautiful
than that of a pack of fox-hounds seated, on a winter morning, round
the huntsman, if the place of meeting has been chosen with anything
of artistic skill. It should be in a grassy field, and the field
should be small. It should not be absolutely away from all buildings,
and the hedgerows should not have been clipped and pared, and made
straight with reference to modern agricultural economy. There should
be trees near, and the ground should be a little uneven, so as to
mark some certain small space as the exact spot where the dogs and
servants of the hunt should congregate.

There are well-known grand meets in England, in the parks of
noblemen, before their houses, or even on what are called their
lawns; but these magnificent affairs have but little of the beauty
of which I speak. Such assemblies are too grand and too ornate, and,
moreover, much too far removed from true sporting proprieties. At
them, equipages are shining, and ladies' dresses are gorgeous, and
crowds of tradesmen from the neighbouring town have come there to
look at the grand folk. To my eye there is nothing beautiful in
that. The meet I speak of is arranged with a view to sport, but the
accident of the locality may make it the prettiest thing in the
world.

Such, in a special degree, was the case at Edgehill. At Edgehill the
whole village consisted of three or four cottages; but there was a
small old church, with an old grey tower, and a narrow, green, almost
dark, churchyard, surrounded by elm-trees. The road from Roebury to
the meet passed by the church stile, and turning just beyond it came
upon the gate which led into the little field in which the hounds
felt themselves as much at home as in their kennels. There might be
six or seven acres in the field, which was long and narrow, so that
the huntsman had space to walk leisurely up and down with the pack
clustering round him, when he considered that longer sitting might
chill them. The church tower was close at hand, visible through the
trees, and the field itself was green and soft, though never
splashing with mud or heavy with holes.

Edgehill was a favourite meet in that country, partly because foxes
were very abundant in the great wood adjacent, partly because the
whole country around is grass-land, and partly, no doubt, from the
sporting propensities of the neighbouring population. As regards my
own taste, I do not know that I do like beginning a day with a great
wood,--and if not beginning it, certainly not ending it. It is hard
to come upon the cream of hunting, as it is upon the cream of any
other delight. Who can always drink Lafitte of the finest, can always
talk to a woman who is both beautiful and witty, or can always find
the right spirit in the poetry he reads? A man has usually to work
through much mud before he gets his nugget. It is so certainly in
hunting, and a big wood too frequently afflicts the sportsman, as the
mud does the miner. The small gorse cover is the happy, much-envied
bit of ground in which the gold is sure to show itself readily. But
without the woods the gorse would not hold the foxes, and without the
mud the gold would not have found its resting-place.

But, as I have said, Edgehill was a popular meet, and, as regarded
the meet itself, was eminently picturesque. On the present occasion
the little field was full of horsemen, moving about slowly, chatting
together, smoking cigars, getting off from their hacks and mounting
their hunters, giving orders to their servants, and preparing for the
day. There were old country gentlemen there, greeting each other from
far sides of the county; sporting farmers who love to find themselves
alongside their landlords, and to feel that the pleasures of the
country are common to both; men down from town, like our friends
of the Roebury club, who made hunting their chosen pleasure, and
who formed, in number, perhaps the largest portion of the field;
officers from garrisons round about; a cloud of servants, and a few
nondescript stragglers who had picked up horses, hither and thither,
round the country. Outside the gate on the road were drawn up
a variety of vehicles, open carriages, dog-carts, gigs, and
waggonettes, in some few of which were seated ladies who had come
over to see the meet. But Edgehill was, essentially, not a ladies'
meet. The distances to it were long, and the rides in Cranby
Wood--the big wood--were not adapted for wheels. There were one or
two ladies on horseback, as is always the case; but Edgehill was not
a place popular, even with hunting ladies. One carriage, that of the
old master of the hounds, had entered the sacred precincts of the
field, and from this the old baronet was just descending, as Maxwell,
Calder Jones, and Vavasor rode into the field.

"I hope I see you well, Sir William," said Maxwell, greeting the
master. Calder Jones also made his little speech, and so did Vavasor.

"Humph--well, yes, I'm pretty well, thank'ee. Just move on, will you?
My mare can't stir here." Then some one else spoke to him, and he
only grunted in answer. Having slowly been assisted up on to his
horse,--for he was over seventy years of age,--he trotted off to the
hounds, while all the farmers round him touched their hats to him.
But his mind was laden with affairs of import, and he noticed no one.
In a whispered voice he gave his instructions to his huntsman, who
said, "Yes, Sir William," "No, Sir William," "No doubt, Sir William."
One long-eared, long-legged fellow, in a hunting-cap and scarlet
coat, hung listening by, anxious to catch something of the orders for
the morning. "Who the devil's that fellow, that's all breeches and
boots?" said Sir William aloud to some one near him, as the huntsman
moved off with the hounds. Sir William knew the man well enough, but
was minded to punish him for his discourtesy. "Where shall we find
first, Sir William?" said Calder Jones, in a voice that was really
very humble. "How the mischief am I to know where the foxes are?"
said Sir William, with an oath; and Calder Jones retired unhappy, and
for the moment altogether silenced.

And yet Sir William was the most popular man in the county, and no
more courteous gentleman ever sat at the bottom of his own table. A
mild man he was, too, when out of his saddle, and one by no means
disposed to assume special supremacy. But a master of hounds, if he
have long held the country,--and Sir William had held his for more
than thirty years,--obtains a power which that of no other potentate
can equal. He may say and do what he pleases, and his tyranny is
always respected. No conspiracy against him has a chance of success;
no sedition will meet with sympathy;--that is, if he be successful
in showing sport. If a man be sworn at, abused, and put down without
cause, let him bear it and think that he has been a victim for the
public good. And let him never be angry with the master. That rough
tongue is the necessity of the master's position. They used to say
that no captain could manage a ship without swearing at his men.
But what are the captain's troubles in comparison with those of the
master of hounds? The captain's men are under discipline, and can be
locked up, flogged, or have their grog stopped. The master of hounds
cannot stop the grog of any offender, and he can only stop the
tongue, or horse, of such an one by very sharp words.

"Well, Pollock, when did you come?" said Maxwell.

"By George," said the literary gentleman, "just down from London by
the 8.30 from Euston Square, and got over here from Winslow in a
trap, with two fellows I never saw in my life before. We came tandem
in a fly, and did the nineteen miles in an hour."

"Come, Athenian, draw it mild," said Maxwell.

"We did, indeed. I wonder whether they'll pay me their share of the
fly. I had to leave Onslow Crescent at a quarter before eight, and I
did three hours' work before I started."

"Then you did it by candle-light," said Grindley.

"Of course I did; and why shouldn't I? Do you suppose no one can work
by candle-light except a lawyer? I suppose you fellows were playing
whist, and drinking hard. I'm uncommon glad I wasn't with you, for I
shall be able to ride."

"I bet you a pound," said Jones, "if there's a run, I see more of it
than you."

"I'll take that bet with Jones," said Grindley, "and Vavasor shall be
the judge."

"Gentlemen, the hounds can't get out, if you will stop up the gate,"
said Sir William. Then the pack passed through, and they all trotted
on for four miles, to Cranby Wood.

Vavasor, as he rode on to the wood, was alone, or speaking, from time
to time, a few words to his servant. "I'll ride the chestnut mare in
the wood," he said, "and do you keep near me."

"I bean't to be galloping up and down them rides, I suppose," said
Bat, almost contemptuously.

"I shan't gallop up and down the rides, myself; but do you mark me,
to know where I am, so that I can change if a fox should go away."

"You'll be here all day, sir. That's my belief."

"If so, I won't ride the brown horse at all. But do you take care to
let me have him if there's a chance. Do you understand?"

"Oh, yes, I understand, sir. There ain't no difficulty in my
understanding;--only I don't think, sir, you'll ever get a fox out
of that wood to-day. Why, it stands to reason. The wind's from the
north-east."

Cranby Wood is very large,--there being, in truth, two or three woods
together. It was nearly twelve before they found; and then for an
hour there was great excitement among the men, who rode up and down
the rides as the hounds drove the fox from one end to another of the
enclosure. Once or twice the poor animal did try to go away, and then
there was great hallooing, galloping, and jumping over unnecessary
fences; but he was headed back again, or changed his mind, not liking
the north-east wind of which Bat Smithers had predicted such bad
things. After one the crowd of men became rather more indifferent,
and clustered together in broad spots, eating their lunch, smoking
cigars, and chaffing each other. It was singular to observe the
amazing quantity of ham sandwiches and of sherry that had been
carried into Cranby Wood on that day. Grooms appeared to have been
laden with cases, and men were as well armed with flasks at their
saddle-bows as they used to be with pistols. Maxwell and Pollock
formed the centre of one of these crowds, and chaffed each other with
the utmost industry, till, tired of having inflicted no wounds, they
turned upon Grindley and drove him out of the circle. "You'll make
that man cut his throat, if you go on at that," said Pollock. "Shall
I?" said Maxwell. "Then I'll certainly stick to him for the sake of
humanity in general." During all this time Vavasor sat apart, quite
alone, and Bat Smithers grimly kept his place, about three hundred
yards from him.

"We shan't do any good to-day," said Grindley, coming up to Vavasor.

"I'm sure I don't know," said Vavasor.

"That old fellow has got to be so stupid, he doesn't know what he's
about," said Grindley, meaning Sir William.

"How can he make the fox break?" said Vavasor; and as his voice was
by no means encouraging Grindley rode away.

Lunch and cigars lasted till two, during which hour the hounds, the
huntsmen, the whips, and old Sir William were hard at work, as also
were some few others who persistently followed every chance of the
game. From that till three there were two or three flashes in the
pan, and false reports as to foxes which had gone away, which first
set men galloping, and then made them very angry. After three, men
began to say naughty things, to abuse Cranby Wood, to wish violently
that they had remained at home or gone elsewhere, and to speak
irreverently of their ancient master. "It's the cussidest place in
all creation," said Maxwell. "I often said I'd not come here any
more, and now I say it again."

"And yet you'll be here the next meet," said Grindley, who had
sneaked back to his old companions in weariness of spirit.

"Grindems, you know a sight too much," said Maxwell; "you do indeed.
An ordinary fellow has no chance with you."

Grindley was again going to catch it, but was on this time saved by
the appearance of the huntsman, who came galloping up one of the
rides, with a lot of the hounds at his heels.

"He isn't away, Tom, surely?" said Maxwell.

"He's out of the wood somewheres," said Tom;--and off they all went.
Vavasor changed his horse, getting on to the brown one, and giving
up his chestnut mare to Bat Smithers, who suggested that he might
as well go home to Roebury now. Vavasor gave him no answer, but,
trotting on to the point where the rides met, stopped a moment and
listened carefully. Then he took a path diverging away from that by
which the huntsmen and the crowd of horsemen had gone, and made the
best of his way through the wood. At the end of this he came upon Sir
William, who, with no one near him but his servant, was standing in
the pathway of a little hunting-gate.

"Hold hard," said Sir William. "The hounds are not out of the wood
yet."

"Is the fox away, sir?"

"What's the good of that if we can't get the hounds out?--Yes, he's
away. He passed out where I'm standing." And then he began to blow
his horn lustily, and by degrees other men and a few hounds came down
the ride. Then Tom, with his horse almost blown, made his appearance
outside the wood, and soon there came a rush of men, nearly on the
top of one another, pushing on, not knowing whither, but keenly alive
to the fact that the fox had at last consented to move his quarters.

Tom touched his hat, and looked at his master, inquiringly. "He's
gone for Claydon's," said the master. "Try them up that hedgerow."
Tom did try them up the hedgerow, and in half a minute the hounds
came upon the scent. Then you might see men settling their hats on
their heads, and feeling their feet in the stirrups. The moment for
which they had so long waited had come, and yet there were many
who would now have preferred that the fox should be headed back
into cover. Some had but little confidence in their half-blown
horses;--with many the waiting, though so abused and anathematized,
was in truth more to their taste than the run itself;--with others
the excitement had gone by, and a gallop over a field or two was
necessary before it would be restored. With most men at such a moment
there is a little nervousness, some fear of making a bad start, a
dread lest others should have more of the success of the hunt than
falls to them. But there was a great rush and a mighty bustle as the
hounds made out their game, and Sir William felt himself called upon
to use the rough side of his tongue to more than one delinquent.

And then certain sly old stagers might be seen turning off to the
left, instead of following the course of the game as indicated by the
hounds. They were men who had felt the air as they came out, and knew
that the fox must soon run down wind, whatever he might do for the
first half mile or so,--men who knew also which was the shortest way
to Claydon's by the road. Ah, the satisfaction that there is when
these men are thrown out, and their dead knowledge proved to be of no
avail! If a fox will only run straight, heading from the cover on his
real line, these very sagacious gentlemen seldom come to much honour
and glory.

In the present instance the beast seemed determined to go straight
enough, for the hounds ran the scent along three or four hedgerows in
a line. He had managed to get for himself full ten minutes' start,
and had been able to leave the cover and all his enemies well behind
him before he bethought himself as to his best way to his purposed
destination. And here, from field to field, there were little
hunting-gates at which men crowded lustily, poking and shoving each
other's horses, and hating each other with a bitterness of hatred
which is, I think, known nowhere else. No hunting man ever wants
to jump if he can help it, and the hedges near the gate were not
alluring. A few there were who made lines for themselves, taking the
next field to the right, or scrambling through the corners of the
fences while the rush was going on at the gates; and among these was
George Vavasor. He never rode in a crowd, always keeping himself
somewhat away from men as well as hounds. He would often be thrown
out, and then men would hear no more of him for that day. On such
occasions he did not show himself, as other men do, twenty minutes
after the fox had been killed or run to ground,--but betook himself
home by himself, going through the byeways and lanes, thus leaving no
report of his failure to be spoken of by his compeers.

As long as the line of gates lasted, the crowd continued as thick as
ever, and the best man was he whose horse could shove the hardest.
After passing some four or five fields in this way they came out upon
a road, and, the scent holding strong, the dogs crossed it without
any demurring. Then came doubt into the minds of men, many of whom,
before they would venture away from their position on the lane,
narrowly watched the leading hounds to see whether there was
indication of a turn to the one side or the other. Sir William, whose
seventy odd years excused him, turned sharp to the left, knowing that
he could make Claydon's that way; and very many were the submissive
horsemen who followed him; a few took the road to the right, having
in their minds some little game of their own. The hardest riders
there had already crossed from the road into the country, and were
going well to the hounds, ignorant, some of them, of the brook
before them, and others unheeding. Foremost among these was Burgo
Fitzgerald,--Burgo Fitzgerald, whom no man had ever known to crane at
a fence, or to hug a road, or to spare his own neck or his horse's.
And yet poor Burgo seldom finished well,--coming to repeated grief in
this matter of his hunting, as he did so constantly in other matters
of his life.

But almost neck and neck with Burgo was Pollock, the sporting
literary gentleman. Pollock had but two horses to his stud, and was
never known to give much money for them;--and he weighed without his
boots, fifteen stones! No one ever knew how Pollock did it;--more
especially as all the world declared that he was as ignorant of
hunting as any tailor. He could ride, or when he couldn't ride he
could tumble,--men said that of him,--and he would ride as long as
the beast under him could go. But few knew the sad misfortunes which
poor Pollock sometimes encountered;--the muddy ditches in which he
was left; the despair with which he would stand by his unfortunate
horse when the poor brute could no longer move across some
deep-ploughed field; the miles that he would walk at night beside a
tired animal, as he made his way slowly back to Roebury!

Then came Tom the huntsman, with Calder Jones close to him, and
Grindley intent on winning his sovereign. Vavasor had also crossed
the road somewhat to the left, carrying with him one or two who knew
that he was a safe man to follow. Maxwell had been ignominiously
turned by the hedge, which, together with its ditch, formed a fence
such as all men do not love at the beginning of a run. He had turned
from it, acknowledging the cause. "By George!" said he, "that's too
big for me yet awhile; and there's no end of a river at the bottom."
So he had followed the master down the road.

All those whom we have named managed to get over the brook, Pollock's
horse barely contriving to get up his hind legs from the broken edge
of the bank. Some nags refused it, and their riders thus lost all
their chance of sport for that day. Such is the lot of men who hunt.
A man pays five or six pounds for his day's amusement, and it is ten
to one that the occurrences of the day disgust rather than gratify
him! One or two got in, and scrambled out on the other side, but
Tufto Pearlings, the Manchester man from Friday Street, stuck in the
mud at the bottom, and could not get his mare out till seven men
had come with ropes to help him. "Where the devil is my fellow?"
Pearlings asked of the countrymen; but the countrymen could not tell
him that "his fellow" with his second horse was riding the hunt with
great satisfaction to himself.

George Vavasor found that his horse went with him uncommonly well,
taking his fences almost in the stride of his gallop, and giving
unmistakeable signs of good condition. "I wonder what it is that's
amiss with him," said George to himself, resolving, however, that he
would sell him that day if he got an opportunity. Straight went the
line of the fox, up from the brook, and Tom began to say that his
master had been wrong about Claydon's.

"Where are we now?" said Burgo, as four or five of them dashed
through the open gate of a farmyard.

"This is Bulby's farm," said Tom, "and we're going right away for
Elmham Wood."

"Elmham Wood be d----," said a stout farmer, who had come as far as
that with them. "You won't see Elmham Wood to-day."

"I suppose you know best," said Tom; and then they were through the
yard, across another road, and down a steep ravine by the side of a
little copse. "He's been through them firs, any way," said Tom. "To
him, Gaylass!" Then up they went the other side of the ravine, and
saw the body of the hounds almost a field before them at the top.

"I say,--that took some of the wind out of a fellow," said Pollock.

"You mustn't mind about wind now," said Burgo, dashing on.

"Wasn't the pace awful, coming up to that farmhouse?" said Calder
Jones, looking round to see if Grindley was shaken off. But Grindley,
with some six or seven others, was still there. And there, also,
always in the next field to the left, was George Vavasor. He had
spoken no word to any one since the hunt commenced, nor had he wished
to speak to any one. He desired to sell his horse,--and he desired
also to succeed in the run for other reasons than that, though I
think he would have found it difficult to define them.

Now they had open grass land for about a mile, but with very heavy
fences,--so that the hounds gained upon them a little, and Pollock's
weight began to tell. The huntsman and Burgo were leading with some
fortunate county gentleman whose good stars had brought him in upon
them at the farmyard gate. It is the injustice of such accidents as
this that breaks the heart of a man who has honestly gone through all
the heat and work of the struggle! And the hounds had veered a little
round to the left, making, after all, for Claydon's. "Darned if the
Squire warn't right," said Tom. Sir William, though a baronet, was
familiarly called the Squire throughout the hunt.

"We ain't going for Claydon's now?" asked Burgo.

"Them's Claydon's beeches we sees over there," said Tom. "'Tain't
often the Squire's wrong."

Here they came to a little double rail and a little quick-set hedge.
A double rail is a nasty fence always if it has been made any way
strong, and one which a man with a wife and a family is justified in
avoiding. They mostly can be avoided, having gates; and this could
have been avoided. But Burgo never avoided anything, and went over it
beautifully. The difficulty is to be discreet when the man before one
has been indiscreet. Tom went for the gate, as did Pollock, who knew
that he could have no chance at the double rails. But Calder Jones
came to infinite grief, striking the top bar of the second rail,
and going head-foremost out of his saddle, as though thrown by a
catapult. There we must leave him. Grindley, rejoicing greatly at
this discomfiture, made for the gate; but the country gentleman with
the fresh horse accomplished the rails, and was soon alongside of
Burgo.

"I didn't see you at the start," said Burgo.

"And I didn't see you," said the country gentleman; "so it's even."

Burgo did not see the thing in the same light, but he said no more.
Grindley and Tom were soon after them, Tom doing his utmost to shake
off the attorney. Pollock was coming on also; but the pace had been
too much for him, and though the ground rode light his poor beast
laboured and grunted sorely. The hounds were still veering somewhat
to the left, and Burgo, jumping over a small fence into the same
field with them, saw that there was a horseman ahead of him. This was
George Vavasor, who was going well, without any symptom of distress.

And now they were at Claydon's, having run over some seven miles of
ground in about thirty-five minutes. To those who do not know what
hunting is, this pace does not seem very extraordinary; but it had
been quite quick enough, as was testified by the horses which had
gone the distance. Our party entered Claydon's Park at back, through
a gate in the park palings that was open on hunting days; but a much
more numerous lot was there almost as soon as them, who had come in
by the main entrance. This lot was headed by Sir William, and our
friend Maxwell was with him.

"A jolly thing so far," said Burgo to Maxwell; "about the best we've
had this year."

"I didn't see a yard of it," said Maxwell. "I hadn't nerve to get off
the first road, and I haven't been off it ever since." Maxwell was a
man who never lied about his hunting, or had the slightest shame in
riding roads. "Who's been with you?" said he.

"There've been Tom and I;--and Calder Jones was there for a while.
I think he killed himself somewhere. And there was Pollock, and your
friend Grindley, and a chap whose name I don't know who dropped out
of heaven about half-way in the run; and there was another man whose
back I saw just now; there he is,--by heavens, it's Vavasor! I didn't
know he was here."

They hung about the Claydon covers for ten minutes, and then their
fox went off again,--their fox or another, as to which there was a
great discussion afterwards; but he who would have suggested the
idea of a new fox to Sir William would have been a bold man. A fox,
however, went off, turning still to the left from Claydon's towards
Roebury. Those ten minutes had brought up some fifty men; but it did
not bring up Calder Jones nor Tufto Pearlings, nor some half-dozen
others who had already come to serious misfortune; but Grindley was
there, very triumphant in his own success, and already talking of
Jones's sovereign. And Pollock was there also, thankful for the ten
minutes' law, and trusting that wind might be given to his horse to
finish the run triumphantly.

But the pace on leaving Claydon's was better than ever. This may have
come from the fact that the scent was keener, as they got out so
close upon their game. But I think they must have changed their fox.
Maxwell, who saw him go, swore that he was fresh and clean. Burgo
said that he knew it to be the same fox, but gave no reason. "Same
fox! in course it was; why shouldn't it be the same?" said Tom. The
country gentleman who had dropped from heaven was quite sure that
they had changed, and so were most of those who had ridden the road.
Pollock confined himself to hoping that he might soon be killed, and
that thus his triumph for the day might be assured.

On they went, and the pace soon became too good for the poor author.
His horse at last refused a little hedge, and there was not another
trot to be got out of him. That night Pollock turned up at Roebury
about nine o'clock, very hungry,--and it was known that his animal
was alive;--but the poor horse ate not a grain of oats that night,
nor on the next morning. Vavasor had again taken a line to himself,
on this occasion a little to the right of the meet; but Maxwell
followed him and rode close with him to the end. Burgo for a while
still led the body of the field, incurring at first much condemnation
from Sir William,--nominally for hurrying on among the hounds, but in
truth because he got before Sir William himself. During this latter
part of the run Sir William stuck to the hounds in spite of his
seventy odd years. Going down into Marham Bottom, some four or five
were left behind, for they feared the soft ground near the river, and
did not know the pass through it. But Sir William knew it, and those
who remained close to him got over that trouble. Burgo, who would
still lead, nearly foundered in the bog;--but he was light, and his
horse pulled him through,--leaving a fore-shoe in the mud. After that
Burgo was contented to give Sir William the lead.

Then they came up by Marham Pits to Cleshey Small Wood, which they
passed without hanging there a minute, and over the grass lands of
Cleshey Farm. Here Vavasor and Maxwell joined the others, having
gained some three hundred yards in distance by their course, but
having been forced to jump the Marham Stream which Sir William had
forded. The pace now was as good as the horses could make it,--and
perhaps something better as regarded some of them. Sir William's
servant had been with him, and he had got his second horse at
Claydon's; Maxwell had been equally fortunate; Tom's second horse
had not come up, and his beast was in great distress; Grindley had
remained behind at Marham Bottom, being contented perhaps with having
beaten Calder Jones,--from whom by-the-by I may here declare that he
never got his sovereign. Burgo, Vavasor, and the country gentleman
still held on; but it was devoutly desired by all of them that the
fox might soon come to the end of his tether. Ah! that intense
longing that the fox may fail, when the failings of the horse begin
to make themselves known,--and the consciousness comes on that all
that one has done will go for nothing unless the thing can be brought
to a close in a field or two! So far you have triumphed, leaving
scores of men behind; but of what good is all that, if you also are
to be left behind at the last?

It was manifest now to all who knew the country that the fox was
making for Thornden Deer Park, but Thornden Deer Park was still two
miles ahead of them, and the hounds were so near to their game that
the poor beast could hardly hope to live till he got there. He had
tried a well-known drain near Cleshey Farm House; but it had been
inhospitably, nay cruelly, closed against him. Soon after that he
threw himself down in a ditch, and the eager hounds overran him,
giving him a moment's law,--and giving also a moment's law to horses
that wanted it as badly. "I'm about done for," said Burgo to Maxwell.
"Luckily for you," said Maxwell, "the fox is much in the same way."

But the fox had still more power left in him than poor Burgo
Fitzgerald's horse. He gained a minute's check and then he started
again, being viewed away by Sir William himself. The country
gentleman of whom mention has been made also viewed him, and holloa'd
as he did so: "Yoicks, tally; gone away!" The unfortunate man! "What
the d---- are you roaring at?" said Sir William. "Do you suppose
I don't know where the fox is?" Whereupon the country gentleman
retreated, and became less conspicuous than he had been.

Away they went again, off Cleshey and into Thornden parish, on the
land of Sorrel Farm,--a spot well to be remembered by one or two ever
afterwards. Here Sir William made for a gate which took him a little
out of the line, but Maxwell and Burgo Fitzgerald, followed by
Vavasor, went straight ahead. There was a huge ditch and boundary
bank there which Sir William had known and had avoided. Maxwell,
whose pluck had returned to him at last, took it well. His horse was
comparatively fresh and made nothing of it. Then came poor Burgo! Oh,
Burgo, hadst thou not have been a very child, thou shouldst have
known that now, at this time of the day,--after all that thy gallant
horse had done for thee,--it was impossible to thee or him. But when
did Burgo Fitzgerald know anything? He rode at the bank as though it
had been the first fence of the day, striking his poor beast with his
spurs, as though muscle, strength, and new power could be imparted by
their rowels. The animal rose at the bank and in some way got upon
it, scrambling as he struck it with his chest, and then fell headlong
into the ditch at the other side, a confused mass of head, limbs, and
body. His career was at an end, and he had broken his heart! Poor
noble beast, noble in vain! To his very last gasp he had done his
best, and had deserved that he should have been in better hands. His
master's ignorance had killed him. There are men who never know how
little a horse can do,--or how much!

There was to some extent a gap in the fence when Maxwell had first
ridden it and Burgo had followed him; a gap, or break in the hedge at
the top, indicating plainly the place at which a horse could best get
over. To this spot Vavasor followed, and was on the bank at Burgo's
heels before he knew what had happened. But the man had got away and
only the horse lay there in the ditch. "Are you hurt?" said Vavasor;
"can I do anything?" But he did not stop, "If you can find a chap
just send him to me," said Burgo in a melancholy tone. Then he sat
down, with his feet in the ditch, and looked at the carcase of his
horse.

There was no more need of jumping that day. The way was open into the
next field,--a turnip field,--and there amidst the crisp breaking
turnip-tops, with the breath of his enemies hot upon him, with their
sharp teeth at his entrails, biting at them impotently in the agonies
of his death struggle, poor Reynard finished his career. Maxwell was
certainly the first there,--but Sir William and George Vavasor were
close upon him. That taking of brushes of which we used to hear is a
little out of fashion; but if such honour were due to any one it was
due to Vavasor, for he and he only had ridden the hunt throughout.
But he claimed no honour, and none was specially given to him. He
and Maxwell rode homewards together, having sent assistance to poor
Burgo Fitzgerald; and as they went along the road, saying but little
to each other, Maxwell, in a very indifferent voice, asked him a
question.

"What do you want for that horse, Vavasor?"

"A hundred and fifty," said Vavasor.

"He's mine," said Maxwell. So the brown horse was sold for about half
his value, because he had brought with him a bad character.



CHAPTER XVIII

Alice Vavasor's Great Relations


Burgo Fitzgerald, of whose hunting experiences something has been
told in the last chapter, was a young man born in the purple of the
English aristocracy. He was related to half the dukes in the kingdom,
and had three countesses for his aunts. When he came of age he was
master of a sufficient fortune to make it quite out of the question
that he should be asked to earn his bread; and though that, and other
windfalls that had come to him, had long since been spent, no one
had ever made to him so ridiculous a proposition as that. He was now
thirty, and for some years past had been known to be much worse than
penniless; but still he lived on in the same circles, still slept
softly and drank of the best, and went about with his valet and his
groom and his horses, and fared sumptuously every day. Some people
said the countesses did it for him, and some said that it was the
dukes;--while others, again, declared that the Jews were his most
generous friends. At any rate he still seemed to live as he had
always lived, setting tradesmen at defiance, and laughing to scorn
all the rules which regulate the lives of other men.

About eighteen months before the time of which I am now speaking,
a great chance had come in this young man's way, and he had almost
succeeded in making himself one of the richest men in England. There
had been then a great heiress in the land, on whom the properties of
half-a-dozen ancient families had concentrated; and Burgo, who in
spite of his iniquities still kept his position in the drawing-rooms
of the great, had almost succeeded in obtaining the hand and the
wealth,--as people still said that he had obtained the heart,--of the
Lady Glencora M'Cluskie. But sundry mighty magnates, driven almost
to despair at the prospect of such a sacrifice, had sagaciously put
their heads together, and the result had been that the Lady Glencora
had heard reason. She had listened,--with many haughty tossings
indeed of her proud little head, with many throbbings of her
passionate young heart; but in the end she listened and heard reason.
She saw Burgo, for the last time, and told him that she was the
promised bride of Plantagenet Palliser, nephew and heir of the Duke
of Omnium.

He had borne it like a man,--never having groaned openly, or quivered
once before any comrade at the name of the Lady Glencora. She had
married Mr Palliser at St George's Square, and on the morning of the
marriage he had hung about his club door in Pall Mall, listening to
the bells, and saying a word or two about the wedding, with admirable
courage. It had been for him a great chance,--and he had lost it.
Who can say, too, that his only regret was for the money? He had
spoken once of it to a married sister of his, in whose house he had
first met Lady Glencora. "I shall never marry now,--that is all," he
said--and then he went about, living his old reckless life, with the
same recklessness as ever. He was one of those young men with dark
hair and blue eyes,--who wear no beard, and are certainly among
the handsomest of all God's creatures. No more handsome man than
Burgo Fitzgerald lived in his days; and this merit at any rate was
his,--that he thought nothing of his own beauty. But he lived ever
without conscience, without purpose,--with no idea that it behoved
him as a man to do anything but eat and drink,--or ride well to
hounds till some poor brute, much nobler than himself, perished
beneath him.

He chiefly concerns our story at this present time because the Lady
Glencora who had loved him,--and would have married him had not those
sagacious heads prevented it,--was a cousin of Alice Vavasor's. She
was among those very great relations with whom Alice was connected by
her mother's side,--being indeed so near to Lady Macleod, that she
was first cousin to that lady, only once removed. Lady Midlothian was
aunt to the Lady Glencora, and our Alice might have called cousins,
and not been forbidden, with the old Lord of the Isles, Lady
Glencora's father,--who was dead, however, some time previous to that
affair with Burgo,--and with the Marquis of Auld Reekie, who was Lady
Glencora's uncle, and had been her guardian. But Alice had kept
herself aloof from her grand relations on her mother's side, choosing
rather to hold herself as belonging to those who were her father's
kindred. With Lady Glencora, however, she had for a short time--for
some week or ten days,--been on terms of almost affectionate
intimacy. It had been then, when the wayward heiress with the bright
waving locks had been most strongly minded to give herself and her
wealth to Burgo Fitzgerald. Burgo had had money dealings with George
Vavasor, and knew him,--knew him intimately, and had learned the
fact of his cousinship between the heiress and his friend's cousin.
Whereupon in the agony of those weeks in which the sagacious heads
were resisting her love, Lady Glencora came to her cousin in Queen
Anne Street, and told Alice all that tale. "Was Alice," she asked,
"afraid of the marquises and the countesses, or of all the rank and
all the money which they boasted?" Alice answered that she was not at
all afraid of them. "Then would she permit Lady Glencora and Burgo
to see each other in the drawing-room at Queen Anne Street, just
once!" Just once,--so that they might arrange that little plan of an
elopement. But Alice could not do that for her newly found cousin.
She endeavoured to explain that it was not the dignity of the
sagacious heads which stood in her way, but her woman's feeling of
what was right and wrong in such a matter.

"Why should I not marry him?" said Lady Glencora, with her eyes
flashing. "He is my equal."

Alice explained that she had no word to say against such a marriage.
She counselled her cousin to be true to her love if her love was in
itself true. But she, an unmarried woman, who had hitherto not known
her cousin, might not give such help as that! "If you will not help
me, I am helpless!" said the Lady Glencora, and then she kneeled at
Alice's knees and threw her wavy locks abroad on Alice's lap. "How
shall I bribe you?" said Lady Glencora. "Next to him I will love you
better than all the world." But Alice, though she kissed the fair
forehead and owned that such reward would be worth much to her, could
not take any bribe for such a cause. Then Lady Glencora had been
angry with her, calling her heartless, and threatening her that she
too might have sorrow of her own and want assistance. Alice told
nothing of her own tale,--how she had loved her cousin and had been
forced to give him up, but said what kind words she could, and she
of the waving hair and light blue eyes had been pacified. Then she
had come again,--had come daily while the sagacious heads were at
work,--and Alice in her trouble had been a comfort to her.

But the sagacious heads were victorious, as we know, and Lady
Glencora M'Cluskie became Lady Glencora Palliser with all the
propriety in the world, instead of becoming wife to poor Burgo, with
all imaginable impropriety. And then she wrote a letter to Alice,
very short and rather sad; but still with a certain sweetness in it.
"She had been counselled that it was not fitting for her to love as
she had thought to love, and she had resolved to give up her dream.
Her cousin Alice, she knew, would respect her secret. She was going
to become the wife of the best man, she thought, in all the world;
and it should be the one care of her life to make him happy." She
said not a word in all her letter of loving this newly found lord.
"She was to be married at once. Would Alice be one among the bevy of
bridesmaids who were to grace the ceremony?"

Alice wished her joy heartily,--"heartily," she said, but had
declined that office of bridesmaid. She did not wish to undergo the
cold looks of the Lady Julias and Lady Janes who all would know each
other, but none of whom would know her. So she sent her cousin a
little ring, and asked her to keep it amidst all the wealthy tribute
of marriage gifts which would be poured forth at her feet.

From that time to this present Alice had heard no more of Lady
Glencora. She had been married late in the preceding season and
had gone away with Mr Palliser, spending her honeymoon amidst the
softnesses of some Italian lake. They had not returned to England
till the time had come for them to encounter the magnificent
Christmas festivities of Mr Palliser's uncle, the Duke. On this
occasion Gatherum Castle, the vast palace which the Duke had built at
a cost of nearly a quarter of a million, was opened, as it had never
been opened before;--for the Duke's heir had married to the Duke's
liking, and the Duke was a man who could do such things handsomely
when he was well pleased. Then there had been a throng of bridal
guests, and a succession of bridal gaieties which had continued
themselves even past the time at which Mr Palliser was due at
Westminster;--and Mr Palliser was a legislator who served his
country with the utmost assiduity. So the London season commenced,
progressed, and was consumed; and still Alice heard nothing more of
her friend and cousin Lady Glencora.

But this had troubled her not at all. A chance circumstance, the
story of which she had told to no one, had given her a short intimacy
with this fair child of the gold mines, but she had felt that they
two could not live together in habits of much intimacy. She had, when
thinking of the young bride, only thought of that wild love episode
in the girl's life. It had been strange to her that she should in
one week have listened to the most passionate protestations from her
friend of love for one man, and then have been told in the next that
another man was to be her friend's husband! But she reflected that
her own career was much the same,--only with the interval of some
longer time.

But her own career was not the same. Glencora had married Mr
Palliser,--had married him without pausing to doubt;--but Alice had
gone on doubting till at last she had resolved that she would not
marry Mr Grey. She thought of this much in those days at Cheltenham,
and wondered often whether Glencora lived with her husband in the
full happiness of conjugal love.

One morning, about three days after Mr Grey's visit, there came to
her two letters, as to neither of which did she know the writer by
the handwriting. Lady Macleod had told her,--with some hesitation,
indeed, for Lady Macleod was afraid of her,--but had told her,
nevertheless, more than once, that those noble relatives had heard of
the treatment to which Mr Grey was being subjected, and had expressed
their great sorrow,--if not dismay or almost anger. Lady Macleod,
indeed, had gone as far as she dared, and might have gone further
without any sacrifice of truth. Lady Midlothian had said that it
would be disgraceful to the family, and Lady Glencora's aunt, the
Marchioness of Auld Reekie, had demanded to be told what it was the
girl wanted.

When the letters came Lady Macleod was not present, and I am disposed
to think that one of them had been written by concerted arrangement
with her. But if so she had not dared to watch the immediate effect
of her own projectile. This one was from Lady Midlothian. Of the
other Lady Macleod certainly knew nothing, though it also had sprung
out of the discussions which had taken place as to Alice's sins in
the Auld Reekie-Midlothian set. This other letter was from Lady
Glencora. Alice opened the two, one without reading the other, very
slowly. Lady Midlothian's was the first opened, and then came a spot
of anger on Alice's cheeks as she saw the signature, and caught a
word or two as she allowed her eye to glance down the page. Then she
opened the other, which was shorter, and when she saw her cousin's
signature, "Glencora Palliser," she read that letter first,--read it
twice before she went back to the disagreeable task of perusing Lady
Midlothian's lecture. The reader shall have both the letters, but
that from the Countess shall have precedence.


   Castle Reekie, N.B.
   -- Oct. 186--.

   MY DEAR MISS VAVASOR,

   I have not the pleasure of knowing you personally, though
   I have heard of you very often from our dear mutual friend
   and relative Lady Macleod, with whom I understand that
   you are at present on a visit. Your grandmother,--by
   the mother's side,--Lady Flora Macleod, and my mother
   the Countess of Leith, were half-sisters; and though
   circumstances since that have prevented our seeing so much
   of each other as is desirable, I have always remembered
   the connection, and have ever regarded you as one in
   whose welfare I am bound by ties of blood to take a warm
   interest.


"'Since that!'--what does she mean by 'since that'?" said Alice to
herself. "She has never set eyes on me at all. Why does she talk of
not having seen as much of me as is desirable?"


   I had learned with great gratification that you were going
   to be married to a most worthy gentleman, Mr John Grey of
   Nethercoats, in Cambridgeshire. When I first heard this I
   made it my business to institute some inquiries, and I was
   heartily glad to find that your choice had done you so
   much credit. [If the reader has read Alice's character
   as I have meant it should be read, it will thoroughly be
   understood that this was wormwood to her.] I was informed
   that Mr Grey is in every respect a gentleman,--that he is
   a man of most excellent habits, and one to whom any young
   woman could commit her future happiness with security,
   that his means are very good for his position, and that
   there was no possible objection to such a marriage. All
   this gave great satisfaction to me, in which I was joined
   by the Marchioness of Auld Reekie, who is connected with
   you almost as nearly as I am, and who, I can assure you,
   feels a considerable interest in your welfare. I am
   staying with her now, and in all that I say, she agrees
   with me.

   You may feel then how dreadfully we were dismayed when
   we were told by dear Lady Macleod that you had told Mr
   Grey that you intended to change your mind! My dear Miss
   Vavasor, can this be true? There are things in which a
   young lady has no right to change her mind after it has
   been once made up; and certainly when a young lady has
   accepted a gentleman, that is one of them. He cannot
   legally make you become his wife, but he has a right to
   claim you before God and man. Have you considered that he
   has probably furnished his house in consequence of his
   intended marriage,--and perhaps in compliance with your
   own especial wishes? [I think that Lady Macleod must have
   told the Countess something that she had heard about the
   garden.] Have you reflected that he has of course told all
   his friends? Have you any reason to give? I am told, none!
   Nothing should ever be done without a reason; much less
   such a thing as this in which your own interests and, I
   may say, respectability are involved. I hope you will
   think of this before you persist in destroying your own
   happiness and perhaps that of a very worthy man.

   I had heard, some years ago, when you were much younger,
   that you had become imprudently attached in another
   direction--with a gentleman with none of those qualities
   to recommend him which speak so highly for Mr Grey.
   It would grieve me very much, as it would also the
   Marchioness, who in this matter thinks exactly as I do, if
   I were led to suppose that your rejection of Mr Grey had
   been caused by _any renewal of that project_. Nothing, my
   dear Miss Vavasor, could be more unfortunate,--and I might
   almost add a stronger word.

   I have been advised that a line from me as representing
   your poor mother's family, especially as I have at the
   present moment the opportunity of expressing Lady Auld
   Reekie's sentiments as well as my own, might be of
   service. I implore you, my dear Miss Vavasor, to
   remember what you owe to God and man, and to carry out an
   engagement made by yourself, that is in all respects comme
   il faut, and which will give entire satisfaction to your
   friends and relatives.

   MARGARET M. MIDLOTHIAN.


I think that Lady Macleod had been wrong in supposing that this could
do any good. She should have known Alice better; and should also have
known the world better. But her own reverence for her own noble
relatives was so great that she could not understand, even yet, that
all such feeling was wanting to her niece. It was to her impossible
that the expressed opinion of such an one as the Countess of
Midlothian, owning her relationship and solicitude, and condescending
at the same time to express friendship,--she could not, I say,
understand that the voice of such an one, so speaking, should have no
weight whatever. But I think that she had been quite right in keeping
out of Alice's way at the moment of the arrival of the letter. Alice
read it, slowly, and then replacing it in its envelope, leaned back
quietly in her chair,--with her eyes fixed upon the teapot on the
table. She had, however, the other letter on which to occupy her
mind, and thus relieve her from the effects of too deep an animosity
against the Countess.

The Lady Glencora's letter was as follows:


   Matching Priory,
   Thursday.

   DEAR COUSIN,

   I have just come home from Scotland, where they have been
   telling me something of your little troubles. I had little
   troubles once too, and you were so good to me! Will you
   come to us here for a few weeks? We shall be here till
   Christmas-time, when we go somewhere else. I have told my
   husband that you are a great friend of mine as well as a
   cousin, and that he must be good to you. He is very quiet,
   and works very hard at politics; but I think you will like
   him. Do come! There will be a good many people here, so
   that you will not find it dull. If you will name the day
   we will send the carriage for you at Matching Station, and
   I dare say I can manage to come myself.

   Yours affectionately,

   G. PALLISER.

   P.S. I know what will be in your mind. You will say, why
   did not she come to me in London? She knew the way to
   Queen Anne Street well enough. Dear Alice, don't say that.
   Believe me, I had much to do and think of in London. And
   if I was wrong, yet you will forgive me. Mr Palliser says
   I am to give you his love,--as being a cousin,--and say
   that you must come!


This letter was certainly better than the other, but Alice, on
reading it, came to a resolve that she would not accept the
invitation. In the first place, even that allusion to her little
troubles jarred upon her feelings; and then she thought that her
rejection of Mr Grey could be no special reason why she should go to
Matching Priory. Was it not very possible that she had been invited
that she might meet Lady Midlothian there, and encounter all the
strength of a personal battery from the Countess? Lady Glencora's
letter she would of course answer, but to Lady Midlothian she would
not condescend to make any reply whatever.

About eleven o'clock Lady Macleod came down to her. For half-an-hour
or so Alice said nothing; nor did Lady Macleod ask any question. She
looked inquisitively at Alice, eyeing the letter which was lying by
the side of her niece's workbasket, but she said no word about Mr
Grey or the Countess. At last Alice spoke.

"Aunt," she said, "I have had a letter this morning from your friend,
Lady Midlothian."

"She is my cousin, Alice; and yours as much as mine."

"Your cousin then, aunt. But it is of more moment that she is your
friend. She certainly is not mine, nor can her cousinship afford any
justification for her interfering in my affairs."

"Alice,--from her position--"

"Her position can be nothing to me, aunt. I will not submit to it.
There is her letter, which you can read if you please. After that you
may burn it. I need hardly say that I shall not answer it."

"And what am I to say to her, Alice?"

"Nothing from me, aunt;--from yourself, whatever you please, of
course." Then there was silence between them for a few minutes.
"And I have had another letter, from Lady Glencora, who married Mr
Palliser, and whom I knew in London last spring."

"And has that offended you, too?"

"No, there is no offence in that. She asks me to go and see her at
Matching Priory, her husband's house; but I shall not go."

But at last Alice agreed to pay this visit, and it may be as well
to explain here how she was brought to do so. She wrote to Lady
Glencora, declining, and explaining frankly that she did decline,
because she thought it probable that she might there meet Lady
Midlothian. Lady Midlothian, she said, had interfered very
unwarrantably in her affairs, and she did not wish to make her
acquaintance. To this Lady Glencora replied, post haste, that she had
intended no such horrid treachery as that for Alice; that neither
would Lady Midlothian be there, nor any of that set; by which
Alice knew that Lady Glencora referred specially to her aunt the
Marchioness; that no one would be at Matching who could torment
Alice, either with right or without it, "except so far as I myself
may do so," Lady Glencora said; and then she named an early day in
November, at which she would herself undertake to meet Alice at the
Matching Station. On receipt of this letter, Alice, after two days'
doubt, accepted the invitation.



CHAPTER XIX

Tribute from Oileymead


Kate Vavasor, in writing to her cousin Alice, felt some little
difficulty in excusing herself for remaining in Norfolk with Mrs
Greenow. She had laughed at Mrs Greenow before she went to Yarmouth,
and had laughed at herself for going there. And in all her letters
since, she had spoken of her aunt as a silly, vain, worldly woman,
weeping crocodile tears, for an old husband whose death had released
her from the tedium of his company, and spreading lures to catch new
lovers. But yet she agreed to stay with her aunt, and remain with her
in lodgings at Norwich for a month.

But Mrs Greenow had about her something more than Kate had
acknowledged when she first attempted to read her aunt's character.
She was clever, and in her own way persuasive. She was very generous,
and possessed a certain power of making herself pleasant to those
around her. In asking Kate to stay with her she had so asked as to
make it appear that Kate was to confer the favour. She had told her
niece that she was all alone in the world. "I have money," she had
said, with more appearance of true feeling than Kate had observed
before. "I have money, but I have nothing else in the world. I have
no home. Why should I not remain here in Norfolk, where I know a few
people? If you'll say that you'll go anywhere else with me, I'll go
to any place you'll name." Kate had believed this to be hardly true.
She had felt sure that her aunt wished to remain in the neighbourhood
of her seaside admirers; but, nevertheless, she had yielded, and at
the end of October the two ladies, with Jeannette, settled themselves
in comfortable lodgings within the precincts of the Close at Norwich.

Mr Greenow at this time had been dead very nearly six months, but his
widow made some mistakes in her dates and appeared to think that the
interval had been longer. On the day of their arrival at Norwich it
was evident that this error had confirmed itself in her mind. "Only
think," she said, as she unpacked a little miniature of the departed
one, and sat with it for a moment in her hands, as she pressed her
handkerchief to her eyes, "only think, that it is barely nine months
since he was with me?"

"Six, you mean, aunt," said Kate, unadvisedly.

"Only nine months" repeated Mrs Greenow, as though she had not heard
her niece. "Only nine months!" After that Kate attempted to correct
no more such errors. "It happened in May, Miss," Jeannette said
afterwards to Miss Vavasor, "and that, as we reckons, it will be just
a twelvemonth come Christmas." But Kate paid no attention to this.

And Jeannette was very ungrateful, and certainly should have indulged
herself in no such sarcasms. When Mrs Greenow made a slight change in
her mourning, which she did on her arrival at Norwich, using a little
lace among her crapes, Jeannette reaped a rich harvest in gifts of
clothes. Mrs Greenow knew well enough that she expected more from
a servant than mere service;--that she wanted loyalty, discretion,
and perhaps sometimes a little secrecy;--and as she paid for these
things, she should have had them.

Kate undertook to stay a month with her aunt at Norwich, and Mrs
Greenow undertook that Mr Cheesacre should declare himself as Kate's
lover, before the expiration of the month. It was in vain that Kate
protested that she wanted no such lover, and that she would certainly
reject him if he came. "That's all very well, my dear," Aunt Greenow
would say. "A girl must settle herself some day, you know;--and you'd
have it all your own way at Oileymead."

But the offer certainly showed much generosity on the part of Aunt
Greenow, inasmuch as Mr Cheesacre's attentions were apparently paid
to herself rather than to her niece. Mr Cheesacre was very attentive.
He had taken the lodgings in the Close, and had sent over fowls and
cream from Oileymead, and had called on the morning after their
arrival; but in all his attentions he distinguished the aunt more
particularly than the niece. "I am all for Mr Cheesacre, Miss,"
said Jeannette once. "The Captain is perhaps the nicerer-looking
gentleman, and he ain't so podgy like; but what's good looks if a
gentleman hasn't got nothing? I can't abide anything that's poor;
neither can't Missus." From which it was evident that Jeannette gave
Miss Vavasor no credit in having Mr Cheesacre in her train.

Captain Bellfield was also at Norwich, having obtained some
quasi-military employment there in the matter of drilling volunteers.
Certain capacities in that line it may be supposed that he possessed,
and, as his friend Cheesacre said of him, he was going to earn an
honest penny once in his life. The Captain and Mr Cheesacre had made
up any little differences that had existed between them at Yarmouth,
and were close allies again when they left that place. Some little
compact on matters of business must have been arranged between
them,--for the Captain was in funds again. He was in funds again
through the liberality of his friend,--and no payment of former loans
had been made, nor had there been any speech of such. Mr Cheesacre
had drawn his purse-strings liberally, and had declared that if all
went well the hospitality of Oileymead should not be wanting during
the winter. Captain Bellfield had nodded his head and declared that
all should go well.

"You won't see much of the Captain, I suppose," said Mr Cheesacre to
Mrs Greenow on the morning of the day after her arrival at Norwich.
He had come across the whole way from Oileymead to ask her if she
found herself comfortable,--and perhaps with an eye to the Norwich
markets at the same time. He now wore a pair of black riding boots
over his trousers, and a round topped hat, and looked much more at
home than he had done by the seaside.

"Not much, I dare say," said the widow. "He tells me that he must be
on duty ten or twelve hours a day. Poor fellow!"

"It's a deuced good thing for him, and he ought to be very much
obliged to me for putting him in the way of getting it. But he told
me to tell you that if he didn't call, you were not to be angry with
him."

"Oh, no;--I shall remember, of course."

"You see, if he don't work now he must come to grief. He hasn't got
a shilling that he can call his own."

"Hasn't he really?"

"Not a shilling, Mrs Greenow;--and then he's awfully in debt. He
isn't a bad fellow, you know, only there's no trusting him for
anything." Then after a few further inquiries that were almost
tender, and a promise of further supplies from the dairy, Mr
Cheesacre took his leave, almost forgetting to ask after Miss
Vavasor.

But as he left the house he had a word to say to Jeannette. "He
hasn't been here, has he, Jenny?" "We haven't seen a sight of him
yet, sir,--and I have thought it a little odd." Then Mr Cheesacre
gave the girl half-a-crown, and went his way. Jeannette, I think,
must have forgotten that the Captain had looked in after leaving his
military duties on the preceding evening.

The Captain's ten or twelve hours of daily work was performed,
no doubt, at irregular intervals,--some days late and some days
early,--for he might be seen about Norwich almost at all times,
during the early part of that November;--and he might be very
often seen going into the Close. In Norwich there are two weekly
market-days, but on those days the Captain was no doubt kept more
entirely to his military employment, for at such times he never
was seen near the Close. Now Mr Cheesacre's visits to the town
were generally made on market-days, and so it happened that they
did not meet. On such occasions Mr Cheesacre always was driven
to Mrs Greenow's door in a cab,--for he would come into town by
railway,--and he would deposit a basket bearing the rich produce of
his dairy. It was in vain that Mrs Greenow protested against these
gifts,--for she did protest and declared that if they were continued,
they would be sent back. They were, however, continued, and Mrs
Greenow was at her wits' end about them. Cheesacre would not come
up with them; but leaving them, would go about his business, and
would return to see the ladies. On such occasions he would be very
particular in getting his basket from Jeannette. As he did so he
would generally ask some question about the Captain, and Jeannette
would give him answers confidentially,--so that there was a strong
friendship between these two.

"What am I to do about it?" said Mrs Greenow, as Kate came into the
sitting-room one morning, and saw on the table a small hamper lined
with a clean cloth. "It's as much as Jeannette has been able to
carry."

"So it is, ma'am,--quite; and I'm strong in the arm, too, ma'am."

"What am I to do, Kate? He is such a good creature."

"And he do admire you both so much," said Jeannette.

"Of course I don't want to offend him for many reasons," said the
aunt, looking knowingly at her niece.

"I don't know anything about your reasons, aunt, but if I were you, I
should leave the basket just as it is till he comes in the
afternoon."

"Would you mind seeing him yourself, Kate, and explaining to him that
it won't do to get on in this way. Perhaps you wouldn't mind telling
him that if he'll promise not to bring any more, you won't object to
take this one."

"Indeed, aunt, I can't do that. They're not brought to me."

"Oh, Kate!"

"Nonsense, aunt;--I won't have you say so;--before Jeannette, too."

"I think it's for both, ma'am; I do indeed. And there certainly ain't
any cream to be bought like it in Norwich:--nor yet eggs."

"I wonder what there is in the basket." And the widow lifted up
the corner of the cloth. "I declare if there isn't a turkey poult
already."

"My!" said Jeannette. "A turkey poult! Why, that's worth ten and
sixpence in the market if it's worth a penny."

"It's out of the question that I should take upon myself to say
anything to him about it," said Kate.

"Upon my word I don't see why you shouldn't, as well as I," said Mrs
Greenow.

"I'll tell you what, ma'am," said Jeannette: "let me just ask him who
they're for;--he'll tell me anything."

"Don't do anything of the kind, Jeannette," said Kate. "Of course,
aunt, they're brought for you. There's no doubt about that. A
gentleman doesn't bring cream and turkeys to-- I've never heard of
such a thing!"

"I don't see why a gentleman shouldn't bring cream and turkeys to you
just as well as to me. Indeed, he told me once as much himself."

"Then, if they're for me, I'll leave them down outside the front
door, and he may find his provisions there." And Kate proceeded to
lift the basket off the table.

"Leave it alone, Kate," said Mrs Greenow, with a voice that was
rather solemn; and which had, too, something of sadness in its tone.
"Leave it alone. I'll see Mr Cheesacre myself."

"And I do hope you won't mention my name. It's the most absurd thing
in the world. The man never spoke two dozen words to me in his life."

"He speaks to me, though," said Mrs Greenow.

"I dare say he does," said Kate.

"And about you, too, my dear."

"He doesn't come here with those big flowers in his button-hole for
nothing," said Jeannette,--"not if I knows what a gentleman means."

"Of course he doesn't," said Mrs Greenow.

"If you don't object, aunt," said Kate, "I will write to grandpapa
and tell him that I will return home at once."

"What!--because of Mr Cheesacre?" said Mrs Greenow. "I don't think
you'll be so silly as that, my dear."

On the present occasion Mrs Greenow undertook that she would see
the generous gentleman, and endeavour to stop the supplies from
his farmyard. It was well understood that he would call about four
o'clock, when his business in the town would be over; and that he
would bring with him a little boy, who would carry away the basket.
At that hour Kate of course was absent, and the widow received
Mr Cheesacre alone. The basket and cloth were there, in the
sitting-room, and on the table were laid out the rich things which it
had contained;--the turkey poult first, on a dish provided in the
lodging-house, then a dozen fresh eggs in a soup plate, then the
cream in a little tin can, which, for the last fortnight, had passed
regularly between Oileymead and the house in the Close, and as to
which Mr Cheesacre was very pointed in his inquiries with Jeannette.
Then behind the cream there were two or three heads of broccoli, and
a stick of celery as thick as a man's wrist. Altogether the tribute
was a very comfortable assistance to the housekeeping of a lady
living in a small way in lodgings.

Mr Cheesacre, when he saw the array on the long sofa-table, knew that
he was to prepare himself for some resistance; but that resistance
would give him, he thought, an opportunity of saying a few words that
he was desirous of speaking, and he did not altogether regret it. "I
just called in," he said, "to see how you were."

"We are not likely to starve," said Mrs Greenow, pointing to the
delicacies from Oileymead.

"Just a few trifles that my old woman asked me to bring in," said
Cheesacre. "She insisted on putting them up."

"But your old woman is by far too magnificent," said Mrs Greenow.
"She really frightens Kate and me out of our wits."

Mr Cheesacre had no wish that Miss Vavasor's name should be
brought into play upon the occasion. "Dear Mrs Greenow," said he,
"there is no cause for you to be alarmed, I can assure you. Mere
trifles;--light as air, you know. I don't think anything of such
things as these."

"But I and Kate think a great deal of them,--a very great deal, I can
assure you. Do you know, we had a long debate this morning whether or
no we would return them to Oileymead?"

"Return them, Mrs Greenow!"

"Yes, indeed: what are women, situated as we are, to do under such
circumstances? When gentlemen will be too liberal, their liberality
must be repressed."

"And have I been too liberal, Mrs Greenow? What is a young turkey and
a stick of celery when a man is willing to give everything that he
has in the world?"

"You've got a great deal more in the world, Mr Cheesacre, than you'd
like to part with. But we won't talk of that, now."

"When shall we talk of it?"

"If you really have anything to say, you had by far better speak to
Kate herself."

"Mrs Greenow, you mistake me. Indeed, you mistake me." Just at this
moment, as he was drawing close to the widow, she heard, or fancied
that she heard, Jeannette's step, and, going to the sitting-room
door, called to her maid. Jeannette did not hear her, but the bell
was rung, and then Jeannette came. "You may take these things down,
Jeannette," she said. "Mr Cheesacre has promised that no more shall
come."

"But I haven't promised," said Mr Cheesacre.

"You will oblige me and Kate, I know;--and, Jeannette, tell Miss
Vavasor that I am ready to walk with her."

Then Mr Cheesacre knew that he could not say those few words on
that occasion; and as the hour of his train was near, he took his
departure, and went out of the Close, followed by the little boy,
carrying the basket, the cloth, and the tin can.



CHAPTER XX

Which Shall It Be?


The next day was Sunday, and it was well known at the lodging-house
in the Close that Mr Cheesacre would not be seen there then. Mrs
Greenow had specially warned him that she was not fond of Sunday
visitors, fearing that otherwise he might find it convenient to give
them too much of his society on that idle day. In the morning the
aunt and niece both went to the Cathedral, and then at three o'clock
they dined. But on this occasion they did not dine alone. Charlie
Fairstairs, who, with her family, had come home from Yarmouth, had
been asked to join them; and in order that Charlie might not feel it
dull, Mrs Greenow had, with her usual good-nature, invited Captain
Bellfield. A very nice little dinner they had. The captain carved the
turkey, giving due honour to Mr Cheesacre as he did so; and when he
nibbled his celery with his cheese, he was prettily jocose about the
richness of the farmyard at Oileymead.

"He is the most generous man I ever met," said Mrs Greenow.

"So he is," said Captain Bellfield, "and we'll drink his health. Poor
old Cheesy! It's a great pity he shouldn't get himself a wife."

"I don't know any man more calculated to make a young woman happy,"
said Mrs Greenow.

"No, indeed," said Miss Fairstairs. "I'm told that his house and all
about it is quite beautiful."

"Especially the straw-yard and the horse-pond," said the Captain. And
then they drank the health of their absent friend.

It had been arranged that the ladies should go to church in the
evening, and it was thought that Captain Bellfield would, perhaps,
accompany them; but when the time for starting came, Kate and Charlie
were ready, but the widow was not, and she remained,--in order, as
she afterwards explained to Kate, that Captain Bellfield might not
seem to be turned out of the house. He had made no offer churchwards,
and,--"Poor man," as Mrs Greenow said in her little explanation,
"if I hadn't let him stay there, he would have had no resting-place
for the sole of his foot, but some horrid barrack-room!" Therefore
the Captain was allowed to find a resting-place in Mrs Greenow's
drawing-room; but on the return of the young ladies from church, he
was not there, and the widow was alone, "looking back," she said, "to
things that were gone;--that were gone. But come, dears, I am not
going to make you melancholy." So they had tea, and Mr Cheesacre's
cream was used with liberality.

Captain Bellfield had not allowed the opportunity to slip idly from
his hands. In the first quarter of an hour after the younger ladies
had gone, he said little or nothing, but sat with a wine-glass before
him, which once or twice he filled from the decanter. "I'm afraid the
wine is not very good," said Mrs Greenow. "But one can't get good
wine in lodgings."

"I'm not thinking very much about it, Mrs Greenow; that's the truth,"
said the Captain. "I daresay the wine is very good of its kind." Then
there was another period of silence between them.

"I suppose you find it rather dull, living in lodgings; don't you?"
asked the Captain.

"I don't know quite what you mean by dull, Captain Bellfield; but a
woman circumstanced as I am, can't find her life very gay. It's not a
full twelvemonth yet since I lost all that made life desirable, and
sometimes I wonder at myself for holding up as well as I do."

"It's wicked to give way to grief too much, Mrs Greenow."

"That's what my dear Kate always says to me, and I'm sure I do my
best to overcome it." Upon this soft tears trickled down her cheek,
showing in their course that she at any rate used no paint in
producing that freshness of colour which was one of her great charms.
Then she pressed her handkerchief to her eyes, and removing it,
smiled faintly on the Captain. "I didn't intend to treat you to such
a scene as this, Captain Bellfield."

"There is nothing on earth, Mrs Greenow, I desire so much, as
permission to dry those tears."

"Time alone can do that, Captain Bellfield;--time alone."

"But cannot time be aided by love and friendship and affection?"

"By friendship, yes. What would life be worth without the solace of
friendship?"

"And how much better is the warm glow of love?" Captain Bellfield,
as he asked this question, deliberately got up, and moved his chair
over to the widow's side. But the widow as deliberately changed her
position to the corner of a sofa. The Captain did not at once follow
her, nor did he in any way show that he was aware that she had fled
from him.

"How much better is the warm glow of love?" he said again, contenting
himself with looking into her face with all his eyes. He had hoped
that he would have been able to press her hand by this time.

"The warm, glow of love, Captain Bellfield, if you have ever felt
it--"

"If I have ever felt it! Do I not feel it now, Mrs Greenow? There can
be no longer any mask kept upon my feelings. I never could restrain
the yearnings of my heart when they have been strong."

"Have they often been strong, Captain Bellfield?"

"Yes; often;--in various scenes of life; on the field of battle--"

"I did not know that you had seen active service."

"What!--not on the plains of Zuzuland, when with fifty picked men I
kept five hundred Caffres at bay for seven weeks;--never knew the
comfort of a bed, or a pillow to my head, for seven long weeks!"

"Not for seven weeks?" said Mrs Greenow.

"No. Did I not see active service at Essiquebo, on the burning coast
of Guiana, when all the wild Africans from the woods rose up to
destroy the colony; or again at the mouth of the Kitchyhomy River,
when I made good the capture of a slaver by my own hand and my own
sword!"

"I really hadn't heard," said Mrs Greenow.

"Ah, I understand. I know. Cheesy is the best fellow in the world in
some respects, but he cannot bring himself to speak well of a fellow
behind his back. I know who has belittled me. Who was the first to
storm the heights of Inkerman?" demanded the Captain, thinking in the
heat of the moment that he might as well be hung for a sheep as a
lamb.

"But when you spoke of yearnings, I thought you meant yearnings of a
softer kind."

"So I did. So I did. I don't know why I have been led away to speak
of deeds that are very seldom mentioned, at any rate by myself. But I
cannot bear that a slanderous backbiting tongue should make you think
that I have seen no service. I have served her Majesty in the four
quarters of the globe, Mrs Greenow; and now I am ready to serve you
in any way in which you will allow me to make my service acceptable."
Whereupon he took one stride over to the sofa, and went down upon his
knees before her.

"But, Captain Bellfield, I don't want any services. Pray get up now;
the girl will come in."

"I care nothing for any girl. I am planted here till some answer
shall have been made to me; till some word shall have been said
that may give me a little hope." Then he attempted to get hold of
her hand, but she put them behind her back and shook her head.
"Arabella," he said, "will you not speak a word to me?"

"Not a word, Captain Bellfield, till you get up; and I won't have you
call me Arabella. I am the widow of Samuel Greenow, than whom no man
was more respected where he was known, and it is not fitting that I
should be addressed in that way."

"But I want you to become my wife,--and then--"

"Ah, then indeed! But that then isn't likely to come. Get up, Captain
Bellfield, or I'll push you over and then ring the bell. A man never
looks so much like a fool as when he's kneeling down,--unless he's
saying his prayers, as you ought to be doing now. Get up, I tell you.
It's just half past seven, and I told Jeannette to come to me then."

There was that in the widow's voice which made him get up, and he
rose slowly to his feet. "You've pushed all the chairs about, you
stupid man," she said. Then in one minute she had restored the
scattered furniture to their proper places, and had rung the bell.
When Jeannette came she desired that tea might be ready by the time
that the young ladies returned, and asked Captain Bellfield if a cup
should be set for him. This he declined, and bade her farewell while
Jeannette was still in the room. She shook hands with him without
any sign of anger, and even expressed a hope that they might see him
again before long.

"He's a very handsome man, is the Captain," said Jeannette, as the
hero of the Kitchyhomy River descended the stairs.

"You shouldn't think about handsome men, child," said Mrs Greenow.

"And I'm sure I don't," said Jeannette. "Not no more than anybody
else; but if a man is handsome, ma'am, why it stands to reason that
he is handsome."

"I suppose Captain Bellfield has given you a kiss and a pair of
gloves."

"As for gloves and such like, Mr Cheesacre is much better for giving
than the Captain; as we all know; don't we, ma'am? But in regard to
kisses, they're presents as I never takes from anybody. Let everybody
pay his debts. If the Captain ever gets a wife, let him kiss her."

On the following Tuesday morning Mr Cheesacre as usual called in the
Close, but he brought with him no basket. He merely left a winter
nosegay made of green leaves and laurestinus flowers, and sent up a
message to say that he should call at half past three, and hoped that
he might then be able to see Mrs Greenow--on particular business.

"That means you, Kate," said Mrs Greenow.

"No, it doesn't; it doesn't mean me at all. At any rate he won't see
me."

"I dare say it's me he wishes to see. It seems to be the fashionable
plan now for gentlemen to make offers by deputy. If he says anything,
I can only refer him to you, you know."

"Yes, you can; you can tell him simply that I won't have him. But he
is no more thinking of me than--"

"Than he is of me, you were going to say."

"No, aunt; I wasn't going to say that at all."

"Well, we shall see. If he does mean anything, of course you can
please yourself; but I really think you might do worse."

"But if I don't want to do at all?"

"Very well; you must have your own way. I can only tell you what I
think."

At half past three o'clock punctually Mr Cheesacre came to the door,
and was shown up-stairs. He was told by Jeannette that Captain
Bellfield had looked in on the Sunday afternoon, but that Miss
Fairstairs and Miss Vavasor had been there the whole time. He had
not got on his black boots nor yet had his round topped hat. And as
he did wear a new frock coat, and had his left hand thrust into a
kid glove, Jeannette was quite sure that he intended business of
some kind. With new boots, creaking loudly, he walked up into the
drawing-room, and there he found the widow alone.

"Thanks for the flowers," she said at once. "It was so good of you to
bring something that we could accept."

"As for that," said he, "I don't see why you should scruple about a
trifle of cream, but I hope that any such feeling as that will be
over before long." To this the widow made no answer, but she looked
very sweetly on him as she bade him sit down.

He did sit down; but first he put his hat and stick carefully away in
one corner, and then he pulled off his glove--somewhat laboriously,
for his hand was warm. He was clearly prepared for great things. As
he pushed up his hair with his hands there came from his locks an
ambrosial perfume,--as of marrow-oil, and there was a fixed propriety
of position of every hair of his whiskers, which indicated very
plainly that he had been at a hairdresser's shop since he left the
market. Nor do I believe that he had worn that coat when he came to
the door earlier in the morning. If I were to say that he had called
at his tailor's also, I do not think that I should be wrong.

"How goes everything at Oileymead?" said Mrs Greenow, seeing that her
guest wanted some little assistance in leading off the conversation.

"Pretty well, Mrs Greenow; pretty well. Everything will go very well
if I am successful in the object which I have on hand to-day."

"I'm sure I hope you'll be successful in all your undertakings."

"In all my business undertakings I am, Mrs Greenow. There isn't a
shilling due on my land to e'er a bank in Norwich; and I haven't
thrashed out a quarter of last year's corn yet, which is more than
many of them can say. But there ain't many of them who don't have to
pay rent, and so perhaps I oughtn't to boast."

"I know that Providence has been very good to you, Mr Cheesacre, as
regards worldly matters."

"And I haven't left it all to Providence, either. Those who do,
generally go to the wall, as far as I can see. I'm always at work
late and early, and I know when I get a profit out of a man's labour
and when I don't, as well as though it was my only chance of bread
and cheese."

"I always thought you understood farming business, Mr Cheesacre."

"Yes, I do. I like a bit of fun well enough, when the time for it
comes, as you saw at Yarmouth. And I keep my three or four hunters,
as I think a country gentleman should; and I shoot over my own
ground. But I always stick to my work. There are men, like Bellfield,
who won't work. What do they come to? They're always borrowing."

"But he has fought his country's battles, Mr Cheesacre."

"He fight! I suppose he's been telling you some of his old stories.
He was ten years in the West Indies, and all his fighting was with
the mosquitoes."

"But he was in the Crimea. At Inkerman, for instance--"

"He in the Crimea! Well, never mind. But do you inquire before you
believe that story. But as I was saying, Mrs Greenow, you have seen
my little place at Oileymead."

"A charming house. All you want is a mistress for it."

"That's it; that's just it. All I want is a mistress for it. And
there's only one woman on earth that I would wish to see in that
position. Arabella Greenow, will you be that woman?" As he made the
offer he got up and stood before her, placing his right hand upon his
heart.

"I, Mr Cheesacre!" she said.

"Yes, you. Who else? Since I saw you what other woman has been
anything to me; or, indeed, I may say before? Since the first day I
saw you I felt that there my happiness depended."

"Oh, Mr Cheesacre, I thought you were looking elsewhere."

"No, no, no. There never was such a mistake as that. I have the
highest regard and esteem for Miss Vavasor, but really--"

"Mr Cheesacre, what am I to say to you?"

"What are you to say to me? Say that you'll be mine. Say that I shall
be yours. Say that all I have at Oileymead shall be yours. Say that
the open carriage for a pair of ponies to be driven by a lady which
I have been looking at this morning shall be yours. Yes, indeed; the
sweetest thing you ever saw in your life,--just like one that the
lady of the Lord Lieutenant drives about in always. That's what you
must say. Come, Mrs Greenow!"

"Ah, Mr Cheesacre, you don't know what it is to have buried the pride
of your youth hardly yet twelve months."

"But you have buried him, and there let there be an end of it. Your
sitting here all alone, morning, noon, and night, won't bring him
back. I'm sorry for him; I am indeed. Poor Greenow! But what more can
I do?"

"I can do more, Mr Cheesacre. I can mourn for him in solitude and in
silence."

"No, no, no. What's the use of it,--breaking your heart for
nothing,--and my heart too. You never think of that." And Mr
Cheesacre spoke in a tone that was full of reproach.

"It cannot be, Mr Cheesacre."

"Ah, but it can be. Come, Mrs Greenow. We understand each other well
enough now, surely. Come, dearest." And he approached her as though
to put his arm round her waist. But at that moment there came a knock
at the door, and Jeannette, entering the room, told her mistress that
Captain Bellfield was below and wanted to know whether he could see
her for a minute on particular business.

"Show Captain Bellfield up, certainly," said Mrs Greenow.

"D---- Captain Bellfield!" said Mr Cheesacre.



CHAPTER XXI

Alice Is Taught to Grow Upwards, Towards the Light


Before the day came on which Alice was to go to Matching Priory, she
had often regretted that she had been induced to make the promise,
and yet she had as often resolved that there was no possible reason
why she should not go to Matching Priory. But she feared this
commencement of a closer connection with her great relations. She
had told herself so often that she was quite separated from them,
that the slight accident of blood in no way tied her to them or them
to her,--this lesson had been so thoroughly taught to her by the
injudicious attempts of Lady Macleod to teach an opposite lesson,
that she did not like the idea of putting aside the effect of that
teaching. And perhaps she was a little afraid of the great folk whom
she might probably meet at her cousin's house. Lady Glencora herself
she had liked,--and had loved too with that momentary love which
certain circumstances of our life will sometimes produce, a love
which is strong while it lasts, but which can be laid down when the
need of it is passed. She had liked and loved Lady Glencora, and had
in no degree been afraid of her during those strange visitings in
Queen Anne Street;--but she was by no means sure that she should like
Lady Glencora in the midst of her grandeur and surrounded by the pomp
of her rank. She would have no other friend or acquaintance in that
house, and feared that she might find herself desolate, cold, and
wounded in her pride. She had been tricked into the visit, too, or
rather had tricked herself into it. She had been sure that there had
been a joint scheme between her cousin and Lady Midlothian, and could
not resist the temptation of repudiating it in her letter to Lady
Glencora. But there had been no such scheme; she had wronged Lady
Glencora, and had therefore been unable to resist her second request.
But she felt unhappy, fearing that she would be out of her element,
and more than once half made up her mind to excuse herself.

Her aunt had, from the first, thought well of her going, believing
that it might probably be the means of reconciling her to Mr Grey.
Moreover, it was a step altogether in the right direction. Lady
Glencora would, if she lived, become a Duchess, and as she was
decidedly Alice's cousin, of course Alice should go to her house when
invited. It must be acknowledged that Lady Macleod was not selfish
in her worship of rank. She had played out her game in life, and
there was no probability that she would live to be called cousin by
a Duchess of Omnium. She bade Alice go to Matching Priory, simply
because she loved her niece, and therefore wished her to live in the
best and most eligible way within her reach. "I think you owe it as a
duty to your family to go," said Lady Macleod.

What further correspondence about her affairs had passed between Lady
Macleod and Lady Midlothian Alice never knew. She steadily refused
all entreaty made that she would answer the Countess's letter, and at
last threatened her aunt that if the request were further urged she
would answer it,--telling Lady Midlothian that she had been very
impertinent.

"I am becoming a very old woman, Alice," the poor lady said,
piteously, "and I suppose I had better not interfere any further.
Whatever I have said I have always meant to be for your good." Then
Alice got up, and kissing her aunt, tried to explain to her that she
resented no interference from her, and felt grateful for all that she
both said and did; but that she could not endure meddling from people
whom she did not know, and who thought themselves entitled to meddle
by their rank.

"And because they are cousins as well," said Lady Macleod, in a
softly sad, apologetic voice.

Alice left Cheltenham about the middle of November on her road to
Matching Priory. She was to sleep in London one night, and go down to
Matching in Yorkshire with her maid on the following day. Her father
undertook to meet her at the Great Western Station, and to take her
on the following morning to the Great Northern. He said nothing in
his letter about dining with her, but when he met her, muttered
something about an engagement, and taking her home graciously
promised that he would breakfast with her on the following morning.

"I'm very glad you are going, Alice," he said when they were in the
cab together.

"Why, papa?"

"Why?--because I think it's the proper thing to do. You know I've
never said much to you about these people. They're not connected with
me, and I know that they hate the name of Vavasor;--not but what the
name is a deal older than any of theirs, and the family too."

"And therefore I don't understand why you think I'm specially right.
If you were to say I was specially wrong, I should be less surprised,
and of course I shouldn't go."

"You should go by all means. Rank and wealth are advantages, let
anybody say what they will to the contrary. Why else does everybody
want to get them?"

"But I shan't get them by going to Matching Priory."

"You'll get part of their value. Take them as a whole, the nobility
of England are pleasant acquaintances to have. I haven't run after
them very much myself, though I married, as I may say, among them.
That very thing rather stood in my way than otherwise. But you may be
sure of this, that men and women ought to grow, like plants, upwards.
Everybody should endeavour to stand as well as he can in the world,
and if I had a choice of acquaintance between a sugar-baker and a
peer, I should prefer the peer,--unless, indeed, the sugar-baker
had something very strong on his side to offer. I don't call that
tuft-hunting, and it does not necessitate toadying. It's simply
growing up, towards the light, as the trees do."

Alice listened to her father's worldly wisdom with a smile, but she
did not attempt to answer him. It was very seldom, indeed, that he
took upon himself the labour of lecturing her, or that he gave her
even as much counsel as he had given now. "Well, papa, I hope I shall
find myself growing towards the light," she said as she got out of
the cab. Then he had not entered the house, but had taken the cab on
with him to his club.

On her table Alice found a note from her cousin George. "I hear you
are going down to the Pallisers at Matching Priory to-morrow, and as
I shall be glad to say one word to you before you go, will you let
me see you this evening,--say at nine?--G. V." She felt immediately
that she could not help seeing him, but she greatly regretted the
necessity. She wished that she had gone directly from Cheltenham to
the North,--regardless even of those changes of wardrobe which her
purposed visit required. Then she set herself to considering. How had
George heard of her visit to the Priory, and how had he learned the
precise evening which she would pass in London? Why should he be so
intent on watching all her movements as it seemed that he was? As to
seeing him she had no alternative, so she completed her arrangements
for her journey before nine, and then awaited him in the
drawing-room.

"I'm so glad you're going to Matching Priory," were the first words
he said. He, too, might have taught her to grow towards the light,
if she had asked him for his reasons;--but this she did not do just
then.

"How did you learn that I was going?" she said.

"I heard it from a friend of mine. Well;--from Burgo Fitzgerald, if
you must know."

"From Mr Fitzgerald?" said Alice, in profound astonishment: "How
could Mr Fitzgerald have heard of it?"

"That's more than I know, Alice. Not directly from Lady Glencora, I
should say."

"That would be impossible."

"Yes; quite so, no doubt. I think she keeps up her intimacy with
Burgo's sister, and perhaps it got round to him in that way."

"And did he tell you also that I was going to-morrow? He must have
known all about it very accurately."

"No; then I asked Kate, and Kate told me when you were going. Yes; I
know. Kate has been wrong, hasn't she? Kate was cautioned, no doubt,
to say nothing about your comings and goings to so inconsiderable
a person as myself. But you must not be down upon Kate. She never
mentioned it till I showed by my question to her that I knew all
about your journey to Matching. I own I do not understand why it
should be necessary to keep me so much in the dark."

Alice felt that she was blushing. The caution had been given to Kate
because Kate still transgressed in her letters, by saying little
words about her brother. And Alice did not even now believe Kate
to have been false to her; but she saw that she herself had been
imprudent.

"I cannot understand it," continued George, speaking without looking
at her. "It was but the other day that we were such dear friends! Do
you remember the balcony at Basle? and now it seems that we are quite
estranged;--nay, worse than estranged; that I am, as it were, under
some ban. Have I done anything to offend you, Alice? If so, speak
out, like a woman of spirit as you are."

"Nothing," said Alice.

"Then why am I tabooed? Why was I told the other day that I might not
congratulate you on your happy emancipation? I say boldly, that had
you resolved on that while we were together in Switzerland, you would
have permitted me, as a friend, almost as a brother, to discuss it
with you."

"I think not, George."

"I am sure you would. And why has Kate been warned not to tell me of
this visit to the Pallisers? I know she has been warned though she
has not confessed it."

Alice sat silent, not knowing what to say in answer to this charge
brought against her,--thinking, perhaps, that the questioner would
allow his question to pass without an answer. But Vavasor was not so
complaisant. "If there be any reason, Alice, I think that I have a
right to ask it."

For a few seconds she did not speak a word, but sat considering.
He also remained silent with his eyes fixed upon her. She looked
at him and saw nothing but his scar,--nothing but his scar and the
brightness of his eyes, which was almost fierce. She knew that he was
in earnest, and therefore resolved that she would be in earnest also.
"I think that you have such a right," she said at last.

"Then let me exercise it."

"I think that you have such a right, but I think also that you are
ungenerous to exercise it."

"I cannot understand that. By heavens, Alice, I cannot be left in
this suspense! If I have done anything to offend you, perhaps I can
remove the offence by apology."

"You have done nothing to offend me."

"Or if there be any cause why our friendship should be dropped,--why
we should be on a different footing to each other in London than we
were in Switzerland, I may acknowledge it, if it be explained to me.
But I cannot put up with the doubt, when I am told that I have a
right to demand its solution."

"Then I will be frank with you, George, though my being so will, as
you may guess, be very painful." She paused again, looking at him
to see if yet he would spare her; but he was all scar and eyes as
before, and there was no mercy in his face.

"Your sister, George, has thought that my parting with Mr Grey might
lead to a renewal of a purpose of marriage between you and me.
You know her eagerness, and will understand that it may have been
necessary that I should require silence from her on that head. You
ought now to understand it all."

"I then am being punished for her sins," he said; and suddenly the
scar on his face was healed up again, and there was something of the
old pleasantness in his eyes.

"I have said nothing about any sins, George, but I have found it
necessary to be on my guard."

"Well," he said, after a short pause, "You are an honest woman,
Alice,--the honestest I ever knew. I will bring Kate to order,--and,
now, we may be friends again; may we not?" And he extended his hand
to her across the table.

"Yes," she said, "certainly, if you wish it." She spoke doubtingly,
with indecision in her voice, as though remembering at the moment
that he had given her no pledge. "I certainly do wish it very much,"
said he; and then she gave him her hand.

"And I may now talk about your new freedom?"

"No," said she; "no. Do not speak of that. A woman does not do what I
have done in that affair without great suffering. I have to think of
it daily; but do not make me speak of it."

"But this other subject, this visit to Matching; surely I may speak
of that?" There was something now in his voice so bright, that she
felt the influence of it, and answered him cheerfully, "I don't see
what you can have to say about it."

"But I have a great deal. I am so glad you are going. Mind you cement
a close intimacy with Mr Palliser."

"With Mr Palliser?"

"Yes; with Mr Palliser. You must read all the blue books about
finance. I'll send them to you if you like it."

"Oh, George!"

"I'm quite in earnest. That is, not in earnest about the blue books,
as you would not have time; but about Mr Palliser. He will be the new
Chancellor of the Exchequer without a doubt."

"Will he indeed? But why should I make a bosom friend of the
Chancellor of the Exchequer. I don't want any public money."

"But I do, my girl. Don't you see?"

"No; I don't."

"I think I shall get returned at this next election."

"I'm sure I hope you will."

"And if I do, of course it will be my game to support the
ministry;--or rather the new ministry; for of course there will be
changes."

"I hope they will be on the right side."

"Not a doubt of that, Alice."

"I wish they might be changed altogether."

"Ah! that's impossible. It's very well as a dream; but there are no
such men as you want to see,--men really from the people,--strong
enough to take high office. A man can't drive four horses because
he's a philanthropist,--or rather a philhorseophist, and is desirous
that the team should be driven without any hurt to them. A man can't
govern well, simply because he is genuinely anxious that men should
be well governed."

"And will there never be any such men?"

"I won't say that. I don't mind confessing to you that it is my
ambition to be such a one myself. But a child must crawl before he
can walk. Such a one as I, hoping to do something in politics, must
spare no chance. It would be something to me that Mr Palliser should
become the friend of any dear friend of mine,--especially of a dear
friend bearing the same name."

"I'm afraid, George, you'll find me a bad hand at making any such
friendship."

"They say he is led immensely by his wife, and that she is very
clever. But I mean this chiefly, Alice, that I do hope I shall have
all your sympathy in any political career that I may make, and all
your assistance also."

"My sympathy I think I can promise you. My assistance, I fear, would
be worthless."

"By no means worthless, Alice; not if I see you take that place in
the world which I hope to see you fill. Do you think women nowadays
have no bearing upon the politics of the times? Almost as much as men
have." In answer to which Alice shook her head; but, nevertheless,
she felt in some way pleased and flattered.

George left her without saying a word more about her marriage
prospects past or future, and Alice as she went to bed felt glad that
this explanation between them had been made.



CHAPTER XXII

Dandy and Flirt


Alice reached the Matching Road Station about three o'clock in the
afternoon without adventure, and immediately on the stopping of the
train became aware that all trouble was off her own hands. A servant
in livery came to the open window, and touching his hat to her,
inquired if she were Miss Vavasor. Then her dressing-bag and shawls
and cloaks were taken from her, and she was conveyed through the
station by the station-master on one side of her, the footman on the
other, and by the railway porter behind. She instantly perceived that
she had become possessed of great privileges by belonging even for a
time to Matching Priory, and that she was essentially growing upwards
towards the light.

Outside, on the broad drive before the little station, she saw an
omnibus that was going to the small town of Matching, intended for
people who had not grown upwards as had been her lot; and she saw
also a light stylish-looking cart which she would have called a
Whitechapel had she been properly instructed in such matters, and a
little low open carriage with two beautiful small horses, in which
was sitting a lady enveloped in furs. Of course this was Lady
Glencora. Another servant was standing on the ground, holding the
horses of the carriage and the cart.

"Dear Alice, I'm so glad you've come," said a voice from the
furs. "Look here, dear; your maid can go in the dog-cart with
your things,"--it wasn't a dog-cart, but Lady Glencora knew no
better;--"she'll be quite comfortable there; and do you get in here.
Are you very cold?"

"Oh, no; not cold at all."

"But it is awfully cold. You've been in the stuffy carriage, but
you'll find it cold enough out here, I can tell you."

"Oh! Lady Glencora, I am so sorry that I've brought you out on such
a morning," said Alice, getting in and taking the place assigned her
next to the charioteer.

"What nonsense! Sorry! Why I've looked forward to meeting you all
alone, ever since I knew you were coming. If it had snowed all the
morning I should have come just the same. I drive out almost every
day when I'm down here,--that is, when the house is not too crowded,
or I can make an excuse. Wrap these things over you; there are plenty
of them. You shall drive if you like." Alice, however, declined the
driving, expressing her gratitude in what prettiest words she could
find.

"I like driving better than anything, I think. Mr Palliser doesn't
like ladies to hunt, and of course it wouldn't do as he does not hunt
himself. I do ride, but he never gets on horseback. I almost fancy I
should like to drive four-in-hand,--only I know I should be afraid."

"It would look very terrible," said Alice.

"Yes; wouldn't it? The look would be the worst of it; as it is all
the world over. Sometimes I wish there were no such things as looks.
I don't mean anything improper, you know; only one does get so
hampered, right and left, for fear of Mrs Grundy. I endeavour to go
straight, and get along pretty well on the whole, I suppose. Baker,
you must put Dandy in the bar; he pulls so, going home, that I can't
hold him in the check." She stopped the horses, and Baker, a very
completely-got-up groom of some forty years of age, who sat behind,
got down and put the impetuous Dandy "in the bar," thereby changing
the rein, so that the curb was brought to bear on him. "They're
called Dandy and Flirt," continued Lady Glencora, speaking to Alice.
"Ain't they a beautiful match? The Duke gave them to me and named
them himself. Did you ever see the Duke?"

"Never," said Alice.

"He won't be here before Christmas, but you shall be introduced some
day in London. He's an excellent creature and I'm a great pet of his;
though, after all, I never speak half a dozen words to him when I see
him. He's one of those people who never talk. I'm one of those who
like talking, as you'll find out. I think it runs in families; and
the Pallisers are non-talkers. That doesn't mean that they are not
speakers, for Mr Palliser has plenty to say in the House, and they
declare that he's one of the few public men who've got lungs enough
to make a financial statement without breaking down."

Alice was aware that she had as yet hardly spoken herself, and
began to bethink herself that she didn't know what to say. Had Lady
Glencora paused on the subject of Dandy and Flirt, she might have
managed to be enthusiastic about the horses, but she could not
discuss freely the general silence of the Palliser family, nor the
excellent lungs, as regarded public purposes, of the one who was
the husband of her present friend. So she asked how far it was to
Matching Priory.

"You're not tired of me already, I hope," said Lady Glencora.

"I didn't mean that," said Alice. "I delight in the drive. But
somehow one expects Matching Station to be near Matching."

"Ah, yes; that's a great cheat. It's not Matching Station at all but
Matching Road Station, and it's eight miles. It is a great bore,
for though the omnibus brings our parcels, we have to be constantly
sending over, and it's very expensive, I can assure you. I want Mr
Palliser to have a branch, but he says he would have to take all the
shares himself, and that would cost more, I suppose."

"Is there a town at Matching?"

"Oh, a little bit of a place. I'll go round by it if you like, and in
at the further gate."

"Oh, no!" said Alice.

"Ah, but I should like. It was a borough once, and belonged to the
Duke; but they put it out at the Reform Bill. They made some kind of
bargain;--he was to keep either Silverbridge or Matching, but not
both. Mr Palliser sits for Silverbridge, you know. The Duke chose
Silverbridge,--or rather his father did, as he was then going to
build his great place in Barsetshire;--that's near Silverbridge. But
the Matching people haven't forgiven him yet. He was sitting for
Matching himself when the Reform Bill passed. Then his father died,
and he hasn't lived there much since. It's a great deal nicer place
than Gatherum Castle, only not half so grand. I hate grandeur; don't
you?"

"I never tried much of it, as you have."

"Come now; that's not fair. There's no one in the world less grand
than I am."

"I mean that I've not had grand people about me."

"Having cut all your cousins,--and Lady Midlothian in particular,
like a naughty girl as you are. I was so angry with you when you
accused me of selling you about that. You ought to have known that
I was the last person in the world to have done such a thing."

"I did not think you meant to sell me, but I thought--"

"Yes, you did, Alice. I know what you thought; you thought that Lady
Midlothian was making a tool of me that I might bring you under her
thumb, so that she might bully you into Mr Grey's arms. That's what
you thought. I don't know that I was at all entitled to your good
opinion, but I was not entitled to that special bad opinion."

"I had no bad opinion;--but it was so necessary that I should guard
myself."

"You shall be guarded. I'll take you under my shield. Mr Grey shan't
be named to you, except that I shall expect you to tell me all about
it; and you must tell me all about that dangerous cousin, too, of
whom they were saying such terrible things down in Scotland. I had
heard of him before." These last words Lady Glencora spoke in a lower
voice and in an altered tone,--slowly, as though she were thinking of
something that pained her. It was from Burgo Fitzgerald that she had
heard of George Vavasor.

Alice did not know what to say. She found it impossible to discuss
all the most secret and deepest of her feelings out in that open
carriage, perhaps in the hearing of the servant behind, on this her
first meeting with her cousin,--of whom, in fact, she knew very
little. She had not intended to discuss these things at all, and
certainly not in such a manner as this. So she remained silent. "This
is the beginning of the park," said Lady Glencora, pointing to a
grand old ruin of an oak tree, which stood on the wide margin of the
road, outside the rounded corner of the park palings, propped up with
a skeleton of supporting sticks all round it. "And that is Matching
oak, under which Coeur de Lion or Edward the Third, I forget which,
was met by Sir Guy de Palisere as he came from the war, or from
hunting, or something of that kind. It was the king, you know, who
had been fighting or whatever it was, and Sir Guy entertained him
when he was very tired. Jeffrey Palliser, who is my husband's cousin,
says that old Sir Guy luckily pulled out his brandy-flask. But the
king immediately gave him all the lands of Matching,--only there was
a priory then and a lot of monks, and I don't quite understand how
that was. But I know one of the younger brothers always used to be
abbot and sit in the House of Lords. And the king gave him Littlebury
at the same time, which is about seven miles away from here. As
Jeffrey Palliser says, it was a great deal of money for a pull at his
flask. Jeffrey Palliser is here now, and I hope you'll like him. If
I have no child, and Mr Palliser were not to marry again, Jeffrey
would be the heir." And here again her voice was low and slow, and
altogether changed in its tone.

"I suppose that's the way most of the old families got their
estates."

"Either so, or by robbery. Many of them were terrible thieves, my
dear, and I dare say Sir Guy was no better than he should be. But
since that they have always called some of the Pallisers Plantagenet.
My husband's name is Plantagenet. The Duke is called George
Plantagenet, and the king was his godfather. The queen is my
godmother, I believe, but I don't know that I'm much the better for
it. There's no use in godfathers and godmothers;--do you think there
is?"

"Not much as it's managed now."

"If I had a child,-- Oh, Alice, it's a dreadful thing not to have a
child when so much depends on it!"

"But you're such a short time married yet."

"Ah, well; I can see it in his eyes when he asks me questions; but I
don't think he'd say an unkind word, not if his own position depended
on it. Ah, well; this is Matching. That other gate we passed, where
Dandy wanted to turn in,--that's where we usually go up, but I've
brought you round to show you the town. That's the inn,--whoever can
possibly come to stay there I don't know; I never saw anybody go in
or out. That's the baker who bakes our bread,--we baked it at the
house at first, but nobody could eat it; and I know that that man
there mends Mr Palliser's shoes. He's very particular about his
shoes. We shall see the church as we go in at the other gate. It
is in the park, and is very pretty,--but not half so pretty as the
priory ruins close to the house. The ruins are our great lion. I do
so love to wander about them at moonlight. I often think of you when
I do; I don't know why.--But I do know why, and I'll tell you some
day. Come, Miss Flirt!"

As they drove up through the park, Lady Glencora pointed out first
the church and then the ruins, through the midst of which the road
ran, and then they were at once before the front door. The corner
of the modern house came within two hundred yards of the gateway of
the old priory. It was a large building, very pretty, with two long
fronts; but it was no more than a house. It was not a palace, nor a
castle, nor was it hardly to be called a mansion. It was built with
gabled roofs, four of which formed the side from which the windows of
the drawing-rooms opened out upon a lawn which separated the house
from the old ruins, and which indeed surrounded the ruins, and went
inside them, forming the present flooring of the old chapel, and the
old refectory, and the old cloisters. Much of the cloisters indeed
was standing, and there the stone pavement remained; but the square
of the cloisters was all turfed, and in the middle of it stood
a large modern stone vase, out of the broad basin of which hung
flowering creepers and green tendrils.

As Lady Glencora drove up to the door, a gentleman, who had heard the
sound of the wheels, came forth to meet them. "There's Mr Palliser,"
said she; "that shows that you are an honoured guest, for you may
be sure that he is hard at work and would not have come out for
anybody else. Plantagenet, here is Miss Vavasor, perished. Alice, my
husband." Then Mr Palliser put forth his hand and helped her out of
the carriage.

"I hope you've not found it very cold," said he. "The winter has come
upon us quite suddenly."

He said nothing more to her than this, till he met her again before
dinner. He was a tall thin man, apparently not more than thirty years
of age, looking in all respects like a gentleman, but with nothing in
his appearance that was remarkable. It was a face that you might see
and forget, and see again and forget again; and yet when you looked
at it and pulled it to pieces, you found that it was a fairly good
face, showing intellect in the forehead, and much character in the
mouth. The eyes too, though not to be called bright, had always
something to say for themselves, looking as though they had a real
meaning. But the outline of the face was almost insignificant, being
too thin; and he wore no beard to give it character. But, indeed, Mr
Palliser was a man who had never thought of assisting his position in
the world by his outward appearance. Not to be looked at, but to be
read about in the newspapers, was his ambition. Men said that he was
to be Chancellor of the Exchequer, and no one thought of suggesting
that the insignificance of his face would stand in his way.

"Are the people all out?" his wife asked him.

"The men have not come in from shooting;--at least I think not;--and
some of the ladies are driving, I suppose. But I haven't seen anybody
since you went."

"Of course you haven't. He never has time, Alice, to see any one.
But we'll go up-stairs, dear. I told them to let us have tea in my
dressing-room, as I thought you'd like that better than going into
the drawing-room before you had taken off your things. You must be
famished, I know. Then you can come down, or if you want to avoid
two dressings you can sit over the fire up-stairs till dinner-time."
So saying she skipped up-stairs and Alice followed her. "Here's my
dressing-room, and here's your room all but opposite. You look out
into the park. It's pretty, isn't it? But come into my dressing-room,
and see the ruins out of the window."

Alice followed Lady Glencora across the passage into what she
called her dressing-room, and there found herself surrounded by
an infinitude of feminine luxuries. The prettiest of tables were
there;--the easiest of chairs;--the most costly of cabinets;--the
quaintest of old china ornaments. It was bright with the gayest
colours,--made pleasant to the eye with the binding of many books,
having nymphs painted on the ceiling and little Cupids on the doors.
"Isn't it pretty?" she said, turning quickly on Alice. "I call it
my dressing-room because in that way I can keep people out of it,
but I have my brushes and soap in a little closet there, and my
clothes,--my clothes are everywhere I suppose, only there are none
of them here. Isn't it pretty?"

"Very pretty."

"The Duke did it all. He understands such things thoroughly. Now
to Mr Palliser a dressing-room is a dressing-room, and a bedroom a
bedroom. He cares for nothing being pretty; not even his wife, or he
wouldn't have married me."

"You wouldn't say that if you meant it."

"Well, I don't know. Sometimes when I look at myself, when I simply
am myself, with no making up or grimacing, you know, I think I'm the
ugliest young woman the sun ever shone on. And in ten years' time I
shall be the ugliest old woman. Only think,--my hair is beginning to
get grey, and I'm not twenty-one yet. Look at it;" and she lifted
up the wavy locks just above her ear. "But there's one comfort; he
doesn't care about beauty. How old are you?"

"Over five-and-twenty," said Alice.

"Nonsense;--then I oughtn't to have asked you. I am so sorry."

"That's nonsense at any rate. Why should you think I should be
ashamed of my age?"

"I don't know why, only somehow, people are; and I didn't think you
were so old. Five-and-twenty seems so old to me. It would be nothing
if you were married; only, you see, you won't get married."

"Perhaps I may yet; some day."

"Of course you will. You'll have to give way. You'll find that
they'll get the better of you. Your father will storm at you, and
Lady Macleod will preach at you, and Lady Midlothian will jump upon
you."

"I'm not a bit afraid of Lady Midlothian."

"I know what it is, my dear, to be jumped upon. We talked with such
horror of the French people giving their daughters in marriage, just
as they might sell a house or a field, but we do exactly the same
thing ourselves. When they all come upon you in earnest how are you
to stand against them? How can any girl do it?"

"I think I shall be able."

"To be sure you're older,--and you are not so heavily weighted. But
never mind; I didn't mean to talk about that;--not yet at any rate.
Well, now, my dear, I must go down. The Duchess of St Bungay is here,
and Mr Palliser will be angry if I don't do pretty to her. The Duke
is to be the new President of the Council, or rather, I believe he is
President now. I try to remember it all, but it is so hard when one
doesn't really care two pence how it goes. Not but what I'm very
anxious that Mr Palliser should be Chancellor of the Exchequer. And
now, will you remain here, or will you come down with me, or will you
go to your own room, and I'll call for you when I go down to dinner?
We dine at eight."

Alice decided that she would stay in her own room till dinner time,
and was taken there by Lady Glencora. She found her maid unpacking
her clothes, and for a while employed herself in assisting at the
work; but that was soon done, and then she was left alone. "I shall
feel so strange, ma'am, among all those people down-stairs," said the
girl. "They all seem to look at me as though they didn't know who I
was."

"You'll get over that soon, Jane."

"I suppose I shall; but you see, they're all like knowing each other,
miss."

Alice, when she sat down alone, felt herself to be very much in the
same condition as her maid. What would the Duchess of St Bungay or Mr
Jeffrey Palliser,--who himself might live to be a duke if things went
well for him,--care for her? As to Mr Palliser, the master of the
house, it was already evident to her that he would not put himself
out of his way for her. Had she not done wrong to come there? If it
were possible for her to fly away, back to the dullness of Queen Anne
Street, or even to the preachings of Lady Macleod, would she not do
so immediately? What business had she,--she asked herself,--to come
to such a house as that? Lady Glencora was very kind to her, but
frightened her even by her kindness. Moreover, she was aware that
Lady Glencora could not devote herself especially to any such guest
as she was. Lady Glencora must of course look after her duchesses,
and do pretty, as she called it, to her husband's important political
alliances.

And then she began to think about Lady Glencora herself. What a
strange, weird nature she was,--with her round blue eyes and wavy
hair, looking sometimes like a child and sometimes almost like an old
woman! And how she talked! What things she said, and what terrible
forebodings she uttered of stranger things that she meant to say! Why
had she at their first meeting made that allusion to the mode of her
own betrothal,--and then, checking herself for speaking of it so
soon, almost declare that she meant to speak more of it hereafter?
"She should never mention it to any one," said Alice to herself.
"If her lot in life has not satisfied her, there is so much the
more reason why she should not mention it." Then Alice protested to
herself that no father, no aunt, no Lady Midlothian should persuade
her into a marriage of which she feared the consequences. But Lady
Glencora had made for herself excuses which were not altogether
untrue. She had been very young, and had been terribly weighted with
her wealth.

And it seemed to Alice that her cousin had told her everything in
that hour and a half that they had been together. She had given
a whole history of her husband and of herself. She had said how
indifferent he was to her pleasures, and how vainly she strove to
interest herself in his pursuits. And then, as yet, she was childless
and without prospect of a child, when, as she herself had said,--"so
much depended on it." It was very strange to Alice that all this
should have been already told to her. And why should Lady Glencora
think of Alice when she walked out among the priory ruins by
moonlight?

The two hours seemed to her very long,--as though she were passing
her time in absolute seclusion at Matching. Of course she did not
dare to go down-stairs. But at last her maid came to dress her.

"How do you get on below, Jane?" her mistress asked her.

"Why, miss, they are uncommon civil, and I don't think after all it
will be so bad. We had our teas very comfortable in the housekeeper's
room. There are five or six of us altogether, all ladies'-maids,
miss; and there's nothing on earth to do all the day long, only sit
and do a little needlework over the fire."

A few minutes before eight Lady Glencora knocked at Alice's door, and
took her arm to lead her to the drawing-room. Alice saw that she was
magnificently dressed, with an enormous expanse of robe, and that her
locks had been so managed that no one could suspect the presence of
a grey hair. Indeed, with all her magnificence, she looked almost a
child. "Let me see," she said, as they went down-stairs together.
"I'll tell Jeffrey to take you in to dinner. He's about the easiest
young man we have here. He rather turns up his nose at everything,
but that doesn't make him the less agreeable; does it, dear?--unless
he turns up his nose at you, you know."

"But perhaps he will."

"No; he won't do that. That would be uncourteous,--and he's the most
courteous man in the world. There's nobody here, you see," she said
as they entered the room, "and I didn't suppose there would be. It's
always proper to be first in one's own house. I do so try to be
proper,--and it is such trouble. Talking of people earning their
bread, Alice;--I'm sure I earn mine. Oh dear!--what fun it would be
to be sitting somewhere in Asia, eating a chicken with one's fingers,
and lighting a big fire outside one's tent to keep off the lions and
tigers. Fancy your being on one side of the fire and the lions and
tigers on the other, grinning at you through the flames!" Then Lady
Glencora strove to look like a lion, and grinned at herself in the
glass.

"That sort of grin wouldn't frighten me," said Alice.

"I dare say not. I have been reading about it in that woman's
travels. Oh, here they are, and I mustn't make any more faces.
Duchess, do come to the fire. I hope you've got warm again. This is
my cousin, Miss Vavasor."

The Duchess made a stiff little bow of condescension, and then
declared that she was charmingly warm. "I don't know how you manage
in your house, but the staircases are so comfortable. Now at
Longroyston we've taken all the trouble in the world,--put down
hot-water pipes all over the house, and everything else that could be
thought of, and yet, you can't move about the place without meeting
with draughts at every corner of the passages." The Duchess spoke
with an enormous emphasis on every other word, sometimes putting so
great a stress on some special syllable, as almost to bring her voice
to a whistle. This she had done with the word "pipes" to a great
degree,--so that Alice never afterwards forgot the hot-water pipes
of Longroyston. "I was telling Lady Glencora, Miss Palliser, that I
never knew a house so warm as this,--or, I'm sorry to say,"--and
here the emphasis was very strong on the word sorry,--"so cold as
Longroyston." And the tone in which Longroyston was uttered would
almost have drawn tears from a critical audience in the pit of a
playhouse. The Duchess was a woman of about forty, very handsome, but
with no meaning in her beauty, carrying a good fixed colour in her
face, which did not look like paint, but which probably had received
some little assistance from art. She was a well-built, sizeable
woman, with good proportions and fine health,--but a fool. She had
addressed herself to one Miss Palliser; but two Miss Pallisers,
cousins of Plantagenet Palliser, had entered the room at the same
time, of whom I may say, whatever other traits of character they may
have possessed, that at any rate they were not fools.

"It's always easy to warm a small house like this," said Miss
Palliser, whose Christian names, unfortunately for her, were
Iphigenia Theodata, and who by her cousin and sister was called
Iphy--"and I suppose equally difficult to warm a large one such as
Longroyston." The other Miss Palliser had been christened Euphemia.

"We've got no pipes, Duchess, at any rate," said Lady Glencora; and
Alice, as she sat listening, thought she discerned in Lady Glencora's
pronunciation of the word pipes an almost hidden imitation of the
Duchess's whistle. It must have been so, for at the moment Lady
Glencora's eye met Alice's for an instant, and was then withdrawn, so
that Alice was compelled to think that her friend and cousin was not
always quite successful in those struggles she made to be proper.

Then the gentlemen came in one after another, and other ladies, till
about thirty people were assembled. Mr Palliser came up and spoke
another word to Alice in a kind voice,--meant to express some sense
of connection if not cousinship. "My wife has been thinking so much
of your coming. I hope we shall be able to amuse you." Alice, who had
already begun to feel desolate, was grateful, and made up her mind
that she would try to like Mr Palliser.

Jeffrey Palliser was almost the last in the room, but directly he
entered Lady Glencora got up from her seat, and met him as he was
coming into the crowd. "You must take my cousin, Alice Vavasor, in
to dinner," she said, "and;--will you oblige me to-day?"

"Yes;--as you ask me like that."

"Then try to make her comfortable." After that she introduced them,
and Jeffrey Palliser stood opposite to Alice, talking to her, till
dinner was announced.



CHAPTER XXIII

Dinner at Matching Priory


Alice found herself seated near to Lady Glencora's end of the table,
and, in spite of her resolution to like Mr Palliser, she was not
sorry that such an arrangement had been made. Mr Palliser had taken
the Duchess out to dinner, and Alice wished to be as far removed
as possible from her Grace. She found herself seated between her
bespoken friend Jeffrey Palliser and the Duke, and as soon as she
was seated Lady Glencora introduced her to her second neighbour. "My
cousin, Duke," Lady Glencora said, "and a terrible Radical."

"Oh, indeed; I'm glad of that. We're sadly in want of a few leading
Radicals, and perhaps I may be able to gain one now."

Alice thought of her cousin George, and wished that he, instead of
herself, was sitting next to the Duke of St Bungay. "But I'm afraid I
never shall be a leading Radical," she said.

"You shall lead me at any rate, if you will," said he.

"As the little dogs lead the blind men," said Lady Glencora.

"No, Lady Glencora, not so. But as the pretty women lead the men
who have eyes in their head. There is nothing I want so much, Miss
Vavasor, as to become a Radical;--if I only knew how."

"I think it's very easy to know how," said Alice.

"Do you? I don't. I've voted for every liberal measure that has come
seriously before Parliament since I had a seat in either House, and
I've not been able to get beyond Whiggery yet."

"Have you voted for the ballot?" asked Alice, almost trembling at her
own audacity as she put the question.

"Well; no, I've not. And I suppose that is the crux. But the ballot
has never been seriously brought before any House in which I have
sat. I hate it with so keen a private hatred, that I doubt whether I
could vote for it."

"But the Radicals love it," said Alice.

"Palliser," said the Duke, speaking loudly from his end of the table,
"I'm told you can never be entitled to call yourself a Radical till
you've voted for the ballot."

"I don't want to be called a Radical," said Mr Palliser,--"or to be
called anything at all."

"Except Chancellor of the Exchequer," said Lady Glencora in a low
voice.

"And that's about the finest ambition by which a man can be moved,"
said the Duke. "The man who can manage the purse-strings of this
country can manage anything." Then that conversation dropped and the
Duke ate his dinner.

"I was especially commissioned to amuse you," said Mr Jeffrey
Palliser to Alice. "But when I undertook the task I had no conception
that you would be calling Cabinet Ministers over the coals about
their politics."

"I did nothing of the kind, surely, Mr Palliser. I suppose all
Radicals do vote for the ballot, and that's why I said it."

"Your definition was perfectly just, I dare say, only--"

"Only what?"

"Lady Glencora need not have been so anxious to provide specially
for your amusement. Not but what I'm very much obliged to her,--of
course. But Miss Vavasor, unfortunately I'm not a politician. I
haven't a chance of a seat in the House, and so I despise politics."

"Women are not allowed to be politicians in this country."

"Thank God, they can't do much in that way;--not directly, I mean.
Only think where we should be if we had a feminine House of Commons,
with feminine debates, carried on, of course, with feminine courtesy.
My cousins Iphy and Phemy there would of course be members. You don't
know them yet?"

"No; not yet. Are they politicians?"

"Not especially. They have their tendencies, which are decidedly
liberal. There has never been a Tory Palliser known, you know. But
they are too clever to give themselves up to anything in which they
can do nothing. Being women they live a depressed life, devoting
themselves to literature, fine arts, social economy, and the
abstract sciences. They write wonderful letters; but I believe their
correspondence lists are quite full, so that you have no chance at
present of getting on either of them."

"I haven't the slightest pretension to ask for such an honour."

"Oh! if you mean because you don't know them, that has nothing to do
with it."

"But I have no claim either private or public."

"That has nothing to do with it either. They don't at all seek people
of note as their correspondents. Free communication with all the
world is their motto, and Rowland Hill is the god they worship.
Only they have been forced to guard themselves against too great an
accession of paper and ink. Are you fond of writing letters, Miss
Vavasor?"

"Yes, to my friends; but I like getting them better."

"I shrewdly suspect they don't read half what they get. Is it
possible any one should go through two sheets of paper filled by our
friend the Duchess there? No; their delight is in writing. They sit
each at her desk after breakfast, and go on till lunch. There is a
little rivalry between them, not expressed to each other, but visible
to their friends. Iphy certainly does get off the greater number,
and I'm told crosses quite as often as Phemy, but then she has the
advantage of a bolder and larger hand."

"Do they write to you?"

"Oh, dear no. I don't think they ever write to any relative. They
don't discuss family affairs and such topics as that. Architecture
goes a long way with them, and whether women ought to be clerks in
public offices. Iphy has certain American correspondents that take
up much of her time, but she acknowledges she does not read their
letters."

"Then I certainly shall not write to her."

"But you are not American, I hope. I do hate the Americans. It's the
only strong political feeling I have. I went there once, and found I
couldn't live with them on any terms."

"But they please themselves. I don't see they are to be hated because
they don't live after our fashion."

"Oh; it's jealousy of course. I know that. I didn't come across a
cab-driver who wasn't a much better educated man than I am. And as
for their women, they know everything. But I hated them, and I intend
to hate them. You haven't been there?"

"Oh no."

"Then I will make bold to say that any English lady who spent a month
with them and didn't hate them would have very singular tastes. I
begin to think they'll eat each other up, and then there'll come an
entirely new set of people of a different sort. I always regarded the
States as a Sodom and Gomorrah, prospering in wickedness, on which
fire and brimstone were sure to fall sooner or later."

"I think that's wicked."

"I am wicked, as Topsy used to say. Do you hunt?"

"No."

"Do you shoot?"

"Shoot! What; with a gun?"

"Yes. I was staying in a house last week with a lady who shot a good
deal."

"No; I don't shoot."

"Do you ride?"

"No; I wish I did. I have never ridden because I've no one to ride
with me."

"Do you drive?"

"No; I don't drive either."

"Then what do you do?"

"I sit at home, and--"

"Mend your stockings?"

"No; I don't do that, because it's disagreeable; but I do work a good
deal. Sometimes I have amused myself by reading."

"Ah; they never do that here. I have heard that there is a library,
but the clue to it has been lost, and nobody now knows the way. I
don't believe in libraries. Nobody ever goes into a library to read,
any more than you would into a larder to eat. But there is this
difference;--the food you consume does come out of the larders, but
the books you read never come out of the libraries."

"Except Mudie's," said Alice.

"Ah, yes; he is the great librarian. And you mean to read all the
time you are here, Miss Vavasor?"

"I mean to walk about the priory ruins sometimes."

"Then you must go by moonlight, and I'll go with you. Only isn't it
rather late in the year for that?"

"I should think it is,--for you, Mr Palliser."

Then the Duke spoke to her again, and she found that she got on very
well during dinner. But she could not but feel angry with herself in
that she had any fear on the subject;--and yet she could not divest
herself of that fear. She acknowledged to herself that she was
conscious of a certain inferiority to Lady Glencora and to Mr Jeffrey
Palliser, which almost made her unhappy. As regarded the Duke on the
other side of her, she had no such feeling. He was old enough to be
her father, and was a Cabinet Minister; therefore he was entitled
to her reverence. But how was it that she could not help accepting
the other people round her as being indeed superior to herself? Was
she really learning to believe that she could grow upwards by their
sunlight?

"Jeffrey is a pleasant fellow, is he not?" said Lady Glencora to her
as they passed back through the billiard-room to the drawing-room.

"Very pleasant;--a little sarcastic, perhaps."

"I should think you would soon find yourself able to get the better
of that if he tries it upon you," said Lady Glencora; and then the
ladies were all in the drawing-room together.

"It is quite deliciously warm, coming from one room to another," said
the Duchess, putting her emphasis on the "one" and the "other."

"Then we had better keep continually moving," said a certain Mrs
Conway Sparkes, a literary lady, who had been very handsome, who was
still very clever, who was not perhaps very good-natured, and of whom
the Duchess of St Bungay was rather afraid.

"I hope we may be warm here too," said Lady Glencora.

"But not deliciously warm," said Mrs Conway Sparkes.

"It makes me tremble in every limb when Mrs Sparkes attacks her,"
Lady Glencora said to Alice in Alice's own room that night, "for I
know she'll tell the Duke; and he'll tell that tall man with red hair
whom you see standing about, and the tall man with red hair will tell
Mr Palliser, and then I shall catch it."

"And who is the tall man with red hair?"

"He's a political link between the Duke and Mr Palliser. His name is
Bott, and he's a Member of Parliament."

"But why should he interfere?"

"I suppose it's his business. I don't quite understand all the ins
and outs of it. I believe he's to be one of Mr Palliser's private
secretaries if he becomes Chancellor of the Exchequer. Perhaps he
doesn't tell;--only I think he does all the same. He always calls me
Lady Glen-cowrer. He comes out of Lancashire, and made calico as long
as he could get any cotton." But this happened in the bedroom, and we
must go back for a while to the drawing-room.

The Duchess had made no answer to Mrs Sparkes, and so nothing further
was said about the warmth. Nor, indeed, was there any conversation
that was comfortably general. The number of ladies in the room was
too great for that, and ladies do not divide themselves nicely into
small parties, as men and women do when they are mixed. Lady Glencora
behaved pretty by telling the Duchess all about her pet pheasants;
Mrs Conway Sparkes told ill-natured tales of some one to Miss
Euphemia Palliser; one of the Duchess's daughters walked off to a
distant piano with an admiring friend and touched a few notes; while
Iphigenia Palliser boldly took up a book, and placed herself at a
table. Alice, who was sitting opposite to Lady Glencora, began to
speculate whether she might do the same; but her courage failed her,
and she sat on, telling herself that she was out of her element.
"Alice Vavasor," said Lady Glencora after a while, suddenly, and in a
somewhat loud voice, "can you play billiards?"

"No," said Alice, rather startled.

"Then you shall learn to-night, and if nobody else will teach you,
you shall be my pupil." Whereupon Lady Glencora rang the bell and
ordered that the billiard-table might be got ready. "You'll play,
Duchess, of course," said Lady Glencora.

"It is so nice and warm, that I think I will," said the Duchess; but
as she spoke she looked suspiciously to that part of the room where
Mrs Conway Sparkes was sitting.

"Let us all play," said Mrs Conway Sparkes, "and then it will be
nicer,--and perhaps warmer, too."

The gentlemen joined them just as they were settling themselves round
the table, and as many of them stayed there, the billiard-room became
full. Alice had first a cue put into her hand, and making nothing
of that was permitted to play with a mace. The duty of instructing
her devolved on Jeffrey Palliser, and the next hour passed
pleasantly;--not so pleasantly, she thought afterwards, as did some
of those hours in Switzerland when her cousins were with her. After
all, she could get more out of her life with such associates as them,
than she could with any of these people at Matching. She felt quite
sure of that;--though Jeffrey Palliser did take great trouble to
teach her the game, and once or twice made her laugh heartily by
quizzing the Duchess's attitude as she stood up to make her stroke.

"I wish I could play billiards," said Mrs Sparkes, on one of these
occasions; "I do indeed."

"I thought you said you were coming to play," said the Duchess,
almost majestically, and with a tone of triumph evidently produced
by her own successes.

"Only to see your Grace," said Mrs Sparkes.

"I don't know that there is anything more to see in me than in
anybody else," said the Duchess. "Mr Palliser, that was a cannon.
Will you mark that for our side?"

"Oh no, Duchess, you hit the same ball twice."

"Very well;--then I suppose Miss Vavasor plays now. That was a miss.
Will you mark that, if you please?" This latter demand was made with
great stress, as though she had been defrauded in the matter of the
cannon, and was obeyed. Before long, the Duchess, with her partner,
Lady Glencora, won the game,--which fact, however, was, I think,
owing rather to Alice's ignorance than to her Grace's skill. The
Duchess, however, was very triumphant, and made her way back into the
drawing-room with a step which seemed to declare loudly that she had
trumped Mrs Sparkes at last.

Not long after this the ladies went up-stairs on their way to bed.
Many of them, perhaps, did not go to their pillows at once, as it was
as yet not eleven o'clock, and it was past ten when they all came
down to breakfast. At any rate, Alice, who had been up at seven, did
not go to bed then, nor for the next two hours. "I'll come into your
room just for one minute," Lady Glencora said as she passed on from
the door to her own room; and in about five minutes she was back with
her cousin. "Would you mind going into my room--it's just there, and
sitting with Ellen for a minute?" This Lady Glencora said in the
sweetest possible tone to the girl who was waiting on Alice; and
then, when they were alone together, she got into a little chair by
the fireside and prepared herself for conversation.

"I must keep you up for a quarter of an hour while I tell you
something. But first of all, how do you like the people? Will you
be able to be comfortable with them?" Alice of course said that
she thought she would; and then there came that little discussion
in which the duties of Mr Bott, the man with the red hair, were
described.

"But I've got something to tell you," said Lady Glencora, when they
had already been there some twenty minutes. "Sit down opposite to me,
and look at the fire while I look at you."

"Is it anything terrible?"

"It's nothing wrong."

"Oh, Lady Glencora, if it's--"

"I won't have you call me Lady Glencora. Don't I call you Alice? Why
are you so unkind to me? I have not come to you now asking you to do
for me anything that you ought not to do."

"But you are going to tell me something." Alice felt sure that the
thing to be told would have some reference to Mr Fitzgerald, and she
did not wish to hear Mr Fitzgerald's name from her cousin's lips.

"Tell you something;--of course I am. I'm going to tell you
that,--that in writing to you the other day I wrote a fib. But it
wasn't that I wished to deceive you;--only I couldn't say it all in
a letter."

"Say all what?"

"You know I confessed that I had been very bad in not coming to you
in London last year."

"I never thought of it for a moment."

"You did not care whether I came or not: was that it? But never mind.
Why should you have cared? But I cared. I told you in my letter that
I didn't come because I had so many things on hand. Of course that
was a fib."

"Everybody makes excuses of that kind," said Alice.

"But they don't make them to the very people of all others whom
they want to know and love. I was longing to come to you every day.
But I feared I could not come without speaking of him;--and I had
determined never to speak of him again." This she said in that
peculiar low voice which she assumed at times.

"Then why do it now, Lady Glencora?"

"I won't be called Lady Glencora. Call me Cora. I had a sister once,
older than I, and she used to call me Cora. If she had lived--. But
never mind that now. She didn't live. I'll tell you why I do it now.
Because I cannot help it. Besides, I've met him. I've been in the
same room with him, and have spoken to him. What's the good of any
such resolution now?"

"And you have met him?"

"Yes; he--Mr Palliser--knew all about it. When he talked of taking
me to the house, I whispered to him that I thought Burgo would be
there."

"Do not call him by his Christian name," said Alice, almost with a
shudder.

"Why not?--why not his Christian name? I did when I told my husband.
Or perhaps I said Burgo Fitzgerald."

"Well."

"And he bade me go. He said it didn't signify, and that I had better
learn to bear it. Bear it, indeed! If I am to meet him, and speak to
him, and look at him, surely I may mention his name." And then she
paused for an answer. "May I not?"

"What am I to say?" exclaimed Alice.

"Anything you please, that's not a falsehood. But I've got you here
because I don't think you will tell a falsehood. Oh, Alice, I do so
want to go right, and it is so hard!"

Hard, indeed, poor creature, for one so weighted as she had been, and
sent out into the world with so small advantages of previous training
or of present friendship! Alice began to feel now that she had been
enticed to Matching Priory because her cousin wanted a friend, and
of course she could not refuse to give the friendship that was asked
from her. She got up from her chair, and kneeling down at the other's
feet put up her face and kissed her.

"I knew you would be good to me," said Lady Glencora. "I knew you
would. And you may say whatever you like. But I could not bear that
you should not know the real reason why I neither came to you nor
sent for you after we went to London. You'll come to me now; won't
you, dear?"

"Yes;--and you'll come to me," said Alice, making in her mind a sort
of bargain that she was not to be received into Mr Palliser's house
after the fashion in which Lady Midlothian had proposed to receive
her. But it struck her at once that this was unworthy of her, and
ungenerous. "But I'll come to you," she added, "whether you come to
me or not."

"I will go to you," said Lady Glencora, "of course,--why shouldn't I?
But you know what I mean. We shall have dinners and parties and lots
of people."

"And we shall have none," said Alice, smiling.

"And therefore there is so much more excuse for your coming to
me;--or rather I mean so much more reason, for I don't want excuses.
Well, dear, I'm so glad I've told you. I was afraid to see you in
London. I should hardly have known how to look at you then. But I've
got over that now." Then she smiled and returned the kiss which Alice
had given her. It was singular to see her standing on the bedroom rug
with all her magnificence of dress, but with her hair pushed back
behind her ears, and her eyes red with tears,--as though the burden
of the magnificence remained to her after its purpose was over.

"I declare it's ever so much past twelve. Good night, now, dear. I
wonder whether he's come up. But I should have heard his step if he
had. He never treads lightly. He seldom gives over work till after
one, and sometimes goes on till three. It's the only thing he likes,
I believe. God bless you! good night. I've such a deal more to say to
you; and Alice, you must tell me something about yourself, too; won't
you, dear?" Then without waiting for an answer Lady Glencora went,
leaving Alice in a maze of bewilderment. She could hardly believe
that all she had heard, and all she had done, had happened since she
left Queen Anne Street that morning.



CHAPTER XXIV

Three Politicians


Mr Palliser was one of those politicians in possessing whom England
has perhaps more reason to be proud than of any other of her
resources, and who, as a body, give to her that exquisite combination
of conservatism and progress which is her present strength and best
security for the future. He could afford to learn to be a statesman,
and had the industry wanted for such training. He was born in the
purple, noble himself, and heir to the highest rank as well as one of
the greatest fortunes of the country, already very rich, surrounded
by all the temptations of luxury and pleasure; and yet he devoted
himself to work with the grinding energy of a young penniless
barrister labouring for a penniless wife, and did so without any
motive more selfish than that of being counted in the roll of
the public servants of England. He was not a brilliant man, and
understood well that such was the case. He was now listened to in
the House, as the phrase goes; but he was listened to as a laborious
man, who was in earnest in what he did, who got up his facts with
accuracy, and who, dull though he be, was worthy of confidence. And
he was very dull. He rather prided himself on being dull, and on
conquering in spite of his dullness. He never allowed himself a
joke in his speeches, nor attempted even the smallest flourish of
rhetoric. He was very careful in his language, labouring night and
day to learn to express himself with accuracy, with no needless
repetition of words, perspicuously with regard to the special object
he might have in view. He had taught himself to believe that oratory,
as oratory, was a sin against that honesty in politics by which he
strove to guide himself. He desired to use words for the purpose of
teaching things which he knew and which others did not know; and he
desired also to be honoured for his knowledge. But he had no desire
to be honoured for the language in which his knowledge was conveyed.
He was an upright, thin, laborious man; who by his parts alone could
have served no political party materially, but whose parts were
sufficient to make his education, integrity, and industry useful in
the highest degree. It is the trust which such men inspire which
makes them so serviceable;--trust not only in their labour,--for any
man rising from the mass of the people may be equally laborious; nor
yet simply in their honesty and patriotism. The confidence is given
to their labour, honesty, and patriotism joined to such a personal
stake in the country as gives them a weight and ballast which no
politician in England can possess without it.

If he was dull as a statesman he was more dull in private life, and
it may be imagined that such a woman as his wife would find some
difficulty in making his society the source of her happiness. Their
marriage, in a point of view regarding business, had been a complete
success,--and a success, too, when on the one side, that of Lady
Glencora, there had been terrible dangers of shipwreck, and when
on his side also there had been some little fears of a mishap. As
regards her it has been told how near she went to throwing herself,
with all her vast wealth, into the arms of a young man, whom no
father, no guardian could have regarded as a well-chosen husband for
any girl;--one who as yet had shown no good qualities, who had been
a spendthrift, unprincipled, and debauched. Alas, she had loved him!
It is possible that her love and her wealth might have turned him
from evil to good. But who would have ventured to risk her,--I will
not say her and her vast inheritances,--on such a chance? That evil,
however, had been prevented, and those about her had managed to marry
her to a young man, very steady by nature, with worldly prospects as
brilliant as her own, and with a station than which the world offers
nothing higher. His little threatened mischance,--a passing fancy for
a married lady who was too wise to receive vows which were proffered
not in the most ardent manner,--had, from special reasons, given some
little alarm to his uncle, which had just sufficed at the time to
make so very judicious a marriage doubly pleasant to that noble duke,
So that all things and all people had conspired to shower substantial
comforts on the heads of this couple, when they were joined together,
and men and women had not yet ceased to declare how happy were both
in the accumulated gifts of fortune.

And as regards Mr Palliser, I think that his married life, and the
wife, whom he certainly had not chosen, but who had dropped upon him,
suited him admirably. He wanted great wealth for that position at
which he aimed. He had been rich before his marriage with his own
wealth,--so rich that he could throw thousands away if he wished it;
but for him and his career was needed that colossal wealth which
would make men talk about it,--which would necessitate an expansive
expenditure, reaching far and wide, doing nothing, or less than
nothing, for his own personal comfort, but giving to him at once that
rock-like solidity which is so necessary to our great aristocratic
politicians. And his wife was, as far as he knew, all that he
desired. He had not dabbled much in the fountains of Venus, though
he had forgotten himself once, and sinned in coveting another man's
wife. But his sin then had hardly polluted his natural character, and
his desire had been of a kind which was almost more gratified in
its disappointment than it would have been in its fruition. On the
morning after the lady had frowned on him he had told himself that he
was very well out of that trouble. He knew that it would never be for
him to hang up on the walls of a temple a well-worn lute as a votive
offering when leaving the pursuits of love. _Idoneus puellis_ he
never could have been. So he married Lady Glencora and was satisfied.
The story of Burgo Fitzgerald was told to him, and he supposed that
most girls had some such story to tell. He thought little about it,
and by no means understood her when she said to him, with all the
impressiveness which she could throw into the words, "You must know
that I have really loved him." "You must love me now," he had replied
with a smile; and then as regarded his mind, the thing was over. And
since his marriage he had thought that things matrimonial had gone
well with him, and with her too. He gave her almost unlimited power
of enjoying her money, and interfered but little in her way of
life. Sometimes he would say a word of caution to her with reference
to those childish ways which hardly became the dull dignity of
his position; and his words then would have in them something of
unintentional severity,--whether instigated or not by the red-haired
Radical Member of Parliament, I will not pretend to say;--but on
the whole he was contented and loved his wife, as he thought, very
heartily, and at least better than he loved any one else. One cause
of unhappiness, or rather one doubt as to his entire good fortune,
was beginning to make itself felt, as his wife had to her sorrow
already discovered. He had hoped that before this he might have heard
that she would give him a child. But the days were young yet for that
trouble, and the care had not become a sorrow.

But this judicious arrangement as to properties, this well-ordered
alliance between families, had not perhaps suited her as well as it
had suited him. I think that she might have learned to forget her
early lover, or to look back upon it with a soft melancholy hardly
amounting to regret, had her new lord been more tender in his ways
with her. I do not know that Lady Glencora's heart was made of that
stern stuff which refuses to change its impressions; but it was a
heart, and it required food. To love and fondle someone,--to be loved
and fondled, were absolutely necessary to her happiness. She wanted
the little daily assurance of her supremacy in the man's feelings,
the constant touch of love, half accidental half contrived, the
passing glance of the eye telling perhaps of some little joke
understood only between them two rather than of love, the softness of
an occasional kiss given here and there when chance might bring them
together, some half-pretended interest in her little doings, a nod, a
wink, a shake of the head, or even a pout. It should have been given
to her to feed upon such food as this daily, and then she would have
forgotten Burgo Fitzgerald. But Mr Palliser understood none of these
things; and therefore the image of Burgo Fitzgerald in all his beauty
was ever before her eyes.

But not the less was Mr Palliser a prosperous man, as to the success
of whose career few who knew him had much doubt. It might be written
in the book of his destiny that he would have to pass through some
violent domestic trouble, some ruin in the hopes of his home, of a
nature to destroy then and for ever the worldly prospects of other
men. But he was one who would pass through such violence, should
it come upon him, without much scathe. To lose his influence with
his party would be worse to him than to lose his wife, and public
disgrace would hit him harder than private dishonour.

And the present was the very moment in which success was, as was
said, coming to him. He had already held laborious office under the
Crown, but had never sat in the Cabinet. He had worked much harder
than Cabinet Ministers generally work,--but hitherto had worked
without any reward that was worth his having. For the stipend which
he had received had been nothing to him,--as the great stipend which
he would receive, if his hopes were true, would also be nothing to
him. To have ascendancy over other men, to be known by his countrymen
as one of their real rulers, to have an actual and acknowledged voice
in the management of nations,--those were the rewards for which he
looked; and now in truth it seemed as though they were coming to him.
It was all but known that the existing Chancellor of the Exchequer
would separate himself from the Government, carrying various others
with him, either before or immediately consequent on the meeting
of Parliament;--and it was all but known, also, that Mr Palliser
would fill his place, taking that high office at once, although he
had never hitherto sat in that august assembly which men call the
Cabinet. He could thus afford to put up with the small everyday
calamity of having a wife who loved another man better than she loved
him.

The presence of the Duke of St Bungay at Matching was assumed to be a
sure sign of Mr Palliser's coming triumph. The Duke was a statesman
of a very different class, but he also had been eminently successful
as an aristocratic pillar of the British Constitutional Republic. He
was a minister of very many years' standing, being as used to cabinet
sittings as other men are to their own armchairs; but he had never
been a hard-working man. Though a constant politician, he had ever
taken politics easy whether in office or out. The world had said
before now that the Duke might be Premier, only that he would not
take the trouble. He had been consulted by a very distinguished
person,--so the papers had said more than once,--as to the making of
Prime Ministers. His voice in council was esteemed to be very great.
He was regarded as a strong rock of support to the liberal cause, and
yet nobody ever knew what he did; nor was there much record of what
he said. The offices which he held, or had held, were generally those
to which no very arduous duties were attached. In severe debates he
never took upon himself the brunt of opposition oratory. What he said
in the House was generally short and pleasant,--with some slight,
drolling, undercurrent of uninjurious satire running through it. But
he was a walking miracle of the wisdom of common sense. He never lost
his temper. He never made mistakes. He never grew either hot or cold
in a cause. He was never reckless in politics, and never cowardly. He
snubbed no man, and took snubbings from no man. He was a Knight of
the Garter, a Lord Lieutenant of his county, and at sixty-two had
his digestion unimpaired and his estate in excellent order. He was a
great buyer of pictures, which, perhaps, he did not understand, and a
great collector of books which certainly he never read. All the world
respected him, and he was a man to whom the respect of all the world
was as the breath of his nostrils.

But even he was not without his peacock on the wall, his skeleton
in the closet, his thorn in his side; though the peacock did not
scream loud, the skeleton was not very terrible in his anatomical
arrangement, nor was the thorn likely to fester to a gangrene. The
Duke was always in awe about his wife.

He was ever uneasy about his wife, but it must not be supposed
that he feared the machinations of any Burgo Fitzgerald as being
destructive of his domestic comfort. The Duchess was and always
had been all that is proper. Ladies in high rank, when gifted with
excelling beauty, have often been made the marks of undeserved
calumny;--but no breath of slander had ever touched her name. I doubt
if any man alive had ever had the courage even to wink at her since
the Duke had first called her his own. Nor was she a spendthrift, or
a gambler. She was not fast in her tastes, or given to any pursuit
that was objectionable. She was simply a fool, and as a fool was ever
fearing that she was the mark of ridicule. In all such miseries she
would complain sorrowfully, piteously, and occasionally very angrily,
to her dear Duke and protector; till sometimes her dear Duke did not
quite know what to do with her or how to protect her. It did not suit
him, a Knight of the Garter and a Duke of St Bungay, to beg mercy
for that poor wife of his from such a one as Mrs Conway Sparkes; nor
would it be more in his way to lodge a formal complaint against that
lady before his host or hostess,--as one boy at school may sometimes
do as regards another. "If you don't like the people, my dear, we
will go away," he said to her late on that evening of which we have
spoken. "No," she replied, "I do not wish to go away. I have said
that we would stay till December, and Longroyston won't be ready
before that. But I think that something ought to be done to silence
that woman." And the accent came strong upon "something," and then
again with terrific violence upon "woman."

The Duke did not know how to silence Mrs Conway Sparkes. It was a
great principle of his life never to be angry with any one. How
could he get at Mrs Conway Sparkes? "I don't think she is worth your
attention," said the husband. "That's all very well, Duke," said the
wife, "and perhaps she is not. But I find her in this house, and I
don't like to be laughed at. I think Lady Glencora should make her
know her place."

"Lady Glencora is very young, my dear."

"I don't know about being so very young," said the Duchess, whose ear
had perhaps caught some little hint of poor Lady Glencora's almost
unintentional mimicry. Now as appeals of this kind were being made
frequently to the Duke, and as he was often driven to say some word,
of which he himself hardly approved, to some one in protection of his
Duchess, he was aware that the matter was an annoyance, and at times
almost wished that her Grace was at--Longroyston.

And there was a third politician staying at Matching Priory who had
never yet risen to the rank of a statesman, but who had his hopes.
This was Mr Bott, the member for St Helens, whom Lady Glencora had
described as a man who stood about, with red hair,--and perhaps told
tales of her to her husband. Mr Bott was a person who certainly had
had some success in life and who had won it for himself. He was not
very young, being at this time only just on the right side of fifty.
He was now enjoying his second session in Parliament, having been
returned as a pledged disciple of the Manchester school. Nor had he
apparently been false to his pledges. At St Helens he was still held
to be a good man and true. But they who sat on the same side with him
in the House and watched his political manoeuvres, knew that he was
striving hard to get his finger into the public pie. He was not a
rich man, though he had made calico and had got into Parliament. And
though he claimed to be a thoroughgoing Radical, he was a man who
liked to live with aristocrats, and was fond of listening to the
whispers of such as the Duke of St Bungay or Mr Palliser. It was
supposed that he did understand something of finance. He was at any
rate great in figures; and as he was possessed of much industry, and
was obedient withal, he was a man who might make himself useful to a
Chancellor of the Exchequer ambitious of changes.

There are men who get into such houses as Matching Priory and whose
presence there is a mystery to many;--as to whom the ladies of the
house never quite understand why they are entertaining such a guest.
"And Mr Bott is coming," Mr Palliser had said to his wife. "Mr Bott!"
Lady Glencora had answered. "Goodness me! who is Mr Bott?" "He is
member for St Helens," said Mr Palliser. "A very serviceable man in
his way." "And what am I to do with him?" asked Lady Glencora. "I
don't know that you can do anything with him. He is a man who has
a great deal of business, and I dare say he will spend most of
his time in the library." So Mr Bott arrived. But though a huge
pile of letters and papers came to him every morning by post, he
unfortunately did not seem to spend much of his time in the library.
Perhaps he had not found the clue to that lost apartment. Twice he
went out shooting, but as on the first day he shot the keeper, and
on the second very nearly shot the Duke, he gave that up. Hunting he
declined, though much pressed to make an essay in that art by Jeffrey
Palliser. He seemed to spend his time, as Lady Glencora said, in
standing about,--except at certain times when he was closeted with
Mr Palliser, and when, it may be presumed, he made himself useful.
On such days he would be seen at the hour of lunch with fingers
much stained with ink, and it was generally supposed that on those
occasions he had been counting up taxes and calculating the effect
of great financial changes. He was a tall, wiry, strong man, with a
bald head and bristly red beard, which, however, was cut off from his
upper and under lip. This was unfortunate, as had he hidden his mouth
he would not have been in so marked a degree an ugly man. His upper
lip was very long, and his mouth was mean. But he had found that
without the help of a razor to these parts he could not manage his
soup to his satisfaction, and preferring cleanliness to beauty had
shaved himself accordingly.

"I shouldn't dislike Mr Bott so much," Lady Glencora said to her
husband, "if he didn't rub his hands and smile so often, and seem
to be going to say something when he really is not going to say
anything."

"I don't think you need trouble yourself about him, my dear," Mr
Palliser had answered.

"But when he looks at me in that way, I can't help stopping, as
I think he is going to speak; and then he always says, 'Can I do
anything for you, Lady Glen-cowrer?'"

She instantly saw that her husband did not like this. "Don't be angry
with me, dear," she said. "You must admit that he is rather a bore."

"I am not at all angry, Glencora," said the husband; "and if you
insist upon it, I will see that he leaves;--and in such case will
of course never ask him again. But that might be prejudicial to me,
as he is a man whom I trust in politics, and who may perhaps be
serviceable to me."

Of course Lady Glencora declared that Mr Bott might remain as long as
he and her husband desired, and of course she mentioned his name no
more to Mr Palliser; but from that time forth she regarded Mr Bott as
an enemy, and felt also that Mr Bott regarded her in the same light.

When it was known among outside politicians that the Duke of St
Bungay was staying at Matching Priory, outside politicians became
more sure than ever that Mr Palliser would be the new Chancellor of
the Exchequer. The old minister and the young minister were of course
arranging matters together. But I doubt whether Mr Palliser and the
Duke ever spoke on any such topic during the entire visit. Though
Mr Bott was occasionally closeted with Mr Palliser, the Duke never
troubled himself with such closetings. He went out shooting--on his
pony, read his newspaper, wrote his notes, and looked with the eye
of a connoisseur over all Mr Palliser's farming apparatus. "You seem
to have a good man, I should say," said the Duke. "What! Hubbings?
Yes;--he was a legacy from my uncle when he gave me up the Priory."
"A very good man, I should say. Of course he won't make it pay; but
he'll make it look as though it did;--which is the next best thing.
I could never get rent out of land that I farmed myself,--never." "I
suppose not," said Mr Palliser, who did not care much about it. The
Duke would have talked to him by the hour together about farming had
Mr Palliser been so minded; but he talked to him very little about
politics. Nor during the whole time of his stay at Matching did the
Duke make any other allusion to Mr Palliser's hopes as regarded
the ministry, than that in which he had told Lady Glencora at the
dinner-table that her husband's ambition was the highest by which
any man could be moved.

But Mr Bott was sometimes honoured by a few words with the Duke.

"We shall muster pretty strong, your Grace," Mr Bott had said to him
one day before dinner.

"That depends on how the changes go," said the Duke.

"I suppose there will be a change?"

"Oh yes; there'll be a change,--certainly, I should say. And it will
be in your direction."

"And in Palliser's?"

"Yes; I should think so;--that is, if it suits him. By-the-by, Mr
Bott--" Then there was a little whispered communication, in which
perhaps Mr Bott was undertaking some commission of that nature which
Lady Glencora had called "telling."



CHAPTER XXV

In Which Much of the History of the Pallisers Is Told


At the end of ten days Alice found herself quite comfortable at
Matching Priory. She had now promised to remain there till the second
week of December, at which time she was to go to Vavasor Hall,--there
to meet her father and Kate. The Pallisers were to pass their
Christmas with the Duke of Omnium in Barsetshire. "We always are
to do that," said Glencora. "It is the state occasion at Gatherum
Castle, but it only lasts for one week. Then we go somewhere else.
Oh dear!"

"Why do you say 'oh dear'?"

"Because--; I don't think I mean to tell you."

"Then I'm sure I won't ask."

"That's so like you, Alice. But I can be as firm as you, and I'm sure
I won't tell you unless you do ask." But Alice did not ask, and it
was not long before Lady Glencora's firmness gave way.

But, as I have said, Alice had become quite comfortable at Matching
Priory. Perhaps she was already growing upwards towards the light.
At any rate she could listen with pleasure to the few words the Duke
would say to her. She could even chat a little to the Duchess,--so
that her Grace had observed to Lady Glencora that "her cousin was a
very nice person,--a very nice person indeed. What a pity it was that
she had been so ill-treated by that gentleman in Oxfordshire!" Lady
Glencora had to explain that the gentleman lived in Cambridgeshire,
and that he, at any rate, had not treated anybody ill. "Do you mean
that she--jilted him?" said the Duchess, almost whistling, and
opening her eyes very wide. "Dear me, I'm sorry for that. I shouldn't
have thought it." And when she next spoke to Alice she assumed rather
a severe tone of emphasis;--but this was soon abandoned when Alice
listened to her with complacency.

Alice also had learned to ride,--or rather had resumed her riding,
which for years had been abandoned. Jeffrey Palliser had been her
squire, and she had become intimate with him so as to learn to
quarrel with him and to like him,--to such an extent that Lady
Glencora had laughingly told her that she was going to do more.

"I rather think not," said Alice.

"But what has thinking to do with it? Who ever thinks about it?"

"I don't just at present,--at any rate."

"Upon my word it would be very nice;--and then perhaps some day you'd
be the Duchess."

"Glencora, don't talk such nonsense."

"Those are the speculations which people make. Only I should spite
you by killing myself, so that he might marry again."

"How can you say such horrid things?"

"I think I shall,--some day. What right have I to stand in his way?
He spoke to me the other day about Jeffrey's altered position, and I
knew what he meant;--or rather what he didn't mean to say, but what
he thought. But I shan't kill myself."

"I should think not."

"I only know one other way," said Lady Glencora.

"You are thinking of things which should never be in your thoughts,"
said Alice vehemently. "Have you no trust in God's providence? Cannot
you accept what has been done for you?"

Mr Bott had gone away, much to Lady Glencora's delight, but had
unfortunately come back again. On his return Alice heard more of the
feud between the Duchess and Mrs Conway Sparkes. "I did not tell
you," said Lady Glencora to her friend;--"I did not tell you before
he went that I was right about his tale-bearing."

"And did he bear tales?"

"Yes; I did get the scolding, and I know very well that it came
through him, though Mr Palliser did not say so. But he told me that
the Duchess had felt herself hurt by that other woman's way of
talking."

"But it was not your fault."

"No; that's what I said. It was he who desired me to ask Mrs Conway
Sparkes to come here. I didn't want her. She goes everywhere, and it
is thought a catch to get her; but if she had been drowned in the Red
Sea I shouldn't have minded. When I told him that, he said it was
nonsense,--which of course it was; and then he said I ought to make
her hold her tongue. Of course I said I couldn't. Mrs Conway Sparkes
wouldn't care for me. If she quizzed me, myself, I told him that
I could take care of myself, though she were ten times Mrs Conway
Sparkes, and had written finer poetry than Tennyson."

"It is fine;--some of it," said Alice.

"Oh, I dare say! I know a great deal of it by heart, only I wouldn't
give her the pleasure of supposing that I had ever thought so much
about her poetry. And then I told him that I couldn't take care of
the Duchess,--and he told me that I was a child."

"He only meant that in love."

"I am a child; I know that. Why didn't he marry some strong-minded,
ferocious woman that could keep his house in order, and frown Mrs
Sparkes out of her impudence? It wasn't my fault."

"You didn't tell him that."

"But I did. Then he kissed me, and said it was all right, and told me
that I should grow older. 'And Mrs Sparkes will grow more impudent,'
I said, 'and the Duchess more silly.' And after that I went away. Now
this horrid Mr Bott has come back again, and only that it would be
mean in me to condescend so far, I would punish him. He grins and
smiles at me, and rubs his big hands more than ever, because he feels
that he has behaved badly. Is it not horrid to have to live in the
house with such people?"

"I don't think you need mind him much."

"Yes; but I am the mistress here, and am told that I am to entertain
the people. Fancy entertaining the Duchess of St Bungay and Mr Bott!"

Alice had now become so intimate with Lady Glencora that she did not
scruple to read her wise lectures,--telling her that she allowed
herself to think too much of little things,--and too much also of
some big things. "As regards Mr Bott," said Alice, "I think you
should bear it as though there were no such person."

"But that would be pretence,--especially to you."

"No; it would not be pretence; it would be the reticence which all
women should practise,--and you, in your position, more almost than
any other woman." Then Lady Glencora pouted, told Alice that it was
a pity she had not married Mr Palliser, and left her.

That evening,--the evening of Mr Bott's return to Matching, that
gentleman found a place near to Alice in the drawing-room. He had
often come up to her, rubbing his hands together, and saying little
words, as though there was some reason from their positions that they
two should be friends. Alice had perceived this, and had endeavoured
with all her force to shake him off; but he was a man, who if he
understood a hint, never took it. A cold shoulder was nothing to
him, if he wanted to gain the person who showed it him. His code
of perseverance taught him that it was a virtue to overcome cold
shoulders. The man or woman who received his first overtures with
grace would probably be one on whom it would be better that he should
look down and waste no further time; whereas he or she who could
afford to treat him with disdain would no doubt be worth gaining.
Such men as Mr Bott are ever gracious to cold shoulders. The colder
the shoulders, the more gracious are the Mr Botts.

"What a delightful person is our dear friend, Lady Glencora!" said
Mr Bott, having caught Alice in a position from which she could not
readily escape.

Alice had half a mind to differ, or to make any remark that might
rid her from Mr Bott. But she did not dare to say a word that might
seem to have been said playfully. "Yes, indeed," she replied. "How
very cold it is to-night!" She was angry with herself for her own
stupidity as soon as the phrase was out of her mouth, and then she
almost laughed as she thought of the Duchess and the hot-water pipes
at Longroyston.

"Yes, it is cold. You and her ladyship are great friends, I believe,
Miss Vavasor."

"She is my cousin," said Alice.

"Ah! yes; that is so pleasant. I have reason to know that Mr Palliser
is very much gratified that you should be so much with her."

This was unbearable. Alice could not quite assume sufficient courage
to get up from her chair and walk away from him, and yet she felt
that she must escape further conversation. "I don't know that I am
very much with her, and if I were I can't think it would make any
difference to Mr Palliser."

But Mr Bott was not a man to be put down when he had a purpose in
hand. "I can assure you that those are his sentiments. Of course we
all know that dear Lady Glencora is young. She is very young."

"Mr Bott, I really would rather not talk about my cousin."

"But, dear Miss Vavasor;--when we both have her welfare in view--?"

"I haven't her welfare in view, Mr Bott; not in the least. There is
no reason why I should. You must excuse me if I say I cannot talk
about her welfare with a perfect stranger." Then she did get up,
and went away from the Member of Parliament, leaving him rather
astonished at her audacity. But he was a constant man, and his inner
resolve was simply to the effect that he would try it again.

I wonder whether Jeffrey Palliser did think much of the difference
between his present position and that which would have been his had
Lady Glencora been the happy possessor of a cradle up-stairs with a
boy in it. I suppose he must have done so. It is hardly possible that
any man should not be alive to the importance of such a chance. His
own present position was one of the most unfortunate which can fall
to the lot of a man. His father, the Duke's youngest brother, had
left him about six hundred a year, and had left him also a taste
for living with people of six thousand. The propriety of earning
his bread had never been put before him. His father had been in
Parliament, and had been the most favoured son of the old Duke, who
for some years before his death had never spoken to him who now
reigned over the house of the Pallisers. Jeffrey's father had been
brought up at Matching Priory as scions of ducal houses are brought
up, and on the old man's death had been possessed of means sufficient
to go on in the same path, though with difficulty. His brother had
done something for him, and at various times he had held some place
near the throne. But on his death, when the property left behind him
was divided between his son and three daughters, Jeffrey Palliser
became possessed of the income above stated. Of course he could live
on it,--and as during the winter months of the year a home was found
for him free of cost, he could keep hunters, and live as rich men
live. But he was a poor, embarrassed man, without prospects,--until
this fine ducal prospect became opened to him by the want of that
cradle at Matching Priory.

But the prospect was no doubt very distant. Lady Glencora might yet
have as many sons as Hecuba. Or she might die, and some other more
fortunate lady might become the mother of his cousin's heir. Or the
Duke might marry and have a son. And, moreover, his cousin was only
one year older than himself, and the great prize, if it came his way,
might not come for forty years as yet. Nevertheless his hand might
now be acceptable in quarters where it would certainly be rejected
had Lady Glencora possessed that cradle up-stairs. We cannot but
suppose that he must have made some calculations of this nature.

"It is a pity you should do nothing all your life," his cousin
Plantagenet said to him one morning just at this time. Jeffrey had
sought the interview in his cousin's room, and I fear had done so
with some slight request for ready money.

"What am I to do?" said Jeffrey.

"At any rate you might marry."

"Oh, yes;--I could marry. There's no man so poor but what he can do
that. The question would be how I might like the subsequent
starvation."

"I don't see that you need starve. Though your own fortune is small,
it is something,--and many girls have fortunes of their own."

Jeffrey thought of Lady Glencora, but he made no allusion to her in
speech. "I don't think I'm very good at that kind of thing," he said.
"When the father and mother came to ask of my house and my home I
should break down. I don't say it as praising myself;--indeed, quite
the reverse; but I fear I have not a mercenary tendency."

"That's nonsense."

"Oh, yes; quite so. I admit that."

"Men must have mercenary tendencies or they would not have bread. The
man who ploughs that he may live does so because he, luckily, has a
mercenary tendency."

"Just so. But you see I am less lucky than the ploughman."

"There is no vulgar error so vulgar,--that is to say, common or
erroneous, as that by which men have been taught to say that
mercenary tendencies are bad. A desire for wealth is the source
of all progress. Civilization comes from what men call greed. Let
your mercenary tendencies be combined with honesty and they cannot
take you astray." This the future Chancellor of the Exchequer said
with much of that air and tone of wisdom which a Chancellor of the
Exchequer ought to possess.

"But I haven't got any such tendencies," said Jeffrey.

"Would you like to occupy a farm in Scotland?" said Plantagenet
Palliser.

"And pay rent?"

"You would have to pay rent of course."

"Thank you, no. It would be dishonest, as I know I should never pay
it."

"You are too old, I fear, for the public service."

"You mean a desk in the Treasury,--with a hundred a year. Yes; I
think I am too old."

"But have you no plan of your own?"

"Not much of one. Sometimes I have thought I would go to New
Zealand."

"You would have to be a farmer there."

"No;--I shouldn't do that. I should get up an opposition to the
Government and that sort of thing, and then they would buy me off and
give me a place."

"That does very well here, Jeffrey, if a man can get into Parliament
and has capital enough to wait; but I don't think it would do out
there. Would you like to go into Parliament?"

"What; here? Of course I should. Only I should be sure to get
terribly into debt. I don't owe very much, now,--not to speak
of,--except what I owe you."

"You owe nothing to me," said Plantagenet, with some little touch of
magniloquence in his tone. "No; don't speak of it. I have no brother,
and between you and me it means nothing. You see, Jeffrey, it may
be that I shall have to look to you as my--my--my heir, in short."
Hereupon Jeffrey muttered something as to the small probability of
such necessity, and as to the great remoteness of any result even if
it were so.

"That's all true," said the elder heir of the Pallisers, "but
still--. In short, I wish you would do something. Do you think about
it; and then some day speak to me again."

Jeffrey, as he left his cousin with a cheque for £500 in his
waist-coat pocket, thought that the interview which had at one
time taken important dimensions, had not been concluded altogether
satisfactorily. A seat in Parliament! Yes, indeed! If his cousin
would so far use his political, monetary, or ducal interest as to
do that for him;--as to give him something of the status properly
belonging to the younger son of the House, then indeed life would
have some charms for him! But as for the farm in Scotland, or a desk
at an office in London,--his own New Zealand plan would be better
than those. And then as he went along of course he bethought himself
that it might be his lot yet to die, and at least to be buried, in
the purple, as a Duke of Omnium. If so, certainly it would be his
duty to prepare another heir, and leave a duke behind him,--if it
were possible.

"Are you going to ride with us after lunch?" said Lady Glencora to
him as he strolled into the drawing-room.

"No," said Jeffrey; "I'm going to study."

"To do what?" said Lady Glencora.

"To study;--or rather I shall spend to-day in sitting down and
considering what I will study. My cousin has just been telling me
that I ought to do something."

"So you ought," said Iphigenia energetically from her writing-desk.

"But he didn't seem to have any clear opinion what it ought to be.
You see there can't be two Chancellors of the Exchequer at the same
time. Mrs Sparkes, what ought a young man like me to set about
doing?"

"Go into Parliament, I should say," said Mrs Sparkes.

"Ah, yes; exactly. He had some notion of that kind, too, but he
didn't name any particular place. I think I'll try the City of
London. They've four there, and of course the chance of getting in
would thereby be doubled."

"I thought that commercial men were generally preferred in the City,"
said the Duchess, taking a strong and good-natured interest in the
matter.

"Mr Palliser means to make a fortune in trade as a preliminary," said
Mrs Sparkes.

"I don't think he meant anything of the kind," said the Duchess.

"At any rate I have got to do something, so I can't go and ride,"
said Jeffrey.

"And you ought to do something," said Iphigenia from her desk.

Twice during this little conversation Lady Glencora had looked up,
catching Alice's eye, and Alice had well known what she had meant.
"You see," the glance had said, "Plantagenet is beginning to take an
interest in his cousin, and you know why. The man who is to be the
father of the future dukes must not be allowed to fritter away his
time in obscurity. Had I that cradle up-stairs Jeffrey might be as
idle as he pleased." Alice understood it well.

Of course Jeffrey did join the riding party. "What is a man like me
to do who wants to do something?" he said to Alice. Alice was quite
aware that Lady Glencora had contrived some little scheme that Mr
Palliser should be riding next to her. She liked Mr Palliser, and
therefore had no objection; but she declared to herself that her
cousin was a goose for her pains.

"Mrs Sparkes says you ought to go into Parliament."

"Yes;--and the dear Duchess would perhaps suggest a house in Belgrave
Square. I want to hear your advice now."

"I can only say ditto to Miss Palliser."

"What! Iphy? About procrastination? But you see the more of my time
he steals the better it is for me."

"That's the evil you have got to cure."

"My cousin Plantagenet suggested--marriage."

"A very good thing too, I'm sure," said Alice; "only it depends
something on the sort of wife you get."

"You mean, of course, how much money she has."

"Not altogether."

"Looking at it from my cousin's point of view, I suppose that it is
the only important point. Who are there coming up this year,--in the
way of heiresses?"

"Upon my word I don't know. In the first place, how much money makes
an heiress?"

"For such a fellow as me, I suppose ten thousand pounds ought to do."

"That's not much," said Alice, who had exactly that amount of her
own.

"No--; perhaps that's too moderate. But the lower one went in the
money speculation, the greater would be the number to choose from,
and the better the chance of getting something decent in the woman
herself. I have something of my own,--not much you know; so with
the lady's ten thousand pounds we might be able to live,--in some
second-rate French town perhaps."

"But I don't see what you would gain by that."

"My people here would have got rid of me. That seems to be the great
thing. If you hear of any girl with about that sum, moderately
good-looking, not too young so that she might know something of the
world, decently born, and able to read and write, perhaps you will
bear me in mind."

"Yes, I will," said Alice, who was quite aware that he had made an
accurate picture of her own position. "When I meet such a one, I will
send for you at once."

"You know no such person now?"

"Well, no; not just at present."

"I declare I don't think he could do anything better," her cousin
said to her that night. Lady Glencora was now in the habit of having
Alice with her in what she called her dressing-room every evening,
and then they would sit till the small hours came upon them. Mr
Palliser always burnt the midnight oil and came to bed with the owls.
They would often talk of him and his prospects till Alice had perhaps
inspired his wife with more of interest in him and them than she had
before felt. And Alice had managed generally to drive her friend away
from those topics which were so dangerous,--those allusions to her
childlessness, and those hints that Burgo Fitzgerald was still in her
thoughts. And sometimes, of course, they had spoken of Alice's own
prospects, till she got into a way of telling her cousin freely all
that she felt. On such occasions Lady Glencora would always tell her
that she had been right,--if she did not love the man. "Though your
finger were put out for the ring," said Lady Glencora on one such
occasion, "you should go back, if you did not love him."

"But I did love him," said Alice.

"Then I don't understand it," said Lady Glencora; and, in truth,
close as was their intimacy, they did not perfectly understand each
other.

But on this occasion they were speaking of Jeffrey Palliser. "I
declare I don't think he could do any better," said Lady Glencora.

"If you talk such nonsense, I will not stay," said Alice.

"But why should it be nonsense? You would be very comfortable with
your joint incomes. He is one of the best fellows in the world. It is
clear that he likes you; and then we should be so near to each other.
I am sure Mr Palliser would do something for him if he married,--and
especially if I asked him."

"I only know of two things against it."

"And what are they?"

"That he would not take me for his wife, and that I would not take
him for my husband."

"Why not? What do you dislike in him?"

"I don't dislike him at all. I like him very much indeed. But one
can't marry all the people one likes."

"But what reason is there why you shouldn't marry him?"

"This chiefly," said Alice, after a pause; "that I have just
separated myself from a man whom I certainly did love truly, and
that I cannot transfer my affections quite so quickly as that."

As soon as the words were out of her mouth she knew that they should
not have been spoken. It was exactly what Glencora had done. She
had loved a man and had separated herself from him and had married
another all within a month or two. Lady Glencora first became red as
fire over her whole face and shoulders, and Alice afterwards did the
same as she looked up, as though searching in her cousin's eyes for
pardon.

"It is an unmaidenly thing to do, certainly," said Lady Glencora very
slowly, and in her lowest voice. "Nay, it is unwomanly; but one may
be driven. One may be so driven that all gentleness of womanhood is
driven out of one."

"Oh, Glencora!"

"I did not propose that you should do it as a sudden thing."

"Glencora!"

"I did do it suddenly. I know it. I did it like a beast that is
driven as its owner chooses. I know it. I was a beast. Oh, Alice, if
you know how I hate myself!"

"But I love you with all my heart," said Alice. "Glencora, I have
learned to love you so dearly!"

"Then you are the only being that does. He can't love me. How is it
possible? You,--and perhaps another."

"There are many who love you. He loves you. Mr Palliser loves you."

"It is impossible. I have never said a word to him that could make
him love me. I have never done a thing for him that can make him love
me. The mother of his child he might have loved, because of that. Why
should he love me? We were told to marry each other and did it. When
could he have learned to love me? But, Alice, he requires no loving,
either to take it or to give it. I wish it were so with me."

Alice said what she could to comfort her, but her words were but of
little avail as regarded those marriage sorrows.

"Forgive you!" at last Glencora said. "What have I to forgive? You
don't suppose I do not know it all, and think of it all without the
chance of some stray word like that! Forgive you! I am so grateful
that you love me! Some one's love I must have found,--or I could not
have remained here."



CHAPTER XXVI

Lady Midlothian


A week or ten days after this, Alice, when she came down to the
breakfast-parlour one morning, found herself alone with Mr Bott. It
was the fashion at Matching Priory for people to assemble rather late
in the day. The nominal hour for breakfast was ten, and none of the
ladies of the party were ever seen before that. Some of the gentlemen
would breakfast earlier, especially on hunting mornings; and on some
occasions the ladies, when they came together, would find themselves
altogether deserted by their husbands and brothers. On this day it
was fated that Mr Bott alone should represent the sterner sex, and
when Alice entered the room he was standing on the rug with his back
to the fire, waiting till the appearance of some other guest should
give him the sanction necessary for the commencement of his morning
meal. Alice, when she saw him, would have retreated had it been
possible, for she had learned to dislike him greatly, and was,
indeed, almost afraid of him; but she could not do so without making
her flight too conspicuous.

"Do you intend to prolong your stay here, Miss Vavasor?" said Mr
Bott, taking advantage of the first moment at which she looked up
from a letter which she was reading.

"For a few more days, I think," said Alice.

"Ah--I'm glad of that. Mr Palliser has pressed me so much to remain
till he goes to the Duke's, that I cannot get away sooner. As I am an
unmarried man myself, I can employ my time as well in one place as in
another;--at this time of the year at least."

"You must find that very convenient," said Alice.

"Yes, it is convenient. You see in my position,--Parliamentary
position, I mean,--I am obliged, as a public man, to act in concert
with others. A public man can be of no service unless he is prepared
to do that. We must give and take, you know, Miss Vavasor."

As Miss Vavasor made no remark in answer to this, Mr Bott
continued--"I always say to the men of my party,--of course I regard
myself as belonging to the extreme Radicals."

"Oh, indeed!" said Alice.

"Yes. I came into Parliament on that understanding; and I have never
seen any occasion as yet to change any political opinion that I have
expressed. But I always say to the gentlemen with whom I act, that
nothing can be done if we don't give and take. I don't mind saying to
you, Miss Vavasor, that I look upon our friend, Mr Palliser, as the
most rising public man in the country. I do, indeed."

"I am happy to hear you say so," said his victim, who found herself
driven to make some remark.

"And I, as an extreme Radical, do not think I can serve my party
better than by keeping in the same boat with him, as long as it will
hold the two. 'He'll make a Government hack of you,' a friend of mine
said to me the other day. 'And I'll make a Manchester school Prime
Minister of him,' I replied. I rather think I know what I'm about,
Miss Vavasor."

"No doubt," said Alice.

"And so does he;--and so does he. Mr Palliser is not the man to be
led by the nose by any one. But it's a fair system of give and take.
You can't get on in politics without it. What a charming woman is
your relative, Lady Glencowrer! I remember well what you said to me
the other evening."

"Do you?" said Alice.

"And I quite agree with you that confidential intercourse regarding
dear friends should not be lightly made."

"Certainly not," said Alice.

"But there are occasions, Miss Vavasor; there are occasions when the
ordinary laws by which we govern our social conduct must be made
somewhat elastic."

"I don't think this one of them, Mr Bott."

"Is it not? Just listen to me for one moment, Miss Vavasor. Our
friend, Mr Palliser, I am proud to say, relies much upon my humble
friendship. Our first connection has, of course, been political; but
it has extended beyond that, and has become pleasantly social;--I may
say, very pleasantly social."

"What a taste Mr Palliser must have!" Alice thought to herself.

"But I need not tell you that Lady Glencowrer is--very young; we may
say, very young indeed."

"Mr Bott, I will not talk to you about Lady Glencora Palliser."

This Alice said in a determined voice, and with all the power of
resistance at her command. She frowned too, and looked savagely at Mr
Bott. But he was a man of considerable courage, and knew how to bear
such opposition without flinching.

"When I tell you, Miss Vavasor, that I speak solely with a view to
her domestic happiness!"

"I don't think that she wishes to have any such guardian of her
happiness."

"But if he wishes it, Miss Vavasor! Now I have the means of knowing
that he has the greatest reliance on your judgement."

Hereupon Alice got up with the intention of leaving the room, but she
was met at the door by Mrs Conway Sparkes.

"Are you running from your breakfast, Miss Vavasor?" said she.

"No, Mrs Sparkes; I am running from Mr Bott," said Alice, who was
almost beside herself with anger.

"Mr Bott, what is this?" said Mrs Sparkes. "Ha, ha, ha," laughed Mr
Bott.

Alice returned to the room, and Mrs Sparkes immediately saw that she
had in truth been running from Mr Bott. "I hope I shall be able to
keep the peace," said she. "I trust his offence was not one that
requires special punishment."

"Ha, ha, ha," again laughed Mr Bott, who rather liked his position.

Alice was very angry with herself, feeling that she had told more of
the truth to Mrs Sparkes than she should have done, unless she was
prepared to tell the whole. As it was, she wanted to say something,
and did not know what to say; but her confusion was at once stopped
by the entrance of Lady Glencora.

"Mrs Sparkes, good morning," said Lady Glencora. "I hope nobody has
waited breakfast. Good morning, Mr Bott. Oh, Alice!"

"What is the matter?" said Alice, going up to her.

"Oh, Alice, such a blow!" But Alice could see that her cousin was
not quite in earnest;--that the new trouble, though it might be
vexatious, was no great calamity. "Come here," said Lady Glencora;
and they both went into an embrasure of the window. "Now I shall have
to put your confidence in me to the test. This letter is from,--whom
do you think?"

"How can I guess?"

"From Lady Midlothian! and she's coming here on Monday, on her road
to London. Unless you tell me that you are quite sure this is as
unexpected by me as by you, I will never speak to you again."

"I am quite sure of that."

"Ah! then we can consult. But first we'll go and have some
breakfast." Then more ladies swarmed into the room,--the Duchess and
her daughter, and the two Miss Pallisers, and others; and Mr Bott had
his hands full in attending,--or rather in offering to attend, to
their little wants.

The morning was nearly gone before Alice and her cousin had any
further opportunity of discussing in private the approach of Lady
Midlothian; but Mr Palliser had come in among them, and had been told
of the good thing which was in store for him. "We shall be delighted
to see Lady Midlothian," said Mr Palliser.

"But there is somebody here who will not be at all delighted to see
her," said Lady Glencora to her husband.

"Is there, indeed?" said he. "Who is that?"

"Her most undutiful cousin, Alice Vavasor. But, Alice, Mr Palliser
knows nothing about it, and it is too long to explain."

"I am extremely sorry--" began Mr Palliser.

"I can assure you it does not signify in the least," said Alice. "It
will only be taking me away three days earlier."

Upon hearing this Mr Palliser looked very serious. What quarrel could
Miss Vavasor have had with Lady Midlothian which should make it
impossible for them to be visitors at the same house?

"It will do no such thing," said Lady Glencora. "Do you mean to say
that you are coward enough to run away from her?"

"I'm afraid, Miss Vavasor, that we can hardly bid her not come," said
Mr Palliser. In answer to this, Alice protested that she would not
for worlds have been the means of keeping Lady Midlothian away from
Matching. "I should tell you, Mr Palliser, that I have never seen
Lady Midlothian, though she is my far-away cousin. Nor have I ever
quarrelled with her. But she has given me advice by letter, and I did
not answer her because I thought she had no business to interfere. I
shall go away, not because I am afraid of her, but because, after
what has passed, our meeting would be unpleasant to her."

"You could tell her that Miss Vavasor is here," said Mr Palliser.
"And then she need not come unless she pleased."

The matter was so managed at last that Alice found herself unable to
leave Matching without making more of Lady Midlothian's coming than
it was worth. It would undoubtedly be very disagreeable,--this
unexpected meeting with her relative; but, as Lady Glencora said,
Lady Midlothian would not eat her. In truth, she felt ashamed of
herself in that she was afraid of her relative. No doubt she was
afraid of her. So much she was forced to admit to herself. But she
resolved at last that she would not let her drive her out of the
house.

"Is Mr Bott an admirer of your cousin?" Mrs Sparkes said that evening
to Lady Glencora.

"A very distant one I should think," said Lady Glencora.

"Goodness gracious!" exclaimed an old lady who had been rather awed
by Alice's intimacy and cousinship with Lady Glencora; "it's the very
last thing I should have dreamt of."

"But I didn't dream it, first or last," said Mrs Sparkes.

"Why do you ask?" said Lady Glencora.

"Don't suppose that I am asking whether Miss Vavasor is an admirer of
his," said Mrs Sparkes. "I have no suspicion of that nature. I rather
think that when he plays Bacchus she plays Ariadne, with full
intention of flying from him in earnest."

"Is Mr Bott inclined to play Bacchus?" asked Lady Glencora.

"I rather thought he was this morning. If you observe, he has
something of a godlike and triumphant air about him."

"I don't think his godship will triumph there," said Lady Glencora.

"I really think she would be throwing herself very much away," said
the old lady.

"Miss Vavasor is not at all disposed to do that," said Mrs Sparkes.
Then that conversation was allowed to drop.

On the following Monday, Lady Midlothian arrived. The carriage was
sent to meet her at the station about three o'clock in the afternoon,
and Alice had to choose whether she would undergo her first
introduction immediately on her relative's arrival, or whether she
would keep herself out of the way till she should meet her in the
drawing-room before dinner.

"I shall receive her when she comes," said Lady Glencora, "and of
course will tell her that you are here."

"Yes, that will be best; and--; dear me, I declare I don't know how
to manage it."

"I'll bring her to you in my room if you like it."

"No; that would be too solemn," said Alice. "That would make her
understand that I thought a great deal about her."

"Then we'll let things take their chance, and you shall come across
her just as you would any other stranger." It was settled at last
that this would be the better course, but that Lady Midlothian was to
be informed of Alice's presence at the Priory as soon as she should
arrive.

Alice was in her own room when the carriage in which sat the
unwelcome old lady was driven up to the hall-door. She heard the
wheels plainly, and knew well that her enemy was within the house.
She had striven hard all the morning to make herself feel indifferent
to this arrival, but had not succeeded; and was angry with herself
at finding that she sat up-stairs with an anxious heart, because
she knew that her cousin was in the room down-stairs. What was Lady
Midlothian to her that she should be afraid of her? And yet she was
very much afraid of Lady Midlothian. She questioned herself on the
subject over and over again, and found herself bound to admit that
such was the fact. At last, about five o'clock, having reasoned much
with herself, and rebuked herself for her own timidity, she descended
into the drawing-room,--Lady Glencora having promised that she would
at that hour be there,--and on opening the door became immediately
conscious that she was in the presence of her august relative. There
sat Lady Midlothian in a great chair opposite the fire, and Lady
Glencora sat near to her on a stool. One of the Miss Pallisers was
reading in a further part of the room, and there was no one else
present in the chamber.

The Countess of Midlothian was a very little woman, between sixty and
seventy years of age, who must have been very pretty in her youth.
At present she made no pretension either to youth or beauty,--as
some ladies above sixty will still do,--but sat confessedly an old
woman in all her external relations. She wore a round bonnet which
came much over her face,--being accustomed to continue the use
of her bonnet till dinner time when once she had been forced by
circumstances to put it on. She wore a short cloak which fitted
close to her person, and, though she occupied a great arm-chair,
sat perfectly upright, looking at the fire. Very small she was, but
she carried in her grey eyes and sharp-cut features a certain look
of importance which saved her from being considered as small in
importance. Alice, as soon as she saw her, knew that she was a lady
over whom no easy victory could be obtained.

"Here is Alice," said Lady Glencora, rising as her cousin entered the
room. "Alice, let me introduce you to Lady Midlothian."

Alice, as she came forward, was able to assume an easy demeanour,
even though her heart within was failing her. She put out her hand,
leaving it to the elder lady to speak the first words of greeting.

"I am glad at last to be able to make your acquaintance, my dear,"
said Lady Midlothian; "very glad." But still Alice did not speak.
"Your aunt, Lady Macleod, is one of my oldest friends, and I have
heard her speak of you very often."

"And Lady Macleod has often spoken to me of your ladyship," said
Alice.

"Then we know each other's names," said the Countess; "and it will
be well that we should be acquainted with each other's persons. I am
becoming an old woman, and if I did not learn to know you now, or
very shortly, I might never do so."

Alice could not help thinking that even under those circumstances
neither might have had, so far as that was concerned, much cause of
sorrow, but she did not say so. She was thinking altogether of Lady
Midlothian's letter to her, and trying to calculate whether or no
it would be well for her to rush away at once to the subject. That
Lady Midlothian would mention the letter, Alice felt well assured;
and when could it be better mentioned than now, in Glencora's
presence,--when no other person was near them to listen to her? "You
are very kind," said Alice.

"I would wish to be so," said Lady Midlothian. "Blood is thicker
than water, my dear; and I know no earthly ties that can bind people
together if those of family connection will not do so. Your mother,
when she and I were young, was my dearest friend."

"I never knew my mother," said Alice,--feeling, however, as she
spoke, that the strength of her resistance to the old woman was
beginning to give way.

"No, my dear, you never did; and that is to my thinking another
reason why they who loved her should love you. But Lady Macleod is
your nearest relative,--on your mother's side, I mean,--and she has
done her duty by you well."

"Indeed she has, Lady Midlothian."

"She has, and others, therefore, have been the less called upon to
interfere. I only say this, my dear, in my own vindication,--feeling,
perhaps, that my conduct needs some excuse."

"I'm sure Alice does not think that," said Lady Glencora.

"It is what I think rather than what Alice thinks that concerns my
own shortcomings," said Lady Midlothian, with a smile which was
intended to be pleasant. "But I have wished to make up for former
lost opportunities." Alice knew that she was about to refer to her
letter, and trembled. "I am very anxious now to be reckoned one of
Alice Vavasor's friends, if she will allow me to become so."

"I can only be too proud,--if--"

"If what, my dear?" said the old lady. I believe that she meant to be
gracious, but there was something in her manner, or, perhaps, rather
in her voice, so repellant, that Alice felt that they could hardly
become true friends. "If what, my dear?"

"Alice means--" began Lady Glencora.

"Let Alice say what she means herself," said Lady Midlothian.

"I hardly know how to say what I do mean," said Alice, whose spirit
within her was rising higher as the occasion for using it came upon
her. "I am assured that you and I, Lady Midlothian, differ very much
as to a certain matter; and as it is one in which I must be guided by
my own opinion, and not that of any other person, perhaps--"

"You mean about Mr Grey?"

"Yes," said Alice; "I mean about Mr Grey."

"I think so much about that matter, and your happiness as therein
concerned, that when I heard that you were here I was determined
to take Matching in my way to London, so that I might have an
opportunity of speaking to you."

"Then you knew that Alice was here," said Lady Glencora.

"Of course I did. I suppose you have heard all the history,
Glencora?"

Lady Glencora was forced to acknowledge that she had heard the
history,--"the history" being poor Alice's treatment of Mr Grey.

"And what do you think of it?" Both Alice and her hostess looked
round to the further end of the room in which Miss Palliser was
reading, intending thus to indicate that the lady knew as yet none
of the circumstances, and that there could be no good reason why she
should be instructed in them at this moment. "Perhaps another time
and another place may be better," said Lady Midlothian; "but I must
go the day after to-morrow,--indeed, I thought of going to-morrow."

"Oh, Lady Midlothian!" exclaimed Lady Glencora.

"You must regard this as merely a passing visit, made upon business.
But, as I was saying, when shall I get an opportunity of speaking to
Alice where we need not be interrupted?"

Lady Glencora suggested her room up-stairs, and offered the use of it
then, or on that night when the world should be about to go to bed.
But the idea of this premeditated lecture was terrible to Alice, and
she determined that she would not endure it.

"Lady Midlothian, it would really be of no use."

"Of no use, my dear!"

"No, indeed. I did get your letter, you know."

"And as you have not answered it, I have come all this way to see
you."

"I shall be so sorry if I give offence, but it is a subject which
I cannot bring myself to discuss"--she was going to say with a
stranger, but she was able to check herself before the offensive word
was uttered,--"which I cannot bring myself to discuss with any one."

"But you don't mean to say that you won't see me?"

"I will not talk upon that matter," said Alice. "I will not do it
even with Lady Macleod."

"No," said Lady Midlothian, and her sharp grey eyes now began to
kindle with anger; "and therefore it is so very necessary that other
friends should interfere."

"But I will endure no interference," said Alice, "either from persons
who are friends or who are not friends." And as she spoke she rose
from her chair. "You must forgive me, Lady Midlothian, if I say that
I can have no conversation with you on this matter." Then she walked
out of the room, leaving the Countess and Lady Glencora together. As
she went Miss Palliser lifted her eyes from her book, and knew that
there had been a quarrel, but I doubt if she had heard any of the
words which had been spoken.

"The most self-willed young woman I ever met in my life," said Lady
Midlothian, as soon as Alice was gone.

"I knew very well how it would be," said Lady Glencora.

"But it is quite frightful, my dear. She has been engaged, with the
consent of all her friends, to this young man."

"I know all about it."

"But you must think she is very wrong."

"I don't quite understand her, but I suppose she fears they would not
be happy together."

"Understand her! I should think not; nobody can understand her. A
young woman to become engaged to a gentleman in that way,--before all
the world, as one may say;--to go to his house, as I am told, and
talk to the servants, and give orders about the furniture and then
turn round and simply say that she has changed her mind! She hasn't
given the slightest reason to my knowledge." And Lady Midlothian, as
she insisted on the absolute iniquity of Alice's proceedings, almost
startled Lady Glencora by the eagerness of her countenance. Lady
Midlothian had been one of those who, even now not quite two years
ago, had assisted in obtaining the submission of Lady Glencora
herself. Lady Midlothian seemed on the present occasion to remember
nothing of this, but Lady Glencora remembered it very exactly.
"I shall not give it up," continued Lady Midlothian. "I have the
greatest possible objection to her father, who contrived to connect
himself with our family in a most shameful manner, without the
slightest encouragement. I don't think I have spoken to him since,
but I shall see him now and tell him my opinion."

Alice held her ground, and avoided all further conversation with Lady
Midlothian. A message came to her through Lady Glencora imploring her
to give way, but she was quite firm.

"Good-bye to you," Lady Midlothian said to her as she went. "Even yet
I hope that things may go right, and if so you will find that I can
forget and forgive."

"If perseverance merits success," said Lady Glencora to Alice, "she
ought to succeed." "But she won't succeed," said Alice.



CHAPTER XXVII

The Priory Ruins


Lady Midlothian went away on her road to London on the Wednesday
morning, and Alice was to follow her on the next day. It was now
December, and the weather was very clear and frosty, but at night
there was bright moonlight. On this special night the moon would be
full, and Lady Glencora had declared that she and Alice would go out
amidst the ruins. It was no secret engagement, having been canvassed
in public, and having been met with considerable discouragement
by some of the party. Mr Palliser had remarked that the night air
would be very cold, and Mr Bott had suggested all manner of evil
consequences. Had Mr Palliser alone objected, Lady Glencora might
have given way, but Mr Bott's word riveted her purpose.

"We are not going to be frightened," Lady Glencora said.

"People do not generally walk out at night in December," Mr Palliser
observed.

"That's just the reason why we want to do it," said Lady Glencora.
"But we shall wrap ourselves up, and nobody need be afraid. Jeffrey,
we shall expect you to stand sentinel at the old gate, and guard us
from the ghosts."

Jeffrey Palliser, bargaining that he might be allowed a cigar,
promised that he would do as he was bidden.

The party at Matching Priory had by this time become very small.
There were indeed no guests left, not counting those of the Palliser
family, excepting Miss Vavasor, Mr Bott, and an old lady who had
been a great friend of Mr Palliser's mother. It was past ten in the
evening when Lady Glencora declared that the time had arrived for
them to carry out their purpose. She invited the two Miss Pallisers
to join her, but they declined, urging their fear of the night air,
and showing by their manner that they thought the proposition a very
imprudent one. Mr Bott offered to accompany them, but Lady Glencora
declined his attendance very stoutly.

"No, indeed, Mr Bott; you were one of those who preached a sermon
against my dissipation in the morning, and I'm not going to allow you
to join it, now the time for its enjoyment has come."

"My dear Lady Glencora, if I were you, indeed I wouldn't," said the
old lady, looking round towards Mr Palliser.

"My dear Mrs Marsham, if you were me, indeed you would," and Lady
Glencora also looked at her husband.

"I think it a foolish thing to do," said Mr Palliser, sternly.

"If you forbid it, of course we won't go," said Lady Glencora.

"Forbid it:--no; I shall not forbid it."

"Allons donc," said Lady Glencora.

She and Alice were already muffled in cloaks and thick shawls, and
Alice now followed her out of the room. There was a door which opened
from the billiard-room out on to the grand terrace, which ran in
front of the house, and here they found Jeffrey Palliser already
armed with his cigar. Alice, to tell the truth, would much have
preferred to abandon the expedition, but she had felt that it would
be cowardly in her to desert Lady Glencora. There had not arisen any
very close intimacy between her and Mr Palliser, but she entertained
a certain feeling that Mr Palliser trusted her, and liked her to
be with his wife. She would have wished to justify this supposed
confidence, and was almost sure that Mr Palliser expected her to
do so in this instance. She did say a word or two to her cousin
up-stairs, urging that perhaps her husband would nat like it.

"Let him say so plainly," said Lady Glencora, "and I'll give it
up instantly. But I'm not going to be lectured out of my purposes
secondhand by Mr Bott or old Mother Marsham. I understand all these
people, my dear. And if you throw me over, Alice, I'll never forgive
you," Lady Glencora added.

After this Alice resolved that she would not throw her friend over.
She was afraid to do so. But she was also becoming a little afraid of
her friend,--afraid that she would be driven some day either to throw
her over, or to say words to her that would be very unpalatable.

"Now, Jeffrey," said Lady Glencora as they walked abreast along the
broad terrace towards the ruins, "when we get under the old gateway
you must let me and Alice go round the dormitory and the chapel
alone. Then we'll come back by the cloisters, and we'll take another
turn outside with you. The outside is the finest by this light,--only
I want to show Alice something by ourselves."

"You're not afraid, I know, and if Miss Vavasor is not--"

"Miss Vavasor,--who, I think, would have allowed you to call her by
her other name on such an occasion as this,--is never afraid."

"Glencora, how dare you say so?" said Alice. "I really think we had
better go back."

She felt herself to be very angry with her cousin. She almost
began to fear that she had mistaken her, and had thought better of
her than she had deserved. What she had now said struck Alice as
being vulgar,--as being premeditated vulgarity, and her annoyance
was excessive. Of course Mr Palliser would think that she was a
consenting party to the proposition made to him.

"Go back!" said Glencora. "No, indeed. We'll go on, and leave him
here. Then he can call nobody anything. Don't be angry with me," she
said, as soon as they were out of hearing. "The truth is this;--if
you choose to have him for your husband, you may."

"But if I do not choose."

"Then there can be no harm done, and I will tell him so. But,
Alice,--think of this. Whom will you meet that would suit you better?
And you need not decide now. You need not say a word, but leave me to
tell him, that if it is to be thought of at all, it cannot be thought
of till he meets you in London. Trust me, you will be safe with me."

"You shall tell him nothing of the kind," said Alice. "I believe you
to be joking throughout, and I think the joke is a bad one."

"No; there you wrong me. Indeed I am not joking. I know that in what
I am saying I am telling you the simple truth. He has said enough
to me to justify me in saying so. Alice, think of it all. It would
reconcile me to much, and it would be something to be the mother of
the future Duke of Omnium."

"To me it would be nothing," said Alice; "less than nothing. I mean
to say that the temptation is one so easily resisted that it acts in
the other way. Don't say anything more about it, Glencora."

"If you don't wish it, I will not."

"No;--I do not wish it. I don't think I ever saw moonlight so bright
as this. Look at the lines of that window against the light. They are
clearer than you ever see them in the day."

They were now standing just within the gateway of the old cruciform
chapel, having entered the transept from a ruined passage which was
supposed to have connected the church with the dormitory. The church
was altogether roofless, but the entire walls were standing. The
small clerestory windows of the nave were perfect, and the large
windows of the two transepts and of the west end were nearly so. Of
the opposite window, which had formed the back of the choir, very
little remained. The top of it, with all its tracery, was gone, and
three broken upright mullions of uneven heights alone remained. This
was all that remained of the old window, but a transom or cross-bar
of stone had been added to protect the carved stone-work of the
sides, and save the form of the aperture from further ruin. That this
transom was modern was to be seen from the magnificent height and
light grace of the workmanship in the other windows, in which the
long slender mullions rose from the lower stage or foundation of the
whole up into the middle tracery of the arch without protection or
support, and then lost themselves among the curves, not running up
into the roof or soffit, and there holding on as though unable to
stand alone. Such weakness as that had not as yet shown itself in
English church architecture when Matching Priory was built.

"Is it not beautiful!" said Glencora. "I do love it so! And there is
a peculiar feeling of cold about the chill of the moon, different
from any other cold. It makes you wrap yourself up tight, but it does
not make your teeth chatter; and it seems to go into your senses
rather than into your bones. But I suppose that's nonsense," she
added, after a pause.

"Not more so than what people are supposed to talk by moonlight."

"That's unkind. I'd like what I say on such an occasion to be more
poetical or else more nonsensical than what other people say under
the same circumstances. And now I'll tell you why I always think of
you when I come here by moonlight."

"But I suppose you don't often come."

"Yes, I do; that is to say, I did come very often when we had the
full moon in August. The weather wasn't like this, and I used to run
out through the open windows and nobody knew where I was gone. I made
him come once, but he didn't seem to care about it. I told him that
part of the refectory wall was falling; so he looked at that, and
had a mason sent the next day. If anything is out of order he has
it put to rights at once. There would have been no ruins if all the
Pallisers had been like him."

"So much the better for the world."

"No;--I say no. Things may live too long. But now I'm going to tell
you. Do you remember that night I brought you home from the play to
Queen Anne Street?"

"Indeed I do,--very well."

Alice had occasion to remember it, for it had been in the carriage on
that evening that she had positively refused to give any aid to her
cousin in that matter relating to Burgo Fitzgerald.

"And do you remember how the moon shone then?"

"Yes, I think I do."

"I know I do. As we came round the corner out of Cavendish Square he
was standing there,--and a friend of yours was standing with him."

"What friend of mine?"

"Never mind that; it does not matter now."

"Do you mean my cousin George?"

"Yes, I do mean your cousin; and oh, Alice! dear Alice! I don't know
why I should love you, for if you had not been hardhearted that
night,--stony cruel in your hard propriety, I should have gone with
him then, and all this icy coldness would have been prevented."

She was standing quite close to Alice, and as she spake she shook
with shivering and wrapped her furs closer and still closer about
her.

"You are very cold," said Alice. "We had better go in."

"No, I am not cold,--not in that way. I won't go in yet. Jeffrey will
come to us directly. Yes;--we should have escaped that night if you
would have allowed him to come into your house. Ah, well! we didn't,
and there's an end of it."

"But Glencora,--you cannot regret it."

"Not regret it! Alice, where can your heart be? Or have you a heart?
Not regret it! I would give everything I have in the world to have
been true to him. They told me that he would spend my money. Though
he should have spent every farthing of it, I regret it; though he
should have made me a beggar, I regret it. They told me that he would
ill-use me, and desert me,--perhaps beat me. I do not believe it; but
even though that should have been so, I regret it. It is better to
have a false husband than to be a false wife."

"Glencora, do not speak like that. Do not try to make me think that
anything could tempt you to be false to your vows."

"Tempt me to be false! Why, child, it has been all false throughout.
I never loved him. How can you talk in that way, when you know that
I never loved him? They browbeat me and frightened me till I did as
I was told;--and now;--what am I now?"

"You are his honest wife. Glencora, listen to me." And Alice took
hold of her arm.

"No," she said, "no; I am not honest. By law I am his wife; but the
laws are liars! I am not his wife. I will not say the thing that I
am. When I went to him at the altar, I knew that I did not love the
man that was to be my husband. But him,--Burgo,--I love him with all
my heart and soul. I could stoop at his feet and clean his shoes for
him, and think it no disgrace!"

"Oh, Cora, my friend, do not say such words as those! Remember what
you owe your husband and yourself, and come away."

"I do know what I owe him, and I will pay it him. Alice, if I had a
child I think I would be true to him. Think! I know I would;--though
I had no hour of happiness left to me in my life. But what now is the
only honest thing that I can do? Why, leave him;--so leave him that
he may have another wife and be the father of a child. What injury
shall I do him by leaving him? He does not love me; you know yourself
that he does not love me."

"I know that he does."

"Alice, that is untrue. He does not; and you have seen clearly that
it is so. It may be that he can love no woman. But another woman
would give him a son, and he would be happy. I tell you that every
day and every night,--every hour of every day and of every night,--I
am thinking of the man I love. I have nothing else to think of. I
have no occupation,--no friends,--no one to whom I care to say a
word. But I am always talking to Burgo in my thoughts; and he listens
to me. I dream that his arm is round me--"

"Oh, Glencora!"

"Well!--Do you begrudge me that I should tell you the truth? You have
said that you would be my friend, and you must bear the burden of my
friendship. And now,--this is what I want to tell you.--Immediately
after Christmas, we are to go to Monkshade, and he will be there.
Lady Monk is his aunt."

"You must not go. No power should take you there."

"That is easily said, child; but all the same I must go. I told Mr
Palliser that he would be there, and he said it did not signify.
He actually said that it did not signify. I wonder whether he
understands what it is for people to love each other;--whether he has
ever thought about it."

"You must tell him plainly that you will not go."

"I did. I told him plainly as words could tell him. 'Glencora,' he
said,--and you know the way he looks when he means to be lord and
master, and put on the very husband indeed,--'This is an annoyance
which you must bear and overcome. It suits me that we should go to
Monkshade, and it does not suit me that there should be any one whom
you are afraid to meet.' Could I tell him that he would lose his wife
if I did go? Could I threaten him that I would throw myself into
Burgo's arms if that opportunity were given to me? You are very wise,
and very prudent. What would you have had me say?"

"I would have you now tell him everything, rather than go to that
house."

"Alice, look here. I know what I am, and what I am like to become. I
loathe myself, and I loathe the thing that I am thinking of. I could
have clung to the outside of a man's body, to his very trappings,
and loved him ten times better than myself!--ay, even though he
had ill-treated me,--if I had been allowed to choose a husband for
myself. Burgo would have spent my money,--all that it would have been
possible for me to give him. But there would have been something
left, and I think that by that time I could have won even him to care
for me. But with that man--! Alice you are very wise. What am I to
do?"

Alice had no doubt as to what her cousin should do. She should be
true to her marriage-vow, whether that vow when made were true or
false. She should be true to it as far as truth would now carry her.
And in order that she might be true, she should tell her husband as
much as might be necessary to induce him to spare her the threatened
visit to Monkshade. All that she said to Lady Glencora, as they
walked slowly across the chapel. But Lady Glencora was more occupied
with her own thoughts than with her friend's advice. "Here's
Jeffrey!" she said. "What an unconscionable time we have kept him!"

"Don't mention it," he said. "And I shouldn't have come to you now,
only that I thought I should find you both freezing into marble."

"We are not such cold-blooded creatures as that,--are we, Alice?"
said Lady Glencora. "And now we'll go round the outside; only we must
not stay long, or we shall frighten those two delicious old duennas,
Mrs Marsham and Mr Bott."

These last words were said as it were in a whisper to Alice; but they
were so whispered that there was no real attempt to keep them from
the ears of Mr Jeffrey Palliser. Glencora, Alice thought, should not
have allowed the word duenna to have passed her lips in speaking to
any one; but, above all, she should not have done so in the hearing
of Mr Palliser's cousin.

They walked all round the ruin, on a raised gravel-path which had
been made there; and Alice, who could hardly bring herself to
speak,--so full was her mind of that which had just been said to
her,--was surprised to find that Glencora could go on, in her usual
light humour, chatting as though there were no weight within her to
depress her spirits.



CHAPTER XXVIII

Alice Leaves the Priory


As they came in at the billiard-room door, Mr Palliser was there to
meet them. "You must be very cold," he said to Glencora, who entered
first. "No, indeed," said Glencora;--but her teeth were chattering,
and her whole appearance gave the lie to her words. "Jeffrey," said
Mr Palliser, turning to his cousin, "I am angry with you. You, at
least, should have known better than to have allowed her to remain so
long." Then Mr Palliser turned away, and walked his wife off, taking
no notice whatsoever of Miss Vavasor.

Alice felt the slight, and understood it all. He had told her plainly
enough, though not in words, that he had trusted his wife with her,
and that she had betrayed the trust. She might have brought Glencora
in within five or six minutes, instead of allowing her to remain out
there in the freezing night air for nearly three-quarters of an hour.
That was the accusation which Mr Palliser made against her, and he
made it with the utmost severity. He asked no question of her whether
she were cold. He spoke no word to her, nor did he even look at her.
She might get herself away to her bedroom as she pleased. Alice
understood all this completely, and though she knew that she had not
deserved such severity, she was not inclined to resent it. There was
so much in Mr Palliser's position that was to be pitied, that Alice
could not find it in her heart to be angry with him.

"He is provoked with us, now," said Jeffrey Palliser, standing with
her for a moment in the billiard-room, as he handed her a candle.

"He is afraid that she will have caught cold."

"Yes; and he thinks it wrong that she should remain out at night so
long. You can easily understand, Miss Vavasor, that he has not much
sympathy for romance."

"I dare say he is right," said Alice, not exactly knowing what to
say, and not being able to forget what had been said about herself
and Jeffrey Palliser when they first left the house. "Romance usually
means nonsense, I believe."

"That is not Glencora's doctrine."

"No; but she is younger than I am. My feet are very cold, Mr
Palliser, and I think I will go up to my room."

"Good night," said Jeffrey, offering her his hand. "I think it so
hard that you should have incurred his displeasure."

"It will not hurt me," said Alice, smiling.

"No;--but he does not forget."

"Even that will not hurt me. Good night, Mr Palliser."

"As it is the last night, may I say good night, Alice? I shall be
away to-morrow before you are up."

He still held her hand; but it had not been in his for half a minute,
and she had thought nothing of that, nor did she draw it away even
now suddenly. "No," said she, "Glencora was very wrong there,--doing
an injury without meaning it to both of us. There can be no possible
reason why you should call me otherwise than is customary."

"Can there never be a reason?"

"No, Mr Palliser. Good night;--and if I am not to see you to-morrow
morning, good-bye."

"You will certainly not see me to-morrow morning."

"Good-bye. Had it not been for this folly of Glencora's, our
acquaintance would have been very pleasant."

"To me it has been very pleasant. Good night."

Then she left him, and went up alone to her own room. Whether or no
other guests were still left in the drawing-room she did not know;
but she had seen that Mr Palliser took his wife up-stairs, and
therefore she considered herself right in presuming that the party
was broken up for the night. Mr Palliser,--Plantagenet Palliser,
according to all rules of courtesy should have said a word to her as
he went; but, as I have said before, Alice was disposed to overlook
his want of civility on this occasion. So she went up alone to her
room, and was very glad to find herself able to get close to a good
fire. She was, in truth, very cold--cold to her bones, in spite of
what Lady Glencora had said on behalf of the moonlight. They two had
been standing all but still during the greater part of the time that
they had been talking, and Alice, as she sat herself down, found that
her feet were numbed with the damp that had penetrated through her
boots. Certainly Mr Palliser had reason to be angry that his wife
should have remained out in the night air so long,--though perhaps
not with Alice.

And then she began to think of what had been told her; and to try to
think of what, under such circumstances, it behoved her to do. She
could not doubt that Lady Glencora had intended to declare that, if
opportunity offered itself, she would leave her husband, and put
herself under the protection of Mr Fitzgerald; and Alice, moreover,
had become painfully conscious that the poor deluded unreasoning
creature had taught herself to think that she might excuse herself
for this sin to her own conscience by the fact that she was
childless, and that she might thus give to the man who had married
her an opportunity of seeking another wife who might give him an
heir. Alice well knew how insufficient such an excuse would be even
to the wretched woman who had framed it for herself. But still
it would operate,--manifestly had already operated, on her mind,
teaching her to hope that good might come out of evil. Alice, who was
perfectly clearsighted as regarded her cousin, however much impaired
her vision might have been with reference to herself, saw nothing but
absolute ruin, ruin of the worst and most intolerable description,
in the plan which Lady Glencora seemed to have formed. To her it was
black in the depths of hell; and she knew that to Glencora also it
was black. "I loathe myself," Glencora had said, "and the thing that
I am thinking of."

What was Alice to do under these circumstances? Mr Palliser, she was
aware, had quarrelled with her; for in his silent way he had first
shown that he had trusted her as his wife's friend; and then, on this
evening, he had shown that he had ceased to trust her. But she cared
little for this. If she told him that she wished to speak to him, he
would listen, let his opinion of her be what it might; and having
listened he would surely act in some way that would serve to save
his wife. What Mr Palliser might think of herself, Alice cared but
little.

But then there came to her an idea that was in every respect
feminine,--that in such a matter she had no right to betray her
friend. When one woman tells the story of her love to another woman,
the confidant always feels that she will be a traitor if she reveals
the secret. Had Lady Glencora made Alice believe that she meditated
murder, or robbery, Alice would have had no difficulty in telling the
tale, and thus preventing the crime. But now she hesitated, feeling
that she would disgrace herself by betraying her friend. And, after
all, was it not more than probable that Glencora had no intention of
carrying out a threat the very thought of which must be terrible to
herself?

As she was thinking of all this, sitting in her dressing-gown close
over the fire, there came a loud knock at the door, which, as she
had turned the key, she was forced to answer in person. She opened
the door, and there was Iphigenia Palliser, Jeffrey's cousin, and Mr
Palliser's cousin. "Miss Vavasor," she said, "I know that I am taking
a great liberty, but may I come into your room for a few minutes? I
so much wish to speak to you!" Alice of course bade her enter, and
placed a chair for her by the fire.

Alice Vavasor had made very little intimacy with either of the two
Miss Pallisers. It had seemed to herself as though there had been two
parties in the house, and that she had belonged to the one which was
headed by the wife, whereas the Miss Pallisers had been naturally
attached to that of the husband. These ladies, as she had already
seen, almost idolized their cousin; and though Plantagenet Palliser
had till lately treated Alice with the greatest personal courtesy,
there had been no intimacy of friendship between them, and
consequently none between her and his special adherents. Nor was
either of these ladies prone to sudden friendship with such a one
as Alice Vavasor. A sudden friendship, with a snuffy president of a
foreign learned society, with some personally unknown lady employed
on female emigration, was very much in their way. But Alice had not
shown herself to be useful or learned, and her special intimacy with
Lady Glencora had marked her out as in some sort separated from them
and their ways.

"I know that I am intruding," said Miss Palliser, as though she were
almost afraid of Alice.

"Oh dear, no," said Alice. "If I can do anything for you I shall be
very happy."

"You are going to-morrow, and if I did not speak to you now I should
have no other opportunity. Glencora seems to be very much attached to
you, and we all thought it so good a thing that she should have such
a friend."

"I hope you have not all changed your minds," said Alice, with a
faint smile, thinking as she spoke that the "all" must have been
specially intended to include the master of the house.

"Oh, no;--by no means. I did not mean that. My cousin, Mr Palliser, I
mean, liked you so much when you came."

"And he does not like me quite so much now, because I went out in the
moonlight with his wife. Isn't that it?"

"Well;--no, Miss Vavasor. I had not intended to mention that at all.
I had not indeed. I have seen him certainly since you came in,--just
for a minute, and he is vexed. But it is not about that that I would
speak to you."

"I saw plainly enough that he was angry with me."

"He thought you would have brought her in earlier."

"And why should he think that I can manage his wife? She was
the mistress out there as she is in here. Mr Palliser has been
unreasonable. Not that it signifies."

"I don't think he has been unreasonable; I don't, indeed, Miss
Vavasor. He has certainly been vexed. Sometimes he has much to vex
him. You see, Glencora is very young."

Mr Bott also had declared that Lady Glencora was very young. It was
probable, therefore, that that special phrase had been used in some
discussion among Mr Palliser's party as to Glencora's foibles. So
thought Alice as the remembrance of the word came upon her.

"She is not younger than when Mr Palliser married her," Alice said.

"You mean that if a man marries a young wife he must put up with the
trouble. That is a matter of course. But their ages, in truth, are
very suitable. My cousin himself is not yet thirty. When I say that
Glencora is young--"

"You mean that she is younger in spirit, and perhaps in conduct, than
he had expected to find her."

"But you are not to suppose that he complains, Miss Vavasor. He is
much too proud for that."

"I should hope so," said Alice, thinking of Mr Bott.

"I hardly know how to explain to you what I wish to say, or how far I
may be justified in supposing that you will believe me to be acting
solely on Glencora's behalf. I think you have some influence with
her;--and I know no one else that has any."

"My friendship with her is not of very long date, Miss Palliser."

"I know it, but still there is the fact. Am I not right in
supposing--"

"In supposing what?"

"In supposing that you had heard the name of Mr Fitzgerald as
connected with Glencora's before her marriage with my cousin?"

Alice paused a moment before she answered.

"Yes, I had," she then said.

"And I think you were agreed, with her other relations, that such a
marriage would have been very dreadful."

"I never spoke of the matter in the presence of any relatives of
Glencora's. You must understand, Miss Palliser, that though I am her
far-away cousin, I do not even know her nearest connections. I never
saw Lady Midlothian till she came here the other day."

"But you advised her to abandon Mr Fitzgerald."

"Never!"

"I know she was much with you, just at that time."

"I used to see her, certainly."

Then there was a pause, and Miss Palliser, in truth, scarcely knew
how to go on. There had been a hardness about Alice which her visitor
had not expected,--an unwillingness to speak or even to listen, which
made Miss Palliser almost wish that she were out of the room. She
had, however, mentioned Burgo Fitzgerald's name, and out of the room
now she could not go without explaining why she had done so. But at
this point Alice came suddenly to her assistance.

"Just then she was often with me," said Alice, continuing her reply;
"and there was much talk between us about Mr Fitzgerald. What was my
advice then can be of little matter; but in this we shall be both
agreed, Miss Palliser, that Glencora now should certainly not be
called upon to be in his company."

"She has told you, then?"

"Yes;--she has told me."

"That he is to be at Lady Monk's?"

"She has told me that Mr Palliser expects her to meet him at the
place to which they are going when they leave the Duke's, and that
she thinks it hard that she should be subjected to such a trial."

"It should be no trial, Miss Vavasor."

"How can it be otherwise? Come, Miss Palliser; if you are her friend,
be fair to her."

"I am her friend;--but I am, above everything, my cousin's friend. He
has told me that she has complained of having to meet this man. He
declares that it should be nothing to her, and that the fear is an
idle folly. It should be nothing to her, but still the fear may not
be idle. Is there any reason,--any real reason,--why she should not
go? Miss Vavasor, I conjure you to tell me,--even though in doing so
you must cast so deep reproach upon her name! Anything will be better
than utter disgrace and sin!"

"I conceive that I cast no reproach upon her in saying that there is
great reason why she should not go to Monkshade."

"You think there is absolute grounds for interference? I must tell
him, you know, openly what he would have to fear."

"I think,--nay, Miss Palliser, I know,--that there is ample reason
why you should save her from being taken to Monkshade, if you have
the power to do so."

"I can only do it, or attempt to do it, by telling him just what you
tell me."

"Then tell him. You must have thought of that, I suppose, before you
came to me."

"Yes;--yes, Miss Vavasor. I had thought of it. No doubt I had thought
of it. But I had believed all through that you would assure me that
there was no danger. I believed that you would have said that she was
innocent."

"And she is innocent," said Alice, rising from her chair, as though
she might thus give emphasis to words which she hardly dared to speak
above a whisper. "She is innocent. Who accuses her of guilt? You ask
me a question on his behalf--"

"On hers--and on his, Miss Vavasor."

"A question which I feel myself bound to answer truly,--to answer
with reference to the welfare of them both; but I will not have it
said that I accuse her. She had been attached to Mr Fitzgerald when
your cousin married her. He knew that this had been the case. She
told him the whole truth. In a worldly point of view her marriage
with Mr Fitzgerald would probably have been very imprudent."

"It would have been utterly ruinous."

"Perhaps so; I say nothing about that. But as it turned out, she gave
up her own wishes and married your cousin."

"I don't know about her own wishes, Miss Vavasor."

"It is what she did. She would have married Mr Fitzgerald, had she
not been hindered by the advice of those around her. It cannot be
supposed that she has forgotten him in so short a time. There can be
no guilt in her remembrance."

"There is guilt in loving any other than her husband."

"Then, Miss Palliser, it was her marriage that was guilty, and not
her love. But all that is done and past. It should be your cousin's
object to teach her to forget Mr Fitzgerald, and he will not do that
by taking her to a house where that gentleman is staying."

"She has said so much to you herself?"

"I do not know that I need declare to you what she has said herself.
You have asked me a question, and I have answered it, and I am
thankful to you for having asked it. What object can either of us
have but to assist her in her position?"

"And to save him from dishonour. I had so hoped that this was simply
a childish dread on her part."

"It is not so. It is no childish dread. If you have the power to
prevent her going to Lady Monk's, I implore you to use it. Indeed, I
will ask you to promise me that you will do so."

"After what you have said, I have no alternative."

"Exactly. There is no alternative. Either for his sake or for hers,
there is none."

Thereupon Miss Palliser got up, and wishing her companion good
night, took her departure. Throughout the interview there had been
no cordiality of feeling between them. There was no pretence of
friendship, even as they were parting. They acknowledged that their
objects were different. That of Alice was to save Lady Glencora
from ruin. That of Miss Palliser was to save her cousin from
disgrace,--with perhaps some further honest desire to prevent sorrow
and sin. One loved Lady Glencora, and the other clearly did not love
her. But, nevertheless, Alice felt that Miss Palliser, in coming to
her, had acted well, and that to herself this coming had afforded
immense relief. Some step would now be taken to prevent that meeting
which she had so deprecated, and it would be taken without any great
violation of confidence on her part. She had said nothing as to which
Lady Glencora could feel herself aggrieved.

On the next morning she was down in the breakfast-room soon after
nine, and had not been in the room many minutes before Mr Palliser
entered. "The carriage is ordered for you at a quarter before ten,"
he said, "and I have come down to give you your breakfast." There was
a smile on his face as he spoke, and Alice could see that he intended
to make himself pleasant.

"Will you allow me to give you yours instead?" said she. But as it
happened, no giving on either side was needed, as Alice's breakfast
was brought to her separately.

"Glencora bids me say that she will be down immediately," said Mr
Palliser.

Alice then made some inquiry with reference to the effects of last
night's imprudence, which received only a half-pronounced reply.
Mr Palliser was willing to be gracious, but did not intend to be
understood as having forgiven the offence. The Miss Pallisers then
came in together, and after them Mr Bott, closely followed by Mrs
Marsham, and all of them made inquiries after Lady Glencora, as
though it was to be supposed that she might probably be in a perilous
state after what she had undergone on the previous evening. Mr Bott
was particularly anxious. "The frost was so uncommonly severe," said
he, "that any delicate person like Lady Glencora must have suffered
in remaining out so long."

The insinuation that Alice was not a delicate person and that, as
regarded her, the severity of the frost was of no moment, was very
open, and was duly appreciated. Mr Bott was aware that his great
patron had in some sort changed his opinion about Miss Vavasor, and
he was of course disposed to change his own. A fortnight since Alice
might have been as delicate as she pleased in Mr Bott's estimation.

"I hope you do not consider Lady Glencora delicate," said Alice to Mr
Palliser.

"She is not robust," said the husband.

"By no means," said Mrs Marsham.

"Indeed, no," said Mr Bott.

Alice knew that she was being accused of being robust herself; but
she bore it in silence. Ploughboys and milkmaids are robust, and the
accusation was a heavy one. Alice, however, thought that she would
not have minded it, if she could have allowed herself to reply; but
this at the moment of her going away she could not do.

"I think she is as strong as the rest of us," said Iphigenia
Palliser, who felt that after last night she owed something to Miss
Vavasor.

"As some of us," said Mr Bott, determined to persevere in his
accusation.

At this moment Lady Glencora entered, and encountered the eager
inquiries of her two duennas. These, however, she quickly put aside,
and made her way up to Alice. "The last morning has come, then," she
said.

"Yes, indeed," said Alice. "Mr Palliser must have thought that I was
never going."

"On the other hand," said he, "I have felt much obliged to you for
staying." But he said it coldly; and Alice began to wish that she had
never seen Matching Priory.

"Obliged!" exclaimed Lady Glencora. "I can't tell you how much
obliged I am. Oh, Alice, I wish you were going to stay with us!"

"We are leaving this in a week's time," said Mr Palliser.

"Of course we are," said Lady Glencora. "With all my heart I wish we
were not. Dear Alice! I suppose we shall not meet till we are all in
town."

"You will let me know when you come up," said Alice.

"I will send to you instantly; and, Alice, I will write to you from
Gatherum,--or from Monkshade."

Alice could not help looking around and catching Miss Palliser's eye.
Miss Palliser was standing with her foot on the fender, but was so
placed that she could see Alice. She made a slight sign with her
head, as much as to say that Lady Glencora must have no opportunity
of writing from the latter place; but she said nothing.

Then the carriage was announced, and Mr Palliser took Alice out on
his arm. "Don't come to the door, Glencora," he said. "I especially
wish you not to do so." The two cousins then kissed each other, and
Alice went away to the carriage.

"Good-bye, Miss Vavasor," said Mr Palliser; but he expressed no wish
that he might see her again as his guest at Matching Priory.

Alice, as she was driven in solitary grandeur to the railway station,
could not but wish that she had never gone there.



CHAPTER XXIX

Burgo Fitzgerald


On the night before Christmas Eve two men were sitting together in
George Vavasor's rooms in Cecil Street. It was past twelve o'clock,
and they were both smoking; there were square bottles on the table
containing spirits, with hot water and cold water in jugs, and one
of the two men was using, and had been using, these materials for
enjoyment. Vavasor had not been drinking, nor did it appear as though
he intended to begin. There was a little weak brandy and water in
a glass by his side, but there it had remained untouched for the
last twenty minutes. His companion, however, had twice in that time
replenished his beaker, and was now puffing out the smoke of his pipe
with the fury of a steamer's funnel when she has not yet burned the
black off her last instalment of fresh coals. This man was Burgo
Fitzgerald. He was as handsome as ever;--a man whom neither man nor
woman could help regarding as a thing beautiful to behold;--but
not the less was there in his eyes and cheeks a look of haggard
dissipation,--of riotous living, which had become wearisome, by its
continuance, even to himself,--that told to all who saw him much of
the history of his life. Most men who drink at nights, and are out
till cockcrow doing deeds of darkness, become red in their faces,
have pimpled cheeks and watery eyes, and are bloated and not
comfortable to be seen. It is a kind dispensation of Providence who
thus affords to such sinners a visible sign, to be seen day by day,
of the injury which is being done. The first approach of a carbuncle
on the nose, about the age of thirty, has stopped many a man from
drinking. No one likes to have carbuncles on his nose, or to appear
before his female friends with eyes which look as though they were
swimming in grog. But to Burgo Fitzgerald Providence in her anger had
not afforded this protection. He became at times pale, sallow, worn,
and haggard. He grew thin, and still thinner. At times he had been
ill to death's door. Among his intimate friends there were those who
heard him declare frequently that his liver had become useless to
him; and that, as for gastric juices, he had none left to him. But
still his beauty remained. The perfect form of his almost god-like
face was the same as ever, and the brightness of his bright blue eye
was never quenched.

On the present occasion he had come to Vavasor's room with the object
of asking from him certain assistance, and perhaps also some amount
of advice. But as regarded the latter article he was, I think, in the
state of most men when they seek for counsellors who shall counsel
them to do evil. Advice administered in accordance with his own views
would give him comfortable encouragement, but advice on the other
side he was prepared to disregard altogether. These two men had known
each other long, and a close intimacy had existed between them in the
days past, previous to Lady Glencora's engagement with Mr Palliser.
When Lady Glencora endeavoured, vainly as we know, to obtain aid from
Alice Vavasor, Burgo had been instigated to believe that Alice's
cousin might assist him. Any such assistance George Vavasor would
have been quite ready to give. Some pecuniary assistance he had
given, he at that time having been in good funds. Perhaps he had for
a moment induced Burgo to think that he could obtain for the pair the
use of the house in Queen Anne Street as a point at which they might
meet, and from whence they might start on their journey of love. All
that was over. Those hopes had been frustrated, and Lady Glencora
M'Cluskie had become Lady Glencora Palliser and not Lady Glencora
Fitzgerald. But now other hopes had sprung up, and Burgo was again
looking to his friend for assistance.

"I believe she would," Burgo said, as he lifted the glass to
his mouth. "It's a thing of that sort that a man can only
believe,--perhaps only hope,--till he has tried. I know that she is
not happy with him, and I have made up my mind that I will at least
ask her."

"But he would have her fortune all the same?"

"I don't know how that would be. I haven't inquired, and I don't mean
to inquire. Of course I don't expect you or any one else to believe
me, but her money has no bearing on the question now. Heaven knows I
want money bad enough, but I wouldn't take away another man's wife
for money."

"You don't mean to say you think it would be wicked. I supposed you
to be above those prejudices."

"It's all very well for you to chaff."

"It's no chaff at all. I tell you fairly I wouldn't run away with any
man's wife. I have an old-fashioned idea that when a man has got a
wife he ought to be allowed to keep her. Public opinion, I know, is
against me."

"I think he ran away with my wife," said Burgo, with emphasis;
"that's the way I look at it. She was engaged to me first; and she
really loved me, while she never cared for him."

"Nevertheless, marriage is marriage, and the law is against you. But
if I did go in for such a troublesome job at all, I certainly should
keep an eye upon the money."

"It can make no difference."

"It did make a difference, I suppose, when you first thought of
marrying her?"

"Of course it did. My people brought us together because she had a
large fortune and I had none. There's no doubt in the world about
that. And I'll tell you what; I believe that old harridan of an aunt
of mine is willing to do the same thing now again. Of course she
doesn't say as much. She wouldn't dare do that, but I do believe she
means it. I wonder where she expects to go to!"

"That's grateful on your part."

"Upon my soul I hate her. I do indeed. It isn't love for me now so
much as downright malice against Palliser, because he baulked her
project before. She is a wicked old woman. Some of us fellows are
wicked enough--you and I for instance--"

"Thank you. I don't know, however, that I am qualified to run in a
curricle with you."

"But we are angels to such an old she-devil as that. You may believe
me or not, as you like.--I dare say you won't believe me."

"I'll say I do, at any rate."

"The truth is, I want to get her, partly because I love her; but
chiefly because I do believe in my heart that she loves me."

"It's for her sake then! You are ready to sacrifice yourself to do
her a good turn."

"As for sacrificing myself, that's done. I'm a man utterly ruined
and would cut my throat to-morrow for the sake of my relations, if I
cared enough about them. I know my own condition pretty well. I have
made a shipwreck of everything, and have now only got to go down
among the breakers."

"Only you would like to take Lady Glencora with you."

"No, by heavens! But sometimes, when I do think about it at
all,--which I do as seldom as I can,--it seems to me that I might
still become a different fellow if it were possible for me to marry
her."

"Had you married her when she was free to marry any one and when her
money was her own, it might have been so."

"I think it would be quite as much so now. I do, indeed. If I could
get her once, say to Italy, or perhaps to Greece, I think I could
treat her well, and live with her quietly. I know that I would try."

"Without the assistance of brandy and cigars."

"Yes."

"And without any money."

"With only a little. I know you'll laugh at me; but I make pictures
to myself of a sort of life which I think would suit us, and be very
different from this hideous way of living, with which I have become
so sick that I loathe it."

"Something like Juan and Haidée, with Planty Pall coming after you,
like old Lambro." By the nickname of Planty Pall George Vavasor
intended to designate Lady Glencora's present husband.

"He'd get a divorce, of course, and then we should be married. I
really don't think he'd dislike it, when it was all done. They tell
me he doesn't care for her."

"You have seen her since her marriage?"

"Yes; twice."

"And have spoken to her?"

"Once only,--so as to be able to do more than ask her if she were
well. Once, for about two minutes, I did speak to her."

"And what did she say?"

"She said it would be better that we should not meet. When she said
that, I knew that she was still fond of me. I could have fallen at
her feet that moment, only the room was full of people. I do think
that she is fond of me."

Vavasor paused a few minutes. "I dare say she is fond of you," he
then said; "but whether she has pluck for such a thing as this, is
more than I can say. Probably she has not. And if she has, probably
you would fail in carrying out your plan."

"I must get a little money first," said Burgo.

"And that's an operation which no doubt you find more difficult every
day, as you grow older."

"It seems to be much the same sort of thing. I went to Magruin this
morning."

"He's the fellow that lives out near Gray's Inn Lane?"

"Just beyond the Foundling Hospital. I went to him, and he was quite
civil about it. He says I owe him over three thousand pounds, but
that doesn't seem to make any difference."

"How much did you ever have from him?"

"I don't recollect that I ever absolutely had any money. He got a
bill of mine from a tailor who went to smash, and he kept on renewing
that till it grew to be ever so many bills. I think he did once let
me have twenty-four pounds,--but certainly never more than that."

"And he says he'll give you money now? I suppose you told him why you
wanted it."

"I didn't name her,--but I told him what would make him understand
that I hoped to get off with a lady who had a lot of tin. I asked him
for two hundred and fifty. He says he'll let me have one hundred and
fifty on a bill at two months for five hundred,--with your name to
it."

"With my name to it! That's kind on his part,--and on yours too."

"Of course I can't take it up at the end of two months."

"I dare say not," said Vavasor.

"But he won't come upon you then,--nor for a year or more afterwards.
I did pay you what you lent me before."

"Yes, you did. I always thought that to be a special compliment on
your part."

"And you'll find I'll pull you through now in some way. If I don't
succeed in this I shall go off the hooks altogether soon; and if I
were dead my people would pay my debts then."

Before the evening was over Vavasor promised the assistance asked of
him. He knew that he was lending his name to a man who was utterly
ruined, and putting it into the hands of another man who was
absolutely without conscience in the use he would make of it. He knew
that he was creating for himself trouble, and in all probability
loss, which he was ill able to bear. But the thing was one which came
within the pale of his laws. Such assistance as that he might ask of
others, and had asked and received before now. It was a reckless deed
on his part, but then all his doings were reckless. It was consonant
with his mode of life.

"I thought you would, old fellow," said Burgo, as he got up to go
away. "Perhaps, you know, I shall pull through in this; and perhaps,
after all, some part of her fortune will come with her. If so you'll
be all right."

"Perhaps I may. But look here, Burgo,--don't you give that fellow up
the bill till you've got the money into your fist."

"You may be quite easy about that. I know their tricks. He and I will
go to the bank together, and we shall squabble there at the door
about four or five odd sovereigns,--and at last I shall have to give
him up two or three. Beastly old robber! I declare I think he's worse
than I am myself." Then Burgo Fitzgerald took a little more brandy
and water and went away.

He was living at this time in the house of one of his relatives in
Cavendish Square, north of Oxford Street. His uncles and his aunts,
and all those who were his natural friends, had clung to him with a
tenacity that was surprising; for he had never been true to any of
them, and did not even pretend to like them. His father, with whom
for many years he had not been on speaking terms, was now dead; but
he had sisters whose husbands would still open their houses to him,
either in London or in the country;--would open their houses to him,
and lend him their horses, and provide him with every luxury which
the rich enjoy,--except ready money. When the uttermost stress of
pecuniary embarrassment would come upon him, they would pay something
to stave off the immediate evil. And so Burgo went on. Nobody now
thought of saying much to reproach him. It was known to be waste of
words, and trouble in vain. They were still fond of him because he
was beautiful and never vain of his beauty;--because in the midst
of his recklessness there was always about him a certain kindliness
which made him pleasant to those around him. He was soft and gracious
with children, and would be very courteous to his lady cousins. They
knew that as a man he was worthless, but nevertheless they loved him.
I think the secret of it was chiefly in this,--that he seemed to
think so little of himself.

But now as he walked home in the middle of the night from Cecil
Street to Cavendish Square he did think much of himself. Indeed such
self-thoughts come naturally to all men, be their outward conduct
ever so reckless. Every man to himself is the centre of the whole
world;--the axle on which it all turns. All knowledge is but his own
perception of the things around him. All love, and care for others,
and solicitude for the world's welfare, are but his own feelings as
to the world's wants and the world's merits.

He had played his part as a centre of all things very badly. Of that
he was very well aware. He had sense enough to know that it should be
a man's lot to earn his bread after some fashion, and he often told
himself that never as yet had he earned so much as a penny roll. He
had learned to comprehend that the world's progress depends on the
way in which men do their duty by each other,--that the progress
of one generation depends on the discharge of such duties by that
which preceded it;--and he knew that he, in his generation, had done
nothing to promote such progress. He thoroughly despised himself,--if
there might be any good in that! But on such occasions as these, when
the wine he had drunk was sufficient only to drive away from him the
numbness of despair, when he was all alone with the cold night air
upon his face, when the stars were bright above him and the world
around him was almost quiet, he would still ask himself whether
there might not yet be, even for him, some hope of a redemption,
--some chance of a better life in store for him. He was still
young,--wanting some years of thirty. Could there be, even for him,
some mode of extrication from his misery?

We know what was the mode which now, at this moment, was suggesting
itself to him. He was proposing to himself, as the best thing that he
could do, to take away another man's wife and make himself happy with
her! What he had said to Vavasor as to disregarding Lady Glencora's
money had been perfectly true. That in the event of her going off
with him, some portion of her enormous wealth would still cling to
her, he did believe. Seeing that she had no children he could not
understand where else it should all go. But he thought of this
as it regarded her, not as it regarded him. When he had before
made his suit to her,--a suit which was then honourable, however
disadvantageous it might have seemed to be to her--he had made in his
mind certain calculations as to the good things which would result
to him if he were successful He would keep hounds, and have three or
four horses every day for his own riding, and he would have no more
interviews with Magruin, waiting in that rogue's dingy back parlour
for many a weary wretched half-hour, till the rogue should be pleased
to show himself. So far he had been mercenary; but he had learned to
love the girl, and to care more for her than for her money, and when
the day of disappointment came upon him,--the day on which she had
told him that all between them was to be over for ever,--he had, for
a few hours, felt the loss of his love more than the loss of his
money.

Then he had had no further hope. No such idea as that which now
filled his mind had then come upon him. The girl had gone from him
and married another man, and there was an end of it. But by degrees
tidings had reached him that she was not happy,--reaching him through
the mouths of people who were glad to exaggerate all that they had
heard. A whole tribe of his female relatives had been anxious to
promote his marriage with Lady Glencora M'Cluskie, declaring that,
after all that was come and gone, Burgo would come forth from his
troubles as a man of great wealth. So great was the wealth of the
heiress that it might withstand even his propensities for spending.
That whole tribe had been bitterly disappointed; and when they heard
that Mr Palliser's marriage had given him no child, and that Lady
Glencora was unhappy,--they made their remarks in triumph rather
than in sorrow. I will not say that they looked forward approvingly
to such a step as that which Burgo now wished to take,--though as
regarded his aunt, Lady Monk, he himself had accused her; but they
whispered that such things had been done and must be expected, when
marriages were made up as had been that marriage between Mr Palliser
and his bride.

As he walked on, thinking of his project, he strove hard to cheat
himself into a belief that he would do a good thing in carrying Lady
Glencora away from her husband. Bad as had been his life he had
never before done aught so bad as that. The more fixed his intention
became, the more thoroughly he came to perceive how great and
grievous was the crime which he contemplated. To elope with another
man's wife no longer appeared to him to be a joke at which such men
as he might smile. But he tried to think that in this case there
would be special circumstances which would almost justify him, and
also her. They had loved each other and had sworn to love each other
with constancy. There had been no change in the feelings or even in
the wishes of either of them. But cold people had come between them
with cold calculations, and had separated them. She had been, he told
himself, made to marry a man she did not love. If they two loved
each other truly, would it not still be better that they should come
together? Would not the sin be forgiven on account of the injustice
which had been done to them? Had Mr Palliser a right to expect more
from a wife who had been made to marry him without loving him? Then
he reverted to those dreams of a life of love, in some sunny country,
of which he had spoken to Vavasor, and he strove to nourish them.
Vavasor had laughed at him, talking of Juan and Haidée. But Vavasor,
he said to himself, was a hard cold man, who had no touch of romance
in his character. He would not be laughed out of his plan by such as
he,--nor would he be frightened by the threat of any Lambro who might
come after him, whether he might come in the guise of indignant uncle
or injured husband.

He had crossed from Regent Street through Hanover Square, and as he
came out by the iron gates into Oxford Street, a poor wretched girl,
lightly clad in thin raiment, into whose bones the sharp freezing air
was penetrating, asked him for money. Would he give her something to
get drink, so that for a moment she might feel the warmth of her life
renewed? Such midnight petitions were common enough in his ears, and
he was passing on without thinking of her. But she was urgent, and
took hold of him. "For love of God," she said, "if it's only a penny
to get a glass of gin! Feel my hand,--how cold it is." And she strove
to put it up against his face.

He looked round at her and saw that she was very young,--sixteen,
perhaps, at the most, and that she had once,--nay very lately,--been
exquisitely pretty. There still lingered about her eyes some remains
of that look of perfect innocency and pure faith which had been hers
not more than twelve months since. And now, at midnight, in the
middle of the streets, she was praying for a pennyworth of gin, as
the only comfort she knew, or could expect!

"You are cold!" said he, trying to speak to her cheerily.

"Cold!" said she, repeating the word, and striving to wrap herself
closer in her rags, as she shivered--"Oh God! if you knew what it
was to be as cold as I am! I have nothing in the world,--not one
penny,--not a hole to lie in!"

"We are alike then," said Burgo, with a slight low laugh. "I also
have nothing. You cannot be poorer than I am."

"You poor!" she said. And then she looked up into his face.
"Gracious; how beautiful you are! Such as you are never poor."

He laughed again,--in a different tone. He always laughed when any
one told him of his beauty. "I am a deal poorer than you, my girl,"
he said. "You have nothing. I have thirty thousand pounds worse than
nothing. But come along, and I will get you something to eat."

"Will you?" said she, eagerly. Then looking up at him again, she
exclaimed--"Oh, you are so handsome!"

He took her to a public-house and gave her bread and meat and beer,
and stood by her while she ate it. She was shy with him then, and
would fain have taken it to a corner by herself, had he allowed her.
He perceived this, and turned his back to her, but still spoke to her
a word or two as she ate. The woman at the bar who served him looked
at him wonderingly, staring into his face; and the pot-boy woke
himself thoroughly that he might look at Burgo; and the waterman from
the cab-stand stared at him; and women who came in for gin looked
almost lovingly up into his eyes. He regarded them all not at all,
showing no feeling of disgrace at his position, and no desire to
carry himself as a ruffler. He quietly paid what was due when the
girl had finished her meal, and then walked with her out of the
shop. "And now," said he, "what must I do with you? If I give you a
shilling can you get a bed?" She told him that she could get a bed
for sixpence. "Then keep the other sixpence for your breakfast," said
he. "But you must promise me that you will buy no gin to-night." She
promised him, and then he gave her his hand as he wished her good
night;--his hand, which it had been the dearest wish of Lady Glencora
to call her own. She took it and pressed it to her lips. "I wish I
might once see you again," she said, "because you are so good and so
beautiful." He laughed again cheerily, and walked on, crossing the
street towards Cavendish Square. She stood looking at him till he was
out of sight, and then as she moved away,--let us hope to the bed
which his bounty had provided, and not to a gin-shop,--she exclaimed
to herself again and again--"Gracious, how beautiful he was!" "He's
a good un," the woman at the public-house had said as soon as he
left it; "but, my! did you ever see a man's face handsome as that
fellow's?"

Poor Burgo! All who had seen him since life had begun with him had
loved him and striven to cherish him. And with it all, to what a
state had he come! Poor Burgo! had his eyes been less brightly blue,
and his face less godlike in form, it may be that things would
have gone better with him. A sweeter-tempered man than he never
lived,--nor one who was of a kinder nature. At this moment he had
barely money about him to take him down to his aunt's house at
Monkshade, and as he had promised to be there before Christmas Day,
he was bound to start on the next morning, before help from Mr
Magruin was possible. Nevertheless, out of his very narrow funds he
had given half a crown to comfort the poor creature who had spoken to
him in the street.



CHAPTER XXX

Containing a Love Letter


Vavasor, as he sat alone in his room, after Fitzgerald had left him,
began to think of the days in which he had before wished to assist
his friend in his views with reference to Lady Glencora;--or rather
he began to think of Alice's behaviour then, and of Alice's words.
Alice had steadfastly refused to give any aid. No less likely
assistant for such a purpose could have been selected. But she had
been very earnest in declaring that it was Glencora's duty to stand
by her promise to Burgo. "He is a desperate spendthrift," Kate
Vavasor had said to her. "Then let her teach him to be otherwise,"
Alice had answered. "That might have been a good reason for refusing
his offer when he first made it; but it can be no excuse for untruth,
now that she has told him that she loves him!" "If a woman," she had
said again, "won't venture her fortune for the man she loves, her
love is not worth having." All this George Vavasor remembered now;
and as he remembered it he asked himself whether the woman that had
once loved him would venture her fortune for him still.

Though his sister had pressed him on the subject with all the
vehemence that she could use, he had hardly hitherto made up his
mind that he really desired to marry Alice. There had grown upon
him lately certain Bohemian propensities,--a love of absolute
independence in his thoughts as well as actions,--which were
antagonistic to marriage. He was almost inclined to think that
marriage was an old-fashioned custom, fitted indeed well enough for
the usual dull life of the world at large,--as many men both in
heathen and in Christian ages have taught themselves to think of
religion,--but which was not adapted to his advanced intelligence.
If he loved any woman he loved his cousin Alice. If he thoroughly
respected any woman he respected her. But that idea of tying himself
down to a household was in itself distasteful to him. "It is a thing
terrible to think of," he once said to a congenial friend in these
days of his life, "that a man should give permission to a priest to
tie him to another human being like a Siamese twin, so that all power
of separate and solitary action should be taken from him for ever!
The beasts of the field do not treat each other so badly. They
neither drink themselves drunk, nor eat themselves stupid;--nor do
they bind themselves together in a union which both would have to
hate." In this way George Vavasor, trying to imitate the wisdom of
the brutes, had taught himself some theories of a peculiar nature.
But, nevertheless, as he thought of Alice Vavasor on this occasion,
he began to feel that if a Siamese twin were necessary for him, she
of all others was the woman to whom he would wish to be so bound.

And if he did it at all, he must do it now. Under the joint
instigation of himself and his sister,--as he thought, and perhaps
not altogether without reason,--she had broken her engagement with Mr
Grey. That she would renew it again if left to herself, he believed
probable. And then, despite that advanced intelligence which had
taught him to regard all forms and ceremonies with the eye of a
philosopher, he had still enough of human frailty about him to feel
keenly alive to the pleasure of taking from John Grey the prize which
John Grey had so nearly taken from him. If Alice could have been
taught to think as he did as to the absurdity of those indissoluble
ties, that would have been better. But nothing would have been more
impossible than the teaching of such a lesson to his cousin Alice.
George Vavasor was a man of courage, and dared do most things;--but
he would not have dared to commence the teaching of such a lesson to
her.

And now, at this moment, what was his outlook into life generally? He
had very high ambition, and a fair hope of gratifying it if he could
only provide that things should go well with him for a year or so. He
was still a poor man, having been once nearly a rich man; but still
so much of the result of his nearly acquired riches remained to him,
that on the strength of them he might probably find his way into
Parliament. He had paid the cost of the last attempt, and might,
in a great degree, carry on this present attempt on credit. If he
succeeded there would be open to him a mode of life, agreeable in
itself, and honourable among men. But how was he to bear the cost
of this for the next year, or the next two years? His grandfather
was still alive, and would probably live over that period. If he
married Alice he would do so with no idea of cheating her out of her
money. She should learn,--nay, she had already learned from his own
lips,--how perilous was his enterprise. But he knew her to be a woman
who would boldly risk all in money, though no consideration would
induce her to stir a hair's breadth towards danger in reputation.
Towards teaching her that doctrine at which I have hinted, he would
not have dared to make an attempt; but he felt that he should have no
repugnance to telling her that he wanted to spend all her money in
the first year or two of their married life!

He was still in his arm-chair, thinking of all this, with that small
untasted modicum of brandy and water beside him, when he heard some
distant Lambeth clock strike three from over the river. Then he rose
from his seat, and taking the candles in his hand, sat himself down
at a writing-desk on the other side of the room. "I needn't send it
when it's written," he said to himself, "and the chances are that I
won't." Then he took his paper, and wrote as follows:--


   DEAR ALICE,

   The time was when the privilege was mine of beginning my
   letters to you with a warmer show of love than the above
   word contains,--when I might and did call you dearest; but
   I lost that privilege through my own folly, and since that
   it has been accorded to another. But you have found,--with
   a thorough honesty of purpose than which I know nothing
   greater,--that it has behoved you to withdraw that
   privilege also. I need hardly say that I should not have
   written as I now write, had you not found it expedient to
   do as you have done. I now once again ask you to be my
   wife. In spite of all that passed in those old days,--of
   all the selfish folly of which I was then guilty, I think
   you know, and at the time knew, that I ever loved you. I
   claim to say for myself that my love to you was true
   from first to last, and I claim from you belief for that
   statement. Indeed I do not think that you ever doubted my
   love.

   Nevertheless, when you told me that I might no longer hope
   to make you my wife, I had no word of remonstrance that I
   could utter. You acted as any woman would act whom love
   had not made a fool. Then came the episode of Mr Grey; and
   bitter as have been my feelings whilst that engagement
   lasted, I never made any attempt to come between you and
   the life you had chosen. In saying this I do not forget
   the words which I spoke last summer at Basle, when, as
   far as I knew, you still intended that he should be your
   husband. But what I said then was nothing to that which,
   with much violence, I refrained from saying. Whether you
   remember those few words I cannot tell; but certainly
   you would not have remembered them,--would not even have
   noticed them,--had your heart been at Nethercoats.

   But all this is nothing. You are now again a free woman;
   and once again I ask you to be my wife. We are both older
   than we were when we loved before, and will both be prone
   to think of marriage in a somewhat different light. Then
   personal love for each other was most in our thoughts. God
   forbid that it should not be much in our thoughts now!
   Perhaps I am deceiving myself in saying that it is not
   even now stronger in mine than any other consideration.
   But we have both reached that time of life, when it is
   probable that in any proposition of marriage we should
   think more of our adaptability to each other than we
   did before. For myself I know that there is much in my
   character and disposition to make me unfit to marry a
   woman of the common stamp. You know my mode of life, and
   what are my hopes and my chances of success. I run great
   risk of failing. It may be that I shall encounter ruin
   where I look for reputation and a career of honour.
   The chances are perhaps more in favour of ruin than of
   success. But, whatever may be the chances, I shall go on
   as long as any means of carrying on the fight are at my
   disposal. If you were my wife to-morrow I should expect to
   use your money, if it were needed, in struggling to obtain
   a seat in Parliament and a hearing there. I will hardly
   stoop to tell you that I do not ask you to be my wife for
   the sake of this aid;--but if you were to become my wife
   I should expect all your cooperation;--with your money,
   possibly, but certainly with your warmest spirit.

   And now, once again, Alice,--dearest Alice, will you
   be my wife? I have been punished, and I have kissed the
   rod,--as I never kissed any other rod. You cannot accuse
   my love. Since the time in which I might sit with my arm
   round your waist, I have sat with it round no other waist.
   Since your lips were mine, no other lips have been dear
   to me. Since you were my counsellor, I have had no other
   counsellor,--unless it be poor Kate, whose wish that we
   may at length be married is second in earnestness only
   to my own. Nor do I think you will doubt my repentance.
   Such repentance indeed claims no merit, as it has been
   the natural result of the loss which I have suffered.
   Providence has hitherto been very good to me in not having
   made that loss irremediable by your marriage with Mr Grey.
   I wish you now to consider the matter well, and to tell me
   whether you can pardon me and still love me. Do I flatter
   myself when I feel that I doubt your pardon almost more
   than I doubt your love?

   Think of this thing in all its bearings before you answer
   me. I am so anxious that you should think of it that I
   will not expect your reply till this day week. It can
   hardly be your desire to go through life unmarried. I
   should say that it must be essential to your ambition that
   you should join your lot to that of some man the nature
   of whose aspirations would be like to your own. It is
   because this was not so as regarded him whose suit you had
   accepted, that you found yourself at last obliged to part
   from him. May I not say that with us there would be no
   such difference? It is because I believe that in this
   respect we are fitted for each other, as man and woman
   seldom are fitted, that I once again ask you to be my
   wife.

   This will reach you at Vavasor, where you will now be with
   the old squire and Kate. I have told her nothing of my
   purpose in writing this letter. If it should be that your
   answer is such as I desire, I should use the opportunity
   of our re-engagement to endeavour to be reconciled to my
   grandfather. He has misunderstood me and has ill-used me.
   But I am ready to forgive that, if he will allow me to
   do so. In such case you and Kate would arrange that, and
   I would, if possible, go down to Vavasor while you are
   there. But I am galloping on a-head foolishly in thinking
   of this, and am counting up my wealth while the crockery
   in my basket is so very fragile. One word from you will
   decide whether or no I shall ever bring it into market.

   If that word is to be adverse do not say anything
   of a meeting between me and the Squire. Under such
   circumstances it would be impossible. But, oh, Alice! do
   not let it be adverse. I think you love me. Your woman's
   pride towards me has been great and good and womanly; but
   it has had its way; and, if you love me, might now be
   taught to succumb.

   Dear Alice, will you be my wife?

   Yours, in any event, most affectionately,

   GEORGE VAVASOR.


Vavasor, when he had finished his letter, went back to his seat over
the fire, and there he sat with it close at his hand for nearly an
hour. Once or twice he took it up with fingers almost itching to
throw it into the fire. He took it up and held the corners between
his forefinger and thumb, throwing forward his hand towards the
flame, as though willing that the letter should escape from him and
perish if chance should so decide. But chance did not so decide, and
the letter was put back upon the table at his elbow. Then when the
hour was nearly over he read it again. "I'll bet two to one that she
gives way," he said to himself, as he put the sheet of paper back
into the envelope. "Women are such out-and-out fools." Then he took
his candle, and carrying his letter with him, went into his bedroom.

The next morning was the morning of Christmas Eve. At about nine
o'clock a boy came into his room who was accustomed to call for
orders for the day. "Jem," he said to the boy, "there's half a crown
lying there on the looking-glass." Jem looked and acknowledged the
presence of the half-crown. "Is it a head or a tail, Jem?" asked
the boy's master. Jem scrutinized the coin, and declared that the
uppermost surface showed a tail. "Then take that letter and post it,"
said George Vavasor. Whereupon Jem, asking no question and thinking
but little of the circumstances under which the command was given,
did take the letter and did post it. In due accordance with postal
regulations it reached Vavasor Hall and was delivered to Alice on the
Christmas morning.

A merry Christmas did not fall to the lot of George Vavasor on the
present occasion. An early Christmas-box he did receive in the shape
of a very hurried note from his friend Burgo. "This will be brought
to you by Stickling," the note said; but who Stickling was Vavasor
did not know. "I send the bill. Couldn't you get the money and send
it me, as I don't want to go up to town again before the thing comes
off? You're a trump; and will do the best you can. Don't let that
rogue off for less than a hundred and twenty.--Yours, B. F." Vavasor,
therefore, having nothing better to do, spent his Christmas morning
in calling on Mr Magruin.

"Oh, Mr Vavasor," said Magruin; "really this is no morning for
business!"

"Time and tide wait for no man, Mr Magruin, and my friend wants his
money to-morrow."

"Oh, Mr Vavasor,--to-morrow!"

"Yes, to-morrow. If time and tide won't wait, neither will love.
Come, Mr Magruin, out with your cheque-book, and don't let's have any
nonsense."

"But is the lady sure, Mr Vavasor?" asked Mr Magruin, anxiously.

"Ladies never are sure," said Vavasor; "hardly more sure than bills
made over to money-lenders. I'm not going to wait here all day. Are
you going to give him the money?"

"Christmas-day, Mr Vavasor! There's no getting money in the city
to-day."

But Vavasor before he left did get the money from Mr Magruin,--£122
10s.--for which an acceptance at two months for £500 was given
in exchange,--and carried it off in triumph. "Do tell him to be
punctual," said Mr Magruin, when Vavasor took his leave. "I do so
like young men to be punctual. But I really think Mr Fitzgerald is
the most unpunctual young man I ever did know yet."

"I think he is," said George Vavasor, as he went away.

He ate his Christmas dinner in absolute solitude at an eating-house
near his lodgings. It may be supposed that no man dares to dine at
his club on a Christmas Day. He at any rate did not so dare;--and
after dinner he wandered about through the streets, wondering within
his mind how he would endure the restraints of married life. And the
same dull monotony of his days was continued for a week, during which
he waited, not impatiently, for an answer to his letter. And before
the end of the week the answer came.



CHAPTER XXXI

Among the Fells


Alice came down to breakfast on that Christmas morning at Vavasor
Hall without making any sign as to the letter she had received. The
party there consisted of her grandfather, her father, her cousin
Kate, and herself. They all made their Christmas salutations as is
usual, and Alice received and made hers as did the others, without
showing that anything had occurred to disturb her tranquillity. Kate
remarked that she had heard that morning from Aunt Greenow, and
promised to show Alice the letter after breakfast. But Alice said no
word of her own letter.

"Why didn't your aunt come here to eat her Christmas dinner?" said
the Squire.

"Perhaps, sir, because you didn't ask her," said Kate, standing close
to her grandfather,--for the old man was somewhat deaf.

"And why didn't you ask her;--that is, if she stands upon asking to
come to her old home?"

"Nay, sir, but I couldn't do that without your bidding. We Vavasors
are not always fond of meeting each other."

"Hold your tongue, Kate. I know what you mean, and you should be the
last to speak of it. Alice, my dear, come and sit next to me. I am
much obliged to you for coming down all this way to see your old
grandfather at Christmas. I am indeed. I only wish you had brought
better news about your sweetheart."

"She'll think better of it before long, sir," said her father.

"Papa, you shouldn't say that. You would not wish me to marry against
my own judgement."

"I don't know much about ladies' judgements," said the old man. "It
does seem to me that when a lady makes a promise she ought to keep
it."

"According to that," said Kate, "if I were engaged to a man, and
found that he was a murderer, I still ought to marry him."

"But Mr Grey is not a murderer," said the Squire.

"Pray,--pray, don't talk about it," said Alice. "If you do I really
cannot sit and hear it."

"I have given over saying anything on the subject," said John
Vavasor, speaking as though he had already expended upon it a vast
amount of paternal eloquence. He had, however, never said more than
has been recorded in these pages. Alice during this conversation, sat
with her cousin's letter in her pocket, and as yet had not even begun
to think what should be the nature of her reply.

The Squire of Vavasor Hall was a stout old man, with a red face and
grey eyes, which looked fiercely at you, and with long grey hair, and
a rough grey beard, which gave him something of the appearance of an
old lion. He was passionate, unreasoning, and specially impatient
of all opposition; but he was affectionate, prone to forgive when
asked to do so, unselfish, and hospitable. He was, moreover, guided
strictly by rules, which he believed to be rules of right. His
grandson George had offended him very deeply,--had offended him and
never asked his pardon. He was determined that such pardon should
never be given, unless it were asked for with almost bended knees;
but, nevertheless, this grandson should be his heir. That was
his present intention. The right of primogeniture could not, in
accordance with his theory, be abrogated by the fact that it was, in
George Vavasor's case, protected by no law. The Squire could leave
Vavasor Hall to whom he pleased, but he could not have hoped to rest
quietly in his grave should it be found that he had left it to any
one but the eldest son of his own eldest son. Though violent, and
even stern, he was more prone to love than to anger; and though none
of those around him dared to speak to him of his grandson, yet he
longed in his heart for some opportunity of being reconciled to him.

The whole party went to church on this Christmas morning. The small
parish church of Vavasor, an unpretending wooden structure, with a
single bell which might be heard tinkling for a mile or two over the
fells, stood all alone about half a mile from the Squire's gate.
Vavasor was a parish situated on the intermediate ground between
the mountains of the lake country and the plains. Its land was
unproductive, ill-drained, and poor, and yet it possessed little or
none of the beauty which tourists go to see. It was all amidst the
fells, and very dreary. There were long skirtings of dark pines
around a portion of the Squire's property, and at the back of the
house there was a thick wood of firs running up to the top of what
was there called the Beacon Hill. Through this there was a wild steep
walk which came out upon the moorland, and from thence there was a
track across the mountain to Hawes Water and Naddale, and on over
many miles to the further beauties of Bowness and Windermere. They
who knew the country, and whose legs were of use to them, could find
some of the grandest scenery in England within reach of a walk from
Vavasor Hall; but to others the place was very desolate. For myself,
I can find I know not what of charm in wandering over open, unadorned
moorland. It must be more in the softness of the grass to the feet,
and the freshness of the air to the lungs, than in anything that
meets the eye. You might walk for miles and miles to the north-east,
or east, or south-east of Vavasor without meeting any object to
arrest the view. The great road from Lancaster to Carlisle crossed
the outskirts of the small parish about a mile from the church, and
beyond that the fell seemed to be interminable. Towards the north
it rose, and towards the south it fell, and it rose and fell very
gradually. Here and there some slight appearance of a valley might
be traced which had been formed by the action of the waters; but
such breakings of ground were inconsiderable, and did not suffice to
interrupt the stern sameness of the everlasting moorland.

The daily life at Vavasor was melancholy enough for such a one as the
Squire's son, who regarded London as the only place on the earth's
surface in which a man could live with comfort. The moors offered
no charms to him. Nor did he much appreciate the homely comforts of
the Hall; for the house, though warm, was old-fashioned and small,
and the Squire's cook was nearly as old as the Squire himself. John
Vavasor's visits to Vavasor were always visits of duty rather than of
pleasure. But it was not so with Alice. She could be very happy there
with Kate; for, like herself, Kate was a good walker and loved the
mountains. Their regard for each other had grown and become strong
because they had gone together o'er river and moor, and because they
had together disregarded those impediments of mud and wet which
frighten so many girls away from the beauties of nature.

On this Christmas Day they all went to church, the Squire being
accompanied by Alice in a vehicle which in Ireland is called an
inside jaunting-car, and which is perhaps the most uncomfortable kind
of vehicle yet invented; while John Vavasor walked with his niece.
But the girls had arranged that immediately after church they would
start for a walk up the Beacon Hill, across the fells, towards Hawes
Water. They always dined at the Hall at the vexatious hour of five;
but as their church service, with the sacrament included, would be
completed soon after twelve, and as lunch was a meal which the Squire
did not himself attend, they could have full four hours for their
excursion. This had all been planned before Alice received her
letter; but there was nothing in that to make her change her mind
about the walk.

"Alice, my dear," said the old man to her when they were together in
the jaunting-car, "you ought to get married." The Squire was hard
of hearing, and under any circumstances an inside jaunting-car is a
bad place for conversation, as your teeth are nearly shaken out of
your head by every movement which the horse makes. Alice therefore
said nothing, but smiled faintly, in reply to her grandfather. On
returning from church he insisted that Alice should again accompany
him, telling her specially that he desired to speak to her. "My dear
child," he said, "I have been thinking a great deal about you, and
you ought to get married."

"Well, sir, perhaps I shall some day."

"Not if you quarrel with all your suitors," said the old man. "You
quarrelled with your cousin George, and now you have quarrelled with
Mr Grey. You'll never get married, my dear, if you go on in that
way."

"Why should I be married more than Kate?"

"Oh, Kate! I don't know that anybody wants to marry Kate. I wish
you'd think of what I say. If you don't get married before long,
perhaps you'll never get married at all. Gentlemen won't stand that
kind of thing for ever."

The two girls took a slice of cake each in her hand, and started on
their walk. "We shan't be able to get to the lake," said Kate.

"No," said Alice; "but we can go as far as the big stone on Swindale
Fell, where we can sit down and see it."

"Do you remember the last time we sat there?" said Kate. "It is
nearly three years ago, and it was then that you told me that all was
to be over between you and George. Do you remember what a fool I was,
and how I screamed in my sorrow? I sometimes wonder at myself and my
own folly. How is it that I can never get up any interest about my
own belongings? And then we got soaking wet through coming home."

"I remember that very well."

"And how dark it was! That was in September, but we had dined early.
If we go as far as Swindale we shall have it very dark coming home
to-day;--but I don't mind that through the Beacon Wood, because I
know my way so well. You won't be afraid of half an hour's dark?"

"Oh, no," said Alice.

"Yes; I do remember that day. Well; it's all for the best, I suppose.
And now I must read you my aunt's letter." Then, while they were
still in the wood, Kate took out the letter from her aunt and read
it, while they still walked slowly up the hill. It seemed that
hitherto neither of her two suitors had brought the widow to terms.
Indeed, she continued to write of Mr Cheesacre as though that
gentleman were inconsolable for the loss of Kate, and gave her niece
much serious advice as to the expedience of returning to Norfolk,
in order that she might secure so eligible a husband. "You must
understand all the time, Alice," said Kate, pausing as she read the
letter, "that the dear man has never given me the slightest ground
for the faintest hope, and that I know to a certainty that he makes
an offer to her twice a week,--that is, on every market day. You
can't enjoy half the joke if you won't bear that in mind." Alice
promised that she would bear it all in mind, and then Kate went on
with her reading. Poor Bellfield was working very hard at his drill,
Mrs Greenow went on to say; so hard that sometimes she really thought
the fatigue would be too much for his strength. He would come in
sometimes of an evening and just take a cup of tea;--generally on
Mondays and Thursdays. "These are not market days at Norwich," said
Kate; "and thus unpleasant meetings are avoided." "He comes in," said
Mrs Greenow, "and takes a little tea; and sometimes I think that he
will faint at my feet." "That he kneels there on every occasion,"
said Kate, "and repeats his offer also twice a week, I have not the
least doubt in the world."

"And will she accept him at last?"

"Really I don't know what to think of it. Sometimes I fancy that she
likes the fun of the thing, but that she is too wide-awake to put
herself in any man's power. I have no doubt she lends him money,
because he wants it sadly and she is very generous. She gives him
money, I feel sure, but takes his receipt on stamped paper for every
shilling. That's her character all over."

The letter then went on to say that the writer had made up her mind
to remain at Norwich certainly through the winter and spring, and
that she was anxiously desirous that her dear Kate should go back to
her. "Come and have one other look at Oileymead," said the letter,
"and then, if you make up your mind that you don't like it or him, I
won't ask you to think of them ever again. I believe him to be a very
honest fellow." "Did you ever know such a woman?" said Kate; "with
all her faults I believe she would go through fire and water to serve
me. I think she'd lend me money without any stamped paper." Then Aunt
Greenow's letter was put up, and the two girls had come out upon the
open fell.

It was a delicious afternoon for a winter's walk. The air was clear
and cold, but not actually frosty. The ground beneath their feet
was dry, and the sky, though not bright, had that appearance of
enduring weather which gives no foreboding of rain. There is a
special winter's light, which is very clear though devoid of all
brilliancy,--through which every object strikes upon the eye with
well-marked lines, and under which almost all forms of nature seem
graceful to the sight if not actually beautiful. But there is a
certain melancholy which ever accompanies it. It is the light of
the afternoon, and gives token of the speedy coming of the early
twilight. It tells of the shortness of the day, and contains even in
its clearness a promise of the gloom of night. It is absolute light,
but it seems to contain the darkness which is to follow it. I do not
know that it is ever to be seen and felt so plainly as on the wide
moorland, where the eye stretches away over miles, and sees at the
world's end the faint low lines of distant clouds settling themselves
upon the horizon. Such was the light of this Christmas afternoon, and
both the girls had felt the effects of it before they reached the big
stone on Swindale Fell, from which they intended to look down upon
the loveliness of Hawes Water. As they went up through the wood there
had been some laughter between them over Aunt Greenow's letter; and
they had discussed almost with mirth the merits of Oileymead and
Mr Cheesacre; but as they got further on to the fell, and as the
half-melancholy wildness of the place struck them, their words became
less light, and after a while they almost ceased to speak.

Alice had still her letter in her pocket. She had placed it there
when she came down to breakfast, and had carried it with her since.
She had come to no resolution as yet as to her answer to it, nor had
she resolved whether or no she would show it to Kate. Kate had ever
been regarded by her as her steadfast friend. In all these affairs
she had spoken openly to Kate. We know that Kate had in part betrayed
her, but Alice suspected no such treason. She had often quarrelled
with Kate; but she had quarrelled with her not on account of any sin
against the faith of their friendship. She believed in her cousin
perfectly, though she found herself often called upon to disagree
with her almost violently. Why should she not show this letter to
Kate, and discuss it in all its bearings before she replied to it?
This was in her mind as she walked silently along over the fell.

The reader will surmise from this that she was already half inclined
to give way, and to join her lot to that of her cousin George. Alas,
yes! The reader will be right in his surmise. And yet it was not her
love for the man that prompted her to run so terrible a risk. Had
it been so, I think that it would be easier to forgive her. She was
beginning to think that love,--the love of which she had once thought
so much,--did not matter. Of what use was it, and to what had it led?
What had love done for her friend Glencora? What had love done for
her? Had she not loved John Grey, and had she not felt that with all
her love life with him would have been distasteful to her? It would
have been impossible for her to marry a man whom personally she
disliked; but she liked her cousin George,--well enough, as she said
to herself almost indifferently.

Upon the whole it was a grievous task to her in these days,--this
having to do something with her life. Was it not all vain and futile?
As for that girl's dream of the joys of love which she had once
dreamed,--that had gone from her slumbers, never to return. How might
she best make herself useful,--useful in some sort that might gratify
her ambition;--that was now the question which seemed to her to be of
most importance.

Her cousin's letter to her had been very crafty. He had studied the
whole of her character accurately as he wrote it. When he had sat
down to write it he had been indifferent to the result; but he had
written it with that care to attain success which a man uses when he
is anxious not to fail in an attempt. Whether or no he cared to marry
his cousin was a point so little interesting to him that chance might
decide it for him; but when chance had decided that he did wish it,
it was necessary for his honour that he should have that for which he
condescended to ask.

His letter to her had been clever and very crafty. "At any rate he
does me justice," she said to herself, when she read those words
about her money, and the use which he proposed to make of it. "He is
welcome to it all if it will help him in his career, whether he has
it as my friend or as my husband." Then she thought of Kate's promise
of her little mite, and declared to herself that she would not be
less noble than her cousin Kate. And would it not be well that she
should be the means of reconciling George to his grandfather? George
was the representative of the family,--of a family so old that no one
now knew which had first taken the ancient titular name of some old
Saxon landowner,--the parish, or the man. There had been in old days
some worthy Vavaseurs, as Chaucer calls them, whose rank and bearing
had been adopted on the moorland side. Of these things Alice thought
much, and felt that it should be her duty so to act, that future
Vavasors might at any rate not be less in the world than they who
had passed away. In a few years at furthest, George Vavasor must be
Vavasor of Vavasor. Would it not be right that she should help him to
make that position honourable?

They walked on, exchanging now and again a word or two, till the
distant Cumberland mountains began to form themselves in groups of
beauty before their eyes. "There's Helvellyn at last," said Kate.
"I'm always happy when I see that." "And isn't that Kidsty Pike?"
asked Alice. "No; you don't see Kidsty yet. But you will when you
get up to the bank there. That's Scaw Fell on the left;--the round
distant top. I can distinguish it, though I doubt whether you can."
Then they went on again, and were soon at the bank from whence the
sharp top of the mountain which Alice had named was visible. "And now
we are on Swindale, and in five minutes we shall get to the stone."

In less than five minutes they were there; and then, but not till
then, the beauty of the little lake, lying down below them in the
quiet bosom of the hills, disclosed itself. A lake should, I think,
be small, and should be seen from above, to be seen in all its glory.
The distance should be such that the shadows of the mountains on its
surface may just be traced, and that some faint idea of the ripple
on the waters may be present to the eye. And the form of the lakes
should be irregular, curving round from its base among the lower
hills, deeper and still deeper into some close nook up among the
mountains from which its head waters spring. It is thus that a lake
should be seen, and it was thus that Hawes Water was seen by them
from the flat stone on the side of Swindale Fell. The basin of the
lake has formed itself into the shape of the figure of 3, and the top
section of the figure lies embosomed among the very wildest of the
Westmoreland mountains. Altogether it is not above three miles long,
and every point of it was to be seen from the spot on which the girls
sat themselves down. The water beneath was still as death, and as
dark,--and looked almost as cold. But the slow clouds were passing
over it, and the shades of darkness on its surface changed themselves
with gradual changes. And though no movement was visible, there
was ever and again in places a slight sheen upon the lake, which
indicated the ripple made by the breeze.

"I'm so glad I've come here," said Alice, seating herself. "I cannot
bear the idea of coming to Vavasor without seeing one of the lakes at
least."

"We'll get over to Windermere one day," said Kate.

"I don't think we shall. I don't think it possible that I should stay
long. Kate, I've got a letter to show you." And there was that in the
tone of her voice which instantly put Kate upon her mettle.

Kate seated herself also, and put up her hand for the letter. "Is it
from Mr Grey?" she asked.

"No," said Alice; "it is not from Mr Grey." And she gave her
companion the paper. Kate before she had touched it had seen that it
was from her brother George; and as she opened it looked anxiously
into Alice's face. "Has he offended you?" Kate asked.

"Read it," said Alice, "and then we'll talk of it afterwards,--as we
go home." Then she got up from the stone and walked a step or two
towards the brow of the fell, and stood there looking down upon the
lake, while Kate read the letter. "Well!" she said, when she returned
to her place.

"Well," said Kate. "Alice, Alice, it will, indeed, be well if you
listen to him. Oh, Alice, may I hope? Alice, my own Alice, my
darling, my friend! Say that it shall be so." And Kate knelt at her
friend's feet upon the heather, and looked up into her face with eyes
full of tears. What shall we say of a woman who could be as false as
she had been, and yet could be so true?

Alice made no immediate answer, but still continued to gaze down over
her friend upon the lake. "Alice," continued Kate, "I did not think
I should be made so happy this Christmas Day. You could not have the
heart to bring me here and show me this letter in this way, and bid
me read it so calmly, and then tell me that it is all for nothing.
No; you could not do that? Alice, I am so happy. I will so love this
place. I hated it before." And then she put her face down upon the
boulder-stone and kissed it. Still Alice said nothing, but she began
to feel that she had gone further than she had intended. It was
almost impossible for her now to say that her answer to George must
be a refusal.

Then Kate again went on speaking. "But is it not a beautiful letter?
Say, Alice,--is it not a letter of which if you were his brother you
would feel proud if another girl had shown it to you? I do feel proud
of him. I know that he is a man with a manly heart and manly courage,
who will yet do manly things. Here out on the mountain, with nobody
near us, with Nature all round us, I ask you on your solemn word as a
woman, do you love him?"

"Love him!" said Alice.

"Yes;--love him: as a woman should love her husband. Is not your
heart his? Alice, there need be no lies now. If it be so, it should
be your glory to say so, here, to me, as you hold that letter in your
hand."

"I can have no such glory, Kate. I have ever loved my cousin; but not
so passionately as you seem to think."

"Then there can be no passion in you."

"Perhaps not, Kate. I would sometimes hope that it is so. But come;
we shall be late; and you will be cold sitting there."

"I would sit here all night to be sure that your answer would be as
I would have it. But, Alice, at any rate you shall tell me before I
move what your answer is to be. I know you will not refuse him; but
make me happy by saying so with your own lips."

"I cannot tell you before you move, Kate."

"And why not?"

"Because I have not as yet resolved."

"Ah, that is impossible. That is quite impossible. On such a subject
and under such circumstances a woman must resolve at the first
moment. You had resolved, I know, before you had half read the
letter;--though, perhaps, it may not suit you to say so."

"You are quite mistaken. Come along and let us walk, and I will tell
you all." Then Kate arose, and they turned their back to the lake,
and began to make their way homewards. "I have not made up my mind as
to what answer I will give him; but I have shown you his letter in
order that I might have some one with whom I might speak openly. I
knew well how it would be, and that you would strive to hurry me into
an immediate promise."

"No;--no; I want nothing of the kind."

"But yet I could not deny myself the comfort of your friendship."

"No, Alice, I will not hurry you. I will do nothing that you do not
wish. But you cannot be surprised that I should be very eager. Has
it not been the longing of all my life? Have I not passed my time
plotting and planning and thinking of it till I have had time to
think of nothing else? Do you know what I suffered when, through
George's fault, the engagement was broken off? Was it not martyrdom
to me,--that horrid time in which your Crichton from Cambridgeshire
was in the ascendant? Did I not suffer the tortures of purgatory
while that went on;--and yet, on the whole, did I not bear them with
patience? And, now, can you be surprised that I am wild with joy when
I begin to see that everything will be as I wish;--for it will be as
I wish, Alice. It may be that you have not resolved to accept him.
But you would have resolved to refuse him instantly had that been
your destined answer to his letter." There was but little more said
between them on the subject as they were passing over the fell, but
when they were going down the path through the Beacon Wood, Kate
again spoke: "You will not answer him without speaking to me first?"
said Kate.

"I will, at any rate, not send my answer without telling you," said
Alice.

"And you will let me see it?"

"Nay," said Alice; "I will not promise that. But if it is
unfavourable I will show it you."

"Then I shall never see it," said Kate, laughing. "But that is quite
enough for me. I by no means wish to criticise the love-sweet words
in which you tell him that his offences are all forgiven. I know how
sweet they will be. Oh, heavens! how I envy him!"

Then they were at home; and the old man met them at the front door,
glowering at them angrily from out his old leonine eyes, because the
roast beef was already roasted. He had his great uncouth silver watch
in his hand, which was always a quarter of an hour too fast, and he
pointed at it fiercely, showing them the minute hand at ten minutes
past the hour.

"But, grandpapa, you are always too fast," said Kate.

"And you are always too slow, miss," said the hungry old squire.

"Indeed, it is not five yet. Is it, Alice?"

"And how long are you going to be dressing?"

"Not ten minutes;--are we, Alice? And, grandpapa, pray don't wait."

"Don't wait! That's what they always say," he muttered, peevishly.
"As if one would be any better waiting for them after the meat is
on the table." But neither Kate nor Alice heard this, as they were
already in their rooms.

Nothing more was said that evening between Alice and Kate about the
letter; but Kate, as she wished her cousin good night inside her
bedroom door, spoke to her just one word--"Pray for him to-night,"
she said, "as you pray for those you love best." Alice made no
answer, but we may believe that she did as she was desired to do.



CHAPTER XXXII

Containing an Answer to the Love Letter


Alice had had a week allowed to her to write her answer; but she
sent it off before the full week was past. "Why should I keep him in
suspense?" she said. "If it is to be so, there can be no good in not
saying so at once." Then she thought, also, that if this were to be
her destiny it might be well for Mr Grey that all his doubts on the
matter should be dispelled. She had treated him badly,--very badly.
She had so injured him that the remembrance of the injury must always
be a source of misery to her; but she owed to him above everything to
let him know what were her intentions as soon as they were settled.
She tried to console herself by thinking that the wound to him would
be easy to cure. "He also is not passionate," she said. But in so
saying she deceived herself. He was a man in whom Love could be very
passionate;--and was, moreover, one in whom Love could hardly be
renewed.

Each morning Kate asked her whether her answer was written; and on
the third day after Christmas, just before dinner, Alice said that
she had written it, and that it was gone.

"But it isn't post-day," said Kate;--for the post illuminated Vavasor
but three days a week.

"I have given a boy sixpence to take it to Shap," said Alice,
blushing.

"And what have you said?" asked Kate, taking hold of the other's arm.

"I have kept my promise," said Alice; "and do you keep yours by
asking no further questions."

"My sister,--my own sister," said Kate. And then, as Alice met her
embrace, there was no longer any doubt as to the nature of the reply.

After this there was of course much close discussion between them as
to what other steps should now be taken. Kate wanted her cousin to
write immediately to Mr Grey, and was somewhat frightened when Alice
declined to do so till she had received a further letter from George.
"You have not proposed any horrid stipulations to him?" exclaimed
Kate.

"I don't know what you may call horrid stipulations," said Alice,
gravely. "My conditions have not been very hard, and I do not think
you would have disapproved them."

"But he!--He is so impetuous! Will he disapprove them?"

"I have told him-- But, Kate, this is just what I did not mean to
tell you."

"Why should there be secrets between us?" said Kate.

"There shall be none, then. I have told him that I cannot bring
myself to marry him instantly;--that he must allow me twelve
months to wear off, if I can in that time, much of sadness and of
self-reproach which has fallen to my lot."

"Twelve months, Alice?"

"Listen to me. I have said so. But I have told him also that if he
wishes it still, I will at once tell papa and grandpapa that I hold
myself as engaged to him, so that he may know that I bind myself
to him as far as it is possible that I should do so. And I have
added something else, Kate," she continued to say after a slight
pause,--"something else which I can tell you, though I could tell it
to no other person. I can tell you because you would do, and will
do the same. I have told him that any portion of my money is at his
service which may be needed for his purposes before that twelve
months is over."

"Oh, Alice! No;--no. You shall not do that. It is too generous." And
Kate perhaps felt at the moment that her brother was a man to whom
such an offer could hardly be made with safety.

"But I have done it. Mercury, with sixpence in his pocket, is already
posting my generosity at Shap. And, to tell the truth, Kate, it is
no more than fair. He has honestly told me that while the old Squire
lives he will want my money to assist him in a career of which I do
much more than approve. It has been my earnest wish to see him in
Parliament. It will now be the most earnest desire of my heart;--the
one thing as to which I shall feel an intense anxiety. How then can
I have the face to bid him wait twelve months for that which is
specially needed in six months' time? It would be like the workhouses
which are so long in giving bread, that in the mean time the wretches
starve."

"But the wretch shan't starve," said Kate. "My money, small as it is,
will carry him over this bout. I have told him that he shall have it,
and that I expect him to spend it. Moreover, I have no doubt that
Aunt Greenow would lend me what he wants."

"But I should not wish him to borrow from Aunt Greenow. She would
advance him the money, as you say, upon stamped paper, and then talk
of it."

"He shall have mine," said Kate.

"And who are you?" said Alice, laughing. "You are not going to be his
wife?"

"He shall not touch your money till you are his wife," said Kate,
very seriously. "I wish you would consent to change your mind about
this stupid tedious year, and then you might do as you pleased. I
have no doubt such a settlement might be made as to the property
here, when my grandfather hears of it, as would make you ultimately
safe."

"And do you think I care to be ultimately safe, as you call it? Kate,
my dear, you do not understand me."

"I suppose not. And yet I thought that I had known something about
you."

"It is because I do not care for the safety of which you speak that I
am now going to become your brother's wife. Do you suppose that I do
not see that I must run much risk?"

"You prefer the excitement of London to the tranquillity, may I say,
of Cambridgeshire."

"Exactly;--and therefore I have told George that he shall have my
money whenever he wants it."

Kate was very persistent in her objection to this scheme till
George's answer came. His answer to Alice was accompanied by a letter
to his sister, and after that Kate said nothing more about the
money question. She said no more then; but it must not therefore be
supposed that she was less determined than she had been that no part
of Alice's fortune should be sacrificed to her brother's wants;--at
any rate before Alice should become her brother's wife. But her
brother's letter for the moment stopped her mouth. It would be
necessary that she should speak to him before she again spoke to
Alice.

In what words Alice had written her assent it will be necessary that
the reader should know, in order that something may be understood
of the struggle which she made upon the occasion; but they shall be
given presently, when I come to speak of George Vavasor's position as
he received them. George's reply was very short and apparently very
frank. He deprecated the delay of twelve months, and still hoped to
be able to induce her to be more lenient to him. He advised her to
write to Mr Grey at once,--and as regarded the Squire he gave her
_carte blanche_ to act as she pleased. If the Squire required any
kind of apology, expression of sorrow,--and asking for pardon, or
such like, he, George, would, under the circumstances as they now
existed, comply with the requisition most willingly. He would regard
it as a simple form, made necessary by his coming marriage. As to
Alice's money, he thanked her heartily for her confidence. If the
nature of his coming contest at Chelsea should make it necessary,
he would use her offer as frankly as it had been made. Such was his
letter to Alice. What was contained in his letter to Kate, Alice
never knew.

Then came the business of telling this new love tale,--the
third which poor Alice had been forced to tell her father and
grandfather;--and a grievous task it was. In this matter she feared
her father much more than her grandfather, and therefore she resolved
to tell her grandfather first;--or, rather, she determined that she
would tell the Squire, and that in the mean time Kate should talk to
her father.

"Grandpapa," she said to him the morning after she had received her
cousin's second letter.--The old man was in the habit of breakfasting
alone in a closet of his own, which was called his dressing-room,
but in which he kept no appurtenances for dressing, but in lieu of
them a large collection of old spuds and sticks and horse's-bits.
There was a broken spade here, and a hoe or two; and a small table
in the corner was covered with the debris of tradesmen's bills
from Penrith, and dirty scraps which he was wont to call his farm
accounts.--"Grandpapa," said Alice, rushing away at once into the
middle of her subject, "you told me the other day that you thought
I ought to be--married."

"Did I, my dear? Well, yes; so I did. And so you ought;--I mean to
that Mr Grey."

"That is impossible, sir."

"Then what's the use of your coming and talking to me about it?"

This made Alice's task not very easy; but, nevertheless, she
persevered. "I am come, grandpapa, to tell you of another
engagement."

"Another!" said he. And by the tone of his voice he accused his
granddaughter of having a larger number of favoured suitors than
ought to fall to the lot of any young lady. It was very hard upon
her, but still she went on.

"You know," said she, "that some years ago I was to have been married
to my cousin George;"--and then she paused.

"Well," said the old man.

"And I remember you told me then that you were much pleased."

"So I was. George was doing well then; or,--which is more
likely,--had made us believe that he was doing well. Have you made it
up with him again?"

"Yes, sir."

"And that's the meaning of your jilting Mr Grey, is it?"

Poor Alice! It is hard to explain how heavy a blow fell upon her
from the open utterance of that word! Of all words in the language
it was the one which she now most dreaded. She had called herself
a jilt, with that inaudible voice which one uses in making
self-accusations;--but hitherto no lips had pronounced the odious
word to her ears. Poor Alice! She was a jilt; and perhaps it may have
been well that the old man should tell her so.

"Grandpapa!" she said; and there was that in the tone of her voice
which somewhat softened the Squire's heart.

"Well, my dear, I don't want to be ill-natured. So you are going at
last to marry George, are you? I hope he'll treat you well; that's
all. Does your father approve of it?"

"I have told you first, sir;--because I wish to obtain your consent
to seeing George again here as your grandson."

"Never," said the old man, snarling;--"never!"

"If he has been wrong, he will beg your pardon."

"If he has been wrong! Didn't he want to squander every shilling of
the property,--property which has never belonged to him;--property
which I could give to Tom, Dick, or Harry to-morrow, if I liked?--If
he has been wrong!"

"I am not defending him, sir;--but I thought that, perhaps, on such
an occasion as this--"

"A Tom Fool's occasion! You've got money of your own. He'll spend all
that now."

"He will be less likely to do so if you will recognise him as your
heir. Pray believe, sir, that he is not the sort of man that he was."

"He must be a very clever sort of man, I think, when he has talked
you out of such a husband as John Grey. It's astounding to me,--with
that ugly mug of his! Well, my dear, if your father approves of it,
and if George will ask my pardon,--but I don't think he ever will--"

"He will, sir. I am his messenger for as much as that."

"Oh, you are, are you? Then you may also be my messenger to him, and
tell him that, for your sake, I will let him come back here. I know
he'll insult me the first day; but I'll try and put up with it,--for
your sake, my dear. Of course I must know what your father thinks
about it."

It may be imagined that Kate's success was even less than that which
Alice achieved. "I knew it would be so," said John Vavasor, when his
niece first told him;--and as he spoke he struck his hand upon the
table. "I knew all along how it would be."

"And why should it not be so, Uncle John?"

"He is your brother, and I will not tell you why."

"You think that he is a spendthrift?"

"I think that he is as unsafe a man as ever I knew to be intrusted
with the happiness of any young woman. That is all."

"You are hard upon him, uncle."

"Perhaps so. Tell Alice this from me,--that as I have never yet been
able to get her to think anything of my opinion, I do not at all
expect that I shall be able to induce her to do so now. I will not
even make the attempt. As my son-in-law I will not receive George
Vavasor. Tell Alice that."

Alice was told her father's message; but Kate in telling it felt no
deep regret. She well knew that Alice would not be turned back from
her present intention by her father's wishes. Nor would it have
been very reasonable that she should. Her father had for many years
relieved himself from the burden of a father's cares, and now had
hardly the right to claim a father's privileges.

We will now go once again to George Vavasor's room in Cecil Street,
in which he received Alice's letter. He was dressing when it was
first brought to him; and when he recognised the handwriting he put
it down on his toilet table unopened. He put it down, and went on
brushing his hair, as though he were determined to prove to himself
that he was indifferent as to the tidings which it might contain.
He went on brushing his hair, and cleaning his teeth, and tying his
cravat carefully over his turned-down collar, while the unopened
letter lay close to his hand. Of course he was thinking of it,--of
course he was anxious,--of course his eye went to it from moment
to moment. But he carried it with him into the sitting-room still
unopened, and so it remained until after the girl had brought him his
tea and his toast. "And now," said he, as he threw himself into his
arm-chair, "let us see what the girl of my heart says to me." The
girl of his heart said to him as follows:--


   MY DEAR GEORGE,

   I feel great difficulty in answering your letter. Could I
   have my own way, I should make no answer to it at present,
   but leave it for the next six months, so that then such
   answer might hereafter be made as circumstances should
   seem to require. This will be little flattering to you,
   but it is less flattering to myself. Whatever answer I may
   make, how can anything in this affair be flattering either
   to you or to me? We have been like children who have
   quarrelled over our game of play, till now, at the close
   of our little day of pleasure, we are fain to meet each
   other in tears, and acknowledge that we have looked for
   delights where no delights were to be found.

   Kate, who is here, talks to me of passionate love. There
   is no such passion left to me;--nor, as I think, to you
   either. It would not now be possible that you and I should
   come together on such terms as that. We could not stand
   up together as man and wife with any hope of a happy
   marriage, unless we had both agreed that such happiness
   might be had without passionate love.

   You will see from all this that I do not refuse your
   offer. Without passion, I have for you a warm affection,
   which enables me to take a livelier interest in your
   career than in any other of the matters which are around
   me. Of course, if I become your wife that interest will be
   still closer and dearer, and I do feel that I can take in
   it that concern which a wife should have in her husband's
   affairs.

   If it suits you, I will become your wife;--but it cannot
   be quite at once. I have suffered much from the past
   conflicts of my life, and there has been very much with
   which I must reproach myself. I know that I have behaved
   badly. Sometimes I have to undergo the doubly bitter
   self-accusation of having behaved in a manner which the
   world will call unfeminine. You must understand that I
   have not passed through this unscathed, and I must beg
   you to allow me some time for a cure. A perfect cure I
   may never expect, but I think that in twelve months from
   this time I may so far have recovered my usual spirit and
   ease of mind as to enable me to devote myself to your
   happiness. Dear George, if you will accept me under such
   circumstances, I will be your wife, and will endeavour to
   do my duty by you faithfully.

   I have said that even now, as your cousin, I take a lively
   interest in your career,--of course I mean your career as
   a politician,--and especially in your hopes of entering
   Parliament. I understand, accurately as I think, what you
   have said about my fortune, and I perfectly appreciate
   your truth and frankness. If I had nothing of my own you,
   in your circumstances, could not possibly take me as your
   wife. I know, moreover, that your need of assistance from
   my means is immediate rather than prospective. My money
   may be absolutely necessary to you within this year,
   during which, as I tell you most truly, I cannot bring
   myself to become a married woman. But my money shall
   be less cross-grained than myself. You will take it as
   frankly as I mean it when I say, that whatever you want
   for your political purposes shall be forthcoming at your
   slightest wish. Dear George, let me have the honour and
   glory of marrying a man who has gained a seat in the
   Parliament of Great Britain! Of all positions which a man
   may attain that, to me, is the grandest.

   I shall wait for a further letter from you before I speak
   either to my father or to my grandfather. If you can tell
   me that you accede to my views, I will at once try to
   bring about a reconciliation between you and the Squire.
   I think that that will be almost easier than inducing my
   father to look with favour upon our marriage. But I need
   hardly say that should either one or the other oppose
   it,--or should both do so,--that would not turn me from my
   purpose.

   I also wait for your answer to write a last line to Mr
   Grey.

   Your affectionate cousin,

   ALICE VAVASOR.


George Vavasor when he had read the letter threw it carelessly from
him on to the breakfast table, and began to munch his toast. He threw
it carelessly from him, as though taking a certain pride in his
carelessness. "Very well," said he; "so be it. It is probably the
best thing that I could do, whatever the effect may be on her." Then
he took up his newspaper. But before the day was over he had made
many plans,--plans made almost unconsciously,--as to the benefit
which might accrue to him from the offer which she had made of her
money. And before night he had written that reply to her of which we
have heard the contents; and had written also to his sister Kate a
letter, of which Kate had kept the contents to herself.



CHAPTER XXXIII

Monkshade


When the first of the new year came round Lady Glencora was not
keeping her appointment at Lady Monk's house. She went to Gatherum
Castle, and let us hope that she enjoyed the magnificent Christmas
hospitality of the Duke; but when the time came for moving on to
Monkshade, she was indisposed, and Mr Palliser went thither alone.
Lady Glencora returned to Matching and remained at home, while her
husband was away, in company with the two Miss Pallisers.

When the tidings reached Monkshade that Lady Glencora was not to
be expected, Burgo Fitzgerald was already there, armed with such
pecuniary assistance as George Vavasor had been able to wrench out
of the hands of Mr Magruin. "Burgo," said his aunt, catching him one
morning near his bedroom door as he was about to go down-stairs in
hunting trim, "Burgo, your old flame, Lady Glencora, is not coming
here."

"Lady Glencora not coming!" said Burgo, betraying by his look and the
tone of his voice too clearly that this change in the purpose of a
married lady was to him of more importance than it should have been.
Such betrayal, however, to Lady Monk was not perhaps matter of much
moment.

"No; she is not coming. It can't be matter of any moment to you now."

"But, by heavens, it is," said he, putting his hand up to his
forehead, and leaning back against the wall of the passage as though
in despair. "It is matter of moment to me. I am the most unfortunate
devil that ever lived."

"Fie, Burgo, fie! You must not speak in that way of a married woman.
I begin to think it is better that she should not come." At this
moment another man booted and spurred came down the passage, upon
whom Lady Monk smiled sweetly, speaking some pretty little word as
he passed. Burgo spoke never a word, but still stood leaning against
the wall, with his hand to his forehead, showing that he had heard
something which had moved him greatly. "Come back into your room,
Burgo," said his aunt; and they both went in at the door that was
nearest to them, for Lady Monk had been on the look-out for him, and
had caught him as soon as he appeared in the passage. "If this does
annoy you, you should keep it to yourself! What will people say?"

"How can I help what they say?"

"But you would not wish to injure her, I suppose? I thought it best
to tell you, for fear you should show any special sign of surprise
if you heard of it first in public. It is very weak in you to allow
yourself to feel that sort of regard for a married woman. If you
cannot constrain yourself I shall be afraid to let you meet her in
Brook Street."

Burgo looked for a moment into his aunt's face without answering her,
and then turned away towards the door. "You can do as you please
about that," said he; "but you know as well as I do what I have made
up my mind to do."

"Nonsense, Burgo; I know nothing of the kind. But do you go
down-stairs to breakfast, and don't look like that when you go among
the people there."

Lady Monk was a woman now about fifty years of age, who had been a
great beauty, and who was still handsome in her advanced age. Her
figure was very good. She was tall and of fine proportion, though by
no means verging to that state of body which our excellent American
friend and critic Mr Hawthorne has described as beefy and has
declared to be the general condition of English ladies of Lady Monk's
age. Lady Monk was not beefy. She was a comely, handsome, upright,
dame,--one of whom, as regards her outward appearance, England might
be proud,--and of whom Sir Cosmo Monk was very proud. She had come of
the family of the Worcestershire Fitzgeralds, of whom it used to be
said that there never was one who was not beautiful and worthless.
Looking at Lady Monk you would hardly think that she could be a
worthless woman; but there were one or two who professed to know her,
and who declared that she was a true scion of the family to which she
belonged;--that even her husband's ample fortune had suffered from
her extravagance, that she had quarrelled with her only son, and
had succeeded in marrying her daughter to the greatest fool in the
peerage. She had striven very hard to bring about a marriage between
her nephew and the great heiress, and was a woman not likely to
pardon those who had foiled her.

At this moment Burgo felt very certain that his aunt was aware of his
purpose, and could not forgive her for pretending to be innocent of
it. In this he was most ungrateful, as well as unreasonable,--and
very indiscreet also. Had he been a man who ever reflected he must
have known that such a woman as his aunt could only assist him as
long as she might be presumed to be ignorant of his intention. But
Burgo never reflected. The Fitzgeralds never reflected till they were
nearer forty than thirty, and then people began to think worse of
them than they had thought before.

When Burgo reached the dining-room there were many men there, but no
ladies. Sir Cosmo Monk, a fine bald-headed hale man of about sixty,
was standing up at the sideboard, cutting a huge game pie. He was a
man also who did not reflect much, but who contrived to keep straight
in his course through the world without much reflection. "Palliser
is coming without her," he said in his loud clear voice, thinking
nothing of his wife's nephew. "She's ill, she says."

"I'm sorry for it," said one man. "She's a deal the better fellow of
the two."

"She has twice more go in her than Planty Pall," said another.

"Planty is no fool, I can tell you," said Sir Cosmo, coming to the
table with his plate full of pie. "We think he's about the most
rising man we have." Sir Cosmo was the member for his county, and
was a Liberal. He had once, when a much younger man, been at the
Treasury, and had since always spoken of the Whig Government as
though he himself were in some sort a part of it.

"Burgo, do you hear that Palliser is coming without his wife?"
said one man,--a very young man, who hardly knew what had been the
circumstances of the case. The others, when they saw Burgo enter, had
been silent on the subject of Lady Glencora.

"I have heard,--and be d----d to him," said Burgo. Then there was
suddenly a silence in the room, and everyone seemed to attend
assiduously to his breakfast. It was very terrible, this clear
expression of a guilty meaning with reference to the wife of another
man! Burgo regarded neither his plate nor his cup, but thrusting
his hands into his breeches pockets, sat back in his chair with the
blackness as of a thunder cloud upon his brow.

"Burgo, you had better eat your breakfast," said Sir Cosmo.

"I don't want any breakfast." He took, however, a bit of toast, and
crumbling it up in his hand as he put a morsel into his mouth, went
away to the sideboard and filled for himself a glass of cherry
brandy.

"If you don't eat any breakfast the less of that you take the
better," said Sir Cosmo.

"I'm all right now," said he, and coming back to the table, went
through some form of making a meal with a roll and a cup of tea.

They who were then present used afterwards to say that they should
never forget that breakfast. There had been something, they declared,
in the tone of Burgo's voice when he uttered his curse against Mr
Palliser, which had struck them all with dread. There had, too, they
said, been a blackness in his face, so terrible to be seen, that it
had taken from them all the power of conversation. Sir Cosmo, when he
had broken the ominous silence, had done so with a manifest struggle.
The loud clatter of glasses with which Burgo had swallowed his dram,
as though resolved to show that he was regardless who might know that
he was drinking, added to the feeling. It may easily be understood
that there was no further word spoken at that breakfast-table about
Planty Pall or his wife.

On that day Burgo Fitzgerald startled all those who saw him by the
mad way in which he rode. Early in the day there was no excuse for
any such rashness. The hounds went from wood to wood, and men went in
troops along the forest sides as they do on such occasions. But Burgo
was seen to cram his horse at impracticable places, and to ride at
gates and rails as though resolved to do himself and his uncle's
steed a mischief. This was so apparent that some friend spoke to Sir
Cosmo Monk about it. "I can do nothing," said Sir Cosmo. "He is a
man whom no one's words will control. Something has ruffled him this
morning, and he must run his chance till he becomes quiet." In the
afternoon there was a good run, and Burgo again rode as hard as he
could make his horse carry him;--but then there was the usual excuse
for hard riding; and such riding in a straight run is not dangerous,
as it is when the circumstances of the occasion do not warrant it,
But, be that as it may, Burgo went on to the end of the day without
accident, and as he went home, assured Sir Cosmo, in a voice which
was almost cheery, that his mare Spinster was by far the best thing
in the Monkshade stables. Indeed Spinster made quite a character that
day, and was sold at the end of the season for three hundred guineas
on the strength of it. I am, however, inclined to believe that there
was nothing particular about the mare. Horses always catch the
temperament of their riders, and when a man wishes to break his neck,
he will generally find a horse willing to assist him in appearance,
but able to save him in the performance. Burgo, at any rate, did not
break his neck, and appeared at the dinner-table in a better humour
than that which he had displayed in the morning.

On the day appointed Mr Palliser reached Monkshade. He was, in a
manner, canvassing for the support of the Liberal party, and it would
not have suited him to show any indifference to the invitation of
so influential a man as Sir Cosmo. Sir Cosmo had a little party of
his own in the House, consisting of four or five other respectable
country gentlemen, who troubled themselves little with thinking, and
who mostly had bald heads. Sir Cosmo was a man with whom it was quite
necessary that such an aspirant as Mr Palliser should stand well, and
therefore Mr Palliser came to Monkshade, although Lady Glencora was
unable to accompany him.

"We are so sorry," said Lady Monk. "We have been looking forward to
having Lady Glencora with us beyond everything."

Mr Palliser declared that Lady Glencora herself was overwhelmed with
grief in that she should have been debarred from making this special
visit. She had, however, been so unwell at Gatherum, the anxious
husband declared, as to make it unsafe for her to go again away from
home.

"I hope it is nothing serious," said Lady Monk, with a look of grief
so well arranged that any stranger would have thought that all the
Pallisers must have been very dear to her heart. Then Mr Palliser
went on to explain that Lady Glencora had unfortunately been foolish.
During one of those nights of hard frost she had gone out among the
ruins at Matching, to show them by moonlight to a friend. The friend
had thoughtlessly, foolishly, and in a manner which Mr Palliser
declared to be very reprehensible, allowed Lady Glencora to remain
among the ruins till she had caught cold.

"How very wrong!" said Lady Monk with considerable emphasis.

"It was very wrong," said Mr Palliser, speaking of poor Alice almost
maliciously. "However, she caught a cold which, unfortunately, has
become worse at my uncle's, and so I was obliged to take her home."

Lady Monk perceived that Mr Palliser had in truth left his wife
behind because he believed her to be ill, and not because he was
afraid of Burgo Fitzgerald. So accomplished a woman as Lady Monk felt
no doubt that the wife's absence was caused by fear of the lover, and
not by any cold caught in viewing ruins by moonlight. She was not to
be deceived in such a matter. But she became aware that Mr Palliser
had been deceived. As she was right in this we must go back for a
moment, and say a word of things as they went on at Matching after
Alice Vavasor had left that place.

Alice had told Miss Palliser that steps ought to be taken, whatever
might be their cost, to save Lady Glencora from the peril of a visit
to Monkshade. To this Miss Palliser had assented, and, when she left
Alice, was determined to tell Mr Palliser the whole story. But when
the time for doing so had come, her courage failed her. She could not
find words in which to warn the husband that his wife would not be
safe in the company of her old lover. The task with Lady Glencora
herself, bad as that would be, might be easier, and this task she at
last undertook,--not without success.

"Glencora," she said, when she found a fitting opportunity, "you
won't be angry, I hope, if I say a word to you?"

"That depends very much upon what the word is," said Lady Glencora.
And here it must be acknowledged that Mr Palliser's wife had not done
much to ingratiate herself with Mr Palliser's cousins;--not perhaps
so much as she should have done, seeing that she found them in her
husband's house. She had taught herself to think that they were hard,
stiff, and too proud of bearing the name of Palliser. Perhaps some
little attempt may have been made by one or both of them to teach her
something, and it need hardly be said that such an attempt on the
part of a husband's unmarried female relations would not be forgiven
by a young bride. She had undoubtedly been ungracious, and of this
Miss Palliser was well aware.

"Well,--the word shall be as little unpleasant as I can make it,"
said Miss Palliser, already appreciating fully the difficulty of her
task.

"But why say anything that is unpleasant? However, if it is to be
said, let us have it over at once."

"You are going to Monkshade, I believe, with Plantagenet."

"Well;--and what of that?"

"Dear Glencora, I think you had better not go. Do you not think so
yourself?"

"Who has been talking to you?" said Lady Glencora, turning upon her
very sharply.

"Nobody has been talking to me;--not in the sense you mean."

"Plantagenet has spoken to you?"

"Not a word," said Miss Palliser. "You may be sure that he would not
utter a word on such a subject to anyone unless it were to yourself.
But, dear Glencora, you should not go there;--I mean it in all
kindness and love,--I do indeed." Saying this she offered her hand to
Glencora, and Glencora took it.

"Perhaps you do," said she in a low voice.

"Indeed I do. The world is so hard and cruel in what it says."

"I do not care two straws for what the world says."

"But he might care."

"It is not my fault. I do not want to go to Monkshade. Lady Monk was
my friend once, but I do not care if I never see her again. I did not
arrange this visit. It was Plantagenet who did it."

"But he will not take you there if you say you do not wish it."

"I have said so, and he told me that I must go. You will hardly
believe me,--but I condescended even to tell him why I thought it
better to remain away. He told me, in answer, that it was a silly
folly which I must live down, and that it did not become me to be
afraid of any man."

"Of course you are not afraid, but--"

"I am afraid. That is just the truth. I am afraid;--but what can I do
more than I have done?"

This was very terrible to Miss Palliser. She had not thought that
Lady Glencora would say so much, and she felt a true regret in having
been made to hear words which so nearly amounted to a confession.
But for this there was no help now. There were not many more words
between them, and we already know the result of the conversation.
Lady Glencora became so ill from the effects of her imprudent
lingering among the ruins that she was unable to go to Monkshade.

Mr Palliser remained three days at Monkshade, and cemented his
political alliance with Sir Cosmo much in the same way as he had
before done with the Duke of St Bungay. There was little or nothing
said about politics, and certainly not a word that could be taken as
any definite party understanding between the men; but they sat at
dinner together at the same table, drank a glass of wine or two out
of the same decanters, and dropped a chance word now and again about
the next session of Parliament. I do not know that anything more had
been expected either by Mr Palliser or by Sir Cosmo; but it seemed
to be understood when Mr Palliser went away that Sir Cosmo was of
opinion that that young scion of a ducal house ought to become the
future Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Whig Government.

"I can't see that there's so much in him," said one young member of
Parliament to Sir Cosmo.

"I rather think that there is, all the same," said the baronet.
"There's a good deal in him, I believe! I dare say he's not very
bright, but I don't know that we want brightness. A bright financier
is the most dangerous man in the world. We've had enough of that
already. Give me sound common sense, with just enough of the gab in
a man to enable him to say what he's got to say! We don't want more
than that nowadays." From which it became evident that Sir Cosmo was
satisfied with the new political candidate for high place.

Lady Monk took an occasion to introduce Mr Palliser to Burgo
Fitzgerald; with what object it is difficult to say, unless she was
anxious to make mischief between the men. Burgo scowled at him; but
Mr Palliser did not notice the scowl, and put out his hand to his
late rival most affably. Burgo was forced to take it, and as he did
so made a little speech. "I'm sorry that we have not the pleasure of
seeing Lady Glencora with you," said he.

"She is unfortunately indisposed," said Mr Palliser.

"I am sorry for it," said Burgo--"very sorry indeed." Then he turned
his back and walked away. The few words he had spoken, and the manner
in which he had carried himself, had been such as to make all those
around them notice it. Each of them knew that Lady Glencora's name
should not have been in Burgo's mouth, and all felt a fear not
easily to be defined that something terrible would come of it. But
Mr Palliser himself did not seem to notice anything, or to fear
anything; and nothing terrible did come of it during that visit of
his to Monkshade.



CHAPTER XXXIV

Mr Vavasor Speaks to His Daughter


Alice Vavasor returned to London with her father, leaving Kate at
Vavasor Hall with her grandfather. The journey was not a pleasant
one. Mr Vavasor knew that it was his duty to do something,--to
take some steps with the view of preventing the marriage which his
daughter meditated; but he did not know what that something should
be, and he did know that, whatever it might be, the doing of it
would be thoroughly disagreeable. When they started from Vavasor he
had as yet hardly spoken to her a word upon the subject. "I cannot
congratulate you," he had simply said. "I hope the time may come,
papa, when you will," Alice had answered; and that had been all.

The squire had promised that he would consent to a reconciliation
with his grandson, if Alice's father would express himself satisfied
with the proposed marriage. John Vavasor had certainly expressed
nothing of the kind. "I think so badly of him," he had said, speaking
to the old man of George, "that I would rather know that almost any
other calamity was to befall her, than that she should be united to
him." Then the squire, with his usual obstinacy, had taken up the
cudgels on behalf of his grandson; and had tried to prove that
the match after all would not be so bad in its results as his son
seemed to expect. "It would do very well for the property," he said.
"I would settle the estate on their eldest son, so that he could
not touch it; and I don't see why he shouldn't reform as well as
another." John Vavasor had then declared that George was thoroughly
bad, that he was an adventurer; that he believed him to be a ruined
man, and that he would never reform. The squire upon this had waxed
angry, and in this way George obtained aid and assistance down at
the old house, which he certainly had no right to expect. When Alice
wished her grandfather good-bye the old man gave her a message to his
grandson. "You may tell him," said he, "that I will never see him
again unless he begs my pardon for his personal bad conduct to me,
but that if he marries you, I will take care that the property is
properly settled upon his child and yours. I shall always be glad to
see you, my dear; and for your sake, I will see him if he will humble
himself to me." There was no word spoken then about her father's
consent; and Alice, when she left Vavasor, felt that the squire was
rather her friend than her enemy in regard to this thing which she
contemplated. That her father was and would be an uncompromising
enemy to her,--uncompromising though probably not energetical,--she
was well aware; and, therefore, the journey up to London was not
comfortable.

Alice had resolved, with great pain to herself, that in this matter
she owed her father no obedience. "There cannot be obedience on one
side," she said to herself, "without protection and support on the
other." Now it was quite true that John Vavasor had done little in
the way of supporting or protecting his daughter. Early in life,
before she had resided under the same roof with him in London, he
had, as it were, washed his hands of all solicitude regarding her;
and having no other ties of family, had fallen into habits of life
which made it almost impossible for him to live with her as any other
father would live with his child. Then, when there first sprang
up between them that manner of sharing the same house without any
joining together of their habits of life, he had excused himself to
himself by saying that Alice was unlike other girls, and that she
required no protection. Her fortune was her own, and at her own
disposal. Her character was such that she showed no inclination to
throw the burden of such disposal on her father's shoulders. She was
steady, too, and given to no pursuits which made it necessary that he
should watch closely over her. She was a girl, he thought, who could
do as well without surveillance as with it,--as well, or perhaps
better. So it had come to pass that Alice had been the free mistress
of her own actions, and had been left to make the most she could of
her own hours. It cannot be supposed that she had eaten her lonely
dinners in Queen Anne Street night after night, week after week,
month after month, without telling herself that her father was
neglecting her. She could not perceive that he spent every evening in
society, but never an evening in her society, without feeling that
the tie between her and him was not the strong bond which usually
binds a father to his child. She was well aware that she had been
ill-used in being thus left desolate in her home. She had uttered no
word of complaint; but she had learned, without being aware that she
was doing so, to entertain a firm resolve that her father should not
guide her in her path through life. In that affair of John Grey they
had both for a time thought alike, and Mr Vavasor had believed that
his theory with reference to Alice had been quite correct. She had
been left to herself, and was going to dispose of herself in a way
than which nothing could be more eligible. But evil days were now
coming, and Mr Vavasor, as he travelled up to London, with his
daughter seated opposite to him in the railway carriage, felt that
now, at last, he must interfere. In part of the journey they had the
carriage to themselves, and Mr Vavasor thought that he would begin
what he had to say; but he put it off till others joined them, and
then there was no further opportunity for such conversation as that
which would be necessary between them. They reached home about
eight in the evening, having dined on the road. "She will be tired
to-night," he said to himself, as he went off to his club, "and I
will speak to her to-morrow." Alice specially felt his going on this
evening. When two persons had together the tedium of such a journey
as that from Westmoreland up to London, there should be some feeling
between them to bind them together while enjoying the comfort of the
evening. Had he stayed and sat with her at her tea-table, Alice would
at any rate have endeavoured to be soft with him in any discussion
that might have been raised; but he went away from her at once,
leaving her to think alone over the perils of the life before her. "I
want to speak to you after breakfast to-morrow," he said as he went
out. Alice answered that she should be there,--as a matter of course.
She scorned to tell him that she was always there,--always alone at
home. She had never uttered a word of complaint, and she would not
begin now.

The discussion after breakfast the next day was commenced with
formal and almost ceremonial preparation. The father and daughter
breakfasted together, with the knowledge that the discussion was
coming. It did not give to either of them a good appetite, and very
little was said at table.

"Will you come up-stairs?" said Alice, when she perceived that her
father had finished his tea.

"Perhaps that will be best," said he. Then he followed her into the
drawing-room in which the fire had just been lit.

"Alice," said he, "I must speak to you about this engagement of
yours."

"Won't you sit down, papa? It does look so dreadful, your standing up
over one in that way." He had placed himself on the rug with his back
to the incipient fire, but now, at her request, he sat himself down
opposite to her.

"I was greatly grieved when I heard of this at Vavasor."

"I am sorry that you should be grieved, papa."

"I was grieved. I must confess that I never could understand why you
treated Mr Grey as you have done."

"Oh, papa, that's done and past. Pray let that be among the bygones."

"Does he know yet of your engagement with your cousin?"

"He will know it by this time to-morrow."

"Then I beg of you, as a great favour, to postpone your letter to
him." To this Alice made no answer. "I have not troubled you with
many such requests, Alice. Will you tell me that this one shall be
granted?"

"I think that I owe it to him as an imperative duty to let him know
the truth."

"But you may change your mind again." Alice found that this was hard
to bear and hard to answer; but there was a certain amount of truth
in the grievous reproach conveyed in her father's words, which
made her bow her neck to it. "I have no right to say that it is
impossible," she replied, in words that were barely audible.

"No;--exactly so," said her father. "And therefore it will be better
that you should postpone any such communication."

"For how long do you mean?"

"Till you and I shall have agreed together that he should be told."

"No, papa; I will not consent to that. I consider myself bound to let
him know the truth without delay. I have done him a great injury, and
I must put an end to that as soon as possible."

"You have done him an injury certainly, my dear;--a very great
injury," said Mr Vavasor, going away from his object about the
proposed letter; "and I believe he will feel it as such to the last
day of his life, if this goes on."

"I hope not. I believe that it will not be so. I feel sure that it
will not be so."

"But of course what I am thinking of now is your welfare,--not his.
When you simply told me that you intended to--." Alice winced,
for she feared to hear from her father that odious word which her
grandfather had used to her; and indeed the word had been on her
father's lips, but he had refrained and spared her--"that you
intended to break your engagement with Mr Grey," he continued, "I
said little or nothing to you. I would not ask you to marry any man,
even though you had yourself promised to marry him. But when you
tell me that you are engaged to your cousin George, the matter is
very different. I do not think well of your cousin. Indeed I think
anything but well of him. It is my duty to tell you that the world
speaks very ill of him." He paused, but Alice remained silent. "When
you were about to travel with him," he continued, "I ought perhaps to
have told you the same. But I did not wish to pain you or his sister;
and, moreover, I have heard worse of him since then,--much worse than
I had heard before."

"As you did not tell me before, I think you might spare me now," said
Alice.

"No, my dear; I cannot allow you to sacrifice yourself without
telling you that you are doing so. If it were not for your money he
would never think of marrying you."

"Of that I am well aware," said Alice. "He has told me so himself
very plainly."

"And yet you will marry him?"

"Certainly I will. It seems to me, papa, that there is a great deal
of false feeling about this matter of money in marriage,--or rather,
perhaps, a great deal of pretended feeling. Why should I be angry
with a man for wishing to get that for which every man is struggling?
At this point of George's career the use of money is essential to
him. He could not marry without it."

"You had better then give him your money without yourself," said her
father, speaking in irony.

"That is just what I mean to do, papa," said Alice.

"What!" said Mr Vavasor, jumping up from his seat. "You mean to give
him your money before you marry him?"

"Certainly I do;--if he should want it;--or, I should rather say, as
much as he may want of it."

"Heavens and earth!" exclaimed Mr Vavasor. "Alice, you must be mad."

"To part with my money to my friend?" said she. "It is a kind of
madness of which I need not at any rate be ashamed."

"Tell me this, Alice; has he got any of it as yet?"

"Not a shilling. Papa, pray do not look at me like that. If I had no
thought of marrying him you would not call me mad because I lent to
my cousin what money he might need."

"I should only say that so much of your fortune was thrown away, and
if it were not much that would be an end of it. I would sooner see
you surrender to him the half of all you have, without any engagement
to marry him, than know that he had received a shilling from you
under such a promise."

"You are prejudiced against him, sir."

"Was it prejudice that made you reject him once before? Did you
condemn him then through prejudice? Had you not ascertained that he
was altogether unworthy of you?"

"We were both younger, then," said Alice, speaking very softly, but
very seriously. "We were both much younger then, and looked at life
with other eyes than those which we now use. For myself I expected
much then, which I now seem hardly to regard at all; and as for him,
he was then attached to pleasures to which I believe he has now
learned to be indifferent."

"Psha!" ejaculated the father.

"I can only speak as I believe," continued Alice. "And I think I may
perhaps know more of his manner of life than you do, papa. But I am
prepared to run risks now which I feared before. Even though he were
all that you think him to be, I would still endeavour to do my duty
to him, and to bring him to other things."

"What is it you expect to get by marrying him?" asked Mr Vavasor.

"A husband whose mode of thinking is congenial to my own," answered
Alice. "A husband who proposes to himself a career in life with which
I can sympathize. I think that I may perhaps help my cousin in the
career which he has chosen, and that alone is a great reason why I
should attempt to do so."

"With your money?" said Mr Vavasor with a sneer.

"Partly with my money," said Alice, disdaining to answer the sneer.
"Though it were only with my money, even that would be something."

"Well, Alice, as your father, I can only implore you to pause before
you commit yourself to his hands. If he demands money from you, and
you are minded to give it to him, let him have it in moderation.
Anything will be better than marrying him. I know that I cannot
hinder you; you are as much your own mistress as I am my own
master,--or rather a great deal more, as my income depends on my
going to that horrid place in Chancery Lane. But yet I suppose you
must think something of your father's wishes and your father's
opinion. It will not be pleasant for you to stand at the altar
without my being there near you."

To this Alice made no answer; but she told herself that it had not
been pleasant to her to have stood at so many places during the last
four years,--and to have found herself so often alone,--without her
father being near to her. That had been his fault, and it was not now
in her power to remedy the ill-effects of it.

"Has any day been fixed between you and him?" he asked.

"No, papa."

"Nothing has been said about that?"

"Yes; something has been said. I have told him that it cannot be for
a year yet. It is because I told him that, that I told him also that
he should have my money when he wanted it."

"Not all of it?" said Mr Vavasor.

"I don't suppose he will need it all. He intends to stand again for
Chelsea, and it is the great expense of the election which makes
him want money. You are not to suppose that he has asked me for it.
When I made him understand that I did not wish to marry quite yet,
I offered him the use of that which would be ultimately his own."

"And he has accepted it?"

"He answered me just as I had intended,--that when the need came he
would take me at my word."

"Then, Alice, I will tell you what is my belief. He will drain you of
every shilling of your money, and when that is gone, there will be no
more heard of the marriage. We must take a small house in some cheap
part of the town and live on my income as best we may. I shall go and
insure my life, so that you may not absolutely starve when I die."
Having said this, Mr Vavasor went away, not immediately to the
insurance office, as his words seemed to imply, but to his club where
he sat alone, reading the newspaper, very gloomily, till the time
came for his afternoon rubber of whist, and the club dinner bill for
the day was brought under his eye.

Alice had no such consolations in her solitude. She had fought her
battle with her father tolerably well, but she was now called upon
to fight a battle with herself, which was one much more difficult to
win. Was her cousin, her betrothed as she now must regard him, the
worthless, heartless, mercenary rascal which her father painted him?
There had certainly been a time, and that not very long distant, in
which Alice herself had been almost constrained so to regard him.
Since that any change for the better in her opinion of him had been
grounded on evidence given either by himself or by his sister Kate.
He had done nothing to inspire her with any confidence, unless his
reckless daring in coming forward to contest a seat in Parliament
could be regarded as a doing of something. And he had owned himself
to be a man almost penniless; he had spoken of himself as being
utterly reckless,--as being one whose standing in the world was and
must continue to be a perch on the edge of a precipice, from which
any accident might knock him headlong. Alice believed in her heart
that this last profession or trade to which he had applied himself,
was becoming as nothing to him,--that he received from it no certain
income;--no income that a man could make to appear respectable to
fathers or guardians when seeking a girl in marriage. Her father
declared that all men spoke badly of him. Alice knew her father to be
an idle man, a man given to pleasure, to be one who thought by far
too much of the good things of the world; but she had never found him
to be either false or malicious. His unwonted energy in this matter
was in itself evidence that he believed himself to be right in what
he said.

To tell the truth, Alice was frightened at what she had done, and
almost repented of it already. Her acceptance of her cousin's
offer had not come of love;--nor had it, in truth, come chiefly of
ambition. She had not so much asked herself why she should do this
thing, as why she should not do it,--seeing that it was required
of her by her friend. What after all did it matter? That was her
argument with herself. It cannot be supposed that she looked back on
the past events of her life with any self-satisfaction. There was no
self-satisfaction, but in truth there was more self-reproach than she
deserved. As a girl she had loved her cousin George passionately, and
that love had failed her. She did not tell herself that she had been
wrong when she gave him up, but she thought herself to have been
most unfortunate in the one necessity. After such an experience as
that, would it not have been better for her to have remained without
further thought of marriage?

Then came that terrible episode in her life for which she never could
forgive herself. She had accepted Mr Grey because she liked him and
honoured him. "And I did love him," she said to herself, now on this
morning. Poor, wretched, heart-wrung woman! As she sat there thinking
of it all in her solitude she was to be pitied at any rate, if not to
be forgiven. Now, as she thought of Nethercoats, with its quiet life,
its gardens, its books, and the peaceful affectionate ascendancy of
him who would have been her lord and master, her feelings were very
different from those which had induced her to resolve that she would
not stoop to put her neck beneath that yoke. Would it not have been
well for her to have a master who by his wisdom and strength could
save her from such wretched doubtings as these? But she had refused
to bend, and then she had found herself desolate and alone in the
world.

"If I can do him good why should I not marry him?" In that feeling
had been the chief argument which had induced her to return such
an answer as she had sent to her cousin. "For myself, what does it
matter? As to this life of mine and all that belongs to it, why
should I regard it otherwise than to make it of some service to
some one who is dear to me?" He had been ever dear to her from her
earliest years. She believed in his intellect, even if she could not
believe in his conduct. Kate, her friend, longed for this thing. As
for that dream of love, it meant nothing; and as for those arguments
of prudence,--that cold calculation about her money, which all people
seemed to expect from her,--she would throw it to the winds. What if
she were ruined! There was always the other chance. She might save
him from ruin, and help him to honour and fortune.

But then, when the word was once past her lips, there returned to her
that true woman's feeling which made her plead for a long day,--which
made her feel that that long day would be all too short,--which made
her already dread the coming of the end of the year. She had said
that she would become George Vavasor's wife, but she wished that the
saying so might be the end of it. When he came to her to embrace
her how should she receive him? The memory of John Grey's last kiss
still lingered on her lips. She had told herself that she scorned the
delights of love; if it were so, was she not bound to keep herself
far from them; if it were so,--would not her cousin's kiss pollute
her?

"It may be as my father says," she thought. "It may be that he wants
my money only; if so, let him have it. Surely when the year is over
I shall know." Then a plan formed itself in her head, which she did
not make willingly, with any voluntary action of her mind,--but which
came upon her as plans do come,--and recommended itself to her in
despite of herself. He should have her money as he might call for
it,--all of it excepting some small portion of her income, which
might suffice to keep her from burdening her father. Then, if he were
contented, he should go free, without reproach, and there should be
an end of all question of marriage for her.

As she thought of this, and matured it in her mind, the door opened,
and the servant announced her cousin George.



CHAPTER XXXV

Passion versus Prudence


It had not occurred to Alice that her accepted lover would come to
her so soon. She had not told him expressly of the day on which she
would return, and had not reflected that Kate would certainly inform
him. She had been thinking so much of the distant perils of this
engagement, that this peril, so sure to come upon her before many
days or hours could pass by, had been forgotten. When the name struck
her ear, and George's step was heard outside on the landing-place,
she felt the blood rush violently to her heart, and she jumped up
from her seat panic-stricken and in utter dismay. How should she
receive him? And then again, with what form of affection would she be
accosted by him? But he was there in the room with her before she had
had a moment allowed to her for thought.

She hardly ventured to look up at him; but, nevertheless, she became
aware that there was something in his appearance and dress brighter,
more lover-like, perhaps newer, than was usual with him. This in
itself was an affliction to her. He ought to have understood that
such an engagement as theirs not only did not require, but absolutely
forbade, any such symptom of young love as this. Even when their
marriage came, if it must come, it should come without any customary
sign of smartness, without any outward mark of exaltation. It would
have been very good in him to have remained away from her for weeks
and months; but to come upon her thus, on the first morning of her
return, was a cruelty not to be forgiven. These were the feelings
with which Alice regarded her betrothed when he came to see her.

"Alice," said he, coming up to her with his extended hand,--"Dearest
Alice!"

She gave him her hand, and muttered some word which was inaudible
even to him; she gave him her hand, and immediately endeavoured to
resume it, but he held it clenched within his own, and she felt that
she was his prisoner. He was standing close to her now, and she could
not escape from him. She was trembling with fear lest worse might
betide her even than this. She had promised to marry him, and now she
was covered with dismay as she felt rather than thought how very far
she was from loving the man to whom she had given this promise.

"Alice," he said, "I am a man once again. It is only now that I can
tell you what I have suffered during these last few years." He still
held her hand, but he had not as yet attempted any closer embrace.
She knew that she was standing away from him awkwardly, almost
showing her repugnance to him; but it was altogether beyond her power
to assume an attitude of ordinary ease. "Alice," he continued, "I
feel that I am a strong man again, armed to meet the world at all
points. Will you not let me thank you for what you have done for me?"

She must speak to him! Though the doing so should be ever so painful
to her, she must say some word to him which should have in it a sound
of kindness. After all, it was his undoubted right to come to her,
and the footing on which he assumed to stand was simply that which
she herself had given to him. It was not his fault if at this moment
he inspired her with disgust rather than with love.

"I have done nothing for you, George," she said, "nothing at all."
Then she got her hand away from him, and retreated back to a sofa
where she seated herself, leaving him still standing in the space
before the fire. "That you may do much for yourself is my greatest
hope. If I can help you, I will do so most heartily." Then she
became thoroughly ashamed of her words, feeling that she was at once
offering to him the use of her purse.

"Of course you will help me," he said. "I am full of plans, all of
which you must share with me. But now, at this moment, my one great
plan is that in which you have already consented to be my partner.
Alice, you are my wife now. Tell me that it will make you happy to
call me your husband."

Not for worlds could she have said so at this moment. It was
ill-judged in him to press her thus. He should already have seen,
with half an eye, that no such triumph as that which he now demanded
could be his on this occasion. He had had his triumph when, in the
solitude of his own room, with quiet sarcasm he had thrown on one
side of him the letter in which she had accepted him, as though the
matter had been one almost indifferent to him. He had no right to
expect the double triumph. Then he had frankly told himself that her
money would be useful to him. He should have been contented with
that conviction, and not have required her also to speak to him soft
winning words of love.

"That must be still distant, George," she said. "I have suffered so
much!"

"And it has been my fault that you have suffered; I know that. These
years of misery have been my doing." It was, however, the year of
coming misery that was the most to be dreaded.

"I do not say that," she replied, "nor have I ever thought it. I have
myself and myself only to blame." Here he altogether misunderstood
her, believing her to mean that the fault for which she blamed
herself had been committed in separating herself from him on that
former occasion.

"Alice, dear, let bygones be bygones."

"Bygones will not be bygones. It may be well for people to say so,
but it is never true. One might as well say so to one's body as to
one's heart. But the hairs will grow grey, and the heart will grow
cold."

"I do not see that one follows upon the other," said George. "My hair
is growing very grey;"--and to show that it was so, he lifted the
dark lock from the side of his forehead, and displayed the incipient
grizzling of the hair from behind. "If grey hairs make an old man,
Alice, you will marry an old husband; but even you shall not be
allowed to say that my heart is old."

That word "husband," which her cousin had twice used, was painful to
Alice's ear. She shrunk from it with palpable bodily suffering. Marry
an old husband! His age was nothing to the purpose, though he had
been as old as Enoch. But she was again obliged to answer him. "I
spoke of my own heart," said she: "I sometimes feel that it has grown
very old."

"Alice, that is hardly cheering to me."

"You have come to me too quickly, George, and do not reflect how much
there is that I must remember. You have said that bygones should be
bygones. Let them be so, at any rate as far as words are concerned.
Give me a few months in which I may learn,--not to forget them, for
that will be impossible,--but to abstain from speaking of them."

There was something in her look as she spoke, and in the tone of her
voice that was very sad. It struck him forcibly, but it struck him
with anger rather than with sadness. Doubtless her money had been
his chief object when he offered to renew his engagement with her.
Doubtless he would have made no such offer had she been penniless,
or even had his own need been less pressing. But, nevertheless, he
desired something more than money. The triumph of being preferred to
John Grey,--of having John Grey sent altogether adrift, in order that
his old love might be recovered, would have been too costly a luxury
for him to seek, had he not in seeking it been able to combine
prudence with the luxury. But though his prudence had been undoubted,
he desired the luxury also. It was on a calculation of the combined
advantage that he had made his second offer to his cousin. As he
would by no means have consented to proceed with the arrangement
without the benefit of his cousin's money, so also did he feel
unwilling to dispense with some expression of her love for him, which
would be to him triumphant. Hitherto in their present interview there
had certainly been no expression of her love.

"Alice," he said, "your greeting to me is hardly all that I had
hoped."

"Is it not?" said she. "Indeed, George, I am sorry that you should
be disappointed; but what can I say? You would not have me affect a
lightness of spirit which I do not feel?"

"If you wish," said he, very slowly,--"if you wish to retract your
letter to me, you now have my leave to do so."

What an opportunity was this of escape! But she had not the courage
to accept it. What girl, under such circumstances, would have had
such courage? How often are offers made to us which we would almost
give our eyes to accept, but dare not accept because we fear the
countenance of the offerer? "I do not wish to retract my letter,"
said she, speaking as slowly as he had spoken; "but I wish to be left
awhile, that I may recover my strength of mind. Have you not heard
doctors say, that muscles which have been strained, should be allowed
rest, or they will never entirely renew their tension? It is so with
me now; if I could be quiet for a few months, I think I could learn
to face the future with a better courage."

"And is that all you can say to me, Alice?"

"What would you have me say?"

"I would fain hear one word of love from you; is that unreasonable? I
would wish to know from your own lips that you have satisfaction in
the renewed prospect of our union; is that too ambitious? It might
have been that I was over-bold in pressing my suit upon you again;
but as you accepted it, have I not a right to expect that you should
show me that you have been happy in accepting it?"

But she had not been happy in accepting it. She was not happy now
that she had accepted it. She could not show to him any sign of such
joy as that which he desired to see. And now, at this moment, she
feared with an excessive fear that there would come some demand for
an outward demonstration of love, such as he in his position might
have a right to make. She seemed to be aware that this might be
prevented only by such demeanour on her part as that which she had
practised, and she could not, therefore, be stirred to the expression
of any word of affection. She listened to his appeal, and when it was
finished she made no reply. If he chose to take her in dudgeon, he
must do so. She would make for him any sacrifice that was possible to
her, but this sacrifice was not possible.

"And you have not a word to say to me?" he asked. She looked up at
him, and saw that the cicature on his face was becoming ominous; his
eyes were bent upon her with all their forbidding brilliance, and he
was assuming that look of angry audacity which was so peculiar to
him, and which had so often cowed those with whom he was brought in
contact.

"No other word, at present, George; I have told you that I am not at
ease. Why do you press me now?"

He had her letter to him in the breast-pocket of his coat, and his
hand was on it, that he might fling it back to her, and tell her
that he would not hold her to be his promised wife under such
circumstances as these. The anger which would have induced him to do
so was the better part of his nature. Three or four years since, this
better part would have prevailed, and he would have given way to his
rage. But now, as his fingers played upon the paper, he remembered
that her money was absolutely essential to him,--that some of it was
needed by him almost instantly,--that on this very morning he was
bound to go where money would be demanded from him, and that his
hopes with regard to Chelsea could not be maintained unless he was
able to make some substantial promise of providing funds. His sister
Kate's fortune was just two thousand pounds. That, and no more, was
now the capital at his command, if he should abandon this other
source of aid. Even that must go, if all other sources should fail
him; but he would fain have that untouched, if it were possible. Oh,
that that old man in Westmoreland would die and be gathered to his
fathers, now that he was full of years and ripe for the sickle! But
there was no sign of death about the old man. So his fingers released
their hold on the letter, and he stood looking at her in his anger.

"You wish me then to go from you?" he said.

"Do not be angry with me, George!"

"Angry! I have no right to be angry. But, by heaven, I am wrong
there. I have the right, and I am angry. I think you owed it me to
give me some warmer welcome. Is it to be thus with us always for the
next accursed year?"

"Oh, George!"

"To me it will be accursed. But is it to be thus between us always?
Alice, I have loved you above all women. I may say that I have never
loved any woman but you; and yet I am sometimes driven to doubt
whether you have a heart in you capable of love. After all that has
passed, all your old protestations, all my repentance, and your
proffer of forgiveness, you should have received me with open arms. I
suppose I may go now, and feel that I have been kicked out of your
house like a dog."

"If you speak to me like that, and look at me like that, how can I
answer you?"

"I want no answer. I wanted you to put your hand in mine, to kiss me,
and to tell me that you are once more my own. Alice, think better of
it; kiss me, and let me feel my arm once more round your waist."

She shuddered as she sat, still silent, on her seat, and he saw that
she shuddered. With all his desire for her money,--his instant need
of it,--this was too much for him; and he turned upon his heel, and
left the room without another word. She heard his quick step as he
hurried down the stairs, but she did not rise to arrest him. She
heard the door slam as he left the house, but still she did not move
from her seat. Her immediate desire had been that he should go,--and
now he was gone. There was in that a relief which almost comforted
her. And this was the man from whom, within the last few days, she
had accepted an offer of marriage.

George, when he left the house, walked hurriedly into Cavendish
Square, and down along the east side, till he made his way out along
Princes Street, into the Circus in Oxford Street. Close to him there,
in Great Marlborough Street, was the house of his parliamentary
attorney, Mr Scruby, on whom he was bound to call on that morning. As
he had walked away from Queen Anne Street, he had thought of nothing
but that too visible shudder which his cousin Alice had been unable
to repress. He had been feeding on his anger, and indulging it,
telling himself at one moment that he would let her and her money go
from him whither they list,--and making inward threats in the next
that the time should come in which he would punish her for this
ill-usage. But there was the necessity of resolving what he would say
to Mr Scruby. To Mr Scruby was still due some trifle on the cost of
the last election; but even if this were paid, Mr Scruby would make
no heavy advance towards the expense of the next election. Whoever
might come out at the end of such affairs without a satisfactory
settlement of his little bill, as had for a while been the case with
Mr Grimes, from the "Handsome Man,"--and as, indeed, still was the
case with him, as that note of hand at three months' date was not yet
paid,--Mr Scruby seldom allowed himself to suffer. It was true that
the election would not take place till the summer; but there were
preliminary expenses which needed ready money. Metropolitan voters,
as Mr Scruby often declared, required to be kept in good humour,--so
that Mr Scruby wanted the present payment of some five hundred
pounds, and a well-grounded assurance that he would be put in full
funds by the beginning of next June. Even Mr Scruby might not be true
as perfect steel, if he thought that his candidate at the last moment
would not come forth properly prepared. Other candidates, with money
in their pockets, might find their way into Mr Scruby's offices. As
George Vavasor crossed Regent Street, he gulped down his anger, and
applied his mind to business. Should he prepare himself to give
orders that Kate's little property should be sold out, or would he
resolve to use his cousin's money? That his cousin's money would
still be at his disposal, in spite of the stormy mood in which he had
retreated from her presence, he felt sure; but the asking for it on
his part would be unpleasant. That duty he must entrust to Kate. But
as he reached Mr Scruby's door, he had decided that for such purposes
as those now in hand, it was preferable that he should use his wife's
fortune. It was thus that in his own mind he worded the phrase, and
made for himself an excuse. Yes;--he would use his wife's fortune,
and explain to Mr Scruby that he would be justified in doing so
by the fact that his own heritage would be settled on her at her
marriage. I do not suppose that he altogether liked it. He was not,
at any rate as yet, an altogether heartless swindler. He could not
take his cousin's money without meaning,--without thinking that he
meant, to repay her in full all that he took. Her behaviour to him
this very morning had no doubt made the affair more difficult to
his mind, and more unpleasant than it would have been had she smiled
on him; but even as it was, he managed to assure himself that he
was doing her no wrong, and with this self-assurance he entered Mr
Scruby's office.

The clerks in the outer office were very civil to him, and undertook
to promise him that he should not be kept waiting an instant. There
were four gentlemen in the little parlour, they said, waiting to see
Mr Scruby, but there they should remain till Mr Vavasor's interview
was over. One gentleman, as it seemed, was even turned out to make
way for him; for as George was ushered into the lawyer's room, a
little man, looking very meek, was hurried away from it.

"You can wait, Smithers," said Mr Scruby, speaking from within. "I
shan't be very long." Vavasor apologized to his agent for the injury
he was doing Smithers; but Mr Scruby explained that he was only a
poor devil of a printer, looking for payment of his little account.
He had printed and posted 30,000 placards for one of the late
Marylebone candidates, and found some difficulty in getting his
money. "You see, when they're in a small way of business, it ruins
them," said Scruby. "Now that poor devil,--he hasn't had a shilling
of his money yet, and the greater part has been paid out of his
pocket to the posters. It is hard."

It comforted Vavasor when he thus heard that there were others who
were more backward in their payments, even than himself, and made him
reflect that a longer credit than had yet been achieved by him, might
perhaps be within his reach. "It is astonishing how much a man may
get done for him," said he, "without paying anything for years."

"Yes; that's true. So he may, if he knows how to go about it. But
when he does pay, Mr Vavasor, he does it through the nose;--cent. per
cent., and worse, for all his former shortcomings."

"How many there are who never pay at all," said George.

"Yes, Mr Vavasor;--that's true, too. But see what a life they lead.
It isn't a pleasant thing to be afraid of coming into your agent's
office; not what you would like, Mr Vavasor;--not if I know you."

"I never was afraid of meeting anyone yet," said Vavasor; "but I
don't know what I may come to."

"Nor never will, I'll go bail. But, Lord love you, I could tell
you such tales! I've had Members of Parliament, past, present, and
future, almost down on their knees to me in this little room. It's
about a month or six weeks before the elections come on when they're
at their worst. There is so much you see, Mr Vavasor, for which a
gentleman must pay ready money. It isn't like a business in which a
lawyer is supposed to find the capital. If I had money enough to pay
out of my own pocket all the cost of all the metropolitan gentlemen
for whom I act, why, I could live on the interest without any
trouble, and go into Parliament myself like a man."

George Vavasor perfectly understood that Mr Scruby was explaining to
him, with what best attempt at delicacy he could make, that funds for
the expense of the Chelsea election were not to be forthcoming from
the Great Marlborough Street establishment.

"I suppose so," said he. "But you do do it sometimes."

"Never, Mr Vavasor," said Mr Scruby, very solemnly. "As a rule,
never. I may advance the money, on interest, of course, when I
receive a guarantee from the candidate's father, or from six or
seven among the committee, who must all be very substantial,--very
substantial indeed. But in a general way I don't do it. It isn't my
place."

"I thought you did;--but at any rate I don't want you to do it for
me."

"I'm quite sure you don't," said Mr Scruby, with a brighter tone of
voice than that he had just been using. "I never thought you did, Mr
Vavasor. Lord bless you, Mr Vavasor, I know the difference between
gentlemen as soon as I see them."

Then they went to business, and Vavasor became aware that it would be
thought convenient that he should lodge with Mr Scruby, to his own
account, a sum not less than six hundred pounds within the next week,
and it would be also necessary that he should provide for taking up
that bill, amounting to ninety-two pounds, which he had given to the
landlord of the "Handsome Man." In short, it would be well that he
should borrow a thousand pounds from Alice, and as he did not wish
that the family attorney of the Vavasors should be employed to
raise it, he communicated to Mr Scruby as much of his plans as was
necessary,--feeling more hesitation in doing it than might have
been expected from him. When he had done so, he was very intent on
explaining also that the money taken from his cousin, and future
bride, would be repaid to her out of the property in Westmoreland,
which was,--did he say settled on himself? I am afraid he did.

"Yes, yes;--a family arrangement," said Mr Scruby, as he
congratulated him on his proposed marriage. Mr Scruby did not care a
straw from what source the necessary funds might be drawn.



CHAPTER XXXVI

John Grey Goes a Second Time to London


Early in that conversation which Mr Vavasor had with his daughter,
and which was recorded a few pages back, he implored her to pause a
while before she informed Mr Grey of her engagement with her cousin.
Nothing, however, on that point had been settled between them. Mr
Vavasor had wished her to say that she would not write till he should
have assented to her doing so. She had declined to bind herself in
this way, and then they had gone off to other things;--to George
Vavasor's character and the disposition of her money. Alice, however,
had felt herself bound not to write to Mr Grey quite at once. Indeed,
when her cousin left her she had no appetite for writing such a
letter as hers was to be. A day or two passed by her in this way, and
nothing more was said by her or her father. It was now the middle of
January, and the reader may remember that Mr Grey had promised that
he would come to her in London in that month, as soon as he should
know that she had returned from Westmoreland. She must at any rate
do something to prevent that visit. Mr Grey would not come without
giving her notice. She knew enough of the habits of the man to be
sure of that. But she desired that her letter to him should be in
time to prevent his to her; so when those few days were gone, she sat
down to write without speaking to her father again upon the subject.

It was a terrible job;--perhaps the most difficult of all the
difficult tasks which her adverse fate had imposed upon her. She
found when she did attempt it, that she could have done it better if
she had done it at the moment when she was writing the other letter
to her cousin George. Then Kate had been near her, and she had been
comforted by Kate's affectionate happiness. She had been strengthened
at that moment by a feeling that she was doing the best in her power,
if not for herself, at any rate for others. All that comfort and
all that strength had left her now. The atmosphere of the fells had
buoyed her up, and now the thick air of London depressed her. She sat
for hours with the pen in her hand, and could not write the letter.
She let a day go by and a night, and still it was not written.
She hardly knew herself in her unnatural weakness. As the mental
photographs of the two men forced themselves upon her, she could
not force herself to forget those words--"Look here, upon this
picture--and on this." How was it that she now knew how great was
the difference between the two men, how immense the pre-eminence of
him whom she had rejected;--and that she had not before been able
to see this on any of those many previous occasions on which she had
compared the two together? As she thought of her cousin George's face
when he left her room a few days since, and remembered Mr Grey's
countenance when last he held her hand at Cheltenham, the quiet
dignity of his beauty which would submit to show no consciousness
of injury, she could not but tell herself that when Paradise had
been opened to her, she had declared herself to be fit only for
Pandemonium. In that was her chief misery; that now,--now when it was
too late,--she could look at it aright.

But the letter must be written, and on the second day she declared to
herself that she would not rise from her chair till it was done. The
letter was written on that day and was posted. I will now ask the
reader to go down with me to Nethercoats that we may be present with
John Grey when he received it. He was sitting at breakfast in his
study there, and opposite to him, lounging in an arm-chair, with a
_Quarterly_ in his hand, was the most intimate of his friends, Frank
Seward, a fellow of the college to which they had both belonged. Mr
Seward was a clergyman, and the tutor of his college, and a man who
worked very hard at Cambridge. In the days of his leisure he spent
much of his time at Nethercoats, and he was the only man to whom Grey
had told anything of his love for Alice and of his disappointment.
Even to Seward he had not told the whole story. He had at first
informed his friend that he was engaged to be married, and as he had
told this as no secret,--having even said that he hated secrets on
such matters,--the engagement had been mentioned in the common room
of their college, and men at Cambridge knew that Mr Grey was going
to take to himself a wife. Then Mr Seward had been told that trouble
had come, and that it was not improbable that there would be no such
marriage. Even when saying this Mr Grey told none of the particulars,
though he owned to his friend that a heavy blow had struck him. His
intimacy with Seward was of that thorough kind which is engendered
only out of such young and lasting friendship as had existed between
them; but even to such a friend as this Mr Grey could not open his
whole heart. It was only to a friend who should also be his wife that
he could do that,--as he himself thoroughly understood. He had felt
that such a friend was wanting to him, and he had made the attempt.

"Don't speak of this as yet," he had said to Mr Seward. "Of course
when the matter is settled, those few people who know me must know
it. But perhaps there may be a doubt as yet, and as long as there is
a doubt, it is better that it should not be discussed."

He had said no more than this,--had imputed no blame to Alice,--had
told none of the circumstances; but Seward had known that the girl
had jilted his friend, and had made up his mind that she must be
heartless and false. He had known also that his friend would never
look for any other such companion for his home.

Letters were brought to each of them on this morning, and Seward's
attention was of course occupied by those which he received. Grey,
as soon as the envelopes had touched his hand, became aware that one
of them was from Alice, and this he at once opened. He did it very
calmly, but without any of that bravado of indifference with which
George Vavasor had received Alice's letter from Westmoreland. "It is
right that I should tell you at once," said Alice, rushing into the
middle of her subject without even the formality of the customary
address--"It is right that I should tell you at once that--." Oh, the
difficulty which she had encountered when her words had carried her
as far as this!--"that my cousin, George Vavasor, has repeated to
me his offer of marriage, and that I have accepted it. I tell you,
chiefly in order that I may save you from the trouble which you
purposed to take when I last saw you at Cheltenham. I will not tell
you any of the circumstances of this engagement, because I have no
right to presume that you will care to hear them. I hardly dare
to ask you to believe of me that in all that I have done, I have
endeavoured to act with truth and honesty. That I have been very
ignorant, foolish,--what you will that is bad, I know well; otherwise
there could not have been so much in the last few years of my life
on which I am utterly ashamed to look back. For the injury that I
have done you, I can only express deep contrition. I do not dare to
ask you to forgive me.--ALICE VAVASOR." She had tormented herself in
writing this,--had so nearly driven herself distracted with attempts
which she had destroyed, that she would not even read once to herself
these last words. "He'll know it, and that is all that is necessary,"
she said to herself as she sent the letter away from her.

Mr Grey read it twice over, leaving the other letters unnoticed on
the table by his tea-cup. He read it twice over, and the work of
reading it was one to him of intense agony. Hitherto he had fed
himself with hope. That Alice should have been brought to think of
her engagement with him in a spirit of doubt and with a mind so
troubled, that she had been inclined to attempt an escape from it,
had been very grievous to him; but it had been in his mind a fantasy,
a morbid fear of himself, which might be cured by time. He, at any
rate, would give all his energies towards achieving such a cure.
There had been one thing, however, which he most feared;--which he
had chiefly feared, though he had forbidden himself to think that it
could be probable, and this thing had now happened.

He had ever disliked and feared George Vavasor;--not from any effect
which the man had upon himself, for as we know his acquaintance with
Vavasor was of the slightest;--but he had feared and disliked his
influence upon Alice. He had also feared the influence of her cousin
Kate. To have cautioned Alice against her cousins would have been to
him impossible. It was not his nature to express suspicion to one he
loved. Is the tone of that letter remembered in which he had answered
Alice when she informed him that her cousin George was to go with
Kate and her to Switzerland? He had written, with a pleasant joke,
words which Alice had been able to read with some little feeling of
triumph to her two friends. He had not so written because he liked
what he knew of the man. He disliked all that he knew of him. But it
had not been possible for him to show that he distrusted the prudence
of her, whom, as his future wife, he was prepared to trust in all
things.

I have said that he read Alice's letter with an agony of sorrow; as
he sat with it in his hand he suffered as, probably, he had never
suffered before. But there was nothing in his countenance to show
that he was in pain. Seward had received some long epistle, crossed
from end to end,--indicative, I should say, of a not far distant
termination to that college tutorship,--and was reading it with
placid contentment. It did not occur to him to look across at Grey,
but had he done so, I doubt whether he would have seen anything to
attract his attention. But Grey, though he was wounded, would not
allow himself to be dismayed. There was less hope now than before,
but there might still be hope;--hope for her, even though there might
be none for him. Tidings had reached his ears also as to George
Vavasor, which had taught him to believe that the man was needy,
reckless, and on the brink of ruin. Such a marriage to Alice Vavasor
would be altogether ruinous. Whatever might be his own ultimate fate
he would still seek to save her from that. Her cousin, doubtless,
wanted her money. Might it not be possible that he would be satisfied
with her money, and that thus the woman might be saved?

"Seward," he said at last, addressing his friend, who had not yet
come to the end of the last crossed page.

"Is there anything wrong?" said Seward.

"Well;--yes; there is something a little wrong. I fear I must leave
you, and go up to town to-day."

"Nobody ill, I hope?"

"No;--nobody is ill. But I must go up to London. Mrs Bole will take
care of you, and you must not be angry with me for leaving you."

Seward assured him that he would not be in the least angry, and
that he was thoroughly conversant with the capabilities and good
intentions of Mrs Bole the housekeeper; but added, that as he was
so near his own college, he would of course go back to Cambridge.
He longed to say some word as to the purpose of Grey's threatened
journey; to make some inquiry as to this new trouble; but he knew
that Grey was a man who did not well bear close inquiries, and he was
silent.

"Why not stay here?" said Grey, after a minute's pause. "I wish
you would, old fellow; I do, indeed." There was a tone of special
affection in his voice which struck Seward at once. "If I can be of
the slightest service or comfort to you, I will of course."

Grey again sat silent for a little while. "I wish you would; I do,
indeed."

"Then I will." And again there was a pause.

"I have got a letter here from--Miss Vavasor," said Grey.

"May I hope that--"

"No;--it does not bring good news to me. I do not know that I can
tell it you all. I would if I could, but the whole story is one not
to be told in a hurry. I should leave false impressions. There are
things which a man cannot tell."

"Indeed there are," said Seward.

"I wish with all my heart that you knew it all as I know it; but that
is impossible. There are things which happen in a day which it would
take a lifetime to explain." Then there was another pause. "I have
heard bad news this morning, and I must go up to London at once. I
shall go into Ely so as to be there by twelve; and if you will, you
shall drive me over. I may be back in a day; certainly in less than
a week; but it will be a comfort to me to know that I shall find you
here."

The matter was so arranged, and at eleven they started. During
the first two miles not a word was spoken between them. "Seward,"
Grey said at last, "if I fail in what I am going to attempt, it is
probable that you will never hear Alice Vavasor's name mentioned by
me again; but I want you always to bear this in mind;--that at no
moment has my opinion of her ever been changed, nor must you in such
case imagine from my silence that it has changed. Do you understand
me?"

"I think I do."

"To my thinking she is the finest of God's creatures that I have
known. It may be that in her future life she will be severed from me
altogether; but I shall not, therefore, think the less well of her;
and I wish that you, as my friend, should know that I so esteem her,
even though her name should never be mentioned between us." Seward,
in some few words, assured him that it should be so, and then they
finished their journey in silence.

From the station at Ely, Grey sent a message by the wires up to John
Vavasor, saying that he would call on him that afternoon at his
office in Chancery Lane. The chances were always much against finding
Mr Vavasor at his office; but on this occasion the telegram did reach
him there, and he remained till the unaccustomed hour of half past
four to meet the man who was to have been his son-in-law.

"Have you heard from her?" he asked as soon as Grey entered the dingy
little room, not in Chancery Lane, but in its neighbourhood, which
was allocated to him for his signing purposes.

"Yes,"--said Grey; "she has written to me."

"And told you about her cousin George. I tried to hinder her from
writing, but she is very wilful."

"Why should you have hindered her? If the thing was to be told, it is
better that it should be done at once."

"But I hoped that there might be an escape. I don't know what you
think of all this, Grey, but to me it is the bitterest misfortune
that I have known. And I've had some bitter things, too," he
added,--thinking of that period of his life, when the work of which
he was ashamed was first ordained as his future task.

"What is the escape that you hoped?" asked Grey.

"I hardly know. The whole thing seems to me to be so mad, that I
partly trusted that she would see the madness of it. I am not sure
whether you know anything of my nephew George?" asked Mr Vavasor.

"Very little," said Grey.

"I believe him to be utterly an adventurer,--a man without means and
without principle,--upon the whole about as bad a man as you may
meet. I give you my word, Grey, that I don't think I know a worse
man. He's going to marry her for her money; then he will beggar her,
after that he'll ill-treat her, and yet what can I do?"

"Prevent the marriage."

"But how, my dear fellow? Prevent it! It's all very well to say that,
and it's the very thing I want to do. But how am I to prevent it?
She's as much her own master as you are yours. She can give him every
shilling of her fortune to-morrow. How am I to prevent her from
marrying him?"

"Let her give him every shilling of her fortune to-morrow," said
Grey.

"And what is she to do then?" asked Mr Vavasor.

"Then--then,--then,--then let her come to me," said John Grey; and as
he spoke there was the fragment of a tear in his eye, and the hint of
quiver in his voice.

Even the worldly, worn-out, unsympathetic nature of John Vavasor was
struck, and, as it were, warmed by this.

"God bless you; God bless you, my dear fellow. I heartily wish
for her sake that I could look forward to any such an end to this
affair."

"And why not look forward to it? You say that he merely wants her
money. As he wants it let him have it!"

"But Grey, you do not know Alice; you do not understand my girl. When
she had lost her fortune nothing would induce her to become your
wife."

"Leave that to follow as it may," said John Grey. "Our first object
must be to sever her from a man, who is, as you say, himself on the
verge of ruin; and who would certainly make her wretched. I am here
now, not because I wish her to be my own wife, but because I wish
that she should not become the wife of such a one as your nephew. If
I were you I would let him have her money."

"If you were I, you would have nothing more to do with it than the
man that is as yet unborn. I know that she will give him her money
because she has said so; but I have no power as to her giving it or
as to her withholding it. That's the hardship of my position;--but it
is of no use to think of that now."

John Grey certainly did not think about it. He knew well that Alice
was independent, and that she was not inclined to give up that
independence to anyone. He had not expected that her father would be
able to do much towards hindering his daughter from becoming the wife
of George Vavasor, but he had wished that he himself and her father
should be in accord in their views, and he found that this was so.
When he left Mr Vavasor's room nothing had been said about the
period of the marriage. Grey thought it improbable that Alice
would find herself able to give herself in marriage to her cousin
immediately,--so soon after her breach with him; but as to this he
had no assurance, and he determined to have the facts from her own
lips, if she would see him. So he wrote to her, naming a day on which
he would call upon her early in the morning; and having received from
her no prohibition, he was in Queen Anne Street at the hour
appointed.

He had conceived a scheme which he had not made known to Mr Vavasor,
and as to the practicability of which he had much doubt; but which,
nevertheless, he was resolved to try if he should find the attempt
possible. He himself would buy off George Vavasor. He had ever been a
prudent man, and he had money at command. If Vavasor was such a man
as they, who knew him best, represented him, such a purchase might be
possible. But then, before this was attempted, he must be quite sure
that he knew his man, and he must satisfy himself also that in doing
so he would not, in truth, add to Alice's misery. He could hardly
bring himself to think it possible that she did, in truth, love her
cousin with passionate love. It seemed to him, as he remembered what
Alice had been to himself, that this must be impossible. But if it
were so, that of course must put an end to his interference. He
thought that if he saw her he might learn all this, and therefore he
went to Queen Anne Street.

"Of course he must come if he will," she said to herself when she
received his note. "It can make no matter. He will say nothing half
so hard to me as what I say to myself all day long." But when the
morning came, and the hour came, and the knock at the door for which
her ears were on the alert, her heart misgave her, and she felt that
the present moment of her punishment, though not the heaviest, would
still be hard to bear.

He came slowly up-stairs,--his step was ever slow,--and gently opened
the door for himself. Then, before he even looked at her, he closed
it again. I do not know how to explain that it was so; but it was
this perfect command of himself at all seasons which had in part made
Alice afraid of him, and drove her to believe that they were not
fitted for each other. She, when he thus turned for a moment from
her, and then walked slowly towards her, stood with both her hands
leaning on the centre table of the room, and with her eyes fixed upon
its surface.

"Alice," he said, walking up to her very slowly.

Her whole frame shuddered as she heard the sweetness of his voice.
Had I not better tell the truth of her at once? Oh, if she could only
have been his again! What madness during these last six months had
driven her to such a plight as this! The old love came back upon
her. Nay; it had never gone. But that trust in his love returned to
her,--that trust which told her that such love and such worth would
have sufficed to make her happy. But this confidence in him was
worthless now! Even though he should desire it, she could not change
again.

"Alice," he said again. And then, as slowly she looked up at him, he
asked her for her hand. "You may give it me," he said, "as to an old
friend." She put her hand in his hand, and then, withdrawing it, felt
that she must never trust herself to do so again.

"Alice," he continued, "I do not expect you to say much to me; but
there is a question or two which I think you will answer. Has a day
been fixed for this marriage?"

"No," she said.

"Will it be in a month?"

"Oh, no;--not for a year," she replied hurriedly;--and he knew at
once by her voice that she already dreaded this new wedlock. Whatever
of anger he might before have felt for her was banished. She had
brought herself by her ill-judgement,--by her ignorance, as she had
confessed,--to a sad pass; but he believed that she was still worthy
of his love.

"And now one other question, Alice;--but if you are silent, I will
not ask it again. Can you tell me why you have again accepted your
cousin's offer?"

"Because--," she said very quickly, looking up as though she were
about to speak with all her old courage. "But you would never
understand me," she said,--"and there can be no reason why I should
dare to hope that you should ever think well of me again."

He knew that there was no love,--no love for that man to whom she had
pledged her hand. He did not know, on the other hand, how strong,
how unchanged, how true was her love for himself. Indeed, of himself
he was thinking not at all. He desired to learn whether she would
suffer, if by any scheme he might succeed in breaking off this
marriage. When he had asked her whether she were to be married at
once, she had shuddered at the thought. When he asked her why she
had accepted her cousin, she had faltered, and hinted at some excuse
which he might fail to understand. Had she loved George Vavasor, he
could have understood that well enough.

"Alice," he said, speaking still very slowly, "nothing has ever yet
been done which need to a certainty separate you and me. I am a
persistent man, and I do not even yet give up all hope. A year is a
long time. As you say yourself, I do not as yet quite understand you.
But, Alice,--and I think that the position in which we stood a few
months since justifies me in saying so without offence,--I love you
now as well as ever, and should things change with you, I cannot tell
you with how much joy and eagerness I should take you back to my
bosom. My heart is yours now as it has been since I knew you."

Then he again just touched her hand, and left her before she had been
able to answer a word.



CHAPTER XXXVII

Mr Tombe's Advice


Alice sat alone for an hour without moving when John Grey had left
her, and the last words which he had uttered were sounding in her
ears all the time, "My heart is still yours, as it has been since I
knew you." There had been something in his words which had soothed
her spirits, and had, for the moment, almost comforted her. At any
rate, he did not despise her. He could not have spoken such words as
these to her had he not still held her high in his esteem. Nay;--had
he not even declared that he would yet take her as his own if she
would come to him? "I cannot tell you with how much joy I would take
you back to my bosom!" Ah! that might never be. But yet the assurance
had been sweet to her;--dangerously sweet, as she soon told herself.
She knew that she had lost her Eden, but it was something to her that
the master of the garden had not himself driven her forth. She sat
there, thinking of her fate, as though it belonged to some other
one,--not to herself; as though it were a tale that she had read.
Herself she had shipwrecked altogether; but though she might sink,
she had not been thrust from the ship by hands which she loved.

But would it not have been better that he should have scorned her
and reviled her? Had he been able to do so, he at least would have
escaped the grief of disappointed love. Had he learned to despise
her, he would have ceased to regret her. She had no right to feel
consolation in the fact that his sufferings were equal to her own.
But when she thought of this, she told herself that it could not be
that it was so. He was a man, she said, not passionate by nature.
Alas! it was the mistake she had ever made when summing up the items
of his character! He might be persistent, she thought, in still
striving to do that upon which he had once resolved. He had said
so, and that which he said was always true to the letter. But,
nevertheless, when this thing which he still chose to pursue should
have been put absolutely beyond his reach, he would not allow his
calm bosom to be harassed by a vain regret. He was a man too whole at
every point,--so Alice told herself,--to allow his happiness to be
marred by such an accident.

But must the accident occur? Was there no chance that he might be
saved, even from such trouble as might follow upon such a loss?
Could it not be possible that he might be gratified,--since it would
gratify him,--and that she might be saved! Over and over again she
considered this,--but always as though it were another woman whom she
would fain save, and not herself.

But she knew that her own fate was fixed. She had been mad when she
had done the thing, but the thing was not on that account the less
done. She had been mad when she had trusted herself abroad with
two persons, both of whom, as she had well known, were intent on
wrenching her happiness from out of her grasp. She had been mad when
she had told herself, whilst walking over the Westmoreland fells,
that after all she might as well marry her cousin, since that other
marriage was then beyond her reach! Her two cousins had succeeded in
blighting all the hopes of her life;--but what could she now think
of herself in that she had been so weak as to submit to such usage
from their hands? Alas!--she told herself, admitting in her misery
all her weakness,--alas, she had no mother. She had gloried in her
independence, and this had come of it! She had scorned the prudence
of Lady Macleod, and her scorn had brought her to this pass!

Was she to give herself bodily,--body and soul, as she said aloud in
her solitary agony,--to a man whom she did not love? Must she submit
to his caresses,--lie on his bosom,--turn herself warmly to his
kisses? "No," she said, "no,"--speaking audibly, as she walked about
the room; "no;--it was not in my bargain; I never meant it." But if
so what had she meant;--what had been her dream? Of what marriage had
she thought, when she was writing that letter back to George Vavasor?
How am I to analyse her mind, and make her thoughts and feelings
intelligible to those who may care to trouble themselves with the
study? Any sacrifice she would make for her cousin which one friend
could make for another. She would fight his battles with her money,
with her words, with her sympathy. She would sit with him if he
needed it, and speak comfort to him by the hour. His disgrace should
be her disgrace;--his glory her glory;--his pursuits her pursuits.
Was not that the marriage to which she had consented? But he had come
to her and asked her for a kiss, and she had shuddered before him,
when he made the demand. Then that other one had come and had touched
her hand, and the fibres of her body had seemed to melt within her at
the touch, so that she could have fallen at his feet.

She had done very wrong. She knew that she had done wrong. She knew
that she had sinned with that sin which specially disgraces a woman.
She had said that she would become the wife of a man to whom she
could not cleave with a wife's love; and, mad with a vile ambition,
she had given up the man for whose modest love her heart was longing.
She had thrown off from her that wondrous aroma of precious delicacy,
which is the greatest treasure of womanhood. She had sinned against
her sex; and, in an agony of despair, as she crouched down upon the
floor with her head against her chair, she told herself that there
was no pardon for her. She understood it now, and knew that she could
not forgive herself.

But can you forgive her, delicate reader? Or am I asking the question
too early in my story? For myself, I have forgiven her. The story of
the struggle has been present to my mind for many years,--and I have
learned to think that even this offence against womanhood may, with
deep repentance, be forgiven. And you also must forgive her before we
close the book, or else my story will have been told amiss.

But let us own that she had sinned,--almost damnably, almost past
forgiveness. What;--think that she knew what love meant, and not know
which of two she loved! What;--doubt, of two men for whose arms she
longed, of which the kisses would be sweet to bear; on which side lay
the modesty of her maiden love! Faugh! She had submitted to pollution
of heart and feeling before she had brought herself to such a pass as
this. Come;--let us see if it be possible that she may be cleansed by
the fire of her sorrow.

"What am I to do?" She passed that whole day in asking herself that
question. She was herself astounded at the rapidity with which the
conviction had forced itself upon her that a marriage with her cousin
would be to her almost impossible; and could she permit it to be
said of her that she had thrice in her career jilted a promised
suitor,--that three times she would go back from her word because
her fancy had changed? Where could she find the courage to tell her
father, to tell Kate, to tell even George himself, that her purpose
was again altered? But she had a year at her disposal. If only during
that year he would take her money and squander it, and then require
nothing further of her hands, might she not thus escape the doom
before her? Might it not be possible that the refusal should this
time come from him? But she succeeded in making one resolve. She
thought at least that she succeeded. Come what might, she would never
stand with him at the altar. While there was a cliff from which she
might fall, water that would cover her, a death-dealing grain that
might be mixed in her cup, she could not submit herself to be George
Vavasor's wife. To no ear could she tell of this resolve. To no
friend could she hint her purpose. She owed her money to the man
after what had passed between them. It was his right to count upon
such assistance as that would give him, and he should have it. Only
as his betrothed she could give it him, for she understood well that
if there were any breach between them, his accepting of such aid
would be impossible. He should have her money, and then, when the day
came, some escape should be found.

In the afternoon her father came to her, and it may be as well to
explain that Mr Grey had seen him again that day. Mr Grey, when he
left Queen Anne Street, had gone to his lawyer, and from thence had
made his way to Mr Vavasor. It was between five and six when Mr
Vavasor came back to his house, and he then found his daughter
sitting over the drawing-room fire, without lights, in the gloom
of the evening. Mr Vavasor had returned with Grey to the lawyer's
chambers, and had from thence come direct to his own house. He had
been startled at the precision with which all the circumstances
of his daughter's position had been explained to a mild-eyed old
gentleman, with a bald head, who carried on his business in a narrow,
dark, clean street, behind Doctors' Commons. Mr Tombe was his name.
"No;" Mr Grey had said, when Mr Vavasor had asked as to the peculiar
nature of Mr Tombe's business; "he is not specially an ecclesiastical
lawyer. He had a partner at Ely, and was always employed by my
father, and by most of the clergy there." Mr Tombe had evinced no
surprise, no dismay, and certainly no mock delicacy, when the whole
affair was under discussion. George Vavasor was to get present
moneys, but,--if it could be so arranged--from John Grey's stores
rather than from those belonging to Alice. Mr Tombe could probably
arrange that with Mr Vavasor's lawyer, who would no doubt be able to
make difficulty as to raising ready money. Mr Tombe would be able
to raise ready money without difficulty. And then, at last, George
Vavasor was to be made to surrender his bride, taking or having taken
the price of his bargain. John Vavasor sat by in silence as the
arrangement was being made, not knowing how to speak. He had no money
with which to give assistance. "I wish you to understand from the
lady's father," Grey said to the lawyer, "that the marriage would be
regarded by him with as much dismay as by myself."

"Certainly;--it would be ruinous," Mr Vavasor had answered.

"And you see, Mr Tombe," Mr Grey went on, "we only wish to try the
man. If he be not such as we believe him to be, he can prove it by
his conduct. If he is worthy of her, he can then take her."

"You merely wish to open her eyes, Mr Grey," said the mild-eyed
lawyer.

"I wish that he should have what money he wants, and then we shall
find what it is he really wishes."

"Yes; we shall know our man," said the lawyer. "He shall have the
money, Mr Grey," and so the interview had been ended.

Mr Vavasor, when he entered the drawing-room, addressed his daughter
in a cheery voice. "What; all in the dark?"

"Yes, papa. Why should I have candles when I am doing nothing? I did
not expect you."

"No; I suppose not. I came here because I want to say a few words to
you about business."

"What business, papa?" Alice well understood the tone of her father's
voice. He was desirous of propitiating her; but was at the same time
desirous of carrying some point in which he thought it probable that
she would oppose him.

"Well; my love, if I understood you rightly, your cousin George wants
some money."

"I did not say that he wants it now; but I think he will want it
before the time for the election comes."

"If so, he will want it at once. He has not asked you for it yet?"

"No; he has merely said that should he be in need he would take me at
my word."

"I think there is no doubt that he wants it. Indeed, I believe that
he is almost entirely without present means of his own."

"I can hardly think so; but I have no knowledge about it. I can only
say that he has not asked me yet, and that I should wish to oblige
him whenever he may do so."

"To what extent, Alice?"

"I don't know what I have. I get about four hundred a year, but I
do not know what it is worth, or how far it can all be turned into
money. I should wish to keep a hundred a year and let him have the
rest."

"What; eight thousand pounds!" said the father who in spite of his
wish not to oppose her, could not but express his dismay.

"I do not imagine that he will want so much; but if he should, I wish
that he should have it."

"Heaven and earth!" said John Vavasor. "Of course we should have to
give up the house." He could not suppress his trouble, or refrain
from bursting out in agony at the prospect of such a loss.

"But he has asked me for nothing yet, papa."

"No, exactly; and perhaps he may not; but I wish to know what to do
when the demand is made. I am not going to oppose you now; your money
is your own, and you have a right to do with it as you please;--but
would you gratify me in one thing?"

"What is it, papa?"

"When he does apply, let the amount be raised through me?"

"How through you?"

"Come to me; I mean, so that I may see the lawyer, and have the
arrangements made." Then he explained to her that in dealing with
large sums of money, it could not be right that she should do so
without his knowledge, even though the property was her own. "I will
promise you that I will not oppose your wishes," he said. Then Alice
undertook that when such case should arise the money should be raised
through his means.

The day but one following this she received a letter from Lady
Glencora, who was still at Matching Priory. It was a light-spirited,
chatty, amusing letter, intended to be happy in its tone,--intended
to have a flavour of happiness, but just failing through the too
apparent meaning of a word here and there. "You will see that I am at
Matching," the letter said, "whereas you will remember that I was to
have been at Monkshade. I escaped at last by a violent effort, and
am now passing my time innocently,--I fear not so profitably as she
would induce me to do,--with Iphy Palliser. You remember Iphy. She is
a good creature, and would fain turn even me to profit, if it were
possible. I own that I am thinking of them all at Monkshade, and am
in truth delighted that I am not there. My absence is entirely laid
upon your shoulders. That wicked evening amidst the ruins! Poor
ruins. I go there alone sometimes and fancy that I hear such voices
from the walls, and see such faces through the broken windows! All
the old Pallisers come and frown at me, and tell me that I am not
good enough to belong to them. There is a particular window to which
Sir Guy comes and makes faces at me. I told Iphy the other day, and
she answered me very gravely, that I might, if I chose, make myself
good enough for the Pallisers. Even for the Pallisers! Isn't that
beautiful?"

Then Lady Glencora went on to say, that her husband intended to come
up to London early in the session, and that she would accompany him.
"That is," added Lady Glencora, "if I am still good enough for the
Pallisers at that time."



CHAPTER XXXVIII

The Inn at Shap


When George Vavasor left Mr Scruby's office--the attentive reader
will remember that he did call upon Mr Scruby, the Parliamentary
lawyer, and there recognised the necessity of putting himself
in possession of a small sum of money with as little delay as
possible;--when he left the attorney's office, he was well aware that
the work to be done was still before him. And he knew also that the
job to be undertaken was a very disagreeable job. He did not like the
task of borrowing his cousin Alice's money.

We all of us know that swindlers and rogues do very dirty tricks,
and we are apt to picture to ourselves a certain amount of gusto
and delight on the part of the swindlers in the doing of them. In
this, I think we are wrong. The poor, broken, semi-genteel beggar,
who borrows half-sovereigns apiece from all his old acquaintances,
knowing that they know that he will never repay them, suffers a
separate little agony with each petition that he makes. He does not
enjoy pleasant sailing in this journey which he is making. To be
refused is painful to him. To get his half sovereign with scorn is
painful. To get it with apparent confidence in his honour is almost
more painful. "D---- it," he says to himself on such rare occasions,
"I will pay that fellow;" and yet, as he says it, he knows that he
never will pay even that fellow. It is a comfortless unsatisfying
trade, that of living upon other people's money.

How was George Vavasor to make his first step towards getting his
hand into his cousin's purse? He had gone to her asking for her
love, and she had shuddered when he asked her. That had been the
commencement of their life under their new engagement. He knew very
well that the money would be forthcoming when he demanded it,--but
under their present joint circumstances, how was he to make the
demand? If he wrote to her, should he simply ask for money, and make
no allusion to his love? If he went to her in person, should he make
his visit a mere visit of business,--as he might call on his banker?

He resolved at last that Kate should do the work for him. Indeed,
he had felt all along that it would be well that Kate should act as
ambassador between him and Alice in money matters, as she had long
done in other things. He could talk to Kate as he could not talk to
Alice;--and then, between the women, those hard money necessities
would be softened down by a romantic phraseology which he would not
himself know how to use with any effect. He made up his mind to see
Kate, and with this view he went down to Westmoreland; and took
himself to a small wayside inn at Shap among the fells, which had
been known to him of old. He gave his sister notice that he would be
there, and begged her to come over to him as early as she might find
it possible on the morning after his arrival. He himself reached the
place late in the evening by train from London. There is a station
at Shap, by which the railway company no doubt conceives that it
has conferred on that somewhat rough and remote locality all the
advantages of a refined civilization; but I doubt whether the
Shappites have been thankful for the favour. The landlord at the inn,
for one, is not thankful. Shap had been a place owing all such life
as it had possessed to coaching and posting. It had been a stage on
the high road from Lancaster to Carlisle, and though it lay high
and bleak among the fells, and was a cold, windy, thinly-populated
place,--filling all travellers with thankfulness that they had not
been made Shappites, nevertheless, it had had its glory in its
coaching and posting. I have no doubt that there are men and women
who look back with a fond regret to the palmy days of Shap.

Vavasor reached the little inn about nine in the evening on a night
that was pitchy dark, and in a wind which made it necessary for him
to hold his hat on to his head. "What a beastly country to live in,"
he said to himself, resolving that he would certainly sell Vavasor
Hall in spite of all family associations, if ever the power to do so
should be his. "What trash it is," he said, "hanging on to such a
place as that without the means of living like a gentleman, simply
because one's ancestors have done so." And then he expressed a
doubt to himself whether all the world contained a more ignorant,
opinionated, useless old man than his grandfather,--or, in short, a
greater fool.

"Well, Mr George," said the landlord as soon as he saw him, "a sight
of you's guid for sair een. It's o'er lang since you've been doon
amang the fells." But George did not want to converse with the
innkeeper, or to explain how it was that he did not visit Vavasor
Hall. The innkeeper, no doubt, knew all about it,--knew that the
grandfather had quarrelled with his grandson, and knew the reason
why; but George, if he suspected such knowledge, did not choose to
refer to it. So he simply grunted something in reply, and getting
himself in before a spark of fire which hardly was burning in a
public room with a sandy floor, begged that the little sitting-room
up-stairs might be got ready for him. There he passed the evening in
solitude, giving no encouragement to the landlord, who, nevertheless,
looked him up three or four times,--till at last George said that his
head ached, and that he would wish to be alone. "He was always one of
them cankery chiels as never have a kindly word for man nor beast,"
said the landlord. "Seems as though that raw slash in his face had
gone right through into his heart." After that George was left alone,
and sat thinking whether it would not be better to ask Alice for two
thousand pounds at once,--so as to save him from the disagreeable
necessity of a second borrowing before their marriage. He was very
uneasy in his mind. He had flattered himself through it all that his
cousin had loved him. He had felt sure that such was the case while
they were together in Switzerland. When she had determined to give
up John Grey, of course he had told himself the same thing. When she
had at once answered his first subsequent overture with an assent, he
had of course been certain that it was so. Dark, selfish, and even
dishonest as he was, he had, nevertheless, enjoyed something of a
lover's true pleasure in believing that Alice had still loved him
through all their mischances. But his joy had in a moment been turned
into gall during that interview in Queen Anne Street. He had read the
truth at a glance. A man must be very vain, or else very little used
to such matters, who at George Vavasor's age cannot understand the
feelings with which a woman receives him. When Alice contrived as she
had done to escape the embrace he was so well justified in asking, he
knew the whole truth. He was sore at heart, and very angry withal.
He could have readily spurned her from him, and rejected her who had
once rejected him. He would have done so had not his need for her
money restrained him. He was not a man who could deceive himself in
such matters. He knew that this was so, and he told himself that he
was a rascal.

Vavasor Hall was, by the road, about five miles from Shap, and it
was not altogether an easy task for Kate to get over to the village
without informing her grandfather that the visit was to be made, and
what was its purport. She could, indeed, walk, and the walk would not
be so long as that she had taken with Alice to Swindale fell;--but
walking to an inn on a high road, is not the same thing as walking
to a point on a hill side over a lake. Had she been dirty, draggled,
and wet through on Swindale fell, it would have simply been matter
for mirth; but her brother she knew would not have liked to see her
enter the Lowther Arms at Shap in such a condition. It, therefore,
became necessary that she should ask her grandfather to lend her the
jaunting car.

"Where do you want to go?" he asked sharply. In such establishments
as that at Vavasor Hall the family horse is generally used for double
duties. Though he draws the lady of the house one day, he is not too
proud to draw manure on the next. And it will always be found that
the master of the house gives a great preference to the manure over
the lady. The squire at Vavasor had come to do so to such an extent
that he regarded any application for the animal's services as an
encroachment.

"Only to Shap, grandpapa."

"To Shap! what on earth can take you to Shap? There are no shops at
Shap."

"I am not going to do shopping. I want to see some one there."

"Whom can you want to see at Shap?"

Then it occurred to Kate on the spur of the moment that she might as
well tell her grandfather the fact. "My brother has come down," she
said; "and is at the inn there. I had not intended to tell you, as I
did not wish to mention his name till you had consented to receive
him here."

"And he expects to come here now;--does he?" said the squire.

"Oh, no, sir. I think he has no expectation of the kind. He has come
down simply to see me;--about business I believe."

"Business! what business? I suppose he wants to get your money from
you?"

"I think it is with reference to his marriage. I think he wants me to
use my influence with Alice that it may not be delayed."

"Look here, Kate; if ever you lend him your money, or any of
it,--that is, of the principal I mean,--I will never speak to him
again under any circumstance. And more than that! Look here, Kate. In
spite of all that has past and gone, the property will become his for
his life when I die,--unless I change my will. If he gets your money
from you, I will change it, and he shall not be a shilling richer at
my death than he is now. You can have the horse to go to Shap."

What unlucky chance had it been which had put this idea into the old
squire's head on this especial morning? Kate had resolved that she
would entreat her brother to make use of her little fortune. She
feared that he was now coming with some reference to his cousin's
money,--that something was to be done to enable him to avail himself
of his cousin's offer; and Kate, almost blushing in the solitude of
her chamber at the thought, was determined that her brother must be
saved from such temptation. She knew that money was necessary to him.
She knew that he could not stand a second contest without assistance.
With all their confidences, he had never told her much of his
pecuniary circumstances in the world, but she was almost sure that he
was a poor man. He had said as much as that to her, and in his letter
desiring her to come to him at Shap, he had inserted a word or two
purposely intended to prepare her mind for monetary considerations.

As she was jogged along over the rough road to Shap, she made up
her mind that Aunt Greenow would be the proper person to defray
the expense of the coming election. To give Kate her due she would
have given up every shilling of her own money without a moment's
hesitation, or any feeling that her brother would be wrong to accept
it. Nor would she, perhaps, have been unalterably opposed to his
taking Alice's money, had Alice simply been his cousin. She felt that
as Vavasors they were bound to stand by the future head of the family
in an attempt which was to be made, as she felt, for the general
Vavasor interest. But she could not endure to think that her brother
should take the money of the girl whom he was engaged to marry. Aunt
Greenow's money she thought was fair game. Aunt Greenow herself had
made various liberal offers to herself which Kate had declined, not
caring to be under pecuniary obligations even to Aunt Greenow without
necessity; but she felt that for such a purpose as her brother's
contest, she need not hesitate to ask for assistance, and she thought
also that such assistance would be forthcoming.

"Grandpapa knows that you are here, George," said Kate, when their
first greeting was over.

"The deuce he does! and why did you tell him?"

"I could not get the car to come in without letting him know why I
wanted it."

"What nonsense! as if you couldn't have made any excuse! I was
particularly anxious that he should not guess that I am here."

"I don't see that it can make any difference, George."

"But I see that it can,--a very great difference. It may prevent my
ever being able to get near him again before he dies. What did he say
about my coming?"

"He didn't say much."

"He made no offer as to my going there?"

"No."

"I should not have gone if he had. I don't know now that I ever shall
go. To be there to do any good,--so as to make him alter his will,
and leave me in the position which I have a right to expect, would
take more time than the whole property is worth. And he would
endeavour to tie me down in some way I could not stand;--perhaps ask
me to give up my notion for going into Parliament."

"He might ask you, but he would not make it ground for another
quarrel, if you refused."

"He is so unreasonable and ignorant that I am better away from
him. But, Kate, you have not congratulated me on my matrimonial
prospects."

"Indeed I did, George, when I wrote to you."

"Did you? well; I had forgotten. I don't know that any very strong
congratulatory tone is necessary. As things go, perhaps it may be as
well for all of us, and that's about the best that can be said for
it."

"Oh, George!"

"You see I'm not romantic, Kate, as you are. Half a dozen children
with a small income do not generally present themselves as being
desirable to men who wish to push their way in the world."

"You know you have always longed to make her your wife."

"I don't know anything of the kind. You have always been under a
match-making hallucination on that point. But in this case you have
been so far successful, and are entitled to your triumph."

"I don't want any triumph; you ought to know that."

"But I'll tell you what I do want, Kate. I want some money." Then
he paused, but as she did not answer immediately, he was obliged to
go on speaking. "I'm not at all sure that I have not been wrong in
making this attempt to get into Parliament,--that I'm not struggling
to pick fruit which is above my reach."

"Don't say that, George."

"Ah, but I can't help feeling it. I need hardly tell you that I am
ready to risk anything of my own. If I know myself I would toss up
to-morrow, or for the matter of that to-day, between the gallows and
a seat in the House. But I cannot go on with this contest by risking
what is merely my own. Money, for immediate use, I have none left,
and my neck, though I were ever so willing to risk it, is of no
service."

"Whatever I have can be yours to-morrow," said Kate, in a hesitating
voice, which too plainly pronounced her misery as she made the
offer. She could not refrain herself from making it. Though her
grandfather's threat was ringing in her ears,--though she knew that
she might be ruining her brother by proposing such a loan, she had
no alternative. When her brother told her of his want of money, she
could not abstain from tendering to him the use of what was her own.

"No;" said he. "I shall not take your money."

"You would not scruple, if you knew how welcome you are."

"At any rate, I shall not take it. I should not think it right. All
that you have would only just suffice for my present wants, and I
should not choose to make you a beggar. There would, moreover, be a
difficulty about readjusting the payment."

"There would be no difficulty, because no one need be consulted but
us two."

"I should not think it right, and therefore let there be an end of
it," said George in a tone of voice which had in it something of
magniloquence.

"What is it you wish then?" said Kate, who knew too well what he did
wish.

"I will explain to you. When Alice and I are married, of course
there will be a settlement made on her, and as we are both the
grandchildren of the old squire I shall propose that the Vavasor
property shall be hers for life in the event of her outliving me."

"Well," said Kate.

"And if this be done, there can be no harm in my forestalling some of
her property, which, under the circumstances of such a settlement,
would of course become mine when we are married."

"But the squire might leave the property to whom he pleases."

"We know very well that he won't, at any rate, leave it out of the
family. In fact, he would only be too glad to consent to such an
agreement as that I have proposed, because he would thereby rob me of
all power in the matter."

"But that could not be done till you are married."

"Look here, Kate;--don't you make difficulties." And now, as he
looked at her, the cicature on his face seemed to open and yawn at
her. "If you mean to say that you won't help me, do say so, and I
will go back to London."

"I would do anything in my power to help you,--that was not wrong!"

"Yes; anybody could say as much as that. That is not much of an offer
if you are to keep to yourself the power of deciding what is wrong.
Will you write to Alice,--or better still, go to her, and explain
that I want the money."

"How can I go to London now?"

"You can do it very well, if you choose. But if that be too much,
then write to her. It will come much better from you than from me;
write to her, and explain that I must pay in advance the expenses of
this contest, and that I cannot look for success unless I do so. I
did not think that the demand would come so quick on me; but they
know that I am not a man of capital, and therefore I cannot expect
them to carry on the fight for me, unless they know that the money is
sure. Scruby has been bitten two or three times by these metropolitan
fellows, and he is determined that he will not be bitten again." Then
he paused for Kate to speak.

"George," she said, slowly.

"Well."

"I wish you would try any other scheme but that."

"There is no other scheme! That's so like a woman;--to quarrel with
the only plan that is practicable."

"I do not think you ought to take Alice's money."

"My dear Kate, you must allow me to be the best judge of what I ought
to do, and what I ought not to do. Alice herself understands the
matter perfectly. She knows that I cannot obtain this position, which
is as desirable for her as it is for me--"

"And for me as much as for either," said Kate, interrupting him.

"Very well. Alice, I say, knows that I cannot do this without money,
and has offered the assistance which I want. I would rather that you
should tell her how much I want, and that I want it now, than that I
should do so. That is all. If you are half the woman that I take you
to be, you will understand this well enough."

Kate did understand it well enough. She was quite awake to the fact
that her brother was ashamed of the thing he was about to do,--so
much ashamed of it that he was desirous of using her voice instead of
his own. "I want you to write to her quite at once," he continued;
"since you seem to think that it is not worth while to take the
trouble of a journey to London."

"There is no question about the trouble," said Kate. "I would walk to
London to get the money for you, if that were all."

"Do you think that Alice will refuse to lend it me?" said he, looking
into her face.

"I am sure that she would not, but I think that you ought not to take
it from her. There seems to me to be something sacred about property
that belongs to the girl you are going to marry."

"If there is anything on earth I hate," said George, walking about
the room, "it is romance. If you keep it for reading in your bedroom,
it's all very well for those who like it, but when it comes to be
mixed up with one's business it plays the devil. If you would only
sift what you have said, you would see what nonsense it is. Alice and
I are to be man and wife. All our interests, and all our money, and
our station in life, whatever it may be, are to be joint property.
And yet she is the last person in the world to whom I ought to go for
money to improve her prospects as well as my own. That's what you
call delicacy. I call it infernal nonsense."

"I tell you what I'll do, George. I'll ask Aunt Greenow to lend you
the money,--or to lend it to me."

"I don't believe she'd give me a shilling. Moreover, I want it quite
immediately, and the time taken up in letter-writing and negotiations
would be fatal to me. If you won't apply to Alice, I must. I want you
to tell me whether you will oblige me in this matter."

Kate was still hesitating as to her answer, when there came a knock
at the door, and a little crumpled note was brought up to her. A boy
had just come with it across the fell from Vavasor Hall, and Kate, as
soon as she saw her name on the outside, knew that it was from her
grandfather. It was as follows:--


   "If George wishes to come to the Hall, let him come. If
   he chooses to tell me that he regrets his conduct to me,
   I will see him."


"What is it?" said George. Then Kate put the note into her brother's
hand.

"I'll do nothing of the kind," he said. "What good should I get by
going to the old man's house?"

"Every good," said Kate. "If you don't go now you never can do so."

"Never till it's my own," said George.

"If you show him that you are determined to be at variance with him,
it never will be your own;--unless, indeed, it should some day come
to you as part of Alice's fortune. Think of it, George; you would not
like to receive everything from her."

He walked about the room, muttering maledictions between his teeth
and balancing, as best he was able at such a moment, his pride
against his profit. "You haven't answered my question," said he. "If
I go to the Hall, will you write to Alice?"

"No, George; I cannot write to Alice asking her for the money."

"You won't?"

"I could not bring myself to do it."

"Then, Kate, you and my grandfather may work together for the future.
You may get him to leave you the place if you have skill enough."

"That is as undeserved a reproach as any woman ever encountered,"
said Kate, standing her ground boldly before him. "If you have either
heart or conscience, you will feel that it is so."

"I'm not much troubled with either one or the other, I fancy. Things
are being brought to such a pass with me that I am better without
them."

"Will you take my money, George; just for the present?"

"No. I haven't much conscience; but I have a little left."

"Will you let me write to Mrs Greenow?"

"I have not the slightest objection; but it will be of no use
whatsoever."

"I will do so, at any rate. And now will you come to the Hall?"

"To beg that old fool's pardon? No; I won't. In the mood I am in at
present, I couldn't do it. I should only anger him worse than ever.
Tell him that I've business which calls me back to London at once."

"It is a thousand pities."

"It can't be helped."

"It may make so great a difference to you for your whole life!" urged
Kate.

"I'll tell you what I'll do," said George. "I'll go to Vavasor
and put up with the old squire's insolence, if you'll make this
application for me to Alice." I wonder whether it occurred to him
that his sister desired his presence at the Hall solely on his own
behalf. The same idea certainly did not occur to Kate. She hesitated,
feeling that she would almost do anything to achieve a reconciliation
between her grandfather and her brother.

"But you'll let me write to Aunt Greenow first," said she. "It will
take only two days,--or at the most three?"

To this George consented as though he were yielding a great deal;
and Kate, with a sore conscience, with a full knowledge that she was
undertaking to do wrong, promised that she would apply to Alice for
her money, if sufficient funds should not be forthcoming from Mrs
Greenow. Thereupon, George graciously consented to proceed to his
bedroom, and put together his clothes with a view to his visit to the
Hall.

"I thank Providence, Kate, that circumstances make it impossible for
me to stay above two days. I have not linen to last me longer."

"We'll manage that for you at the Hall."

"Indeed you won't do anything of the kind. And look, Kate, when I
make that excuse don't you offer to do so. I will stay there over
to-morrow night, and shall go into Kendal early, so as to catch the
express train up on Thursday morning. Don't you throw me over by any
counter proposition."

Then they started together in the car, and very few words were said
till they reached the old lodge, which stood at the entrance to the
place. "Eh, Mr George; be that you?" said the old woman, who came out
to swing back for them the broken gate. "A sight of you is good for
sair een." It was the same welcome that the inn-keeper had given him,
and equally sincere. George had never made himself popular about the
place, but he was the heir.

"I suppose you had better go into the drawing-room," said Kate;
"while I go to my grandfather. You won't find a fire there."

"Manage it how you please; but don't keep me in the cold very long.
Heavens, what a country house! The middle of January, and no fires in
the room."

"And remember, George, when you see him you must say that you regret
that you ever displeased him. Now that you are here, don't let there
be any further misunderstanding."

"I think it very probable that there will be," said George. "I only
hope he'll let me have the old horse to take me back to Shap if there
is. There he is at the front door, so I shan't have to go into the
room without a fire."

The old man was standing at the hall steps when the car drove up, as
though to welcome his grandson. He put out his hand to help Kate down
the steps, keeping his eye all the time on George's face.

"So you've come back," the squire said to him.

"Yes, sir;--I've come back, like the prodigal son in the parable."

"The prodigal son was contrite. I hope you are so."

"Pretty well for that, sir. I'm sorry there has been any quarrel, and
all that, you know."

"Go in," said the squire, very angrily. "Go in. To expect anything
gracious from you would be to expect pearls from swine. Go in."

George went in, shrugging his shoulders as his eyes met his sister's.
It was in this fashion that the reconciliation took place between
Squire Vavasor and his heir.



CHAPTER XXXIX

Mr Cheesacre's Hospitality


As the winter wore itself away, Mr Cheesacre, happy as he was amidst
the sports of Norfolk, and prosperous as he might be with the augean
spoils of Oileymead, fretted himself with an intense anxiety to bring
to a close that affair which he had on his hands with the widow
Greenow. There were two special dangers which disturbed him. She
would give herself and all her money to that adventurer, Bellfield;
or else she would spend her own money so fast before he got hold upon
it, that the prize would be greatly damaged. "I'm ---- if she hasn't
been and set up a carriage!" he said to himself one day, as standing
on the pavement of Tombland, in Norwich, he saw Mrs Greenow issue
forth from the Close in a private brougham, accompanied by one of the
Fairstairs girls. "She's been and set up her carriage as sure as my
name's Cheesacre!"

Whatever reason he might have to fear the former danger, we may
declare that he had none whatever as to the latter. Mrs Greenow knew
what she was doing with her money as well as any lady in England. The
private carriage was only a hired brougham taken by the month, and as
to that boy in buttons whom she had lately established, why should
she not keep a young servant, and call him a page, if it gave her any
comfort to do so? If Mr Cheesacre had also known that she had lent
the Fairstairs family fifty pounds to help them through with some
difficulty which Joe had encountered with the Norwich tradespeople,
he would have been beside himself with dismay. He desired to obtain
the prize unmutilated,--in all its fair proportions. Any such
clippings he regarded as robberies against himself.

But he feared Bellfield more than he feared the brougham. That
all is fair in love and war was no doubt, at this period, Captain
Bellfield's maxim, and we can only trust that he found in it some
consolation, or ease to his conscience, in regard to the monstrous
lies which he told his friend. In war, no doubt, all stratagems are
fair. The one general is quite justified in making the other believe
that he is far to the right, when in truth he is turning his enemy's
left flank. If successful, he will be put upon a pedestal for his
clever deceit, and crowned with laurels because of his lie. If
Bellfield could only be successful, and achieve for himself the
mastery over those forty thousand pounds, the world would forgive him
and place, on his brow also, some not uncomfortable crown. In the
mean time, his stratagems were as deep and his lies as profound as
those of any general.

It must not be supposed that Cheesacre ever believed him. In the
first place, he knew that Bellfield was not a man to be believed
in any way. Had he not been living on lies for the last ten years?
But then a man may lie in such a way as to deceive, though no one
believe him. Mr Cheesacre was kept in an agony of doubt while Captain
Bellfield occupied his lodgings in Norwich. He fee'd Jeannette
liberally. He even fee'd Charlie Fairstairs,--Miss Fairstairs I
mean,--with gloves, and chickens from Oileymead, so that he might
know whether that kite fluttered about his dovecoat, and of what
nature were the flutterings. He went even further than this, and
fee'd the Captain himself,--binding him down not to flutter as
value given in return for such fees. He attempted even to fee the
widow,--cautioning her against the fluttering, as he tendered to
her, on his knees, a brooch as big as a breast-plate. She waved aside
the breast-plate, declaring that the mourning ring which contained
poor Greenow's final grey lock of hair, was the last article from a
jeweller's shop which should ever find a place about her person. At
the same time she declared that Captain Bellfield was nothing to her;
Mr Cheesacre need have no fears in that quarter. But then, she added,
neither was he to have any hope. Her affections were all buried under
the cold sod. This was harassing. Nevertheless, though no absolute
satisfaction was to be attained in the wooing of Mrs Greenow, there
was a pleasantness in the occupation which ought to have reconciled
her suitors to their destiny. With most ladies, when a gentleman has
been on his knees before one of them in the morning, with outspoken
protestations of love, with clearly defined proffers of marriage,
with a minute inventory of the offerer's worldly wealth,--down even
to the "mahogany-furnitured" bed-chambers, as was the case with
Mr Cheesacre, and when all these overtures have been peremptorily
declined,--a gentleman in such a case, I say, would generally feel
some awkwardness in sitting down to tea with the lady at the close
of such a performance. But with Mrs Greenow there was no such
awkwardness. After an hour's work of the nature above described she
would play the hostess with a genial hospitality, that eased off
all the annoyance of disappointment; and then at the end of the
evening, she would accept a squeeze of the hand, a good, palpable,
long-protracted squeeze, with that sort of "don't;--have done now,"
by which Irish young ladies allure their lovers. Mr Cheesacre, on
such occasions, would leave the Close, swearing that she should be
his on the next market-day,--or at any rate, on the next Saturday.
Then, on the Monday, tidings would reach him that Bellfield had
passed all Sunday afternoon with his lady-love,--Bellfield, to whom
he had lent five pounds on purpose that he might be enabled to
spend that very Sunday with some officers of the Suffolk volunteers
at Ipswich. And hearing this, he would walk out among those rich
heaps, at the back of his farmyard, uttering deep curses against the
falsehood of men and the fickleness of women.

Driven to despair, he at last resolved to ask Bellfield to come to
Oileymead for a month. That drilling at Norwich, or the part of it
which was supposed to be profitable, was wearing itself out. Funds
were low with the Captain,--as he did not scruple to tell his friend
Cheesacre, and he accepted the invitation. "I'll mount you with the
harriers, old fellow," Cheesacre had said; "and give you a little
shooting. Only I won't have you go out when I'm not with you."
Bellfield agreed, Each of them understood the nature of the bargain;
though Bellfield, I think, had somewhat the clearer understanding
in the matter. He would not be so near the widow as he had been at
Norwich, but he would not be less near than his kind host. And his
host would no doubt watch him closely;--but then he also could watch
his host. There was a railway station not two miles from Oileymead,
and the journey thence into Norwich was one of half an hour. Mr
Cheesacre would doubtless be very jealous of such journeys, but with
all his jealousy he could not prevent them. And then, in regard
to this arrangement, Mr Cheesacre paid the piper, whereas Captain
Bellfield paid nothing. Would it not be sweet to him if he could
carry off his friend's prize from under the very eaves of his
friend's house?

And Mrs Greenow also understood the arrangement. "Going to Oileymead;
are you?" she said when Captain Bellfield came to tell her of his
departure. Charlie Fairstairs was with her, so that the Captain could
not utilize the moment in any special way. "It's quite delightful,"
continued the widow, "to see how fond you two gentlemen are of each
other."

"I think gentlemen always like to go best to gentlemen's houses where
there are no ladies," said Charlie Fairstairs, whose career in life
had not as yet been satisfactory to her.

"As for that," said Bellfield, "I wish with all my heart that dear
old Cheesy would get a wife. He wants a wife badly, if ever a man
did, with all that house full of blankets and crockery. Why don't you
set your cap at him, Miss Fairstairs?"

"What;--at a farmer!" said Charlie who was particularly anxious that
her dear friend, Mrs Greenow, should not marry Mr Cheesacre, and who
weakly thought to belittle him accordingly.

"Give him my kind love," said Mrs Greenow, thereby resenting the
impotent interference. "And look here, Captain Bellfield, suppose you
both dine with me next Saturday. He always comes in on Saturday, and
you might as well come too."

Captain Bellfield declared that he would only be too happy.

"And Charlie shall come to set her cap at Mr Cheesacre," said the
widow, turning a soft and gracious eye on the Captain.

"I shall be happy to come,"--said Charlie, quite delighted; "but
not with that object. Mr Cheesacre is very respectable, I'm sure."
Charlie's mother had been the daughter of a small squire who had
let his land to tenants, and she was, therefore, justified by
circumstances in looking down upon a farmer.

The matter was so settled,--pending the consent of Mr Cheesacre; and
Bellfield went out to Oileymead. He knew the ways of the house, and
was not surprised to find himself left alone till after dusk; nor was
he much surprised when he learned that he was not put into one of the
mahogany-furnitured chambers, but into a back room looking over the
farm-yard in which there was no fire-place. The Captain had already
endured some of the evils of poverty, and could have put up with this
easily had nothing been said about it. As it was, Cheesacre brought
the matter forward, and apologized, and made the thing difficult.

"You see, old fellow," he said, "there are the rooms, and of course
they're empty. But it's such a bore hauling out all the things and
putting up the curtains. You'll be very snug where you are."

"I shall do very well," said Bellfield rather sulkily.

"Of course you'll do very well. It's the warmest room in the house in
one way." He did not say in what way. Perhaps the near neighbourhood
of the stables may have had a warming effect.

Bellfield did not like it; but what is a poor man to do under such
circumstances? So he went up-stairs and washed his hands before
dinner in the room without a fire-place, flattering himself that he
would yet be even with his friend Cheesacre.

They dined together not in the best humour, and after dinner they
sat down to enjoy themselves with pipes and brandy and water.
Bellfield, having a taste for everything that was expensive, would
have preferred cigars; but his friend put none upon the table. Mr
Cheesacre, though he could spend his money liberally when occasion
required such spending, knew well the value of domestic economy. He
wasn't going to put himself out, as he called it, for Bellfield! What
was good enough for himself was good enough for Bellfield. "A beggar,
you know; just a regular beggar!" as he was betrayed into saying
to Mrs Greenow on some occasion just at this period. "Poor fellow!
He only wants money to make him almost perfect," Mrs Greenow had
answered;--and Mr Cheesacre had felt that he had made a mistake.

Both the men became talkative, if not good-humoured, under the
effects of the brandy and water, and the Captain then communicated
Mrs Greenow's invitation to Mr Cheesacre. He had had his doubts as
to the propriety of doing so,--thinking that perhaps it might be to
his advantage to forget the message. But he reflected that he was
at any rate a match for Cheesacre when they were present together,
and finally came to the conclusion that the message should be
delivered. "I had to go and just wish her goodbye you know," he said
apologetically, as he finished his little speech.

"I don't see that at all," said Cheesacre.

"Why, my dear fellow, how foolishly jealous you are. If I were to be
downright uncivil to her, as you would have me be, it would only call
attention to the thing."

"I'm not a bit jealous. A man who sits upon his own ground as I do
hasn't any occasion to be jealous."

"I don't know what your own ground has to do with it,--but we'll let
that pass."

"I think it has a great deal to do with it. If a man does intend to
marry he ought to have things comfortable about him; unless he wants
to live on his wife, which I look upon as about the meanest thing a
man can do. By George, I'd sooner break stones than that."

This was hard for any captain to bear,--even for Captain Bellfield;
but he did bear it,--looking forward to revenge.

"There's no pleasing you, I know," said he. "But there's the fact.
I went to say goodbye to her, and she asked me to give you that
message. Shall we go or not?"

Cheesacre sat for some time silent, blowing out huge clouds of
smoke while he meditated a little plan. "I'll tell you what it is,
Bellfield," he said at last. "She's nothing to you, and if you won't
mind it, I'll go. Mrs Jones shall get you anything you like for
dinner,--and,--and--I'll stand you a bottle of the '34 port!"

But Captain Bellfield was not going to put up with this. He had
not sold himself altogether to work Mr Cheesacre's will. "No, old
fellow," said he; "that cock won't fight. She has asked me to dine
with her on Saturday, and I mean to go. I don't intend that she shall
think that I'm afraid of her,--or of you either."

"You don't;--don't you?"

"No, I don't," said the Captain stoutly.

"I wish you'd pay me some of that money you owe me," said Cheesacre.

"So I will,--when I've married the widow. Ha,--ha,--ha."

Cheesacre longed to turn him out of the house. Words to bid him go,
were, so to say, upon his tongue. But the man would only have taken
himself to Norwich, and would have gone without any embargo upon his
suit; all their treaties would then be at an end. "She knows a trick
worth two of that," said Cheesacre at last.

"I dare say she does; and if so, why shouldn't I go and dine with her
next Saturday?"

"I'll tell you why,--because you're in my way. The deuce is in it if
I haven't made the whole thing clear enough. I've told you all my
plans because I thought you were my friend, and I've paid you well to
help me, too; and yet it seems to me you'd do anything in your power
to throw me over,--only you can't."

"What an ass you are," said the Captain after a pause; "just you
listen to me. That scraggy young woman, Charlie Fairstairs, is to be
there of course."

"How do you know?"

"I tell you that I do know. She was present when the whole thing was
arranged, and I heard her asked, and heard her say that she would
come;--and for the matter of that I heard her declare that she
wouldn't set her cap at you, because you're a farmer."

"Upon my word she's kind. Upon my word she is," said Cheesacre,
getting very angry and very red. "Charlie Fairstairs, indeed! I
wouldn't pick her out of a gutter with a pair of tongs. She ain't
good enough for my bailiff, let alone me."

"But somebody must take her in hand on Saturday, if you're to do any
good," said the crafty Bellfield.

"What the deuce does she have that nasty creature there for?" said
Cheesacre, who thought it very hard that everything should not be
arranged exactly as he would desire.

"She wants a companion, of course. You can get rid of Charlie, you
know, when you make her Mrs Cheesacre."

"Get rid of her! You don't suppose she'll ever put her foot in this
house. Not if I know it. I've detested that woman for the last ten
years." Cheesacre could forgive no word of slight respecting his
social position, and the idea of Miss Fairstairs having pretended to
look down upon him, galled him to the quick.

"You'll have to dine with her at any rate," said Bellfield, "and
I always think that four are better company than three on such
occasions."

Mr Cheesacre grunted an unwilling assent, and after this it was
looked upon as an arranged thing that they two should go into Norwich
on the Saturday together, and that they should both dine with the
widow. Indeed, Mrs Greenow got two notes, one from each of them,
accepting the invitation. Cheesacre wrote in the singular number,
altogether ignoring Captain Bellfield, as he might have ignored his
footman had he intended to take one. The captain condescended to use
the plural pronoun. "We shall be so happy to come," said he. "Dear
old Cheesy is out of his little wits with delight," he added, "and
has already begun to polish off the effects of the farmyard."

"Effects of the farmyard," said Mrs Greenow aloud, in Jeannette's
hearing, when she received the note. "It would be well for Captain
Bellfield if he had a few such effects himself."

"You can give him enough, ma'am," said Jeannette, "to make him a
better man than Mr Cheesacre any day. And for a gentleman--of course
I say nothing, but if I was a lady, I know which should be the man
for me."



CHAPTER XL

Mrs Greenow's Little Dinner in the Close


How deep and cunning are the wiles of love! When that Saturday
morning arrived not a word was said by Cheesacre to his rival as
to his plans for the day. "You'll take the dog-cart in?" Captain
Bellfield had asked overnight. "I don't know what I shall do as yet,"
replied he who was master of the house, of the dog-cart, and, as he
fondly thought, of the situation. But Bellfield knew that Cheesacre
must take the dog-cart, and was contented. His friend would leave him
behind, if it were possible, but Bellfield would take care that it
should not be possible.

Before breakfast Mr Cheesacre surreptitiously carried out into the
yard a bag containing all his apparatus for dressing,--his marrow
oil for his hair, his shirt with the wondrous worked front upon an
under-stratum of pink to give it colour, his shiny boots, and all
the rest of the paraphernalia. When dining in Norwich on ordinary
occasions, he simply washed his hands there, trusting to the
chambermaid at the inn to find him a comb; and now he came down with
his bag surreptitiously, and hid it away in the back of the dog-cart
with secret, but alas, not unobserved hands, hoping that Bellfield
would forget his toilet. But when did such a Captain ever forget his
outward man? Cheesacre, as he returned through the kitchen from the
yard into the front hall, perceived another bag lying near the door,
apparently filled almost as well as his own.

"What the deuce are you going to do with all this luggage?" said he,
giving the bag a kick.

"Put it where I saw you putting yours when I opened my window just
now," said Bellfield.

"D---- the window," exclaimed Cheesacre, and then they sat down to
breakfast. "How you do hack that ham about," he said. "If you ever
found hams yourself you'd be more particular in cutting them." This
was very bad. Even Bellfield could not bear it with equanimity, and
feeling unable to eat the ham under such circumstances, made his
breakfast with a couple of fresh eggs. "If you didn't mean to eat the
meat, why the mischief did you cut it?" said Cheesacre.

"Upon my word, Cheesacre, you're too bad;--upon my word you are,"
said Bellfield, almost sobbing.

"What's the matter now?" said the other.

"Who wants your ham?"

"You do, I suppose, or you wouldn't cut it."

"No I don't; nor anything else either that you've got. It isn't fair
to ask a fellow into your house, and then say such things to him as
that. And it isn't what I've been accustomed to either; I can tell
you that, Mr Cheesacre."

"Oh, bother!"

"It's all very well to say bother, but I choose to be treated like a
gentleman wherever I go. You and I have known each other a long time,
and I'd put up with more from you than from anyone else; but--"

"Can you pay me the money that you owe me, Bellfield?" said
Cheesacre, looking hard at him.

"No, I can't," said Bellfield; "not immediately."

"Then eat your breakfast, and hold your tongue."

After that Captain Bellfield did eat his breakfast,--leaving the ham
however untouched, and did hold his tongue, vowing vengeance in his
heart. But the two men went into Norwich more amicably together than
they would have done had there been no words between them. Cheesacre
felt that he had trespassed a little, and therefore offered the
Captain a cigar as he seated himself in the cart. Bellfield accepted
the offering, and smoked the weed of peace.

"Now," said Cheesacre, as he drove into the Swan yard, "what do you
mean to do with yourself all day?"

"I shall go down to the quarters, and look the fellows up."

"All right. But mind this, Bellfield;--it's an understood thing, that
you're not to be in the Close before four?"

"I won't be in the Close before four!"

"Very well. That's understood. If you deceive me, I'll not drive you
back to Oileymead to-night."

In this instance Captain Bellfield had no intention to deceive.
He did not think it probable that he could do himself any good by
philandering about the widow early in the day. She would be engaged
with her dinner and with an early toilet. Captain Bellfield,
moreover, had learned from experience that the first comer has not
always an advantage in ladies' society. The mind of a woman is greedy
after novelty, and it is upon the stranger, or upon the most strange
of her slaves around her, that she often smiles the sweetest. The
cathedral clock, therefore, had struck four before Captain Bellfield
rang Mrs Greenow's bell, and then, when he was shown into the
drawing-room, he found Cheesacre there alone, redolent with the
marrow oil, and beautiful with the pink bosom.

"Haven't you seen her yet?" asked the Captain almost in a whisper.

"No," said Cheesacre sulkily.

"Nor yet Charlie Fairstairs?"

"I've seen nobody," said Cheesacre.

But at this moment he was compelled to swallow his anger, as Mrs
Greenow, accompanied by her lady guest, came into the room. "Whoever
would have expected two gentlemen to be so punctual," said she,
"especially on market-day!"

"Market-day makes no difference when I come to see you," said
Cheesacre, putting his best foot forward, while Captain Bellfield
contented himself with saying something civil to Charlie. He would
bide his time and ride a waiting race.

The widow was almost gorgeous in her weeds. I believe that she
had not sinned in her dress against any of those canons which the
semi-ecclesiastical authorities on widowhood have laid down as to the
outward garments fitted for gentlemen's relicts. The materials were
those which are devoted to the deepest conjugal grief. As regarded
every item of the written law her suttee worship was carried out to
the letter. There was the widow's cap, generally so hideous, so well
known to the eyes of all men, so odious to womanhood. Let us hope
that such headgear may have some assuaging effect on the departed
spirits of husbands. There was the dress of deep, clinging,
melancholy crape,--of crape which becomes so brown and so rusty,
and which makes the six months' widow seem so much more afflicted
a creature than she whose husband is just gone, and whose crape is
therefore new. There were the trailing weepers, and the widow's
kerchief pinned close round her neck and somewhat tightly over her
bosom. But there was that of genius about Mrs Greenow, that she had
turned every seeming disadvantage to some special profit, and had so
dressed herself that though she had obeyed the law to the letter, she
had thrown the spirit of it to the winds. Her cap sat jauntily on her
head, and showed just so much of her rich brown hair as to give her
the appearance of youth which she desired. Cheesacre had blamed her
in his heart for her private carriage, but she spent more money, I
think, on new crape than she did on her brougham. It never became
brown and rusty with her, or formed itself into old lumpy folds, or
shaped itself round her like a grave cloth. The written law had not
interdicted crinoline, and she loomed as large with weeds, which with
her were not sombre, as she would do with her silks when the period
of her probation should be over. Her weepers were bright with
newness, and she would waft them aside from her shoulder with an air
which turned even them into auxiliaries. Her kerchief was fastened
close round her neck and close over her bosom; but Jeannette well
knew what she was doing as she fastened it,--and so did Jeannette's
mistress.

Mrs Greenow would still talk much about her husband, declaring that
her loss was as fresh to her wounded heart, as though he, on whom
all her happiness had rested, had left her only yesterday; but
yet she mistook her dates, frequently referring to the melancholy
circumstance, as having taken place fifteen months ago. In truth,
however, Mr Greenow had been alive within the last nine months,--as
everybody around her knew. But if she chose to forget the exact day,
why should her friends or dependents remind her of it? No friend or
dependent did remind her of it, and Charlie Fairstairs spoke of the
fifteen months with bold confidence,--false-tongued little parasite
that she was.

"Looking well," said the widow, in answer to some outspoken
compliment from Mr Cheesacre. "Yes, I'm well enough in health, and I
suppose I ought to be thankful that it is so. But if you had buried
a wife whom you had loved within the last eighteen months, you would
have become as indifferent as I am to all that kind of thing."

"I never was married yet," said Mr Cheesacre.

"And therefore you know nothing about it. Everything in the world is
gay and fresh to you. If I were you, Mr Cheesacre, I would not run
the risk. It is hardly worth a woman's while, and I suppose not a
man's. The sufferings are too great!" Whereupon she pressed her
handkerchief to her eyes.

"But I mean to try all the same," said Cheesacre, looking the lover
all over as he gazed into the fair one's face.

"I hope that you may be successful, Mr Cheesacre, and that she may
not be torn away from you early in life. Is dinner ready, Jeannette?
That's well. Mr Cheesacre, will you give your arm to Miss
Fairstairs?"

There was no doubt as to Mrs Greenow's correctness. As Captain
Bellfield held, or had held, her Majesty's commission, he was clearly
entitled to take the mistress of the festival down to dinner. But
Cheesacre would not look at it in this light. He would only remember
that he had paid for the Captain's food for some time past, that the
Captain had been brought into Norwich in his gig, that the Captain
owed him money, and ought, so to say, to be regarded as his property
on the occasion. "I pay my way, and that ought to give a man higher
station than being a beggarly captain,--which I don't believe he is,
if all the truth was known." It was thus that he took an occasion to
express himself to Miss Fairstairs on that very evening. "Military
rank is always recognised," Miss Fairstairs had replied, taking Mr
Cheesacre's remarks as a direct slight upon herself. He had taken her
down to dinner, and had then come to her complaining that he had been
injured in being called upon to do so! "If you were a magistrate, Mr
Cheesacre, you would have rank; but I believe you are not." Charlie
Fairstairs knew well what she was about. Mr Cheesacre had striven
much to get his name put upon the commission of the peace, but had
failed. "Nasty, scraggy old cat," Cheesacre said to himself, as he
turned away from her.

But Bellfield gained little by taking the widow down. He and
Cheesacre were placed at the top and bottom of the table, so that
they might do the work of carving; and the ladies sat at the sides.
Mrs Greenow's hospitality was very good. The dinner was exactly
what a dinner ought to be for four persons. There was soup, fish,
a cutlet, a roast fowl, and some game. Jeannette waited at table
nimbly, and the thing could not have been done better. Mrs Greenow's
appetite was not injured by her grief, and she so far repressed for
the time all remembrance of her sorrow as to enable her to play the
kind hostess to perfection. Under her immediate eye Cheesacre was
forced into apparent cordiality with his friend Bellfield, and the
Captain himself took the good things which the gods provided with
thankful good-humour.

Nothing, however, was done at the dinner-table. No work got itself
accomplished. The widow was so accurately fair in the adjustment of
her favours, that even Jeannette could not perceive to which of the
two she turned with the amplest smile. She talked herself and made
others talk, till Cheesacre became almost comfortable, in spite of
his jealousy. "And now," she said, as she got up to leave the room,
when she had taken her own glass of wine, "We will allow these two
gentlemen just half an hour, eh Charlie? and then we shall expect
them up-stairs."

"Ten minutes will be enough for us here," said Cheesacre, who was in
a hurry to utilize his time.

"Half an hour," said Mrs Greenow, not without some little tone of
command in her voice. Ten minutes might be enough for Mr Cheesacre,
but ten minutes was not enough for her.

Bellfield had opened the door, and it was upon him that the widow's
eye glanced as she left the room. Cheesacre saw it, and resolved to
resent the injury. "I'll tell you what it is, Bellfield," he said, as
he sat down moodily over the fire, "I won't have you coming here at
all, till this matter is settled."

"Till what matter is settled?" said Bellfield, filling his glass.

"You know what matter I mean."

"You take such a deuce of a time about it."

"No, I don't. I take as little time as anybody could. That other
fellow has only been dead about nine months, and I've got the thing
in excellent training already."

"And what harm do I do?"

"You disturb me, and you disturb her. You do it on purpose. Do you
suppose I can't see? I'll tell you what, now; if you'll go clean out
of Norwich for a month, I'll lend you two hundred pounds on the day
she becomes Mrs Cheesacre."

"And where am I to go to?"

"You may stay at Oileymead, if you like;--that is, on condition that
you do stay there."

"And be told that I hack the ham because it's not my own. Shall I
tell you a piece of my mind, Cheesacre?"

"What do you mean?"

"That woman has no more idea of marrying you than she has of marrying
the Bishop. Won't you fill your glass, old fellow? I know where the
tap is if you want another bottle. You may as well give it up, and
spend no more money in pink fronts and polished boots on her account.
You're a podgy man, you see, and Mrs Greenow doesn't like podgy men."

Cheesacre sat looking at him with his mouth open, dumb with surprise,
and almost paralysed with impotent anger. What had happened during
the last few hours to change so entirely the tone of his dependent
captain? Could it be that Bellfield had been there during the
morning, and that she had accepted him?

"You are very podgy, Cheesacre," Bellfield continued, "and then you
so often smell of the farm-yard; and you talk too much of your money
and your property. You'd have had a better chance if you had openly
talked to her of hers,--as I have done. As it is, you haven't any
chance at all."

Bellfield, as he thus spoke to the man opposite to him, went on
drinking his wine comfortably, and seemed to be chuckling with glee.
Cheesacre was so astounded, so lost in amazement that the creature
whom he had fed,--whom he had bribed with money out of his own
pocket, should thus turn against him, that for a while he could not
collect his thoughts or find voice wherewith to make any answer. It
occurred to him immediately that Bellfield was even now, at this very
time, staying at his house,--that he, Cheesacre, was expected to
drive him, Bellfield, back to Oileymead, to his own Oileymead, on
this very evening; and as he thought of this he almost fancied that
he must be in a dream. He shook himself, and looked again, and there
sat Bellfield, eyeing him through the bright colour of a glass of
port.

"Now I've told you a bit of my mind, Cheesy, my boy," continued
Bellfield, "and you'll save yourself a deal of trouble and annoyance
if you'll believe what I say. She doesn't mean to marry you. It's
most probable that she'll marry me; but, at any rate, she won't marry
you."

"Do you mean to pay me my money, sir?" said Cheesacre, at last,
finding his readiest means of attack in that quarter.

"Yes, I do."

"But when?"

"When I've married Mrs Greenow,--and, therefore, I expect your
assistance in that little scheme. Let us drink her health. We shall
always be delighted to see you at our house, Cheesy, my boy, and you
shall be allowed to hack the hams just as much as you please."

"You shall be made to pay for this," said Cheesacre, gasping with
anger;--gasping almost more with dismay than he did with anger.

"All right, old fellow; I'll pay for it,--with the widow's money.
Come; our half-hour is nearly over; shall we go up-stairs?"

"I'll expose you."

"Don't now;--don't be ill-natured."

"Will you tell me where you mean to sleep to-night, Captain
Bellfield?"

"If I sleep at Oileymead it will only be on condition that I have one
of the mahogany-furnitured bedrooms."

"You'll never put your foot in that house again. You're a rascal,
sir."

"Come, come, Cheesy, it won't do for us to quarrel in a lady's house.
It wouldn't be the thing at all. You're not drinking your wine. You
might as well take another glass, and then we'll go up-stairs."

"You've left your traps at Oileymead, and not one of them you shall
have till you've paid me every shilling you owe me. I don't believe
you've a shirt in the world beyond what you've got there."

"It's lucky I brought one in to change; wasn't it, Cheesy? I
shouldn't have thought of it only for the hint you gave me. I might
as well ring the bell for Jeannette to put away the wine, if you
won't take any more." Then he rang the bell, and when Jeannette came
he skipped lightly up-stairs into the drawing-room.

"Was he here before to-day?" said Cheesacre, nodding his head at the
doorway through which Bellfield had passed.

"Who? The Captain? Oh dear no. The Captain don't come here much
now;--not to say often, by no means."

"He's a confounded rascal."

"Oh, Mr Cheesacre!" said Jeannette.

"He is;--and I ain't sure that there ain't others nearly as bad as he
is."

"If you mean me, Mr Cheesacre, I do declare you're a wronging me; I
do indeed."

"What's the meaning of his going on in this way?"

"I don't know nothing of his ways, Mr Cheesacre; but I've been as
true to you, sir;--so I have;--as true as true." And Jeannette put
her handkerchief up to her eyes.

He moved to the door, and then a thought occurred to him. He put his
hand to his trousers pocket, and turning back towards the girl, gave
her half-a-crown. She curtsied as she took it, and then repeated her
last words. "Yes, Mr Cheesacre,--as true as true." Mr Cheesacre said
nothing further, but followed his enemy up to the drawing-room. "What
game is up now, I wonder," said Jeannette to herself, when she was
left alone. "They two'll be cutting each other's throatses before
they've done, and then my missus will take the surwiver." But she
made up her mind that Cheesacre should be the one to have his throat
cut fatally, and that Bellfield should be the survivor.

Cheesacre, when he reached the drawing-room, found Bellfield sitting
on the same sofa with Mrs Greenow looking at a book of photographs
which they both of them were handling together. The outside rim of
her widow's frill on one occasion touched the Captain's whisker, and
as it did so the Captain looked up with a gratified expression of
triumph. If any gentleman has ever seen the same thing under similar
circumstances, he will understand that Cheesacre must have been
annoyed.

"Yes," said Mrs Greenow, waving her handkerchief, of which little but
a two-inch-deep border seemed to be visible. Bellfield knew at once
that it was not the same handkerchief which she had waved before they
went down to dinner. "Yes,--there he is. It's so like him." And then
she apostrophized the _carte de visite_ of the departed one. "Dear
Greenow; dear husband! When my spirit is false to thee, let thine
forget to visit me softly in my dreams. Thou wast unmatched among
husbands. Whose tender kindness was ever equal to thine? whose sweet
temper was ever so constant? whose manly care so all-sufficient?"
While the words fell from her lips her little finger was touching
Bellfield's little finger, as they held the book between them.
Charlie Fairstairs and Mr Cheesacre were watching her narrowly, and
she knew that they were watching her. She was certainly a woman of
great genius and of great courage.

Bellfield, moved by the eloquence of her words, looked with some
interest at the photograph. There was represented there before him,
a small, grey-looking, insignificant old man, with pig's eyes and a
toothless mouth,--one who should never have been compelled to submit
himself to the cruelty of the sun's portraiture! Another widow, even
if she had kept in her book the photograph of such a husband, would
have scrambled it over silently,--would have been ashamed to show it.
"Have you ever seen it, Mr Cheesacre?" asked Mrs Greenow. "It's so
like him."

"I saw it at Yarmouth," said Cheesacre, very sulkily.

"That you did not," said the lady with some dignity, and not a little
of rebuke in her tone; "simply because it never was at Yarmouth. A
larger one you may have seen, which I always keep, and always shall
keep, close by my bedside."

"Not if I know it," said Captain Bellfield to himself. Then the widow
punished Mr Cheesacre for his sullenness by whispering a few words to
the Captain; and Cheesacre in his wrath turned to Charlie Fairstairs.
Then it was that he spake out his mind about the Captain's rank, and
was snubbed by Charlie,--as was told a page or two back.

After that, coffee was brought to them, and here again Cheesacre in
his ill-humour allowed the Captain to out-manoeuvre him. It was the
Captain who put the sugar into the cups and handed them round. He
even handed a cup to his enemy. "None for me, Captain Bellfield; many
thanks for your politeness all the same," said Mr Cheesacre; and
Mrs Greenow knew from the tone of his voice that there had been a
quarrel.

Cheesacre sitting then in his gloom, had resolved upon one
thing,--or, I may perhaps say, upon two things. He had resolved that
he would not leave the room that evening till Bellfield had left it;
and that he would get a final answer from the widow, if not that
night,--for he thought it very possible that they might both be sent
away together,--then early after breakfast on the following morning.
For the present, he had given up any idea of turning his time to
good account. He was not perhaps a coward, but he had not that
special courage which enables a man to fight well under adverse
circumstances. He had been cowed by the unexpected impertinence of
his rival,--by the insolence of a man to whom he thought that he had
obtained the power of being always himself as insolent as he pleased.
He could not recover his ground quickly, or carry himself before his
lady's eye as though he was unconscious of the wound he had received.
So he sat silent, while Bellfield was discoursing fluently. He sat in
silence, comforting himself with reflections on his own wealth, and
on the poverty of the other, and promising himself a rich harvest
of revenge when the moment should come in which he might tell Mrs
Greenow how absolutely that man was a beggar, a swindler, and a
rascal.

And he was astonished when an opportunity for doing so came very
quickly. Before the neighbouring clock had done striking seven,
Bellfield rose from his chair to go. He first of all spoke a word of
farewell to Miss Fairstairs; then he turned to his late host; "Good
night, Cheesacre," he said, in the easiest tone in the world; after
that he pressed the widow's hand and whispered his adieu.

"I thought you were staying at Oileymead?" said Mrs Greenow.

"I came from there this morning," said the Captain.

"But he isn't going back there, I can tell you," said Mr Cheesacre.

"Oh, indeed," said Mrs Greenow; "I hope there is nothing wrong."

"All as right as a trivet," said the Captain; and then he was off.

"I promised mamma that I would be home by seven," said Charlie
Fairstairs, rising from her chair. It cannot be supposed that she had
any wish to oblige Mr Cheesacre, and therefore this movement on her
part must be regarded simply as done in kindness to Mrs Greenow. She
might be mistaken in supposing that Mrs Greenow would desire to be
left alone with Mr Cheesacre; but it was clear to her that in this
way she could give no offence, whereas it was quite possible that she
might offend by remaining. A little after seven Mr Cheesacre found
himself alone with the lady.

"I'm sorry to find," said she, gravely, "that you two have
quarrelled."

"Mrs Greenow," said he, jumping up, and becoming on a sudden full of
life, "that man is a downright swindler."

"Oh, Mr Cheesacre."

"He is. He'll tell you that he was at Inkerman, but I believe he
was in prison all the time." The Captain had been arrested, I think
twice, and thus Mr Cheesacre justified to himself this assertion. "I
doubt whether he ever saw a shot fired," he continued.

"He's none the worse for that."

"But he tells such lies; and then he has not a penny in the world.
How much do you suppose he owes me, now?"

"However much it is, I'm sure you are too much of a gentleman to
say."

"Well;--yes, I am," said he, trying to recover himself. "But when I
asked him how he intended to pay me, what do you think he said? He
said he'd pay me when he got your money."

"My money! He couldn't have said that!"

"But he did, Mrs Greenow; I give you my word and honour. 'I'll pay
you when I get the widow's money,' he said."

"You gentlemen must have a nice way of talking about me when I am
absent."

"I never said a disrespectful word about you in my life, Mrs
Greenow,--or thought one. He does;--he says horrible things."

"What horrible things, Mr Cheesacre?"

"Oh, I can't tell you;--but he does. What can you expect from such
a man as that, who, to my knowledge, won't have a change of clothes
to-morrow, except what he brought in on his back this morning. Where
he's to get a bed to-night, I don't know, for I doubt whether he's
got half-a-crown in the world."

"Poor Bellfield!"

"Yes; he is poor."

"But how gracefully he carries his poverty."

"I should call it very disgraceful, Mrs Greenow." To this she made
no reply, and then he thought that he might begin his work. "Mrs
Greenow,--may I say Arabella?"

"Mr Cheesacre!"

"But mayn't I? Come, Mrs Greenow. You know well enough by this time
what it is I mean. What's the use of shilly-shallying?"

"Shilly-shallying, Mr Cheesacre! I never heard such language. If I
bid you good night, now, and tell you that it is time for you to go
home, shall you call that shilly-shallying?"

He had made a mistake in his word and repented it. "I beg your
pardon, Mrs Greenow; I do indeed. I didn't mean anything offensive."

"Shilly-shallying, indeed! There's very little shall in it, I can
assure you."

The poor man was dreadfully crestfallen, so much so that the widow's
heart relented, and she pardoned him. It was not in her nature to
quarrel with people;--at any rate, not with her lovers. "I beg your
pardon, Mrs Greenow," said the culprit, humbly. "It is granted," said
the widow; "but never tell a lady again that she is shilly-shallying.
And look here, Mr Cheesacre, if it should ever come to pass that you
are making love to a lady in earnest--"

"I couldn't be more in earnest," said he.

"That you are making love to a lady in earnest, talk to her a little
more about your passion and a little less about your purse. Now, good
night."

"But we are friends."

"Oh yes;--as good friends as ever."

Cheesacre, as he drove himself home in the dark, tried to console
himself by thinking of the miserable plight in which Bellfield would
find himself at Norwich, with no possessions but what he had brought
into the town that day in a small bag. But as he turned in at his
own gate he met two figures emerging; one of them was laden with a
portmanteau, and the other with a hat case.

"It's only me, Cheesy, my boy," said Bellfield. "I've just come down
by the rail to fetch my things, and I'm going back to Norwich by the
9.20.

"If you've stolen anything of mine I'll have you prosecuted," roared
Cheesacre, as he drove his gig up to his own door.



VOLUME II

CHAPTER XLI

A Noble Lord Dies


George Vavasor remained about four days beneath his grandfather's
roof; but he was not happy there himself, nor did he contribute to
the happiness of any one else. He remained there in great discomfort
so long, being unwilling to leave till an answer had been received to
the request made to Aunt Greenow, in order that he might insist on
Kate's performance of her promise with reference to Alice, if that
answer should be unfavourable. During these five days Kate did all
in her power to induce her brother to be, at any rate, kind in his
manner towards his grandfather, but it was in vain. The Squire would
not be the first to be gracious; and George, quite as obstinate as
the old man, would take no steps in that direction till encouraged to
do so by graciousness from the other side. Poor Kate entreated each
of them to begin, but her entreaties were of no avail. "He is an
ill-mannered cub," the old man said, "and I was a fool to let him
into the house. Don't mention his name to me again." George argued
the matter more at length. Kate spoke to him of his own interest in
the matter, urging upon him that he might, by such conduct, drive the
Squire to exclude him altogether from the property.

"He must do as he likes," George said, sulkily.

"But for Alice's sake!" Kate answered.

"Alice would be the last to expect me to submit to unreasonable
ill-usage for the sake of money. As regards myself, I confess that
I'm very fond of money and am not particularly squeamish. I would
do anything that a man can do to secure it. But this I can't do. I
never injured him, and I never asked him to injure himself. I never
attempted to borrow money from him. I have never cost him a shilling.
When I was in the wine business he might have enabled me to make a
large fortune simply by settling on me then the reversion of property
which, when he dies, ought to be my own. He was so perversely
ignorant that he would make no inquiry, but chose to think that I was
ruining myself, at the only time of my life when I was really doing
well."

"But he had a right to act as he pleased," urged Kate.

"Certainly he had. But he had no right to resent my asking such a
favour at his hands. He was an ignorant old fool not to do it; but I
should never have quarrelled with him on that account. Nature made
him a fool, and it wasn't his fault. But I can't bring myself to
kneel in the dirt before him simply because I asked for what was
reasonable."

The two men said very little to each other. They were never alone
together except during that half-hour after dinner in which they
were supposed to drink their wine. The old Squire always took three
glasses of port during this period, and expected that his grandson
would take three with him. But George would drink none at all.
"I have given up drinking wine after dinner," said he, when his
grandfather pushed the bottle over to him. "I suppose you mean that
you drink nothing but claret," said the Squire, in a tone of voice
that was certainly not conciliatory. "I mean simply what I say," said
George--"that I have given up drinking wine after dinner." The old
man could not openly quarrel with his heir on such a point as that.
Even Mr Vavasor could not tell his grandson that he was going to the
dogs because he had become temperate. But, nevertheless, there was
offence in it; and when George sat perfectly silent, looking at the
fire, evidently determined to make no attempt at conversation, the
offence grew, and became strong. "What the devil's the use of your
sitting there if you neither drink nor talk?" said the old man. "No
use in the world, that I can see," said George; "if, however, I were
to leave you, you would abuse me for it." "I don't care how soon you
leave me," said the Squire. From all which it may be seen that George
Vavasor's visit to the hall of his ancestors was not satisfactory.

On the fourth day, about noon, came Aunt Greenow's reply. "Dearest
Kate," she said, "I am not going to do what you ask me,"--thus
rushing instantly into the middle of her subject.


   You see, I don't know my nephew, and have no reason for
   being specially anxious that he should be in Parliament.
   I don't care two straws about the glory of the Vavasor
   family. If I had never done anything for myself, the
   Vavasors would have done very little for me. I don't care
   much about what you call 'blood.' I like those who like
   me, and whom I know. I am very fond of you, and because
   you have been good to me I would give you a thousand
   pounds if you wanted it for yourself; but I don't see why
   I am to give my money to those I don't know. If it is
   necessary to tell my nephew of this, pray tell him that I
   mean no offence.

   Your friend C. is still waiting--waiting--waiting,
   patiently; but his patience may be exhausted.

   Your affectionate aunt,

   ARABELLA GREENOW.


"Of course she won't," said George, as he threw back the letter to
his sister. "Why should she?"

"I had hoped she would," said Kate.

"Why should she? What did I ever do for her? She is a sensible woman.
Who is your friend C., and why is he waiting patiently?"

"He is a man who would be glad to marry her for her money, if she
would take him."

"Then what does she mean by his patience being exhausted?"

"It is her folly. She chooses to pretend to think that the man is a
lover of mine."

"Has he got any money?"

"Yes; lots of money--or money's worth."

"And what is his name?"

"His name is Cheesacre. But pray don't trouble yourself to talk about
him."

"If he wants to marry you, and has plenty of money, why shouldn't you
take him?"

"Good heavens, George! In the first place he does not want to marry
me. In the next place all his heart is in his farmyard."

"And a very good place to have it," said George.

"Undoubtedly. But, really, you must not trouble yourself to talk
about him."

"Only this,--that I should be very glad to see you well married."

"Should you?" said she, thinking of her close attachment to himself.

"And now, about the money," said George. "You must write to Alice at
once."--"Oh, George!"

"Of course you must; you have promised. Indeed, it would have been
much wiser if you had taken me at my word, and done it at once."--"I
cannot do it."

Then the scar on his face opened itself, and his sister stood before
him in fear and trembling. "Do you mean to tell me," said he, "that
you will go back from your word, and deceive me;--that after having
kept me here by this promise, you will not do what you have said you
would do?"

"Take my money now, and pay me out of hers as soon as you are
married. I will be the first to claim it from her,--and from you."

"That is nonsense."

"Why should it be nonsense? Surely you need have no scruple with me.
I should have none with you if I wanted assistance."

"Look here, Kate; I won't have it, and there's an end of it. All that
you have in the world would not pull me through this election, and
therefore such a loan would be worse than useless."

"And am I to ask her for more than two thousand pounds?"

"You are to ask her simply for one thousand. That is what I want, and
must have, at present. And she knows that I want it, and that she is
to supply it; only she does not know that my need is so immediate.
That you must explain to her."

"I would sooner burn my hand, George!"

"But burning your hand, unfortunately, won't do any good. Look here,
Kate; I insist upon your doing this for me. If you do not, I shall
do it, of course, myself; but I shall regard your refusal as an
unjustifiable falsehood on your part, and shall certainly not see you
afterwards. I do not wish, for reasons which you may well understand,
to write to Alice myself on any subject at present. I now claim your
promise to do so; and if you refuse, I shall know very well what to
do."

Of course she did not persist in her refusal. With a sorrowful heart,
and with fingers that could hardly form the needful letters, she did
write a letter to her cousin, which explained the fact--that George
Vavasor immediately wanted a thousand pounds for his electioneering
purposes. It was a stiff, uncomfortable letter, unnatural in
its phraseology, telling its own tale of grief and shame. Alice
understood very plainly all the circumstances under which it was
written, but she sent back word to Kate at once, undertaking that the
money should be forthcoming; and she wrote again before the end of
January, saying that the sum named had been paid to George's credit
at his own bankers.

Kate had taken immense pride in the renewal of the match between her
brother and her cousin, and had rejoiced in it greatly as being her
own work. But all that pride and joy were now over. She could no
longer write triumphant notes to Alice, speaking always of George as
one who was to be their joint hero, foretelling great things of his
career in Parliament, and saying little soft things of his enduring
love. It was no longer possible to her now to write of George at all,
and it was equally impossible to Alice. Indeed, no letters passed
between them, when that monetary correspondence was over, up to the
end of the winter. Kate remained down in Westmoreland, wretched
and ill at ease, listening to hard words spoken by her grandfather
against her brother, and feeling herself unable to take her brother's
part as she had been wont to do in other times.

George returned to town at the end of those four days, and found that
the thousand pounds was duly placed to his credit before the end of
the month. It is hardly necessary to tell the reader that this money
had come from the stores of Mr Tombe, and that Mr Tombe duly debited
Mr Grey with the amount. Alice, in accordance with her promise,
had told her father that the money was needed, and her father, in
accordance with his promise, had procured it without a word of
remonstrance. "Surely I must sign some paper," Alice had said. But
she had been contented when her father told her that the lawyers
would manage all that.

It was nearly the end of February when George Vavasor made his first
payment to Mr Scruby on behalf of the coming election; and when he
called at Mr Scruby's office with this object, he received some
intelligence which surprised him not a little. "You haven't heard the
news," said Scruby. "What news?" said George.

"The Marquis is as nearly off the hooks as a man can be." Mr Scruby,
as he communicated the tidings, showed clearly by his face and voice
that they were supposed to be of very great importance; but Vavasor
did not at first seem to be as much interested in the fate of "the
Marquis" as Scruby had intended.

"I'm very sorry for him," said George. "Who is the Marquis? There'll
be sure to come another, so it don't much signify."

"There will come another, and that's just it. It's the Marquis of
Bunratty; and if he drops, our young Member will go into the Upper
House."

"What, immediately; before the end of the Session?" George, of
course, knew well enough that such would be the case, but the effect
which this event would have upon himself now struck him suddenly.

"To be sure," said Scruby. "The writ would be out immediately. I
should be glad enough of it, only that I know that Travers's people
have heard of it before us, and that they are ready to be up with
their posters directly the breath is out of the Marquis's body. We
must go to work immediately; that's all."

"It will only be for part of a Session," said George.

"Just so," said Mr Scruby.

"And then there'll be the cost of another election."

"That's true," said Mr Scruby; "but in such cases we do manage to
make it come a little cheaper. If you lick Travers now, it may be
that you'll have a walk-over for the next."

"Have you seen Grimes?" asked George.

"Yes, I have; the blackguard! He is going to open his house on
Travers's side. He came to me as bold as brass, and told me so,
saying that he never liked gentlemen who kept him waiting for his
odd money. What angers me is that he ever got it."

"We have not managed it very well, certainly," said Vavasor, looking
nastily at the attorney.

"We can't help those little accidents, Mr Vavasor. There are worse
accidents than that turn up almost daily in my business. You may
think yourself almost lucky that I haven't gone over to Travers
myself. He is a Liberal, you know; and it hasn't been for want of an
offer, I can tell you."

Vavasor was inclined to doubt the extent of his luck in this respect,
and was almost disposed to repent of his Parliamentary ambition. He
would now be called upon to spend certainly not less than three
thousand pounds of his cousin's money on the chance of being able to
sit in Parliament for a few months. And then, after what a fashion
would he be compelled to negotiate that loan! He might, to be sure,
allow the remainder of this Session to run, and stand, as he had
intended, at the general election; but he knew that if he now allowed
a Liberal to win the seat, the holder of the seat would be almost
sure of subsequent success. He must either fight now, or give up the
fight altogether; and he was a man who did not love to abandon any
contest in which he had been engaged.

"Well, Squire," said Scruby, "how is it to be?" And Vavasor felt
that he detected in the man's voice some diminution of that respect
with which he had hitherto been treated as a paying candidate for a
metropolitan borough.

"This lord is not dead yet," said Vavasor.

"No; he's not dead yet, that we have heard; but it won't do for us to
wait. We want every minute of time that we can get. There isn't any
hope for him, I'm told. It's gout in the stomach, or dropsy at the
heart, or some of those things that make a fellow safe to go."

"It won't do to wait for the next election?"

"If you ask me, I should say certainly not. Indeed, I shouldn't wish
to have to conduct it under such circumstances. I hate a fight when
there's no chance of success. I grudge spending a man's money in such
a case; I do indeed, Mr Vavasor."

"I suppose Grimes's going over won't make much difference?"

"The blackguard! He'll take a hundred and fifty votes, I suppose;
perhaps more. But that is not much in such a constituency as the
Chelsea districts. You see, Travers played mean at the last election,
and that will be against him."

"But the Conservatives will have a candidate."

"There's no knowing; but I don't think they will. They'll try one
at the general, no doubt; but if the two sitting Members can pull
together, they won't have much of a chance."

Vavasor found himself compelled to say that he would stand; and
Scruby undertook to give the initiatory orders at once, not waiting
even till the Marquis should be dead. "We should have our houses open
as soon as theirs," said he. "There's a deal in that." So George
Vavasor gave his orders. "If the worst comes to the worst," he said
to himself, "I can always cut my throat."

As he walked from the attorney's office to his club he bethought
himself that that might not unprobably be the necessary termination
of his career. Everything was going wrong with him. His grandfather,
who was eighty years of age, would not die,--appeared to have no
symptoms of dying;--whereas this Marquis, who was not yet much over
fifty, was rushing headlong out of the world, simply because he was
the one man whose continued life at the present moment would be
serviceable to George Vavasor. As he thought of his grandfather he
almost broke his umbrella by the vehemence with which he struck it
against the pavement. What right could an ignorant old fool like that
have to live for ever, keeping the possession of a property which
he could not use, and ruining those who were to come after him? If
now, at this moment, that wretched place down in Westmoreland could
become his, he might yet ride triumphantly over his difficulties, and
refrain from sullying his hands with more of his cousin's money till
she should become his wife.

Even that thousand pounds had not passed through his hands without
giving him much bitter suffering. As is always the case in such
matters, the thing done was worse than the doing of it. He had taught
himself to look at it lightly whilst it was yet unaccomplished; but
he could not think of it lightly now. Kate had been right. It would
have been better for him to take her money. Any money would have been
better than that upon which he had laid his sacrilegious hands. If
he could have cut a purse, after the old fashion, the stain of the
deed would hardly have been so deep. In these days,--for more than
a month, indeed, after his return from Westmoreland,--he did not go
near Queen Anne Street, trying to persuade himself that he stayed
away because of her coldness to him. But, in truth, he was afraid of
seeing her without speaking of her money, and afraid to see her if he
were to speak of it.

"You have seen the _Globe_?" someone said to him as he entered the
club.

"No, indeed; I have seen nothing."

"Bunratty died in Ireland this morning. I suppose you'll be up for
the Chelsea districts?"



CHAPTER XLII

Parliament Meets


Parliament opened that year on the twelfth of February, and Mr
Palliser was one of the first Members of the Lower House to take his
seat. It had been generally asserted through the country, during the
last week, that the existing Chancellor of the Exchequer had, so to
say, ceased to exist as such; that though he still existed to the
outer world, drawing his salary, and doing routine work,--if a man
so big can have any routine work to do,--he existed no longer in
the inner world of the cabinet. He had differed, men said, with
his friend and chief, the Prime Minister, as to the expediency of
repealing what were left of the direct taxes of the country, and was
prepared to launch himself into opposition with his small bodyguard
of followers, with all his energy and with all his venom.

There is something very pleasant in the close, bosom friendship, and
bitter, uncompromising animosity, of these human gods,--of these
human beings who would be gods were they not shorn so short of their
divinity in that matter of immortality. If it were so arranged that
the same persons were always friends, and the same persons were
always enemies, as used to be the case among the dear old heathen
gods and goddesses;--if Parliament were an Olympus in which Juno and
Venus never kissed, the thing would not be nearly so interesting. But
in this Olympus partners are changed, the divine bosom, now rabid
with hatred against some opposing deity, suddenly becomes replete
with love towards its late enemy, and exciting changes occur which
give to the whole thing all the keen interest of a sensational novel.
No doubt this is greatly lessened for those who come too near the
scene of action. Members of Parliament, and the friends of Members
of Parliament, are apt to teach themselves that it means nothing;
that Lord This does not hate Mr That, or think him a traitor to his
country, or wish to crucify him; and that Sir John of the Treasury
is not much in earnest when he speaks of his noble friend at the
"Foreign Office" as a god to whom no other god was ever comparable in
honesty, discretion, patriotism, and genius. But the outside Briton
who takes a delight in politics,--and this description should include
ninety-nine educated Englishmen out of every hundred,--should not be
desirous of peeping behind the scenes. No beholder at any theatre
should do so. It is good to believe in these friendships and these
enmities, and very pleasant to watch their changes. It is delightful
when Oxford embraces Manchester, finding that it cannot live without
support in that quarter; and very delightful when the uncompromising
assailant of all men in power receives the legitimate reward of his
energy by being taken in among the bosoms of the blessed.

But although the outer world was so sure that the existing Chancellor
of the Exchequer had ceased to exist, when the House of Commons met
that gentleman took his seat on the Treasury Bench. Mr Palliser, who
had by no means given a general support to the Ministry in the last
Session, took his seat on the same side of the House indeed, but low
down, and near to the cross benches. Mr Bott sat close behind him,
and men knew that Mr Bott was a distinguished member of Mr Palliser's
party, whatever that party might be. Lord Cinquebars moved the
Address, and I must confess that he did it very lamely. He was
once accused by Mr Maxwell, the brewer, of making a great noise in
the hunting-field. The accusation could not be repeated as to his
performance on this occasion, as no one could hear a word that he
said. The Address was seconded by Mr Loftus Fitzhoward, a nephew of
the Duke of St Bungay, who spoke as though he were resolved to trump
poor Lord Cinquebars in every sentence which he pronounced,--as we
so often hear the second clergyman from the Communion Table trumping
his weary predecessor, who has just finished the Litany not in the
clearest or most audible voice. Every word fell from Mr Fitzhoward
with the elaborate accuracy of a separate pistol-shot; and as he
became pleased with himself in his progress, and warm with his work,
he accented his words sharply, made rhetorical pauses, even moved his
hands about in action, and quite disgusted his own party, who had
been very well satisfied with Lord Cinquebars. There are many rocks
which a young speaker in Parliament should avoid, but no rock which
requires such careful avoiding as the rock of eloquence. Whatever
may be his faults, let him at least avoid eloquence. He should
not be inaccurate, which, however, is not much; he should not be
long-winded, which is a good deal; he should not be ill-tempered,
which is more; but none of these faults are so damnable as eloquence.
All Mr Fitzhoward's friends and all his enemies knew that he had had
his chance, and that he had thrown it away.

In the Queen's Speech there had been some very lukewarm allusion to
remission of direct taxation. This remission, which had already been
carried so far, should be carried further if such further carrying
were found practicable. So had said the Queen. Those words, it was
known, could not have been approved of by the energetic and still
existing Chancellor of the Exchequer. On this subject the mover
of the Address said never a word, and the seconder only a word or
two. What they had said had, of course, been laid down for them;
though, unfortunately, the manner of saying could not be so easily
prescribed. Then there arose a great enemy, a man fluent of diction,
apparently with deep malice at his heart, though at home,--as we used
to say at school,--one of the most good-natured fellows in the world;
one ambitious of that godship which a seat on the other side of
the House bestowed, and greedy to grasp at the chances which this
disagreement in the councils of the gods might give him. He was quite
content, he said, to vote for the Address, as, he believed, would be
all the gentlemen on his side of the House. No one could suspect them
or him of giving a factious opposition to Government. Had they not
borne and forborne beyond all precedent known in that House? Then
he touched lightly, and almost with grace to his opponents, on many
subjects, promising support, and barely hinting that they were
totally and manifestly wrong in all things. But--. Then the tone of
his voice changed, and the well-known look of fury was assumed upon
his countenance. Then great Jove on the other side pulled his hat
over his eyes, and smiled blandly. Then members put away the papers
they had been reading for a moment, and men in the gallery began
to listen. But--. The long and the short of it was this; that the
existing Government had come into power on the cry of a reduction
of taxation, and now they were going to shirk the responsibility
of their own measures. They were going to shirk the responsibility
of their own election cry, although it was known that their own
Chancellor of the Exchequer was prepared to carry it out to the full.
He was willing to carry it out to the full were he not restrained by
the timidity, falsehood, and treachery of his colleagues, of whom,
of course, the most timid, the most false, and the most treacherous
was--the great god Jove, who sat blandly smiling on the other side.

No one should ever go near the House of Commons who wishes to enjoy
all this. It was so manifestly evident that neither Jove nor any
of his satellites cared twopence for what the irate gentleman was
saying; nay, it became so evident that, in spite of his assumed fury,
the gentleman was not irate. He intended to communicate his look
of anger to the newspaper reports of his speech; and he knew from
experience that he could succeed in that. And men walked about the
House in the most telling moments,--enemies shaking hands with
enemies,--in a way that showed an entire absence of all good, honest
hatred among them. But the gentleman went on and finished his speech,
demanding at last, in direct terms, that the Treasury Jove should
state plainly to the House who was to be, and who was not to be, the
bearer of the purse among the gods.

Then Treasury Jove got up smiling, and thanked his enemy for the
cordiality of his support. "He had always," he said, "done the
gentleman's party justice for their clemency, and had feared no
opposition from them; and he was glad to find that he was correct in
his anticipations as to the course they would pursue on the present
occasion." He went on saying a good deal about home matters, and
foreign matters, proving that everything was right, just as easily as
his enemy had proved that everything was wrong. On all these points
he was very full, and very courteous; but when he came to the subject
of taxation, he simply repeated the passage from the Queen's Speech,
expressing a hope that his right honourable friend, the Chancellor of
the Exchequer, would be able to satisfy the judgement of the House,
and the wishes of the people. That specially personal question which
had been asked he did not answer at all.

But the House was still all agog, as was the crowded gallery. The
energetic and still existing Chancellor of the Exchequer was then
present, divided only by one little thin Secretary of State from Jove
himself. Would he get up and declare his purposes? He was a man who
almost always did get up when an opportunity offered itself,--or when
it did not. Some second little gun was fired off from the Opposition
benches, and then there was a pause. Would the purse-bearer of
Olympus rise upon his wings and speak his mind, or would he sit
in silence upon his cloud? There was a general call for the
purse-bearer, but he floated in silence, and was inexplicable. The
purse-bearer was not to be bullied into any sudden reading of the
riddle. Then there came on a general debate about money matters, in
which the purse-bearer did say a few words, but he said nothing as
to the great question at issue. At last up got Mr Palliser, towards
the close of the evening, and occupied a full hour in explaining what
taxes the Government might remit with safety, and what they might
not,--Mr Bott, meanwhile, prompting him with figures from behind
with an assiduity that was almost too persistent. According to Mr
Palliser, the words used in the Queen's Speech were not at all too
cautious. The Members went out gradually, and the House became very
thin during this oration; but the newspapers declared, next morning,
that his speech had been the speech of the night, and that the
perspicuity of Mr Palliser pointed him out as the coming man.

He returned home to his house in Park Lane quite triumphant after his
success, and found Lady Glencora, at about twelve o'clock, sitting
alone. She had arrived in town on that day, having come up at her own
request, instead of remaining at Matching Priory till after Easter,
as he had proposed. He had wished her to stay, in order, as he
had said, that there might be a home for his cousins. But she had
expressed herself unwilling to remain without him, explaining that
the cousins might have the home in her absence, as well as they
could in her presence; and he had given way. But, in truth, she had
learned to hate her cousin Iphy Palliser with a hatred that was
unreasonable,--seeing that she did not also hate Alice Vavasor, who
had done as much to merit her hatred as had her cousin. Lady Glencora
knew by what means her absence from Monkshade had been brought about.
Miss Palliser had told her all that had passed in Alice's bedroom on
the last night of Alice's stay at Matching, and had, by so doing,
contrived to prevent the visit. Lady Glencora understood well all
that Alice had said: and yet, though she hated Miss Palliser for what
had been done, she entertained no anger against Alice. Of course
Alice would have prevented that visit to Monkshade if it were in her
power to do so. Of course she would save her friend. It is hardly
too much to say that Lady Glencora looked to Alice to save her.
Nevertheless she hated Iphy Palliser for engaging herself in the same
business. Lady Glencora looked to Alice to save her, and yet it may
be doubted whether she did, in truth, wish to be saved.

While she was at Matching, and before Mr Palliser had returned from
Monkshade, a letter reached her, by what means she had never learned.
"A letter has been placed within my writing-case," she said to her
maid, quite openly. "Who put it there?" The maid had declared her
ignorance in a manner that had satisfied Lady Glencora of her truth.
"If such a thing happens again," said Lady Glencora, "I shall be
obliged to have the matter investigated. I cannot allow that anything
should be put into my room surreptitiously." There, then, had been an
end of that, as regarded any steps taken by Lady Glencora. The letter
had been from Burgo Fitzgerald, and had contained a direct proposal
that she should go off with him. "I am at Matching," the letter said,
"at the Inn; but I do not dare to show myself, lest I should do you
an injury. I walked round the house yesterday, at night, and I know
that I saw your room. If I am wrong in thinking that you love me, I
would not for worlds insult you by my presence; but if you love me
still, I ask you to throw aside from you that fictitious marriage,
and give yourself to the man whom, if you love him, you should regard
as your husband." There had been more of it, but it had been to the
same effect. To Lady Glencora it had seemed to convey an assurance
of devoted love,--of that love which, in former days, her friends
had told her was not within the compass of Burgo's nature. He had
not asked her to meet him then, but saying that he would return to
Matching after Parliament was met, begged her to let him have some
means of knowing whether her heart was true to him.

She told no one of the letter, but she kept it, and read it over and
over again in the silence and solitude of her room. She felt that she
was guilty in thus reading it,--even in keeping it from her husband's
knowledge; but though conscious of this guilt, though resolute almost
in its commission, still she determined not to remain at Matching
after her husband's departure,--not to undergo the danger of
remaining there while Burgo Fitzgerald should be in the vicinity. She
could not analyse her own wishes. She often told herself, as she had
told Alice, that it would be better for them all that she should go
away; that in throwing herself even to the dogs, if such must be
the result, she would do more of good than of harm. She declared to
herself, in the most passionate words she could use, that she loved
this man with all her heart. She protested that the fault would not
be hers, but theirs, who had forced her to marry the man she did
not love. She assured herself that her husband had no affection for
her, and that their marriage was in every respect prejudicial to
him. She recurred over and over again, in her thoughts, to her own
childlessness, and to his extreme desire for an heir. "Though I do
sacrifice myself," she would say, "I shall do more of good than harm,
and I cannot be more wretched than I am now." But yet she fled to
London because she feared to leave herself at Matching when Burgo
Fitzgerald should be there. She sent no answer to his letter. She
made no preparation for going with him. She longed to see Alice, to
whom alone, since her marriage, had she ever spoken of her love, and
intended to tell her the whole tale of that letter. She was as one
who, in madness, was resolute to throw herself from a precipice, but
to whom some remnant of sanity remained which forced her to seek
those who would save her from herself.

Mr Palliser had not seen her since her arrival in London, and, of
course, he took her by the hand and kissed her. But it was the
embrace of a brother rather than of a lover or a husband. Lady
Glencora, with her full woman's nature, understood this thoroughly,
and appreciated by instinct the true bearing of every touch from his
hand. "I hope you are well?" she said.

"Oh, yes; quite well. And you? A little fatigued with your journey, I
suppose?"

"No; not much."

"Well, we have had a debate on the Address. Don't you want to know
how it has gone?"

"If it has concerned you particularly, I do, of course."

"Concerned me! It has concerned me certainly."

"They haven't appointed you yet; have they?"

"No; they don't appoint people during debates, in the House of
Commons. But I fear I shall never make you a politician."

"I'm almost afraid you never will. But I'm not the less anxious for
your success, since you wish it yourself. I don't understand why you
should work so very hard; but, as you like it, I'm as anxious as
anybody can be that you should triumph."

"Yes; I do like it," he said. "A man must like something, and I don't
know what there is to like better. Some people can eat and drink all
day; and some people can care about a horse. I can do neither."

And there were others, Lady Glencora thought, who could love to lie
in the sun, and could look up into the eyes of women, and seek their
happiness there. She was sure, at any rate, that she knew one such.
But she said nothing of this.

"I spoke for a moment to Lord Brock," said Mr Palliser. Lord Brock
was the name by which the present Jove of the Treasury was known
among men.

"And what did Lord Brock say?"

"He didn't say much, but he was very cordial."

"But I thought, Plantagenet, that he could appoint you if he pleased?
Doesn't he do it all?"

"Well, in one sense, he does. But I don't suppose I shall ever make
you understand." He endeavoured, however, to do so on the present
occasion, and gave her a somewhat longer lecture on the working of
the British Constitution, and the manner in which British politics
evolved themselves, than would have been expected from most young
husbands to their young wives under similar circumstances. Lady
Glencora yawned, and strove lustily, but ineffectually, to hide her
yawn in her handkerchief.

"But I see you don't care a bit about it," said he, peevishly.

"Don't be angry, Plantagenet. Indeed I do care about it, but I am so
ignorant that I can't understand it all at once. I am rather tired,
and I think I'll go to bed now. Shall you be late?"

"No, not very; that is, I shall be rather late. I've a lot of letters
I want to write to-night, as I must be at work all to-morrow.
By-the-by, Mr Bott is coming to dine here. There will be no one
else." The next day was a Wednesday, and the House would not sit in
the evening.

"Mr Bott!" said Lady Glencora, showing by her voice that she
anticipated no pleasure from that gentleman's company.

"Yes, Mr Bott. Have you any objection?"

"Oh, no. Would you like to dine alone with him?"

"Why should I dine alone with him? Why shouldn't you eat your dinner
with us? I hope you are not going to become fastidious, and to turn
up your nose at people. Mrs Marsham is in town, and I dare say she'll
come to you if you ask her."

But this was too much for Lady Glencora. She was disposed to be mild,
but she could not endure to have her two duennas thus brought upon
her together on the first day of her arrival in London. And Mrs
Marsham would be worse than Mr Bott. Mr Bott would be engaged with Mr
Palliser during the greater part of the evening. "I thought," said
she, "of asking my cousin, Alice Vavasor, to spend the evening with
me."

"Miss Vavasor!" said the husband. "I must say that I thought Miss
Vavasor--" He was going to make some allusion to that unfortunate
hour spent among the ruins, but he stopped himself.

"I hope you have nothing to say against my cousin?" said his wife.
"She is my only near relative that I really care for;--the only
woman, I mean."

"No; I don't mean to say anything against her. She's very well as a
young lady, I dare say. I would sooner that you would ask Mrs Marsham
to-morrow."

Lady Glencora was standing, waiting to go away to her own room, but
it was absolutely necessary that this matter should be decided before
she went. She felt that he was hard to her, and unreasonable, and
that he was treating her like a child who should not be allowed her
own way in anything. She had endeavoured to please him, and, having
failed, was not now disposed to give way.

"As there will be no other ladies here to-morrow evening,
Plantagenet, and as I have not yet seen Alice since I have been in
town, I wish you would let me have my way in this. Of course I cannot
have very much to say to Mrs Marsham, who is an old woman."

"I especially want Mrs Marsham to be your friend," said he.

"Friendships will not come by ordering, Plantagenet," said she.

"Very well," said he. "Of course, you will do as you please. I am
sorry that you have refused the first favour I have asked you this
year." Then he left the room, and she went away to bed.



CHAPTER XLIII

Mrs Marsham


But Lady Glencora was not brought to repentance by her husband's last
words. It seemed to her to be so intolerably cruel, this demand of
his, that she should be made to pass the whole of her first evening
in town with an old woman for whom it was impossible that she should
entertain the slightest regard, that she resolved upon rebellion. Had
he positively ordered Mrs Marsham, she would have sent for that lady,
and have contented herself with enduring her presence in disdainful
silence; but Mr Palliser had not given any order. He had made a
request, and a request, from its very nature, admits of no obedience.
The compliance with a request must be voluntary, and she would not
send for Mrs Marsham, except upon compulsion. Had not she also made
a request to him, and had not he refused it? It was his prerogative,
undoubtedly, to command; but in that matter of requests she had a
right to expect that her voice should be as potent as his own. She
wrote a line, therefore, to Alice before she went to bed, begging her
cousin to come to her early on the following day, so that they might
go out together, and then afterwards dine in company with Mr Bott.

"I know that will be an inducement to you," Lady Glencora said,
"because your generous heart will feel of what service you may be to
me. Nobody else will be here,--unless, indeed, Mrs Marsham should be
asked, unknown to myself."

Then she sat herself down to think,--to think especially about the
cruelty of husbands. She had been told over and over again, in the
days before her marriage, that Burgo would ill-use her if he became
her husband. The Marquis of Auld Reekie had gone so far as to suggest
that Burgo might probably beat her. But what hard treatment, even
what beating, could be so unendurable as this total want of sympathy,
as this deadness in life, which her present lot entailed upon her? As
for that matter of beating, she ridiculed the idea in her very soul.
She sat smiling at the absurdity of the thing as she thought of the
beauty of Burgo's eyes, of the softness of his touch, of the loving,
almost worshipping, tones of his voice. Would it not even be better
to be beaten by him than to have politics explained to her at one
o'clock at night by such a husband as Plantagenet Palliser? The
British Constitution, indeed! Had she married Burgo they would have
been in sunny Italy, and he would have told her some other tale than
that as they sat together under the pale moonlight. She had a little
water-coloured drawing called Raphael and Fornarina, and she was
infantine enough to tell herself that the so-called Raphael was like
her Burgo--no, not her Burgo, but the Burgo that was not hers. At any
rate, all the romance of the picture she might have enjoyed had they
allowed her to dispose as she had wished of her own hand. She might
have sat in marble balconies, while the vines clustered over her
head, and he would have been at her knee, hardly speaking to her, but
making his presence felt by the halo of its divinity. He would have
called upon her for no hard replies. With him near her she would have
enjoyed the soft air, and would have sat happy, without trouble,
lapped in the delight of loving. It was thus that Fornarina sat. And
why should not such a lot have been hers? Her Raphael would have
loved her, let them say what they would about his cruelty.

Poor, wretched, overburthened child, to whom the commonest lessons of
life had not yet been taught, and who had now fallen into the hands
of one who was so ill-fitted to teach them! Who would not pity her?
Who could say that the fault was hers? The world had laden her with
wealth till she had had no limb free for its ordinary uses, and then
had turned her loose to run her race!

"Have you written to your cousin?" her husband asked her the next
morning. His voice, as he spoke, clearly showed that his anger was
either over or suppressed.

"Yes; I have asked her to come and drive, and then to stay for
dinner. I shall send the carriage for her if she can come. The man is
to wait for an answer."

"Very well," said Mr Palliser, mildly. And then, after a short pause,
he added, "As that is settled, perhaps you would have no objection to
ask Mrs Marsham also?"

"Won't she probably be engaged?"

"No; I think not," said Mr Palliser. And then he added, being ashamed
of the tinge of falsehood of which he would otherwise have been
guilty, "I know she is not engaged."

"She expects to come, then?" said Lady Glencora.

"I have not asked her, if you mean that, Glencora. Had I done so,
I should have said so. I told her that I did not know what your
engagements were."

"I will write to her, if you please," said the wife, who felt that
she could hardly refuse any longer.

"Do, my dear!" said the husband. So Lady Glencora did write to Mrs
Marsham, who promised to come,--as did also Alice Vavasor.

Lady Glencora would, at any rate, have Alice to herself for some
hours before dinner. At first she took comfort in that reflection;
but after a while she bethought herself that she would not know
what to tell Alice, or what not to tell. Did she mean to show that
letter to her cousin? If she did show it, then,--so she argued with
herself,--she must bring herself to endure the wretchedness of her
present lot, and must give up for ever all her dreams about Raphael
and Fornarina. If she did not show it,--or, at any rate, tell of
it,--then it would come to pass that she would leave her husband
under the protection of another man, and she would become--what she
did not dare to name even to herself. She declared that so it must
be. She knew that she would go with Burgo, should he ever come to her
with the means of going at his and her instant command. But should
she bring herself to let Alice know that such a letter had been
conveyed to her, Burgo would never have such power.

I remember the story of a case of abduction in which a man was tried
for his life, and was acquitted, because the lady had acquiesced in
the carrying away while it was in progress. She had, as she herself
declared, armed herself with a sure and certain charm or talisman
against such dangers, which she kept suspended round her neck; but
whilst she was in the post-chaise she opened the window and threw
the charm from her, no longer desiring, as the learned counsel for
the defence efficiently alleged, to be kept under the bonds of such
protection. Lady Glencora's state of mind was, in its nature, nearly
the same as that of the lady in the post-chaise. Whether or no she
would use her charm, she had not yet decided, but the power of doing
so was still hers.

Alice came, and the greeting between the cousins was very
affectionate. Lady Glencora received her as though they had been
playmates from early childhood; and Alice, though such impulsive love
was not natural to her as to the other, could not bring herself to
be cold to one who was so warm to her. Indeed, had she not promised
her love in that meeting at Matching Priory in which her cousin
had told her of all her wretchedness? "I will love you!" Alice had
said; and though there was much in Lady Glencora that she could not
approve,--much even that she could not bring herself to like,--still
she would not allow her heart to contradict her words.

They sat so long over the fire in the drawing-room that at last they
agreed that the driving should be abandoned.

"What's the use of it?" said Lady Glencora. "There's nothing to see,
and the wind is as cold as charity. We are much more comfortable
here; are we not?" Alice quite acquiesced in this, having no great
desire to be driven through the parks in the gloom of a February
afternoon.

"If I had Dandy and Flirt up here, there would be some fun in it; but
Mr Palliser doesn't wish me to drive in London."

"I suppose it would be dangerous?"

"Not in the least. I don't think it's that he minds; but he has an
idea that it looks fast."

"So it does. If I were a man, I'm sure I shouldn't like my wife to
drive horses about London."

"And why not? Just because you'd be a tyrant,--like other husbands?
What's the harm of looking fast, if one doesn't do anything improper?
Poor Dandy, and dear Flirt! I'm sure they'd like it."

"Perhaps Mr Palliser doesn't care for that?"

"I can tell you something else he doesn't care for. He doesn't care
whether Dandy's mistress likes it."

"Don't say that, Glencora."

"Why not say it,--to you?"

"Don't teach yourself to think it. That's what I mean. I believe he
would consent to anything that he didn't think wrong."

"Such as lectures about the British Constitution! But never mind
about that, Alice. Of course the British Constitution is everything
to him, and I wish I knew more about it;--that's all. But I haven't
told you whom you are to meet at dinner."

"Yes, you have--Mr Bott."

"But there's another guest, a Mrs Marsham. I thought I'd got rid of
her for to-day, when I wrote to you; but I hadn't. She's coming."

"She won't hurt me at all," said Alice.

"She will hurt me very much. She'll destroy the pleasure of our whole
evening. I do believe that she hates you, and that she thinks you
instigate me to all manner of iniquity. What fools they all are!"

"Who are they all, Glencora?"

"She and that man, and--. Never mind. It makes me sick when I think
that they should be so blind. Alice, I hardly know how much I owe to
you; I don't, indeed. Everything, I believe." Lady Glencora, as she
spoke, put her hand into her pocket, and grasped the letter which lay
there.

"That's nonsense," said Alice.

"No; it's not nonsense. Who do you think came to Matching when I was
there?"

"What;--to the house?" said Alice, feeling almost certain that Mr
Fitzgerald was the person to whom Lady Glencora was alluding.

"No; not to the house."

"If it is the person of whom I am thinking," said Alice, solemnly,
"let me implore you not to speak of him."

"And why should I not speak of him? Did I not speak of him before to
you, and was it not for good? How are you to be my friend, if I may
not speak to you of everything?"

"But you should not think of him."

"What nonsense you talk, Alice! Not think of him! How is one to help
one's thoughts? Look here."

Her hand was on the letter, and it would have been out in a moment,
and thrown upon Alice's lap, had not the servant opened the door and
announced Mrs Marsham.

"Oh, how I do wish we had gone to drive!" said Lady Glencora, in a
voice which the servant certainly heard, and which Mrs Marsham would
have heard had she not been a little hard of hearing,--in her bonnet.

"How do, my dear?" said Mrs Marsham. "I thought I'd just come across
from Norfolk Street and see you, though I am coming to dinner in the
evening. It's only just a step, you know. How d'ye do, Miss Vavasor?"
and she made a salutation to Alice which was nearly as cold as it
could be.

Mrs Marsham was a woman who had many good points. She was poor, and
bore her poverty without complaint She was connected by blood and
friendship with people rich and titled; but she paid to none of them
egregious respect on account of their wealth or titles. She was
staunch in her friendships, and staunch in her enmities. She was no
fool, and knew well what was going on in the world. She could talk
about the last novel, or--if need be--about the Constitution. She
had been a true wife, though sometimes too strong-minded, and a
painstaking mother, whose children, however, had never loved her as
most mothers like to be loved.

The catalogue of her faults must be quite as long as that of her
virtues. She was one of those women who are ambitious of power, and
not very scrupulous as to the manner in which they obtain it. She was
hardhearted, and capable of pursuing an object without much regard
to the injury she might do. She would not flatter wealth or fawn
before a title, but she was not above any artifice by which she
might ingratiate herself with those whom it suited her purpose to
conciliate. She thought evil rather than good. She was herself untrue
in action, if not absolutely in word. I do not say that she would
coin lies, but she would willingly leave false impressions. She had
been the bosom friend, and in many things the guide in life, of Mr
Palliser's mother; and she took a special interest in Mr Palliser's
welfare. When he married, she heard the story of the loves of Burgo
and Lady Glencora; and though she thought well of the money, she was
not disposed to think very well of the bride. She made up her mind
that the young lady would want watching, and she was of opinion that
no one would be so well able to watch Lady Glencora as herself.
She had not plainly opened her mind on this matter to Mr Palliser;
she had not made any distinct suggestion to him that she would act
as Argus to his wife. Mr Palliser would have rejected any such
suggestion, and Mrs Marsham knew that he would do so; but she
had let a word or two drop, hinting that Lady Glencora was very
young,--hinting that Lady Glencora's manners were charming in their
childlike simplicity; but hinting also that precaution was, for that
reason, the more necessary. Mr Palliser, who suspected nothing as to
Burgo or as to any other special peril, whose whole disposition was
void of suspicion, whose dry nature realized neither the delights
nor the dangers of love, acknowledged that Glencora was young. He
especially wished that she should be discreet and matronly; he feared
no lovers, but he feared that she might do silly things,--that she
would catch cold,--and not know how to live a life becoming the
wife of a Chancellor of the Exchequer. Therefore he submitted
Glencora,--and, to a certain extent, himself,--into the hands of Mrs
Marsham.

Lady Glencora had not been twenty-four hours in the house with this
lady before she recognized in her a duenna. In all such matters no
one could be quicker than Lady Glencora. She might be very ignorant
about the British Constitution, and, alas! very ignorant also as to
the real elements of right and wrong in a woman's conduct, but she
was no fool. She had an eye that could see, and an ear that could
understand, and an abundance of that feminine instinct which teaches
a woman to know her friend or her enemy at a glance, at a touch, at
a word. In many things Lady Glencora was much quicker, much more
clever, than her husband, though he was to be Chancellor of the
Exchequer, and though she did know nothing of the Constitution.
She knew, too, that he was easily to be deceived,--that though his
intelligence was keen, his instincts were dull,--that he was gifted
with no fineness of touch, with no subtle appreciation of the
characters of men and women; and, to a certain extent, she looked
down upon him for his obtusity. He should have been aware that Burgo
was a danger to be avoided; and he should have been aware also that
Mrs Marsham was a duenna not to be employed. When a woman knows that
she is guarded by a watch-dog, she is bound to deceive her Cerberus,
if it be possible, and is usually not ill-disposed to deceive also
the owner of Cerberus. Lady Glencora felt that Mrs Marsham was her
Cerberus, and she was heartily resolved that if she was to be kept in
the proper line at all, she would not be so kept by Mrs Marsham.

Alice rose and accepted Mrs Marsham's salutation quite as coldly as
it had been given, and from that time forward those two ladies were
enemies. Mrs Marsham, groping quite in the dark, partly guessed that
Alice had in some way interfered to prevent Lady Glencora's visit to
Monkshade, and, though such prevention was, no doubt, good in that
lady's eyes, she resented the interference. She had made up her mind
that Alice was not the sort of friend that Lady Glencora should have
about her. Alice recognized and accepted the feud.

"I thought I might find you at home," said Mrs Marsham, "as I know
you are lazy about going out in the cold,--unless it be for a foolish
midnight ramble," and Mrs Marsham shook her head. She was a little
woman, with sharp small eyes, with a permanent colour in her face,
and two short, crisp, grey curls at each side of her face; always
well dressed, always in good health, and, as Lady Glencora believed,
altogether incapable of fatigue.

"The ramble you speak of was very wise, I think," said Lady Glencora;
"but I never could see the use of driving about in London in the
middle of winter."

"One ought to go out of the house every day," said Mrs Marsham.

"I hate all those rules. Don't you, Alice?" Alice did not hate them,
therefore she said nothing.

"My dear Glencora, one must live by rules in this life. You might as
well say that you hated sitting down to dinner."

"So I do, very often; almost always when there's company."

"You'll get over that feeling after another season in town," said Mrs
Marsham, pretending to suppose that Lady Glencora alluded to some
remaining timidity in receiving her own guests.

"Upon my word I don't think I shall. It's a thing that seems always
to be getting more grievous, instead of less so. Mr Bott is coming to
dine here to-night."

There was no mistaking the meaning of this. There was no pretending
even to mistake it. Now, Mrs Marsham had accepted the right hand of
fellowship from Mr Bott,--not because she especially liked him,
but in compliance with the apparent necessities of Mr Palliser's
position. Mr Bott had made good his ground about Mr Palliser; and Mrs
Marsham, as she was not strong enough to turn him off from it, had
given him the right hand of fellowship.

"Mr Bott is a Member of Parliament, and a very serviceable friend of
Mr Palliser's," said Mrs Marsham.

"All the same; we do not like Mr Bott--do we, Alice? He is Doctor
Fell to us; only I think we could tell why."

"I certainly do not like him," said Alice.

"It can be but of small matter to you, Miss Vavasor," said Mrs
Marsham, "as you will not probably have to see much of him."

"Of the very smallest moment," said Alice. "He did annoy me once, but
will never, I dare say, have an opportunity of doing so again."

"I don't know what the annoyance may have been."

"Of course you don't, Mrs Marsham."

"But I shouldn't have thought it likely that a person so fully
employed as Mr Bott, and employed, too, on matters of such vast
importance, would have gone out of his way to annoy a young lady whom
he chanced to meet for a day or two in a country-house."

"I don't think that Alice means that he attempted to flirt with her,"
said Lady Glencora, laughing. "Fancy Mr Bott's flirtation!"

"Perhaps he did not attempt," said Mrs Marsham; and the words, the
tone, and the innuendo together were more than Alice was able to bear
with equanimity.

"Glencora," said she, rising from her chair, "I think I'll leave
you alone with Mrs Marsham. I'm not disposed to discuss Mr Bott's
character, and certainly not to hear his name mentioned in
disagreeable connection with my own."

But Lady Glencora would not let her go. "Nonsense, Alice," she said.
"If you and I can't fight our little battles against Mr Bott and Mrs
Marsham without running away, it is odd. There is a warfare in which
they who run away never live to fight another day."

"I hope, Glencora, you do not count me as your enemy?" said Mrs
Marsham, drawing herself up.

"But I shall,--certainly, if you attack Alice. Love me, love my dog.
I beg your pardon, Alice; but what I meant was this, Mrs Marsham;
Love me, love the best friend I have in the world."

"I did not mean to offend Miss Vavasor," said Mrs Marsham, looking at
her very grimly. Alice merely bowed her head. She had been offended,
and she would not deny it. After that, Mrs Marsham took herself off,
saying that she would be back to dinner. She was angry, but not
unhappy. She thought that she could put down Miss Vavasor, and
she was prepared to bear a good deal from Lady Glencora--for Mr
Palliser's sake, as she said to herself, with some attempt at a
sentimental remembrance of her old friend.

"She's a nasty old cat," said Lady Glencora, as soon as the door was
closed; and she said these words with so droll a voice, with such a
childlike shaking of her head, with so much comedy in her grimace,
that Alice could not but laugh. "She is," said Lady Glencora. "I know
her, and you'll have to know her, too, before you've done with her.
It won't at all do for you to run away when she spits at you. You
must hold your ground, and show your claws,--and make her know that
if she spits, you can scratch."

"But I don't want to be a cat myself."

"She'll find I'm of the genus, but of the tiger kind, if she
persecutes me. Alice, there's one thing I have made up my mind about.
I will not be persecuted. If my husband tells me to do anything, as
long as he is my husband I'll do it; but I won't be persecuted."

"You should remember that she was a very old friend of Mr Palliser's
mother."

"I do remember; and that may be a very good reason why she should
come here occasionally, or go to Matching, or to any place in which
we may be living. It's a bore, of course; but it's a natural bore,
and one that ought to be borne."

"And that will be the beginning and the end of it."

"I'm afraid not, my dear. It may perhaps be the end of it, but I fear
it won't be the beginning. I won't be persecuted. If she gives me
advice, I shall tell her to her face that it's not wanted; and if she
insults any friend of mine, as she did you, I shall tell her that she
had better stay away. She'll go and tell him, of course; but I can't
help that. I've made up my mind that I won't be persecuted."

After that, Lady Glencora felt no further inclination to show Burgo's
letter to Alice on that occasion. They sat over the drawing-room
fire, talking chiefly of Alice's affairs, till it was time for them
to dress. But Alice, though she spoke much of Mr Grey, said no word
as to her engagement with George Vavasor. How could she speak of it,
inasmuch as she had already resolved,--already almost resolved,--that
that engagement also should be broken?

Alice, when she came down to the drawing-room, before dinner, found
Mr Bott there alone. She had dressed more quickly than her friend,
and Mr Palliser had not yet made his appearance.

"I did not expect the pleasure of meeting Miss Vavasor to-day," he
said, as he came up, offering his hand. She gave him her hand, and
then sat down, merely muttering some word of reply.

"We spent a very pleasant month down at Matching together;--didn't
you think so?"

"I spent a pleasant month there certainly."

"You left, if I remember, the morning after that late walk out among
the ruins? That was unfortunate, was it not? Poor Lady Glencora! it
made her very ill; so much so, that she could not go to Monkshade,
as she particularly wished. It was very sad. Lady Glencora is very
delicate,--very delicate, indeed. We, who have the privilege of being
near her, ought always to remember that."

"I don't think she is at all delicate."

"Oh! don't you? I'm afraid that's your mistake, Miss Vavasor."

"I believe she has very good health, which is the greatest blessing
in the world. By delicate I suppose you mean weak and infirm."

"Oh, dear, no,--not in the least,--not infirm certainly! I should be
very sorry to be supposed to have said that Lady Glencora is infirm.
What I mean is, not robust, Miss Vavasor. Her general organization,
if you understand me, is exquisitely delicate. One can see that, I
think, in every glance of her eye."

Alice was going to protest that she had never seen it at all, when Mr
Palliser entered the room along with Mrs Marsham.

The two gentlemen shook hands, and then Mr Palliser turned to Alice.
She perceived at once by his face that she was unwelcome, and wished
herself away from his house. It might be all very well for Lady
Glencora to fight with Mrs Marsham,--and with her husband, too, in
regard to the Marsham persecution,--but there could be no reason why
she should do so. He just touched her hand, barely closing his thumb
upon her fingers, and asked her how she was. Then he turned away from
her side of the fire, and began talking to Mrs Marsham on the other.
There was that in his face and in his manner which was positively
offensive to her. He made no allusion to his former acquaintance with
her,--spoke no word about Matching, no word about his wife, as he
would naturally have done to his wife's friend. Alice felt the blood
mount into her face, and regretted greatly that she had ever come
among these people. Had she not long since made up her mind that she
would avoid her great relations, and did not all this prove that it
would have been well for her to have clung to that resolution? What
was Lady Glencora to her that she should submit herself to be treated
as though she were a poor companion,--a dependent, who received a
salary for her attendance,--an indigent cousin, hanging on to the
bounty of her rich connection? Alice was proud to a fault. She had
nursed her pride till it was very faulty. All her troubles and
sorrows in life had come from an overfed craving for independence.
Why, then, should she submit to be treated with open want of courtesy
by any man; but, of all men, why should she submit to it from such a
one as Mr Palliser,--the heir of a ducal house, rolling in wealth,
and magnificent with all the magnificence of British pomp and pride?
No; she would make Lady Glencora understand that the close intimacies
of daily life were not possible to them!

"I declare I'm very much ashamed," said Lady Glencora, as she entered
the room. "I shan't apologize to you, Alice, for it was you who kept
me talking; but I do beg Mrs Marsham's pardon."

Mrs Marsham was all smiles and forgiveness, and hoped that Lady
Glencora would not make a stranger of her. Then dinner was announced,
and Alice had to walk down stairs by herself. She did not care a
doit for that, but there had been a disagreeable little contest when
the moment came. Lady Glencora had wished to give up Mr Bott to her
cousin, but Mr Bott had stuck manfully to Lady Glencora's side. He
hoped to take Lady Glencora down to dinner very often, and was not at
all disposed to abate his privilege.

During dinner-time Alice said very little, nor was there given to her
opportunity of saying much. She could not but think of the day of her
first arrival at Matching Priory, when she had sat between the Duke
of St Bungay and Jeffrey Palliser, and when everybody had been so
civil to her! She now occupied one side of the table by herself,
away from the fire, where she felt cold and desolate in the gloom of
the large half-lighted room. Mr Palliser occupied himself with Mrs
Marsham, who talked politics to him; and Mr Bott never lost a moment
in his endeavours to say some civil word to Lady Glencora. Lady
Glencora gave him no encouragement; but she hardly dared to snub
him openly in her husband's immediate presence. Twenty times during
dinner she said some little word to Alice, attempting at first to
make the time pleasant, and then, when the matter was too far gone
for that, attempting to give some relief. But it was of no avail.
There are moments in which conversation seems to be impossible,--in
which the very gods interfere to put a seal upon the lips of the
unfortunate one. It was such a moment now with Alice. She had never
as yet been used to snubbing. Whatever position she had hitherto
held, in that she had always stood foremost,--much more so than had
been good for her. When she had gone to Matching, she had trembled
for her position; but there all had gone well with her; there
Lady Glencora's kindness had at first been able to secure for
her a reception that had been flattering, and almost better than
flattering. Jeffrey Palliser had been her friend, and would, had she
so willed it, have been more than her friend. But now she felt that
the halls of the Pallisers were too cold for her, and that the sooner
she escaped from their gloom and hard discourtesy the better for her.

Mrs Marsham, when the three ladies had returned to the drawing-room
together, was a little triumphant. She felt that she had put Alice
down; and with the energetic prudence of a good general who knows
that he should follow up a victory, let the cost of doing so be what
it may, she determined to keep her down. Alice had resolved that she
would come as seldom as might be to Mr Palliser's house in Park Lane.
That resolution on her part was in close accordance with Mrs
Marsham's own views.

"Is Miss Vavasor going to walk home?" she asked.

"Walk home;--all along Oxford Street! Good gracious! no. Why should
she walk? The carriage will take her."

"Or a cab," said Alice. "I am quite used to go about London in a cab
by myself."

"I don't think they are nice for young ladies after dark," said Mrs
Marsham. "I was going to offer my servant to walk with her. She is an
elderly woman, and would not mind it."

"I'm sure Alice is very much obliged," said Lady. Glencora; "but she
will have the carriage."

"You are very good-natured," said Mrs Marsham; "but gentlemen do so
dislike having their horses out at night."

"No gentleman's horses will be out," said Lady Glencora, savagely;
"and as for mine, it's what they are there for." It was not often
that Lady Glencora made any allusion to her own property, or allowed
any one near her to suppose that she remembered the fact that her
husband's great wealth was, in truth, her wealth. As to many matters
her mind was wrong. In some things her taste was not delicate as
should be that of a woman. But, as regarded her money, no woman could
have behaved with greater reticence, or a purer delicacy. But now,
when she was twitted by her husband's special friend with ill-usage
to her husband's horses, because she chose to send her own friend
home in her own carriage, she did find it hard to bear.

"I dare say it's all right," said Mrs Marsham.

"It is all right," said Lady Glencora. "Mr Palliser has given me my
horses for my own use, to do as I like with them; and if he thinks I
take them out when they ought to be left at home, he can tell me so.
Nobody else has a right to do it." Lady Glencora, by this time, was
almost in a passion, and showed that she was so.

"My dear Lady Glencora, you have mistaken me," said Mrs Marsham; "I
did not mean anything of that kind."

"I am so sorry," said Alice. "And it is such a pity, as I am quite
used to going about in cabs."

"Of course you are," said Lady Glencora. "Why shouldn't you? I'd
go home in a wheelbarrow if I couldn't walk, and had no other
conveyance. That's not the question. Mrs Marsham understands that."

"Upon my word, I don't understand anything," said that lady.

"I understand this," said Lady Glencora; "that in all such matters as
that, I intend to follow my own pleasure. Come, Alice, let us have
some coffee,"--and she rang the bell. "What a fuss we have made about
a stupid old carriage!"

The gentlemen did not return to the drawing-room that evening,
having, no doubt, joint work to do in arranging the great financial
calculations of the nation; and, at an early hour, Alice was taken
home in Lady Glencora's brougham, leaving her cousin still in the
hands of Mrs Marsham.



CHAPTER XLIV

The Election for the Chelsea Districts


March came, and still the Chancellor of the Exchequer held his
position. In the early days of March there was given in the House a
certain parliamentary explanation on the subject, which, however, did
not explain very much to any person. A statement was made which was
declared by the persons making it to be altogether satisfactory, but
nobody else seemed to find any satisfaction in it. The big wigs of
the Cabinet had made an arrangement which, from the language used
by them on this occasion, they must be supposed to have regarded as
hardly less permanent than the stars; but everybody else protested
that the Government was going to pieces; and Mr Bott was heard
to declare in clubs and lobbies, and wherever he could get a
semi-public, political hearing, that this kind of thing wouldn't do.
Lord Brock must either blow hot or cold. If he chose to lean upon Mr
Palliser, he might lean upon him, and Mr Palliser would not be found
wanting. In such case no opposition could touch Lord Brock or the
Government. That was Mr Bott's opinion. But if Lord Brock did not so
choose, why, in that case, he must expect that Mr Palliser, and Mr
Palliser's friends, would--. Mr Bott did not say what they would do;
but he was supposed by those who understood the matter to hint at an
Opposition lobby, and adverse divisions, and to threaten Lord Brock
with the open enmity of Mr Palliser,--and of Mr Palliser's great
follower.

"This kind of thing won't do long, you know," repeated Mr Bott for
the second or third time, as he stood upon the rug before the fire at
his club, with one or two of his young friends around him.

"I suppose not," said Calder Jones, the hunting Member of Parliament
whom we once met at Roebury. "Planty Pall won't stand it, I should
say."

"What can he do?" asked another, an unfledged Member who was not as
yet quite settled as to the leadership under which he intended to
work.

"What can he do?" said Mr Bott, who on such an occasion as this could
be very great,--who, for a moment, could almost feel that he might
become a leader of a party for himself, and some day institute a Bott
Ministry. "What can he do? You will very shortly see what he can do.
He can make himself the master of the occasion. If Lord Brock doesn't
look about him, he'll find that Mr Palliser will be in the Cabinet
without his help."

"You don't mean to say that the Queen will send for Planty Pall!"
said the young Member.

"I mean to say that the Queen will send for any one that the House
of Commons may direct her to call upon," said Mr Bott, who conceived
himself to have gauged the very depths of our glorious Constitution.
"How hard it is to make any one understand that the Queen has really
nothing to do with it!"

"Come, Bott, draw it mild," said Calder Jones, whose loyalty was
shocked by the utter Manchesterialism of his political friend.

"Not if I know it," said Mr Bott, with something of grandeur in his
tone and countenance. "I never drew it mild yet, and I shan't begin
now. All our political offences against civilization have come from
men drawing it mild, as you call it. Why is it that Englishmen can't
read and write as Americans do? Why can't they vote as they do even
in Imperial France? Why are they serfs, less free than those whose
chains were broken the other day in Russia? Why is the Spaniard more
happy, and the Italian more contented? Because men in power have been
drawing it mild!" And Mr Bott made an action with his hand as though
he were drawing up beer from a patent tap.

"But you can't set aside Her Majesty like that, you know," said the
young Member, who had been presented, and whose mother's old-world
notions about the throne still clung to him.

"I should be very sorry," said Mr Bott; "I'm no republican." With
all his constitutional love, Mr Bott did not know what the word
republican meant. "I mean no disrespect to the throne. The throne in
its place is very well. But the power of governing this great nation
does not rest with the throne. It is contained within the four walls
of the House of Commons. That is the great truth which all young
Members should learn, and take to their hearts."

"And you think Planty Pall will become Prime Minister?" said Calder
Jones.

"I haven't said that; but there are more unlikely things. Among young
men I know no man more likely. But I certainly think this,--that if
Lord Brock doesn't take him into the Cabinet, Lord Brock won't long
remain there himself."

In the meantime the election came on in the Chelsea districts, and
the whole of the south-western part of the metropolis was covered
with posters bearing George Vavasor's name. "Vote for Vavasor and the
River Bank." That was the cry with which he went to the electors; and
though it must be presumed that it was understood by some portion of
the Chelsea electors, it was perfectly unintelligible to the majority
of those who read it. His special acquaintances and his general
enemies called him Viscount Riverbank, and he was pestered on all
sides by questions as to Father Thames. It was Mr Scruby who invented
the legend, and who gave George Vavasor an infinity of trouble by the
invention. There was a question in those clays as to embanking the
river from the Houses of Parliament up to the remote desolations
of further Pimlico, and Mr Scruby recommended the coming Member
to pledge himself that he would have the work carried on even to
Battersea Bridge. "You must have a subject," pleaded Mr Scruby. "No
young Member can do anything without a subject. And it should be
local;--that is to say, if you have anything of a constituency. Such
a subject as that, if it's well worked, may save you thousands of
pounds--thousands of pounds at future elections."

"It won't save me anything at this one, I take it."

"But it may secure the seat, Mr Vavasor, and afterwards make you the
most popular metropolitan Member in the House; that is, with your
own constituency. Only look at the money that would be spent in the
districts if that were done! It would come to millions, sir!"

"But it never will be done."

"What matters that?" and Mr Scruby almost became eloquent as he
explained the nature of a good parliamentary subject. "You should
work it up, so as to be able to discuss it at all points. Get the
figures by heart, and then, as nobody else will do so, nobody can put
you down. Of course it won't be done. If it were done, that would be
an end of it, and your bread would be taken out of your mouth. But
you can always promise it at the hustings, and can always demand
it in the House. I've known men who've walked into as much as two
thousand a year, permanent place, on the strength of a worse subject
than that!"

Vavasor allowed Mr Scruby to manage the matter for him, and took
up the subject of the River Bank. "Vavasor and the River Bank"
was carried about by an army of men with iron shoulder-straps,
and huge pasteboard placards six feet high on the top of them.
You would think, as you saw the long rows, that the men were
being marshalled to their several routes; but they always kept
together--four-and-twenty at the heels of each other. "One placard at
a time would strike the eye," said Mr Vavasor, counting the expense
up to himself. "There's no doubt of it," said Mr Scruby in reply.
"One placard will do that, if it's big enough; but it takes
four-and-twenty to touch the imagination." And then sides of houses
were covered with that shibboleth--"Vavasor and the River Bank"--the
same words repeated in columns down the whole sides of houses.
Vavasor himself declared that he was ashamed to walk among his future
constituents, so conspicuous had his name become. Grimes saw it,
and was dismayed. At first, Grimes ridiculed the cry with all his
publican's wit. "Unless he mean to drown hisself in the Reach, it's
hard to say what he do mean by all that gammon about the River Bank,"
said Grimes, as he canvassed for the other Liberal candidate. But,
after a while, Grimes was driven to confess that Mr Scruby knew what
he was about. "He is a sharp 'un, that he is," said Grimes in the
inside bar of the "Handsome Man;" and he almost regretted that he
had left the leadership of Mr Scruby, although he knew that on this
occasion he would not have gotten his odd money.

George Vavasor, with much labour, actually did get up the subject of
the River Bank. He got himself introduced to men belonging to the
Metropolitan Board, and went manfully into the matter of pounds,
shillings, and pence. He was able even to work himself into an
apparent heat when he was told that the thing was out of the
question; and soon found that he had disciples who really believed in
him. If he could have brought himself to believe in the thing,--if
he could have been induced himself to care whether Chelsea was to be
embanked or no, the work would not have been so difficult to him.
In that case it would have done good to him, if to no one else. But
such belief was beyond him. He had gone too far in life to be capable
of believing in, or of caring for, such things. He was ambitious
of having a hand in the government of his country, but he was not
capable of caring even for that.

But he worked. He worked hard, and spoke vehemently, and promised
the men of Chelsea, Pimlico, and Brompton that the path of London
westwards had hardly commenced as yet. Sloane Street should be the
new Cheapside. Squares should arise around the Chelsea barracks, with
sides open to the water, for which Belgravia would be deserted. There
should be palaces there for the rich, because the rich spend their
riches; but no rich man's palace should interfere with the poor man's
right to the River Bank. Three millions and a half should be spent
on the noble street to be constructed, the grandest pathway that the
world should ever yet have seen; three millions and a half to be
drawn from,--to be drawn from anywhere except from Chelsea;--from the
bloated money-bags of the City Corporation, Vavasor once ventured
to declare, amidst the encouraging shouts of the men of Chelsea. Mr
Scruby was forced to own that his pupil worked the subject well.
"Upon my word, that was uncommon good," he said, almost patting
Vavasor on the back, after a speech in which he had vehemently
asserted that his ambition to represent the Chelsea districts had all
come of his long-fixed idea that the glory of future London would be
brought about by the embankment of the river at Chelsea.

But armies of men carrying big boards, and public-houses open at
every corner, and placards in which the letters are three feet long,
cost money. Those few modest hundreds which Mr Scruby had already
received before the work began, had been paid on the supposition that
the election would not take place till September. Mr Scruby made an
early request, a very early request, that a further sum of fifteen
hundred pounds should be placed in his hands; and he did this in
a tone which clearly signified that not a man would be sent about
through the streets, or a poster put upon a wall, till this request
had been conceded. Mr Scruby was in possession of two very distinct
manners of address. In his jovial moods, when he was instigating his
clients to fight their battles well, it might almost be thought that
he was doing it really for the love of the thing; and some clients,
so thinking, had believed for a few hours that Scruby, in his jolly,
passionate eagerness, would pour out his own money like dust,
trusting implicitly to future days for its return. But such clients
had soon encountered Mr Scruby's other manner, and had perceived that
they were mistaken.

The thing had come so suddenly upon George Vavasor that there was not
time for him to carry on his further operations through his sister.
Had he written to Kate,--let him have written in what language he
would,--she would have first rejoined by a negative, and there would
have been a correspondence before he had induced her to comply.
He thought of sending for her by telegram, but even in that there
would have been too much delay. He resolved, therefore, to make his
application to Alice himself, and he wrote to her, explaining his
condition. The election had come upon him quite suddenly, as she
knew, he said. He wanted two thousand pounds instantly, and felt
little scruple in asking her for it, as he was aware that the old
Squire would be only too glad to saddle the property with a legacy
to Alice for the repayment of this money, though he would not have
advanced a shilling himself for the purpose of the election. Then
he said a word or two as to his prolonged absence from Queen Anne
Street. He had not been there because he had felt, from her manner
when they last met, that she would for a while prefer to be left free
from the unavoidable excitement of such interviews. But should he be
triumphant in his present contest, he should go to her to share his
triumph with her; or, should he fail, he should go to her to console
him in his failure.

Within three days he heard from her, saying that the money would
be at once placed to his credit. She sent him also her candid good
wishes for success in his enterprise, but beyond this her letter
said nothing. There was no word of love,--no word of welcome,--no
expression of a desire to see him. Vavasor, as he perceived all this
in the reading of her note, felt a triumph in the possession of her
money. She was ill-using him by her coldness, and there was comfort
in revenge. "It serves her right," he said to himself. "She should
have married me at once when she said she would do so, and then it
would have been my own."

When Mr Tombe had communicated with John Grey on the matter of this
increased demand,--this demand which Mr Tombe began to regard as
carrying a love-affair rather too far,--Grey had telegraphed back
that Vavasor's demand for money, if made through Mr John Vavasor, was
to be honoured to the extent of five thousand pounds. Mr Tombe raised
his eyebrows, and reflected that some men were very foolish. But John
Grey's money matters were of such a nature as to make Mr Tombe know
that he must do as he was bidden; and the money was paid to George
Vavasor's account.

He told Kate nothing of this. Why should he trouble himself to do so?
Indeed, at this time he wrote no letters to his sister, though she
twice sent to him, knowing what his exigencies would be, and made
further tenders of her own money. He could not reply to these offers
without telling her that money had been forthcoming from that other
quarter, and so he left them unanswered.

In the meantime the battle went on gloriously. Mr Travers, the other
Liberal candidate, spent his money freely,--or else some other person
did so on his behalf. When Mr Scruby mentioned this last alternative
to George Vavasor, George cursed his own luck in that he had never
found such backers. "I don't call a man half a Member when he's
brought in like that," said Mr Scruby, comforting him. "He can't do
what he likes with his vote. He ain't independent. You never hear of
those fellows getting anything good. Pay for the article yourself, Mr
Vavasor, and then it's your own. That's what I always say."

Mr Grimes went to work strenuously, almost fiercely, in the opposite
interest, telling all that he knew, and perhaps more than he knew, of
Vavasor's circumstances. He was at work morning, noon, and night, not
only in his own neighbourhood, but among those men on the river bank
of whom he had spoken so much in his interview with Vavasor in Cecil
Street. The entire Vavasorian army with its placards was entirely
upset on more than one occasion, and was once absolutely driven
ignominiously into the river mud. And all this was done under the
direction of Mr Grimes. Vavasor himself was pelted with offal from
the sinking tide, so that the very name of the River Bank became
odious to him. He was a man who did not like to have his person
touched, and when they hustled him he became angry. "Lord love you,
Mr Vavasor," said Scruby, "that's nothing! I've had a candidate so
mauled,--it was in the Hamlets, I think,--that there wasn't a spot
on him that wasn't painted with rotten eggs. The smell was something
quite awful. But I brought him in, through it all."

And Mr Scruby at last did as much for George Vavasor as he had done
for the hero of the Hamlets. At the close of the poll Vavasor's name
stood at the head by a considerable majority, and Scruby comforted
him by saying that Travers certainly wouldn't stand the expense of a
petition, as the seat was to be held only for a few months.

"And you've done it very cheap, Mr Vavasor," said Scruby,
"considering that the seat is metropolitan. I do say that you have
done it cheap. Another thousand, or twelve hundred, will cover
everything--say thirteen, perhaps, at the outside. And when you shall
have fought the battle once again, you'll have paid your footing, and
the fellows will let you in almost for nothing after that."

A further sum of thirteen hundred pounds was wanted at once, and then
the whole thing was to be repeated over again in six months' time!
This was not consolatory. But, nevertheless, there was a triumph in
the thing itself which George Vavasor was man enough to enjoy. It
would be something to have sat in the House of Commons, though it
should only have been for half a session.



CHAPTER XLV

George Vavasor Takes His Seat


George Vavasor's feeling of triumph was not unjustifiable. It is
something to have sat in the House of Commons, though it has been but
for one session! There is on the left-hand side of our great national
hall,--on the left-hand side as one enters it, and opposite to the
doors leading to the Law Courts,--a pair of gilded lamps, with a door
between them, near to which a privileged old dame sells her apples
and her oranges solely, as I presume, for the accommodation of the
Members of the House and of the great policeman who guards the pass.
Between those lamps is the entrance to the House of Commons, and none
but Members may go that way! It is the only gate before which I have
ever stood filled with envy,--sorrowing to think that my steps might
never pass under it. There are many portals forbidden to me, as there
are many forbidden to all men; and forbidden fruit, they say, is
sweet; but my lips have watered after no other fruit but that which
grows so high, within the sweep of that great policeman's truncheon.

Ah, my male friend and reader, who earnest thy bread, perhaps, as a
country vicar; or sittest, may-be, at some weary desk in Somerset
House; or who, perhaps, rulest the yard behind the Cheapside counter,
hast thou never stood there and longed,--hast thou never confessed,
when standing there, that Fate has been unkind to thee in denying
thee the one thing that thou hast wanted? I have done so; and as my
slow steps have led me up that more than royal staircase, to those
passages and halls which require the hallowing breath of centuries to
give them the glory in British eyes which they shall one day possess,
I have told myself, in anger and in grief, that to die and not to
have won that right of way, though but for a session,--not to have
passed by the narrow entrance through those lamps,--is to die and
not to have done that which it most becomes an Englishman to have
achieved.

There are, doubtless, some who come out by that road, the loss of
whose society is not to be regretted. England does not choose her six
hundred and fifty-four best men. One comforts one's self, sometimes,
with remembering that. The George Vavasors, the Calder Joneses, and
the Botts are admitted. Dishonesty, ignorance, and vulgarity do
not close the gate of that heaven against aspirants; and it is a
consolation to the ambition of the poor to know that the ambition of
the rich can attain that glory by the strength of its riches alone.
But though England does not send thither none but her best men, the
best of her Commoners do find their way there. It is the highest
and most legitimate pride of an Englishman to have the letters
M.P. written after his name. No selection from the alphabet, no
doctorship, no fellowship, be it of ever so learned or royal a
society, no knightship,--not though it be of the Garter,--confers so
fair an honour. Mr Bott was right when he declared that this country
is governed from between the walls of that House, though the truth
was almost defiled by the lips which uttered it. He might have added
that from thence flow the waters of the world's progress,--the
fullest fountain of advancing civilization.

George Vavasor, as he went in by the lamps and the apple-stall, under
the guardianship of Mr Bott, felt all the pride of which I have been
speaking. He was a man quite capable of feeling such pride as it
should be felt,--capable, in certain dreamy moments, of looking at
the thing with pure and almost noble eyes; of understanding the
ambition of serving with truth so great a nation as that which fate
had made his own. Nature, I think, had so fashioned George Vavasor,
that he might have been a good, and perhaps a great man; whereas Mr
Bott had been born small. Vavasor had educated himself to badness
with his eyes open. He had known what was wrong, and had done it,
having taught himself to think that bad things were best. But poor
Mr Bott had meant to do well, and thought that he had done very well
indeed. He was a tuft-hunter and a toady, but he did not know that he
was doing amiss in seeking to rise by tuft-hunting and toadying. He
was both mean and vain, both a bully and a coward, and in politics,
I fear, quite unscrupulous in spite of his grand dogmas; but he
believed that he was progressing in public life by the proper and
usual means, and was troubled by no idea that he did wrong.

Vavasor, in those dreamy moments of which I have spoken, would
sometimes feel tempted to cut his throat and put an end to himself,
because he knew that he had taught himself amiss. Again he would
sadly ask himself whether it was yet too late; always, however,
answering himself that it was too late. Even now, at this moment,
as he went in between the lamps, and felt much of the honest pride
of which I have spoken, he told himself that it was too late. What
could he do now, hampered by such a debt as that which he owed to his
cousin, and with the knowledge that it must be almost indefinitely
increased, unless he meant to give up this seat in Parliament, which
had cost him so dearly, almost before he had begun to enjoy it? But
his courage was good, and he was able to resolve that he would go on
with the business that he had in hand, and play out his game to the
end. He had achieved his seat in the House of Commons, and was so
far successful. Men who had ever been gracious to him were now more
gracious than ever, and they who had not hitherto treated him with
courtesy, now began to smile and to be very civil. It was, no doubt,
a great thing to have the privilege of that entrance between the
lamps.

Mr Bott had the new Member now in hand, not because there had been
any old friendship between them, but Mr Bott was on the look-out for
followers, and Vavasor was on the look-out for a party. A man gets
no great thanks for attaching himself to existing power. Our friend
might have enrolled himself among the general supporters of the
Government without attracting much attention. He would in such case
have been at the bottom of a long list. But Mr Palliser was a rising
man, round whom, almost without wish of his own, a party was forming
itself. If he came into power,--as come he must, according to Mr Bott
and many others,--then they who had acknowledged the new light before
its brightness had been declared, might expect their reward.

Vavasor, as he passed through the lobby to the door of the House,
leaning on Mr Bott's arm, was very silent. He had spoken but little
since they had left their cab in Palace Yard, and was not very well
pleased by the garrulity of his companion. He was going to sit among
the first men of his nation, and to take his chance of making himself
one of them. He believed in his own ability; he believed thoroughly
in his own courage; but he did not believe in his own conduct. He
feared that he had done,--feared still more strongly that he would be
driven to do,--that which would shut men's ears against his words,
and would banish him from high places. No man believes in himself who
knows himself to be a rascal, however great may be his talent, or
however high his pluck.

"Of course you have heard a debate?" said Mr Bott.

"Yes," answered Vavasor, who wished to remain silent.

"Many, probably?"

"No."

"But you have heard debates from the gallery. Now you'll hear them
from the body of the House, and you'll find how very different it is.
There's no man can know what Parliament is who has never had a seat.
Indeed no one can thoroughly understand the British Constitution
without it. I felt, very early in life, that that should be my line;
and though it's hard work and no pay, I mean to stick to it. How
do, Thompson? You know Vavasor? He's just returned for the Chelsea
Districts, and I'm taking him up. We shan't divide to-night; shall
we? Look! there's Farringcourt just coming out; he's listened to
better than any man in the House now, but he'll borrow half-a-crown
from you if you'll lend him one. How d'ye do, my lord? I hope I have
the pleasure of seeing you well?" and Bott bowed low to a lord who
was hurrying through the lobby as fast as his shuffling feet would
carry him. "Of course you know him?"

Vavasor, however, did not know the lord in question, and was obliged
to say so.

"I thought you were up to all these things?" said Bott.

"Taking the peerage generally, I am not up to it," said Vavasor, with
a curl on his lip.

"But you ought to have known him. That was Viscount Middlesex; he has
got something on to-night about the Irish Church. His father is past
ninety, and he's over sixty. We'll go in now; but let me give you one
bit of advice, my dear fellow--don't think of speaking this session.
A Member can do no good at that work till he has learned something of
the forms of the House. The forms of the House are everything; upon
my word they are. This is Mr Vavasor, the new Member for the Chelsea
Districts."

Our friend was thus introduced to the doorkeeper, who smiled
familiarly, and seemed to wink his eye. Then George Vavasor passed
through into the House itself, under the wing of Mr Bott.

Vavasor, as he walked up the House to the Clerk's table and took the
oath and then walked down again, felt himself to be almost taken
aback by the little notice which was accorded to him. It was not that
he had expected to create a sensation, or that he had for a moment
thought on the subject, but the thing which he was doing was so
great to him, that the total indifference of those around him was a
surprise to him. After he had taken his seat, a few men came up by
degrees and shook hands with him; but it seemed, as they did so,
merely because they were passing that way. He was anxious not to
sit next to Mr Bott, but he found himself unable to avoid this
contiguity. That gentleman stuck to him pertinaciously, giving him
directions which, at the spur of the moment, he hardly knew how not
to obey. So he found himself sitting behind Mr Palliser, a little to
the right, while Mr Bott occupied the ear of the rising man.

There was a debate in progress, but it seemed to Vavasor, as soon
as he was able to become critical, to be but a dull affair, and yet
the Chancellor of the Exchequer was on his legs, and Mr Palliser
was watching him as a cat watches a mouse. The speaker was full of
figures, as becomes a Chancellor of the Exchequer; and as every new
budget of them fell from him, Mr Bott, with audible whispers, poured
into the ear of his chief certain calculations of his own, most of
which went to prove that the financier in office was altogether
wrong. Vavasor thought that he could see that Mr Palliser was
receiving more of his assistance than was palatable to him. He would
listen, if he did listen, without making any sign that he heard, and
would occasionally shake his head with symptoms of impatience. But
Mr Bott was a man not to be repressed by a trifle. When Mr Palliser
shook his head he became more assiduous than ever, and when Mr
Palliser slightly moved himself to the left, he boldly followed him.

No general debate arose on the subject which the Minister had in
hand, and when he sat down, Mr Palliser would not get up, though Mr
Bott counselled him to do so. The matter was over for the night,
and the time had arrived for Lord Middlesex. That nobleman got upon
his feet, with a roll of papers in his hand, and was proceeding to
address the House on certain matters of church reform, with great
energy; but, alas, for him and for his feelings! before his energy
had got itself into full swing, the Members were swarming away
through the doors like a flock of sheep. Mr Palliser got up and went,
and was followed at once by Mr Bott, who succeeded in getting hold
of his arm in the lobby. Had not Mr Palliser been an even-tempered,
calculating man, with a mind and spirit well under his command, he
must have learned to hate Mr Bott before this time. Away streamed the
Members, but still the noble lord went on speaking, struggling hard
to keep up his fire as though no such exodus were in process. There
was but little to console him. He knew that the papers would not
report one sentence in twenty of those he uttered. He knew that no
one would listen to him willingly. He knew that he had worked for
weeks and months to get up his facts, and he was beginning to know
that he had worked in vain. As he summoned courage to look round, he
began to fear that some enemy would count the House, and that all
would be over. He had given heart and soul to this affair. His cry
was not as Vavasor's cry about the River Bank. He believed in his own
subject with a great faith, thinking that he could make men happier
and better, and bring them nearer to their God. I said that he had
worked for weeks and months. I might have said that he had been all
his life at this work. Though he shuffled with his feet when he
walked, and knocked his words together when he talked, he was an
earnest man, meaning to do well, seeking no other reward for his
work than the appreciation of those whom he desired to serve. But
this was never to be his. For him there was in store nothing but
disappointment. And yet he will work on to the end, either in this
House or in the other, labouring wearily, without visible wages of
any kind, and, one may say, very sadly. But when he has been taken to
his long rest, men will acknowledge that he has done something, and
there will be left on the minds of those who shall remember him a
conviction that he served a good cause diligently, and not altogether
inefficiently. Invisible are his wages, yet in some coin are they
paid. Invisible is the thing he does, and yet it is done. Let us hope
that some sense of this tardy appreciation may soothe his spirit
beyond the grave. On the present occasion there was nothing to soothe
his spirit. The Speaker sat, urbane and courteous, with his eyes
turned towards the unfortunate orator; but no other ears in the House
seemed to listen to him. The corps of reporters had dwindled down to
two, and they used their pens very listlessly, taking down here a
sentence and there a sentence, knowing that their work was naught.
Vavasor sat it out to the last, as it taught him a lesson in those
forms of the House which Mr Bott had truly told him it would be
well that he should learn. And at last he did learn the form of a
"count-out." Some one from a back seat muttered something, which the
Speaker understood; and that high officer, having had his attention
called to a fact of which he would never have taken cognizance
without such calling, did count the House, and finding that it
contained but twenty-three Members, he put an end to his own labours
and to those of poor Lord Middlesex. With what feelings that noble
lord must have taken himself home, and sat himself down in his study,
vainly opening a book before his eyes, can we not all imagine? A man
he was with ample means, with children who would do honour to his
name; one whose wife believed in him, if no one else would do so; a
man, let us say, with a clear conscience, to whom all good things had
been given. But of whom now was he thinking with envy? Early on that
same day Farringcourt had spoken in the House,--a man to whom no one
would lend a shilling, whom the privilege of that House kept out of
gaol, whose word no man believed; who was wifeless, childless, and
unloved. But three hundred men had hung listening upon his words.
When he laughed in his speech, they laughed; when he was indignant
against the Minister, they sat breathless, as the Spaniard sits in
the critical moment of the bull-killing. Whichever way he turned
himself, he carried them with him. Crowds of Members flocked into the
House from libraries and smoking-rooms when it was known that this
ne'er-do-well was on his legs. The Strangers' Gallery was filled to
overflowing. The reporters turned their rapid pages, working their
fingers wearily till the sweat drops stood upon their brows. And
as the Premier was attacked with some special impetus of redoubled
irony, men declared that he would be driven to enrol the speaker
among his colleagues, in spite of dishonoured bills and evil reports.
A man who could shake the thunderbolts like that must be paid to
shake them on the right side. It was of this man, and of his success,
that Lord Middlesex was envious, as he sat, wretched and respectable,
in his solitary study!

Mr Bott had left the House with Mr Palliser; and Vavasor, after
the count-out, was able to walk home by himself, and think of the
position which he had achieved. He told himself over and over again
that he had done a great thing in obtaining that which he now
possessed, and he endeavoured to teach himself that the price he
was paying for it was not too dear. But already there had come upon
him something of that feeling,--that terribly human feeling,--which
deprives every prize that is gained of half its value. The mere
having it robs the diamond of its purity, and mixes vile alloy with
the gold. Lord Middlesex, as he had floundered on into terrible
disaster, had not been a subject to envy. There had been nothing of
brilliance in the debate, and the Members had loomed no larger than
ordinary men at ordinary clubs. The very doorkeepers had hardly
treated them with respect. The great men with whose names the papers
are filled had sat silent, gloomy, and apparently idle. As soon as
a fair opportunity was given them they escaped out of the House, as
boys might escape from school. Everybody had rejoiced in the break-up
of the evening, except that one poor old lord who had worked so hard.
Vavasor had spent everything that he had to become a Member of that
House, and now, as he went alone to his lodgings, he could not but
ask himself whether the thing purchased was worth the purchase-money.

But his courage was still high. Though he was gloomy, and almost sad,
he knew that he could trust himself to fight out the battle to the
last. On the morrow he would go to Queen Anne Street, and would
demand sympathy there from her who had professed to sympathize with
him so strongly in his political desires. With her, at any rate, the
glory of his Membership would not be dimmed by any untoward knowledge
of the realities. She had only seen the play acted from the boxes;
and to her eyes the dresses would still be of silk velvet, and the
swords of bright steel.



CHAPTER XLVI

A Love Gift


When Alice heard of her cousin's success, and understood that he was
actually Member of Parliament for the Chelsea Districts, she resolved
that she would be triumphant. She had sacrificed nearly everything
to her desire for his success in public life, and now that he had
achieved the first great step towards that success, it would have
been madness on her part to decline her share in the ovation. If she
could not rejoice in that, what source of joy would then be left for
her? She had promised to be his wife, and at present she was under
the bonds of that promise. She had so promised because she had
desired to identify her interests with his,--because she wished to
share his risks, to assist his struggles, and to aid him in his
public career. She had done all this, and he had been successful. She
strove, therefore, to be triumphant on his behalf, but she knew that
she was striving ineffectually. She had made a mistake, and the days
were coming in which she would have to own to herself that she had
done so in sackcloth, and to repent with ashes.

But yet she struggled to be triumphant. The tidings were first
brought to her by her servant, and then she at once sat clown to
write him a word or two of congratulation. But she found the task
more difficult than she had expected, and she gave it up. She had
written no word to him since the day on which he had left her almost
in anger, and now she did not know how she was to address him. "I
will wait till he comes," she said, putting away from her the paper
and pens. "It will be easier to speak than to write." But she wrote
to Kate, and contrived to put some note of triumph into her letter.
Kate had written to her at length, filling her sheet with a loud pæan
of sincere rejoicing. To Kate, down in Westmoreland, it had seemed
that her brother had already done everything. He had already tied
Fortune to his chariot wheels. He had made the great leap, and had
overcome the only obstacle that Fate had placed in his way. In her
great joy she almost forgot whence had come the money with which the
contest had been won. She was not enthusiastic in many things;--about
herself she was never so; but now she was elated with an enthusiasm
which seemed to know no bounds. "I am proud," she said, in her letter
to Alice. "No other thing that he could have done would have made me
so proud of him. Had the Queen sent for him and made him an earl, it
would have been as nothing to this. When I think that he has forced
his way into Parliament without any great friend, with nothing to
back him but his own wit"--she had, in truth, forgotten Alice's money
as she wrote;--"that he has achieved his triumph in the metropolis,
among the most wealthy and most fastidious of the richest city in the
world, I do feel proud of my brother. And, Alice, I hope that you are
proud of your lover." Poor girl! One cannot but like her pride, nay,
almost love her for it, though it was so sorely misplaced. It must be
remembered that she had known nothing of Messrs Grimes and Scruby,
and the River Bank, and that the means had been wanting to her of
learning the principles upon which some metropolitan elections are
conducted.

"And, Alice, I hope that you are proud of your lover!" "He is not
my lover," Alice said to herself. "He knows that he is not. He
understands it, though she may not." And if not your lover, Alice
Vavasor, what is he then to you? And what are you to him, if not his
love? She was beginning to understand that she had put herself in
the way of utter destruction;--that she had walked to the brink of
a precipice, and that she must now topple over it. "He is not my
lover," she said; and then she sat silent and moody, and it took her
hours to get her answer written to Kate.

On the same afternoon she saw her father for a moment or two. "So
George has got himself returned," he said, raising his eyebrows.

"Yes, he has been successful. I'm sure you must be glad, papa."

"Upon my word, I'm not. He has bought a seat for three months; and
with whose money has he purchased it?"

"Don't let us always speak of money, papa."

"When you discuss the value of a thing just purchased, you must
mention the price before you know whether the purchaser has done well
or badly. They have let him in for his money because there are only a
few months left before the general election. Two thousand pounds he
has had, I believe?"

"And if as much more is wanted for the next election he shall have
it."

"Very well, my dear;--very well, If you choose to make a beggar of
yourself, I cannot help it. Indeed, I shall not complain though he
should spend all your money, if you do not marry him at last." In
answer to this, Alice said nothing. On that point her father's wishes
were fast growing to be identical with her own.

"I tell you fairly what are my feelings and my wishes," he continued.
"Nothing, in my opinion, would be so deplorable and ruinous as such
a marriage. You tell me that you have made up your mind to take him,
and I know well that nothing that I can say will turn you. But I
believe that when he has spent all your money he will not take you,
and that thus you will be saved. Thinking as I do about him, you can
hardly expect that I should triumph because he has got himself into
Parliament with your money!"

Then he left her, and it seemed to Alice that he had been very cruel.
There had been little, she thought, nay, nothing of a father's loving
tenderness in his words to her. If he had spoken to her differently,
might she not even now have confessed everything to him? But herein
Alice accused him wrongfully. Tenderness from him on this subject
had, we may say, become impossible. She had made it impossible. Nor
could he tell her the extent of his wishes without damaging his own
cause. He could not let her know that all that was done was so done
with the view of driving her into John Grey's arms.

But what words were those for a father to speak to a daughter! Had
she brought herself to such a state that her own father desired to
see her deserted and thrown aside? And was it probable that this wish
of his should come to pass? As to that, Alice had already made up
her mind. She thought that she had made up her mind that she would
never become her cousin's wife. It needed not her father's wish to
accomplish her salvation, if her salvation lay in being separated
from him.

On the next morning George went to her. The reader will, perhaps,
remember their last interview. He had come to her after her letter to
him from Westmoreland, and had asked her to seal their reconciliation
with a kiss; but she had refused him. He had offered to embrace her,
and she had shuddered before him, fearing his touch, telling him by
signs much more clear than any words, that she felt for him none of
the love of a woman. Then he had turned from her in anger, declaring
to her honestly that he was angry. Since that he had borrowed her
money,--had made two separate assaults upon her purse,--and was now
come to tell her of the results. How was he to address her? I beg
that it may be also remembered that he was not a man to forget the
treatment he had received. When he entered the room, Alice looked at
him, at first, almost furtively. She was afraid of him. It must be
confessed that she already feared him. Had there been in the man
anything of lofty principle he might still have made her his slave,
though I doubt whether he could ever again have forced her to love
him. She looked at him furtively, and perceived that the gash on his
face was nearly closed. The mark of existing anger was not there. He
had come to her intending to be gentle, if it might be possible. He
had been careful in his dress, as though he wished to try once again
if the rôle of lover might be within his reach.

Alice was the first to speak. "George, I am so glad that you have
succeeded! I wish you joy with my whole heart."

"Thanks, dearest. But before I say another word, let me acknowledge
my debt. Unless you had aided me with your money, I could not have
succeeded."

"Oh, George! pray don't speak of that!"

"Let me rather speak of it at once, and have done. If you will think
of it, you will know that I must speak of it sooner or later." He
smiled and looked pleasant, as he used to do in those Swiss days.

"Well, then, speak and have done."

"I hope you have trusted me in thus giving me the command of your
fortune?"

"Oh, yes."

"I do believe that you have. I need hardly say that I could not have
stood for this last election without it; and I must try to make you
understand that if I had not come forward at this vacancy, I should
have stood no chance for the next; otherwise, I should not have been
justified in paying so dearly for a seat for one session. You can
understand that; eh, Alice?"

"Yes; I think so?

"Anybody, even your father, would tell you that; though, probably,
he regards my ambition to be a Member of Parliament as a sign of
downright madness. But I was obliged to stand now, if I intended to
go on with it, as that old lord died so inopportunely. Well, about
the money! It is quite upon the cards that I may be forced to ask for
another loan when the autumn comes."

"You shall have it, George."

"Thanks, Alice. And now I will tell you what I propose. You know
that I have been reconciled,--with a sort of reconciliation,--to my
grandfather? Well, when the next affair is over, I propose to tell
him exactly how you and I then stand."

"Do not go into that now, George. It is enough for you at present to
be assured that such assistance as I can give you is at your command.
I want you to feel the full joy of your success, and you will do so
more thoroughly if you will banish all these money troubles from your
mind for a while."

"They shall, at any rate, be banished while I am with you," said he.
"There; let them go!" And he lifted up his right hand, and blew at
the tips of his fingers. "Let them vanish," said he. "It is always
well to be rid of such troubles for a time."

It is well to be rid of them at any time, or at all times, if only
they can be banished without danger. But when a man has overused his
liver till it will not act for him any longer, it is not well for him
to resolve that he will forget the weakness of his organ just as he
sits down to dinner.

It was a pretty bit of acting, that of Vavasor's, when he blew away
his cares; and, upon the whole, I do not know that he could have
done better. But Alice saw through it, and he knew that she did so.
The whole thing was uncomfortable to him, except the fact that he
had the promise of her further moneys. But he did not intend to
rest satisfied with this. He must extract from her some meed of
approbation, some show of sympathy, some spark of affection, true or
pretended, in order that he might at least affect to be satisfied,
and be enabled to speak of the future without open embarrassment. How
could even he take her money from her, unless he might presume that
he stood with her upon some ground that belonged mutually to them
both?

"I have already taken my seat," said he.

"Yes; I saw that in the newspapers. My acquaintance among Members of
Parliament is very small, but I see that you were introduced, as they
call it, by one of the few men that I do know. Is Mr Bott a friend of
yours?"

"No,--certainly not a friend. I may probably have to act with him in
public."

"Ah, that's just what they said of Mr Palliser when they felt ashamed
of his having such a man as his guest. I think if I were in public
life I should try to act with people that I could like."

"Then you dislike Mr Bott?"

"I do not like him, but my feelings about him are not violent."

"He is a vulgar ass," said George, "with no more pretensions to rank
himself a gentleman than your footman."

"If I had one."

"But he will get on in Parliament, to a certain extent."

"I'm afraid I don't quite understand what are the requisites for
Parliamentary success, or indeed of what it consists. Is his
ambition, do you suppose, the same as yours?"

"His ambition, I take it, does not go beyond a desire to be
Parliamentary flunkey to a big man,--with wages, if possible, but
without, if the wages are impossible."

"And yours?"

"Oh, as to mine;--there are some things, Alice, that a man does not
tell to any one."

"Are there? They must be very terrible things."

"The schoolboy, when he sits down to make his rhymes, dares not say,
even to his sister, that he hopes to rival Milton; but he nurses such
a hope. The preacher, when he preaches his sermon, does not whisper,
even to his wife, his belief that thousands may perhaps be turned
to repentance by the strength of his words; but he thinks that the
thousand converts are possible."

"And you, though you will not say so, intend to rival Chatham, and to
make your thousand converts in politics."

"I like to hear you laugh at me,--I do, indeed. It does me good to
hear your voice again with some touch of satire in it. It brings back
the old days,--the days to which I hope we may soon revert without
pain. Shall it not be so, dearest?"

Her playful manner at once deserted her. Why had he made this foolish
attempt to be tender? "I do not know," she said, gloomily.

For a few minutes he sat silent, fingering some article belonging to
her which was lying on the table. It was a small steel paper-knife,
of which the handle was cast and gilt; a thing of no great value, of
which the price may have been five shillings. He sat with it, passing
it through his fingers, while she went on with her work.

"Who gave you this paper-cutter?" he said, suddenly.

"Goodness me, why do you ask? and especially, why do you ask in that
way?"

"I asked simply because if it is a present to you from any one, I
will take up something else."

"It was given me by Mr Grey."

He let it drop from his fingers on to the table with a noise, and
then pushed it from him, so that it fell on the other side, near to
where she sat.

"George," she said, as she stooped and picked it up, "your violence
is unreasonable; pray do not repeat it."

"I did not mean it," he said, "and I beg your pardon. I was simply
unfortunate in the article I selected. And who gave you this?" In
saying which he took up a little ivory foot-rule that was folded up
so as to bring it within the compass of three inches.

"It so happens that no one gave me that; I bought it at a stupid
bazaar."

"Then this will do. You shall give it me as a present, on the renewal
of our love."

"It is too poor a thing to give," said she, speaking still more
gloomily than she had done before.

"By no means; nothing is too poor, if given in that way. Anything
will do; a ribbon, a glove, a broken sixpence. Will you give me
something that I may take, and, taking it, may know that your heart
is given with it?"

"Take the rule, if you please," she said.

"And about the heart?" he asked.

He should have been more of a rascal or less. Seeing how very much of
a rascal he was already, I think it would have been better that he
should have been more,--that he should have been able to content his
spirit with the simple acquisition of her money, and that he should
have been free from all those remains of a finer feeling which made
him desire her love also. But it was not so. It was necessary for
his comfort that she should, at any rate, say she loved him. "Well,
Alice, and what about the heart?" he asked again.

"I would so much rather talk about politics, George," said she.

The cicatrice began to make itself very visible in his face, and the
debonair manner was fast vanishing. He had fixed his eyes upon her,
and had inserted his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat.

"Alice, that is not quite fair," he said.

"I do not mean to be unfair."

"I am not so sure of that. I almost think that you do mean it. You
have told me that you intend to become my wife. If, after that, you
wilfully make me miserable, will not that be unfair?"

"I am not making you miserable,--certainly not wilfully."

"Did that letter which you wrote to me from Westmoreland mean
anything?"

"George, do not strive to make me think that it meant too much."

"If it did, you had better say so at once."

But Alice, though she would have said so had she dared, made no
answer to this. She sat silent, turning her face away from his gaze,
longing that the meeting might be over, and feeling that she had lost
her own self-respect.

"Look here, Alice," he said, "I find it very hard to understand you.
When I look back over all that has passed between us, and to that
other episode in your life, summing it all up with your conduct to me
at present, I find myself at a loss to read your character."

"I fear I cannot help you in the reading of it."

"When you first loved me;--for you did love me. I understood that
well enough. There is no young man who in early life does not read
with sufficient clearness that sweetest morsel of poetry.--And when
you quarrelled with me, judging somewhat harshly of my offences, I
understood that also; for it is the custom of women to be hard in
their judgement on such sins. When I heard that you had accepted the
offer made to you by that gentleman in Cambridgeshire, I thought that
I understood you still,--knowing how natural it was that you should
seek some cure for your wound. I understood it, and accused myself,
not you, in that I had driven you to so fatal a remedy." Here Alice
turned round towards him sharply, as though she were going to
interrupt him, but she said nothing, though he paused for her to
speak; and then he went on. "And I understood it well when I heard
that this cure had been too much for you. By heavens, yes! there was
no misunderstanding that. I meant no insult to the man when I upset
his little toy just now. I have not a word to say against him. For
many women he would make a model husband, but you are not one of
them. And when you discovered this yourself, as you did, I understood
that without difficulty. Yes, by heavens! if ever woman had been
driven to a mistake, you had been driven to one there." Here she
looked at him again, and met his eyes. She looked at him with
something of his own fierceness in her face, as though she were
preparing herself to fight with him; but she said nothing at the
moment, and then he again went on. "And, Alice, I understood it
also when you again consented to be my wife. I thought that I still
understood you then. I may have been vain to think so, but surely it
was natural. I believed that the old love had come back upon you, and
again warmed your heart. I thought that it had been cold during our
separation, and I was pleased to think so. Was that unnatural? Put
yourself in my place, and say if you would not have thought so. I
told myself that I understood you then, and I told myself that in
all that you had done you had acted as a true, and good, and loving
woman. I thought of you much, and I saw that your conduct, as a
whole, was intelligible and becoming." The last word grated on
Alice's ears, and she showed her anger by the motion of her foot upon
the floor. Her cousin noted it all, but went on as though he had
not noted it. "But now your present behaviour makes all the rest a
riddle. You have said that you would be my wife, declaring thereby
that you had forgiven my offences, and, as I suppose, reassuring me
of your love; and yet you receive me with all imaginable coldness.
What am I to think of it, and in what way would you have me behave to
you? When last I was here I asked you for a kiss." As he said this he
looked at her with all his eyes, with his mouth just open, so as to
show the edges of his white teeth, with the wound down his face all
wide and purple. The last word came with a stigmatizing hiss from
his lips. Though she did not essay to speak, he paused again, as if
he were desirous that she might realize the full purport of such a
request. I think that, in the energy of his speaking, a touch of true
passion had come upon him; that he had forgotten his rascaldom, and
his need of her money, and that he was punishing her with his whole
power of his vengeance for the treatment which he had received from
her. "I asked you for a kiss. If you are to be my wife you can have
no shame in granting me such a request. Within the last two months
you have told me that you would marry me. What am I to think of such
a promise if you deny me all customary signs of your affection?" Then
he paused again, and she found that the time had come in which she
must say something to him.

"I wonder you cannot understand," she said, "that I have suffered
much."

"And is that to be my answer?"

"I don't know what answer you want."

"Come, Alice, do not be untrue; you do know what answer I want, and
you know also whether my wanting it is unreasonable."

"No one ever told me that I was untrue before," she said.

"You do know what it is that I desire. I desire to learn that the
woman who is to be my wife, in truth, loves me."

She was standing up, and so was he also, but still she said nothing.
He had in his hand the little rule which she had told him that he
might take, but he held it as though in doubt what he would do with
it. "Well, Alice, am I to hear anything from you?"

"Not now, George; you are angry, and I will not speak to you in your
anger."

"Have I not cause to be angry? Do you not know that you are treating
me badly?"

"I know that my head aches, and that I am very wretched. I wish you
would leave me."

"There, then, is your gift," said he, and he threw the rule over on
to the sofa behind her. "And there is the trumpery trinket which I
had hoped you would have worn for my sake." Whereupon something which
he had taken from his waistcoat-pocket was thrown violently into the
fender, beneath the fire-grate. He then walked with quick steps to
the door; but when his hand was on the handle, he turned. "Alice," he
said, "when I am gone, try to think honestly of your conduct to me."
Then he went, and she remained still, till she heard the front door
close behind him.

When she was sure that he was gone, her first movement was made in
search of the trinket. I fear that this was not dignified on her
part; but I think that it was natural. It was not that she had any
desire for the jewel, or any curiosity even to see it. She would very
much have preferred that he should have brought nothing of the kind
to her. But she had a feminine reluctance that anything of value
should be destroyed without a purpose. So she took the shovel, and
poked among the ashes, and found the ring which her cousin had thrown
there. It was a valuable ring, bearing a ruby on it between two small
diamonds. Such at least, she became aware, had been its bearing; but
one of the side stones had been knocked out by the violence with
which the ring had been flung. She searched even for this, scorching
her face and eyes, but in vain. Then she made up her mind that the
diamond should be lost for ever, and that it should go out among the
cinders into the huge dust-heaps of the metropolis. Better that,
though it was distasteful to her feminine economy, than the other
alternative of setting the servants to search, and thereby telling
them something of what had been done.

When her search was over, she placed the ring on the mantelpiece; but
she knew that it would not do to leave it there,--so she folded it up
carefully in a new sheet of note-paper, and put it in the drawer of
her desk. After that she sat herself down at the table to think what
she would do; but her head was, in truth, racked with pain, and on
that occasion she could bring her thoughts to no conclusion.



CHAPTER XLVII

Mr Cheesacre's Disappointment


When Mrs Greenow was left alone in her lodgings, after the little
entertainment which she had given to her two lovers, she sat herself
down to think seriously over her affairs. There were three paths open
before her. She might take Mr Cheesacre, or she might take Captain
Bellfield--or she might decide that she would have nothing more
to say to either of them in the way of courting. They were very
persistent, no doubt; but she thought that she would know how to make
them understand her, if she should really make up her mind that she
would have neither one nor the other. She was going to leave Norwich
after Easter, and they knew that such was her purpose. Something had
been said of her returning to Yarmouth in the summer. She was a just
woman at heart, and justice required that each of them should know
what was to be his prospect if she did so return.

There was a good deal to be said on Mr Cheesacre's behalf.
Mahogany-furnitured bedrooms assist one's comfort in this life;
and heaps of manure, though they are not brilliant in romance, are
very efficacious in farming. Mrs Greenow by no means despised these
things; and as for the owner of them, though she saw that there was
much amiss in his character, she thought that his little foibles were
of such a nature that she, as his wife, or any other woman of spirit,
might be able to repress them, if not to cure them. But she had
already married for money once, as she told herself very plainly on
this occasion, and she thought that she might now venture on a little
love. Her marriage for money had been altogether successful. The
nursing of old Greenow had not been very disagreeable to her, nor had
it taken longer than she had anticipated. She had now got all the
reward that she had ever promised herself, and she really did feel
grateful to his memory. I almost think that among those plentiful
tears some few drops belonged to sincerity. She was essentially a
happy-tempered woman, blessed with a good digestion, who looked back
upon her past life with contentment, and forward to her future life
with confidence. She would not be greedy, she said to herself. She
did not want more money, and therefore she would have none of Mr
Cheesacre. So far she resolved,--resolving also that, if possible,
the mahogany-furnitured bedrooms should be kept in the family, and
made over to her niece, Kate Vavasor.

But should she marry for love; and if so, should Captain Bellfield
be the man? Strange to say, his poverty and his scampishness and his
lies almost recommended him to her. At any rate, it was not of those
things that she was afraid. She had a woman's true belief in her own
power, and thought that she could cure them,--as far as they needed
cure. As for his stories about Inkerman, and his little debts, she
cared nothing about that. She also had her Inkermans, and was quite
aware that she made as good use of them as the Captain did of his.
And as for the debts,--what was a man to do who hadn't got any money?
She also had owed for her gloves and corsets in the ante-Greenow days
of her adventures. But there was this danger,--that there might be
more behind of which she had never heard. Another Mrs Bellfield was
not impossible; and what, if instead of being a real captain at
all, he should be a returned ticket-of-leave man! Such things had
happened. Her chief security was in this,--that Cheesacre had known
the man for many years, and would certainly have told anything
against him that he did know. Under all these circumstances, she
could not quite make up her mind either for or against Captain
Bellfield.

Between nine and ten in the evening, an hour or so after Mr Cheesacre
had left her, Jeannette brought to her some arrowroot with a little
sherry in it. She usually dined early, and it was her habit to take a
light repast before she retired for the night.

"Jeannette," she said, as she stirred the lumps of white sugar in the
bowl, "I'm afraid those two gentlemen have quarrelled."

"Oh, laws, ma'am, in course they have! How was they to help it?"

Jeannette, on these occasions, was in the habit of standing beside
the chair of her mistress, and chatting with her; and then, if the
chatting was much prolonged, she would gradually sink down upon the
corner of a chair herself,--and then the two women would be very
comfortable together over the fire, Jeannette never forgetting that
she was the servant, and Mrs Greenow never forgetting that she was
the mistress.

"And why should they quarrel, Jeannette? It's very foolish."

"I don't know about being foolish, ma'am; but it's the most natural
thing in life. If I had two beaux as was a-courting me together,
in course I should expect as they would punch each other's heads.
There's some girls do it a purpose, because they like to see it. One
at a time's what I say."

"You're a young thing, Jeannette."

"Well, ma'am--yes; I am young, no doubt. But I won't say but what
I've had a beau, young as I look."

"But you don't suppose that I want beaux, as you call them?"

"I don't know, ma'am, as you wants 'em exactly. That's as may be.
There they are; and if they was to blow each other's brains out in
the gig to-night, I shouldn't be a bit surprised for one. There's
nothing won't quiet them at Oileymead to-night, if brandy-and-water
don't do it." As she said this, Jeannette slipt into her chair, and
held up her hands in token of the intensity of her fears.

"Why, you silly child, they're not going home together at all. Did
not the Captain go away first?"

"The Captain did go away first, certainly; but I thought perhaps it
was to get his pistols and fighting things ready."

"They won't fight, Jeannette. Gentlemen have given over fighting."

"Have they, ma'am? That makes it much easier for ladies, no doubt.
Perhaps them peaceable ways will come down to such as us in time.
It'd be a comfort, I know, to them as are quiet given, like me. I
hate to see men knocking each other's heads about,--I do. So Mr
Cheesacre and the Captain won't fight, ma'am?"

"Of course they won't, you little fool, you."

"Dear, dear; I was so sure we should have had the papers all full of
it,--and perhaps one of them stretched upon his bloody bier! I wonder
which it would have been? I always made up my mind that the Captain
wouldn't be wounded in any of his wital parts--unless it was his
heart, you know, ma'am."

"But why should they quarrel at all, Jeannette? It is the most
foolish thing."

"Well, ma'am, I don't know about that. What else is they to do?
There's some things as you can cry halves about, but there's no
crying halves about this."

"About what, Jeannette?"--"Why, about you, ma'am."

"Jeannette, I wonder how you can say such things; as if I, in my
position, had ever said a word to encourage either of them. You know
it's not true, Jeannette, and you shouldn't say so." Whereupon Mrs
Greenow put her handkerchief to her eyes, and Jeannette, probably in
token of contrition, put her apron to hers.

"To be sure, ma'am, no lady could have behaved better through it than
you have done, and goodness knows you have been tried hard."

"Indeed I have, Jeannette."

"And if gentlemen will make fools of themselves, it isn't your fault;
is it, ma'am?"

"But I'm so sorry that they should have quarrelled. They were such
dear friends, you know;--quite all in all to each other."

"When you've settled which it's to be, ma'am, that'll all come right
again,--seeing that gentlefolks like them have given up fighting, as
you say." Then there was a little pause. "I suppose, ma'am, it won't
be Mr Cheesacre? To be sure, he's a man as is uncommonly well to do
in the world."

"What's all that to me, Jeannette? I shall ever regard Mr Cheesacre
as a dear friend who has been very good to me at a time of trouble;
but he'll never be more than that."

"Then it'll be the Captain, ma'am? I'm sure, for my part, I've always
thought the Captain was the nicer gentleman of the two,--and have
always said so."

"He's nothing to me, girl."

"And as for money,--what's the good of having more than enough? If he
can bring love, you can bring money; can't you, ma'am?"

"He's nothing to me, girl," repeated Mrs Greenow.

"But he will be?" said Jeannette, plainly asking a question.

"Well, I'm sure! What's the world come to, I wonder, when you sit
yourself down there, and cross-examine your mistress in that way! Get
to bed, will you? It's near ten o'clock."

"I hope I haven't said anything amiss, ma'am;" and Jeannette rose
from her seat.

"It's my fault for encouraging you," said Mrs Greenow. "Go
down-stairs and finish your work, do; and then take yourself off to
bed. Next week we shall have to be packing up, and there'll be all my
things to see to before that." So Jeannette got up and departed, and
after some few further thoughts about Captain Bellfield, Mrs Greenow
herself went to her bedroom.

Mr Cheesacre, when he drove back to Oileymead alone from Norwich,
after dining with Mrs Greenow, had kept himself hot, and almost
comfortable, with passion against Bellfield; and his heat, if not
his comfort, had been sustained by his seeing the Captain, with his
portmanteau, escaping just as he reached his own homestead. But early
on the following morning his mind reverted to Mrs Greenow, and he
remembered, with anything but satisfaction, some of the hard things
which she had said to him. He had made mistakes in his manner of
wooing. He was quite aware of that now, and was determined that they
should be rectified for the future. She had rebuked him for having
said nothing about his love. He would instantly mend that fault.
And she had bidden him not to be so communicative about his wealth.
Henceforth he would be dumb on that subject. Nevertheless, he could
not but think that the knowledge of his circumstances which the lady
already possessed, must be of service to him. "She can't really
like a poor beggarly wretch who hasn't got a shilling," he said to
himself. He was very far from feeling that the battle was already
lost. Her last word to him had been an assurance of her friendship;
and then why should she have been at so much trouble to tell him the
way in which he ought to address her if she were herself indifferent
as to his addresses? He was, no doubt, becoming tired of his
courtship, and heartily wished that the work were over; but he was
not minded to give it up. He therefore prepared himself for another
attack, and took himself into Norwich without seeking counsel from
any one. He could not trust himself to think that she could really
wish to refuse him after all the encouragement she had given him. On
this occasion he put on no pink shirt or shiny boots, being deterred
from doing so by a remembrance of Captain Bellfield's ridicule;
but, nevertheless, he dressed himself with considerable care. He
clothed his nether person in knickerbockers, with tight, leathern,
bright-coloured gaiters round his legs, being conscious of certain
manly graces and symmetrical proportions which might, as he thought,
stand him in good stead. And he put on a new shooting-coat, the
buttons on which were elaborate, and a wonderful waistcoat worked
over with foxes' heads. He completed his toilet with a round,
low-crowned hat, with dog's-skin gloves, and a cutting whip. Thus
armed he went forth resolved to conquer or to die,--as far as death
might result from any wound which Mrs Greenow might be able to give
him. He waited, on this occasion, for the coming of no market-day;
indeed, the journey into the city was altogether special, and he was
desirous that she should know that such was the case. He drove at a
great pace into the inn-yard, threw his reins to the ostler, took
just one glass of cherry-brandy at the bar, and then marched off
across the market-place to the Close, with quiet and decisive steps.

"Is that you, Cheesacre?" said a friendly voice, in one of the narrow
streets. "Who expected to see you in Norwich on a Thursday!" It was
Grimsby, the son of old Grimsby of Hatherwich, a country gentleman,
and one, therefore, to whom Cheesacre would generally pay much
respect; but on this occasion he did not even pull up for an instant,
or moderate his pace. "A little bit of private business," he said,
and marched onwards with his head towards the Close. "I'm not going
to be afraid of a woman--not if I know it," he said to himself;
but, nevertheless, at a certain pastrycook's, of whose shop he had
knowledge, he pulled up and had another glass of cherry-brandy.

"Mrs Greenow is at home," he said to Jeannette, not deigning to ask
any question.

"Oh, yes, sir; she is at home," said Jeannette, conscious that some
occasion had arrived; and in another second he was in the presence of
his angel.

"Mr Cheesacre, whoever expected to see you in Norwich on a Thursday?"
said the lady, as she welcomed him, using almost the same words
as his friend had done in the street. Why should not he come into
Norwich on a Thursday, as well as any one else? Did they suppose
that he was tied for ever to his ploughs and carts? He was minded to
conduct himself with a little spirit on this occasion, and to improve
the opinion which Mrs Greenow had formed about him. On this account
he answered her somewhat boldly.

"There's no knowing when I may be in Norwich, Mrs Greenow, or when I
mayn't. I'm one of those men of whom nobody knows anything certain,
except that I pay as I go." Then he remembered that he was not to
make any more boasts about his money, and he endeavoured to cover the
error. "There's one other thing they may all know if they please, but
we won't say what that is just at present."

"Won't you sit down, Mr Cheesacre?"

"Well,--thank you,--I will sit down for a few minutes if you'll let
me, Mrs Greenow. Mrs Greenow, I'm in such a state of mind that I must
put an end to it, or else I shall be going mad, and doing somebody a
damage."

"Dear me! what has happened to you? You're going out shooting,
presently; are you not?" and Mrs Greenow looked down at his garments.

"No, Mrs Greenow, I'm not going out shooting. I put on these things
because I thought I might take a shot as I came along. But I couldn't
bring myself to do it, and then I wouldn't take them off again. What
does it matter what a man wears?"

"Not in the least, so long as he is decent."

"I'm sure I'm always that, Mrs Greenow."

"Oh, dear, yes. More than that, I should say. I consider you to be
rather gay in your attire."

"I don't pretend to anything of that kind, Mrs Greenow. I like to be
nice, and all that kind of thing. There are people who think that
because a man farms his own land, he must be always in the muck. It
is the case, of course, with those who have to make their rent and
living out of it." Then he remembered that he was again treading on
forbidden ground, and stopped himself. "But it don't matter what a
man wears if his heart isn't easy within him."

"I don't know why you should speak in that way, Mr Cheesacre; but
it's what I have felt every hour since--since Greenow left me."

Mr Cheesacre was rather at a loss to know how he should begin. This
allusion to the departed one did not at all assist him. He had so
often told the widow that care killed a cat, and that a live dog was
better than a dead lion; and had found so little efficacy in the
proverbs, that he did not care to revert to them. He was aware that
some more decided method of proceeding was now required. Little hints
at love-making had been all very well in the earlier days of their
acquaintance; but there must be something more than little hints
before he could hope to bring the matter to a favourable conclusion.
The widow herself had told him that he ought to talk about love; and
he had taken two glasses of cherry-brandy, hoping that they might
enable him to do so. He had put on a coat with brilliant buttons, and
new knickerbockers, in order that he might be master of the occasion.
He was resolved to call a spade a spade, and to speak boldly of his
passion; but how was he to begin? There was the difficulty. He was
now seated in a chair, and there he remained silent for a minute or
two, while she smoothed her eyebrows with her handkerchief after her
last slight ebullition of grief.

"Mrs Greenow," he exclaimed at last, jumping up before her; "dearest
Mrs Greenow; darling Mrs Greenow, will you be my wife? There! I have
said it at last, and I mean it. Everything that I've got shall be
yours. Of course I speak specially of my hand and heart. As for
love;--oh, Arabella, if you only knew me! I don't think there's a man
in Norfolk better able to love a woman than I am. Ever since I first
saw you at Yarmouth, I've been in love to that extent that I've not
known what I've been about. If you'll ask them at home, they'll
tell you that I've not been able to look after anything about the
place,--not as it should be done. I haven't really. I don't suppose
I've opened the wages book half a dozen times since last July."

"And has that been my fault, Mr Cheesacre?"

"Upon my word it has. I can't move about anywhere without thinking
about you. My mind's made up; I won't stay at Oileymead unless you
will come and be its mistress."

"Not stay at Oileymead?"

"No, indeed. I'll let the place, and go and travel somewheres. What's
the use of my hanging on there without the woman of my heart? I
couldn't do it, Mrs Greenow; I couldn't, indeed. Of course I've got
everything there that money can buy,--but it's all of no use to a man
that's in love. Do you know, I've come quite to despise money and
stock, and all that sort of thing. I haven't had my banker's book
home these last three months. Only think of that now."

"But how can I help you, Mr Cheesacre?"

"Just say one word, and the thing'll be done. Say you'll be my wife?
I'll be so good to you. I will, indeed. As for your fortune, I don't
care that for it! I'm not like somebody else; it's yourself I want.
You shall be my pet, and my poppet, and my dearest little duck all
the days of your life."

"No, Mr Cheesacre; it cannot be."

"And why not? Look here, Arabella!" At these words he rose from his
chair, and coming immediately before her, went down on both knees so
close to her as to prevent the possibility of her escaping from him.
There could be no doubt as to the efficacy of the cherry-brandy.
There he was, well down on his knees; but he had not got down so
low without some little cracking and straining on the part of the
gaiters with which his legs were encompassed. He, in his passion, had
probably omitted to notice this; but Mrs Greenow, who was more cool
in her present temperament, was painfully aware that he might not be
able to rise with ease.

"Mr Cheesacre, don't make a fool of yourself. Get up," said she.

"Never, till you have told me that you will be mine!"

"Then you'll remain there for ever, which will be inconvenient. I
won't have you take hold of my hand, Mr Cheesacre. I tell you to have
done." Whereupon his grasp upon her hand was released; but he made no
attempt to rise.

"I never saw a man look so much like a fool in my life," said she.
"If you don't get up, I'll push you over. There; don't you hear?
There's somebody coming."

But Cheesacre, whose senses were less acute than the lady's, did not
hear. "I'll never get up," said he, "till you have bid me hope."

"Bid you play the fiddle. Get away from my knees, at any rate.
There;--he'll be in the room now before--"

Cheesacre now did hear a sound of steps, and the door was opened
while he made his first futile attempt to get back to a standing
position. The door was opened, and Captain Bellfield entered. "I beg
ten thousand pardons," said he, "but as I did not see Jeannette,
I ventured to come in. May I venture to congratulate my friend
Cheesacre on his success?"

In the meantime Cheesacre had risen; but he had done so slowly, and
with evident difficulty. "I'll trouble you to leave the room, Captain
Bellfield," said he. "I'm particularly engaged with Mrs Greenow, as
any gentleman might have seen."

"There wasn't the slightest difficulty in seeing it, old fellow,"
said the Captain. "Shall I wish you joy?"

"I'll trouble you to leave the room, sir," said Cheesacre, walking up
to him.

"Certainly, if Mrs Greenow will desire me to do so," said the
Captain.

Then Mrs Greenow felt herself called upon to speak.

"Gentlemen, I must beg that you will not make my drawing-room a
place for quarrelling. Captain Bellfield, lest there should be any
misconception, I must beg you to understand that the position in
which you found Mr Cheesacre was one altogether of his own seeking.
It was not with my consent that he was there."

"I can easily believe that, Mrs Greenow," said the Captain.

"Who cares what you believe, sir?" said Mr Cheesacre.

"Gentlemen! gentlemen! this is really unkind. Captain Bellfield, I
think I had better ask you to withdraw."

"By all means," said Mr Cheesacre.

"As it is absolutely necessary that I should give Mr Cheesacre a
definite answer after what has occurred--"

"Of course," said Captain Bellfield, preparing to go. "I'll take
another opportunity of paying my respects to you. Perhaps I might be
allowed to come this evening?"

To this Mrs Greenow half assented with an uncertain nod, and then
the Captain went. As soon as the door was closed behind his back, Mr
Cheesacre again prepared to throw himself into his former position,
but to this Mrs Greenow decidedly objected. If he were allowed to go
down again, there was no knowing what force might be necessary to
raise him. "Mr Cheesacre," she said, "let there be an end to this
little farce between us."

"Farce!" said he, standing with his hand on his heart, and his legs
and knickerbockers well displayed.

"It is certainly either a farce or a mistake. If the latter,--and I
have been at all to blame,--I ask your pardon most sincerely."

"But you'll be Mrs Cheesacre; won't you?"

"No, Mr Cheesacre; no. One husband is enough for any woman, and mine
lies buried at Birmingham."

"Oh, damn it!" said he, in utter disgust at this further reference
to Mr Greenow. The expression, at such a moment, militated against
courtesy; but even Mrs Greenow herself felt that the poor man had
been subjected to provocation.

"Let us part friends," said she, offering him her hand.

But he turned his back upon her, for there was something in his eye
that he wanted to hide. I believe that he really did love her, and
that at this moment he would have taken her, even though he had
learned that her fortune was gone.

"Will you not give me your hand," said she, "in token that there is
no anger between us?"

"Do think about it again--do!" said he. "If there's anything you
like to have changed, I'll change it at once. I'll give up Oileymead
altogether, if you don't like being so near the farm-yard. I'll give
up anything; so I will. Mrs Greenow, if you only knew how I've set my
heart upon it!" And now, though his back was turned, the whimpering
of his voice told plainly that tears were in his eyes.

She was a little touched. No woman would feel disposed to marry a man
simply because he cried, and perhaps few women would be less likely
to give way to such tenderness than Mrs Greenow. She understood men
and women too well, and had seen too much both of the world's rough
side and of its smooth side to fall into such a blunder as that; but
she was touched. "My friend," she said, putting her hand upon his
arm, "think no more of it."

"But I can't help thinking of it," said he, almost blubbering in his
earnestness.

"No, no, no," said she, still touching him with her hand. "Why, Mr
Cheesacre, how can you bring yourself to care for an old woman like
me, when so many pretty young ladies would give their eyes to get a
kind word from you?"

"I don't want any young lady," said he.

"There's Charlie Fairstairs, who would make as good a wife as any
girl I know."

"Psha! Charlie Fairstairs, indeed!" The very idea of having such a
bride palmed off upon him did something to restore him to his manly
courage.

"Or my niece, Kate Vavasor, who has a nice little fortune of her own,
and who is as accomplished as she is good-looking."

"She's nothing to me, Mrs Greenow."

"That's because you never asked her to be anything. If I get her to
come back to Yarmouth next summer, will you think about it? You want
a wife, and you couldn't do better if you searched all England over.
It would be so pleasant for us to be such near friends; wouldn't it?"
And again she put her hand upon his arm.

"Mrs Greenow, just at present there's only one woman in the world
that I can think of."

"And that's my niece."

"And that's yourself. I'm a broken-hearted man,--I am, indeed. I
didn't ever think I should feel so much about a thing of the kind--I
didn't, really. I hardly know what to do with myself; but I suppose
I'd better go back to Oileymead." He had become so painfully
unconscious of his new coat and his knickerbockers that it was
impossible not to pity him. "I shall always hate the place now," he
said,--"always."

"That will pass away. You'd be as happy as a king there, if you'd
take Kate for your queen."

"And what'll you do, Mrs Greenow?"

"What shall I do?"--"Yes; what will you do?"

"That is, if you marry Kate? Why, I'll come and stay with you half my
time, and nurse the children, as an old grand-aunt should."

"But about--." Then he hesitated, and she asked him of what he was
thinking.

"You don't mean to take that man Bellfield, do you?"

"Come, Mr Cheesacre, that's rank jealousy. What right can you have to
ask me whether I shall take any man or no man? The chances are that I
shall remain as I am till I'm carried to my grave; but I'm not going
to give any pledge about it to you or to any one."

"You don't know that man, Mrs Greenow; you don't, indeed. I tell it
you as your friend. Does not it stand to reason, when he has got
nothing in the world, that he must be a beggar? It's all very well
saying that when a man is courting a lady, he shouldn't say much
about his money; but you won't make me believe that any man will make
a good husband who hasn't got a shilling. And for lies, there's no
beating him!"

"Why, then, has he been such a friend of yours?"

"Well, because I've been foolish. I took up with him just because he
looked pleasant, I suppose."

"And you want to prevent me from doing the same thing."

"If you were to marry him, Mrs Greenow, it's my belief I should do
him a mischief; it is, really. I don't think I could stand it;--a
mean, skulking beggar! I suppose I'd better go now?"

"Certainly, if that's the way you choose to talk about my friends."

"Friends, indeed! Well, I won't say any more at present. I suppose if
I was to talk for ever it wouldn't be any good?"

"Come and talk to Kate Vavasor for ever, Mr Cheesacre."

To this he made no reply, but went forth from the house, and got
his gig, and drove himself home to Oileymead, thinking of his
disappointment with all the bitterness of a young lover. "I didn't
ever think I should ever care so much about anything," he said, as he
took himself up to bed that night.

That evening Captain Bellfield did call in the Close, as he had said
he would do, but he was not admitted. "Her mistress was very bad with
a headache," Jeannette said.



CHAPTER XLVIII

Preparations for Lady Monk's Party


Early in April, the Easter recess being all over, Lady Monk gave
a grand party in London. Lady Monk's town house was in Gloucester
Square. It was a large mansion, and Lady Monk's parties in London
were known to be very great affairs. She usually gave two or three in
the season, and spent a large portion of her time and energy in so
arranging matters that her parties should be successful. As this was
her special line in life, a failure would have been very distressing
to her;--and we may also say very disgraceful, taking into
consideration, as we should do in forming our judgement on the
subject, the very large sums of Sir Cosmo's money which she spent in
this way. But she seldom did fail. She knew how to select her days,
so as not to fall foul of other events. It seldom happened that
people could not come to her because of a division which occupied
all the Members of Parliament, or that they were drawn away by the
superior magnitude of some other attraction in the world of fashion.
This giving of parties was her business, and she had learned it
thoroughly. She worked at it harder than most men work at their
trades, and let us hope that the profits were consolatory.

It was generally acknowledged to be the proper thing to go to Lady
Monk's parties. There were certain people who were asked, and who
went as a matter of course,--people who were by no means on intimate
terms with Lady Monk, or with Sir Cosmo; but they were people to have
whom was the proper thing, and they were people who understood that
to go to Lady Monk's was the proper thing for them. The Duchess of St
Bungay was always there, though she hated Lady Monk, and Lady Monk
always abused her; but a card was sent to the Duchess in the same way
as the Lord Mayor invites a Cabinet Minister to dinner, even though
the one man might believe the other to be a thief. And Mrs Conway
Sparkes was generally there; she went everywhere. Lady Monk did not
at all know why Mrs Conway Sparkes was so favoured by the world; but
there was the fact, and she bowed to it. Then there were another
set, the members of which were or were not invited, according to
circumstances, at the time; and these were the people who were
probably the most legitimate recipients of Lady Monk's hospitality.
Old family friends of her husband were among the number. Let the
Tuftons come in April, and perhaps again in May; then they will not
feel their exclusion from that seventh heaven of glory,--the great
culminating crush in July. Scores of young ladies who really loved
parties belonged to this set. The mothers and aunts knew Lady Monk's
sisters and cousins. They accepted so much of Lady Monk's good
things as she vouchsafed them, and were thankful. Then there was
another lot, which generally became, especially on that great July
occasion, the most numerous of the three. It comprised all those
who made strong interest to obtain admittance within her ladyship's
house,--who struggled and fought almost with tooth and nail to get
invitations. Against these people Lady Monk carried on an internecine
war. Had she not done so she would have been swamped by them, and
her success would have been at an end; but yet she never dreamed of
shutting her doors against them altogether, or of saying boldly that
none such should hamper her staircases. She knew that she must yield,
but her effort was made to yield to as few as might be possible. When
she was first told by her factotum in these operations that Mr Bott
wanted to come, she positively declined to have him. When it was
afterwards intimated to her that the Duchess of St Bungay had made a
point of it, she sneered at the Duchess, and did not even then yield.
But when at last it was brought home to her understanding that Mr
Palliser wished it, and that Mr Palliser probably would not come
himself unless his wishes were gratified, she gave way. She was
especially anxious that Lady Glencora should come to her gathering,
and she knew that Lady Glencora could not be had without Mr Palliser.

It was very much desired by her that Lady Glencora should be there.
"Burgo," said she to her nephew, one morning, "look here." Burgo was
at the time staying with his aunt, in Gloucester Square, much to the
annoyance of Sir Cosmo, who had become heartily tired of his nephew.
The aunt and the nephew had been closeted together more than once
lately, and perhaps they understood each other better now than they
had done down at Monkshade. The aunt had handed a little note to
Burgo, which he read and then threw back to her. "You see that she is
not afraid of coming," said Lady Monk.

"I suppose she doesn't think much about it," said Burgo.

"If that's what you really believe, you'd better give it up. Nothing
on earth would justify such a step on your part except a thorough
conviction that she is attached to you."

Burgo looked at the fireplace, almost savagely, and his aunt looked
at him very keenly. "Well," she said, "if there's to be an end of it,
let there be an end of it."

"I think I'd better hang myself," he said.

"Burgo, I will not have you here if you talk to me in that way. I am
trying to help you once again; but if you look like that, and talk
like that, I will give it up."

"I think you'd better give it up."

"Are you becoming cowardly at last? With all your faults I never
expected that of you."

"No; I am not a coward. I'd go out and fight him at two paces'
distance with the greatest pleasure in the world."

"You know that's nonsense, Burgo. It's downright braggadocio. Men do
not fight now; nor at any time would a man be called upon to fight,
because you simply wanted to take his wife from him. If you had done
it, indeed!"

"How am I to do it? I'd do it to-morrow if it depended on me. No one
can say that I'm afraid of anybody or of anything."

"I suppose something in the matter depends on her?"

"I believe she loves me,--if you mean that?"

"Look here, Burgo," and the considerate aunt gave to the impoverished
and ruined nephew such counsel as she, in accordance with her lights,
was enabled to bestow. "I think you were much wronged in that matter.
After what had passed I thought that you had a right to claim Lady
Glencora as your wife. Mr Palliser, in my mind, behaved very wrongly
in stepping in between you and--you and such a fortune as hers, in
that way. He cannot expect that his wife should have any affection
for him. There is nobody alive who has a greater horror of anything
improper in married women than I have. I have always shown it. When
Lady Madeline Madtop left her husband, I would never allow her to
come inside my doors again,--though I have no doubt he ill-used her
dreadfully, and there was nothing ever proved between her and Colonel
Graham. One can't be too particular in such matters. But here,
if you,--if you can succeed, you know, I shall always regard the
Palliser episode in Lady Glencora's life as a tragical accident. I
shall indeed. Poor dear! It was done exactly as they make nuns of
girls in Roman Catholic countries; and as I should think no harm
of helping a nun out of her convent, so I should think no harm of
helping her now. If you are to say anything to her, I think you might
have an opportunity at the party."

Burgo was still looking at the fireplace; and he sat on, looking and
still looking, but he said nothing.

"You can think of what I have said, Burgo," continued his aunt,
meaning that he should get up and go. But he did not go. "Have you
anything more that you wish to say to me?" she asked.

"I've got no money," said Burgo, still looking at the fireplace.

Lady Glencora's property was worth not less than fifty thousand
a year. He was a young man ambitious of obtaining that almost
incredible amount of wealth, and who once had nearly reached it, by
means of her love. His present obstacle consisted in his want of a
twenty-pound note! "I've got no money." The words were growled out
rather than spoken, and his eyes were never turned even for a moment
towards his aunt's face.

"You've never got any money," said she, speaking almost with passion.

"How can I help it? I can't make money. If I had a couple of hundred
pounds, so that I could take her, I believe that she would go with
me. It should not be my fault if she did not. It would have been all
right if she had come to Monkshade."

"I've got no money for you, Burgo. I have not five pounds belonging
to me."

"But you've got--?"

"What?" said Lady Monk, interrupting him sharply.

"Would Cosmo lend it me?" said he, hesitating to go on with that
suggestion which he had been about to make. The Cosmo of whom he
spoke was not his uncle, but his cousin. No eloquence could have
induced his uncle, Sir Cosmo, to lend him another shilling. But the
son of the house was a man rich with his own wealth, and Burgo had
not taxed him for some years.

"I do not know," said Lady Monk. "I never see him. Probably not."

"It is hard," said Burgo. "Fancy that a man should be ruined for two
hundred pounds, just at such a moment of his life as this!" He was
a man bold by nature, and he did make his proposition. "You have
jewels, aunt;--could you not raise it for me? I would redeem them
with the very first money that I got."

Lady Monk rose in a passion when the suggestion was first made,
but before the interview was over she had promised that she would
endeavour to do something in the way of raising money for him yet,
once again. He was her favourite nephew, and the same almost to
her as a child of her own. With one of her own children indeed she
had quarrelled, and of the other, a married daughter, she rarely
saw much. Such love as she had to give she gave to Burgo, and she
promised him the money though she knew that she must raise it by some
villanous falsehood to her husband.

On the same morning Lady Glencora went to Queen Anne Street with the
purpose of inducing Alice to go to Lady Monk's party; but Alice would
not accede to the proposition, though Lady Glencora pressed it with
all her eloquence. "I don't know her," said Alice.

"My dear," said Lady Glencora, "that's absurd. Half the people there
won't know her."

"But they know her set, or know her friends,--or, at any rate, will
meet their own friends at her house. I should only bother you, and
should not in the least gratify myself."

"The fact is, everybody will go who can, and I should have no sort
of trouble in getting a card for you. Indeed I should simply write a
note and say I meant to bring you."

"Pray don't do any such thing, for I certainly shall not go. I can't
conceive why you should wish it."

"Mr Fitzgerald will be there," said Lady Glencora, altering her voice
altogether, and speaking in that low tone with which she used to win
Alice's heart down at Matching. She was sitting close over the fire,
leaning low, holding up her little hands as a screen to her face, and
looking at her companion earnestly. "I'm sure that he will be there,
though nobody has told me."

"That may be a reason for your staying away," said Alice, slowly,
"but hardly a reason for my going with you."

Lady Glencora would not condescend to tell her friend in so many
words that she wanted her protection. She could not bring herself to
say that, though she wished it to be understood. "Ah! I thought you
would have gone," said she.

"It would be contrary to all my habits," said Alice: "I never go to
people's houses when I don't know them. It's a kind of society which
I don't like. Pray do not ask me."

"Oh! very well. If it must be so, I won't press it." Lady Glencora
had moved the position of one of her hands so as to get it to her
pocket, and there had grasped a letter, which she still carried; but
when Alice said those last cold words, "Pray do not ask me," she
released the grasp, and left the letter where it was. "I suppose he
won't bite me, at any rate," she said, and she assumed that look of
childish drollery which she would sometimes put on, almost with a
grimace, but still with so much prettiness that no one who saw her
would regret it.

"He certainly can't bite you, if you will not let him."

"Do you know, Alice, though they all say that Plantagenet is one of
the wisest men in London, I sometimes think that he is one of the
greatest fools. Soon after we came to town I told him that we had
better not go to that woman's house. Of course he understood me. He
simply said that he wished that I should do so. 'I hate anything out
of the way,' he said. 'There can be no reason why my wife should not
go to Lady Monk's house as well as to any other.' There was an end of
it, you know, as far as anything I could do was concerned. But there
wasn't an end of it with him. He insists that I shall go, but he
sends my duenna with me. Dear Mrs Marsham is to be there!"

"She'll do you no harm, I suppose?"

"I'm not so sure of that, Alice. In the first place, one doesn't like
to be followed everywhere by a policeman, even though one isn't going
to pick a pocket. And then, the devil is so strong within me, that I
should like to dodge the policeman. I can fancy a woman being driven
to do wrong simply by a desire to show her policeman that she can be
too many for him."

"Glencora, you make me so wretched when you talk like that."

"Will you go with me, then, so that I may have a policeman of my own
choosing? He asked me if I would mind taking Mrs Marsham with me in
my carriage. So I up and spoke, very boldly, like the proud young
porter, and told him I would not; and when he asked why not, I said
that I preferred taking a friend of my own,--a young friend, I said,
and I then named you or my cousin, Lady Jane. I told him I should
bring one or the other."

"And was he angry?"

"No; he took it very quietly,--saying something, in his calm way,
about hoping that I should get over a prejudice against one of
his earliest and dearest friends. He twits at me because I don't
understand Parliament and the British Constitution, but I know more
of them than he does about a woman. You are quite sure you won't go,
then?" Alice hesitated a moment. "Do," said Lady Glencora; and there
was an amount of persuasion in her accent which should, I think, have
overcome her cousin's scruples.

"It is against the whole tenor of my life's way," she said, "And,
Glencora, I am not happy myself. I am not fit for parties. I
sometimes think that I shall never go into society again."

"That's nonsense, you know."

"I suppose it is, but I cannot go now. I would if I really thought--"

"Oh, very well," said Lady Glencora, interrupting her. "I suppose I
shall get through it. If he asks me to dance, I shall stand up with
him, just as though I had never seen him before." Then she remembered
the letter in her pocket,--remembered that at this moment she bore
about with her a written proposition from this man to go off with him
and leave her husband's house. She had intended to show it to Alice
on this occasion; but as Alice had refused her request, she was g